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What a Difference a Duke Makes by Lenora Bell

Historical Romance.  Governess and Duke.  Not a simple romance, but a life story from a fascinating woman meeting a abused and neglected duke.  It’s a story that I could not put down.

Title: What a Difference a Duke Makes
Author: Lenora Bell
SeriesSchool for Dukes #1
Publish Date: March 27, 2018
Genre: Historical Romance
Source: Purchased by reviewer

Publisher’s Description:  Wanted: Governess for duke’s unruly children

Edgar Rochester, Duke of Banksford, is one of the wealthiest, most powerful men in England, but when it comes to raising twins alone, he knows he needs help. The only problem is the children have chased away half the governesses in London. Until the clever, bold, and far-too-enticing Miss Mari Perkins arrives.

Lost: One heart to an arrogant duke

Mari knows how to wrap even the most rebellious children around her finger. But their demanding, wickedly handsome father? He won’t be quite so easy to control. And there’s something else she can’t seem to command. Her heart. The foolish thing beats so wildly every time the duke is near.

Found: A forbidden passion neither can deny

As his employee, Mari is strictly off-limits. But what if she’s the one breaking all his rules? In the game of governess versus duke, how can Edgar maintain his defenses when the only thing he wants to do is let the tempting beauty win?

Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel. In other words…spoilers.  *BEWARE*


 

Nervous Nellie says…

I told you I’d break your bloody nose.  Now get in the carriage and leave, you craven piece of maggot droppings.

That’s a Duke defending a Lady, that’s what that is!! Awesome romance.  Plain and simple.  Two common folk that lead a not so uncommon life.  The Duke is a tradesman.  The Governess is an orphan.  Both are emotionally damaged, but then again, how can they not be when they were abused as children.  There is no cliffhanger and there is a very feel good and satisfying ending.  This is definitely a book to get lost in for a few hours.

Photo by Alexander Petrenko / alexstudio.ch

I actually met Lenora Bell.  I did! Scout’s honor and all that!  Let me tell you that she would totally fit in the era she loves to write.  SHE belongs on the cover of the books she writes as she is as pretty as any cover model, as kind as any of her heroines.  She’s also an amazing historical writer.

I bought her series The Disgraceful Dukes when I saw her in the Kansas City Kisscon.  Her next book in this School For Dukes series won’t be out until September 18, 2018, which will feature the sister of the hero Duke from this book.  Now, that’s going to be a blast because India is someone I would LOVE to have as a friend in real life.

Ok, about this book.  It was a great vacation to take on a beautiful spring/summer day sitting outside in my lawn chair.  Mari is a strong, independent 20 year old that has to make her way in the world alone.  She gets dumped on by the proprietor of the governess-for-hire service and gets her trunk stolen on the first day she’s in London.  Her life kicks into overdrive after that.  Chasing two youngsters who are feeling misplaced and unloved is quite a challenge, but Mari knows a thing or two about feeling misplaced and unloved.

Edgar, Duke of Banksford, has had enough crap happen in his life to rival Mari, which makes them a perfect match.  He doesn’t know what to do with children.  Hell, he doesn’t even know what to do with himself.  He’s trying so hard that he’s spinning his wheels.  Then comes Mari.

Everyone needs someone to share the bad things as well as the good things.  Someone who knows the secrets and will keep them as well as defend them.  These two are perfect matches, but sometimes it takes the boldness of the woman to take the first steps.  Mari is the one that tugs the Duke along his path whether he wants to or not.  She is his hero and mine too.

 

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Series Spotlight: Esther Diamond (audio) by Laura Resnick

Laura Resnick (author) and GraphicAudio have teamed up to create the Esther Diamond series audios, and it’s a fantastic pairing! If you like full-production audiobooks, you don’t want to miss this series!

I am so excited about the Esther Diamond series’ audiobooks being produced by GraphicAudio! They are fantastic. Try it out for yourself with this sample.

I’m gonna break this Series Spotlight down into two sections: one to talk about the series and one to talk about the audio production because they both deserve their own spotlight.

Series

Esther Diamond is a struggling New York actress. While working on an off-broadway play as a chorus nymph and understudy to the female lead, the lead actress disappears.

Enter Maximillian Zadok, a 350-year-old wizard, stationed in New York by the Magnum Collegium to fight mystical evil. Max implores Esther not to take up her understudy duties for fear she will go missing, too. Once Max convinces Esther that there is mystical evil afoot, Esther rushes to help Max find and stop the culprit before she becomes the next victim.

Meanwhile, the lead actress’s disappearance is also being investigated by Detective Connor Lopez, a sexy Latino with blue Irish eyes. Lopez finds Esther intriguing and would like to get to know her better. Unfortunately, Lopez doesn’t believe in mystical evil, even though Esther’s tried to tell him that it exists. While he is strongly drawn to Esther, he fears she’s unstable, dangerous, and possibly felonious. Their involvement complicates his life and jeopardizes his job, but he has trouble staying away.

During their adventures, Esther, Max, and a number of their friends encounter evil sorcerers, demons, voodoo loa, zombies, vampires, spirits, cursed objects, missing corpses, mob hit men, death omens, drag queens, entitled young adults, harried production assistants, and narcissistic actors. The mysteries are intriguing and well written, but I think it’s the main characters that really shine in the series. They are complex and layered, unique and intriguing, each with their own secrets that are slowly revealed over time.

This series has magic, mystery, and adventure, but it also has humor, friendship, and relationship tension (not everything is rosy in this romance) that builds with each book. It’s more glossy than gritty, on the lighter side of urban fantasy, but the protagonists have depth, and it’s easy to care about them. I highly recommend the series for a fun urban fantasy read.

If you’re not an audiobook fan, you can find the Esther Diamond series in digital and print formats at your favorite online retailer.

Audio Production

I’ve mentioned on this blog before how awesome I think GraphicAudio is. They make audiobooks into full-production masterpieces. They’re essentially radio-plays, for those of us who are old enough to have heard of those. There is a full cast of characters, so the voices are all different and the “he said” and “she said” of regular audiobooks aren’t needed. There’s music and sound effects in all the right places, which enhance the story greatly. As a big fan of audiobooks, I absolutely adore these productions. They are just so much fun!

Graphic Audio did a FANTASTIC job with the Esther Diamond series. I cannot imagine a better casting of voices, especially Colleen Delany as Esther Diamond, Thomas Keegan as Detective Connor Lopez, Bob Payne as Maximillian Zadok, and Tim Carlin as Lucky Battistuzzi. The voice  acting is fantastic and really conveys the character personalities and emotional content of the story. The GraphicAudio actors bring each character completely to life in a way that only the very best voice actors can in regular audiobooks.

The background music and sound effects add such depth and dimension to the story that you really do feel as if you are listening to a movie. It’s that much easier to feel the tension of being stalked when you can hear the footsteps behind you, or to visualize a street fight when you can hear the impact of fists, the grunts of the combatants, and the splash of blood on pavement.

I don’t think I’m capable of expressing just how emotionally involved I feel when listening to GraphicAudio productions. It is an amazing medium for some genres, and I really encourage authors, particularly indie sci-fi and fantasy authors, to consider GraphicAudio for their books before any other audiobook company. Your listeners will experience a much richer version of your creation than I think you’ll find elsewhere.

A rich creation is exactly how I’d describe the Esther Diamond series on GraphicAudio. Five stars for this superb production.

You might also like:

GraphicAudio boasts a number of sci-fi and fantasy series by well-known authors such as Piers Anthony, Stephen Blackmoore, Peter David, Alan Dean Foster, Simon R. Green, Charlaine Harris, Jim C. Hines, Cherie Priest, Stephen Lawhead, Kelly McCullough, Ari Marmell, Elizabeth Moon, Michael Moorcock, Lilith Saintcrow, R.A. Salvatore, Brandon Sanderson, Michael J. Sullivan, Brent Weeks, and Eileen Wilks. They also have a number of audio adaptations of both Marvel and DC comics.

Wanted and Wired by Vivien Jackson

In a tech enhanced, post apocalyptic world, there are so many games coming into play.  In order to keep control of your little part of the world, there will be political take overs, territorial disputes and if that’s not enough, is the person you trust a mech clone or whole organic?  Does it matter?

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Title:  Wanted and Wired
Author: Vivien Jackson
Series: Wanted and Wired #1
Publish Date: April 4, 2017
Genre: Post Apocalyptic Fantasy
Publisher’s Description:  Now that Texas has seceded and the world is spiraling into chaos, good guys come in unlikely packages and love sprouts in the most inconvenient places…

Rogue scientist • technologically enhanced • deliciously attractive

Heron Farad should be dead. But technology has made him the man he is today. Now he heads a crew of uniquely skilled outsiders who fight to salvage what’s left of humanity: art, artifacts, books, ideas-sometimes even people. People like Mari Vallejo.

Gun for hire • Texan rebel • always hits her mark

Mari has been lusting after her mysterious handler for months. But when a by-the-book hit goes horribly sideways, she and Heron land on the universal most wanted list. Someone set them up. Desperate and on the run, they must trust each other to survive, while hiding devastating secrets. As their explosive chemistry heats up, it’s the perfect storm…

Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel. In some cases…spoilers. *BEWARE*


Nervous Nellie says…

I still think you’re crazier than a sack of weasels.” Mari folded her fingers to a fist. “You got somethin’ against weasels?””

This book is a combination of I, Robot, Mad Max, and Firefly with a little Pretty Woman thrown in.  It does have sex in it and some dirty talk heavy with innuendo.  It’s got death too.  ‘Cuz, the protagonist is a paid for hire killer.  It takes place in a world full of robots that are basically clones of the original person. There is a lot of technical speak that even if you don’t speak geek, it’s ok because Mari doesn’t either.  There is not a cliffhanger but I’m very glad there is a book #2 in the series called Perfect Gravity.  I’m going to my local ebook seller and get that next book as soon as I’m finished here.

I was engaged from beginning to end.  I always know it’s a good book when I can’t wait to get back to it if I have to put it down.  There was an emotionally-damaged woman falling in love with a man who was less human and more mechanics.  There was a murder, conspiracy, tech espionage, political games and a look at what the Earth could be reduced to if things all went kablooie.

This was not a cheesy book.  It wasn’t a Star Wars wannabe, it was a Wanted and Wired best seller.  I felt like I had truly delved into another world.  I felt very comfortable there.  There were descriptions of this world’s objects and processes that could be overwhelming but the author wrote it all in such a way that it all fell together and I could imagine exactly what she was describing.  And the best part?  The inner Mari dialogue was incredibly authentic.  Mari is a rough-and-tumble woman, she swears like a sailor and she’s a Texan so you can really hear her accented voice when reading.  It just clicked. Another best part?  When Mari finds out that she is very smart even though she didn’t think so.  She is the only one that can save her partner from losing himself in the internet which is, in the future, named the “Cloud”.  Appropriate, right?

Dr. Farad doesn’t go by Dr. Farad when he works with Mari.  To Mari, Dr. Farad is only Heron, her operations planner that talks her through every job with details of who, what, where and how to get out in a hurry.  What Mari doesn’t know is that Dr. Farad is enamored with her and wants to be more than partners in work.  He’s not a military super god but he is very well equipped in the brain department.  He can decipher odds, monitor the law enforcement channel and run multiple scenarios all at once.  Useful, that.

This tale was a page-turning ride.  I enjoyed the “wild west” feel in a post-apocalyptic world that is laced with robots who are clones, humans that are tech-enhanced and also those humans that are whole-organic, meaning like you and me.

Other recommendations…

…you might try Dark Sky series by Amy Braun, Cursed series by Amy Braun and Immortal Vegas series by Jenn Stark.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

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A Fistful of Frost by Rebecca Chastain

In the few weeks, she’s been on the job, Madison Fox has faced imps, vervet, possessed hounds, cito, demons, and other dark creatures of Primordium. Now she must face her biggest challenge yet: a job performance review.

See below for information on a time-sensitive special deal and a giveaway from the author!

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Title: A Fistful of Frost
Author: Rebecca Chastain
Series: Madison Fox, Book #3
Publish Date: May 8, 2018
Genre: Urban fantasy
Cover: Yocla Designs
Source: Provided by the author

Publisher’s Description: Madison’s job—and soul—are on thin ice.

Madison Fox is determined to reform Jamie, her half-evil pooka, but the bond linking her to Jamie works both ways. Already, it has manipulated her into bending the rules. If she continues down this path, she could doom her soul. Since her judgment can’t be trusted, a high-ranking inspector now dictates Madison’s every interaction with Jamie, and each directive drives them further apart.

Unfortunately, Madison has bigger issues than the potential degradation of her soul. Winter has struck with a vengeance. Frost moths plague the entire state, reinforcing the artificially frigid temperature. Worse, cold-blooded, soul-stealing enemies are flocking into her region from the north—creatures Madison has little defense against.

With the inspector scrutinizing her every misstep, Madison is in for the battle of her life. If she hopes to survive, she must make an impossible choice: save herself and her region or save Jamie.

An imaginative urban fantasy filled with heart, humor, and plenty of butt-kicking action—A Fistful of Frost is a book you won’t want to miss!

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested Ivana says…

Madison Fox had only been on the job for a couple of weeks before she bonded with a pooka and caused an upheaval in her region. Now, the Collaborative Illumination Alliance (CIA) wants to test her, fearing that her association with the pooka may have corrupted her soul. So Madison has to face an intense job evaluation while dealing with a close-lipped boss, inadequate on-the-job training, a self-aware and temperamental manual, a misbehaving pooka, resentful co-workers, and supernatural creatures she’s never encountered before. It’s enough to make anyone lose their mind!

Since she’s been thrust into the supernatural world—years later than any of her counterparts and lacking all the information she needs—Madison has been floundering through odd situations and uncovering plots and schemes just by being the outsider. She’s also been used as a pawn because of her ignorance and inexperience, and she’s gained the reputation of being unpredictable, hard to handle, and probably dangerous.

