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25 November 2020

Book Review & Extract: The Maiden and the Mercenary by Nicole Locke *AD - Gifted

I was provided with a free ebook of The Maiden and the Mercenary by Nicole Locke ahead of the blog tour.

I was originally supposed to only be posting an extract, but after I read the extract I knew that I needed the book myself too! The writing is excellent and the story is amazingly passionate. This is a historical romance with a twist.

The Maiden and the Mercenary by Nicole Locke cover Mills & Boon Historical

Keep your friends close...

But your enemies closer?

In order to find a legendary treasure map, mercenary Louve of Mei Solis must infiltrate his enemy's fortress under the guise of a servant. There, Louve meets beautiful maiden Biedeluue, a fellow servant with her own hidden agenda... To save her sister from the malevolent lord's clutches!

Their high-stakes missions may be at odds with one another, but their attraction cannot be denied even in this most dangerous of situations...

Source: Blog Tour | Review Copy

5 Word Review: Family, friendship, trust, betrayal, passion. 


I read a lot of general historical fiction, and The Maiden and the Mercenary certainly rivals a lot of them in terms of attention to detail and family plotting and drama.

I almost can't believe how much intrigue and conspiracy there was in the story, and it kept me gripped. I absolutely loved the background conflict of the Warstones and the tension it lent to the story.

I love that although there is an instant attraction between Bied and Louve, it takes a while to come into fruition. They have Very Sure Ideas of themselves and what they want. Bied thinks pretty much only about saving her sister, and Louve is all about getting the job done and getting out of there.

One of my favourite things was the slow change of the relationship between Bied and Louve. It evolves on page so subtly that I almost didn't realise it had happened until the end. There is so much passion and lust between them, and it gradually builds in to more.

The Maiden and the Mercenary is an absolutely excellent read and I'd recommend it to all fans of medieval historical romance. I'd love to read more about Bied and Louve as they're such a compelling couple.


Extract

This is the moment the heroine, Biedeluue, meets Louve, the hero. She’s in the kitchen playing a drinking game with other servants by stacking goblets on table. He’s just been hired as Usher (overseer of the kitchens). He’s truly a mercenary on a secret mission, of course, she’s on a secret mission to save her sister. But right now, she’s falling from a table-top and he’s nearby. 

That wasn’t right. Bied’s vision changed to the top of the ceiling, the thick oak beams heavy with smoke, and bird droppings that needed to be—
Oh, my. She was falling and it was going to hurt. ‘Henry! Henry, you were supposed to remain behind— oomph!’
Her head cracked against the top of a shoulder, two arms snapped around her waist, her body continued to plummet, but didn’t fall. Only continued to press, press, press against an unyielding object, who cradled her body until her feet slid to the floor one after the other.
A clumsy safe landing that was part drunkenness, part the fall and entirely the fault of the man who was holding her steady.
She swung around in his arms, stared at a chest that no amount of poorly weaved tunic could disguise as absolutely glorious and stabbed her finger right into the middle of it. ‘How dare you!’
The arms around her constricted, her breasts pressed tighter, her nose bumping forward, flattening her palm between them. A palm that might have ever so slightly brushed across to feel every ripple. Yep. Glorious.
‘Can you even stand?’ 
She peered upwards to an unknown strong jawline. ‘Where’d you come from?’
‘Bring a chair,’ he boomed.
That voice! She shoved against his chest—he didn’t move. ‘Let me go!’
‘Chair, now! Remove that man from the kitchens, clean up the mess he made. You and you, get these goblets back to the pantry, and, you, take care of this ale. You as well. And all those gawking in the doorways, if you don’t clean the floor immediately, and that includes the flour, I’ll wipe it up with your carcases.’
People moved. They moved as if this glorious-chested man with his strong jawline had anything to do with any of them.
‘Now wait! You have no authority here. This is a private…affair. We’re conducting important matters for the lord, we are. You can’t barge in here.’
‘Sit,’ he ordered.
Where had the chair come from? ‘You sit,’ she told the jawline.
‘Female.’
Ooh, this was different. Very different. His voice wasn’t booming, but the authority was there. Yes, it was, more so, and it caused her eyes to wander a bit higher and then a bit higher yet.
Glorious…everything. Black eyelashes, brows, aquiline nose, a tiny scar under his left eye that begged for a kiss.
Then there was blue. A blue so blue, the sky would be envious. And…so many eyes. Why did he have so many eyes when the rest of them only had two? Unfair!
‘You’re too far gone for the chair, aren’t you?’ He’d swung his gaze away from her. ‘Who is responsible for this female?’
‘Now that you are hired, that would be you.’ The Steward’s reedy voice slithered into the kitchens.
Steward, who controlled everything, including her employment. A position which was important because she needed it to save her sister.
‘I think I’m going to be sick,’ she whispered.

