Category Archives: Reviews

5 Star Review: Divine Passion by Valerie Twombly

Divine-Passion

Published: 07/22/2015
Publisher: Resplendence
Genres: fantasy, paranormal romance
Tags: demons, dragon shifters, Fae, gods, vampires

Baal is a demon that likes to make his own rules and the thought of being tied down to only one woman makes his skin itch. When he rescues the human Ranata from becoming a sacrificial lamb, he gets more than he bargained for. With Hades insisting his fate is to bond with the beautiful female, he can either resist or risk losing his heart.

One minute Ranata is tending bar in a small hole in the wall, and the next she fears for her life. When a sexy demon comes along and saves the day, his golden eyes and hard body make him difficult to resist. With her sister in the clutches of the enemy, she must plan a daring rescue. Fate however, has other plans. Will she choose the path destiny has laid out for her?

Buy Links:

Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Resplendence Publishing     iBooks     Goodreads

 

Review

by Aubrey Wynne

Valerie Twombly has done it again. Her world just keeps getting better and better with each new storyline in this series. Baal is protective, arrogant and hot as hell. He has been burned (pun definitely intended) and very leery of love. He has no desire to commit to another relationship. Even as you roll your eyes at his opinion of women, you feel sympathy for his past and root for him.

Enter Ranata. A sassy bartender in the human world with enough attitude to catch his attention. She is headstrong (which drives Baal crazy but he really loves her for it), loyal (which he admires) and smart (which irritates him.) Her background and present situation are at odds and gives yet another layer to her character and their relationship. When they mate, they both convince themselves that love is absent.But their hearts know better.

Twombly’s stories are always strong in love and relationships. Divine Passion is no exception. Through the action and plot twists, the romance remains at the forefront along with a cast of steamy male characters and sizzling heroines. Paranormal fans, enjoy!

5 blazing hot stars

Excerpt

Baal had never been turned down by a woman. Not once. Ever. He stared at the female behind the bar, who’d refused to give him even her name. He’d closed down the place a couple of nights ago with Seth, the guardian he’d been charged with babysitting—or had it been longer ago than that? After taking a couple of those damn pills that helped immortals get drunk, he couldn’t remember. Either way, he remembered craving a piece of the vision who currently gave him the evil eye. He still did. He hadn’t come across a female like her in a long time.

Black hair curled around her shoulders; thick lashes fringed blue, almond-shaped eyes. Add to that high cheekbones and pouty lips, and you had exotic perfection. Not to mention curves he wanted to sink his fingers into while he fucked the hell out of her. “Seriously, why are you working in this shit hole? You should be strutting your stuff in designer clothes and high heels.”

She laughed. “I suppose you’re going to promise me a starring role in your next movie?”

He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his card. “Nope, but I need a hostess for my casino.” He tossed it on the bar. She rolled her eyes then threw her towel aside and picked up the card.

“Dragon’s Cove?” She eyed him suspiciously. “I’ve heard of it.” She snorted and tossed it back on the bar. “Right, and I suppose you’re gonna tell me you own the place?”

He shrugged. “Okay, I won’t tell you that, but I do.”

“Please, I’m not that stupid. Why would someone who owns a highly successful Vegas club be here in, as you called it, this shit hole?”

“I came to help a friend who’s down and out.”

She reached for an empty beer bottle, rinsed it then tossed it in the recycling. “The dark-haired guy? He seemed like he’d seen better days.”

“He has, but I think things will improve for him soon. Now, back to my offer. I was serious when I said I need someone. You think about it, and if you’d like, I’ll fly you in for an interview and discussion of terms.”

She wiped her hands and picked up the card again. She stared at it while pulling her bottom lip through her teeth. He could almost see the gears turning. “I don’t get it. Vegas has to be full of people qualified for the job. What do you want from me?”

No way in hell could he tell her that what he really wanted was to strip her, toss her on top of the bar and taste every inch of her. He’d have to work his way up to that one. “You desire more than this; I can tell.” No lie there. The ability to read a human’s desire was bred into every demon. It was how the evil spread. Some chose to use it for bad and others for good. In this case, his intentions were for a little of both. “Your beauty shouldn’t be wasted here.”

“I’ve always wanted to leave but never had the means to do so.”

“Well, this is your chance.” He tipped back the last swig of his beer and set the glass on the bar. “I have to leave and head back. You can Google me all night long and see that I’m who I say. Call that number, and I’ll send a limo and my private jet to pick you up. You can have a room in the hotel. I promise; no strings attached.” His charm and demon good looks would bewitch the pants right off her. He just needed the chance.

