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Looking for Readers! I want YOU!!!

… >.> To review. I’ve never done a throwback post but – hee. Time for that always yes? Also I put a lot of work into the below.

What am I looking for as a starting point for a reviewer? I listed a number of “sources” for you to look into. Here: the reviews I’ve posted on this site are a great indication. I also actually have a general format – more guidelines than hard rules, but mostly I do NOT want plot summaries or book reports. That’s what the blurb – and you know, actually reading the book is for.

If you’re interested, contact me. We’ll talk and hope it’s a good fit. Got questions? I’d love to hear from you. If you’re not interested – do you have a friend who might be? Share the love!

Thanks – and let’s do this!!! 😀

ETA: Guest reviewers welcome! <3 [Seriously, I have enough ARCs and requests to drown me. And you. And you too in the back. Let’s make EVERYONE happy! More reading! More reviews! More love!] 😉

Review: Troublemaker by Leah Remini

Mary’s review of Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini
Nonfiction by Ballantine Books on November 3, 2015

Leah Remini has never been the type to hold her tongue. That willingness to speak her mind, stand her ground, and rattle the occasional cage has enabled this tough-talking girl from Brooklyn to forge an enduring and successful career in Hollywood. But being a troublemaker has come at a cost.

That was never more evident than in 2013, when Remini loudly and publicly broke with the Church of Scientology. Now, in this frank, funny, poignant memoir, the former King of Queens star opens up about that experience for the first time, revealing the in-depth details of her painful split with the church and its controversial practices.

Indoctrinated into the church as a child while living with her mother and sister in New York, Remini eventually moved to Los Angeles, where her dreams of becoming an actress and advancing Scientology’s causes grew increasingly intertwined. As an adult, she found the success she’d worked so hard for, and with it a prominent place in the hierarchy of celebrity Scientologists alongside people such as Tom Cruise, Scientology’s most high-profile adherent. Remini spent time directly with Cruise and was included among the guests at his 2006 wedding to Katie Holmes.

But when she began to raise questions about some of the church’s actions, she found herself a target. In the end, she was declared by the church to be a threat to their organization and therefore a “Suppressive Person,” and as a result, all of her fellow parishioners—including members of her own family—were told to disconnect from her. Forever.

Bold, brash, and bravely confessional, Troublemaker chronicles Leah Remini’s remarkable journey toward emotional and spiritual freedom, both for herself and for her family. This is a memoir designed to reveal the hard-won truths of a life lived honestly—from an author unafraid of the consequences.

This book piqued my interest for two reasons. The first, because it deals with Scientology. It’s a religion we hear about in the news, especially in connection with some famous actors and actresses. Two, because of Leah Remini. I wasn’t a huge fan of her most famous show, King of Queens, although I did watch a time or two. It was her reality show, Leah Remini: It’s all Relative I connected with. Her family is crazy in that loving, adorable way that makes it wonderfully wacky. I’ve had this book on my TBR pile for a while and it got lost in the shuffle of my Kindle. Recently, Leah’s documentary series on Scientology came out. I watched all of the episodes and they reminded me of the book. so I dusted it off and here we are…

The rumors and confusion swirling around Scientology has always seemed a mix of fact and fiction. I’m a religious person myself but I’m not unaware that some ideas within Christianity (specifically, in my case, Catholicism) from the outside looking in would appear extremely odd. (I mean, we literally believe the Eucharist becomes the body and blood of Jesus. Imagine trying to explain that. It’s not easy for other Christians to understand!) This isn’t an equation of the two religions – in fact I use religion with Scientology extremely loosely because it’s more like a cult. This is only to illustrate my openness to understanding that faith can and does require an intellectual leap. It is in fact, the very essence of belief. Leah’s experiences are from someone on the inside. She lived and believed Scientology for decades. I wanted to understand and learn about it from her point of view and went into this book with an open mind. As a result, the compassion I gained after reading this book for those who have left Scientology is overwhelming.

