THE CHAOS FUNCTION by Jack Skillingstead

March 23, 2019

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The author has combined a great deal of action with an interesting scenario right out of the world of Science Fiction giving his readers a very engrossing novel.

The story begins with Olivia Nikitas, a very successful war correspondent, in the midst of covering the civil war in Syria. She is accompanied by Brian, an AID worker and the man that she has found love with. While they are covering a battle in Aleppo Brian is killed with Olivia dragging him back into a chamber in a building adjacent to the area they had been covering. In a reverie experienced by Olivia traumatized by Brian’s death conditions change and it looks like her lover was only wounded.

The Science Fiction part comes across when returning to the United States Olivia is kidnapped by a group claiming to be guardians of a machine that allows conditions in the world to be changed. And that is why she experiences the shift from Brian dying and than still alive but wounded. Olivia has received the power to operate the machine from the individual that had it but was killed during the same time and place that Brian died in. She learns that she is the first woman to have this power during the many centuries that it has been utilized.

Escaping from the group with the help of two of their members Olivia uses the benefits of the machine tied to her mental ability to use it to change conditions in the world. Unfortunately, the new conditions created by her allow the spread of a man made epidemic of smallpox which kills off millions around the world. She realizes that her desire to keep Brian alive has forced the spread of the disease to take effect due to conditions created by Olivia’s machinations of world conditions.

The combination of circumstances involving a great deal of action with an interesting twist will provide a fascinating experience for the reader making the awaiting of future books by  Skillingstead a done deal.

3/19 Paul Lane

THE CHAOS FUNCTION by Jack Skillingstead.  John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (March 19, 2019). ISBN 978-1328526151. 304p.

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OF FIRE AND LIONS by Mesu Andrews

March 10, 2019

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A well written novel based on the Old Testament story of Daniel. The author evidences a great deal of research in presenting a novel like account of the life and times of the prophet. Daniel lived during the tumultuous times characterized by the rule of Nebuchadnezzar over the city state of Babylon and his conquests of much of the known world. The novel begins as the young girl Abigail is taken prisoner by the invading army of the Babylonians conquering Jerusalem and taking her and many others captives. They are being brought to Babylon as slaves. Along with her are five young men including Daniel and four of his friends. Daniel takes a liking and interest in Abigail starting a lifetime of love between them.

Andrews does not gloss over the miracles attributed to Daniel’s times and caused by the one god, Yahweh, that was worshiped by his people. There is the survival of his friends thrown into a blazing furnace and the later survival by Daniel of being thrown into a pit with several hungry lions. He is brought to Babylon in order to be trained to govern under the sway of Nebuchadnezzar along with other selected Hebrews as a means of assuring the rule of a wide variety of men selected from Babylon’s conquests. This is seen as a means of assuring loyalty to Babylon and is a far reaching belief going beyond the period being looked at.

Andrews, as is her practice, has done a good deal of research into the period surrounding Daniel’s life both by close reading of the book of Daniel and other prophets of that era as well as other surviving works available at present day. Literary license allows the author to resurrect conversations that possibly could have taken place based on events depicted. As an historical work the recreating of the world of about 500 B.C. is truly an engrossing project. The book is made into both a captivating novel as well as the creation of life lived in another and stranger period. The novel is by any definition a mesmerizing read and an all nighter for the reader.

3/19 Paul Lane

OF FIRE AND LIONS by Mesu Andrews. WaterBrook (March 5, 2019). ISBN 978-0735291867. 400p.

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THE WRONG HIGHLANDER by Lynsay Sands

March 3, 2019

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Highland Brides, Book 7

From the publisher:

A laird’s daughter kidnaps a Highlander—and loses her heart… in New York Times bestselling author Lynsay Sands’ new historical romance

Lady Evina Maclean has heard much about Rory Buchanan’s skill as a healer. What she hasn’t heard is how good the brawny Highlander looks bathing in a waterfall. But Evina can’t afford the distraction, for her ailing father urgently needs care. Only when she’s rendered Buchanan unconscious and dragged him back to her family’s castle does the truth emerge—it’s not Rory she’s kidnapped but his brother Conran.