“I’ll think about it.” She tucked the card into her back pocket, and suddenly, he was jealous of the tiny piece of glossy paper.

He tipped his head. “Fair enough.” Then he headed for the door.

“Wait!”

He stopped dead in his tracks and held his breath. Had she made up her mind already? “Yes,” he said and turned slowly.

“My name, it’s Ranata.”

 

About the Author

569VALERIE

Award winning and bestselling author, Valerie Twombly grew up watching Dark Shadows over her mother’s shoulder, and from there her love of the fanged creatures blossomed. Today, Valerie has decided to take her darker, sensual side and put it to paper. When she is not busy creating a world full of steamy, hot men and strong, seductive women, she juggles her time between a full-time job, hubby, and her two German Shepherd dogs, in Northern IL. Valerie is a member of Romance Writers of America and Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Romance Writers. She is also the founder of Sexy Scribblers, a group of romance writers who bring readers new and fresh stories every month.

Review: Better Than Chocolate by Jennifer Rowan

perf5.000x8.000.indd

Carmella Sannarelli is a people pleaser. She can’t say no to anyone, even when it means putting off her own personal goals in the process. So, when her best friend, Sadie Miller, calls with the announcement that she’s broken up with one fiancé and eloping with another in St. Croix, Carmella can’t stop herself from dropping everything and accepting the invitation to stand as maid of honor.

Jilted fiancé, Ryan Wutkowski, has been the third member of the Carmella-Sadie trio for nine years. He fully supports Sadie’s new engagement and upcoming nuptials, knowing it’s the right decision and best for both of them. But when he boards a plane to San Juan for a business conference, Carmella is the last person he expects to find occupying the seat next to his.

Two days in San Juan, then a week in St. Croix—Carmella knows her two best friends are hiding something. But can she figure out what went wrong between them as she battles her own tingly, off-kilter feelings toward Ryan, while dodging advances from a womanizing best man, and confirming for herself that Sadie did make the right decision? When Ryan unexpectedly shows up at the rehearsal dinner and gets himself invited to the wedding, will Carmella finally uncover the secret he’s held since the day they first met?

September 2 release!

Review

by  Aubrey Wynne

Better Than Chocolate centers around two friends Carmella and Sadie. Ryan, also their best friend, creates a triangle when he becomes engaged to Sadie. Carmella is the level headed friend; Sadie is the spontaneous friend. These two reminded me of Kate Hudson and Ginnifer Goodwin in Something Borrowed. Out of the blue, Sadie dumps Ryan and heads to the Caribbean. She meets a man in flight a week later announces she’s getting married to the rich older man. Enter Preston.

Rowan takes you on their journey providing laughs, tears and the ultimate ‘aha’ moment. Set in Puerto Rico and St. Croix, she tells a story full of the twists and turns that only happen in friendship and love. She reminds us how honesty and loyalty will always be the most important qualities in the ones you love. I’m pleased to have read this first book out by Rowan. She creates a well-written romance with humor and understanding, witty dialogue and believable characters. If you love second chances and falling in love this is a must-read. 4.5 mugs

5 mugs copy

 

About The Author

jlynnrowan-headshot copy

Lynn Rowan started writing stories as a small child, usually starring her favorite cartoon characters. Most of her work through middle and high school was filled with typical teenage angst and melodrama, and usually mirrored the books she loved to read. But eventually she found her own author’s voice and decided to seriously pursue a writing career.

Historical fiction remains J. Lynn’s “first love”, but she has enjoyed the journey to becoming an author of romance and chick lit. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Central New York Romance Writers, and the Historical Novel Society. She is also a teacher who tries to instill a love of learning, reading, and writing in her students.

When she’s not writing, J. Lynn enjoys travelling, gardening poorly but enthusiastically, studying various topics in American history for her own expertise, and channeling Julia Child every time she steps into the kitchen.

A native of Oswego, NY, she now lives in Charlotte, NC, with her own Romantic Hero of a husband and the most adorable baby on the planet.

