An Eternity of Roses (The Valthreans: Book 1) by Natalie G. Owens

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Book Review
Title: An Eternity of Roses (The Valthreans: Book 1)
Author:  Natalie G. Owens
Publisher: Rose of Atlantis Press/Natalie G. Owens
Released: January 5, 2013
Pages: 468
ISBN-10: 0988577216
ISBN-13: 978-0-9885772-1-3
Stars:  4.0

”She crashed headlong into an incandescent whirlpool of emotion from which she never wanted to escape.” Emma Deramore, in the throes of ecstasy after being separated from her true love for over 200 years…yes, I’ll have what she’s having!

It’s always such a joy when I read a book by a Facebook friend that I enjoyed enough to review. An Eternity of Roses (The Valthreans: Book 1) by Natalie G. Owens is an intelligently written, passionate, historical paranormal romance that will leave you wanting to read Book 2 of The Valthreans series, A Lifetime for Revenge, right away.

An Eternity of Roses is the story of the dashing blonde & blue-eyed Adrian Segrave, Viscount Bournemouth and his raven-haired, doe-eyed, adventurous betrothed, Lady Emmaline Deramore who in December 1807 are about to be married, thus creating a union that their British society are excited about. What they don’t know is that fate has its cruel twists mapped out for them as the jealous, red-haired, green-eyed, inherently evil immortal witch, Lady Madeleine de Brandeville is going to use a powerful curse to separate them for over 200 years.

Disclaimer: Do not read this novel if you dislike drop dead sexy heroes, strong heroines, intriguing immortals, magic, spells, mystery, amazing adventures, exotic settings, secret cults, and sensual love scenes.

Well, I do love all those things so I read the book and am not sorry that I did. I was only sorry when the story came to an end.

In the Prologue we discern the history of the Valthreans, an immortal race originating in Kashmir, India.  Their namesake Valther was murdered within sight of his brothers Nila & Candaka by the Naga King Aravala for not immediately revealing that he had found a magic Chalice that was part of a group of mystical objects that would allow him to enter a state of immortality. Valther, who had a keen interest in the science of healing and a thirst for knowledge, had found one of the legendary Cups of Life from the lost seven Chalices of the River Demon. King Aravala possessed supernatural powers that allowed him to control the seasons and the weather, and he decided who lived and died. He also used the venom of cobras to kill immortals.

Valther was deemed a traitor to his people and sentenced to death by the sting of the cobra. The Naga people’s (The Cult of the Snake) sworn enemy, King Asoka, conspired to destroy the Naga beliefs.  Knowledge of magic was coveted by both peoples and Asoka could not allow Aravala to possess more knowledge of the Black Arts than he. Aravala, the Snake King, cared only for power and wealth and his people were either terrified of him or believed in the same things while the Valthreans sought to live peacefully. But what Asoka and Aravala didn’t know was that Nila & Candaka possessed the remaining Cups of Life and they were prepared to spend eternity protecting their own by keeping them from falling into the wrong hands.

An Eternity of Roses is a highly imaginative tale of the lengths one woman will go to, to be reunited with her true love and what another will do to keep that from happening. Emma’s adventures take her from England to Scotland to Italy to Holland and back to England over the course of 200 years. Her love scenes with Adrian are steamily and sensuously written but they’re far and few between as this is a story about separation, stolen identity, revenge and redemption. Lady Madeleine de Brandeville is a deliciously vile antagonist. She kidnaps Adrian, casts a spell on him that makes him forget his past, gives him a new name (Adam Alvar), makes him an immortal and cohabitates with him in a loveless marriage, because no matter how hard she tries, Adrian does not feel any love for her. Madeleine fortuitously gets her hands on the Demon’s Chalice and positions herself as an ally of a very influential member of the Cult of the Snake’s hierarchy. She has to remain in his good graces or suffer the ultimate consequence of betrayal. However, when members of the Valthrean Council catch up with her she has to flee her home in Scotland which provides Adam with the opportunity to leave her and embark on a new life of travel and adventure.

