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: You & Me Forever by Megan Linski, T. Ariyanna, Cindy Ray Hale, Pamita Rao, Amy Reece, Audrey Rich, Constance Roberts and Yesenia Vargas

A Sweet Romance Collection

 

Title: You & Me Forever

Subtitle: A Sweet Romance Collection

Authors: Megan Linski, T. Ariyanna, Cindy Ray Hale, Pamita Rao, Amy Reece, Audrey Rich, Constance Roberts and Yesenia Vargas

Genre: Short Stories, Contemporary Romance, Young Adult, New Adult

Year of Publication: 2017

Published by: Gryfyn Publishing

Rating: 3/5 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!

You & Me Forever: A Sweet Romance Collection  written by Megan Linski, T. Ariyanna, Cindy Ray Hale, Pamita Rao, Amy Reece, Audrey Rich, Constance Roberts and Yesenia Vargas is a young adult (and sometimes new adult) romance collection comprising eight short stories and a novella ranging “from thrilling, to dark, to emotional, to wholesome.” (Loc. 71) The stories are arranged in alphabetical order by the author’s last name and they are written both by best-selling and first-time writers.I only read Pamita Rao’s Gates of Heaven which was a nice book, so, when I saw this anthology, I was really curious to see what it was all about. Also, this is one of the fewest new releases of this year that I read.

In Check Mate by T. Ariyanna (3.5 stars), Liz heard that a foster child has run off from the correction facility he lived in. When the assailant tries to hold her hostage after he crept into her room, Liz uses her self-defensive skills she has learned to free herself. Why has Rook run away from the facility? Will Liz give in and fall for the beautiful stranger? I liked Liz’s courage and composure in such a tensed situation and I’m sure that it suits her to become a cop like her father. The main theme of this short story is domestic abuse.

In It Was You by Cindy Ray Hale (3.5 stars), Aleyna McKenzie’s dream is to become an actress, but she only finds small roles as an extra, which help her pay the bills, but nothing more. However, her life is about to change when handsome actor Carson Peters comes into her life, befriends her and helps her understand how the film industry really works. This new adult short story, which looked more like a novelette, was very enjoyable because you can see how hard life is for aspiring actors to break the ice or receive an offer for a major role. I also enjoyed the romance because it was low-burning and realistic and I liked the contemporary elements found in this story: Aleyna loves social media and she has her own YouTube channel. The theme of the story is: follow your dreams no matter what and persevere even when things are tough.

In Taken Away by Megan Linski (3 stars), Rosemary McGowan and Noah Cash come from broken families, but that doesn’t mean they can’t become friends or even fall in love. “We both long to be free in a way that we never can be, free of our obligations from our overbearing parents and able to go out on our own into the world. If it was truly up to us we would take his bike and leave, drive to the beach somewhere and leave the old world behind us.” (Loc. 1828) Rosemary loves spending time outside in the open, while Noah is the bad boy who loves riding his motorcycle. One night, after returning from work, Rosemary is kidnapped by someone pretty familiar to her, but Nosh looks for them and he will not give up until he brings his girlfriend safely back home. What family secret will Rosemary discover? The story is a bit suspenseful and Rosemary has the courage to attempt her escape, but I also liked Noah’s determination to look for her. It’s a new adult romantic thriller story and the main themes are domestic abuse and family secrets.

In Forever Together by Pamita Rao (4 stars), Ava begins to fall in love with her best friend Liam. Should Ava follow her heart and confront Liam about their feelings or shouldn’t she ruin such a great friendship? I will let you discover how Ava will find the truth. It’s a cute young adult contemporary romance that will remind you of your first love, the sweetness and the anxiety that comes along with it. I know that it’s a predictable story, but I enjoyed it because it made me feel like a teenager again.

In A Thousand Stats by Amy Reece (3.5 stars), Charles Maddox is Madison Iver’s best friend since childhood. Maddie likes him, but she prefers to put him in the friend zone rather than to ruin such an old friendship. This is a young adult contemporary romance and its themes are friendship and unrequited love like in the previous story. Fortunately, this story isn’t just about falling in love with your best friend, but also about becoming aware that having a pretty face is not everything. Besides finding love, Maddie needs to focus on her future, on her career and stop being a people pleaser.