Other ladies try to ensnare Conran with flattery. Evina hits him over the head with the hilt of her sword to save her kin—and Conran likes the spirited redhead all the more for it. He’s learned enough from his brother to heal Evina’s father, but there are other dangers swirling around the Maclean clan. And while the beautiful, independent lady has sworn not to marry, this wrong Highlander may be just the right man for her.


I started this series with book 5, and I didn’t love it. But I forgot that and read book 6, which I liked a lot so here I am. I really enjoyed this latest entry in the series so now I think I will try at least one of the earlier books.

I love historical romances with strong women characters, and Sands introduces a new one here in Lady Evina. She rides her horse astride, carries a sword and is expert enough in sword fighting that she helps train the men. So when her father is dying, out of desperation she takes off in search of Rory Buchanan, who is reputed to be the most skilled healer in all of Scotland. She arrives at the Buchanan property to find a horse with a saddlebag stuffed with medicinal herbs, but the rider is apparently showering under the waterfall. When one of her men approaches him, he lashes out and Lady Evina rushes in and knocks him out with her sword.

They take the unconscious healer, tie him to the horse, and set off at a rapid pace for home. Lady Evina is praying that her father is still alive when they get there. Eventually the healer comes to, they make it back and he immediately starts seeing to the laird.

The confusion arises because it turns out the man she kidnapped is not Rory, but his brother, the always helpful Conran. He was out helping his brother collect medicinal herbs when he was called away to attend a patient, leading to the mistaken identity. Conran doesn’t bother to correct them, he has helped his brother enough that he knows what to do.

Conran and Evina have instant attraction. When she tells him she is married, he backs off immediately. Then he finds out that she is actually widowed, and he decides a dalliance with the merry widow might be fun. Except turns out Evina was married and widowed as a child, leading to some very uncomfortable sex and a compromising position.

There is also a bit of suspense throughout this story, as there was in the other books I’ve read in this series. This time it appears someone is trying to kill Evina, and that suspense keeps building, helping make the pages fly by. This was another terrific read, and the Highlands setting is a good way to help me through the Droughtlander.

3/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE WRONG HIGHLANDER by Lynsay Sands. Avon (February 5, 2019).  ISBN 978-0062890672. 288p.

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DEVIL’S DAUGHTER by Lisa Kleypas

February 27, 2019

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The Ravenels meet The Wallflowers

The Ravenels Series, Book 5

From the publisher:

Although beautiful young widow Phoebe, Lady Clare, has never met West Ravenel, she knows one thing for certain: he’s a mean, rotten bully. Back in boarding school, he made her late husband’s life a misery, and she’ll never forgive him for it. But when Phoebe attends a family wedding, she encounters a dashing and impossibly charming stranger who sends a fire-and-ice jolt of attraction through her. And then he introduces himself…as none other than West Ravenel.

West is a man with a tarnished past. No apologies, no excuses. However, from the moment he meets Phoebe, West is consumed by irresistible desire…not to mention the bitter awareness that a woman like her is far out of his reach. What West doesn’t bargain on is that Phoebe is no straitlaced aristocratic lady. She’s the daughter of a strong-willed wallflower who long ago eloped with Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent—the most devilishly wicked rake in England.

Before long, Phoebe sets out to seduce the man who has awakened her fiery nature and shown her unimaginable pleasure. Will their overwhelming passion be enough to overcome the obstacles of the past?

Only the devil’s daughter knows…


I’ve read several of the books in this series and liked them all. Kleypas excels at portraying a world gone by, with terrific, well developed characters and always a strong storyline. This book is no exception.

Lady Clare is a widow with a heart of gold. She and her husband were childhood sweethearts and best friends, but their marriage was overshadowed by his illness. Henry had some sort of “wasting” disease, that left him weak and sickly for all of his life, and ended his life very young. Henry’s nemesis at boarding school was West Ravenel, a well known rake and a man with a very bad reputation. But for Lady Clare and West, there is instant chemistry.

That chemistry causes Clare to feel guilt and to fight it every step of the way. And West is determined to keep her at arm’s length, feeling that he does not deserve her and does not wish to harm her children’s reputations as well.

