Monday, November 26, 2012



Paperback, 223 pages
Published May 1st 2012 by Sebastian Cole LLC
Genre: contemporary novel, romance, romantic fantasy
Rating : 5 stars

What if you lost your true soul mate, the one person in life you were meant to be with? Would your love ever truly die? Not if you’re Noah Hartman, who refuses to let go of Robin after she inexplicably abandons their love and disappears from his life seemingly forever, her hidden secret yet to be discovered.

And when you finally accept your fate and do your best to move on with your life, what do you say when the unthinkable happens: your true love Robin reappears as your wedding ceremony to another woman is about to commence, looks deep into your soul with her loving, tear-filled eyes, and tells you the one thing you’ve desperately longed to hear for all of these years?

But the ending to this heart-wrenching love story has yet to be written, as Noah, old and sick in a hospital bed, tells his story of love and loss to Josh, a wise orderly at Mount Sinai Hospital. As his family members arrive to bid him goodbye, Noah discovers a far greater truth about his past, present, and future. Things are definitely not as they appear as the pieces of a shattered love are put back together in the remarkable final chapter of Noah’s life.

What an exquisitely romantic story! Utterly heart-wrenching in its tragedy, absolutely gratifying in its resolution. Far from being a mellow romance novel, the author deepened and enriched the shadows of widely exploited tropes (lost love and second chances) with more introspective and dramatic tones, tragic elements and a mind-blowing ending. Although frequently referred to as a romantic fantasy, I wouldn't say that Cole's soulful debut novel falls in that clear-cut category, being the otherworldly element not a dominant feature throughout the narration, as much  as an imaginative touch that the author used very lightly and that found its culmination only at the end of the book.
Lying in a hospital bed, eighty year old Noah Hartman offers to a compassionate medical orderly a bitter-sweet recount of his love life. As past events and present-time regretful considerations unfold  in front of our eyes with the fluidity, accuracy and comfortable pace of a movie script, Noah takes us for an emotional trip down memory lane, leading the readers through his heartbreaking quest for love and the countless obstacles that external forces, prejudices, and twists of fate placed on his path to happiness. What makes this story of undying love so poignant and inspiring is the combination of two very fragile and vibrant characters and the incredible resiliency of their mutual feelings. I was overwhelmed with a deep sense of compassion for Noah and Robin. Their back-stories may be marked by environmental and genetic traits that will act as invisible and sometimes unexplained forces against the fulfillment of their love (Noah's Jewish background and family's hostility to Robin, Robin's tragic past and lack of emotional stability), but true love has a way to reveal itself in "a moment of truth and clarity" and to lead two soul mates through the storms and the rough seas, like a compass to its true north.
Keep a tissue box close by while reading this evocative novel...Sand Dollar won't leave your soul and your eyes dry. 

*Review based on a complimentary copy graciously offered by the author in return of an unbiased opinion.

To know more about Sebastian Cole, please visit him at

Saturday, November 24, 2012

TOUCH OF A SCOUNDREL (Touch Of Seduction #3) by Mia Marlowe + GIVEAWAY

Paperback, 310 pages
Published August 1st 2012 by Brava
Genre: historical romance novel, Victorian England
Rating: 4.5 stars

