Genre: Romance Fiction

+Book Review+ A Bargain Struck by Liz Harris #ChocLitSaturdays

Posted Saturday, 18 January, 2014 by jorielov , , , 18 Comments

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A Bargain Struck by Liz HarrisA Bargain Struck by Liz Harris

Author Connections: Personal Site | Blog

Facebook | Twitter | Converse via: #ABargainStruck

Illustrated By: Berni Stevens

 @circleoflebanon | Writer | Illustrator

Genre(s): Fiction | Romance | Historical | Western

Old West Americana | 19th Century Wyoming

Published by: ChocLitUK, 7 September 2013

Available Formats: Paperback, E-Book & Audiobook Page Count: 336

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Acquired Book By:

I am a ChocLit reviewer who receives books of my choice in exchange for honest reviews! I received a complimentary copy of “A Bargain Struck” from ChocLit via IPM (International Publisher’s Marketing) in exchange for an honest review! The book released on 7th September 2013. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein. 

Inspired to Read:

As soon as I read the premise, I was brought back to “Loves Comes Softly” (the motion picture(s), as I did not read the novels)!! I love it when writers infuse romance in a way that arrives as calm as a gentle breeze into the lives of their characters! Love isn’t always fireworks and “bing, bang, boom!”!! Sometimes it takes awhile for a heart to accept the connection its softening towards and sometimes being human brings with it the baggage of not only our life experiences but of broken hearts &/or broken love. Mail-Order Brides. Brides of Convenience. I am drawn to these stories like moths to flame! I love reading them because they are always intrinsically unique! One prime example of a novel I like in this branch of romance is “A Bride in the Bargain” by Deeanne Gist.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comBook Synopsis:

Does a good deal make a marriage?

Widower Connor Maguire advertises for a wife to raise his young daughter, Bridget, work the homestead and bear him a son.

Ellen O’Sullivan longs for a home, a husband and a family. On paper, she is everything Connor needs in a wife. However, it soon becomes clear that Ellen has not been entirely truthful.

Will Connor be able to overlook Ellen’s dishonesty and keep to his side of the bargain? Or will Bridget’s resentment, the attentions of the beautiful Miss Quinn, and the arrival of an unwelcome visitor, combine to prevent the couple from starting anew?

As their personal feelings blur the boundaries of their deal, they begin to wonder if a bargain struck makes a marriage worth keeping.

Set in Wyoming in 1887, a story of a man and a woman brought together through need, not love …

Liz HarrisAuthor Biography:

Liz was born in London and now lives in South Oxfordshire with her husband. After graduating from university with a Law degree, she moved to California where she led a varied life, trying her hand at everything from cocktail waitressing on Sunset Strip to working as secretary to the CEO of a large Japanese trading company, not to mention a stint as ‘resident starlet’ at MGM. On returning to England, Liz completed a degree in English and taught for a number of years before developing her writing career.

Liz’s debut novel, The Road Back, won a 2012 Book of the Year Award from Coffee Time Romance in the USA and her second novel A Bargain Struck was highly praised by the Daily Mail in the UK.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comWyoming, on the fringes of the 20th Century:

Lush open land was the norm for the Western frontier, and Harris pulls the reader back into the days of virgin forest and the beginnings of urban developments to where the natural world remained quite in tact. I had grown up with stories surrounding the West from my Mum who had travelled West with her parents, and I oft remembered how she told me of how impressive and awe-inspiring those forest were to her young eyes! I have nearly felt as though I have all but touched the grace of those lands through the living histories of her and my grandparents she has shared throughout my childhood. I could notice hintings of the author’s travels to Wyoming threaded through the narrative as she gave a clear and conscientious description of the open ranges nestled just outside the organisations of the towne.

I first started to garnish a deep appreciation for Western stories and frontier life whilst a pre-teen reader who was seeking something outside the sphere of Children’s Literature. I sunk into the novels of The Black Stallion quite easily as I was approaching the horse drama genre from the real-life experiences of being a new equestrian in training. I could well relate to the close connections one forges with a horse as a rider who was inclined to cherish the hours she shared with her mount. I was hungry for stories of the Old West as much as the trials of those who dared to travel West from the East. Henceafter I would settle into Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, The Harts of the West, Walker, Texas Ranger, Lonesome Dove (film), Little House on the Prairie, The Young Riders (about the Pony Express), Love Comes Softly Saga, The Wilderness Family (film trilogy), The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., Legend, Peacemakers, and as many horse dramas in motion picture as I could sort out to see via the silver and small screens. I was attracted to the truism of writers such as: Cameron Judd (Fiddler & McCann) and Dana Fuller Ross (Frontier trilogy of the Holts, as previously I hadn’t realised it had continued! I unearthed this information in 2013 through conversations on the Society). Western fiction is a part of my reading life I tend to forget to mention being amongst my absolute favourites to disappear inside!

Which goes to explain why I was lit with eager excitement in finding A Bargain Struck amongst the offerings of ChocLit books! I have been segueing in recent years of taking my appreciation for the West into my inspirational fiction wanderings which is why over the score of 2014 the vast majority of stories set in this genre will be threaded through my 70 Authors Challenge. I am sure I shall never extinguish a passion for seeing the roots of how we settled America nor of our Northernly neighbour (Canada) as well. There is such a rich living history forged out of need and destined out of determined grit. The strength necessary to carve out a living space in the midst of the wilds has a passionate appeal for a girl such as I whose heart is forever entwined to the natural world.