Keep in Touch With Jennifer:

Email: jlynnrowanliterature@gmail.com

Website: http://jlynnrowanliterature.wordpress.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JLynnRowan

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/JLynnRowanLit

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/jlynnrowan/

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UClfsVyA4LQYMA0Cq7T1rb6w

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14191767.J_Lynn_Rowan

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/J.-Lynn-Rowan/e/B012YC8PQ2/

BETTER THAN CHOCOLATE PURCHASE LINKS

http://www.amazon.com/Better-Than-Chocolate-Sweet-Somethings-ebook/dp/B012X1IJD8/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Review: Moon Mail and Star Kisses by Amanda Salisbury

Moon MallTour Schedule

 

Moon Mail and Star Kisses

Moon Mail and Star Kisses by Amanda Salisbury

In Moon Mail and Star Kisses, a loving adult and child must be separated for a little while. The adult promises the child to send greetings and kisses through the night sky, shared no matter the distance of place or time apart. The moon, the stars, and a person’s love are bright and constant even when they cannot be seen.

Amazon * Barnes & Noble

add to goodreads

Review

by Aubrey Wynne

Moon Mail and Star Kisses is a lovely and entertaining rhyming book for children and parents alike. The rhymes are engaging and adds a definite rhythm that will appeal to young children. Yet, the vocabulary is not dummied down (I hate that) so that a middle school child will still enjoy it and be challenged by the verse. Parents will love the sentiment. It is a comforting tale about how a parent can be with a child when they are separated. The child just looks up at the moon and stars. Stars can store hundreds of kisses.

The illustrations are wonderful. I don’t know if any of them were drawn by children but the images are very kid-friendly. The colors are bright and the pictures have small details that keep the eye interested. I would recommend this to any parent or teacher. As a first grade teacher, I’ll be adding this to my classroom library.

 

Copy of IMG_0500Author Amanda Salisbury

Amanda Salisbury lives on the red planet of Oklahoma. All her best stories are sifted through the screens of her education and experience in history, law, finance, and mothering. She lives with her husband and boys in a lair, a classroom, or a castle, depending on the moment.

Website * Facebook * Twitter

25_Amazon_Paypal

Blog Tour Giveaway

$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash

Ends 6/2/15

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Ava Stone fans: Review of A Scandalous Past

Review: A Scandalous Past

by Ki Pha 

Note: Ki Pha is a guest reviewer for Coffee Talk Writers. This review was originally posted on doingsomereading.wordpress.com

51wkdJRZotL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-64,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_

A Regency Historical Novel – Book Four of the Scandalous Series…
After years of abuse at the hands of her mother, Cordelia Avery knows the only way out is marriage to the perfect man. A man who will allow her all the freedom she has ever craved. And she has the perfect man picked out. The scandalous Marquess of Haversham might not be perfect to anyone else, but taking the man’s black reputation under consideration, Cordie believes she’ll enjoy all the freedom she’s always wished for in his disreputable arms. If only she could get her heart to go along with the plan and to stop leaping whenever Lord Adonis…er…the Earl of Clayworth is nearby. But the very proper earl is most assuredly the wrong sort for her purposes.

Brendan Reese, the Earl of Clayworth, has no intention of ever marrying again. He’s still trying to clean up the mess his first wife left him, even years after her death. To all the world, Clayworth is the epitome of the perfect English gentleman, and he so wishes that image was the truth. But the truth, as it often can be, is ugly. After all, a perfect English gentleman would never have a traitor for a mother. And unless Clayworth can find the evidence his late wife hid, he could face the gallows himself. But a chance encounter with the reckless Cordelia Avery gives him the best lead he’s had in years to finally putting his family’s past to rest. Unfortunately, focusing on anything other than Miss Avery seems a nearly impossible task.

REVIEW

A Scandalous Past (Scandalous book #4) By Ava Stone

Audible Narrated by Stevie Zimmerman

Published: 2011   Publisher:  Night Shift Publishing     POV: Third person

Setting: London and Derbyshire, England; 1814

Wow! I was really surprised by this book! I got an audio version and gosh it was fantastic.

This was filled with lots of action, humor plus suspense. I was surprised there were some POVs from the secondary characters. It was great to have a view into their heads/thoughts and a different perspective.

So our heroine, Cordie, is miserable without her best friend Olivia (Livvie). Ever since Livvie created a scandal and got married to the Duke of Keltfield, her mother has banned her from seeing Livvie ever again. So Cordie is banned and practically imprisoned in her home except when being dragged to teas and boring social events. She endures endless reprimands at the hands of her mother. Everything Cordie does is wrong. Not being pretty enough, not catching a gentleman, dancing with the wrong dude, talking with people beneath them… yady yady yada.  She’s always getting backlashed from her mother’s blundering mouth. The worst possible person ever!!! And there is a secret too!!! Argh~ I was so not seeing that coming and hated her even more! She should be punished by the hands of Cordie’s husband! But anyways….

