Review: Michelle Willingham – Tempted by a Highland Warrior

MacKinloch Clan Series:
Book 3:

Tempted by a Highland Warrior: Callum MacKinloch and Lady Marguerite de Montpierre



Summary:

From goodreads.com
After years of brutal torture, Callum MacKinloch is finally free of his captors–but his voice is still held prisoner. He’d never let anyone hear him scream. Although Lady Marguerite de Montpierre’s chains may be invisible, they threaten to tie her to a loveless and cruel marriage.

When Marguerite discovers Callum waiting to die, her heart aches for the warrior beneath the suffering–but they can have no future. Yet she is the one woman with the power to tame the rage locked inside him. Maybe he can find another reason to live…for her.

Review:
This was my first book by Michelle Willingham and I have to say I am impressed! I didn’t quite know what to expect from this book, I was a bit reserved after having seen it was a third book in a series. However, that did not hinder my enjoyment of this book at all. I do not feel it was necessary to have read the previous two books to understand this title it easily stands up as a standalone. M. Willingham’s writing quickly swept me up in this tale starting from when Lady Marguerite is startled from her sleep by tortured screams and she finds herself tending to Callum’s tortured back. From their first meeting you feel the connection between these two kindred spirits. Both are locked in chains, but their chains are entirely different. Hers are of her title and gender and his are that of a prisoner of war.

From the age of 12 Callum has been held prisoner, tortured to the brink of death more times than he can remember, his voice gone after one especially vicious torture where he refused to let them hear him scream. His body eventually recovered but his voice never did, his flesh is yet again recovering from a whipping when Lady Marguerite is awakened and comes to his aid thinking it is him who screamed. There was something in the way she cared for him that gave him a renewed vigor for life, even for the possibility of seeing her once more before he dies. Callum, does not give up, even against insurmountable odds, he keeps on going, in chains or out of them. He is an inspiration and one of my favorite highland warriors to date. How can you not love a man that doesn’t give up on his woman even when facing his own death, you just can’t. There is no defense against that, his love just pours out of him and after the life he has led it is a miracle he can love at all. He is a proud, strong, intelligent, highland warrior and I too would have given up everything to be with this man.

With Marguerite, she is such a kind lady; when she tends to Callum’s wounds you immediately have a soft spot for her. She is so gentle with him and brings him back not just from the physical brink but from the mental too. When he is finally free and he is half out of his mind and she tends to him again with such caring and understanding, you just know these two belong. Then, she gets home and is locked back up into her invisible chains yet again and Callum comes for her, I about started to dislike her, but that was my modern woman coming out. I really had to set that aside and remember we are in the 1300’s and she is the daughter of a Duke, considered no more than mere property and then I’m ok, you go girl. These might be tiny rebellions in today’s standards but in 1300’s standards they were HUGE! She had some balls after all and I started liking her again. She had to work with what she could, how she could, it might not have been the best way but it was the only way she could figure at the time. And one huge thing to her credit is she doesn’t give up, if it meant her life or his, she’d do what she had to, to make sure he still had his. By the end she had some serious courage and did what a girl had to do, even if it meant plunging to her death, because even death was a better fate then what her father had planned for her…

I highly recommend this book, I thoroughly enjoyed it! I remembered why I loved highlanders so much, it’s been a while since I have read a highlander book that I enjoyed as much as this one. The characters leapt right off the page; their emotions felt real, the character development was well done. The scenes were rich and full of life. And oh how the sensuality smoldered as Callum and Marguerite discovered theirs together for the first time. This is a love that truly defies all odds and stands against all tests. And their loe is tested over and over, it is quite the roller coaster ride of events and emotion. I didn’t expect this historical to be as steamy as it was so I was in for a very pleasant surprise to find that the sexuality simmered and created a delicious tension between these two. I also found that in a strange way Callum’s inability to talk in a way increased their communication as they had to rely so much on the non-verbal, but from the beginning they had such a deep connection between them that Marguerite, never seemed to not know what Callum was thinking. I know as soon as I am able to find some time, I will be going back and reading the first two books in this series and finding any other books I can from Michelle Willingham, I believe she also has a series about an Irish family, I know I won’t be passing that up!