My Review of A Bargain Struck:

The complexity of the story inside A Bargain Struck is hinged to the theory of how well can you know someone you advert to marry and how well you can trust the person who takes up residence in your home after the haste of marriage. Mail-Order brides and marriages of convenience were quite the commonplace a handful of centuries ago due to the extreme consistency of pre-mature death. Men and women were thrown together to make do with the next spouse in line to agree to a partnership which would help them survive and thrive in the harsh realities of a farm or homestead. The work was heavily wrought on physical labour making it made a sound choice to find women and men who could bargain their contract of marriage to offset the chores and duties applied therein to each gender.

Harris paints a very poignant picture whilst opening her novel, as her bride is not a blushing one but one who is vacillating about what she should have writ her soon-to-be-husband and what she omitted. She’s at the cornerstone of her life caught between two worlds of acceptance: society at large ostracising her for her physical deformity and the kindness of a stranger who will wed her as his wife. Her step-daughter’s obsession with punishing her father for bringing a new ‘mother’ into her life had me flicker back a sideways smile towards remembrance of ‘Missy’ from Love Comes Softly. Bridget fills every inch of her red hair with a fierce Irish sensibility!

I did not take a shine towards Conn’s brother Niall nor of Bridget’s teacher Miss Quinn, as both felt to me of having the character towards malicious intent rather than outward sincerity. They were a matched pair in my eyes as they felt self-assured to place their own needs and desires ahead of those of the community, their friends, and family. I was admittedly hoping there would be a turning tide in the story were Riall would be behind the ruckus of disparaging behaviour which was all too common for frontier ranchermen to have dealt with. I normally wouldn’t want ill-will to befall a character but he was writ in such a way as to realise his spots were tattooed throughout his soul. He ought to have been happy to play the part of the rogue but oh, no! He had to be a rakish rat!

I had hoped a bit more flushing out of Peggy & William, the lovely neighbours who would step in to watch Bridget if need be. True salts of the earth, neighbourly and kind with a full heart of bringing together community fortitude. Harris’s research is embodied in the tasks she brings to the center of the story itself, whereupon Ellen is seen going through her daily chores, tasks, and projects. The ones that get me personally excited about one day living through a hearty Winter myself! (i.e. a proper backyard victory garden, canning, drying herbs, cold storage for root veg, etc) I adore wood-stoves and living off the land which inspires a freedom of self-sustainability! A near primer of how to make the land work for you is illuminated inside.

The most endearing bit to the story is how each of us has a choice of how we’re reflected in life and it is not always pinned to our attitudes but rather in a matching of the mirrors in which we present to the world. If our inner selves are aligned with our outer persona, our personality will carry-over any decidedly difference which could cause prejudicial behaviour. However, if a person’s character is shrouded in a double-blade sword of uncertainty behind the merit of their ethical motivations, an invisible line is drawn to ascertain whom is the better person to befriend.

Fly in the Ointment OR is it?

The only discerning flaw I could notice was the repetitive nature of drawing attention to Ellen’s disfigured scar, which felt to me as though the characters and the texture of the story were not following suit of the pacing. Except to say, as I mulled over the choices of when the topic was brought up in the story itself, I realised I was approaching this from an extroverted point of view rather than an introspective and introverted perspective which is the characteristic of the central lead characters! Both Ellen and Conn are quite reserved, less likely to broach their internal feelings and thoughts, as they would typically walk on eggshells around each other than state a straightforward truth. Approaching my issue with the repetition in taking into account their own personalities, I am not sure if its such a flaw as a difference in an approach I would have given them.

I appreciated when their individual discussions would turn reflective and entertain the heart of what was stabbing at their marriage’s stability and civility. One of the true strengths of ChocLit novels that I can foresee having read two of them within a fortnight, is that ChocLit novelists do not shy away from giving out the internal lives of married couples. They do not merely hint at the everyday nuisances of married life nor do they flinch to reveal how each man and woman feel whilst in their marriage. I like the inclusion of dialogue and of passages where you’re not having their everyday motions swept past your view, but rather explored; revealing hidden truths as you are walking with them through their angst or uncertainty rather than merely presuming what they are thinking or doing in those moments of strife.

I truly was rooting for Conn and Ellen to get to the point to where they could say what they felt in their heart rather than lead with a standard response to hide their truer feelings. I think in this regard, this is not a fly in the ointment in the traditional sense but an irksome reality of marriage in the late 19th Century being viewed by a 21st Century strong-willed gal who felt badly for both of them to always fall back on what was their original opinions rather than the change of heart they were equally acknowledging to have had.

A Note of Appreciation on behalf of the writing style of Ms. Harris:

For an American whose own writing voice has moved past her native language and merged into the language and stylings of her ancestors, I personally am drawn into stories evoked out of British & Old English vernaculars. I had received a few bits of feedback in the past to where an American whose written voice is British wouldn’t fly for creating stories set around American life nor for an American audience. I was always boldly bent towards taking the stance to defend not only my right to write a story in the voice and style that is naturally created but to keep my chin tucked up knowing that by remaining true to my own voice in story form was the only course I would be willing to take. I applauded and smiled whilst reading A Bargain Struck because this is the epitome of the critical eyes who could not grasp the fuller picture! The voice of a story isn’t hindered nor deflected by words, language, and phrases as it’s the craft of the story-teller to give the seed of the story through what is painted throughout the texture of the story itself.