There are a lot of obstacles to overcome here, but their families see what’s going on and help them along to find their happily ever after. A fast, fun and sexy read – highly recommended with the caveat that it probably helps to read this series in order. There are a lot of characters, but I was comfortable with them because I remembered them all.

2/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

DEVIL’S DAUGHTER by Lisa Kleypas. Avon (February 19, 2019).  ISBN 978-0062371935. 384p.

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THE POLAR BEAR EXPEDITION by James Carl Nelson

February 20, 2019

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The Heroes of America’s Forgotten Invasion of Russia, 1918-1919

Nelson is a historian by profession and his book is a well researched study of a little known invasion of Russia by American soldiers occurring from the end of World War I for about a year. The American Expeditionary Force cold weather chapter, took place along with troops from England, France  Japan and Czechoslovakia.  There are several  versions of the reason for U.S. intervention but the one used by Nelson was in order to defend the enormous amount of supplies, including weaponry, against use by the Bolsheviks.  Russia was in the midst of a civil war, and the Reds (Bolsheviks) were fighting the Whites (those opposed to the socialism advocated by Lenin and Trotsky).

The foreign soldiers were landed in both Murmansk and Archangel both cities that enjoy bitter winters for most of the year. From there the Americans and their allies fought the Bolos (as the Bolsheviks were termed) in towns and villages along the northern portion of Russia. The Armistice ending the war between the allies and Germany was declared on November 11th, 1918. The not so small war in Russia dragged on for several more years with the troops involved wondering why they couldn’t join their fellow soldiers in going home.  The men could not find a reason to enter into this conflict, experienced low morale and just wanted out.

Dry and dusty this book is not.  Most of the Americans came from Detroit, Michigan and the research there by the author found many actual writings by the soldiers.  Most probably descendants of the troops readily made available diaries, letters and other writings.  Plus local Michigan newspapers in their archives would definitely  have had coverage of the conflict including references to the local men taking part in it.

The book is a description of a little known conflict occurring a century ago and mainly using the words of the combatants to describe it. The only reference to politics taking part in sending soldiers there is to lay blame on President Woodrow Wilson for allowing himself to be talked into sending soldiers with no real idea of what to do with them. Maybe so but Wilson is the president who campaigned for reelection in 1916 using the slogan “He kept us out of war” and than getting the United States into a blood bath in Europe shortly after his reelection. In any event, his blase attitude permeated the entire adventure into Russia with nothing really accomplished.  Moreover, Mr Nelson in summing up his book suggests that the Russian attitude towards the U.S for the invasion in 1918-19 is one of the reasons that America has been kept at a distance for more than a century.

2/19 Paul Lane

THE POLAR BEAR EXPEDITION by James Carl Nelson. William Morrow (February 19, 2019). ISBN 978-0062852779. 320p.

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THE FALCON OF SPARTA by Conn Iggulden

February 11, 2019

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Iggulden has developed a unique place in writing novels set in various periods in history. He does an incredible amount of research in the era he is discussing and than uses literary license to flesh out characters involved. He postulates their words, reactions, feelings and drives based upon knowledge of the world they inhabited.

This book is set in a period occurring at the approximate ending of the Peloponnesian wars, which took place in ancient Greece between Athens and Sparta with most of the remainder of the country coming out on one side or another. It involves Cyrus the Younger, who lived in a period approximately between the stand of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae taking on the combined army of Persia and the later rise of Alexander the Great.

Cyrus was one of the sons of Darius and vied with his brother Artaxerxes to take the throne of Persia upon their father’s death. Iggulden paints him as the more suited to handle the army but his brother orders him killed in order to assure himself of the throne. The world of the period comes to life in telling the story of Cyrus and his quest to become ruler of Persia. An actual Athenian member of Cyrus’s army was a student of the philosopher Socrates and did write about him bringing the man to life for the reader. The conflict between the two brothers results in a civil war of monumental proportions at an area known as Cunaxa. The battle almost unknown today was an extremely bloody affair between armies of thousands of men. It is described based on the author’s visiting the site and his reading of the events involved.

