Review: The Storm by Effrosyni Moschoudi

 

Book 3 of The Lady of the Pier

A WWII romance novel

 

Title: The Storm

Subtitle: A WWII romance novel

Author: Effrosyni Moschoudi

Genre: Paranormal Romance, Historical Romance

Year of Publication: 2015

Self-Published

Series: The Lady of the Pier

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Note: I purchased this book as a freebie. However, this aspect didn’t influence the review I wrote or the rating I gave this book.  In this review, you will find only my honest thoughts and opinions about the book I’ve read!  The Storm is the last book in The Lady of the Pier trilogy where every book is a sequel to the previous one. If you haven’t read the first book and you are interested in doing so, please return to my review after finishing it because this review contains spoilers from the first book

After moving to Brighton, Sofia has vivid nightmares comprising of snippets of the Lady’s life. Annika, her Sweedish roommate, who is a paranormal enthusiast, offers to help Sofia and find out the truth about the mysterious Lady and the bizarre dreams the Greek girl experiences. The Lady haunts Sofia more aggressively than before because she wants Sofia to give Danny another chance, but the Greek girl is tired of Danny’s insecurities. Annika becomes Sofia’s friend and she encourages her to take a leap of faith just like the Lady demands of her because who knows what might happen next.

“I strongly doubt this is likely to go away. Sorry to say this Sophia . . . but you’ll remain knee deep in trouble unless you take heed. Spirits, when haunting someone as relentlessly as The Lady has been haunting you, don’t give up easily. In fact, from what I know, the more you resist her, the scarier the manifestations you’re likely to face. (…) You don’t want to play tough with spirits, Sofia! It’s already turned scary.” (p. 39-40)

Meanwhile, Laura and Maggie pray for Christian and Eric to return safely to England from France. Terror strikes the two women every time they hear of a British ship that has sunk after being hit by the Germans. After hearing some good news about Christian and Eric, Maggie advises Laura to write to Christian and even to take her child and move to Devon to start a new life with him. However, Laura is not thrilled about this idea because she is afraid for her and Freddie’s life because Charles is capable of anything including killing her or harming the child. Though Maggie is Laura’s best friend, I think that she is a bit naïve at times because she doesn’t realise how vengeful and cruel Charles can be. Maggie feels guilty for the wrong advice she gave Laura in the past, but she finds a way to make her friend a little happier by trying to build a bridge between Laura and Christian. Will Christian finally learn the truth and forgive Laura for the mistakes she has done in the past?

“Laura never discussed it with Maggie, but now she’d daydream endlessly about the tiny chance of seeing Christian again. She hoped it could happen somehow, but her pride would never allow her to reach out to him, or even to ask Maggie to intervene.”  (p. 108)

The story is different from what I’ve read before due to the two distinct yet familiar plotlines, the paranormal aspect of the trilogy and the details you have to discover and put together to uncover the big picture. One of my favourite scenes is the one where Sofia encounters some of the people who knew Laura Mayfield and she begins to understand why the spirit chose her to come to Brighton and fight for Danny’s love. It’s really an emotional moment for both Sofia and the reader because past and present seem to meet through memories and meaningful objects for Laura, her family and old friends.

However, there is something I didn’t like. Though the love triangle is well-built and makes sense in Laura’s story, I don’t think that it was that necessary in Sofia’s story. I understand that, by meeting Jeff, Sofia deviates from the path the Lady asked her to take and thus the nightmares intensify and force her to take action. But I still didn’t like how Sofia swings back and forth between Danny and Jeff. She gives Jeff the wrong message and she makes the two guys jealous of each other. I know that both Sofia and Danny are pretty insecure and apprehensive about their relationship, but it felt a bit disappointing to see a love triangle be used as a plot device.

In the end, The Lady of the Pier trilogy triggers various feelings within the reader, ranging from heartbreak, sorrow, anger, disappointment, but also sympathy, love and hope. If you love romance novels and emotional rides, then this is a trilogy you will enjoy.

Review: The Flow by Effrosyni Moschoudi

 

Book 2 of The Lady of the Pier

A WWII British drama

Title: The Flow

Subtitle: A WWII British drama

Author: Effrosyni Moschoudi

Genre: Paranormal Romance, Historical Romance

Year of Publication: 2015

Self-Published

Series: The Lady of the Pier

Rating: 5/5 stars

WarningThe Flow is the second book in The Lady of the Pier trilogy where every book is a sequel to the previous one. If you haven’t read the first book and you are interested in doing so, please return to my review after finishing it because this review contains spoilers from the first book.