I hadn’t even thought to think of the larger picture of this realisation until I was nearly halfway through the novel! I sat back and allowed myself a bit of a bubble of laugh over the seemingly pettiness that sometimes can affect or alter a writer’s perspective on the changing ebbs of publishing. For every solid story writ, there is surely an audience and a publisher who understands the writer’s intentions and merit of writing. I applaud this very British Americana novel for every inch of its contents for being decidedly British with a flair and flavour for homesteading life where the locality of words flow freely through the exchanges between Conn and Ellen.

And, on a very personal level, bless Ms. Harris for confirming what I felt was right in how to properly have spelt the word ‘travelling’! 

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This book review is courtesy of ChocLitUK,

ChocLitUK Reviewercheck out my upcoming bookish event and mark your calendars!

#ChocLitSaturdays | a feature exclusive to Jorie Loves A Story

*NEWSFLASH* : This marks my second *#ChocLitSaturdays*, where I will be spotlighting a book published by ChocLitUK! Coordinating bonus features will alight on my blog in forthcoming weeks! My next ChocLit review will be for “Close to the Wind” by Zana Bell, on the 25th of January! I will be tweeting about it ahead time if you want to watch the hashtag for future announcements for this Jorie Loves A Story feature!
**UPDATE** : 21 June, 2014 I have cross-posted my review of A Bargain Struck to my BookLikes blog, as well as cross-posting the first two paragraphs of the review to the ChocLitUK book page for the novel.

{SOURCES: Author photograph, Author Biography, Book Synopsis, and Book Cover were provided by ChocLitUK and were used by permission. Book Review badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Jorie Loves A Story badge created by Ravven with edits by Jorie in FotoFlexer. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

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Posted Saturday, 18 January, 2014 by jorielov in 19th Century, American Old West, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, ChocLitSaturdays, ChocLitUK, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Family Drama, Family Life, Farm and Ranching on the Frontier, Father-Daughter Relationships, Fly in the Ointment, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Homestead Life, Indie Author, Mail-Order Brides & Marriages of Convenience, Modern British Literature, Old West Americana, Romance Fiction, Second Chance Love, Western Fiction, Western Romance, Women's Fiction, Writing Style & Voice

+Book Review+ The Reluctant Bride by Beverley Eikli #ChocLitSaturdays

Posted Saturday, 11 January, 2014 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

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The Reluctant Bride by Beverley EikliThe Reluctant Bride by Beverley Eikli

Author Connections: Personal Site | Blog

Facebook | Twitter | Converse via: #TheReluctantBride

Genre(s): Fiction | Romance | Historical | Regency

Napoleonic | Espionage | Suspense

Published by: ChocLitUK, 7 September 2013

Available Formats: Paperback, E-Book, Audiobook, & Large Print Page Count: 400


Acquired Book By:

Whilst researching Indie Publishers and Presses one evening, as I was hopping through the book blogopshere, I started to alight on book bloggers who were recommending several of whom I hadn’t yet heard of! ChocLitUK was listed as a good resource for Romance; intrigued I clicked over to read more about them! I believe it was ‘love’ at first sight for me – their website won me over instantly! The stories they publish are stitched together in a way that has always endeared me to the genre! Having read about their Tasting Panel, I enquired by email if they would ever consider a book blogger to review their titles instead.

ChocLitUK is an Independent Publisher whose origins go back to 2009 for bringing top quality women’s fiction with the undercurrents of love woven into the stories! Their catalogue of stories appeals to me, as I never considered myself a “Chick Lit” type of gal, as I love the foundations of romance to be etched in relationships! (as outlined in “My Bookish Life”) The full essence of what I seek out when I want to be wrapped up in a romance is found in the niche ChocLit has developed! Besides who couldn’t help but appreciate a publisher with a cheeky sense of humour? ChocLit | Chocolate, anyone?

I am now a ChocLit reviewer who receives books of my choice in exchange for honest reviews! I received a complimentary copy of “The Reluctant Bride” from ChocLit via IPM (International Publisher’s Marketing) in exchange for an honest review! The book released on 7th September 2013. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein. This marks my first review for ChocLitUK!

Inspired to Read:

I am always finding a way to duck into the Regency &/or the Victorian age, which is why I was perked with interest when I saw the genre offered in ChocLit’s catalogue! This story has a clever character arc in which two of the leads are needing to embark on a journey towards redemption. One to prove she can stand on her own feet again and another (I presume) to not only overcome his life as a soldier but to accept and shift forward from the death of his mistress. There is a lot of clever passageways the author could take this story and I was keen to find out! The back-story alone held my interest but its the heart of the two lead characters that made me tempted to read it!

Book Synopsis:

Can honour and action banish the shadows of old sins?