Rating: 4.5 Orchids

*Review copy provided through Netgalley for an honest review, no other compensation was given.

Advertisements

ARC Review: Susan Mallery – Summer Nights

Fool’s Gold Series:

Book 8:

Summer Nights: Shane Stryker and Annabelle Weiss


Release Date: June 26th, 2012
Summary:
Horse whisperer Shane Stryker is done with passion. This time around, he’s determined to meet someone who will be content with the quiet life of a rancher’s wife. And the fiery, pint-size redhead who dazzles him at the local bar definitely does not fit the bill. Small-town librarian Annabelle Weiss has always seen herself as more of a sweetheart than a siren, so she can’t understand why Shane keeps pushing her away. Shane has formed the totally wrong impression of her but only he can help her with a special event for the next Fool’s Gold festival. And maybe while he’s at it, she can convince him to teach her a few things about kissing on hot summer nights, too-some lessons, a girl shouldn’t learn from reading a book!

Review:
This is my second Susan Mallery read, I started with Summer Days which was the first Stryker brother Rafe, and I think I’ve been hooked into the Fool’s Gold world. The town is just so quirky and fun it’s hard not to get sucked in. Shane is returning after spending part of his childhood in Fools Gold, he always had fond memories of the town, its where his love of horses started. Now, he is back and starting his dream, his own ranch and breeding program of thoroughbred race horses. Annabelle is a librarian, she found Fools Gold after her disastrous first marriage, the town soothed her open wounds and now she is ready to possibly find love again, if that man can accept who she really is.

Shane, oh Shane, so incredibly sexy, so incredibly sweet, so incredibly a cowboy, so incredibly almost perfect if only you weren’t so dense. Shane was once married to a not so nice female who cheated mercilessly and always had to be the center of attention. So now he’s looking for a nice sedate woman who doesn’t set his blood on fire. So when he see’s Annabelle dancing on a bar, he knows she’s not the woman for him. Then when she shows up in his barn and sets his blood on fire he’s even more convinced this girl is nothing but trouble. Now, if only Shane could get his head out of his arse and see a good thing when it’s staring him in the face, even his horse is smarter than him! A one minute impression clouds the next several hundred pages of the book, which I understand we need some conflict but geez. Despite the fact that Shane has his head up his arse, I still loved the dolt, I just couldn’t help myself, he’s just such a nice guy. He tries to find a companion for an aging elephant, he gets roped into riding lessons for young girls, he teaches his million dollar horse to dance for Annabelle, you just can’t steel your heart against that kind of kindness, you just can’t and add to that, he’s a cowboy and you’re sunk. There is just no helping it. You’re in love before you know it, just like Annabelle.

Annabelle is cute, feisty and stubborn, once she gets her claws into an idea she does what she needs to see it through. Right now she wants a bookmobile and the way to achieve that is at the next Fools Gold festival, the only problem is she needs a dancing horse and a willing male sacrifice. Having never even sat on a horse before, she doesn’t know how she is going to get a horse to dance in front of a crowd let alone stay on top of one to do it, but she is determined. Enter Shane, the resident horse whisperer and her best friend’s fiancés brother. What she doesn’t know is the first time Shane see’s her, she’s on the top of the bar dancing, so now he sees her as a wild woman which couldn’t be further from the truth. What she realizes almost immediately following her impetuous dance is that all of her life she has been molding herself to fit someone else’s needs to be loved and decided that she would no longer do that again. So when she meets Shane at first she is attracted but doesn’t act on it but as time moves on they get closer and true to her word she does remain true to herself and who she is, which I was proud of her for, but this time she made a completely different mistake and decided she had to “prove herself” to him. Which come on, let’s face it, is just as bad as changing herself to please her current whatever. She shouldn’t have to prove herself to anyone. Despite this setback she does come to her senses by the end, yay Annabelle! As a character I really enjoyed Annabelle, she was a breath of fresh air, she was positive, upbeat and genuinely cared about everyone. She is someone you would be proud to call one of your best friends and would never let you down. I wish she would have smacked some sense into Shane earlier but hey no one is perfect, not even Annabelle.