That’s why Cordie decided to find a mate, and fast! After ditching a certain Captain seeking for her hand, she planned to find a husband just like Livvie’s; a rogue, a rake, a man whore! She will finally then get her freedom and do as she pleases and get to see her friend without being dictated and controlled. But when she meets the Earl of Clayworth, everything about him is wrong. He doesn’t know his deceased wife was her elder sister’s best-friend! He is a controlling, scrooge, stuck up, uninteresting but very very handsome; Lord Adonis! She knows he’ll never give her the freedom she craves and from what she’s heard, he’s a cold and heartless man! He will never do. But Marcus, the Marquess of Haversham is a wildrake, full of passion and energy, and will do immensely. She will get her fill of adventure and freedom when she marries him. At least that’s what she thinks.

Our hero Brandon, the Earl of Clayworth, is broken and has demons of his own. Plus he has a sister and nephew to look after and is happily widowed. Except for fruitless search for his mother’s traitorous letters his dead wife spoke of. First, he must find ‘the Lion’ who supposedly holds the letters Second, will “they” return the letters to him once he found them? And now the Little minx, Miss Avery, is catching his attention and not in a good way.

She’s interesting and the first lady to ever diss him, and for that overbearing rake Haversham! But she holds the clues to his lost letters and he’ll use any means to get them back. He just wasn’t expecting to fall so hard for her during his time escorting (and stalking) her. But she makes things very difficult indeed, being wild and all.I love how Brandon is very protective of Cordie even though she hates him. He’s not going to stop shadowing her; she keeps putting her life in danger with scandalous and compromising situations. He’s focused and determined and well, I love it when he’s jealous because of Haversham.

However, Cordie can get on my nerves when it comes  to annoying Brandon with her escapades. But then Cordie is a very bold and determined character. She’s not going to fall prey to her true feelings for Brandon because she knows he’ll never give her leeway if they’re married. Although she feels for Marcus (Haversham) and wants to be with him for “good” reasons, her feelings towards Brandon are even more dangerous every time he’s around her. I found that very fascinating because she really likes Marcus when they first meet. There was an immediate attraction between the two, which gave me pause and confused me at the same, because I didn’t know who was going to be the hero. That and the POVs of Cordie, Brandon, and Marcus got my mind swirling. They worked but I thought it was going to be some ménage or something because both dudes wanted the girl and well, she liked or was confused with both dudes.

I can honestly say that I was hating Marcus as the story hit the halfway point. I really loved him in the beginning and then when he admits his feeling towards Cordie, I was lost. Like the heroin, I didn’t know whom to love more, Marcus or Brandon?! But as the story went o,n I just wanted him to leave and do as he promised: wait till Brandon was through with his two weeks with Cordie.  SPOILER: And then that scene when he brought Cordie to his house and his reaction when she bailed!!! I thought I was going to have to beat him up, especially with his own secret out! Sheeesh~ But my love came back around for him because well, he was a gentleman to the every end, so it’s all good and repaired.

Maybe my anger should be directed at Cordie. Even in her naiveté, she was leading the poor man on a leash. She was pretty good at making herself look, err act…. experienced in the realm of flirting and…… such….. This is what caught Marcus in the first place. If only he knew! But I really did like Cordie and her witty, humorous banters and thoughts. I wouldn’t do as she did but it was practical, I guess. What I found hilarious was when she didn’t know what the “bulge” was when Brandon kissed her. It was the out most hilarious thing ever!

Oh, the lovable secondary characters. If you didn’t read the past 3 books you might not know who they are or how huge of a role they play in the series. But they were a fabulous bunch of guests and really did have a great part in driving this story forward.

There is a suspense element to the story concerning the letters and Brandon’s ex-wife’s secret, but the main focus is on the courting and growing relationship between Brandon and Cordie. Brandon did forget about those two troubles because of his determination to get Cordie but all is well.

So over all, this was a very enjoyable read and listen. And well, Stevie Zimmerman with her accented narration of the book is just fantastic! I wouldn’t mind listening to her read more Regency romances.

This audiobook was won as a gift by the author.