In The Flow, Laura and Christian are back together again, but Ruth, Laura’s mother, is not willing to accept her daughter’s choice because she still hopes that Laura will marry someday a rich and influential man like Willard and not a poor peasant like Christian.  However, Ruth’s health declines and Charles jumps at the opportunity to get close to Laura again, according to his wicked plan. But Laura seems to be more mature and wiser than before, leaving her ambitions behind because she realises that her dream of being surrounded by rich people was just an illusion, which almost ruined her relationship with Christian and caused her a lot of trouble.

“The dreams she had initially held when she came to Brighton, to be part of the rich and fortunate crowd, had all stemmed from her mother. They had crept into her heart over the preceding years of hardship, like a poison (…). It was the same poison which had nearly made her lose Christian.” (p. 30)

Despite her mother’s discontentment, nothing made Laura happier and complete than being by Christian’s side. Unfortunately, she had to learn her lesson the hard way. We know that Laura is a hard-working woman, but she is also willing to sacrifice herself for the love of her nearest and dearest. For example, she skips classes at the society to take care of her mother, whose health is deteriorating rapidly. When Charles invites Laura to Lakeview Castle, she is somehow obliged to go, despite her gut feeling and Christian’s plea to refuse. But what Willard has in store for Laura is more than a private party; it’s a trap which will change the protagonist’s life forever. Some decisions are crucial without us knowing it and unfortunately, this is the case with Laura. Though this is just the second book of the trilogy, I think that her decision to go to Willard’s castle was like the first piece of domino that fell causing a chain-reaction of events which led to the end of this amazing story.

I rooted for Laura because she becomes a strong woman who learns how to confront Willard, despite all the misery and heartbreak he causes her. Trapped in a life she loathes, Laura turns to poetry and the few people she can rely on or love: Maggie, Paul, Meg, Ian, James and Freddie who is the apple of her eye. After what happened, it looks like Christian was right after all, but Laura can’t fix anything for now and even though she still loves Christian, he becomes nothing more than a memory to her due to the current state of affairs and Laura regrets her foolish mistake deeply.

“They’d both made wrong decisions. Some were down to misjudgement and others were due to pride and insecurity, not to forget the cruel hand of fate. (…) Fates had been cruel, and it was no use lamenting any longer.” (p. 140-141)

Charles is arrogant, manipulative, controlling and jealous because he doesn’t only plan to bring Laura back and force her into a loveless marriage, but he makes her life a living hell, especially after he has a sort of revelation about Freddie and he is still jealous of Christian who is out of Laura’s life for now. Yes, Charles is a despicable human being and a psychopath, but he also loves music and has a good taste for arts in general. That doesn’t make him more human though. If ruining the life of a kind and loving woman wasn’t enough, he also tries to make a profit after World War II breaks out by taking people’s pieces of jewellery in exchange for food.

This time, I enjoyed Laura’s story a little more than Sofia’s because of what happens to her in Willard’s castle and the consequences she has to endure. That certain event is narrated pretty vaguely, but it still made my hair stand on end when I read about it and I was very disgusted by Charles’ actions. I also think that Laura chooses the wrong man, not only because she fell into Charles’ trap, but she tried somehow to protect Christian from Charles’ quick-temper and extreme jealousy.

It’s really hard to judge Laura for her mistakes because any woman in her place living in that time period would have tried to save her reputation, which was something crucial in society’s eyes. Laura wants desperately to make everyone happy by neglecting her emotions and sacrificing her own happiness. But not everything is lost because Maggie remains Laura’s best friend who helps her cope with the miseries she endures every day from within and the outside world. Maggie is for Laura the shoulder to cry on, but also the bearer of hope. Even if Christian thinks that Maggie took sides, she cannot tell him the truth about Laura because she cares too much for her friend and respects her wish to keep the secret well-guarded. It’s a pretty delicate and complicated situation from which Laura doesn’t seem to find a way out.

“Maggie thought she was remarkably brave, the bravest woman she’d ever met. Life had only granted Laura happiness in tiny treat-size chunks while tossing pain at her by the bucket loads.” (p. 212)

In contrast to Laura’s complex and emotional story, Sofia’s almost looks like a cute contemporary romance, but this doesn’t mean that her story is uneventful. Sofia goes back to Athens and waits for her final year of studies to be over, in order for her to move to England for her Master’s Degree. In her spare time, Sofia writes letters to Loula back in Corfu and with Danny in Brighton, the cheeky lad she fell in love with. Sofia is still visited by the mysterious lady sometimes at night, but also during the day when Sofia reads her poems aloud. However, this doesn’t mean that the girl feels comfortable with this unusual presence. It becomes an obsession which she doesn’t want to share with a lot of people because she is afraid that they might think she is mad.

