Friday, July 3, 2015

New Review: Parris Afton Bonds’ LAVENDER BLUE – Love, Spies & Privateers in Texas During the Civil War!

The heroine, Jeanette St. John, is a Civil War widow living in Texas in 1862 looking to aid the Confederacy by trading her cotton for weapons she can supply the South. But the only ship’s captain able to run the North’s blockade is a Frenchman named “Kitt, the Frenchman,” operating out of Mexico. And so she goes to see him and agrees to a strange bargain: her virtue for his successful runs of cotton for arms and ammunition.

Meanwhile Jen has a childhood friend, now grown into a handsome man and returned from years in France, one Cristobal Cavazos, who would have her think he is a gay fop when he is anything but.

When the war draws near Jen’s home in Brownsville, Jen’s sea captain father orders her to the North where he lives, but she has no intention of going. She thrives on the excitement and danger around her. So she talks Cristobal into marrying her—a marriage of convenience where they will live their separate lives. And then the Frenchman, Kitt insists she keeps the terms of their bargain.
Original cover

Of course I knew that Cristobal was Kitt, but even knowing that, I loved watching Jen stumble around doubting the virility of her husband. Cristobal was a great hero and put up with Jen’s snippy overreactions to learning of his assumed identity. The story is intriguing as both Cristobal and Jen take on the role of spy, her for the Confederacy and he for the Juaristas in Mexico.

The story reflects Bonds’ considerable research and events of the Civil War in Texas. It’s a story of second chances and love in the middle of tumultuous times and a tumultuous relationship. And there are some well-written, exciting scenes as Cristobal tries to outrun the Union troops. Very enjoyable!

Buy on Amazon.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

New Review: Heather Graham’s LOVE NOT A REBEL – Great Revolutionary War Romance!

July is American Patriotic month on my blog when I features romances from the time when our country was fighting to be free and fighting for its future. This is a great one to start with, a classic and a keeper from a very worth author, Heather Graham. One of my favorite authors and one of my favorite series by her.

This is the 3rd in the North American Woman trilogy, which is a part of the 6-book Cameron Saga (see list below)--and it is one you will really enjoy. I loved this trilogy and highly recommend it.

The story begins in Boston in 1773 when Lord Eric Cameron, a Virginian with estates in England and a descendent of the Camerons whose stories are told in the first two books, meets and falls in love with the beautiful and tempestuous Lady Amanda Sterling who is only 17. Lady Amanda, a loyalist, is in love with dashing Lord Robert Tarryton but he wants a title and is willing to marry a duchess he does not love to get it. While Amanda is expecting a proposal from Lord Tarryton, she learns of his betrothal to the duchess and is heartbroken.

Tarryton would take her as his mistress, which shocks her and she spurns him for it. Meanwhile, Eric has spoken to her father about marrying her and her father has given his consent. To get away from her father who is brutally cruel to her, and to flee her only other prospect, Amanda consents to wed Eric. She does not love him, but she is inexplicably drawn to the handsome, virile man. Eric is fast becoming an American patriot. A friend of George Washington and Patrick Henry, he values liberty and is willing to risk all to have it.

I love how Graham wove real history into the story with real historic figures. Amanda is forced by her father to spy on her husband and the actions of the patriots. Eric suspects this and though he has fallen in love with her, he does not trust her and feeds her false information. They are passionate in their lovemaking, each loving the other but saying nothing for fear of giving the other power. George Washington believes Amanda may be "the Highness," the spy who is hurting the rebel cause. Eric believes it, too.

Swept up in the tides of history, we discover that love still matters, treachery can come from those closest to us, and truth is hard to find. If you love American history and the Revolutionary War period, and if you love truly great historical romance, you'll love this one. Heather Graham's writing and well-described action does not disappoint. I really loved the way she showed us how the "lords" of England became the ordinary--or rather, extraordinary--men of America with no titles but with great courage and a great legacy.