Overall, it’s a light fun read, great for the summer. There is nothing not to like about this charming book, you’ll be sucked into Fools Gold like everyone else. If I was keeping a list of great beach reads this one would be towards the top of the list. If I had one complaint about this book it was all the baby talk, there was a lot of it, everyone was having babies or wanting babies. It was a lot and for someone whose biological cloak is NOT ticking it was a bit much. However, check this title out and be prepared to be charmed I sure was.

Rating:
4.5 Orchids

*Review copy provided through Netgalley for an honest review, no other compensation was given.

Susan Mallery Q&A – Summer Days

Susan Mallery Q&A on SUMMER DAYS (Fool’s Gold Book 7)
New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery has entertained millions of readers with her witty and emotional stories about women and the relationships that move them. Publisher’s Weekly calls Susan’s prose “luscious and provocative,” and Booklist says, “Novels don’t get much better than Mallery’s expert blend of emotional nuance, humor and superb storytelling.” Visit Susan online atwww.susanmallery.com.
Tell us about SUMMER DAYS.
SUMMER DAYS is the perfect beach read. It’s funny, romantic, sexy, and it’s light both in tone and in actual weight – you can toss the paperback into your beach bag and go. (It’s also available wherever ebooks are sold.)
Heidi Simpson had a vagabond childhood with her grandfather. The one thing she wanted most in the world was a home of her own. Now, in her late 20s, she finally has one, but her ranch is put on the line by a scam her grandfather pulled in order to pay for a friend’s surgery. Rafe Stryker is the son of the woman whose money was stolen, and the first of the Stryker brothers to move to Fool’s Gold. He’s on a tear when he arrives, determined to protect his mother’s interests at all costs.
Since possession is nine-tenths of the law, neither is willing to leave the ranch until a judge can decide the matter. Sparks fly right from page one between Heidi and Rafe! The people of Fool’s Gold take sides in a pretty hysterical way.
You can find SUMMER DAYS wherever books are sold – bookstores, online, even the grocery store check-out line. You can read a free excerpt on my website, http://www.susanmallery.com or in the free app for iPhone and Android (www.mobileroadie.com/apps/susanmallery).
Who are these Fool’s Gold cheerleaders I keep hearing about?
Oh, the cheerleaders are beyond fabulous! This year’s squad is made up of 60 Fool’s Gold super fans who are earning prizes all summer for telling other readers about Fool’s Gold. They’re driving around with Fool’s Gold car magnets, wearing Fool’s Gold T-shirts, handing out bookmarks like candy to everyone they meet.
For those of my followers who have never read a Fool’s Gold book, tell us about the small town known as the Land of Happy Endings.
SUMMER DAYS is the seventh book in my series set in fictional Fool’s Gold, California. Fool’s Gold is a small town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. It’s a quaint place where people truly support each other – mostly with casseroles. And margaritas. Women rule in Fool’s Gold. For many years, there was a man shortage, which is just now beginning to level out, thanks to the town’s efforts to bring in some pretty spectacular men.
Fool’s Gold is the most popular series I’ve ever written. In fact, last year, one of the Fool’s Gold books hit #3 on the New York Times and #8 on the USA Today bestsellers lists. Those were personal bests for me and very thrilling.
Each book is written as a standalone, which means that you can jump in and start with SUMMER DAYS, and you won’t feel lost or confused. While previous characters make an appearance, you don’t need to know their stories to understand this one.
Why did you decide to write about three cowboy brothers?
With each year’s Fool’s Gold books, I try to create heroes who represent iconic male archetypes. The men of Fool’s Gold have been athletes, businessmen, pilots, surgeons. Each is a leader, powerful in his own way. His strength goes deeper than the physical. He does what’s right even when it’s not easy. When he falls, he falls hard… and he loves forever.
This summer, three cowboy brothers will ride into Fool’s Gold on horseback in SUMMER DAYS, SUMMER NIGHTS, and ALL SUMMER LONG. The Stryker men represent everything I love about a cowboy hero. They are protective, honest, tall and strong. And wow, do they do nice things to a pair of blue jeans!
Since this is Fool’s Gold, these cowboys come with a special twist – humor. Rafe is undone by Heidi the Goat Girl. Shane has to teach the local librarian how to do the ancient Dance of the Happy Virgin – while riding a horse. And Clay, the youngest, made his fortune as a Hollywood butt double.
What’s next for Fool’s Gold?
In SUMMER NIGHTS(July), Shane Stryker will meet Annabelle who, oh my WORD, do I love! Annabelle is my gift to all the librarians who have supported me so wonderfully over the years, putting my books into readers hands with a fervent, “You’re going to love this!” Annabelle is a librarian who defies the stereotypes – she’s fashionable, modern… a dangerous, pint-sized sexpot, as far as Shane is concerned. He’s completely undone by her the first time they meet, so much so that he can’t even remember his own name.
Then comes Charlie, to be paired with Clay in ALL SUMMER LONG (August). Oh, Charlie. She’s so tough and oh, so wounded. She’s got that hard-as-nails firefighter exterior, but when it comes to matters of the heart, she is as vulnerable as they come. Something happened in Charlie’s past that has made her afraid of intimacy with a man. She’s the kind of person who tackles her problems head-on, much to Clay Stryker’s delight.