 “She felt her in her heart all the time now, yearning for her lost love and lamenting for past mistakes. (…) The Lady’s grief was overwhelming sometimes, making Sofia sad for no reason at all, especially at night when the world around her grew quiet and there were no distractions.” (p. 25-26 )

It’s really hard to cope with the longing you have for the one you love and Sofia knows that too well. But distance isn’t the only culprit to Sofia’s heartache. Danny seems to grow cold and doesn’t respond to her letters after a while. On the other hand, Loula makes remarkable progress in learning English, so she and Steve send each other letters back and forth, a perfect long-distance relationship Sofia would die for if I weren’t so hard to read Danny’s mind. Besides Danny’s silence, Sofia’s love for him is put to the test too when she meets another Brit who may want to steal her heart. The previous experiences that pulled Sofia out of her comfort zone made her more courageous, confident in herself, bold and more independent than before. These characteristics are reflected in her attitude towards her father because she is no longer afraid of him, but she’s determined to talk him out of his plans for her future and convince him that a Master Degree in Art and Design in Brighton is more suitable for her.

“It was all about taking the leap of faith. It said that the fear that stops us from doing what we really want is often not based on reality. We shape our fears in our heads, but things are so much easier than we think.” (p. 216 )

Besides the themes mentioned previously, there’s also the theme of war, which will also appear in the third book. Fortunately, for people like me who feel uncomfortable reading detailed descriptions of war scenes, this isn’t that kind of novel. The narrator just mentions a bit of context and certain events to help the reader get into the atmosphere of the novel, but they are not the main focal point of the story. Another interesting thing is that, despite the turmoil and the fighting, the story shows us that even during hard times, people still live their lives as normally as possible: they go to the cinema or are caught in an unhappy family life like Laura. Even if the war is seen through the women’s eyes waiting anxiously for news on the radio or letters from their husbands who are fighting on the battlefield, it’s still a heart-wrenching read.

Review: The Ebb by Effrosyni Moschoudi

 

Book 1 of The Lady of the Pier

A Greek Summer Beach Read

 

Title: The Ebb

Subtitle:  A Greek Summer Beach Read

Author: Effrosyni Moschoudi

Genre: Paranormal Romance, Historical Romance

Year of Publication: 2014

Self-Published

Series: The Lady of the Pier

Rating: 5/5 stars

Note: I purchased this book as a freebie. However, this aspect didn’t influence the review I wrote or the rating I gave this book.  In this review, you will find only my honest thoughts and opinions about the book I’ve read!

She stood on the pier under torrential rain, in a long, black dress that flowed in a fierce wind. Huge waves crashed ferociously against the piles underneath. Murky, foaming seawater, mixed with seaweed, rose up from the wash in sharp tongues, threatening to take the woman down to the depths with them. (…)She held her hands open wide, as if waiting to embrace someone, yet no one came. A wistful melody and faint singing could be heard, as the woman called out to someone. Her expression was remorseful and pleading, her arms stretched out in front of her, or pounding at her chest.” (p. 5-6)

And now it’s time to talk about the first trilogy I’ve completed this year and a five-star-read that will certainly be included in my top favourite books of 2017. The Ebb is the first instalment in Ms Effrosyni Moschoudi’s paranormal romance/historical romance trilogy entitled The Lady of the Pier and it comprises of two plotlines set in different time periods. The first plotline is set in Corfu (Greece) in the late 80s and it follows Sofia Aspioti’s life, while the second plotline is set in Brighton in the late 30s and it revolves around Laura Mayfield’s life.

Sofia Aspioti is a twenty-one-year-old student at Athens University who goes to Corfu every summer to spend time with her grandparents and many relatives. But going to Corfu isn’t all about hanging out with friends or going to the beach, it’s also a refuge from Sofia’s overprotective father who always checked in on her to be sure that everything is alright. It seems to be a summer like many before: Sofia spends time with her best friend Loula, an outgoing teen who is the opposite of shy and introverted Sofia. Loula suggests that Sofia should look around and admire the cute boys strolling around the tavern or the beach, but finding a boyfriend is the last thing on Sofia’s mind because her father would find out quickly if she were flirting with someone. Uncle Yiannis, who seems to be her father’s informant, senses Sofia’s every move and his presence gives her the creeps. Overwhelmed by so many restrictions including dating, Sofia is forced to play the role of the submissive girl who always acts properly and never crosses the line.

However, in August, while Sofia and Loula are having a chat about work at Karavi, the tavern where Loula and Sofia’s cousin Akis worked, Sofia spots two Brits going to the beach. Even though she was apprehensive of falling in love with a flirt, the boy who catches her attention is Danny, the carefree lad who listens to Rick Astley’s Never Gona Give You Up and dances hilariously annoying his friend Steve in the process. Sofia feels unconsciously interested in him, but is there more besides her envy/admiration for his non-conformist way of living?

