Hero in the Highlands by Suzanne Enoch


Pub Date 04 Oct 2016
Price e-book or paperback $7.99

Hero in the Highlands, A No Ordinary Hero Novel, is not about just the hero not being ordinary. There was recently a talk with some authors about strong leading ladies in romance novels. At the time of the discussion, I believe this book had not been released, but should have been an example for their talk. Fiona Blackstock is what I call your typical Highland lass- feisty, authoritative and driven to succeed in a man’s world.

We meet our heroine, Fiona, while in the midst of rallying the clansmen to look for a meandering cow. Fiona has the arduous task of [basically] bullying lazy men who would rather be elsewhere to look for the cow which got loose; while the owner of the cow wines and complains that it’s not his fault the cow wanders off, he also doesn’t want to look for it. This short scene nicely sets up Fiona’s position within her clan. She’s not the clan leader, nor was she ever in a position of power, yet that’s where her life has landed as she’s unwilling to see her home ‘foreclosed’ upon by the King.

It’s in the midst of this cow search our hero, Major Gabriel Forrester, Duke of Lattimer, meets Fiona. She has no idea who this person is beside he’s a Redcoat soldier and that in itself is enough to put her off. The reader meets Major Forrester in Chapter 1, in the heat of battle, fighting the French cavalry. While I found this chapter a great set up for what to expect in the hero’s character, I also found myself picturing him as the character Gaston from Beauty and the Beast animation; swagger, preconceived notions and over-confidence included. With this said, I found myself not quite sure if I liked him or not throughout the book, even in the end. As a reader, you’ll have to make up your own mind and you may love his ‘manly-man’ exploits, but for me, he was a bit over the top and found myself drawn into this novel because of Fiona.

Fiona seemed to be a steady character in her convictions, actions and deeds; I didn’t find her character changing or growing, just steady, which I think readers will appreciate in a heroine. Major Forrester’s character saw at first slow changes in attitude with large changes from the half-way mark on, becoming complimentary to Fiona’s character, which was refreshing as many times a writer will tamp-down the female’s attributes while leaving a A-type male in place.

Overall, I liked the book and found it entertaining; I believe the general public will too. I’ve been a fan of Ms. Enoch for a while and look forward to see what she has ‘cooking’ for her next novel.

A Shadow Bright and Burning, Jessica Cluess

Publication date: September 20, 2016
Price- paper or e-book $10.99

This is the first book by Jessica Cluess and happy to say I was not disappointed. Most first time published authors have an issue with over-indulging in back story, but not Ms. Cluess. Her writing was that of an accomplished author who has written dozens of books.

A Shadow Bright and Burning takes place in an alternate historical England, where magic and monsters exist. The main character, Miss Henrietta Howell, is a younger female orphan whom takes responsibility for those younger than she and those who are worse off economically than herself; unique in her ability to create fire, but unable to control it, she, with the help of her friend, Rook, an outcast, look out for each other.

Interwoven into the story is a prophecy about a special ‘girl-child’ who rises to fight the seven evils so England can be set free. The story unfolds once Henrietta’s gift is discovered by a Sorcerer and taken to a school which teaches other young sorcerer’s how to control and use their powers to fight the evil forces which roam the Earth.  Well, that’s an awful lot for a young girl of 16 to take on, but Cluess weaves a believable tale of doubt and courage with-in this girl; a character young females readers of this book to look up to, which I applaud.

It’s at this school that mysteries and secrets are uncovered and the truth of her parentage discovered. Cluess has created an action packed story that could be considered a blending of Harry Potter and Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, which equals a thoroughly entertaining book geared toward tween and teen females–not that a boy may not like this, but this is definitely girl-empowered!

A Study in Scarlet Women, Sherry Thomas

Publish date October 14, 2016
Price: $15.00 paperback; $9.99 e-book

I’d like to start out this posting with a little background on Sherry Thomas for those of you who are not familiar with her works. She’s an acclaimed author whom is frequently on best-seller lists for romance, young adult and women’s fiction. Her previous fiction of the YA persuasion, The Elemental Trilogy, was a delightful roller-coaster ride in which became more glorious with each turn of the page right up to the last one.