Emily Micklen has no option after the death of her loving fiancé, Jack, but to marry the scarred, taciturn soldier who represents her only escape from destitution. Major Angus McCartney is tormented by the reproachful slate-grey eyes of two strikingly similar women: Jessamine, his dead mistress, and Emily, the unobtainable beauty who is now his reluctant bride. Emily’s loyalty to Jack’s memory is matched only by Angus’s determination to atone for the past and win his wife with honour and action. As Napoleon cuts a swathe across Europe, Angus is sent to France on a mission of national security, forcing Emily to confront both her allegiance to Jack and her traitorous half-French family. Angus and Emily may find love, but will the secrets they uncover divide them forever?

Author Biography:Beverley Eikli

Beverley Eikli wrote her first romance when she was seventeen. However, drowning the heroine on the last page was, she discovered, not in the spirit of the genre so her romance-writing career ground to a halt and she became a journalist.

After throwing in her secure job on South Australia’s metropolitan daily, The Advertiser, to manage a luxury safari lodge in the Okavango Delta, in Botswana, Beverley discovered a new world of romance and adventure in a thatched cottage in the middle of a mopane forest with the handsome Norwegian bush pilot she met around a camp fire.

Eighteen years later, after exploring the world in the back of Cessna 404s and CASA 212s as an airborne geophysical survey operator during low-level sorties over the French Guyanese jungle and Greenland’s ice cap, Beverley is back in Australia living a more conventional life with her husband and two daughters in a pretty country town an hour north of Melbourne. She writes Regency Historical Intrigue as Beverley Eikli and erotic historicals as Beverley Oakley.

Beverly won Choc Lit’s Search for an Australian Star with The Reluctant Bride. Beverley’s Choc Lit novels include: The Reluctant Bride and The Maid of Milan.

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Ruined and Anguished in Love:

Emily is writ in such a clever way of giving the reader a visceral proponent of realism whilst becoming empathic to her plight! I credit this to Eikli, who allows Emily to live her truth as much as repel against the sentimental backlash the outside world would love to expel towards her. Her character is forged in steel, wrought through generations of a family whose bold courage had won them survival. Considered ruined and forever anguished in love, Emily is a woman who you find yourself rooting to find solid footing once more! She’s lost the glint of light and of mirth she held so dear to her breast prior to her circumstances changing overnight. She had a fiery flint of raw tenacity which had my mind flutter back in fond rememberance of Danielle from Ever After. Most especially as there was a scene in the opening chapters of The Reluctant Bride which matched the scene with Danielle and Prince Henry, unto regards of the horse and apples scene!

My mind wandered a bit to remember other stories of marriage of convenience which I hold most dear to memory: the Love Comes Softly series on Hallmark Channel and A Bride in the Bargain by Deeanne Gist! Filt with characters like Emily, who felt not only scorned by unrequited love but at a loss to envelope themselves into a new set of circumstances by the kindness of men they were barely acquainted with prior to consenting to marriage! There are novellas writ along these story-lines as well, and I must confess, they are my favourites of the Heartsong Presents editions! You have such a powerful character arc to explore, the reader (such as I) draws a curious brow towards seeking out stories of a similar nature to see how each writer will treat the subject matter!

Emily has stone-walled her heart, in direct fear that she will be plumb miserable if she chooses to accept any show of kindness from Angus her stand-in groom! I sympathised with her as her family started to show how diffident they would be towards her knowing full well the babe had come a bit short of the wedding day! Old train of logic was to punish the women never the men; for if a woman was not strong in will to stand-off the comings of a man, she would be viewed as less worthy in both society and family of status! I was a bit surprised to have learnt they would be sent directly into the workhouses rather than kept within the sanctity of the family!

Reluctant to share her life with another man other than her betrothed and reluctant to admit, she might have found the one man whose sensitive kindness could slowly erase the hardness of her heart! Through reluctance we sometimes find the ability to heal, even if in the opening hours of our restoration we fight tooth and nail against being forgiven! Emily is at the cross-roads of sorting through whether or not she has the strength and faith to render her sorrow for what it is and boldly walk into her future, of which is being given to her outside the scope of how society generally would have vilified her. It’s this dichotomy of difference, which gives Emily the greatest woe in understanding how she is viewed in one way by outside eyes and cherished altogether differently by her husband’s family.

My Review of The Reluctant Bride:

Eikli certainly has a way of opening a novel with a one-two punch! The blushing bride-to-be in this story is Emily, a girl who has become devouted and attached to her bridegroom of whom entered the grave before their nuptials could be taken. Whilst recovering from the sudden loss of her beloved, Emily is given the horrific news of being withchild! The century in which the story unfolds is one where a woman’s life is plumb ruined by any transgression which would put her outside the propriety of society. A child bourne out-of-wedlock was a circumstance beyond repute!

I liked how the espionage starts out as a gentle foreshadow of what is yet to come in pursuant chapters! Gently nudging the audience towards piecing together the shards of Emily’s far-flung French relatives against the foreground knowledge of where Angus’s counter-intelligence work will lead him! I must confess, I was hinged to hope that somehow part of Emily’s past could become redeemed through the actions of her husband, Angus!