The descriptions of how Scientology is set up were interesting. Rarely is someone suddenly immersed in it. Scientology is something that creeps into your life until it takes over. Once it does, it’s extremely difficult to get out of it. Our ability as human beings to accept things, to live in denial, is exceptional. Even for someone as brash and bold as Leah – a natural contrarian. She experienced many instances of incomplete answers and accepted them as the truth. Much of it, in part, because she had dedicated time, money and herself to Scientology. Learning everything was a lie wasn’t something she was willing to face until, finally, it was.

Leah’s break with Scientology (by her own admission) was far easier than most. She always had friends who weren’t Scientologist. Her husband wasn’t fanatical about Scientology – he’d joined far later in life and considered it more of a tool than a full-on religion. Her extended family, including her sisters and mother, were having their own problems with the church. Plus, she had a job outside of Scientology and access to a whole host of support systems. This is not to demean the experiences Leah had, or to say that leaving Scientology wasn’t hard for her. I’m sure it was. But for others the experience is far, far worse…

Scientology aims to become your life. You dedicate yourself to studying it (at least two hours a day, seven days a week). These studies cost money – a lot. Your friends are Scientologists, you may work for a Scientologist, you are married to a Scientologist, your family members are Scientologists. And it is forbidden for you, as a member of Scientology, to have any contact with anyone labeled a SP or Suppressive Person.

Gaining the label of an SP can be very easy. Merely looking up information on the internet about Scientology can get you labeled an SP. Once that happens, you are cut off from everyone you know. Your family, your spouse, your children…it’s no wonder those within Scientology turn a blind eye and stay, even if they secretly have questions or doubts. They don’t want to run the risk of tearing their families apart. Leah didn’t begin researching Scientology until she had been a member for decades. Many of the alleged abuses committed by the church remain completely unknown to its members. Additionally, since most Scientologists are second generation, this is the only thing they have ever known. They are literally born into it. Scientology discourages school (most of the children in Scientology are home schooled) cutting off any way for the members to learn anything else. Scientology isolates the people that belong to it.

It’s easy to mock the celebrities that are a part of Scientology, but (as Leah points out) different rules apply to them. For the regular person, Scientology is their everything. I’m impressed by anyone who has left. The bravery associated with uprooting your life to such an extreme – not to mention what Scientology does to you if you are brazen enough to publicly speak out against it – is something to be celebrated. Many of those that have left lost everything, including contact with their children.

If you have a chance to read the book and/or watch Leah’s documentary, do it. The stories are both admirable and heartbreaking. They are survivors.

Grade: B

You can buy a copy of the book here.

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: The VIP Doubles Down by Nancy Herkness

The VIP Doubles Down (Wager of Hearts Book 3) by Nancy Herkness
Contemporary romance released by Montlake Romance on April 18, 2017

In the witty, sizzling finale to award-winning author Nancy Herkness’s Wager of Hearts series, a haunted writer conquers his demons with the help of a feisty muse and a passion that doesn’t play by the book.

Gavin Miller, the billionaire author of a bestselling thriller series, struggles with a grim secret: he hasn’t written a word in more than a year.

Writer’s block is killing his spirit and jeopardizing his contracts with his publisher and his Hollywood producers. Prodded by his agent, Gavin reluctantly agrees to see Allie Nichols, a sassy physical therapist tasked with treating the novelist’s severe neck and shoulder pain—and maybe his writer’s block, too.

The tempestuous Gavin and no-nonsense Allie soon find themselves entangled in a steamy affair that sparks Gavin’s creativity again. But their manipulative ex-lovers and Gavin’s lingering childhood scars threaten their happily ever after. Can Gavin and Allie find their way to love when the stakes are high and the obstacles are overwhelming?

I love it when a book lives up to my expectations. I’ve read all the other Wager of Heart stories: The CEO Buys InThe All-Star Antes Up, and the novella which I believe technically takes places after all three books in the series world timeline, The Irishman’s Christmas Gamble. I read The VIP Doubles Down in a day, and I can see myself re-reading all the books in this series.