5 Mugs from CT – A sip of divinity, very near perfection.

5 mugs copy

AVA STONE

Ava Stone

The author of several Regency Noir Romances, Ava Stone first fell in love with Mr. Darcy, Jane Austen and Regency England at the age of twelve. And in the years since, that love has never diminished. If she isn’t writing Regency Era romance, she can be found reading it.

Her best-selling Scandalous Series is filled with witty humor and centers around the friends and family of the Machiavellian-like Lady Staveley, exploring deep themes but with a light touch. A single mother, Ava lives outside Raleigh NC, but she travels extensively, always looking for inspiration for new stories and characters in the various locales she visits.

Together with Tammy Falkner, Ava makes up 1/2 of the Lydia Dare Paranormal Regency writing team.

Feel free to contact her at ava@avastoneauthor.com

Picture and author bio taken from Julia Quinn’s Amazon author page: 

http://www.amazon.com/Ava-Stone/e/B005VUIJB6/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

If you liked this review, visit Ki Pha at doingsomereading.wordpress.com

Aubrey’s Ageless Romance Café

Aubrey’s Ageless Romance Café

In this literary world, a handful of stories will stand the test of time. A modern classic novel holds the attention of every generation with a thoughtful plot, complex characters and a scene or two that lingers long after the final page.

These books will never be traded in at the paperback store or sold for a quarter at a garage sale. An ageless romance is passed on to your sister, then to her daughter who loans it to a friend. By the time it makes it back to your shelf, the pages are yellowed, earmarked and appreciated. And every so often, when you need to be reminded of the remarkable power of love, you dust off that old friend and peruse its pages again. These are the stories I want to share with you in Aubrey’s cafe. 

51MfpLAvx3L._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_

The Present

By Johanna Lindsey

Published: 1998    Publisher:  Avon Romance    POV: Third person

Setting: England 1825 and a generation earlier

 Johanna Lindsey fans will love this book. In fact, her dedication reads: to the many fans who love the Malorys as much as I do. This present is for you.

I will admit, I have not read many of Ms. Lindsey’s books. However, my sister and I have a tradition of buying a Christmas book each year in December. This story is a result of that tradition. This year, we pulled it out and read it again. That should tell you something about the quality of the story.

The Malorys, a title family and members of the ton, gather at Haverston, the ancestral estate, each year for Christmas. They are quite a crew. Handsome rakes now tamed by spirited women with beautiful children following in the footsteps of their parents. Except for the oldest brother of the family.

Jason fell in love with Molly thirty years earlier. Molly fell in love with Jason. Great, right? No. Jason is titled and Molly is a servant. She refuses to cross the social line and let him risk scandal. So he marries within his rank and is miserable. So the two continue their affair until the wife finds out. Ah, now the can be together. Nope.

The wife, also extremely unhappy, threatens scandal if she does NOT get a divorce. Jason happily signs the papers and assumes he will now sweep Molly off her feet. But Molly won’t budge. She insists the ton will never accept her so the marriage will not work. They continue their secret affair and even have a child who is accepted by the social realm.

Fast forward to the present. The son is grown, now knows about his parentage, yet Molly remains obstinate. As the family gathers for the holidays, a mysterious present appears on the mantle. It stirs curiosity. The family, bickering and experiencing underlying tensions, are distracted by the mystery. It turns out to be a journal written by the grandparents, second Marquis of Haverston and his wife.

Within the pages are the ruminations and confessions of Christopher Malory and his gypsy wife, Anastasia. The fact that the Marquis’ wife was not of proper birth remained a secret until the discovery of this journal. The love story that unfolds is unique, well told and very romantic. Their lives also run eerily parallel to Jason and Molly.

Johanna Lindsey writes a Christmas story of love, betrayal and family. As Anastasia says in her note to future generations, “To our children and their children and so forth… we leave this written record to you, to be read at your leisure, and with your own imagination lending it life… And I give you fair warning: If you have been led to believe that we are individuals that could do no wrong, then read no further. We are human after all, with all the faults, passions, and mistakes that humans are known for. Judge us not, but perhaps learn from our mistakes.”

                 While the story itself was outstanding, there were elements I did not care for. The dialogue occasionally threw me off with the improper grammar I did not expect from the upper crust. I am not used to the frequent use the word ain’t used. Some of the dialogue also seemed a little out of place.  But these minor issues did not slow down my reading.