In When There’s Smoke There’s Fire by Audrey Rich (4 stars), Graziella Roberts is rescued from her burning house and brought urgently to the hospital. Daniel Stevenson, a boy from school Graziella secretly had a crush on, came to visit his brother Liam, the firefighter who saved Graziella’s life. Will this be the perfect opportunity or Graziella and Daniel to know each other better and to share their secret feelings?

In Down the Road by Constance Roberts (3 stars), Sophie and her friends are gone camping and drink a lot of booze. Rylan, Sophie’s a controlling and abusive guy, not like Blake who treats her nicely. Will Sophie have the courage to break up with the jealous jerk and give Blake a chance? It’s different from the other stories. The main themes are domestic abuse and unrequited love.

In This Is Not a Drill by Yesenia Vargas (3.5 stars), Max moved to a new school, but he felt out of place after his parents’ divorce. When a drill occurs into the school, Max and Lucy are lead to a dark classroom until the coach comes back for them. Why the school is placed on lockdown and who is the assailant threatening the institution? It’s an interesting story about family secrets.

Overall, You & Me Forever was a cute collection of stories and novellas. Though I’m not a big fan of the young adult books, I took my time to savour each story and I found something I liked pretty much in all of them. Besides, the repetition of a chapter in Cindy Ray Hale’s It Was You and a few editing errors, the stories were clean and well-written. My top three favourite stories from this anthology were It Was You by Cindy Ray Hale, in which I learned about what happens behind the scenes of a film or TV, series Forever Together by Pamita Rao, a sweet short story that made me feel nostalgic for the first time I fell in love and When There’s Smoke There’s Fire by Audrey Rich, a story about courage, survival and young love. These nine works of fiction also changed my opinion about short stories and made me crave for more in the future, stories not necessarily belonging to the young adult/ new adult genre.

Review: Poetry from The Lady of the Pier by Effrosyni Moschoudi

Title: Poetry from The Lady of the Pier

Author: Effrosyni Moschoudi

Genre: Poetry, Romance

Self-Published

Year of Publication: 2015

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!

Though I read the entire Lady of the Pier trilogy back to back and I consider it one of the best stories I’ve read this year, I’m going to review the Poetry from The Lady of the Pier first to give you a flavour before reviewing each of the three books. In short, this small volume comprises of ten romantic poems, an excerpt from The Ebb and a bonus short story set in Sifnos Island.

Even though you can read the poems without picking up the trilogy, I think that they make more sense after discovering Laura and Sofia’s story. Because this is a poetry collection, I cannot review it in detail, but I can give you a sneak peek into the novel to make you understand the context in which these poems were written. In short, this paranormal romance revolves around two women coming from different time periods and different countries: Sophia lives in Greece in the late 80s while Laura lives in Brighton (UK) in the late 30s. One night after meeting a cheeky Brit named Danny, Sophia is visited in her dreams by a mysterious lady dressed in black who stands on a pier and recites verses. The poems Sophia hears in her sleep are linked to the important events in the woman’s life and the feelings these poems will stir inside you range from happiness and joy, to sadness, nostalgia, regret and despair; while the main themes are (lost) love and death.

In An Old Promise. Joanna, a posh  American widow travels to Sifnos after many years because there’s an old promise she has to keep. The first time she went to this majestic Greek island, Joanna was twenty-one and she fell in love with a young man, but they lost touch with each other and carried on with their lives. Will Joanna’s trip to Sifnos help her relive or mend the past she was so fond of? This s a story about memories, love and a second chance at happiness. The writing is good, the depictions of Athens and Sifnos are vivid and, if the poems from the fist part of the book broke your heart and made you feel emotional, this story will mend it and warm it with its beauty and an ending filled with hope. This story is also a metaphorical love letter to Greece, its beauty and the magic it casts upon those who visit and fall in love with it. The only two complaints I have with this short story are the fact that the story was a bit too sugary and that Costas was too emotional and a bit unrealistic as a male character.

Those were my thought on this short volume. Stay tuned for more reviews and other bookish content! I post new articles every Wednesday and Friday. Until then, happy reading everyone!

 

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: Forbidden by Mike Wells and Devika Fernando

 Book 1 of Forbidden

A Novel of Love and Betrayal

Title: Forbidden

Subtitle: A Novel of Love and Betrayal

Authors: Mike Wells, Devika Fernando

Genre: Romantic Thriller

Year of Publication: 2015

Self-Published

Series: Forbidden

Rating: 3.5/5 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!