Meanwhile, in the story set in 1937, we follow Laura Mayfield, a young lady who moves to Brighton with her mother Ruth because the older woman is very ill and she needs a milder climate to live in. Very soon afterwards, Laura gets a job in the West Pier Pavilion, but on the pier, she will also find something else. Though the way Laura meets Christian Searle is very cute, Laura is a very annoyed by his boldness and constant teasing which gives her the impression that he is a bit rude with her. Finding out that both of them work in the same area angers Laura more, but, as they get to know each other, she understands that Christian is not the cheeky devil he seems to be on the outside. However, things will get more complicated for Laura and Christian’s relationship when opportunity strikes and Laura is offered a job at the theatre, where she mesmerises everyone with her enchanting voice.  When Viscount Charles Willard appears into her life, Laura has to choose between true love and the chance to climb the social ladder as she secretly dreamed of.

This book, as well as the entire trilogy, is up my alley because it has everything I liked in a well-built and written novel: stunning descriptions of Corfu and Brighton and the vivid atmosphere of each setting, two female protagonists who are shy and naïve at first, but life gives them opportunities to take risks and grow, outgoing male characters who pull the protagonists out of their shell and give them the freedom they long for, wonderful secondary characters who make you laugh or your heart melt and villains who are well-built and have strong reasons to act like they do. When it comes to themes, the most important ones are a second chance at love, family and family secrets, friendship, love and so on.

I won’t talk about the similarities between the primary and secondary plotline because I don’t want to spoil your read, but they are subtle for the new reader and obvious to the seasoned one who has finished the trilogy. I think that the idea for these two stories connected to each other by Sofia’s strange dreams and bitter-sweet poems is a really interesting concept I haven’t read about before. I enjoyed this motif because it gives the reader hope that, at least in a book, anything is possible.

In this first book, the pacing is a bit slow, but I wasn’t bothered by it because I let the poetic writing fill my mind with breath-taking imagery of the sea, the impressive West Pier in Brighton and the quint yet picturesque Greek islands Sofia and her friends visit. There are references to songs and singers from the 30s and 80s, Greek culture and cuisine and family businesses which didn’t seem to change over the course of time. If I hadn’t known that the story was set in the 80s, I would have sworn that the story was set in the present-day Greece.

My favourite character is Sofia because she is shy, studious, but also nostalgic for the past and a bit too cautious. However, I can understand her because she doesn’t want Uncle Yiannis or the other villagers to see her hanging out with Danny who accepts to be discrete in order to avoid gossip and trouble. Nevertheless, they have the time of their lives: they explore new places and fall in love with each other. Though I had a hard time liking Danny at first, I enjoyed picturing their first kiss and rejoiced when he made Sofia step out of her comfort zone.

“Only time would tell if this blazing fire would eventually die on the altar of ephemeral summer love, or if, by any chance, it had the power to kindle for a while, then light up anew, this time to burn forever more.” page 242

The way Ms Effrosyni Moschoudi describes the tranquil life of Sofia’s grandparents made me love them instantly and made me think of my grandparents. Although I don’t know what is like spending the summer in the countryside, the story pulled me in and I pictured myself being there with Sofia and meeting the kind-hearted Kyriakis. Here’s a quote that reminded me of my gran: “She always found her granddaughter too thin. That gave her an excuse to pile up the food on her plate and to treat her to homemade sweets almost every day too. Not that Sofia minded of course.”  (p. 34)

In the end, I hope that my review convinced you to pick up the first instalment in The Lady of the Pier trilogy and if you want to know which are my answers for The Mid-Year Book Freak-Out Tag, please check them out!

 

Review: Our Little Secrets by Merry Farmer

Book 1 of Montana Romance

 

Title: Our Little Secrets

Author: Merry Farmer

Genre: Historical Romance, Western

First Published: 2012

Self-Published

Series: Montana Romance

Rating: 4/5 stars

Note: I purchased this book as a freebie. However, this aspect didn’t influence the review I wrote or the rating I gave this book.  In this review, you will find only my honest thoughts and opinions about the book I’ve read! This book contains adult themes and language!

Today I’m going to review Our Little Secrets, a western and historical romance novel written by Merry Farmer, which is the first book in the Montana Romance series. “I think both of you have guilty consciences that like to make up terrifying stories.” (p. 192)

It’s 1895 and Charlotte Baldwin, a runaway heiress, arrives in the frontier town of Cold Springs, Montana, hoping to find shelter from the man who is constantly following her and she wishes to start over as Charlie, a new identity that might keep her out of danger… or so she thought. Charlotte meets Michael West, the owner of the general store, a man who seems to live a quiet life – the kind of life Charlotte dreamed to have for so long.