Allie Nichols is a terrific heroine. She’s incredibly kind and caring, and has a strong sense of self. She’ll put others first, but she’ll only take it so far. Allie understands protecting herself, and self care. I loved seeing that in a heroine. While she’s struggling, I felt she also had agency, which I appreciated. Things aren’t all going her way right now, but you know she’ll make it – with or without the hero, Gavin. (This is entirely frivolous, but I have to add this personal note. I think I read a slew of redheaded heroines, so many in fact that I automatically avoided or put down any books with a redheaded heroine. Well, Allie is a redhead, and it speaks to the quality of writing here that I read on.) Anyway, Allie is down to earth, reasonable, and fun. She’s also nice. It’s mentioned a few times she’s incredibly optimistic, and she is, but not in an annoying way. Allie is someone anyone would be lucky to have in their life, and I’d love to have a friend like her.

Gavin Miller. Now, what to say about him. Of course everyone would love to have a friend who is a billionaire. But he’s so much more than that. Gavin has always shown flashes of hidden depths in the other Wager of Hearts stories, but … seriously, he’s kind of an ass. He has a lot of reason to be one, but … he is. Gavin was so lucky to meet Allie – and thankfully, by the end, he realizes that. It isn’t an easy journey for him though. While Gavin has been insightful and brilliant, he’s walled off his emotions and pushes those he cares for away with his caustic wit. In a way, he thinks people expect that of him because he’s a brilliant and successful writer … but also to protect himself. It doesn’t help that he’s got a massive case of writer’s block, a crushing sense of responsibility, along with a lot of personal tragedy, and it’s made him terribly surly, and borderline mean.

I think it says something about Gavin though, that despite him being a jerk, he’s got good people willing to stick with him, despite his best efforts to push them away, with cutting, and sometimes hurtful remarks. To his credit, he does always apologize. Gavin is definitely dynamic and layered. It’s what makes him a great character, and great hero. Then, there’s the fact that he grovels and apologizes in what I felt to be an appropriate and proportionate manner in the end. And that’s big. I know a lot of readers are willing to forgive a hero almost anything, but if he’s an ass the whole time with no redeeming characteristics, to me, he’s not a good hero. The hero suffering or grovel is rarely enough for me. I wanted to make that note because Gavin does not fall into that category. In this case, it was good. Gavin has his bad moments, but he mans up and apologizes each time while also been caring and helpful, and the supportive friend when the time calls for it.

I enjoyed The VIP Doubles Down for a lot of reasons. It’s a realistic romance. The characters are well rounded, and developed individuals. I liked that you got a real sense of who they were, and the story organically relayed their lives, and them falling in love. The plot and events flow nicely, as does the romance and their relationship. It’s never perfect. Both are wary, and Allie definitely puts up a fight because of the possibly unethical implications. (She first meets him as his physical therapist. That relationship definitely ends prior to them getting involved physically or romantically though.)

Allie has had to learn a lot of difficult life lessons, but she’s still a positive person. She isn’t blindly or willfully naive though, thankfully. She brings light to Gavin’s life, and he adores her for who she is. He’s smart, and funny, and charming, and they just work so well together. The physical attraction is there, but the numerous conversations they have, the flashes into the hidden depths, the mystery and discovery of who not only the other person is, but who they themselves could be … It all came together in a really lovely way.

I’m a little sad to see this series end, although I also definitely appreciate a series ending when it should. As I said, I’ll be re-reading these books, and will be looking for more books by Nancy Herkness. If you like contemporary romances, I hope you’ll give this series a try.

Grade: B

You can read an excerpt here or buy a copy here.

When You’re a Mess, You Need Help

Hi friends! I don’t even know what to say. ALBTALBS is up for now, and to stay up, which is good, since ASO took “all my monies!” … Which … come 2019 I’m thinking I need to have a new hosting company already in sight.

Anyway, I know I’ve been really absent for say, the past few years, even. I’ve got a lot going on. We all do, I know. But this year, I’ve been really out of commission, and this is part of it.

Elise Rome decided to take it upon herself to set up a GFM for me – which kinda details a bit of what’s been going on. I had no part of it, but was and am totally verklempt with the love and support from romanceland. I’m definitely still in the weeds though, so if you could find it in your heart (and wallet) to give, I’d be beyond grateful. I’d also be incredibly grateful if you’d share the link – because maybe some kind, and wealthy stranger would feel compelled to help out as well. https://www.gofundme.com/limecello

Thank you all, and hopefully once some of this is sorted I can be a more present [and useful?] blogger! <3

Shout Out to Cynthia Sax and Cathy Pegau for “Saving” ALBTALBS + A Sale!