Emma in the meantime befriends another immortal, the mysterious Massimiliano “Max” Damiani (the main character in Book 2 of this series) in 1944 in London, who is instrumental in helping her find her lost love. Max is a friend of Nila and Candaka, now known as Neil and Cam, the oldest Valthreans in existence, and head of the Council, an organization that can find just about anything and who will go to any lengths to ensure that Valthreans remain able to live in peace among humans. What will happen when they do find Adrian, who doesn’t remember a thing about his past? Although the war is coming to an end, the battle for true love has yet to begin.

This is an epic adventure that readers of both historical and paranormal romance will undoubtedly enjoy. Owens’ (a former lawyer who lives on the island of Malta) poetic prose is far better than the average self-published work and even though she indulges in a few moments of extreme cheesiness and (“Mayhap one day is all I can say. But never forget, brother, home is in here.”) the book’s cover could be more enticing, it deserves a large audience. I will definitely read more of Natalie G. Owens’ work.

Finding Colin Firth by Mia March

Finding Colin Firth by Mia MarchBook Review
Title: Finding Colin Firth
Author:  Mia March
Publisher: Gallery Books
Released: July 9, 2013
Pages: 336
ISBN-10: 1476710201
ISBN-13: 978-1476710204
Stars:  4.0

Okay, I admit it. I’m not original. I’m like over a million other women who think that Colin Firth is absolutely talented, dreamy, amazing and someone to gush about. When I stumbled onto a copy of Mia March’s Finding Colin Firth in Chapters recently, I couldn’t help but buy it. The title captivated me instantly. I’d heard about Mia March through Jane Porter’s blog and knew that her debut novel was called The Meryl Streep Movie Club and being a huge movie fan, I’d thought that I’d love to read that as well. I just happened to find Finding Colin Firth first. I trust Jane Porter’s taste in women’s fiction implicitly as she has yet to steer me wrong.

Finding Colin Firth is not only a story that has some of the main characters literally searching for Colin Firth when it’s rumoured that he’s going to be shooting scenes for a new movie in the small coastal town of Boothbay Harbor, Maine, but it’s also a deeply moving account of three women’s issues of identity and their sense of belonging that stresses the importance of female relationships.

We first meet 22-year-old Bea Crane, a cook at Boston’s Crazy Burger who longs to become a teacher, on the day that she discovers from the deathbed letter of her mother that she was adopted. This shocking news turns Bea’s world upside down and after her bitchy boss complains about her work ethic one time too many when she’s just heard this life-changing news, she decides to quit Crazy Burger. She then travels to Maine to meet her birth mother who left her contact information with the local adoption agency.

Veronica Russo is a beautiful, single, 38-year-old waitress who works at the Best Little Diner in Boothbay. She has a small business on the side making the best pies in the area as well as teaching classes on pie making. Her “elixir” pies are particularly special because of the love, care and thought she instills in the making of every one. March’s delectable pie descriptions had me salivating, and I loved how she created special names for Veronica’s different kinds of pie: Amore Pie (chocolate caramel cream), Spirit Pie (shoofly), Feel Better Pie (blueberry), Confidence Pie (key lime) and Hope Pie (salted caramel cheesecake) to name a few.  Veronica loves Colin Firth and decides that she’s going to apply to be an extra in the movie that’s being filmed in Boothbay Harbor with the hope that she’ll get to see him in person.  We also discover that 22 years ago Veronica gave birth to a baby girl who she got to hold for all of two minutes before she was taken away from her as she’d decided to put her up for adoption. Her parents and high school boyfriend had both disowned her and she was sent to Hope Home for unwed mothers to live until she had her baby, after which she left Maine for Florida and didn’t come back for many years.