London, 1860. 
Griffin (known as "Devon"), thirty year old Earl of Devonwood,  has a gift. He is a seer, a person endowed with the ability to glimpse the future by touching inanimate objects, a birthright inherited from his mother "just as directly as his raven hair and storm gray eyes". For the last sixteen years he's been tormented by guilt:  Devon blames himself and the inaccuracy of one of his visions for the accidental death of his father. Since that day, "Griffin's boyhood slipped away forever", on his narrow shoulders the heavy responsibilities of an earldom, a mother and two younger siblings. 
Emmaline Farnsworth, fresh American beauty and upstart commoner, is the daughter of a scholar and egyptologist. She may not be the most suitable match for the brother of an earl, and Devon will do whatever he can as head of the family to prevent such an ill-suited engagement. But Devon's younger sibling, Theodore, thinks himself in love with her and ready to propose: in Emma's capable and self-assertive personality Theo, who grew up in the  shadow of his brooding older brother, has found  the perfect match for his own feckless and  amiable personality; in Emma's father (Monty Farnsworth) he has met a great mentor and a surrogate father figure capable to bestow knowledge without overshadowing his yielding personality. 
Sadly, and with a good amount of guilt on her part, Emma doesn't return Theo's feelings and yet she hasn't done much to discourage his courtship: to complicate the matter, after a first encounter with his older brother Devon, and judging from the visceral reaction that affects both of them, it's clear where the romance will blossom...against their better judgment. 
There's more to Emma and his scholar father than meets the eye, in fact: they're not who they claim to be. With the aid of a fake Egyptian artifact, this  couple of skilful con artists plans to swindle Theo into funding an Egyptian expedition, flee with the money and settle in a sanatorium on the German Alps where Emma's father will hopefully restore his rapidly deteriorating health. Consumption is killing him and this scheme may be the last good opportunity they have to provide Monty with the proper therapy for his unforgiving ailment. Not to mention the effects their vagabond life-style and lack of stability is having on Emma, wearing her soul as quickly as lines and illness are marking Monty's face at every turn of the seasons. More than the riches, the luxury of permanence calls to her. 
It will be a fortuitous "touch" between Devon and Emma to unveil, through allegorical and accurate visions of sizzling passion, occult enemies, and lurking dangers, how deeply and inevitably connected their destinies are.
I really liked this historical romance novel, with all its emotional complexity. I am not a big fan of love triangles, but the plot, enriched by a light paranormal twist, was original and captivating. I loved Mia Marlowe's writing style, her prose always elegant and eloquent, her descriptions exquisitely vivid, the sensuality incandescent and yet tasteful. Being the heroine a confidence artist, I didn't necessarily admire her, but the author managed to portray her as a sympathetic character with the depths, the lights and the  shadows of a young woman who was born an orphan, raised in foster care and whose only family is an adoptive father who deceits wealthy and gullible victims for a living. With her genuine feelings of guilt and gratitude for Theo and her deeply passionate love for Devon, she eventually redeems herself. The suspenseful element, the references to occultist practices and the supernatural qualities of the male protagonist are not heavily exploited and they are packed mainly in the final chapters of the novel. What really defines the storyline is the emotional conflict playing between Devon, Emma and Theo; Devon's visions act more as windows on the ineluctability of their love and perfect narrative devices to advance the plot and reveal the most basic truth about human relationships: laws of attraction are hard to defy. Absolutely delectable!

*Complimentary copy graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an unbiased opinion. 


The publisher would like to offer a copy of TOUCH OF A THIEF ( book #1 in the Touch Of Seduction series) to a lucky commenter. Drop a comment about this review or any of Mia Marlowe's novels and kindly include your email address  for a chance to win. Contest open only to US and Canada residents.  

TOUCH OF A THIEF ( Touch Of Seduction #1) by Mia Marlowe

Paperback, 274 pages
Published May 1st 2011 by Brava 
Genre: historical romance novel
Lady Viola Preston is careful to wear gloves when she steals jewels. When she touches a gemstone with her bare skin, it speaks to her, sending disturbing visions. Still more disturbing is the handsome rogue who catches her red-handed.

Friday, November 23, 2012


Kindle Edition
Published September 2011 by Apocryphile Press 
Genre: memoirs, autobiography

Amazon blurb
Readers of "Ruby’s World – My Journey with the Zulu" demanded answers!

In "Unlocking the Dream", Karen Baldwin shares her intimate dream of a one-breasted heroine that drives her through an intense journey of healing and self-determination. Not satisfied to merely survive a heart attack and breast cancer, Karen demands that her dreams dictate a purpose and path for her life.

In response, her nights explode with colorful images that lead her to travel alone to a Zulu village in South Africa. Once there, what begins as a joyous adventure becomes a crushing and inexplicable betrayal.
Dreams nurture and guide our souls’ contracts. Join Karen Baldwin’s compelling adventure and decide for yourself: Has she unlocked the key elements of her dreams, or is she still on the journey?

– Wanda Burch – Author of "She Who Dreams" 


Karen Baldwin would like to offer UNLOCKING THE DREAM, the prequel to Ruby's  World (read my review here), for FREE! To receive your FREE COPY click HERE, enter your information in the form provided, and you'll receive an email with the link to your free copy. THIS OFFER IS VALID ONLY UNTIL NOVEMBER 30.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Kindle Edition
Published 2011 by Apocryphile Press 
Genre: memoirs, autobiography
Rating: 5 stars plus

"My hope of making a big difference  may have been naive. Not trying would have been worse."

What a terrific book! Knowing that there are people like Karen Baldwin in this world warmed my heart...reading about the incredible challenges she had to face in her attempt to bring hope and relief to the children of a small rural village in South Africa broke my heart and had me in tears...learning to which extent her life had been in danger and how close the threats were the entire time she spent in Zinti, made my blood run cold...understanding how stubbornly some cultures resist and fear change simply disheartening...having faith that some day these cultures will embrace the change and keep working toward that goal, very hard but necessary.
Sometimes the most riveting stories don't need to be pieces of pure fictional fabrication populated by imaginary characters. In 2008 Karen Baldwin, heart-attack and breast-cancer survivor, decided to leave her San Francisco life behind and spend three months in a South African rural village, teaching English at a local elementary school.  Her life changing experience as the first white teacher among the Zulu started as a humanitarian dream but ended up as a nightmare, unexpectedly and at the hands of the same people who had warmly welcomed and hosted her. Only few weeks after her arrival in the rural village of Zinti, in fact, her journey came dramatically to an end, turning out to be completely different from what she had anticipated.
Karen's struggle with language barriers, her sense of dislocation and isolation,  the environmental and cultural hostility, even the abominable "social practices" (infants scarification, female genital mutilation, black magic) that played in front of her candid outsider eyes, didn't prevent her from bonding with her host (Ruby) and her family:

"As a guest in their culture I'm committed to being an observer, not a critic."

But Karen felt absolutely powerless and deflated in front of the most fundamental differences between Ruby's world and the fortunate and privileged condition we get to enjoy as citizens of a western democracy: for us it's easier to bridge the gap between the way things are and the way we want them to be. In the African continent, so often considered the "womb" of the human race, thick layers of ancient traditions, cultural prejudices and gender discriminations set insurmountable  barriers on the way to freedom and social justice.
I was deeply touched by this outstanding account of Karen Baldwin's true life experience in the heart of traditional Africa. In the form of a daily journal, her well-paced and fluid narration opens a window on the ongoing tragedy of a continent torn between  taboos, gender inequities, power struggles and shifting loyalties. Not only Karen's memoirs put in a new perspective our own starry-eyed views in matter of human rights and democratic society, they also teach that with bitterness and tragedy comes the powerful seed of hope.
A real jaw dropper...a work of fiction couldn't have been written with more soul and deeper emotional intensity. Thought-provoking, suspenseful, engaging at all times, this excellent book was effortlessly well-paced and executed with a captivating and vibrant writing style. Highly recommended.

*This review is based on a complimentary e-copy kindly offered by DM Productions LLC in return of an unbiased opinion. 


The author would like to offer UNLOCKING THE DREAM, the prequel to Ruby's  World, for FREE! To receive your FREE COPY click HERE, enter your information in the form provided, and you'll receive an email with the link to your free copy. THIS OFFER IS VALID ONLY UNTIL NOVEMBER 30.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

THE NIGHT AFTER CHRISTMAS by BreeAnn Fisher and Debra Venti

THE NIGHT AFTER CHRISTMAS by BreeAnn Fisher and Debra Venti

Paperback, 24 pages
Published July 31st 2012 by Tate Publishing & Enterprises 
Genre: illustrated children's book
Rating: 5 stars

We all know the story, 'Twas The Night Before Christmas, but what happens after? Spoiled on Christmas sweets and presents, this family needs an intervention with the wonderful and loving Nanny Elf, who teaches everyone that Christmas is about more than just 'stuff'. Join authors BreeAnn Fisher and Debra Venti for a humorous twist on a Christmas classic in The Night After Christmas. 
In this charming illustrated book for children, furniture industry veteran Debra Venti and  soon-to-be-graduated daughter BreeAnn Fisher spin the tale of how wise and wonderful "Nanny Elf" rescued a family from the false and empty values that too often we associate with one of our most meaningful and spiritual traditions. With clever rhyming, enchanting musicality, and humorous vignettes, this inspirational Christmas tale will warm your heart and enlighten children (as well as adults) on the true meaning and spirit of the holiday season. Perfect stocking stuffer. 

*Complimentary copy graciously offered by the authors in return of an unbiased opinion

Friday, November 9, 2012

SUDDENLY YOU by Lisa Kleypas

SUDDENLY YOU by Lisa Kleypas

Paperback, 384 pages
Published November 28th 2006 by Avon Books
Genre: historical romance novel, Victorian romance
Rating: 5 stars

If the ocean was made of Lisa Kleypas' historical romance novels I would gladly drown in it! The deeper I read through her backlist titles, the more startling the storylines, the more dazzling the characters, the more poignant the love stories.
Ms. Kleypas is currently and admirably expanding the scope of her story-telling in her contemporary romance series Friday Harbor (read my reviews of Rainshadow Road and Dream Lake) with the introduction of subtle and graceful touches of magic realism. But it's yet another historical romance novel (one of her earliest actually, originally published in 2001) to solidify her status as a master of her craft...her story-telling abilities are simply incomparable,  her prose technically strong, her writing style always meticulous and highly-descriptive, her tales always enchanting and heart-warming. 
So, through tantalizing dialogues, strong romantic and sensual focus, vivid characterization of lead couple and Victorian setting, Kleypas delivers  another stunning exploration of that clash between moral settings and unbridled passion featured in many of her historical novels. She brings together two unforgettable characters, ushering them quite deftly in the midst of fateful turns, over-the-top  sexual chemistry, drama, and life-changing decisions.
Proper Amanda Briars, the spinster novelist "with her quills and papers and ink-stained fingers" is a recognized figure in London literature circles. At the age of twenty-nine she is still unmarried and enjoying her independence too much to relinquish it. She has friends, a comfortable home, an interesting and profitable occupation. The truth of the matter is that she is afraid of men, always had an awkward kind of relationship with them...never really flirted with them, inspired respect and admiration maybe, but always kept them at distance. Her position in society as a respected spinster and writer represents a safe zone, where men and the disappointments they usually bring along are not allowed. As the time goes by, Amanda feels like she is missing out on something that every woman should experience at least once in a lifetime, an experience that would certainly help her with her researches and writing process. On the eve of her thirtieth birthday, Amanda decides to "hire" a lover for a one-night stand, but for a delicious twist of fate the gorgeous man that shows up at her door is not the gigolo she was expecting.
John T. Devlin ("Jack") is a notorious and high-profile figure in London's literary society, a man with a mysterious background, questionable moral ethics and ruthless business practices, but with a golden touch that helped him transform a small printing shop into the largest publishing house in the city, and quickly rise to astounding power and wealth. Cast-off son of a member of the aristocracy, he grew up between his father's rejection and the physical abuses and violent practices of the Knatchford Heath School, a place where education and upbringing had the sound of whip lashes and the taste of food deprivation. His imposing shoulders and magnificent back are the scarred map of harsh punishments, sometimes undeserved but gladly and silently taken in order to protect smaller and weaker kids. No wonder the man who's now dominating the British publishing field is as driven as ruthless: hunger, anger, and revenge are great motivators, but they starve the body as much they embitter the soul.
Physical descriptions and character development easily brought to my mind the familiar faces of Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe, starring as John Thornton and Margaret Hale in the BBC adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South, another distinguished and beloved couple among historical romance fans.

After their first fortuitous and rather "steamy encounter" (mind you, Suddenly You is probably one of the most scorchingly sensual romance novels  Kleypas has ever written), they shift their relationship to a mere business level. Devlin, in fact, convinces Amanda, author of standard three-volumes novels, to convert her past production into serialized editions, normally considered of less quality but more and more popular among readers, not to mention more profitable. Restraining their relationship to a mere publishing agreement will be too hard, though. The chemistry between our lead characters is too tempting and far too irresistible. Sizzling love scene after sizzling love scene, Devlin and Amanda carry their affair on a path of uninhibited passion and sensual exploration that will  relentlessly lead them to a much deeper emotional attachment. But they will be both held back by personal demons and moral brakes to be able to admit and embrace their mutual feelings without going through conflicting emotions, stupid pride and heart-wrenching misunderstandings. The resolution of this steamy and poignant love story will be as heart-warming as ever. In this respect as in many others, Lisa Kleypas never fails to enchant. A remarkable milestone in the historical romance field. Highly recommended.