Hi friends! Oh my gosh have I got a lot to say – but I’m not really in a place to do it – literally and figuratively. I’m also typing this flat on my back so excuse any typos please.

For a number of years I’ve been dealing with [hacking?] issues. Oftentimes the site bandwidth would exceed my monthly allotment, and I was able to “boutique” buy an extra gig or two to tide me over. The policy changed (without word or notice >:( ) so I had to upgrade my hosting plan, instead of leaving ALBTALBS down for the rest of the month. (And ideally preventing it from happening over and over.)

So … upgrading costs money. Which I don’t have. [More on that later…] And I decided to offer advertising space again at a discount. I’m offering ad space for $10/month if you buy three or more months. If you want to buy a full year I’m willing to discuss an additional discount. Otherwise, each ad space is $15/month for now.

I run the ad as a widget, so people will still see it even if they have adblockers installed on their browsers. Each image can also be linked to anywhere on the web you want it to go.

Because of Cynthia Sax and Cathy Pegau, I was able to offset some of the costs of bringing ALBTALBS back online, and I am so pleased and grateful. They deserve this shout out, and for their ads to be highlighted. 🙂

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: The Lonely Drop by Vanessa North

Karen’s review of The Lonely Drop by Vanessa North
Contemporary m/m romance published by Vanessa North on July 7, 2014

Ten years ago, best friends and soccer buddies Nick Hana and Kevin Dorsey were inseparable—until Kevin put the moves on virginal Nick on the eve of their college graduation. Not wanting to be just another notch in Kevin’s bedpost, Nick turned him down and “lost” his new phone number.

A chance reunion brings the two together again, and the attraction and caring are as strong as ever. Cocky, gorgeous Kevin makes it clear he still wants Nick, but Nick needs more than he thinks Kevin can give. A slow dance and a snow storm give them a chance to clear up the misunderstandings of their past, but can one night of passion bridge ten years of silence?

I was really excited when I got comfort reads in the group challenge, until I realised that I would actually have to decide on one book. For about a week on my way to work I thought about what makes a comfort read for me:

Friends to Lovers – without a doubt my favourite trope, the longer the friendship the better, people who’ve known each other for six months or less don’t qualify- that’s just foreplay.

Ideally at some stage the couple have been briefly slightly romantically entangled, so we know that they’re attracted to each other.

Distance, there has to have been some distance, ideally time and geography related between the initial attraction and the ‘real deal’ – how else will they realise that it is actually the real deal?

The Road to True Love is Paved with a Few Wrong Turns, and by this I do actually mean misunderstandings. Now, the romance classic of the great misunderstanding is not something I usually like, but in a really good friends to lovers story our couple have usually been the victims of youthful lack of communication, so there is a history of it. That is very important, our couple have been getting it wrong for a while. The misunderstanding will result on one, and occasionally both , of our couple breaking out of their learnt relationship behaviour and telling it like it is.

Those are the three main things I need to make a romance a comfort read, I also like one of my main characters to be involved with food, or teaching (I’ve not come across one yet where there is an actual cookery teacher but this would be amazing).

I do have one no go, that is no cheating- by that I mean that once the couple are on the way to being a couple they aren’t involved with other people.

There is one book in my library that ticks all these boxes ( and several more)  and it can’t be surprising that I have read it probably more than any other romance novel, certainly in recent times.

 

The Lonely Drop. And here’s my thoughts on the book:

Nick is glorious character, secure in his beliefs and sexuality. Raised by a hippy vegetarian single mum he now owns The Lonely Drop, a bar and restaurant. He’s good to his employees and in the ten years since he’s seen Kevin he’s had relationships but none of them work. Although Nick has put Kevin to the back of his mind we all know that Kevin is ‘that guy’, the one he measures everyone else against.

Kevin is less distinct, and if I have a criticism this is it, The Lonely Drop is told from Nick’s POV, and while we understand the reasons behind him not making contact for ten years, Kevin’s motivation is not totally clear. Kevin’s life has been molded by his Dad, that much we do know.