Next, if you don’t know this yet, Ms. Thomas writes in her second language!  The first being Chinese. This should give hope to all those who are struggling with the American language, to which I sometimes succumb to deficiencies in speech as well as writing. With this said, let’s get on with my thoughts on A Study In Scarlet Women.

The cover immediately drew my eye from a long list of covers as it intrigued me with it’s moonlight sliver-blue color, a woman in scarlet from a century or so past slightly surrounded by a light fog and of course a hint of light in varying hues. This screamed- READ ME! and so I did. Was thrilled to actually.

Named after A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle, Ms. Thomas’ work is a role reversal on the Sherlock Homes books. Charlotte Homes is the odd woman out in the 1800’s; too logical to be a society miss, but stuck in the role until she takes matters in to her own hands. The first third of the book sets up the cast of characters and can be slightly tedious, but necessary, as this series and must be done. Personally, I could have done without the prologue, but some may want one as in the original Sherlock series, Dr. Watson provides prologue by way of personal history. Once Ms. Thomas gets rolling with the story, she delves deep in Sherlock Homes psyche. Readers looking for a quick, mindless read will be disappointed; to follow the clues, twists and turns Charlotte’s (Sherry’s) sleuthing takes you’ll need to pay attention as train of thought can quickly lead in another direction. There’s no romance in this book, it’s a mystery, plain and simple. Not to say that there’s not a set up for romance to happen, and it may, but not in this volume.

For Homes fans, the cast of characters exist, but in a slightly different set up, so if you’re a die hard Sherlockian, please don’t assault Ms. Thomas with emails that she’s desecrated Sir Conan’s work–it’s very enjoyable WOMENs fiction. While reading, my mind kept contemplating what a wonder storyteller Ms. Thomas is; how mind-blowing it must be to write such in depth, logical characters and the skill it took to accomplish this work while upholding the original story structure of Sherlock Homes.

There are some inconsistencies, which may be on purpose, such as the set up of ‘Sherlock’ being a very ill man who can not be met with in person, but lies in the other room, while Charlotte, the ‘sister of Sherlock’, meets with clients and then confers with her brother. Yet, in chapter 12, ‘Sherlock’ proclaims to prove himself to Treadles by speaking of slight nuances about his attire, which someone in another room would never be able to see, such as the material of Treadles’ clothes, cuffs and detachable collar. This type of faux-pas happens frequently throughout the book, e.g.- policemen using a pen vs. a pencil, as pens were for the rich and I can’t see a local police budget of this time period including ink pens for field officers. It’s unknown if the author decided other characters are too far below in intelligence to notice or if this will ultimately lead to the mass unveiling of a fraud.  While this is annoying, it is done masterfully, providing a sense of relating to the time period, so I’m willing to play along and I hope you will too.

Some Like It Scottish: A Kilts and Quilts Novel, by Patience Griffin

Publish Date July 7, 2015
Mass-Market Paperback $7.99, e-book $7.99

I fell in love with this series last year at the Buns n Roses event which Richardson Adult Literacy Center puts on as a fund raiser. Although I haven’t met Patience, I absolutely love A Kilts and Quilts Novel series! I’m not one to resist temptation when there’s a hot Scot in a kilt in his native Scotland.

At the time, Meet Me In Scotland, was being featured, it had a [for me] very enticing cover the which called out to me. I’m so glad it did as book was funny, realistic, and met my need for a touch of Scotland.

Next, I read Griffin’s first book in the series, To Scotland With Love, which I found witty, charming, hot, sexy on the up side and had me reaching for a Kleenex on the down side. From this point on I was hooked. If you like the Scottish culture [as in people and country], you’ll be hooked too, as Griffin takes you to her fictional fishing village of Gandiegow located in the Highlands near the North Sea. Personally, I’m ready to pack my bag and leave now, but since it’s a fictional village, her series will have to suffice. Drat!