Destiny has a strange way of bringing people with dark pasts together and here it makes no exception. Partially due to lust, partially due to practical benefits for both sides, Michael and Charlotte decide to exchange vows for a marriage of convenience, the only rule is not to intrude or to ask any questions about each other’s past. Will such a marriage work? What do they have to hide or be ashamed of? “All he needed to do was make her believe what she wanted to believe, and that was something he was very, very good at.” (p. 53)

Without spoiling your read, I’m only going to say that the book was pretty good even though I personally found the second half better because it was more alert than the first half. The first part introduces us to the little frontier town, its people who enjoy gossiping about the other inhabitants, Michael’s friends and enemies, the way they perceive Charlotte, but also the overall secrecy that poisons both Charlotte and Michael’s minds and hearts with doubts and questions about their partner’s past. Though I understand why the two strangers wed so fast, I personally would have wanted them to know each other a little because it would have saved them from some of the complicated situations they had to face.

In the end, Our Little Secrets actually came as a surprise because I hadn’t expected to like it this much. For the tense moments, entangled situations and the way the characters react, I give this book four stars. If you know or think that you will enjoy this genre, then don’t hesitate to pick up this book!

 

Review: Heaven in His Arms by Lisa Ann Verge

Title: Heaven in His Arms

Author: Lisa Ann Verge

Genre: Adventure, Historical Romance

First Published: 1995

Year of Publication of this Edition: 2014

Published by Bay Street Press LLC

Rating: 4/5 stars

Note: I purchased this book as a freebie. However, this aspect didn’t influence the review I wrote or the rating I gave this book.  In this review, you will find only my honest thoughts and opinions about the book I’ve read! This book contains adult themes and language!

“All single men in the colony must marry within a fortnight of the arrival of the king’s girls. If they don’t, they’ll be denied their precious fur trading licenses.” (Loc. 500-501)

For today’s post, I’ve chosen to write a review for an adventure/historical romance entitled Heaven in His Arms, written by Lisa Ann Verge, which is set in Quebec in the 17th century, a place of which I’ve never read anything before.

Genevieve Lalande’s past is filled with grief, terrible events and circumstances that led her to a miserable existence on the streets of Paris. Her only chance to escape from the wretched underbelly of the French society and to begin a better life is to switch places with a king’s girl (Marie Duplessis) in order to become a mail-order bride and to be sent to Quebec, the newest colony in King Louis XIV’s possession.

“Every year since she’d arrived in the Salpêtrière, dozens of girls had been given a dowry by the king and sent off to the Caribbean islands or to the northern settlements of New France, to marry and settle in the colonies.” (Loc. 61-62)

Even if Genevieve will be forced to marry a stranger when she arrives in Quebec, she accepts to do so because anything seems better than a life of poverty, theft and constant humiliations. She went through a lot of hardship in the past to be afraid of the unknown, whether it is the place where she will be settling down or the man who will choose her as his bride.

Meanwhile, in Quebec, André Lefebvre has to marry and settle down into the colony, due to an ordinance sent from France, if the fur trader wants to keep his license. Obviously, André hates this new law because he is a man who loves freedom, pleasures of all kinds, venturing into the unknown parts of New France, and he’s not at all interested in raising a family of his own. Though André tries to avoid such a marriage of convenience, he reluctantly obeys the ordinance for his trade’s sake, picks up the sickly Genevieve and quickly marries her, secretly hoping she will die soon. So much for a warm welcome, eh?

But André doesn’t know that Genevieve can play dirty too and he can’t fool her that easily because she’s also tenacious – she looks for him and insists to go with him on the voyage he planned for so long. Even though André doesn’t want her around, partially because he lusts for her and partially because he’s afraid she won’t survive the journey, Genevieve’s presence is actually useful sometimes because she has skills that surprise her husband who thought that she would have a hard time adapting to the expedition.

In fact, Genevieve somehow belongs in the wilderness because she is a free-spirited, courageous woman like the native Indian women and even though she makes silly or apparently innocent mistakes, she knows what she is doing most of the time. I think that her attitude and adaptability to any unexpected situation is a lesson for misogynistic André, who wrongly compares her to the whiny Frenchwomen who needed comfort, protection and coquetries to be happy: “This woman was as unpredictable and as stubborn as this great stretch of untamed land. A man could spend a lifetime making love to her, and it would be like riding these rapids—wild, exhilarating, bordering on the brink of control.” (Loc.1852-1853).

I’m glad that I’ve read this book. I don’t have many complaints about it, except for Genevieve’s pet name – Genny – that sounds very American to me and not quite French and the sex scenes after André, Genevieve and their crew arrived at their destination. I understand that the purpose of those scenes is to show that the relationship strengthened and that the two lovers had their duties as a married couple, but sometimes these sex scenes dragged a little. However, the rest of the story was very interesting and I didn’t expect to enjoy it this much.