Kevin ends up in the Lonely Drop as he’s looking at a potential business venture, and while restarting their friendship, Nick gives in to his desires when Kevin asks for one night. We’re in Nick’s head, and when  he thinks “I can’t give you only one, without wanting to give you every one,” in response to Kevin’s request you can see why he feels that this is going ot be a bad idea.

At 77 pages this is a short read, but trust me when I say that there are books with three times as many pages that can’t compete with the level of emotion that The Lonely Drop delivers.

Grade: A

The Lonely Drop is  free read, and is available at Amazon UK here and US here

SWHM Guest: Beverly Jenkins on Apache Warrior and Prophet Lozen

Hi friends! I’m beyond excited to welcome super star author Beverly Jenkins to ALBTALBS with a guest post for Smithsonian Women’s History Month (SWHM).

Lozen is my right hand … strong as a man, braver than most, and cunning in strategy. Lozen is a shield to her people.”

This quote, attributed to the great Apache War Leader Vicotorio describes his sister, Lozen, remembered by the Apache as a kick ass warrior and one of the most powerful medicine people in tribal history. She was born in the late 1840s into the Warm Springs band of the Chiricahua Apache who made their home in the mountains of what is now New Mexico. Some historians believe Lozen means, “Little Sister”, while others say Lozen is a war title given to a person who steals horses during a raid. Regardless of what her name means she is a legend. At a young age, she eschewed the traditional female lessons of basket making and child care to ride horses and learn to fight. She also vowed never to marry. As she grew older, she was as good with a knife as she was with a rifle. She was also a formidable horsewoman. During her coming of age spirit quest, Useen, the Apache Creator God gifted her with not only the power to heal wounds, but the ability to sense the enemy; a sixth sense that would prove invaluable in the Apache fight to remain a free people.

In 1861, Victorio led his people away from the San Carlos reservation and its horrible living and the Apache Wars began. The Chiricahua were among the last Native Americans to take up arms against the US government, and Victorio, with his sister Lozen at his side, eluded capture for years. At one point, the band reached the Rio Grande but the horses refused to enter the fast-moving waters. so Lozen plunged her horse in first, forced it to swim and the other mounts followed. She stole horses from the camps of Mexican soldiers, single-handedly led a group of women and children across the desert, and during the wars her abilities as both healer and shaman were called upon constantly.

During the summer of 1880, their band was fleeing an ambush by the US Army when a Mescalero woman went into labor. Lozen stayed behind to help with the birth while her brother and the others rode on. Vicotorio and seventy- eight braves were eventually captured and killed. The Apache believe had Lozen been with him to do her ritual sensing of the whereabouts of the soldiers he would have gone undetected. In the ritual, she would face the sky, raise her arms above her head, cup her hands and pray. She’d then move in a circle until she felt tingling in her hands and her palms turned purple. The strength of the tingling indicated both the direction and distance of the enemy. Many are convinced that had it not been for her successful predictions the US Army would have conquered the Apache years earlier.

After her brother’s death, Lozen rode with her uncle, the 90 – year old Chief Nana, and eventually the formidable and ghost like Geronimo. While with Geronimo, she added messenger and negotiator to her duties, and was often sent to broker peace and to barter for supplies with army representatives. When Geronimo finally surrendered on September 4, 1886, his band had been reduced to fifteen men, fourteen women, and six children – one of the women was Lozen. She and the others were shipped in cattle cars to Florida where they joined previously captured and removed Chiricahua, but conditions were so terrible and the public so outraged by them, the Apache were moved to Mount Vernon Barracks, Alabama. This warrior woman, who’d fearlessly spent her life fighting to preserve her people’s freedom died there of pneumonia, and was buried in an unmarked grave.

History may have forgotten Lozen, but the Apache, especially its women, have not.

Lozen is referenced in Ms. Jenkins’ novel Breathless. (Sorry, I couldn’t find an image of her that’s in the public domain.) 