The Maiden and the Mercenary by Nicole Locke blog tour banner


20 November 2020

Book Beginnings: The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty

For Book Beginnings, Rose City Reader invites us to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.


For Friday 56, Freda's Voice asks you to turn to Page 56 in your book or 56% on your e-reader and pick a sentence.


The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty Daevabad Trilogy Harper Voyager cover Fairyloot exclusive edition

He was an easy mark. 

This series has regrettably been on my TBR for far too long. I have had a copy of The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty since its release but never picked it up, even though it sounds right up my street. Then I bought the Fairyloot exclusive editions of the entire trilogy and decided it was time.

First off I love the cover, it's so so pretty. My copy also has gorgeous stencilled edges in a matching design. It is stunning, 10/10 for attractiveness to book magpies.

This first line doesn't give much away at all, but it does have me hooked. I want to know who the mark is, and who it is doing the marking. Or the swindling, you know.

With a single flap of his wings, he rose in the air and vanished into the crimson sky.

This is from page 56 in my finished hardback copy.

Page 56 isn't that far through this book, it's a chonky boi at over 500 pages and a small typeface.

S. A. Chakraborty is really good at packing sentences with punch. The tension in the writing is addictive and I cannot put this book down.


What are you reading this week?

16 November 2020

Book Review: Awakening His Shy Cinderella by Sophie Pembroke *AD - Gifted

I was luck enough to win a Halloween giveaway from the author, and she kindle included her latest book Awakening His Shy Cinderella by Sophie Pembroke. I also requested and was accepted for a NetGalley review copy.

I jumped on it pretty much straight away, because it sounded like exactly what I needed, and it fulfilled the Newest ARC prompt for Galleyathon.

Awakening His Shy Cinderella by Sophie Pembroke cover Mills & Boon True Love Romance

Can a festive flirtation last…

After the final cracker has been pulled?

Damon knows Rachel’s always prioritised her family’s needs above her own and it’s time for her to step out of her comfort zone!

Damon usually steers clear of commitment, but neither can resist indulging in a very temporary affair! 

Only when the time comes, can he walk away…?


Source: Giveaway | NetGalley

5 Word Review: Love, family, work, passion, Christmas. 


So err... Awakening His Shy Cinderella was perfect.

I related to Rachel so much, and I loved that I could see parts of myself in her. Her insecurities and small fears really brought her to life, and  I wanted to give her a hug and tell her what an amazing person she is.

Damon is an excellent romantic hero, and I loved how we got to see his own family struggles too. This book is full of complicated and messy family relationships and I loved it.

This story takes the classic Cinderella tropes of an evil step-mother and nasty step-sisters and makes them seem fresh. I could really believe their motivations and it was an excellent layer added to secondary characters. It wasn't so much a Cinderella retelling as a modern interpretation of the story, and instead of a fairy godmother there was a charming hero by Rachel's side.

In terms of festive cheer, Awakening His Shy Cinderella is full of it. I loved the small magics and wonders of Rachel's Christmas window displays, and it invoked memories of Fenwick's Christmas Window as a child and how magical it all felt. I liked the community sense of story in the arcade and even in the big department store.

I want to go to a Victorian Christmas market and drink hot chocolate and listen to a choir sing. I want to string fairylights all around. This book helped me get fully into the festive mood, and I'd love to share the magic.




09 November 2020

Galleyathon Prompts and TBR

I have a lot of NetGalley review copies that have built up while my health has prevented me from reading them, and since I'm in a good place in terms of function right now and Galleyathon is starting today I thought there was no better time than the present to tackle some of them!

Galleyathon also comes with a Self Care board game which sounds perfect! The board has 11 bubbles to tick off and a fantastic list of self care ideas. I plan to do one for each 50% I get to in a galley, so two per book.


Galleyathon Prompts

There are four main prompts for Galleyathon, but they also have a bingo board.

The Prompts:

  • Your Newest ARC 
  • Your Oldest ARC
  • An ARC You're Excited For
  • An ARC You Regret Requesting
The Bingo Card:
  • An Expected Rejection
  • Complete Three Self-Care Challenges
  • Finish a Book
  • Read a Book Set in Winter/Christmas
  • Clear Your NetGalley Shelf
  • A Book That's Already Released
  • An Own Voices Read
  • A 5 or 1 Star Read
  • A Hyped Read

I like how the bingo is a mix of prompts, and not necessarily reading. There is no way I can clear my NetGalley shelf, but I can definitely make a start on clearing specifically the eight Mills & Boon titles languishing there, and if I manage them all I will consider that square ticked off.


Self Care Challenges

I will be using a random number generator for my self-care challenges every 50% of a book that I read, except for the final prompt as we're in lockdown where I am (and I was shielding anyway) which I'll be replacing with Drink Gin.

  • Take a relaxing bath or shower
  • Have a hot beverage
  • Have a snack
  • Do some meditation
  • Go for a walk
  • Call/Text a friend
  • Dance Party!!!!
  • Watch some funny videos or tik toks
  • Take a picture of your reading spot (and send it to @galleyathon)
  • Watch a movie/TV show for a well deserved reading break
  • Take a picture of your bookshelves (and send to @galleyathon)
  • Do a facemask
  • Watch a Booktube video
  • Treat yourself to a new book perhaps? (we won’t tell)
  • Go on a trip to the library (wear your mask of course)
  •  

My Galleyathon TBR

I'm going to pick the book for my Newest ARC at the end of the readthon, because there are a couple of pending requests for Mills & Boon titles on my shelf and I am very excited for them.

My Oldest ARC is The Scandal of the Season by Annie Burrows so that will be first up for me. It sounds like excellent fun and I love historical romance, especially those set around the Season and all the small dramas that ensue.

An ARC I'm excited for is The Takeover by SL Swan, mostly because I absolutely loved The Stopover by TL Swan when I read it last year and it blew my expectations out of the water.

For an ARC that I regret requesting, I will be reading The Maid's Best Kept Secret by Abby Green. I actually don't regret requesting this book at all because I only request books I really want to read, but I do regret the timing. It was the worst possible time I could have requested any book in terms of my physical and mental health.

I am very excited for this readathon and where it will take me. Bring on the happy endings and making a dent in my NetGalley shelf. My feedback ratio currently sits at 27% and I'm hoping to up that a bit.


What are you planning to read next?



07 November 2020

Book Review: A Princess By Christmas by Julia London *Ad - Gifted

I was sent a free copy of A Princess By Christmas by Julia London by Mills and Boon ahead of the blog tour. I was so excited to be invited to join the tour, because I absolutely loved the previous books The Princess Plan and A Royal Kiss and Tell.

A Princess By Christmas by Julia London cover

A Secret.

A Lie.

A Revolution.

Hollis Honeycutt has written her London gazette since the death of her husband – featuring fashion plates, marriage advice, and the latest gossip in and around Mayfair. But now she feels her gazette should have more meaning, cover topics of more consequence than the latest curl cream.

The opportunity presents itself when Hollis overhears rumours of a potential coup in the Kingdom of Wesloria, a coup linked to the highest level of government in London. During her investigation Hollis spies a man with no business lurking around peace talks, and determines to expose him for the traitor he most certainly must be.

When Weslorian Marek Brendan was fifteen he was shocked to discover his heritage was not what he believed – he was whisked away from the Weslorian palace when he was born because there was fear that corrupt forces would try and kidnap him. Now he is determined to stop these corrupt forces staging a coup in his home country. Except for the beautiful woman whose questions are putting his own investigation at risk. Yet soon Marek realises that pretty Hollis can help him. But when he confides his suspicions, Hollis’s loyalties are tested and she must choose between her loyalties to her family, or her heart…

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Source: Blog Tour | Review Copy

5 Word Review: Family, gossip, friendship, plotting, royalty. 


Hollis, I think I love you.

Hollis has been there in the background of the two previous books and I have been desperate to discover her story, especially with the snippets of her Gazette. I managed to read it in a single day so it definitely ticked all of the boxes for me. Hollis is so good and kind and generous, and I couldn't help but fight for her side - she's the type of character you want with all of your heart to be happy.

I loved the mistaken-yet-secret-identity lark, it was a very fun spin on a well used trope. With it being something that could hurt her friends, Hollis is extra investigated, even if she weren't always keeping an ear out for her Gazette.

The chemistry between Hollis and Brendan is excellent. There is suspicion and attraction in equal measure. The intrigue added extra drama, and served to bring things to almost boiling point.

As much as this is a series of books, they can absolutely be read as standalones and even out of order. But of course you get the full experience of all of the characters and the drama and the feels if you read them one after the other.

A Princess By Christmas was an absolutely fantastic read, and I loved the Christmas cheer at the end. It's made me even more excited for the festive season, and at one point kind of made me fancy some absinthe. It's fun and you will not regret it.