Overall, it was a pleasant read that made me imagine what Canada looked like before the country we all know today. The characters made this fictional journey pass very fast, in good company, and Genevieve and André’s relationship made the experience steamy and unique.

Review: Madeleine’s Christmas Wish by Ella Quinn

Book 6 of The Marriage Game

 

Title: Madeleine’s Christmas Wish

Author: Ella Quinn

Genre: Historical Romance

First Published in 2014

Published by eKensington Books

 Imprint of Kensington Publishing Corp.

Series: The Marriage Game

Rating: 2/5 stars

Note: I purchased this book as a freebie. However, this aspect didn’t influence the review I wrote or the rating I gave this book.  In this review, you will find only my honest thoughts and opinions about the book I’ve read! This book contains adult themes and language!

Let me tell you from the very beginning that there will be a few spoilers in this review. Madeleine’s Christmas Wish is the sixth book in the historical romance series The Marriage Game, which is written by Ella Quinn. As some of you may already know, I tried to read this book some months ago, but I couldn’t finish it. However, I didn’t want to give up on it that easily, therefore I gave it a second chance.

The story is set during Napoleon’s exile, a period of turmoil in France. Madeleine (Countess of Beaune) volunteers to go to England in her sister’s place, in an exclusive brothel, in order to spy on the English soldiers and to collect useful information for the French Government. It sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? However, after arriving in England, Georges (Marquis Cruzy-le-Châtel, Madeleine’s childhood friend and betrothed) receives information about Madeleine’s arrival in England and quickly rescues her from the hands of the smugglers. Though I understand that Madeleine wants to return home for Christmas, this part of the plot doesn’t feel right in my opinion because the way Georges acts cancels the reader’s expectations nourished by the first pages of the book.

Though Madeleine is saved from harm’s way, I would have preferred Georges’ intervention to take place later on in the book because it would have been a more realistic approach to the story and it would have made the book more complex. After the premature rescue, the plot was a bit less appealing to me and the only real tension was Madeleine’s wish to keep her family safe from the general crisis in France and Coupe, a strange man who supervised the wine business after Madeleine’s father had died mysteriously a few months before.

I liked Madeleine, who is stubborn, intelligent, confident (most of the time) and selfless, especially when it comes to her family and the family business she administrates. She is also ironic and not afraid to refuse Coupe’s marriage proposal. Georges, on the other hand, is a patriot, he hates Napoleon, he is a spy who works for King Louis, but also a sly seducer who, despite Madeleine’s conditioning (not having sex with her until her family is safe), he tries to tempt and play with her sexual instincts until the big night. However, his most artful move is accepting to help and escort Madeleine to France only if she becomes his wife first. This sounds like blackmail to me! However, the scenes where Georges seduces Madeleine are well-written and pleasant to imagine, but because of those naughty little scenes, I don’t recommend the book to readers under the age of 18.

There are certain details I did not like. Besides the issues I have with the plot, I also felt that the story needed more depth, such as a little more historical background to support the story and to make it more plausible. There was a war, in which both Georges and Armand fought, but the name of the battle is not mentioned anywhere. If it was that important for the plot and for the characters, why doesn’t it have a name in the story?  Also, we needed more back-story for the characters’ lives. For example, I wanted to know more about Madeleine and Georges’ childhood or how life was before the revolution – presuming it’s about the French Revolution. Theoretically, Coupe should have been an important character because he is the villain of the story. Unfortunately, he appears briefly in this book and we hear him speak more only during the confrontation. I personally found him more like a caricature of evil rather than a man who had his reasons to justify his wrongdoings.

The writing was overall good and it had a nice Jane Austen feel to it. However, I sometimes found some strange word choices and a few editing mistakes. As I said before, the few erotic scenes were depicted vividly, as well as the feel of the Christmas markets and the last scene which I won’t give away. I also craved for a little more introspection on the characters’ part, but this is my personal taste.

Overall, I felt Madeleine’s Christmas Wish lacked the sparkle readers like me seek and I’m disappointed that it didn’t have all the ingredients to make this book enjoyable, despite its potential.

 

Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag

I actually had a book review planned for this Friday, but I changed my mind because June and July are two crazy months for me, so I opted again for a book tag which suits this time of the year. Plus, I’m always happy to talk about the current state of my TBR pile.

The Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag was created by two booktubers (Chami and Ety) and it comprises of fourteen questions, mostly regarding the books you read in the first half of the year. I read twenty-six books until now including the dnf-ed ones, so I think that I have enough material to answer properly to each and every question.

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2017.