I have not read any of the previous books containing the Malory family. It did not hinder my understanding of the plot and the tale stood alone without previous background knowledge. Ms. Lindsey provided the reader with any information necessary to the plot.

The Present is a perfect read for the holidays. I loved the romance, strong but stubborn men and feisty, intelligent women. I loved the family dynamics and might pick up another book with these likeable characters. But the star of the novel is the couple from the journal. Anastasia, daring and desperate, is a perfect match for the obstinate yet passionate Christopher. I recommend this for all historical romance fans that believe the magic of Christmas.

I give The Present three and half mugs.

3.5 coffee mugs

Aubrey’s Ageless Romance Café


In this literary world, a handful of stories will stand the test of time. A classic novel holds the attention of every generation with a thoughtful plot, complex characters and a scene or two that lingers long after the final page.
These books will never be traded in at the paperback store or sold for a quarter at a garage sale. An ageless romance is passed on to your sister, then to her daughter who loans it to a friend. By the time it makes it back to your shelf, the pages are yellowed, earmarked and appreciated.  And every so often, when you need to be reminded of the remarkable power of love, you dust off that old friend and peruse its pages again. These are the stories I want to share with you in Aubrey’s cafe.

Christmas Jars
By Jason F. Wright

Published: 2005     Publisher: Worzalla Publishing     POV: Third person
Setting: Present day in Anywhere, USA

As Thanksgiving approaches, I am reminded of the lilting words sung by Bing Crosby, “Oh, I have plenty to be thankful for.” With the upcoming holidays, I find myself counting my blessings. Since this is a major theme that runs through Christmas Jars, I thought it would be appropriate for my next book review.

No matter how bad life gets, there is always someone who has it a little bit worse. Take Louise, for instance. She is a hard-working, old maid housekeeper. Her Christmas Eve tradition is dinner at Chuck’s Chicken and Biscuits. One year, she comes down with the flu and must postpone her annual holiday meal until New Year’s Eve. That evening, she finds an baby abandoned. A note from a desperate mother explains the abuse in the house and her hopes for a better life for her child. Louise never looks back. She takes on a child she cannot afford and her life explodes with happiness.

After her death, daughter Hope continues the holiday tradition and endures an emotional Christmas Eve meal at Chuck’s Chicken and Biscuits. When she returns home, she finds her apartment ransacked and anything of value stolen. As the police go through the crime scene, Hope finds a paper bag. Inside, is a jar with silver change and some bills  and the words ‘Christmas Jar’ painted on the outside.

As an up-and-coming journalist, the mystery and the motive appeal to her. She is determined to find out where the jar came from and why it was given to her. As she investigates, she finds newspaper archives  with several letters from others who have received Christmas jars. Each story had a common thread: sadness, frustration, loneliness or despair chased away by the giving of jar. In some cases, it provided financial assistance, for others it offered hope.

The story follows Hope as she searches out and spends a day with the recipient of each jar. The encounters provide not only a great newspaper article but renew her faith in people and their desire to help one another.

Christmas Jars is a heartwarming holiday tale that will remind you to count your own blessings. The reader will not find an actual romance between the pages. Yet, the idea of strangers reaching out to help others is a story of love in its own right. The novel is well written and avoids the sappiness of a Lifetime movie. If you are feeling cynical as this jolly season approaches, I highly recommend this book. It is a short and easy read and good for the soul.

The author tells us in his acknowledgements: “It is indeed thrilling that the spirit of Christmas Jars is now bigger than this book… with countless stories and no limits to the good it can do. Each of you is to be thanked for fueling this simple miracle. I hope that when you give your jar away, or if you’ve received this book with a jar meant for you, you will visit www.christmasjars.com and tell me about it. The world would love to hear your anonymous story.” Go ahead, grab the box of Kleenex and visit the site. Then hug your family and find a way to continue this altruistic tradition.

I give this wonderful, uplifting novel 4 mugs.

4 mugs

Aubrey’s Ageless Romance Café

In this literary world, a handful of stories will stand the test of time. A modern classic novel holds the attention of every generation with a thoughtful plot, complex characters and a scene or two that lingers long after the final page. These books will never be traded in at the paperback store or sold for a quarter at a garage sale. An ageless romance is passed on to your sister, then to her daughter who loans it to a friend. By the time it makes it back to your shelf, the pages are yellowed, earmarked and appreciated. And ever so often, when you need to be reminded of the remarkable power of love, you dust off that old friend and peruse its pages again. These are the stories I want to share with you in Aubrey’s cafe.