Which brings me back to Meet Me in Scotland. In this edition Kit Woodhouse is a matchmaker, something all males, and especially Scottish males, dislike. Ramsey Armstrong, our smart and sexy fisherman is in that boat with the other lads who are also single. Griffin crates two very likable and believable characters, weaving an addicting story of success, failure, unexpected curve-balls and Scottish devilry. I found myself chuckling, swooning and wanting to smack Ramsey upside the head for his underhandedness–thankfully, he turned out to be an okay guy. Kit is the everyday girl-next-door, someone whose life was turned upside down at a young age and goes all out for her family who consists of mom and two younger sisters. Some authors write the heroine too butch, others too wimpy, but Griffin wrote this one just right. I found myself sympathizing and empathizing and even a bit jealous of Kit’s relationship with her sisters–“sleep, rest, talk, or play.”; Then dreaming of finding such a someone like Ramsey, who started out smexy but irritating, turned and reverted in to one great guy.

The one thing this book had, which I felt the other books I’ve read in this series didn’t, was an over the top Happily Ever After. What I mean by this is, like every Hollywood story, all works out for our characters in the last five minutes-perfectly. In the prior books I’ve read in this series, sure there’s the HEA of the characters, but without giving away the ending or the story, this ending was a little to Hollywood and not enough Scottish which in a way was a let down from the prior books. I still recommend reading this book, or the entire series, as it’s money well spent.

Dressed to Kilt (A Scottish Highlands Mystery) by Hannah Reed

Publish Date July 5, 2016
Mass market $7.50, Kindle e-book $1.99

There are times when a good mystery must be read, and when it takes place in my beloved Scotland it’s even better.

Hannah Reed is a new to me author and like most readers, I’m typically weary of ‘new’ authors as I don’t know what writing style or story style the author will use. I was very pleasantly surprised [and happy] that without the first 2 books I was able to make sense of the heroine’s plight, the secondary characters were easy to assimilate in their reason for being in the story, and enough of the nuances of Scotland found its way into the book: idioms, weather, culture, etc.

The main character, Eden Elliott, a thirty-eight year old American writer from Chicago. While she’s no stranger to snow, the Scottish Highlands still take some getting used to. Reed brings Scotland in winter to the readers reality by using Eden to bring the everyday ‘struggles’, such as ‘living in a snow-globe’ which I stated MANY time while I lived in Alaska–love it! “…come to learn that the Scots are a well-prepared and rugged bunch.” which is very true if you’ve ever lived somewhere that doesn’t have a lot of concrete or bus service to get you where you need to be. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also state that Eden also brings to life the friendly, welcoming and loving people of the Highlands. If you’ve traveled outside of the larger cities, you’ll know what I’m speaking of– if not, I highly recommend a vacation and spend some time in the ‘wilds’ (north of Glasgow and Edinburgh; I’d recommend spending time in these cities too if you can) where you’ll experience the country and people of Scotland.

One thing that does irk me, and I mentally questioned this right off, is that Eden was approached and accepted to be a “Special Constable”. This is a part-time voluntary position with limited policing powers of Police Scotland; a local civilian can act in an authority position to keep the local area safe. Yet, in order to be accepted one must be a “British citizens, EU/EEA nationals, Commonwealth citizens, or foreign nationals with indefinite leave to remain in the UK will be accepted. You should also have been resident in the UK for a minimum of three years immediately prior to application.” Maybe this was explained in book one or two, but either way in this edition, Eden is on a temporary 6-month visa and must leave at Christmas as she’s a US Citizen with none of the requirements needed to be a Special Constable. Reed explains that Eden’s father is 1st generation Scot, but if this was the case, why wouldn’t she have applied for dual-citizenship? [Maybe this is also in one of the first two books?]

With the exception of this little bobble, I found Dressed to Kilt a delightful book with a plausible story, likable characters, good [story] timing and best of all, the book was like a little vacation to the Highlands. As Kindle has the e-book for $1.99 it’s worth the time spent to read and you may even go back to get the first several books in the series too!