Angus on the other hand, is writ as the soldier who would like to have a bit more out of life than a life of serving his country on a stipend upon exit which barely provides enough for his own needs much less a wife’s. He’s a man who never considered himself able to marry due to the pattern of life which had fallen his way. The one heart he was able to give his love to died tragically which leaves him irresolute towards knowing how to appease Emily. He wants to approach her in a loving manner, but is resolved to feeling that all his attempts towards embracing his newlywed wife with affections felt most deep, she will turn on his advances taking in the wrong measure of explanation. A proud man who fell into serving England in covert affairs abroad to thwart the French makes his situation in the novel most alluring! As much as his wanton hope to change part of who he is in order to cultivate a proper life full of love, harmony, and children. For a central male figure of a novel, Angus by far, gives the reader a strong lead in how the traditional character arc of a male can be transformative!

The complexity of the story is further enveloped around the mysterious past of Emily’s maternal past. The narrative slips between Emily’s position in the McCartney’s family (Angus’s kin) and the role her father plays in the deceptive French spy rings. Her father is cold-hearted and calculating to a most evil extent. One of the best repulsively written characters I have encountered! The threads of the tapestry are wrought in such a way, as to give pause and reflection for each tidbit of a clue thus revealed! Your eyes flutter to alert noting the interconnections and the depth of how entwined Emily and Angus are becoming whilst on the verge of sorting through devastating tragedy.

The depth of Eikli’s ability to convey the complexities of marriage are a true compliment to her empathy for the human condition and spirit. She doesn’t shy away from the bold feelings a woman feels whilst betwixt one man’s affection and another man’s love. She doesn’t chide her characters, but rather, allows their flaws to speak for themselves. She gives them the leeway needed to work through what is difficult to accept much less understand. In so doing, I found myself applauding the tone of the novel as it’s not set to a cadence of rhetoric generally wrought in other stories of the same nature. Eikli brings a refreshing insight into the tedium of balance between the choice between life and death.

A historical backdrop in France & the Napoleonic War Era:

In several of my reading pursuits, I have become familiar with how intricately connected the British were to the efforts to overthrow Napoleon out of power. His reign was not studied whilst I was in school but I have come to assert myself in enough historical readings through fictional accounts, to acknowledge not only his brutality but his convinced stance that he would one day take over the world. He was truly maniacal in his approach and his dedication to conquer! Having said that, I was always a bit fascinated by the men and women who devouted their lives to shadow ops and covert missions which would keep the fragile balance between war and peace hanging in perpetual balance! Teetering on the edges, most surely, these daring men and women evoke stories I have always enjoyed reading — they give a second glance at the situation through pairs of eyes who are not readily revealed in regular outlets of historical facts. They give the undercurrent direction of where the most sought after change started to occur and how change ultimately won out over war.

Women’s equality was nonexistent hitherto to encompass her rights to raise a child out of wedlock as much as stand on her own feet if circumstances had erupted out of her control. Women’s rights have been long in coming throughout history, but when you step back into a world where even the right to raise your own child is taken away from you, you start to realise how far we have all come to maintain the rights that we have! I was quite impressed too, with the visual imagery and descriptions of Angus’s fortuitous nature and inclination of knowing exactly how to keep his wife both calm and warm during the worst of her  near-miscarriage sessions!  Soldiers were always needing to be diverse in knowledge, not only for battle and of apprising the field for hidden dangers, but stalwart in their abilities to survive through medical emergencies. I was thankful to see his character was rounded out in being more than whom he first appeared!

The political landscape of France was fraught with surreptitious clandestine activities, its a wonder that either side was able to muddle out truth and fact from the packet of lies spewed out in sport! Such a waxing of time to uncover the tenuous strands of loyalty, whilst fear caught the surge for overthrowing the injustices! I have always been curious about the complexities of the era, yet through this book and others set in the same era of time, I am wrought to find there is nothing simple about the succession of peace during times of war! Details of the nuisances of uncovering little steps towards this end are woven into The Reluctant Bride as one hears gentle whispers tied into the winds.

A note on behalf of ChocLitUK novels:

A level of distinction should be noted in both the presentation of  their novels and in the manner in which each novel is produced! I personally love the comfortable size of the paperbacks, as well as the quality of the print! A smooth surface cover page with semi-raised letterings to draw attention to the title and author’s name. The familiar heart-shaped ChocLit insignia are featured as well! I like how they cross-coordinate the cover features with the story held within the book’s pages! The font and text are easy to read and decipher, and I appreciate the old-fashioned inclusion of writers and titles offered through the Publisher in the back-pages of the novel! A feature I always found to be most delightful in my younger years as it was such a rush of excitement to see which author I would discover next off a recommendation inside the book I had just read! In this particular case, the only noticeable continuity issue I felt was visible is that Emily’s hair isn’t flaxseed brown (of which was reflective of Jessamine) but rather raven black! The model for Emily does portray her downcast countenance which is true to form of how we are greeted by Emily once she is settled-in with Angus! The precipice of when her life starts to undergo its greatest change! Slipping into the worlds created by ChocLit authors is a soothing reproach from the woes of everyday life! All in all, a ChocLit novel is quite the decadent treat for the discernible chocolate connoisseur and romantic reader!

A side note on the language inside their novels can only be said to warm this particular wordsmith’s heart! All the lovely British words are inclusive to the context as much as new words I haven’t oft seen revealed in romances! Words such as envisaged and commodious, only served to whet my appetite for more of their novels, where the age of seeking out a fluidity of words continues to carry-on! Such a wonderful joy for anyone who appreciates stories woven together by Jane Austen and others of the 19th Century!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

“The Recluctant Bride” Book Trailer [A Napoleonic Espionage Romance] by Animoto via Beverley Eikli 

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com This book review is courtesy of ChocLitUK,
ChocLitUK Reviewercheck out my upcoming bookish event and mark your calendars!

#ChocLitSaturdays | a feature exclusive to Jorie Loves A Story

*NEWSFLASH* : This marks my first *#ChocLitSaturdays*, where I will be spotlighting a book published by ChocLitUK! Coordinating bonus features will alight on my blog in forthcoming weeks! My next ChocLit review will be for “A Bargain Struck” by Liz Harris, on the 18th of January!

{SOURCES: Author photograph, Author Biography, Book Synopsis, and Book Cover were provided by ChocLitUK and were used by permission. The book trailer by Animoto had either URL share links or coding which made it possible to embed this media portal to this post, and I thank them for the opportunity to share more about this novel and the author who penned it. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Book Review badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Jorie Loves A Story badge created by Ravven with edits by Jorie in FotoFlexer.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

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Posted Saturday, 11 January, 2014 by jorielov in 19th Century, Action & Adventure Fiction, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book Review (non-blog tour), Book Trailer, Bookish Films, Britian, ChocLitSaturdays, ChocLitUK, Espionage, France, Historical Fiction, Indie Author, Marriage of Convenience, Midwives & Childbirth, Modern British Literature, Romance Fiction, Romantic Suspense, Suspense, The Napoleonic War Era, the Regency era, Women's Fiction

*Blog Book Tour*: To Tuscany with Love by Gail Mencini

Posted Monday, 6 January, 2014 by jorielov , , 0 Comments

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To Tuscany With Love Blog Tour - JKS Communications Publicity Firm

To Tuscany with Love by Gail Mencini

Visit her Pin(terest) Board: Tuscany Love by Mencini (my impression!)

Author Connections: Facebook | Site | Blog

Converse on Twitter: #GailMencini & #ToTuscanyWithLove OR Tweet @GailMencini

Published by: Capriole Group, 7th January 2014

Available Format: Paperback | Page Count: 400

*SPECIAL OFFER* {unknown time limit | current at posting} Download for Free the First Six Chapters via Gail Mencini’s website!

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Acquired Book By:

I was selected to be a stop on “To Tuscany with Love” Virtual Book Tour, hosted by JKS Communications. I received a complimentary copy of “To Tuscany with Love” in exchange for an honest review by the publisher Capriole Group, via JKS Communications. The book released on 7th January 2014. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Synopsis of the Story:To Tuscany with Love by Gail Mencini

Can one college semester abroad change the course of your life?

Bella Rossini, a vivacious college junior, lands in jail overnight with acquaintances whom she mistakes for friends. Shipped off to Tuscany by her mother, Bella is suddenly thrust into living with seven strangers during one life-altering summer.

Meet Hope, the sturdy and practical girl, steadfast in her loyalty to her boyfriend; Meghan and Karen, identical twins with an eye for fashion and beauty to match; Stillman, haunted by his hard past, and Phillip, an athlete, both fueled by competition; Lee, by family mandate in pre-med; and Rune, the Hollywood-bound wild child. All add sizzling chemistry and rebellious humor to the mix.

In one whirlwind summer, while uncovering the charms of Italy, they discover both friendship and love.

After their summer together, life – and loss – happens.

Returning to Tuscany 30 years later, their dreams, anger, secrets and disappointments create an emotional kaleidoscope. Their reunion sends them on a startling collision course that none of them could have predicted.

Set against the allure of Tuscany, with an irresistible fusion of heartbreak and humor, this debut novel, “To Tuscany with Love,” explores the fear of letting the past determine the future and the power of friendship.

Author Biography:

Gail Mencini
Photo Credit: Ashography Event Photography

Gail Mencini makes her literary debut with “To Tuscany with Love” (January 2014, Capriole Group) an adult coming-of-age novel set in central Italy.

Born in rural Nebraska, Mencini graduated with honors in 1976 from Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, where she majored in accounting, economics and business administration. She holds a Master of Laws of Taxation degree from the University of Denver College of Law.

Mencini co-owned an accounting firm and practiced for 15 years in public accounting, specializing in tax law related to   mergers and acquisitions and real estate. She also spent time in the higher education field, working as an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado and Metro State College, as well as the University of Denver College of Law. She was a repeat  speaker at national continuing education seminars and a featured presenter in a real estate conference in the Caribbean.

In 1990 when she married her husband, Mencini became an “instant mother” of three boys plus another son two years later, which opened the doors to becoming a full-time mother and igniting her long-time passion for creative arts, gourmet cooking and traveling.

She went on to become a contributing editor and photojournalist for Buzz in the ‘Burbs, writing monthly cooking columns featuring dinner themes, recipes and complementary wine suggestions. She also served as interim director of marketing for Wine Master Cellars as the company transitioned to new leadership. She has been a member of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers for nearly 20 years as well as the Pikes Peak Writers for over 10. She most recently joined Author U based in Aurora, Colo.

She writes and cooks in Denver, Colorado, with her husband and family who are always ready to critique her abundance of story ideas and recipes.

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Tuscany. Where you can discover who you are?

I am quite sure that Bella must have felt like a fish out of water when she first caught sight of her surroundings in Tuscany. I liked how Mencini opens the story with her innocence of youth, distrustful of the unknown, and of venturing into a whole new country simply because her political protesting had worried her mother past the point of reason. She’s thrust into a Summer college abroad course of study, where she instantly meets up with six other twenty-somethings stranded in Florence for comparable reasons.  Each of them brought their own whispers of self-discovery and the insurgence of sorting out how far they ought to dare living whilst an ocean and a plane away from their lives back in the states. It starts to set up as a coming-of age story for college students who never thought they’d be given an opportunity to abandon one way of living their life and exchange it for another.

In the corner of my mind, I had a curious lightbulb tuned to Bella’s mother’s real reason for sending her off to Tuscany, as there were small bits of insight into her mother’s state of mind at the time of her departure, which led me to be clued into the fact that perhaps, rather than the reality of Bella’s position in political affairs as a forefront motivation, I was nearly akin to thinking that perhaps her mother was facing a life shift in her own life and did not necessarily want her daughter to be present to live through the unexpected hurdle she was about to face herself? In this way, I thought the idea of Tuscany might take on a rather new meaning if this were to become true!

Strength and courage are nestled into us at stages in our lives where we might need to face an unexpected adversity, or a succession of adversities. What Tuscany gives to Bella is a foundation in living life as she greets each new day, and keeping herself open to the possibilities of what life can afford all of us. Each experience and adventure we nestle into our tapestry of lived hours, we gain both courage and strength to carry-on whilst life deals out the brutal truths we are never prepared to face. For Bella, Tuscany is where she shed her girlhood amour and walked into the sunshine with an armour fit for a woman.

Encouraging a penchant for the Tuscan landscape:

I still remember when the immediate joy of seeing Under the Tuscan Sun when it first made its theatrical release, due to the honest portrayal of one women’s journey towards redeeming not only her heart but the destiny of her path as she navigates the difficult road after divorce. The landscape of Tuscany opens up to you in little ways you’re not expecting to belove! I still remember the aura of Tuscany and the presence of ‘being caught up in life elsewhere’ to giving the impression that in Tuscany, you truly can re-discover who you are because your placed in an insular area where the buffering of the natural landscape with the homage of the people give you the freedom to do so!

Whilst reading To Tuscany with Love, memories first sparked to life in the motion picture of Diane Lane’s character’s journey, started to filter back into my mind, as Mencini has a way of writing Tuscany’s heart into her passages. She gives you just enough of a cursory knowledge of infamous landmarks and historical attributes to breathe the living heart of Tuscany into her story. She allows your mind to suspend itself back to a place which is altogether familiar and yet, unattached at the very same time! I find myself yearning to visit Tuscany each time I am transfixed by a story which is set there! Such a hearty passion for living, for food, for conversation, for expression and art, culture collides with the causal atmosphere of a best-lived day is the one of a slower pace where living becomes a part of the textural art of the setting.

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My Review of To Tuscany with Love:

One of the reasons I find myself drawn into the world of story where characters are beginning to emerge out of their cocoons and start to enter into the heart of their living narrative (which is how I perceive coming-of age stories), is because it’s a bit like the sentiments you can hear whilst listening to a song by Carole King. All the positive loveliness in life starts to ignite and catch fire inside your mind whilst your out discovering the very nature of your being and the charted path your about to take stride towards walking. Each of us has a process of learning to walk towards and shift through. The idea of having the ability to have a chance of stepping up and out of our regular ordinary lives and take a moment out of our days elsewhere — that’s a powerful prospect to undertake! I personally would have jumped at the chance to study abroad for a Summer; although a full year would have been quite keen! The joy of immersion into a culture and lifestyle as different as the shades of evergreens makes the premise of To Tuscany with Love a story worth knowing!

She nudges you into the lives of Bella the seemingly rebellious girl who inadvertently has an awkward way about approaching how to expand her family circle; Stillman the decidedly and unabashedly forward bloke whose past is muddled through reflected angst of a past spent with an abrasive step-father; Hope a girl not yet grown into the wings of confidence but has yielded her heart to love; stalwart and bold twins Karen and Meghan, who recklessly pursue life how they dare to live it; Rune the broken-hearts-in-waiting rake who has a singular tracking mind; Lee the studiously training doctor who’d prefer to break out of his bonds of family obligation; and Philip the soft-spoken bloke who is attracted to Bella but lacks the charisma to draw her eye!

The pacing of the story unfolds in a series of flashbacks and near-precision reflective prose which paints the portrait of their lives whilst living in Tuscany. Told through the main perspective of Bella, the novel shifts forwards and backwards through each key protagonist to give the reader further insight into their worlds. For instance, in the opening chapters we spent time with Stillman as a young boy on a farm in Georgia to understand the underpinnings of his character’s motivations and character traits of how his environment as a young boy shaped who he became as a young man of this twenties. Each of our lived experiences takes a bit of the mould of our futures, as to stitch together our transitions and transgressions. His background is jaded by the loss of his mother at a time in his life where he needed a supportive encourager to guide him.

A classic triangle of emotions and newly developing love between two blokes (Stillman and Philip) and a girl (Bella), turn this story into a classic set-up of a romance which could have a complicated ending. I liked seeing how Mencini chose to take Bella on her journey through first love, first flirtation, and first experiences with the opposite sex. This is definitely an exploration of a women’s progression towards womanhood, of which fits nicely under the category of ‘women’s fiction!’

A refreshing story arc seeing the close-stitched connection between Bella and her Mum, where mother and daughter were the best of friends rather than sidelined as enemies or distantly in each others’ lives. I found it refreshing Bella’s thoughts were always tied to how her mother was doing whilst in Tuscany, and wound in excitement upon her return to New York! Tuscany was merely the impetus to set everything into motion which would follow next in each of their lives. Radical changes emerged out of the warm glow of Tuscany’s Summer’s holiday of study. It’s the measure of each of the characters how they individually chose to embrace their life back in the states which proved to be most remarkable of all.

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On Mencini’s writing style:

There is an erstwhile frankness of self and station in the novel, where Mencini chooses to boldly assert the lives of the seven students in open honesty. She doesn’t hold back from revealing the blokes primal thoughts of love nor holds back the bolder strokes of narrative where their language choices would glower the faces of their Mums back home! She chooses to give an impression of raw twenty-something life being led with a bit of reckless abandon half a world away from where they had grown-up. It paints a real portrait of choices and decisions which everyone has to face at one point or another in their own life.

The time slips which occur throughout the story are eased into the book with a natural grace, as it allows us to grab bits of information through specific portals of the character’s life which allow us to understand them in the present. I always appreciate a writer who can master the technique, so that we are given the necessary information we need to attach ourselves to each character in turn, but in a way where the story is not led by mere facts, but lived through reading of their lives which takes the page to a personal bent of enjoyment! I love being half hinged to the present whilst having a firm footing in the past!

Fly in the Ointment:

I only wish the vulgarity which is threaded through the story in different intervals could have been better tempered because at some instances of its inclusion, I was all but cringing for a better turn of phrase to illicit the same emotional conviction. It felt a bit contrived in some ways, as if this were the only way that one particular scene or sequence could be appreciated if it had an illicit word thrown into the mix. I was nearly halfway through before I realised the frequency had changed from randomly included to more adamantly laced. There is a bit of a common slandering towards crude humour or crude descriptions of our bodies as well, which I know can be par for course in contemporary romances, but I felt they were out-of-place for this particular story. This has the full essence of a literary romance wrapped up inside a travelogue diary of one key character’s life hinged to six other lives she unexpected intersected with in Tuscany. I think I would have preferred if the pace and level of narrative in Tuscany had carried forward into the narrative that extracts their lives back in the states. The chapters in the states felt a bit rushed to me and contrite.

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“To Tuscany with Love” Book Trailer with Gail Mencini via Gail Mencini

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The “To Tuscany with Love” Virtual Book Tour Roadmap:

  1. 3 January: Spotlight Feature and Promotional Giveaway @ C Mash Loves to Read
  2. 5 January: Interview @ As the Page Turns
  3. 5 January: Author Q&A Feature @ The Page Turners Book Club
  4. 6 January: Review @ Celtic Lady’s Reviews
  5. 6 January: Review @ Jersey Girl Book Reviews
  6. 7 January: Spotlight & Giveaway @ Under My Apple Tree
  7. 7 January: Review @ Jorie Loves A Story
  8. 7 January: Review @ Little Miss Train Wreck
  9. 8 January: Guest Post @ Jorie Loves A Story
  10. 9 January: Interview @ Manic Readers
  11. 9 January: Review @ Kritters Ramblings
  12. 9 January: Review & Promotional Giveaway @ Nightly Reading
  13. 10 January: Review & Promotional Giveaway @ Manic Readers
  14. 10 January: Review @ Afternoon Bookery
  15. 10 January: Review & Promotional Giveaway @ Bless Their Hearts Mom
  16. 11 January: Review @ Bunny’s Reviews
  17. 11 January: Live Web Chat @ Read On Series at Crossroad Reviews
  18. 12 January: Interview @ Literary Lunes
  19. 13 January: Review @ Mandi Kay Reads
  20. 13 January: Author Interview @ Infinite House of Books
  21. 14 January: Review & Spotlight @ So I am a Reader!
  22. 14 January: Review @ TiffyFit’s Reading Corner
  23. Date Unknown: Review & Promotional Giveaway @ Therian

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Return on the morrow, as Ms. Mencini drops by Jorie Loves A Story, whilst sharing with us an Author Guest Post relaying the story behind To Tuscany with Love! Be sure to scope out my Bookish Upcoming Events to mark your calendars!!

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{SOURCES: Cover art of “To Tuscany with Love” as well as Gail Mencini’s photograph and biography, the blog tour badge, and the logo badge for JKS Communications were all provided by JKS Communications and used with permission. Blog Tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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Posted Monday, 6 January, 2014 by jorielov in 20th Century, 21st Century, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Contemporary Romance, Debut Novel, Fly in the Ointment, JKS Communications: Literary Publicity Firm, Life Shift, Modern Day, Time Slip, Tuscany, Women's Fiction