For today’s post, I’ve decided to share with you the review I wrote for Forbidden, the first instalment in a romantic thriller series written by Mile Wells and co-authored by Devika Fernando. When I read this novel, there were only three books in the series, but the authors announced the release of the forth one in late June. There are some mixed opinions about the first book out there, but, in the end, you will decide whether it’s interesting enough for you or not. My opinions and rating are somewhere in the middle because this novel wasn’t that bad, it was pretty much an easy read, but I wanted a little more from content.

The novel follows two alternating plotlines and perspectives: Eleanor’s rebellious teenage years and Jayne’s story from the day she met Lady Eleanor Sotheby onwards, a shocking and life-changing discovery she has never imagined. Though the two plotlines are strongly linked to each other due to Eleanor’s presence, I think that Eleanor’s dark past is more interesting than the present because it’s more suspenseful and its pace is more dynamic than the other plotline which has a steadier pace and some of the events are pretty predictable if you ask me.

At first glance, Eleanor may seem cultured and posh, but her true temper leaks out when things don’t go her way, just like in her early life. She is ambitious, snobbish and now she cares what other socialites have to say about her or her daughter’s reputation. Eleanor is a morally grey and complex character and the way she acts reminds me of another unlikable yet well-built character, Kathy Brogan from Black Widow. Eleanor is also in charge of Jayne’s transformation into a cultured young lady to make her adapt much easier to the new lifestyle and challenges she has to face.

“And what was acting, anyway? Nothing more than being a good liar, and she was very accomplished at that. She had been “acting” ever since she could remember.” (Loc. 591)

 But how Eleanor became a filthy rich widow who has so many connections in socialite circles? Dark secrets should always be buried in the past and Eleanor guards them well because no one should find out how her life was like before becoming Lady Sotheby. She had to take many risks that suited her rebellious nature, but Celeste and Jayne don’t need to know that because the truth would shatter the picture perfect image of this rich widow and she can’t allow that to happen. Therefore, lies are a useful tool to paint the truth in brighter colours.

The rest of the characters are not complex as Lady Sotheby, but we can easily recognise who is Jayne and who is Celeste because Jayne is sweet, caring, introverted and a girl who works hard to support her loved ones despite her frequent asthma attacks, while Celeste is stubborn, spoiled, posh, self-absorbed, loves parties and speed. And talking about the two girls, one of my favourite scenes is when Jayne and Celeste meet, shock, curiosity and emotions overwhelm each other; it was a truly touching moment.

“This wasn’t her exact reflection she was looking at—this was a version of Jayne dressed in expensive designer clothes, with a fashionably short haircut, and decked out in expensive jewelry.” (Loc. 392)

To be honest, I wasn’t too thrilled with the beginning of the book, but the hook came along with Jayne’s journey to Nice to meet Celeste. Though Jayne is a sweetheart and I liked her as a character, I wouldn’t want to be in her shoes because I couldn’t be that selfless to help Celeste, whom I’ve recently met just because she did a mistake that threatens her reputation and Lady Sotheby’s ambitions. However, the book is interesting because you get a glimpse of how the lives of rich people really are, besides the glamour and the influence they have in their exclusive circles.

The writing is beautiful in the main story with an overall steady pace and realistic in Eleanor’s shady story building the suspense. I enjoyed most of the novel and the characters though I would have liked this first book to be longer because it ended a bit abruptly for my taste. I might pick up the second book someday, just to see how Jayne and Robert’s relationship develops, but only time will tell if I will still be interested in reading it.

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.

 

Review: Aucassin and Nicolette translated by Francis William Bourdillon vs. Andrew Lang

Title: Aucassin and Nicolette

Original Title: Aucassin et Nicolette

Author: Anonymous

Translated by Francis William Bourdillon / Andrew Lang

Genre: Cantafable, Humour, Satire, Parody

Year of Publication of this Edition: 2011 / 2013

Published by Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co. LTD / Delphi Classics

Rating: 3/5 stars

I’ve been thinking for a long time about writing a review about a tale I accidentally found on Amazon. Thus, I want to share with you some information and interpretations regarding this French medieval story most of you probably haven’t heard of.

