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Book Review: The Muse of Fire by Carol M. Cram

Grace Johnson dreams of a life bigger than the one expected of a woman in the early nineteenth century. At twenty-two, she should be hoping for marriage and a home of her own. Instead after a childhood spent privately acting for her mother, she quietly longs for life in the spotlight, a place on a London stage, embracing the roles of Shakespeare’s greatest heroines, but she fears her dream will never come true. Not only is she overly tall, clumsy, and plain, but her father, a harsh man with a grudge against his own daughter whom he blames for her mother’s death, will not allow Grace to speak of it. When his temper and drunkenness cause him to beat Claire, she finds herself alone on the dark streets of London’s theatre district where she is rescued by a young man named Ned Platagenet. Ned, a stage manager at the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden, gives Grace a place to stay, and as their friendship grows, he takes her to a play, a rare event for the woman who has only seen one other play years ago. When she fills in for an absent chorus girl one night, she knows this is where she belongs and defies her father by begging her estranged aunt for a place to stay. However, the more time she spends with her newfound theater family, the more she realizes her own mother and aunt have a strange connection to some of the cast and crew and the less she trusts her own family and even the memories of her mother. In this world where the dreams of women are throttled at every turn, Grace must decide just how far she is willing to go to build a new life for herself. 

Perhaps the most striking trait of Grace Johnson is her willingness to accept the stigma associated with acting in the early 1800s. Though better than in centuries past, the theatre atmosphere was considered morally corrupt for women even married ones. This world of impassioned men playing daring roles sure to seduce even the most hard-hearted of women often led to unwanted pregnancies and homeless girls, and Grace isn’t immune to the charms of one such rogue. Grace is well aware of what society might say about her, but she doesn’t allow that to stop her. She makes her way on her own terms, doing what she must to continue acting even following her father’s disownment and her somewhat forced marriage. When her first acting performance flops, she licks her wounds then forges ahead. 

This optimistic-survivor attitude isn’t particular to Grace alone, though. Both Mr. John Kemble and Ned exhibit the same trait. Mr. Kemble, renowned actor and owner of the Theatre Royal, knows he must “ ‘find a way forward’ ” when fire destroys his precious theatre. He begs and borrows to finance this new building, larger than any other theatre in England and later stands firm against the raging crowds rioting in very theatre. Ned understands that he “ ‘can’t change what [he] can’t change’ ” and refuses to bemoan his lowly birth in the Foundling Hospital. This broad-shouldered, gentle giant rose from an orphanage to become the right-hand man of Kemble, a staple in the wings of this successful company. He is like everyone’s big brother, protective and watchful, a “white knight” showing his bravery during the OP Riots and his pure heart caring for Grace in her hour of need. 

This sprawling historical fiction takes the reader spinning through time with a cast of real-life stars of the London theatre in the early nineteenth century. The fictional characters are interwoven through the true story of two significant fires in the theatre district and the “Old Price” Riots which disrupted theatregoers and actors for months. Readers will see what life was like for the actors of the day as well as the average patron.

This review was written for Chanticleer Reviews.

Book Review: Blame it on the Bet by L.E. Rico

Twenty-six-year-old Hennessy O’Halloran should have it all. She should be enjoying her overpriced apartment in St. Paul, Minnesota, her successful legal career, and her “friends with benefits” neighbor, but in the month since her father’s sudden death, all of those things have become unimportant. She thought she and her sisters had some time to figure out what to do with Jack’s legacy, an Irish pub he and their deceased mother built from scratch, but when they discover a substantial loan agreement secreted away in Jack’s belongings, they realize they only have six weeks to come up with over $100,000, money he borrowed against the business to help finance various expenses on his daughters’ behalves. She finds herself back home in Mayhem, Minnesota, living above the pub and trying desperately to find the funds to save the business when Bryan Truitt, land developer and business “matchmaker,” sweeps in from Los Angeles with his letter of intent to purchase the pub sans Jack’s signature. Even though Jack had planned to sell the bar and settle his debt, his daughters can’t bring themselves to sell to the slick, fast-talking Bryan, no matter how hot he looks in his ridiculously overpriced suit and Italian loafers. Bryan, despite his initial desire to arrive, conquer, and depart this Midwest winterland, finds himself drawn not only to small-town life but also to the confident, courageous Hennessy. When Bryan wagers against Hennessy’s ability to raise the money to save the business, neither realizes the stakes are much higher than just the pub. Will they risk their hearts to win a future together?