This year I wanted to read all the first instalments in the series I own because I plan to continue only the series or trilogies I’ve found unique and enjoyable to explore further on. For the best book I’ve read until now I choose The Essential Book Blog by Ken J. Howe, Saul Tanpepper, Michael Guerini and Cheryl L. Seaton, which is an easy yet informative guide for each new book blogger or newbie author and it teaches you anything from how to build your own blog, what your review should include, how to get traffic on your blog, how to get books and even how to earn money through your blog. Personally, I can’t wait to review this blogging guide and reread some of the sections in order to apply them to my blog.

2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2017.

 

At the beginning of this year, I promised myself that I will not be as generous as I used to be with the 5-star ratings and by far, there are just three books that had the wow factor I was looking for. The first 5-star sequel I rated in 2017 is Escape from Sudan, the 9th book in Mike WellsLust, Money & Murder series because I was on pins and needles while reading this book. It really was a roller-coaster of emotions for me and Elaine’s (almost impossible) mission through such a war-torn and dangerous country made my adrenaline levels increase.

3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to.

I’m not very interested in new releases for now because I have a lot of unread books sitting and collecting dust on my shelves and many eBooks on my Kindle too; so I prefer to stick to those.

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year.

I read Mike Wells’ blurb for Panacea, the 11th book in the Lust, Money & Murder series, which is set in Ukraine and the book, is going to be released in September. This is the only sequel I’m excited to devour.

5.  Biggest disappointment.

 

Well, I have a few disappointments and dislikes reflected on my ratings and on my dnf-ed shelf, but the biggest one came from an author I haven’t read before. I’m sorry for the repetition, but I was extremely disappointed by Isabel Allende’s Zorro. How can a book about California’s famous bandit be so boring with so many info-dumps, lifeless characters and no hook? I loved the fact that Diego is mixed-race, but besides that, his friendship with Bernardo and how his father met his mother, I didn’t find anything of interest in the chapters I read.

6. Biggest surprise.

 

The biggest surprise was The Rocker Who Holds Me by Terri Anne Browning, a book which didn’t deal only with the dissolute lives of rock stars, but also with abuse, heartache and lack of communication. I really love it and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys rock star romances.

7. Favourite new author. (Debut or new to you)

My new favourite author is K K Allen who wrote Enchanted, the first instalment in The Summer Solstice. Besides her beautiful and visual writing, I enjoyed spending my time with her well-built characters, the plot was extremely interesting and the elemental magic blew my mind along with its complexity. The ancient wisdom passed on to Katrina is a combination of Greek myths and Wiccan beliefs. For those of you who are wondering, the review is coming soon.

8. Newest fictional crush.

Nik from The Rocker Who Holds Me might be a potential fictional crush because he is talented, caring and a very hot guy, but he makes Emmie suffer a lot. On the other hand, she is afraid to talk about her feelings for him.

9. Newest favourite character.

I’m currently reading The Lady of the Pier trilogy written by Effrosyni Moschoudi and though I root for both protagonists of the two alternating stories, Sofia Aspioti is very dear to my heart, not just because she is Greek, but she is also a book nerd, a hardworking student, an animal lover and she also writes poetry. She is shy and very cautious because she is aware that everything she does might reach her strict father’s ears, an overprotective parent who forbids her to stay out late or to do anything silly. Despite the restrictions that suffocate her life, Sofia longs for freedom and adventure especially after meeting Danny, an outgoing and non-conformist British tourist whose laid back attitude makes Sofia fall for him.

10. Book that made you cry.

Though I’ve shed a tear occasionally when I read about Sofia’s kind and loving grandparents from Corfu who reminded me of my own, none of the books I’ve picked up in the first half of the year made me cry hysterically for a certain character or situation.

11. Book that made you happy.

 

It’s hard to say that one of my recent reads made me feel happy, but You & Me Forever is a collection of romantic YA and NA stories written by eight authors including Megan Linski and Pamita Rao, a book that made me feel good most of the time because the short stories range from sweet to dark and they are easy to read especially while you are travelling. I highly recommend it for the summer.

12. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)

I adore the new covers for The Lady of the Pier trilogy; they are so gorgeous and suit the novels perfectly with that beautiful and mysterious woman standing on the pier.

13. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

Besides the books mentioned above, I want to continue reading the two remaining novels from the Try a Chapter Book Tag and afterwards to flip through or even reread some classics I’ve read a few years ago, but I haven’t reviewed yet.

 14. Favourite Book Community Member

For now, I’ll give a shoutout to my best friend and awesome reviewer, Elena from eLitere.ro who has great tastes in books and movies. Check out her website and show her some love!

If you enjoyed this book tag, give it a try and leave your answers below in a comment or through a link to your blog or YouTube channel. Have an awesome weekend! See you next time!