Aucassin and Nicolette is an anonymous Old French chantefable (creation comprising prose and verse), probably from the 12th or 13th century; its only remaining source is a manuscript kept in the National Library of France, in Paris. The story fascinated authors such as Andrew Lang and Francis William Bourdillon, who translated the chantefable in English. I read both translations and I found them very good and similar, but I prefer Lang’s version because it’s more melodious and it sounds a little more old-fashioned than the other one. However, in this review, I will quote and use some of Bourdillon’s explanations from the preface of his edition and a few critical ideas from the Dictionary of the Middle Ages.

Bourdillon thinks that sometimes we need to leave modern complicated novels behind and turn to old and simple tales, which we may find “more moving, more tender, even more real, than all the laboured realism of these photographic days.” (Loc. 10) He compares Aucassin and Nicolette with Romeo and Juliet, Cupid and Psyche and other classic romances, but the things that make this Old French chantefable stand out are the “perpetual touches of actual life, and words that raise pictures (…)” (Loc.12). The translator speculates that the plot is not original because the particular form of this tale pre-exists in the Arabian or Moorish culture. Thus, Bourdillon suggests that the story probably comes from Spain, the place where two religions and mentalities met. To be more exact, the plot doesn’t seem to take place in Provence, where Old French literature flourished, but in Spain. The British poet argues that Carthage doesn’t refer to the Tunisian city, but to Cartagena (a port in South-East Spain), Valence is not the city situated on the Rhône River, but Valencia and the fictional name Torelore – the place where Aucassin and Nicolette shipwrecked – could be Torello.

That being said, let’s take a look at our protagonists. Aucassin is Count Garin or Warren of Beaucaire’s son, who should fight against Count Bulgarius or Bougars of Valence, his father’s enemy. However, the lad refuses to become a knight and save the besieged city because he has fallen in love with Nicolette, a christened Saracen girl, who was taken from Carthage as a slave and brought up in a culture different from her own. Unlike the other knights, Aucassin doesn’t care too much about duty or glory; he is constantly daydreaming about his sweetheart and laments when the two lovers are separated from each other by their parents.

A thing I haven’t expected to read in a 13th-century tale is the young man’s ideas about religion which are very modern for that time if you ask me. During an argument with the Viscount, Nicolette’s ‘father in God’, Aucassin says that he would rather go to hell than to heaven because in hell he would find all the great knights, courteous ladies, lovers, artists, princes and all the riches of the world. Well, you have to admit that he is certainly not your typical medieval Christian! Actually, if you look carefully at his name, Aucassin sounds pretty Moorish, unlike his sweetheart’s Christian name. Bourdillion writes that Aucassin could be related to the 11th century King of Cordova, Alcazin, whose name was turned into French.

Now let’s turn our attention to the relationship between the young man and the beautiful maiden. If Aucassin doesn’t like to fight against his father’s enemies, maybe he is better at fighting for his love interest, right? Unfortunately, he is more of a philosopher than a man of action, though you might expect more motivation in this case. Even though he goes to Nicolette’s house, fights and captures the Count of Valence just for the covenant’s sake or looks for his beloved into the forest, the young lady is the one n charge of their relationship. For example, she runs away from home in order to save herself from Count Beaucaire’s rage and determination to kill her. And, in order to return to her lover’s land, she dresses up as a troubadour. No damsel in distress has the courage and wit to do such a thing; at least I haven’t read of such women in medieval literature. It is true that Nicolette has sugary soliloquies like her lover and the narrator praises her beauty excessively, which matches perfectly the medieval female ideal – the blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman with a light complexion and small, delicate hands.

The unusual twists and unspecific elements found in this story made critics see this tale as a parody of the epic, romance and saint’s life. Actually, this chantefable satirises many Old French genres, such as amor de lonh or distant love; here, the maiden is the one who searches her lover, not vice versa. Karl Uitti writes in the Dictionary of the Middle Ages that Aucassin and Nicolette combines elements from various Old French genres, such as ‘chanson de geste’, ‘lyric poems’ and ‘courtly novels’. He states that the term ‘chantefable’ appeared for the first time in the last line of this tale: “No cantefable prent fin”.

Some situations, such as the pregnant king in childbed and the rival armies, who fight against each other with baked apples, eggs and cheese projectiles, are truly hilarious scenes that reminded Lang of Rabelais’ grotesque humour. In real life, people fought in wars over food, not with food. If Aucassin and Nicolette’s romance was not enough to exemplify gender role reversals, the author threw in another one: the king lays in childbed and the queen is at war with the royal army. However, if we leave behind the comic aspects of the scene, we could follow Bourdillon’s interpretation of this strange behaviour. According to his research, in many cultures, there was a custom named Couvade, in which the father mimicked labour pains to sympathise with the mother and to protect her and the newborn against evil spirits. As a matter of fact, Strabo took notes of this ritual in his writings too.