Gemma Hendricks is a 29-year-old, newly unemployed reporter from New York City who’s just discovered she’s pregnant but who is terrified that she doesn’t have a maternal bone in her body and that she’ll have to give up her career to become a stay-at-home mother in the suburbs, which is exactly what her lawyer husband Alexander wants her to do. She decides to take a vacation alone and go back to Boothbay Harbor where she spent her summers as a young girl, to reunite with some close girlfriends who co-own a little inn called Three Captains (who just happen to be running a Colin Firth movie month) and to try to figure out how she’s going to compromise with Alexander to find a happy medium for both of them. While in Boothbay Harbor, Gemma is given an opportunity to write a feature article about Hope Home’s 50th anniversary for the local Gazette which leads to her meeting both Bea and Veronica before they’ve even met each other. We come to care about each one of them in the meantime through discovering their histories and because they’re sweet, likeable women. I particularly enjoyed Veronica and looked forward to her appearances in the novel most of all.

This is a delightful, easy read that although predictable in its outcome, still held joy for this reader. Reading it is equivalent to watching a romantic comedy starring Colin Firth (think Bridget Jones’s Diary or Love Actually) while enjoying a bowl of popcorn with your girlfriends, which is something that the women in Finding Colin Firth, actually do. However, the issues of adoption, parenthood and what makes a good parent; reputation and judgment and how one can hurt the other; and finding a way to allow your heart to open after it’s been seriously damaged are not fluffy in any way. There are also interesting love interests for Bea and Veronica with several sub-plots to add depth to their characters and just the right amount of tension and conflict. There were, perhaps, too many questions raised by the main characters in the literal sense, as there were times when March listed the questions running through their minds about their individual predicaments, and that made me roll my eyes because they were quite simplified in my mind, but other than that, I loved the journey of watching these women not only find each other but also themselves, not to mention discovering whether they would actually find Colin Firth. You’ll have to read the book yourself to find out.  Go ahead, it’s worth it!

The Good Wife by Jane Porter

The Good Wife by Jane PorterBook Review
Title: The Good Wife (A Brennan Sisters Novel)
Author:  Jane Porter
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Released: September 3, 2013
Pages: 432
ISBN-10: 0425253678
ISBN-13: 978-0425253670
Stars:  4.5

The Good Wife which asks the question, “Is it possible to love someone too much?” is the third book (and hopefully not final!) in the Brennan Sisters series by award-winning, national bestselling author Jane Porter who has more than five million copies of her books in print.  It’s also the one that caused me to shed the most tears.  Read it with a box of Kleenex at your side! I absolutely adore this series and Library Journal calls it, “An investment worth making for fans of smart women’s fiction.”  I couldn’t agree more.

This is the youngest Brennan sister’s story, that of beautiful Sarah Walker, wife of Tampa Bay Ray’s designated hitter and all-around “Spartacus” force of nature, N’awlins native Boone Walker, and mother of rambunctious eight-year-old son Brennan and his little sister Ella.  As the story opens, Sarah and the rest of her family are mourning the loss of their beloved mother to cancer and are attending her funeral.  Emotions are high, nerves frazzled, tempers at the boiling point. Sarah doesn’t approve of her sister Kit’s biker boyfriend Jude, her brother Tommy and his wife Cass are fighting over his unwillingness to try again to have a baby, there’s tension between Meg and Jack, and their sister Brianna is obviously ill but isn’t talking. All is not well in their big Irish Catholic family and we know for sure that nothing will be the same again.

Sarah, who gave up going to law school to marry her professional baseball player husband, is seriously struggling with trying to forgive him for cheating on her three years earlier. She wants to trust him but finds that she can’t and despite Sarah’s best efforts she’s spending her days obsessing over Boone and what he’s up to when he’s not home with her, which is most of the time as he’s on the road with the team.  Her family notices that she’s drinking too much wine and she’s lonely and exhausted at having to move her children and home yet again when Boone is traded to the Oakland A’s.

In the meantime we’re introduced to stunning bakery & café owner Lauren Summers who is trying to get on with her life after losing her seventeen-year-old sun Blake ten months earlier in a car accident. She’s left the business she owned with her sister Lisa in Napa to work for a struggling café owner in Alameda because she needed to get away and grieve in private.  Lauren is a friend of Sarah’s oldest sister Meg who we hear a lot more about in this book and who endures another tragedy after spending the last year trying to save her marriage after having an affair on her husband Jack.