BreathlessA strong-willed beauty finds herself in the arms of the handsome drifter from her past, in this second book in the sizzling series set in the Old West, from USA Today Bestselling Author Beverly Jenkins

As manager of one of the finest hotels in Arizona Territory, Portia Carmichael has respect and stability—qualities sorely missing from her harsh childhood. She refuses to jeopardize that by hitching herself to the wrong man. Suitors are plentiful, but none of them has ever looked quite as tempting as the family friend who just rode into town…and none has looked at her with such intensity and heat.

Duchess. That’s the nickname Kent Randolph gave Portia when she was a young girl. Now she’s a stunning, intelligent woman—and Kent has learned his share of hard lessons. After drifting through the West, he’s learned the value of a place to settle down, and in Portia’s arms he’s found that and more. But convincing her to trust him with her heart, not just her passion, will be the greatest challenge he’s known—and one he intends to win…

Have you read Breathless? Did you know about Lozen? Do you have a favorite female historical figure? We’d love to hear your thoughts! <3 [And remember to say “hi” to Beverly Jenkins!!! Eeee!!!] 

Review: Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas

Devil in SpringDevil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas
Historical romance released by Avon on February 21, 2017

An eccentric wallflower  . . .

Most debutantes dream of finding a husband. Lady Pandora Ravenel has different plans. The ambitious young beauty would much rather stay at home and plot out her new board game business than take part in the London Season. But one night at a glittering society ball, she’s ensnared in a scandal with a wickedly handsome stranger.

A cynical rake  . . .

After years of evading marital traps with ease, Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent, has finally been caught by a rebellious girl who couldn’t be less suitable. In fact, she wants nothing to do with him. But Gabriel finds the high-spirited Pandora irresistible. He’ll do whatever it takes to possess her, even if their marriage of convenience turns out to be the devil’s own bargain.

A perilous plot  . . .

After succumbing to Gabriel’s skilled and sensuous persuasion, Pandora agrees to become his bride. But soon she discovers that her entrepreneurial endeavors have accidentally involved her in a dangerous conspiracy—and only her husband can keep her safe. As Gabriel protects her from their unknown adversaries, they realize their devil’s bargain may just turn out to be a match made in heaven . . .

​Oh. My. God. You guys. So, Devil in Winter is one of my most favorite Lisa Kleypas novels – and probably one of my favorite romances across the board. So. When I learned there was a novel about Sebastian and Evie’s son … well. The anticipation was great. I have to say, Devil in Spring lived up to the hype. I haven’t read many historical romances the past few years, but after reading this one, I think I need to get back on that horse. Definitely I need to catch up on books one and two of the Ravenels series. (Cold-Hearted Rake, and Marrying Winterborne). Reading Devil in Spring made me happy. I read it in a few hours. I picked up the book and read until I got too hungry, grudgingly ate breakfast, and then went back to reading until the end. I already know I’ll be re-reading it. In fact, I read this book in print which should tell you something, because I’m pretty sure that literally I last read a print book in 2013. (It’s also why I’m not quoting anything –  because I didn’t mark pages.)​

Lady Pandora Ravenel is a delight. Truly she’s so self-deprecating, bright, fun, and lovely. Her splendid wry sense of humor … she’s someone you want to be friends with. (I wouldn’t mind being her either, really…) I loved her indomitable spirit. A tragic incident in her past has dictated her entire life, but despite that she does her best not to let it control her. In fact, she’s been cheeky even since that event. (No spoilers!) I loved how she “gravely” informs Gabriel that she’s “barely house broken.” I loved that Pandora warns Gabriel she walks in circles, which she actually does … and then most importantly, that he finds it charming! Pandora is so much herself, but she also takes into account the wants of others. She’s caring even while fiercely independent.

Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent​ is such a good guy. (But then what else would you expect from someone who grew up with Evie as a mother? And of course we all knew that Sebastian would be a wonderful father, once Evie settled him down.) Gabriel had been certain he wanted the perfect society wife. Not to love, but to take her place at his side as the future duke and duchess. Gabriel has always been very aware of the responsibilities – both current and future. He’s blessed and knows that he’s been blessed in life. I didn’t love the (to my mind minor) “proclivity” of his – it felt a bit as if it was trend jumping in romance world, but hey, maybe. It also did fit the narrative, so that made it ultimately ok with me. ​He’s always been image and socially conscious, and has seen how his father’s past affected both his father and him. Nevertheless, Gabriel gets to know Pandora quickly, and is just so taken with her. He’s smitten, and loves her desperately. He loves her more than she loves him, and is okay with it. [And real world nod – that’s what Joe Biden says about him/his relationship with his wife Jill! <3]

​I have to say that I wasn’t sure on the marriage, initially. The meet cute, as it were, and both characters reluctance. Pandora’s reluctance carries through, but Gabriel becomes “pro-marriage” very quickly. Specifically, pro-marriage to Pandora. He’s captivated by Pandora, but the instant attraction/want/need on his part was a smidge too much for me. ​However, I did really appreciate Pandora’s resistance to the institution of marriage. She has extremely valid concerns, and Gabriel understands them. There are a few times where he wants to argue with her, but realizes he can’t because she makes extreme sound and logical points. Gabriel’s acknowledgment of that won him major points. He also works to reassure Pandora that he wants her to remain her own person – as much as he can. I also liked the host of social issues Ms. Kleypas incorporated into the story so skillfully. The setting and time period were very important.

Now, another reason I accepted Gabriel being taken so quickly is because he has ample reason to adore Pandora. Of course duty and responsibility is a big part of want to marry her – but it’s not the reason. I loved that both families gave them an out. No matter the scandal, neither family wants their loved one to suffer for the rest of his or her life. That both Gabriel and Pandora were given a choice was so important. Not only does Pandora’s cousin (and family) want the best for her, you get the sense that Sebastian and Evie would’ve put a stop to things if they felt Pandora would have been miserable. Of course their initial concern is for their son, but they also care about their future daughter-in-law. Not just for her as a potential addition to the family, but as a person in general.

The “courtship” is condensed into a weeklong visit, but it’s described in detail, and Gabriel and Pandora get to spend a lot of time together.​ I really appreciated that Gabriel and Pandora got to know each other a bit before agreeing to the marriage. I loved that Gabriel, who has never really had to work for the attention or affection of the opposite sex found himself in such a foreign situation, desperately trying to convince Pandora that she wants to marry him. Or at least should. He’s charming, sweet, and a little devious. After all, no son of Sebastian’s would be entirely good. (Or of Evie’s either, because she’s got quite the naughty streak too.)

​Speaking of Sebastian and Evie, I loved their scenes – that they open the book, but don’t dominate it. They’re the parents everyone wants … or the couple everyone wants to be. Gabriel also knows that he was lucky to have them. It was so nice to read a book populated by good characters. Ones who appreciate what they have, and thankful for it. Pandora also appreciates the love and support that she has now from her family.​ And that both characters have families that are so understanding they allow the lovebirds to have time alone, to get to know each other, and fall in love. And when Evie tells Pandora about the fox cubs. I’m pretty sure if you look carefully, you can still see where my heart was ripped out and bleeding on the floor.

​It isn’t ​all just romance and emotion spilling everywhere – there’s a lot of humor too. Pandora’s “facts” – her willingness to tease both Gabriel and herself. (Her noting she can’t marry Gabriel because people will think she’s shallow.) All of Gabriel’s antics to capture Pandora’s attention. I loved that her mind never stopped and was everywhere all at once. I can relate perfectly. Gabriel also doesn’t get angry or arrogantly demand her focus – he appreciates the challenge that is his new wife. And more than meets it.

Ms. Kleypas does a masterful job at writing dynamic, nuanced characters that are strong, but not overbearing. They stand for themselves, but don’t bulldoze others. Nor do they have to. They’re human, and caring, emotional, loving, argumentative, difficult, and perfect as characters. ​​There were scenes that almost made me cry, but in the span of a few pages, I was snort laughing. Ms. Kleypas runs you through the gamut of emotions in Devil in Spring. I’m not a “huggy” person, but when I finished the book I considered hugging it. Because it was just so wonderful. Expectations met. Mischief managed. ​I can’t wait for the next story … but in the mean time, I’m definitely re-reading Devil in Spring and catching up on the Ravenels series.

Grade: A

You can read an excerpt here or buy a copy here (the mass market paperback is currently only $4.98!) or the kindle copy here.