ARC Review: Charlotte Featherstone – Temptation & Twilight

Brethren Guardians Series:
Book 3:
Temptation & Twilight: Iain Sinclair, Marquis of Alynwick and Lady Elizabeth York

Summary:
Iain Sinclair, Marquis of Alynwick, is certain there is a special hell for him. An unrepentant rake, he holds nothing sacred—except for beautiful Elizabeth York. For years, Alynwick has tried to forget the woman he loved so well, and treated so badly. A woman who could hold nothing in her heart for him but hatred.
All of society believes Elizabeth, the blind daughter of a duke, to be a proper young lady. But no one knows of her wanton affair with Alynwick. When Lizzy learns of her ancestor’s ancient diary—filled with exotic tales—she longs to uncover the identity of the unnamed lover within and hesitantly agrees to allow Alynwick, who claims to have knowledge of the “veiled lady,” to help her solve the mystery.
Eager to be Lizzy’s eyes, Alynwick brings the seductive text to life, and each night it takes greater effort for her to remember his betrayal. With each whispered word, her resolve gives way, without her knowing that a centuries-old secret will lead them to a present-day danger.
Review:
I found this book on NetGalley, and I just had to request it. I don’t read that many historical romances, but I am a sucker for when one of the characters has a disability to overcome, because it makes them just that more real, so when I saw the heroine was blind, I had to have it.  It didn’t hurt our hero is a rake, and is there anything better than a reformed rake, especially a Scottish one? Lol! Although, this is the third book in the series, I have not read the first 2 books, I think it would be beneficial to read the first two books, but I don’t think it is necessarily a requirement.  It’s basically a secret society of gentleman that has to stay secret and battle an unknown villain, we’ve all read this concept before, and so you can slide into pretty easily without the first two books but of course you are missing some details. Now that also being said, I really really enjoyed this book and this authors writing style so I highly recommend checking out the first two books, I know I will be.
Elizabeth, is our heroine and such a strong one at that. She starts off a strong confident woman, sure she has a disability, but she is content with herself. She is aware that it isn’t likely she will ever marry and have her own children and sure she wishes that wasn’t the case, but she has come to terms with it. Now, all of the sudden she has the attention of not one but two men, one who could be her perfect match, who shares all of her interests and doesn’t seem to mind her blindness. The other is the man who nearly destroyed her 12 years ago, when she was young and venerable, the one who she has turned her heart against ever since.  Now, she is confronted with choices she never thought she would have to make, now she has thoughts she never thought she’d have again and vulnerabilities she thought she had buried 12 years ago.  We take this emotional journey with Elizabeth and its heart breaking at times.  Too see her break down and for her fears and insecurities due to her blindness surface is heart rendering and I think C. Featherstone did an excellent pulling the emotion from Elizabeth and making the reader feel each emotion that Elizabeth is feeling. When Elizabeth is breaking you are breaking with her, going through it with her and you can’t pull away. Featherstone sucks you and keeps you there connected to her characters. When Elizabeths hopes and fears are swirling around and her confusion is at its peak you are routing for her and hoping she’ll make the best decision, you want her to get her happily ever after with the right man for her whoever that may be.