The Cameron Saga:

The North American Women trilogy: Sweet Savage Eden, A Pirate's Pleasure and Love Not a Rebel
The Camerons in the Civil War trilogy: One Wore Blue, And One Wore Gray, And One Rode West

Monday, June 29, 2015

Best Western Historical Romances

I first discovered Western romances by reading those written by my favorite authors who also wrote in other subgenres (when I was gobbling up their backlists). Since then, I have become a true fan of the subgenre and find myself every now and then reaching for a good romance from the Old West. Love those Indian and gun-slinging heroes. So, it seemed a “best” list was in order to share some of these wonderful stories with you.
Here are the best of those I’ve read…all rated 4, 4 and ½ or 5 stars by me. Some have won Golden Heart, RITA and other awards. I think you’ll like these!

·                A Fire in the Blood by Shirl Henke
·                A Heart So Wild by Johanna Lindsey
·                Beautiful Bad Man by Ellen O’Connell
·                Beauty and the Bounty Hunter by Lori Austin
·                Behind His Blue Eyes by Kaki Warner
·                Branded Hearts by Heather Graham (Pozzessere)
·                Brave the Wild Wind, Savage Thunder and Angel, Wyoming trilogy by Johanna
·                Brighter Than Gold by Cynthia Wright
·                Broken Vows by Shirl Henke
·                Captive Melody by Nadine Crenshaw
·                Capture the Sun, The Endless Sky and Sundancer, trilogy by Shirl Henke
·                Colorado Promise by Charlene Whitman
·                Comanche Moon, Comanche Heart and Indigo Blue (from the Comanche series)
by Catherine Anderson
·                Dancing on Coals by Ellen O’Connell
·                Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold by Ellen O’Connell
·                Fair is the Rose by Meagan McKinney
·                Fire Hawk’s Bride by Judith E. French
·                Fireblossom and Wildblossom, the Matthews duology by Cynthia Wright
·                Forever Mine by Charlene Raddon
·                Golden Fancy by Jennifer Blake
·                Golden Lady by Shirl Henke
·                Heart of the West by Penelope Williamson
·                Heartbreak Creek, Colorado Dawn and Bride of the High Country, trilogy by    Kaki Warner
·                Her Bodyguard by E. E. Burke
·                Her Wicked Captor by Sandra Jones
·                Hummingbird by LaVyrle Spencer
·                Innocent Fire, Firestorm, Violet Fire and The Fires of Paradise (from The Bragg
Saga) by Brenda Joyce
·                Into the Light by Ellen O’Connell
·                Lawless by Nora Roberts
·                Love a Dark Rider by Shirlee Busbee
·                Love Cherish Me by Rebecca Brandewyne
·                Love Unwilling By Shirl Henke
·                McCrory’s Lady by Shirl Henke
·                Mountain Mistress by Nadine Crenshaw
·                Night Wind’s Woman, White Apache’s Woman and Deep as the Rivers, trilogy by
Shirl Henke
·                No Other Man, No Other Woman and No Other Love, trilogy by Shannon Drake
·                Pieces of Sky, Open Country and Chasing the Sun, the Blood Rose trilogy by Kaki
·                Reckless Angel by Elizabeth Awbrey (aka Elizabeth Stuart)
·             Savage Ecstasy and Defiant Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor
·                Silken Savage by Catherine Hart
·                Sing My Name by Ellen O’Connell
·                Star of the West by Cordia Byers
·                Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers
·                Tears of Gold by Laurie McBain
·                Tender Touch by Charlene Raddon
·                The Ballad of Emma O’Toole by Elizabeth Lane
·                The Bequest by Candice Proctor
·                The Darkest Heart by Brenda Joyce
·                The Outsider by Penelope Williamson
·                The River Nymph by Shirl Henke
·                The Tiger’s Woman by Celeste De Blasis
·                Under the Desert Moon by Marsha Canham
·                When the Splendor Falls by Laurie McBain
·                Where the Horses Run by Kaki Warner
·                Where the Wild Wind Blows by Nancy Morse
·               While Passion Sleeps by Shirlee Busbee

Saturday, June 27, 2015

New Review: Celeste De Blasis’ THE TIGER’S WOMAN – Compelling Love Story from the Pacific Northwest – a Keeper!

One of my blog followers recommended this book and I thank her for it. It’s now on my keeper shelf. It’s the kind of story that grabs you and won’t let go. I highly recommend it.