In short, everything seems to be upside down in Aucassin and Nicolette, from the protagonist’s antiheroic character, the lady’s determination to be with him, their “against the grain” relationship, to the bizarre and funny situations they encounter.

 

Interview with Author Devika Fernando

Note: This post was written in collaboration with my friend Elena from eLitere.ro

Social Media is an amazing tool to promote your business, book, art project or blog if you know where to look and how to use it. We’ve come to meet even more amazing people, and discover books or films that made us happy or broke our hearts. We bring you a new interview today, with a lady whose name was mentioned before on eLitere and on Alina’s Bookish Hideout: Devika Fernando. She is the author of  contemporary romance and paranormal books such as When I See Your Face: A Second Chance at Love, Kaleidoscope of Hopes: A Second Chance Workplace Romance and the book series Fire Trilogy (Elemental Paranormal Romance), Romance Round The World and Forbidden, a romantic thriller series written in collaboration with American author Mike Wells, writer of Lust, Money & Murder series.

When was your passion for writing born?

Devika: When I was seven years old. I was always being read to and reading books, and I really wanted my own story too. It was a very short, short story. The real passion for writing arose during my teenage years, though it was mostly poems in English and novel ideas (just a few chapters here and there) in German. In 2013 I decided to really make my dream come true and become a romance novelist.

What inspires you the most?

Devika: I react very powerfully to pictures like fantasy art, romantic photos or even places that I can imagine as the setting for a novel. Sometimes new items or a book I read might spark an idea. Ultimately, I regard everything and everyone in life as an inspiration for writing.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

Devika: I don’t suffer from it. If I ever feel a little reluctant to write, I just push on and write anyway. Even if I might not be satisfied with what I’ve written, it’ll still have taken me a step further. If I get stuck, I sometimes switch to a different story or chapter or just read what I’ve written and fall back on track.

How has literature shaped the way you look at the world?

Devika: That is a wonderful question that I’ve never been asked before! I think it has made me observe more, and understand more, especially emotions and how they are sometimes hidden or unconsciously portrayed. And it has made me believe in love more because romance novels show that ultimately true love can overcome almost any obstacle.

“Artists instinctively want to reflect humanity, their own and each other’s, in all its intermittent virtue and vitality, frailty and fallibility”, said Tom Hiddleston in an interview some years ago. What are your thoughts on fandoms, on the way artists and their fans can interact nowadays?

Devika: It’s such a beautiful and meaningful quote, with which I heartily agree, being an artist myself. I think fandoms offer many benefits. They can bring people together, even if they might live on opposite sides of the globe or would otherwise never meet or talk, but are passionate about the same thing and will never run out of a topic to discuss. I’ve found three of my closest friends through a fandom. I also think being an ardent fan of someone or something brings out our creativity. It can give us strength to go on, things to look forward to, joy in hard times.

And with the internet, the possibilities seem endless. We have the chance to get to know a little more about the artist or even interact, and that in turn might make us understand and appreciate their work even more. Then there’s fanfiction. I know some people have very strong (negative) views about it, but I can’t see the harm in it. Some have discovered their inner writer through it or practice and end up writing wonderful books or even opening the door to success.

The only thing that makes me a bit weary of fandom is the ‘fanatic’ aspect. With the internet, some fans have started stalking artists or posting inappropriate stuff and totally ignoring privacy.

What would you say to those who are just discovering your novels? Why should they read your stories?

Devika: Another good question, thanks! I’ll give them three reasons: firstly, my characters don’t just fall in lust, kiss after the first page, and enjoy romps between the sheets, but really fall in love with each other. Secondly, I try to explore exotic settings in my novels that add to the fascination. For example, you can take a virtual trip to Sri Lanka in my multicultural romance novel Saved in Sri Lanka and you’ll find out a lot about Iceland in my upcoming paranormal romance novels Dancing with Fire and Living with Fire. Thirdly, there is always an aspect of the heroine (and hero) not only finding love but also finding themselves and learning to love themselves.

You can follow Devika Fernando on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Goodreads and Amazon.