Beauty and the Highland Beast by Lecia Cornwall

Publish date June 21, 2016
E-Book  $3.99

If you’re not familiar with Lecia Cornwall’s Highland novels, Beauty and the Highland Beast is a great way to start as it’s a stand alone story. Ms. Cornwall’s dedication “To all those who have suffered, endured, survived, and made the world a better place by doing so.” sums up this book nicely.

Like most good Fairy Tales, Beauty and the Highland Beast is set in the early 16th Century, when healers could be thought of as witches, birth defects a sign of a demon, and people and rulers feared God without doubt.

Cornwall starts this tale with ‘the setup’; handsome son of the Clan Chief is brutally injured, mentally unstable. The hook is the not so faire maiden and her more than faire sisters. Of course fairy tales need a witch, so does this one- Moire o’ the Spring, an older women whom I pictured like Disney’s witch whom hands out shiny red apples to unsuspecting maidens: light complexion, grey/white hair, dark clothes, and arthritic fingers.

The tricky part of this crafty tale is whom is Beauty and whom is Beast? Typically, the beast character is portrayed as either animalistic in physicality, deed or mind. So not to give anything away, I’m not going to say to much on this, but let’s just say this tale has a twist.

Something which brings me back to Cornwall’s books are her three dimensional characters written with spirit, spunk and good ‘ol trepidation. Like most humans, we have our good days and our bad and so does Alasdair Og our hero and Fiona MacLeod the heroine. Both souls are misread, misinterpreted and misunderstood by most of the supporting characters, but then again, it’s the 16th century so readers will need to remember this if you typically read 1800’s – present day genres.

There’s one more very important minor character which I must mention as he’s a major player- Beelzebub, the cat. If this were a play, the cat would upstage the actors and the audience would be waiting with baited breath (after getting their wind back from hysterical laughter) for Beelzebub to show up again. In my mind, the measly $3.99 you’ll pay for this novel is worth it just to read about the cat, but have no fear ladies there’s plenty of hot, handsome highlander to dream about.

Paper and Fire, By Rachel Caine

Publish Date July 5, 2016
Hardcover Retail $17.99, e-book $10.99

As a total library, bookstore and almost anything related to the written word lover- I LOVE THIS SERIES, The Great Library! The first book, Ink and Bonesets up the detail of the world in which the reader is immersed in, where as Paper and Fire ups the ante.

The Library team members have graduated and are now in their designated positions within The Great Library system. Caine starts out with our main character, Jess, giving the background for those who have not read Ink and Bone (which I highly recommend) and reminiscing over the things books lovers delight in every day- “[Jess] grown so addicted to the feel of those books- the individual differences in the bindings, the leather or fabric covers, the weight of the paper, the smell.” Yes, I’m one of ‘those people’, which is why this series resonates with me. Caine brings the debate of paper vs. electronic books, intellectual freedom vs. universal freedom and the age old saying ‘knowledge is power’ to a new level. Forget about the world as we know it. Caine creates a world where one empire holds the power for the world.

If you’ll notice on the cover it states ‘Let The World Burn’. Paper and Fire uses this as a double entendre throughout the book with libraries typically being a refuge for people seeking free knowledge, a place to use a computer, take a class to learn something new or a town meeting hall, and makes The Great Library a place of dominance, power struggle and yes, a dictatorship over all the people of the world using intimidation and execution.

Readers will be taken through highs and lows of humanity. Making enemies of friends and comrades of foes. Think of this book as Harry Potter meets Mission Impossible- you will not be disappointed. There’s even one portion of the novel which is so well written I almost teared up with the emotional roller coaster of a new character. Paper and Fire is a movie for the mind. Parents and children of a certain age will delight in this series and with a little luck, take the world by storm. You can pre-order your copy now and be surprised when  you get the email your book is available, but be warned- you may want to read this when you don’t have to get up the next day as this is VERY hard to put down.