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Review: The Lady and the Highwayman

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The Lady and the Highwayman by Sarah M. Eden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a fun read. An assertive heroine who knows what she wants, a hero who's climbed up out of the gutter but isn't ashamed to show his non-toff roots, and a delightful book-within-a-book tale featuring two "penny dreadfuls"...which happen to have been written by the H&H.

Add a secret society of action hero authors(!) and you've got the makings of a snappy and fun romance novel with excitement, intrigue, and a delightful ending. In addition, it was a traditional historical in the sense that there was no overt sexual activity, making it accessible to all readers who love a HEA. There's nothing wrong with adding a touch of sweetness to one's spicy reading list!

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Review: The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters

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The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While being a sister is forever, it's not always easy.. The Shergill Sisters have had their share of fighting and drama, but now they're in India to follow their mother's dying wish of a pilgrimage to Sikh shrines and an opportunity for the women to bond again.

This is a bittersweet tale of tradition at war with individual needs, and a desire to move beyond the restrictions of one's upbringing and life events. The adventures of the sisters will resonate with anyone who's had to navigate difficult family issues and move into full adulthood, while dealing with the traumas and expectations of one's past. At the end of the day though it's truly about the mighty bonds of sisterhood and the healing power of that love.

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Review: Pride and Prometheus

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Pride and Prometheus by John Kessel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a weirdly engrossing mashup of two nearly contemporary novels, Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus (1818) and characters, specifically, Mary Bennet, from Pride and Prejudice (1797). It especially makes sense when you have Mary as a grown-up in her 30's, one who recognizes her winceworthy missteps as a stuffy, moralistic adolescent.

Mary has matured into a thoughtful woman, still with a strong moral core, but also with a keen eye for the human condition. She also reads widely and has a special interest in natural philosophy, so when her path crosses that of Victor Frankenstein...well, let's just say I was very pleased I'd re-read the original Frankenstein in 2018 in celebration of its publication anniversary.

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Review: The Nickel Boys

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The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Dozier School For Boys is the site of a shameful period in Florida's history, and the abuses and horror stories are still being uncovered with each gravesite that's revealed, each survivor's tale. Colson Whitehead, author of the fabulous and Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Underground Railroad gives us a fictionalized Dozier in the Nickel School, and a tale that's deeply tragic and also life-affirming.

I couldn't turn away from this engrossing book despite its bleak reflection of Jim Crow Florida and the abuses of a penal system rife with corruption, crime and cronyism. It's a searing story beautifully told.

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Review: The Women of the Copper Country

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The Women of the Copper Country by Mary Doria Russell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It is fitting and appropriate to read this moving novel on Labor Day weekend, a time when we celebrate the contributions of the American worker. The Women of the Copper Country is set in Michigan at the beginning of the 20th c., in the copper mines near Lake Superior. This book deals with the struggle between the bosses and the laborers, the struggle for a living wage and dignity vs. profits and greed epitomized by automation and reduction of the workforce.

But the true focus of the novel, as the title says, is on the women, the unsung heroines who wanted "bread and roses". They marched and sang, but they also worked from before dawn until after dusk. Even when the men and the mines were idle, the women still had to care for children and cook supper and do the laundry and try to organize against injustice. They are the true leaders and the ones who bring change.

Mary Russell has once aga…

Review: Who Slays the Wicked

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Who Slays the Wicked by C.S. Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I stayed up past my bedtime to find out whodunnit. There wasn't a lack of suspects--everyone wanted this man dead and plenty had means and opportunity, as well as motive. We also learned a little more about Sebastian's family, Hero's investigative work revealed some new information, and evolving events on the world stage offer more opportunities in the future for this excellent Regency mystery series. I highly recommend it, starting with the first book to fully enjoy the characters.

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Review: Protect the Prince

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Protect the Prince by Jennifer Estep
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This second Crown of Shards novel has Evie (Queen Everleigh) adjusting to life on the throne and learning about her own powers, including the mystery of why she's a Winter Queen. A trip to the neighboring kingdom of Andvari does not start well, not surprising since a slew of Andvarian royals were slaughtered in Evie's land of Bellona. It's also complicated by her love for Lucas Sullivan, the (acknowledged) bastard son of the King of Andarvi. She needs to make a politically advantageous marriage and Lucas brings nothing to the table except his love for Evie.

I'm enjoying this series and Estep's writing style and I'm looking forward to the next adventure for Evie, the gladiator queen.

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Review: A Lady's Guide to Gossip and Murder

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A Lady's Guide to Gossip and Murder by Dianne Freeman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fun, cozy romance, the second in the Countess of Harleigh Victorian-era mysteries. Frances is a widowed countess whose American money led to a loveless marriage with her late, unlamented husband. Now living on her own (more or less--her modest London residence always seems to be full of people) she finds she has a talent for sleuthing out information and solving crimes. Her hunky next door neighbor, a barrister and "fixer" for the powerful aids her, and it's obvious to everyone that he also has a thing for her.

I was intrigued by the mystery and didn't figure out whodunnit until the end, my favorite kind of cozy. I hope there will be more Countess of Harleigh mysteries!

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Review: The Bride Test

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The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was so wonderfully entertaining I read it through in one afternoon. Khai Diep doesn't feel things like other people do and he's all too aware that he's viewed as strange and different, including by members of his own family. His mother travels to Viet Nam to try and find a wife for her son and comes back with "Esme" Tran, a young woman who's willing to do almost anything to build a better life for herself and her young daughter.

The characters click in the most interesting ways and the sexual tension between them is steamy. How Esme pulls Khai out of his isolation and how Khai responds to her is a delight. I can't wait to read more from Ms. Hoang, a true rising star in contemporary romance.

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