Saturday, December 29, 2012

Phyl's 5 Phaves from November

5. Angel's End by Cindy Holby. This is the first book in a new historical western series about a small Colorado mining town. A drifter by the name of Cade Gentry stumbles into town during a blizzard. He'd been wounded during a gunfight and is wearing the coat that belonged to a preacher who was on his way to Angel's End to serve in their church. The people who rescue him assume he is that preacher and to protect himself from those who might be looking for him, he doesn't correct their assumption. He is nursed back to health by a widow, Leah, with a young son. As Leah and Cade get to know one another, they fall in love. But Cade is afraid his past will catch up with him, putting Leah, her son, and the people of Angel's Fall in harm's way. He doesn't feel worthy to be with her. Cade has to come clean with the truth and Leah has to be willing to risk loving again. This was a sweet romance that I found quite enjoyable.

4. An Infamous Marriage by Susanna Fraser. This is an interesting marriage of convenience story that's a little outside the norm. Elizabeth is newly married to Jack Armstrong's closest friend, a vicar. Jack is in the Army and home for a brief visit to deal with his mother's illness (she has dementia). On a visit to his friend, Jack discovers that his friend is dying and his death will leave Elizabeth penniless and homeless. The friend extracts a promise that when he dies Jack will marry Elizabeth. And so begins this unlikely marriage. Elizabeth tends to Jack's mother and Jack resumes his army service and is sent to Canada where he remains for five years. At first Elizabeth and Jack become friends through their letters to one another, but when a local gossip learns of Jack's infidelities in Canada, the gossip makes sure Elizabeth learns about it too. Humiliated, Elizabeth's letters turn cold. When Jack returns home he finds himself attracted to a woman who wants nothing to do with him. The bulk of the book is their reconciliation and forgiveness. Meanwhile, Jack is called back into service when Napoleon escapes from Elba and the Army goes to Belgium. This time Elizabeth travels with him. I love the backdrop to this story as well as the way the romance develops.

3. Ride With Me by Ruthie Knox. My November TBR read.

2. Defiant by Pamela Clare. There's a gritty realism to Clare's historicals that can make her books hard for some to read. I really appreciate the work she's put into re-creating Colonial America while telling a smart, sexy, and adventurous romance. Defiant is the third book in her MacKinnon's Rangers trilogy, stories of three brothers forced to fight for the British during the French-Indian wars. In this book, brother Connor has been sent by his commander, William Wentworth, into the wilderness to rescue William's niece Sarah, who has been kidnapped by the Shawnee. Connor has to fight the warrior who has claimed Sarah and engineer their escape. And once they're safely back to Wentworth, Sarah and Connor need to find a way to be together for always. While not strictly necessary, I'd recommend reading the previous books in the series before reading this. As a matter of fact, I re-read them before finally reading this. There are some great secondary characters in the series, so I suspect there may well be more books coming. I sure hope so, anyway.

1. The Duchess War by Courtney Milan. This is one of those times when I don't feel at all adequate to the task of trying to describe this book. Minerva Lane and Robert Blaisdell, Duke of Clermont, are not quite who they appear to be. They have secrets to keep. Self-preservation means keeping the secrets is more important than anything else. Minerva and Robert have a lot in common. The parallels in their lives was fascinating to me. There are multiple layers here and I loved the way they were revealed. Both characters are interesting, although I especially liked Robert. When I reached the end of the book I wanted to read it again. I haven't actually done that yet, because I want to re-read the prequel novella first and then go straight on the the Christmas novella that was published a couple of weeks ago. Anyhow, I loved this and if you've enjoyed Milan's books in the past, I think you'd like this one, too.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

TBR Day. A Dixie Christmas / Sandra Hill. 2011

I've never read Sandra Hill before. Judging by her website she's a popular and prolific author of paranormals, Viking heroes, and humorous contemporaries. I've certainly seen her books in the book stores, but I rarely see them mentioned in my favorite corners of Romancelandia. I think the only reason I downloaded this to my Kindle was that it was free.

All I can say is that I don't think Sandra Hill is for me. I quit about 20% of the way into it and downloaded Mackenzie Family Christmas to read instead. Quite the nice palate cleanser that was, too. Sadly, this is not a review of MFC.

A Dixie Christmas is actually two novellas. One is called Blue Christmas which was originally published in 1998. During the short time I was reading it I could tell it was written before cell phones were ubiquitous, so it was jarring to see that Hill had gone in there and in a line where the date is mentioned inserted "2011." I almost lost it there, but I kept going. For a little while, anyway.

Blue Christmas is a kind of Scrooge meets Harlequin Presents. The hero is a wealthy tycoon come to Memphis to deal with a property left to him by his father. There he meets the heroine, a struggling farmer on the edge of financial ruin, who is valiantly raising her younger brothers. There is love at first sight and a ton of mental lusting. I actually don't mind either of those, but here it seemed over the top. I just didn't find it fun or funny and since it 'tis the season, I didn't have the will or the heart to finish the book or try the other story in it.

I took a look at the Amazon reviews for this and they were pretty much split 50-50. The negative reviews mirrored what I was thinking as I read. I think if you're someone who has enjoyed Sandra Hill in the past you'd probably enjoy this. But you're going to have to work hard to convince me to give her another try.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Recently finished stuff

Last month I wrote about a class I took with Phillipa Naylor on precision piecing. I finished that little wall hanging and used it to practice my free motion machine quilting. Here's the finished quilt, which is 22" x 22":

Here are a couple of close-ups of the quilting. There's so much of it--this sucker is stiff as a board, lol!

 I got my Christmas present a bit early--a new camera! So I had to play with the close-up feature. Nice, huh?

 And I decided I needed a festive holiday purse! I used some poinsettia fabrics here: