Beyond the Wild River (Sarah Maine)

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For fans of Kate Morton and Beatriz Williams, a highly atmospheric and suspenseful historical novel, set in the 1890s about a Scottish heiress who unexpectedly encounters her childhood friend in North America, five years after he disappeared from her family’s estate the night of a double murder.

Nineteen-year-old Evelyn Ballantyre has rarely strayed from her family’s estate in the Scottish Borderlands, save for the occasional trip to Edinburgh, where her father, a respected magistrate, conducts his business—and affairs of another kind. Evelyn has always done her duty as a daughter, hiding her boredom and resentment behind good manners—so when an innocent friendship with a servant is misinterpreted by her father as an illicit union, Evelyn is appalled.

Yet the consequence is a welcome one: she is to accompany her father on a trip to North America, where they’ll visit New York City, the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, and conclude with a fishing expedition on the Nipigon River in Canada. Now is her chance to escape her cloistered life, see the world, and reconnect with her father.

Once they’re on the Nipigon, however, Evelyn is shocked to discover that their guide is James Douglas, the former stable hand and her one-time friend who disappeared from the estate after the shootings of a poacher and a gamekeeper. Many had assumed that James had been responsible, but Evelyn never could believe it. Now, in the wilds of a new world, far from the constraints of polite society, the truth about that day, James, and her father will be revealed…to stunning consequences.

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Last year I read and reviewed Maine’s debut novel, The House Between Tides, which turned out to be one of my favourite books in 2017. So I was eager to read this new book, Beyond the Wild River, which is set in the late 1800s in Canada.

Unfortunately this book set a much slower pace and I had a very difficult time getting through it. It seemed to take forever for the hunting party to reach Canada and come across James. There was a lot of build up to this point, and I just lost interest in the story.

For avid fans of historical fiction, this book would probably be an amazing new story. I do believe that the author is a great writer. This book just didn’t do it for me.

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Favourite Author Series – Cherise Sinclair

This is the second in a series of three blogs discussing my favourite authors. They are written to help readers who may be looking for new books, and to thank my favourite authors for their efforts by publicizing their works.

(By the way, the spacing is messed up in this post and the next couple and I have no idea why. I tried to fix it like twenty times. Please forgive)

Cherise Sinclair is an erotica author who writes stories about relationships that incorporate aspects of bdsm. Many of her books feature heroines who are just discovering bdsm which makes them excellent for any reader who is also new to the sub-genre. I love how the characters in her books are dealing with real-life shit, but still get their happily ever afters, while always practicing safe, sane and consensual kinky play.

I’m going to start off by mentioning two books that are stand-alones, at least so far.

Starlight Rite is the only science-fiction novel written by the author. It takes place on a planet that believes in slavery, including sexual servitude. They are a very sexy race, considering Terrans like us to be rather puritanical. It was, admittedly, one of my least favourite books from this author, but I don’t like sci-fi, so this could be way more your thing than mine. A lot of other fans are begging for a sequel.

starlite

The other stand-alone by Ms. Sinclair is The Dom’s Dungeon. It follows a recent transplant to Seattle, Mackenzie, and her beau, Alex.

I absolutely love this book and really wish there was a sequel in the works. In a recent poll on her facebook page, requests for books about Dom’s Dungeon secondary characters Steel and Drake topped the poll. Hopefully that means we get to travel back to Chains soon!

dom's dungeon

Now, the main series this author writes is called Club Shadowlands, also the title of the first book in it. There are currently ten in the series, and each provides updates on some of the past couples, so you see ‘old friends’ get married and start having babies, theirs ups as well as their downs.

1-6

This is my favourite series that Sinclair writes, and despite a ‘mind-reader’ in the first novel, it’s entirely contemporary from then on out. Most of the men and some of the women are current or former military/LEOs and ousting the bad guy to rescue the girl is a common theme.

I love these types of books, and the author does a great job of making each one seem different. One of the ways she does this is by exploring different relationship styles in some books. Book 6 is about a couple who enter a master-slave relationship, book 7 features a male sadist, 8 is a menage relationship (M-f-M), and the newest novel (#10) features her first female dominant-male submissive relationship.

Book 1

Book 1

Book 10, releasing July 28, 2015

Book 10, releasing July 28, 2015

Club Shadowlands (book #1) is actually available as a free ebook on amazon. The author changed the pricing sometime after the fifth book in the series came out in the hopes it would encourage readers unfamiliar with the genre to try a new book. See what a sweetie she is?! Makes it a great way to try out the author and see if you like her style.