The presence of Spartans fighting on the side of Cyrus is well documented. These were men whose entire existence and life is dedicated to fighting and war. They were almost superhuman in conditioning and ability to fight battles against any odds; as witness the 300 men taking on thousands of Persians at Thermopylae and holding their ground for three days. Iggulden provides a full description and praise of the Spartan soldiers and credits them with helping to hold out against the vast army that Cyrus’ brother fields.

Make no mistake, the book is not a dry tome of events in another day, but a very well worked historical novel that Iggulden creates based on a good deal of source material that has come down through the ages and can still be read by anyone. Words and feelings are put in the mouths of the people taking part in the story. The ones named were real and occupied the positions ascribed to them by the author. That they speak and act is a real result and study of what they might have said and felt during the period and events described.

A very well done and carefully constructed novel that takes place in a period of history that is 2000 years away from us but brought to life by a gifted author.

2/19 Paul Lane

THE FALCON OF SPARTA by Conn Iggulden. Pegasus Books (February 5, 2019). ISBN 978-1643130569. 448p.

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GOVERNESS GONE ROGUE by Laura Lee Guhrke

February 6, 2019

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Dear Lady Truelove, Book 3

From the publisher:

Dear Lady Truelove . . .

My twin brother and I need a new mother, though Papa insists he’ll never marry again. Must be nice, brainy, and fond of cats . . .

Lady Truelove may be London’s most famous advice columnist, but James St. Clair, the Earl of Kenyon, knows his wild young sons need a tutor, not a new mother. They need a man tough enough to make his hellions tow the line, and James is determined to find one.

Miss Amanda Leighton, former schoolteacher and governess, knows she has all the qualifications to be a tutor. And while female tutors are unheard of, Amanda isn’t about to lose the chance at her dream job because of pesky details like that. If Lord Kenyon insists on hiring a man, then she has only one option . . .

Jamie isn’t sure what to make of his new employee, until he realizes the shocking truth—beneath the ill-fitting suits, his boys’ tutor is a woman. An unconventional, outspoken, thoroughly intriguing woman. Despite Amanda’s deception, he can’t dismiss her when his boys are learning so much. Yet Jamie, too, is learning surprising lessons—about desire, seduction, and passionate second chances . . .


Somehow I missed the first book in this series, but I read the last one and liked it a lot. This new one has same charm and humor.

This was a fun read, provided you can suspend your disbelief enough to buy into the story. Guhrke does a convincing job and it worked for me. I liked the character of Amanda, she was smart and feisty and a wonderful teacher. Jamie was a damaged protagonist, a widow who was convinced that his only true love had died and he has sworn off women forever. But his twin boys, tired of running off one nanny after another, decide they want a new mother.

The relationships between Jamie and his boys, and Amanda and Jamie are interesting and fraught, making this an enjoyable read. And a quick one, it’s a very short book.

2/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

GOVERNESS GONE ROGUE by Laura Lee Guhrke.  Avon (January 29, 2019).  ISBN 978-0062890689. 272p.

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HIGHLANDER EVER AFTER by Paula Quinn

January 27, 2019

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Highland Heirs, Book 9

From the publisher:

From New York Times bestselling author Paula Quinn comes a sweeping Scottish historical romance between a dashing MacGregor highlander and his English bride.
 
They tried to resist a marriage of convenience . . .
As the clan chief’s son, Adam MacGregor is duty-bound to marry a royal heir. Yet when he meets his bride—a beautiful but haughty young lass who thinks he is nothing more than a common savage—he realizes she’s more than he bargained for. But the more Adam gets to know his new wife, the more intent he is on proving her wrong about him.But can they resist each other?
Sina de Arenberg wants nothing to do with the unsavory MacGregors, especially the fierce Highlander she now calls husband. But the more time she spends with the man she married, the more she sees his honor and courage. Just when she thinks there might be a future for her and Adam, Sina is called back to court. England isn’t the place she remembers, though, and soon she’ll be forced to choose between the life she once knew, and the Highlander who has captured her heart.


I really enjoyed this historical romance, especially the time period. I love seeing how people lived and the culture, so different in the Highlands from London. All I know about the Isle of Skye is what I’ve learned reading the Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon, so this was a treat – an up close and personal look at a small village set there.