So In A Fistful of Frost, she’s trying very hard to follow the rules, take direction from people who have more experience, and do exactly as she’s told. But doing so drives a wedge between her and her pooka, Jamie, and makes the CIA and her co-workers even more suspicious of her motives.

Because of my own past job experiences, I identified almost too much with Madison’s frustrations about her job—poorly trained and with few resources, she’s trying to do her job while following all the rules and meeting all the expectations of people who may or may not even know what they’re talking about. It’s something everyone who’s ever had a job has experienced at one time and makes Madison’s situation very easy to relate to.

When Madison finally tells everyone to go to hell and does what she thinks is right, she goes from being a vulnerable novice to an empowered enforcer, which is what every frustrated employee wants. As a reader, I felt victorious along with Madison when she declared her independence from everyone else’s agendas. I think we’ll see a different Madison in future adventures; not a perfect one, but one operating under her own agency who casts a more skeptical eye toward other people’s rules.

I enjoy this series immensely, which is why the first two books earned a Standout Award from me in 2015. I’m thrilled we get to see a new chapter in Madison’s life and hope there will be another on the way soon. 5 stars.

Our reviews in this series…

Special Deal

In honor of the release of A Fistful of Frost on May 8, you can get the first book in the series, A Fistful of Evil, FREE in ebook form from May 1 to May 5. Look for A Fistful of Evil and all of Rebecca Chastain’s books on Amazon.

Giveaways

Pre-order Giveaway: Order your copy of A Fistful of Frost between now and the release date on May 8, and you can receive a copy of the Madison Fox novelette, A Fistful of Flirtation.

Madison finally gets her date with Dr. Love—and if they had picked any other restaurant, she might have had a chance to enjoy it, too . . . 

Receive your free gift with purchase here: https://www.rebeccachastain.com/current-giveaways/

Series Giveaway: From May 8 to May 30, enter to win a $25 Amazon gift card or the complete Madison Fox trilogy! https://www.rebeccachastain.com/current-giveaways/

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Dark Queen by Faith Hunter

Have Stakes, Will Travel. Faith Hunter is best ambush hunter. Jane has more than her hands full this time around.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Title:  Dark Queen
Author:  Faith Hunter
Series:  Jane Yellowrock #12
Publish Date:  May 1, 2018
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher’s Description: Jane Yellowrock used to hunt vampires, but now she must fight–and win–beside them.

As Enforcer to the vampire Master of the City of New Orleans, Jane Yellowrock stakes her reputation and her life on keeping her territory safe. But Leo has been issued a blood challenge by the emperor of the European vampires, who seeks to usurp all of his power and possessions. If Leo loses the match to the death, the city will be forfeit, and the people of New Orleans will suffer the consequences. Jane can’t let that happen.

Preparing for the duel requires all of Jane’s focus, but with so much supernatural power in play, nothing goes according to plan. She has to rely on herself and the very few people she knows she can trust to stand and fight. Only two things are guaranteed: nothing is sacred, and no one is safe.

Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel. In some cases…spoilers. *BEWARE*


Nervous Nellie says…

Vamps and weres and their blasted layers of conspiracies within plots within intrigues within treacheries.

I love Jane Yellowrock. I love the whole of Clan Yellowrock. Every last one of them. Not Leo, though. Well, maybe Leo a little bit.  There is no graphic sex and very little cussing since Jane doesn’t allow it.  There is plenty of blood and death because without that, there would be no vampires.  There is a satisfying ending, though it’s not the end of the series.  I have to tell you, without a lie, I cried.  The sad lasted only a blink, so don’t let that stop anyone from reading.  If you are wondering about the comment above regarding Faith Hunter is best ambush hunter, that only means that I was taken by surprise

I can tell that the series is starting it’s wind down but that does not mean there are not some spectacular action scenes and conspiracies not yet explored. Jane is again in a tight spot.  So tight it’s accurate to say Rock meet hardspot. She has to think quickly because this is truly “IT”.  If Leo dies, then the EV Titus gets control and it will not be an easy death.  Leo is kind compared to this…this…this…butthead.

The story is not mired down by descriptions and fluff that is not necessary. It’s face paced, blow your socks off incredible. Jane didn’t laugh much in this story. The vampire duel is very serious stuff. She had a lot of work to do besides the duel though. Multitasking is obviously Jane’s forte. She has a strange man showing up to blind side her with news. Ricky Bo is around and that relationship just got far more complicated. (It pleases me that he is feeling a lot of remorse for leaving Jane.) The Younger brothers are stellar as always with Alex growing into a responsible adult more and more. Bruiser is beautiful – ‘nough said. Without spoiling anything, I can simply say this book had revelations and changes to everyone’s lives.  I was blindsided more than once.  Also, I swear to you, Jane makes the long game vampires play seemingly easy to figure out. She is one brilliant War Woman.

Our reviews in this series…

Other recommendations…

…you might try

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

 

 

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