Boone meets Lauren in Mama’s Café in Alameda and they soon become friends as he loves the food there, not to mention her company.  Lauren is someone he can talk to when Sarah, who is pushing him away, can’t be reasoned with.  At first Lauren develops a crush on him but when she finds out that he’s married with children and that he loves his wife, she tells herself that she can’t think about him in that way. Boone introduces her to his teammate, Chris Stier (who I happen to know was inspired by actor Chris Hemsworth…talk about heavy sigh!), who Lauren is determined not to give the time of day to.  But he’s not just a dark blonde, pony-tailed, hulking, overly confident, handsome athlete, he’s also smart, thoughtful and looking for a real relationship.

I love that Jane Porter’s male love interests are tall, muscular, handsome men who could charm the habit off a nun.  I’m attracted to both Boone and Chris, but for me, they’re not quite Jude Knight, who has been the one I would desire the most of all the men in Jane’s books and for that reason and the fact I relate the most to sister Kit, The Good Daughter is still my favourite of the Brennan Sisters novels.

There is a lot going on in this book, which is the longest in the series, and I love that we get to reconnect with Sarah’s sisters, Meg, Kit and Brianna.  These characters are by now old friends and we care about them and want to see them happy.  And even though Lauren is a new character, I found myself caring more about her than Sarah.  Is Lauren going to allow Chris into her heart?  Can she forget about Boone?  Will Sarah believe that Boone’s relationship with Lauren is truly platonic?  These questions and many more are waiting to be answered and once you start reading The Good Wife, you won’t want to put it down until you find out how it all turns out.

The Good Wife is full of gut-wrenching emotion, expressed honestly as always through the very authentic characters that Jane Porter has created. Its theme of the impact of infidelity on not only the couple involved but also their extended family is perfectly realized.  It also possesses a lot of love, humour, hope and redemption and is a story that I’m sure every woman can relate to in some way.

There has been some interest in these books being made into a television series and I can only implore the powers that be to please make it happen!  I’m someone who had never read romance or chick lit novels (except for Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, Bridget Jones’s Diary and Daisy Dooley Does Divorce) before I discovered Jane Porter’s contemporary women’s fiction novels, but I credit her with influencing me to read more of them in the future.

Weighting For Mr. Right by Patricia W. Fischer

Weighting For Mr. Right by Patricia W. Fischer
Book Review

Title: Weighting For Mr. Right
Author:  Patricia W. Fischer
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Released: November 13, 2012
Pages: 430
ASIN: B00A78F83E
Stars:  3.5

There are times when you read a book and it is so relatable to your own life that you can’t put it down. While you read this book all of your own major issues are pushed to the surface and you’re forced to confront them as you read the fictional version of what could be your life.  That’s how I felt as I read Weighting For Mr. Right by Patricia W. Fischer.  The author, who happens to be a Facebook friend, offered this book in Kindle version for free on Amazon over the past weekend and for some reason, I decided to take advantage of it, downloaded it to my new Kindle for PC program and then transferred it to my iPhone.  I spent the next four days glued to my iPhone reading a book on it for the first time ever. 

Weighting For Mr. Right is the story of an intelligent, pretty, overweight nurse named Megan Sayla who on the day of her wedding to one of the richest bachelors in Dallas, hears herself saying no at the alter to the question, “Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband?”  Megan has an epiphany and realizes that she just can’t settle for Travis Carter (or his horribly snobby, shrew of an overbearing mother), even though he’s a nice guy, because he’s just not Mr. Right.  She runs out of the church and we catch up with her in a men’s bathroom at a local car wash where she falls apart as a handsome, young, brown haired, green eyed man named Jacob Dante listens. Jacob talks to her through the stall wall, really listens to her, and gives her the strength to move forward.  Their conversation is so compelling for both of them that they just have to meet each other and when they do, despite the fact that Megan is stuffed into a wedding dress, with hair teased two feet above her head and heavy make-up running down her face, Jacob is immediately attracted to her.  She does speak seven languages after all, one of them being Italian, which really turns Jacob on!  Of course he doesn’t reveal his true feelings for her because he believes that it’s too soon after she’s left her fiancé and it is.