I did have some issues with Sina, I found her very whiny, but eventually she grew on me. The constant battles between her and Adam really ratcheted up the tension, and I loved how she finally felt like she had a place there. Her innocence was sweet, and watching the passion grow between them was fun. Adam was a great character and everyone got the ending they deserved. A fun read that I couldn’t put down.

1/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

HIGHLANDER EVER AFTER by Paula Quinn. Forever (December 18, 2018).  ISBN 978-1455535385. 400p.

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DARE TO LOVE A DUKE by Eva Leigh

January 20, 2019

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The London Underground, Book 3

From the publisher:

Named one of Amazon’s Best Romances of December!

For a dashing duke and the proprietress of a secret, sensual club in the London Underground, passion could lead to love… if they dare

Thomas Powell, the new Duke of Northfield, knows he should be proper and principled, like his father. No more dueling, or carousing, or frequenting masked parties where Londoners indulge their wildest desires. But he’s not ready to give up his freedom just yet. The club is an escape, a place where he can forget about society and the weight of his title… and see her, the woman he’s wanted forever.

Lucia—known as Amina—manages the Orchid Club, a secret society where fantasies become reality. But for Lucia, it’s strictly business, profitable enough to finance her dream: a home for the lost girls of the streets. Surrounded by lovers, she only observes, unwilling to risk her future for any man. No member has ever intrigued her…until him, the masked stranger whose heated looks sear her skin. After months of suppressed longing, they dare to give in to temptation…

But the late duke’s legacy comes with a shocking secret, and the scandal threatens to destroy everything Tom loves… his family, the Orchid Club, and even Lucia.


Let me start by saying I really liked this book. That said, while it looks like a Regency romance, there is a lot of sex in this book. Not that long ago, Regencies did not have nearly as much sex as is more common today, and I’m only mentioning it because this book actually surprised me.

The Orchid Club is a sex club, where anyone from the gentry to the working class can go to partake of, well, anything that is freely given. Consensual sex only. Oddly, the price of admission is a donation, so money is not the point, leading to one of the inconsistencies in this story. I am starting to get used to the fact that history is being rewritten in historical romances lately.

Lucia was a prostitute before rising to manager of a sex club. And she’s not English, but is from Italy. That was a very big deal back in the day. Nonetheless, the newly minted duke is completely enamored of her, and she of him. While he knows he has to marry for political gain, he can’t help but fall in love with Lucia. Did I mention this couple has almost insurmountable obstacles to overcome? But that is the fun here. If you like a lot of explicit sex with your romance, this is the book for you. If you don’t, either skip those pages (and there are a bunch) or look elsewhere for your next read. I liked it and recommend it.

1/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

DARE TO LOVE A DUKE by Eva Leigh. Avon (December 24, 2018).  ISBN 978-0062499455. 384p.

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THE DUKE THAT I MARRY by Cathy Maxwell

December 27, 2018

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The Spinster Heiresses, Book 3

From the publisher:

Once upon a time there were three young ladies who, despite their fortunes, had been on the marriage mart a bit too long. They were known as “the Spinster Heiresses” . . .

Is it wrong for a woman to want more?

Not if she is a Spinster Heiress. They do not settle. Any young miss would be very lucky to find herself promised to a man like the Duke of Camberly. However, Miss Willa Reverly has watched her friends marry for love. Camberly may be the prize of the season, but she will not be “sold” to any man. She wants his devotion or she wants nothing at all.

When is a Marriage of Convenience inconvenient?

Newly named to the ducal title, Matthew Addison is determined to discover the secrets behind Mayfield, the bankrupt estate he has inherited. He doesn’t have time to coddle a headstrong heiress who is determined to ditch him over something as silly as “love.” Little does he know that his questions will place her in jeopardy. Now he must do what he must to save them both.

Could it be that in running from danger they might be racing headlong into a truly unexpected fate: falling in love?


This is a terrific addition (conclusion?) to a series I’m really enjoying. Feminism continues to rear its head in Regency England somehow, and I don’t mind a bit.

The characters spring to life on the page and I love the humor. This is a very sexy book and I enjoyed that as well. Another winner from Maxwell.

11/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE DUKE THAT I MARRY by Cathy Maxwell. Avon (November 27, 2018).  ISBN 978-0062655783. 352p.

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