De Blasis brings us the intriguing story of a well-educated young woman, raised to be a lady, who because of a tortured past gives herself to a man nearly twice her age who she knows harbors a love for his dead wife. But the Tiger is a man who can protect her from the one who hunts her.

Set in San Francisco, Seattle and the San Juan Islands, the story begins in 1869. The widow “Mary Smith” (an assumed name) is on the run from killing a man, or thinking she might have. Then a man who she encountered ten years ago (when she was only 8), Jason Drake, sees her dancing in a saloon and decides he wants her. She flees to Seattle, never knowing that Seattle is his home, where he is known as “the Tiger,” a man of power and wealth who has his own island.

When she discovers that the Tiger is feared and respected, Mary decides to become his mistress in a bargain that will secure her his protection from the evil that stalks her. Neither thinks the relationship will be anything but transitory, each meeting the other’s needs. But they are both in for a surprise when they fall in love and Mary’s past slams into her present. 

De Blasis brings to life the world of logging and the lumber business (“the loggers had a kingdom, a language and a code of chivalry all their own…”) and creates a wonderful world that includes an island in the San Juan Islands where the misfits Jason has collected thrive. De Blasis has obviously done considerable research for this story, even down to the ship scenes, the vegetation, the Indians who show up one day and so much more. It is all very well done.

It’s a poignant story of two people whose pasts tear them apart but whose love will draw them together again, a love strong enough to overcome fear. It’s a story of self-forgiveness, of letting go of the past and embracing the future. The telling of it is a masterpiece and the characters absolutely priceless, including Jason’s young son, Jamie. You will be glad De Blasis took 651 pages to bring us this story. If you are like me, you will not want it to end.

There are many quotable passages along the way, but I quite liked this one, a remembered saying of Jason’s dead wife: “My fierce man, tears and rain are the same thing, they’re meant to wash you clean and make you grow. If you don’t let them out, you’ll drown inside.”

Buy it used on Amazon for $4.00 in paper.

Friday, June 26, 2015

We have a winner!

Thanks to all those who commented on E. E. Burke's fascinating post on the railroads. It was good hearing from each of you. And now we have a lucky winner: Kristen LeHew! Congratulations, Kristen. You win Her Bodyguard.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Guest Author E.E. Burke on Romance, Rails & Riots!

Not many of you know that I began my law career as a railroad lawyer. So trust me when I say that I am very excited about my guest today, E.E. Burke, author of award-winning Western romances that weave in history the way it really happened in the American West. ​​

She is sharing with us some of her research from her series titles Steam! Romance and Rails of which Her Bodyguard is a part (reviewed by me two days ago). It’s a great series, one I know you’ll enjoy!

One lucky commenter will receive Her Bodyguard, so be sure we can reach you or leave an email.

Romance, Rails and Riots by E. E. Burke

In the second half of the nineteenth century, the United States entered a time of explosive growth and expansion that has been unmatched since. The country had just emerged from a devastating war and its people needed to have faith in something. That something turned out to be what railroads represented: opportunity and hope for the future. 

The hotly contested construction race between the Missouri, Fort Scott & Gulf Railroad Company (nicknamed The Border Tier) and the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway (more commonly known as The Katy) encapsulates the spirit of these times and the challenges. This race turned out to be the perfect setting for the first two books in my railroad romance series. 

Her Bodyguard follows the history of the Border Tier and tells the story of an unlikely romance that develops between two people caught up in the cutthroat railroad race and a violent settlers’ revolt.

“If the railroad can be put through next season, we can sell lots enough to make such sinners as we are rich as sinners ought to be.”   Samuel Pomeroy, Kansas Senator

With the Cherokee Treaty of 1866, President Grant establishes a large tract of land in southern Kansas for settlement. Using political pressure, the railroads got the land cheap, less than $1 an acre. 

That same month, the President signs the Land Grant bill into law, giving first railroad to reach Indian Territory (modern day Oklahoma) exclusive rights to build through the sovereign nations.