Iain is a hulking brute of highland deliciousness, of course raised by unfeeling, unwanting parents he is an unfeeling lush of a man. An unrepentant rake that has exactly one regret in life, which he won’t even acknowledge to himself until he is facing death on the field of “honor”. His one regret is Beth, even after 12 years she still holds his heart and he has realized he is willing to do anything to win her back. He knows how badly he messed up all those years ago and he knows it won’t be easy but he is willing to do the work and prove that he can be a better man.   With a lot of reformed rakes we don’t really see the hero really working for it he kind of skates by on his good looks and charm, you don’t actually see him trying to change, but I really felt Iain’s desire to change and better you see it and his desire to win Elizabeth back. He was willing to put in the work. As she was pushing him away, he’s like yeah I deserved that, but damn it I’m going to weather the storm because you’re worth it and I’ll still be here through everything you throw at me.  Iain manages to pull a few moves that really pull at the heart string I want to go into them but that would spoil the moments in the book so I’ll leave them for you to discover, but damn C. Featherstone, you can really pull the romance out of an Alpha. But worry not ladies Iain maintained his highlander alpha maleness.  He about choked out Sheldon (Elizabeth’s other potential male) more than once, has a fondness for scotch and is not above seducing our fair Elizabeth with great skill. He is still a man’s man at heart!
You quickly get caught up in the story within the first couple of pages, I knew right away that I was going to enjoy this book and settled right in to be kept up late.  The sensuality and chemistry between Iain and Elizabeth about scorched the pages, it was that sizzling.  I wished I could jump into the pages and take Elizabeth’s places for just one scene it was that damn hot. But the story never got lost, we actually had the hunt for Orpheus who was our resident bad guy, as well as our sub-plot of the “Veiled Lady” which Iain agrees to help Elizabeth solve. The Veiled Lady actually takes up less of the plot then the blurb suggests and the main hunt is for Orpheus, which will take you on many twists and turns before the mystery unfolds.  Added to the Veiled Lady and Orpheus there is a Curse, hovering over Elizabeth and Iain’s houses that they have to deal with, just to add a bit of paranormal to this exciting tale. The real story for me tho was between Elizabeth and Iain, at times their dialogue was poetic , other times exciting as they clashed wills, but whatever was going on between these two, it was not boring that is for sure.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good romance; it has everything you could want: intrigue, sensuality, excitement, mystery, and a Highlander to boot.
One thing that did drive me slightly batty was the math, and I may be completely off base here. So if someone else read this book and interpreted this differently call me on my shit. Math was never my strong suit. Ok so here it is… Elizabeth is “nearly 30” so to me that would make her about 28, 29 years old. Iain left her and broke her heart 12 years ago, this was mentioned several times if I recall. So this would put her around 17ish when he left her. It was also mentioned a couple of times that she lost her sight completely a couple of months after he left, this timing actually becomes very important. So we know that she is completely blind within a couple of months of his leaving. However, it is also mentioned several times that she is 19 when she goes completely blind. So was she 17ish or was she 19 it doesn’t add up, unless I wasn’t reading right which is possible but I doubt it, but if I was, someone call me on it. I mean it doesn’t really matter, but I am always doing the math in my head when authors do this, I say either state their ages outright so you know, we know and there is no room for interpretation or error or completely leave it out because you get people like me who go nutty trying to figure it out for no reason at all. And yes I know I’m being obsessive compulsive but I can’t seem to help myself. :-/
Rating:
4.5 Orchids