The second series that Ms.Sinclair writes is called the Wild Hunt series. This is a paranormal romance, featuring the Daonain, semi-human shapeshifters who descend from the fey, who lived on Earth before people. These books have fewer elements of bdsm than the Club Shadowlands series and no public play. In my opinion though, they are kinkier because they feature menage relationships of two men and one woman. There is no direct action between the men but they do have playtime with the woman together.

Book 1 is about were-cats and book 2 is about were-wolves (just not the monster full-moon kind). Big Wolf on Campus this is not.

Book 1

Book 1

Book 2

Book 2

Book 3 is currently a WIP and will likely be available early 2016. It features werebears.

The final series (at the moment) is another contemporary, no-magic world set in Northern California and San Fran. It is the most confusing to explain.

Essentially, it began as two series, Mountain Masters (written exclusively by Cherise Sinclair) and Dark Haven (a series written by several authors, though predominantly by Sinclair at this point). Personally, I only liked the novels and novellas penned by Sinclair, I wouldn’t recommend the parts written by other authors. You don’t miss anything pertinent to the series by skipping them either.

In the early days, characters occasionally wandered through both series but at this point there have been cross-overs so often (virtually every full-length novel and some novellas) that it is considered one giant series, just enough to drive those unfamiliar with the works crazy while they figure out what order to read them in.

Here is what I would suggest.

 #1 Master of the Mountain

#1.5 Doms of Dark Haven 1 (three novellas published in one edition)

or

Simon Says Mine (Sinclair’s novella is being republished on its own)

#2 Master of the Abyss

#2.5 Doms of Dark Haven 2: western night

#3 My Liege of Dark Haven

#4 Edge of the Enforcer

#5 Master of Freedom

The author has declared her intention to consider the series, but as of yet, nothing has been announced officially. Have I confused you yet?

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I don’t have a favourite book by Cherise Sinclair. But I love that her writing is laugh-out-loud funny at times. Here are a couple of the best quotes.

‘“Those [gold armbands] identify the Shadowlands Masters.”

“And that’s different from a dom how?”

Sally rested her tray on her hip and thought for a second. “Okay, you know how some doms are just a little dominating like maybe a one-scoop ice cream, and others have a lot more—maybe two scoops of domination?”

Gabi nodded.

“Well, with the Masters, think supersized hot fudge sundae.” Sally giggled. “And that’s only the domination part. Add in beaucoup experience and control and all that. They’re voted Master status by the members, and it’s sure not a popularity contest.”’

– Make Me Sir, by Cherise Sinclair

‘“Rat bastard,” she huffed. She knelt, and just when he thought she’d lost her touch, she glanced up at him and said loudly, “I can’t believe that out of one hundred thousand sperm, you were the fastest.”’

– Make Me Sir, by Cherise Sinclair

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His Witness by Vanessa Waltz – A review

Last week I was jonesing for a dark romance… to be specific for Alexandr’s Cherished Submissive, by Ann Mayburn, but since it has not yet been published, I was out of luck. After turning to the Goodreads gods, I stumbled across His Witness by Vanessa Waltz.  It was the fourth in the Vittorio Crime Family series, which I’ve never read, but from the reviews it seemed fine to read as a standalone and I was desperate so I gave it a try.

And I am so glad that I did!

Introducing His Witness, by Vanessa Waltz

his witness

From the synopsis (short version: girl is reluctantly involved in mafia business, threatened by the FBI, turns state’s witness, gets kidnapped by the mafia from a safe-house, and needs to be convinced to change her testimony), I expected the plot to be very similar to others I have read but the reviews were compelling enough to give it a try.  The quality of researching Ms. Waltz put into understanding the psychology of her heroine was impressive and its emphasis in the novel brought me out of my usual comfort zone.

Here is a copy of the review I posted on Goodreads.

I thought this book was really well done in many respects. The basic plot premise is becoming a little trope at the moment, I’ve read others with a similar story, but I thought the author wrote the psychological aspects best. “His Witness” turned out to be less of a dark romance and more of a psychological thriller than I was expecting, but in this case it was a good thing. She understood the Stockholm Syndrome experienced by Melanie and how aspects of this would continue to dog her long past the last page of the book. Even though the reader gets to experience both Melanie and Tommy’s points of view, at times I felt like I had Stockholm Syndrome right along with her, the mark of a great author. Also, I really liked how her mafia characters stayed despicable through the story. A common weakness among writers is that they soften their bad guys and the story feels less genuine because of it.

The weakest part of the book, unfortunately, was the ending – based on other peoples’ ‘OMG plot twist!’ comments, I expected to be surprised but it was the same ending I’ve seen in other books. Up until that point, a great read though.

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