The race between three contenders quickly becomes a neck-to-neck competition between the two most powerful railroads: the Southern branch of the Union Pacific started by Judge Levi Parsons and the line owned by then-president of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, James Joy. Both men are Eastern investors who get into the railroad business for the easy money. It turns out to be not so easy.

Since the end of the Civil War, settlers have been “squatting” on what is now railroad land. They claim Congress promised it to them and refuse to pay the railroad’s asking price.

 “Hang the RR man as high as Haman, without benefit of clergy” Crawford County Settlers’ Land League

By late 1869, competitive railroads are racing toward a prescribed crossing at the border of Indian Territory.  Working for James Joy’s Border Tier line, brilliant engineer Octave Chanute (who gained famed by constructing the first bridge over the Missouri River in Kansas City) draws a straight line south and builds to altitudes of 300 feet, intent on constructing a “first class” railroad. 

Meanwhile, settlers in Southeastern Kansas organize into armed militias (Land Leagues) to violently oppose the railroad. Leaguers attack railroad agents, burn out rail crews, steal supplies, tents, articles and camp equipment. Federal troops are sent in to keep the peace. The settlers, predominantly Union veterans, face off with the government they’d fought for just a few years earlier. 

Despite problems with angry settlers, all bets are on the Border Tier to win the race. The railroad is laying two miles of track a day, has a head start on the Katy, and more money.

“Give me the iron and the big stuff and I’ll put your railroad down if I have to lay it flat on the prairie.”   John Scullin to Katy brass

In January 1870, the stockholders of the Katy Railroad meet in Emporia. Parsons has hired a new general manager who will win the race for him. While the Border Tier builds a railroad that will last, the Katy’s workers lay iron “flat on the prairie” and adjust routes to minimize bridges and curves. They focus on speed, rather than quality.

 Rumor has it Parsons’ men are stirring up the settlers and encouraging them to riot. The Border Tier strikes back and is accused of vandalism and banditry. Both lines engage in bidding wars for workers.

“One must be prepared to pay for the victory, or not play at all” James Joy

In May, the Border Tier line reaches Baxter Springs near the Indian Territory border, still ahead of the Katy, and holds a blowout celebration party—a little prematurely.

Sneaky competitors hire “fake” Indians to direct Octave Chanute to wrong border crossing, a pile of stones that mark an 1837 survey, which is few miles away from the official 1854 border. While the Border Tier celebrates, the Katy lays track to the correct borderline.

The problems with the settlers continue to plague both railroads as they dispute the results of the race. I won’t tell you how it ends, although I will say Her Bodyguard is historically accurate, and at least two people get their HEA.
The most dangerous man may be the one she hires.

For America “Amy” Langford, investing in the Border Tier Railroad isn’t about chasing riches. The savvy businesswoman is after bigger stakes: influence, respect, success her father didn’t live to see. Rioting settlers and underhanded competitors can’t stop her, but a killer might. When a ruggedly handsome drifter comes to her rescue, she trusts her instincts and hires him as her bodyguard.
Buck O'Connor has put his violent past behind him, but being a wanted man dictates a life of deceit. So what’s one more lie? He becomes Amy’s protector so he can secretly thwart her railroad’s progress to help his cousin avoid financial ruin. A great scheme—until he falls in love.
While Buck hides his true purpose, Amy lies to herself about her growing feelings for her bodyguard. But the price for deceit is steep, and the secrets they both hide could destroy their future—if they survive.  

Three other novels in the Steam! Romance and Rails series, Passon’s Prize, A Dangerous Passion and the upcoming release, Fugitive Hearts, continue the story. 

  E.E. Burke writes sexy, suspenseful historical romance set in the American west. Her upcoming release, Fugitive Hearts, is part of the series, Steam! Romance and Rails. Her writing has earned accolades in regional and national contests, including the prestigious Golden Heart.
Over the years, she’s been a disc jockey, a journalist and an advertising executive, before finally getting around to pursuing her dream of writing fiction—specifically, historical fiction. Her stories are as deeply rooted in American soil as her family, which she can trace back to the earliest colonists and through both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. She lives in Kansas City with her husband and three daughters, the greatest inspiration of all. 

Buy it on Amazon.

You can keep up with E.E. via her Website her Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and Goodreads.