Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sweet Romance-Focused Fantasy | Review of Sun and Moon + Excerpt and Giveaway!



About the Book

There is nothing in life that eighteen-year-old Zara craves more than her freedom. Stolen from her home in Cadrebia at the age of eight, Zara has spent more years than she cared to admit as a slave to the Tankadesh courts. Her days are filled with protecting the princess, while she spends nights entertaining the king and his officials with her mastery of weapons. Any spare moment in between, she plots escape.

Yet her hopes for freedom come to a crashing halt when a stranger arrives bearing the mark of her assigned lifemate, and he threatens war if she isn’t turned over into his care. But a lifemate is not part of the plan. Her dreams, of choosing her own path and being the master of her own will, weaken as her Moon seeks to claim his Sun.

Is it possible that this stranger, with gentle blue eyes and a ready smile, didn’t come to be her new master? That there could be more to his tale?

Zara soon finds that neither her captivity nor her parents’ deaths were mere random attacks. And by returning to Cadrebia, she may have put the future of the royal line—and her Moon—in jeopardy. While Zara breathes in her first taste of freedom, her enemies move in, seeking to rob Cadrebia of its blessed prophecy.

To keep what she holds dear, Zara must rise above the pain and uncertainty to claim the lifemate assigned to her, or more than her freedom will be stolen this time.

Purchase a Copy:


My Rating

Spring

My Review

I love the way Desiree Williams writes romance! The heroes and heroines in her fantasy novels (at least the ones I've experienced so far) always have these deep, tender, fun, and loyal connections. There seems to be a theme of arranged/appointed matches (of a sort) in these stories, and it's intriguing to watch the characters decide how they're going to react to their potential partner and whether they're willing to open up to the possibility of true love.

I believe the beginning of Sun and Moon was my favorite part of the story: the anticipation of Zara and Jaedon's first meeting, the mystery of how Zara's terrible situation as a slave would get resolved, the clash of two very different worlds when Jaedon sets out to bring home his soul mate, and the suspense reminiscent of the Exodus in the Bible.

Jaedon's protectiveness and patience are definitely swoon-worthy. And Zara's devotion to her friends and her desire for freedom are admirable and make her character likable, even if she has a lot of walls around her heart.

The thread of suspense stretches throughout the story, although I felt a little less excited by the developments and build-up toward the end than I did by the epic tension at the beginning. But this is a sweet and solid tale, and those who enjoy innocent, romance-focused fantasy with some relational drama should find Sun and Moon a delightful read.

*With thanks to the author for providing me with an e-ARC of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*


About the Author

Desiree Williams is a dreamer by day and chocoholic by night. She lives in the beautiful state of Kentucky with her husband and daughter, where she juggles life as a wannabe supermom. Desiree is a lover of food and avoider of dirty dishes. She delights in making people laugh and strives to bring hope and love with her wherever she goes. You can find out more about Desiree and her books at www.desireewilliamsbooks.blogspot.com.



Excerpt

See if this intriguing snippet doesn't make you eager to read more!

* * * 

The king’s design for her enslavement was to do more than entertain. He wanted everyone to covet his possessions, to be envious of all that he owned. And what better way to promote jealousy and strife than for the people to lust after it. 

Zara lifted the swords, the chill of the metal hilts seeping through the leather of her gloves, cooling the heat from the mark. The blades clanked across the tiles as she dragged the tips outward. 

A man entered the arena from a hall on the left side, opposite the one she’d come from. A mask of gold covered his face and head, leaving only his eyes visible. She didn’t have to look hard to know those green eyes belonged to Dareh. He always found a way to be her sparring partner during these types of festivities. At least he got to be more clothed than she was. A crimson vest covered his chest and torso while leather breeches protected his legs. 

Dareh stepped into position, facing her. His knees bent and he held his swords tucked at his side, pointing away from her. 

Zara sighed. Maybe they could end this quickly, and she could be done with this horrible evening. She shifted into her own battle stance, crouching with one foot behind her and hating how the holes in her trousers splayed over her legs. Pointing one sword at Dareh, she arched the other high over her head. 

They waited for the music to begin again to signal the start of their mock battle. Except this time, something very different broke the silence. 

“Raise that sword against her, and I will remove your head.”

Giveaway!

Enter to win a signed paperback copy of Sun and Moon and a $15 Amazon gift card! The winner of the giveaway will be selected randomly via Rafflecopter and announced on Facebook and Twitter the morning of May 2, 2016 at around 9am EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 18, 2016

One of My Favorites by Melanie Dickerson! | Review of The Beautiful Pretender



About the Book

After inheriting his title from his brother, the margrave has two weeks to find a noble bride. What will happen when he learns he has fallen for a lovely servant girl in disguise?

The Margrave of Thornbeck has to find a bride, fast. He invites ten noble born ladies who meet the king’s approval to be his guests at Thornbeck Castle for two weeks, a time to test these ladies and reveal their true character.