As Megan has minimized her life so much to fit into Travis’ she has nowhere to live and ends up moving in with her overachieving cousin, Sam, who does not get along with Megan’s best friend, a decidedly gluttonous and underachieving Lydia who loves Megan because she has always accepted her for who she is.  Sam wants what she believes is best for her cousin and encourages Megan to join a gym that Jacob just happens to run (and co-own) and Megan finds herself with a new, enthusiastic cheerleading squad in her personal trainer, Carmen and her brother Jacob (although Megan doesn’t know Carmen is Jacob’s sister).  Megan starts a new nursing job at the children’s hospital where Sam works as well as a part-time tutoring gig and the rest of the time she spends at the gym trying to figure out how to deal with Jacob’s psycho ex-girlfriend, Angela.  In the meantime, Sam keeps secrets from Megan and her life changes drastically by the end of the story.

As Megan pushes forward with her goals to change her body and her life, finding confidence to stand up for herself in every situation for the first time, not everyone around her is happy with her transformation.  As her lifestyle change becomes more and more successful, her best friend becomes more and more alienated from her as she’s threatened by the new Megan.  Lydia is in fact, a prime example of a selfish, self-absorbed, unhappy woman who behaves as if she’s a teenager even though she’s in her mid-thirties.  Megan questions the path she’s on and we’re left wondering if she’ll believe in herself enough to finish what she’s started and stick to her new way of life.

What are the chances that most overweight girls would find a Jacob Dante to not only help them with their weight loss battle but actually be interested in them as a girlfriend too? I suspect not that many, but this is a chick lit/romance novel, and we read them to escape reality, right?  The dialogue in the book is sharp, witty and realistic, although sometimes ridiculous and the language when it comes to sex wouldn’t make it through the editing process by a professional publishing company.  However, it’s also quite funny and the characters, although some of them are almost caricatures, are entirely relevant.

The problem with this book for me, aside from the many typos in it, the constant switching back and forth between narrators, and that all the women can do when they’re nervous is “tuck a lock of hair behind her ear”, is the fact that only in a chick lit novel would a woman like Megan (or a woman like me), find a man like Jacob Dante.  A man who is totally hot, physically ripped, smart, sensitive and successful in business, whose three sisters have taught him quite a bit about women…and who likes a woman for her brains and personality, in spite of her less than perfect looks…I mean, where in the real world does a man like that exist?

I love that Fischer wrote about a beautiful, intelligent woman who battles her weight as well as her self worth while realizing that she shouldn’t settle for a relationship with anyone who isn’t Mr. Right (story of my life).  When Megan stands up to Sam and tells her that she could never really understand how much pain she was in after completing a 22 mile bike ride as well as resistance training because Sam has always been in shape and she doesn’t have a clue what Megan is really going through was very poignant and real. Sam had no idea that what she was doing to Megan was really hurting her.

As one of the broken ones, I could also relate to Carmen, Jacob’s younger sister whose fiancé left her just before their wedding for another, thinner woman, and whose rebound guy had ruined her financially.

I also thought that the relationship struggle between Megan and Lydia was quite realistic.  What it’s really about, for Megan, is learning to love herself enough to make the effort every single day to do the right thing when it comes to food and to when it comes to standing up for what she believes in.  Megan’s struggle to stick to her lifestyle change and to accept how it will affect her relationships for better or for worse is one that every overweight woman who has tried to do the same will empathize with.

Unfortunately, the last quarter of the book wasn’t as good as the rest of it and I caught myself rolling my eyes at the love scene between Megan and Jacob while being disappointed that less care was taken with the writing which felt hasty and over simplified.  The Epilogue which is written from Megan’s perspective was not entirely satisfying either, as Sam’s situation is not resolved and Angela is written off in a pithy manner.  These are things that prevented me from giving Weighting For Mr. Right a four star review, but I would definitely be willing to read more of Patricia W. Fischer’s work as she has a promising future as a romance novelist.