Loving Frank

By Nancy Horak

Published: 2007       Publisher: Ballantine Books       POV: Third person

Setting: Oak Park, IL and Spring Green, WI 1907-1914

Spoiler alert! A true story with the ending discussed in graphic detail.

Loving Frank is an historical romance about the love affair between architect Frank Lloyd Wright and feminist Mamah (Mahmuh) Borthwick Cheney. In the beginning, we think: classic boy meets the right girl at the wrong time. Although both Frank and Mamah were married, the attraction proved too strong to resist.The affair became headline news and reporters followed their journey from a passionate escape to Europe, their cold welcome home to the ghastly, abrupt end of their relationship.

Even in childhood, Mamah Borthwick considered herself an outsider and chose books for her closest friends. The written page filled her mind with adventures and she longed to ‘do something’ with her life. As a young woman, she left her hometown of Oak Park, Illinois and attended the university in Ann Arbor, Michigan. There, she caught the freedom bug and a feminist flu. Hoping to become an author in support of the Woman Movement, she moved to Port Huron to teach high school and later ran the public library. After six years, her determination to maintain her independence waned as one by one, her friends married and family became their new focus.

Edwin Cheney lost his heart to Miss Borthwick on their first meeting and vowed to win her hand. She saw thirty drawing close and realized independence also meant loneliness. His persistence finally convinced Mamah to give up the ‘modern’ life and give in to conformity. Her life took on a comfortable routine. With the birth of a son, Mamah soon convinced herself that contentment and affection were a fair substitute for passion.

Frank Lloyd Wright, an eccentric, up-and-coming architect, had made a name for himself and his Prairie Houses outside of Chicago. The focus on nature in the construction of a home became a hot trend for those who could afford it. The simplicity and open concept of his design appealed to men; his charming manner and larger than life personality appealed to women.

Enter: the Cheneys. Edwin commissioned Wright to build a Prairie House in Oak Park. Since her husband worked long days, Mrs. Cheney handled most of the consultations throughout the project. The housewife and architect found they were kindred souls intellectually. Just as they considered becoming intimate, Mamah discovers she is pregnant and refuses to see Frank again.

Jump ahead several years later. Frank Lloyd Wright is speaking to a group of women in Oak Park. Mamah knows it is dangerous to attend the presentation but can’t help herself. The moment their eyes connect, the reader knows there can only be one conclusion.

This is a story of a woman who gave up everything for love. Yet with this sacrifice, she eventually finds her own self worth and makes a name as a literary translator. While she never regretted her decisions, the reader is left to wonder if she would have done it differently if given the choice.

It is the account of a man who considered his talent a gift to the world and only Mamah could keep him grounded. The reader learns not only the intricacies behind Frank’s genius but the flaws within the man as well. He left behind a legacy accompanied by a mountain of unpaid bills.

Nancy Horan accurately describes the time period with intellect, humor and grace. She plops the reader in the middle of Europe, sipping tea in a German or French cafe and introduces us to the social radicals of the time. We share the frustration of women at the turn of the century as they struggle to transform their roles in a changing society. The author also brings us step by step through the construction of Frank Lloyd Wright’s beloved home, Taliesin. We are transported into an extraordinary time when architecture began to alter not only the landscape but the world.

I thought this story appropriate for October and Halloween because of the brutal murders of Mamah and her children. John was twelve and Martha only nine years old. In August of 1914, a disgruntled household servant, Julian Carlton, dished up lunch as usual for the master’s family. He then went outside, locked all the doors except for one, poured gasoline around the perimeters of the house and lit a match. Back inside, he took an axe to the family, split their skulls and watched them burn. Other staff, eating in another part of the home, smelled smoke and ran for the only open door. An axe greeted them as they exited. Martha lived for several hours so severely burned she was unrecognizable. Mamah’s ex-husband dug through the ashes to find his son’s bones. Frank Lloyd Wright rebuilt Taliesin only to watch it burn again. He never fully recovered from the tragedy. I found this novel to be engaging and thought-provoking.

A few times in the middle of the novel, I skimmed a chapter or two. Yet, I also found myself hoping that the novel would end differently and my heroine would live happily ever after. A huge a happy-ever-after fan, I cannot give five mugs but highly recommend it with four to fans of historical romance, Frank Lloyd Wright or architecture.

4 coffee mugs
Hot, strong, and addicting.