Avelina has only two instructions: keep her true identity a secret and make sure the margrave doesn’t select her as his bride. Since the latter seems unlikely, she concentrates on not getting caught. No one must know she is merely a maidservant, sent by the Earl of Plimmwald to stand in for his daughter, Dorothea.

Despite Avelina’s best attempts at diverting attention from herself, the margrave has taken notice. And try as she might, she can’t deny her own growing feelings. But something else is afoot in the castle. Something sinister that could have far worse—far deadlier—consequences.

Releases May 17, 2016!

My Rating

Spring/Summer

My Review

If Melanie Dickerson has a new book releasing, I know I want to get my hands on it! While some of her stories shine more than others, I know I'm always in for a sweet treat, complete with romance and adventure. I'm quite happy to report that The Beautiful Pretender is one of my favorites of hers!

(I'd probably have to re-read them all to determine which one I love best. Hey, that's not a bad idea! ;) From first impressions, The Fairest Beauty, A Spy's Devotion, and The Beautiful Pretender stood out to me.)

The fairy-tale elements in this story weren't quite as distinct as they are in many of her other books. In fact, while I might just be out of the loop, I couldn't quite pinpoint a particular fairy-tale tie-in. And I was perfectly okay with that, because this story and its characters felt more original and definitely held my attention.

(After looking at the author's website, the two fairy tales connected to this story are "The Princess and the Pea" and "Beauty and the Beast." Makes sense! But still, I appreciate the originality of this mash-up.)

I liked that the heroine is brave and bold, and that the hero, gruff and wounded as he is, reveals a tender side. The way these two connect and watch out for each other as the story unfolds is very endearing.

Interestingly, the big plot point that one might expect to be the climax happened sooner than I expected, which left more time for character growth and added danger. No complaints on that score, here!

The Beautiful Pretender is a wonderful addition to Dickerson's collection and an all-around great read for fans of sweet historical romance. The story comes with a great reminder that sometimes we have to stop hiding and take some risks in order to experience the best of life.

*With thanks to NetGalley and Thomas Nelson for providing me with an e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Other Melanie Dickerson Books I've Reviewed...
The Healer's Apprentice | The Merchant's Daughter | The Fairest Beauty | The Princess Spy | The Golden Braid | The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest {Prequel to The Beautiful Pretender} | A Spy's Devotion {Regency}

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Sweet Humor and Tangy Depth | Review of I'll Be Yours

About the Book

She’s the coach’s brilliant daughter, clueless about love. He’s the dethroned football star, ready to teach Romance 101. When dark secrets and sparks collide, there’s no playbook for what happens next. 

The day Andrew Levin arrives at Washington High, Harper O’Malley knows he’ll make the perfect starter boyfriend. The school’s newest band geek is totally in Harper’s league, yet completely out of this late-bloomer’s reach. Between fitting in with a new family, scoring the first chair in band, and rescuing dogs for the local animal shelter, Harper’s never had the opportunity to hone her dating skills. But even though Harper’s love life is far from perfect, she’s got the perfect plan.

Harper knows she’s insane to agree to tutor Ridley Estes, a notorious heartbreaker and the star of her high school’s football team—but in exchange, he’s offered to school her in the game of love. Just when she sees promise with her crush, a football scandal rocks her family, her town, and Ridley’s entire future. Harper suddenly has everything to lose—her family, friends, and even her heart. When the dust of the scandal settles, nothing will be the same. Including the girl who asked the most popular jock to teach her about love.

Award-winning author Jenny B. Jones returns to YA with a sweet, funny novel about first love and the power of letting go.



My Rating

Spring/Summer

My Review

Jenny B. Jones is a star in the game of balancing humor and depth in young adult fiction! She transitions smoothly between a variety of emotions: elation, anger, surprise, uncertainty, fear, and hope.

Harper makes for a great heroine. She's a smart, "nerdy," compassionate, fun-loving girl with some understandable trust issues. And while 16 seems a little young to be panicking over the lack of a boyfriend (spoken just like a 20-something, I know!), it's easy to relate to her and root for her.

And Ridley, well...he's a *very* swoon-worthy YA guy! It was wonderful to get more insight into his kind, confident, somewhat cocky character as the story progresses.

All the elements are there for an enjoyable contemporary YA story: a bookish girl, a hunky football player, and boyfriend drama. But this book steps up the game with some complex characterization among the secondary characters (Harper's parents, Ridley's family, and the people Harper meets/works with through the animal shelter). I love that the relationships are messy but the interactions and growth are ultimately inspiring.

I would compare I'll Be Yours to Nestle's Wonder Ball. There's a thin chocolate-yummy shell that makes for some obviously sweet reading pleasure. But it doesn't take long to get through the shell and discover hidden, tangy surprises within - harder to chew on but sweet in their own way.

The ending feels a little quick on the jump between conflict and resolution in some aspects, but the results are indisputably satisfying. An enjoyable offering!

*With thanks to Relz Author Support Services and the author for providing me with an e-copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*