Try a Chapter Book Tag

April has been an amazing reading month for me because I read ten (short) books, but they were mixed reads from the okay-ish to the most amazing ones. On the other hand, the beginning of May wasn’t that great because I enjoyed a single book and dnf-ed or even deleted two of them. Therefore, after two failed attempts to read two confusing cosy mysteries, I found myself wondering what book I should read next. Finally, I figured out that the best way to find out what book I’m in the mood for is by trying a chapter from a few books I’m interested in. I found the Try a Chapter Book Tag on Booktube, where you pick up five or more books you are excited about, read the first chapter of each book (including the prologue), you give your opinion about what you have just read and decide what book you want to continue reading. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? If you find yourself being in a reading slump or you just don’t know what to pick up next, feel free to give it a try. It’s actually useful, even when you want to get rid of unread books.

I cheated a bit because five books are too many for me, so I’ve picked up only four and those are:

  • You & Me Forever: A Sweet Romance Collection by Megan Linski, Pamita Rao and other six authors, which is a young adult romance anthology comprising eight short stories and a novella. I wanted to read something light and summery, so I thought that this book would do the trick.
  • The Lady of the Pier – The Ebb is the first instalment in Ms Effrosyni Moschoudi’s historical paranormal romance From this author I also read The Necklace of Goddess Athena, which is one of my favourite books set in Greece. I’m looking forward to reading this novel because I have a soft spot for Greece in general.
  • Song at Dawn: 1150 in Provence is the first instalment in a historical romantic thriller series entitled The Troubadours Quartet and it is written by Welsh author Jean Gill. This book has troubadours, romance, political intrigue and it is set in Medieval France, after the Second Crusade. Therefore, it should be something up my alley.
  • The Treasure of Gwenlais is the first instalment in M. T. Magee’s young adult epic fantasy series entitled The Rienfield Chronicles, a story inspired by Celtic folklore.

Here’s what I have to say about each chapter I’ve read:

Check Mate by T. Ariyanna is the first short story in the You & Me Forever anthology. In the first chapter, Liz and her best friend Daisy chat on the phone about a foster child who has run off from the correction facility he stayed in. Liz is the daughter of the chief of police and she is frequently asked by her classmates about certain cases, but little does she know what fate has in store for her. After the assailant sneaks into Liz’s room and tries to hold her hostage, Liz shows her self-defence skills and frees herself. I liked the way she stood her ground and didn’t feel intimidated by the strange boy who seemed to be her age. The story is suspenseful and I’m really curious to read more.

In the prologue to The Lady of the Pier – The Ebb by Effrosyni Moschoudi, Sofia recalls a strange dream she had a night before. She was standing on the pier where she worked, but the pier changed its size and it seemed like everything around her changed, a terrifying storm broke and in Sofia’s place stood a woman dressed in black who looked pretty much like her. What does this dream mean, who is that woman and why she was in pain? Meanwhile, in the first chapter, we move from 1987’s Greece to 1937’s England, where Laura Mayfield’s story takes place. Laura moves to Brighton with her ill mother, Ruth, who needed a milder climate for her weak lungs. I think this story will be a slow read, but the writing is beautiful and I enjoy reading about alternating timelines.

In Song at Dawn: 1150 in Provence by Jean Jill, sixteen-year-old Estela de Matin runs away from an abusive household, wants to start afresh and leave her old identity behind. On the road, she encounters Alénor of Aquitaine, the Queen of France, and her loyal guards, who were travelling from Carcassonne to Narbonne. They eye Estela suspiciously because she might be plotting a robbery with other bandits in hiding or she might be a thief because she carries a mandora, a musical instrument like a lute. After the queen orders the girl to play and sing a song, Alénor of Aquitaine invites Estela to come with them to the court. At first, this book was a little hard to get into because I don’t know that historical period too well, especially the politics, but the idea of a girl troubadour is something I’ve never heard of and I’m curious to read how Estela will get along with Dragonetz, the queen’s commander and her troubadour.

The Treasure of Gwenlais by M. T. Magee contains a prologue in which we are told who the most important characters are, which kingdom they protect or belong to, who are the enemies and which are the stakes of this first book. In short, Princess Laurel of Gwenlais is rescued from the claws of a monster by Caleb, Prince of Heathwin, “the Chief and Commander of the Sentinels who protected the two Kingdoms of Gwenlais and his own realm of Heathwin”. (Loc. 149) Meanwhile, the Sentinels lead by Prince Aiden gallop towards the village to kill the monsters (Rabkins) and to count the casualties. The first chapter is very long, so I paused when I came to a page break, but the novel is worth reading because it’s a high fantasy and it seems to have a complex world.

And here is what I’ve decided:

After reading the chapters and prologues, I decided to read Check Mate by T. Ariyanna because I like the suspense and the story is pretty short. Then, I think that I will choose Ms Jean Gill’s novel because I want to know what happens to Estela at the French royal court and how the past will influence her future.