Blame it on the Bet is chock full of vivid characters. From Bryan’s hard-nosed assistant Helen to the matchmaking Father Romance, the novel overflows with realistic, lovable characters, right down to Jackson, a curse-word-loving toddler whose speciality is his spectacular aim with flung food. These folks feel so human, readers will easily fall for them and their quirky town of Mayhem, where a psychic baker who reads fortunes in pies and everyone owns at least one rescue cat and all of them–the cats not the owners–wear sweaters. The humor is a welcome addition to a genre that sometimes takes itself much too seriously, and good ole Midwestern honesty means there isn’t the elaborate game playing plaguing many romances. The O’Halloran sisters lend themselves to a major theme within the novel. Known as the “whiskey sisters,” Hennessy, Jameson, Walker, and Bailey are as varied as the alcohol for which they are named, but together, they create a tight knit unit deadset on saving their father’s legacy. That legacy, that sense of belonging to something worth more than the individual, permeates every aspect of the plot. The sisters drop everything to pull together and face the challenge head on to hold onto their father’s dream, a dream which built the very foundation of each of them. Family pride drives not only the girls but in a way the entire town as they pull together to save O’Halloran’s with chili cook offs and quiz nights. The fight for the town favorite becomes one of pride. Even Bryan becomes embroiled in his own fight for and against legacy when he battles his familial demons in the form of his father’s past and his unintentional tie to it. He must acknowledge his own past before he may create a new future with Hennessy, becoming a member of the family he has chosen in a home he never expected to find.

Lovers of romance will fall for this couple and this town. It will wrap you up in a cozy blanket and keep you warm as a cup of hot cocoa on a cold Minnesota day.

This review was written for Chanticleer Reviews.

Readers’ Choice Rates Something New 5-Star

“It had all started with my blood and this necklace, and now I would end it.” In Something New by Andrea Murray, 17-year-old Miriam ‘Ria’ Gabriel receives a pendant from a mysterious old woman at an estate sale. From that point on, her normal, orderly and studious life changes. Strange things start to happen; her old music box starts working again and the family dog, Cain, seems to be agitated with her. Worst, Ria dreams about a girl with haunting blue eyes and a painful past, begging to be set free. But is the girl truly a tormented, lost soul? As Ria gradually loses control, her health and grades suffer, and her relationships with her best friend and her family are affected. What will she do? 

Andrea Murray’s Something New is highly engaging from start to finish. The prose and characterization are solid. Ria is easy to root for as her strange predicament begins from the moment the mysterious pendant is clasped around her neck. Her confusion, fear, and anger easily resonate through the pages. The teen’s determination to take back control of her life and solve the problem herself is admirable although unwise and dangerous. Luckily, she literally comes to her senses and accepts help from her friend Rachel and big brother Jake. The messages of family, trust, friendship, bravery, persistence, and faith are deftly incorporated and readers can easily identify with these. Even though there’s no obvious hint, the epilogue shows that the story could continue. This a great paranormal tale from Murray and I look forward to reading more of her work in this genre. 

Review: Reviewed by Lit Amri for Readers’ Favorite 

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Book Review: The Bookminder by M.K. Wisman

More than anything, Liara just wants to belong. As an orphan “fey” child in the seventeenth-century, she has been a ward of the Church for ten of her sixteen years, taken in and cared for by Father Phenlick, Rome’s designated protector of Dvigard, a city in the Limska Draga Valley, but most of the villagers want her gone. The product of rape by a magical creature, she is imbued with magic and in many ways IS magic itself. Her progenaurae, the wizard who created the creatures who attacked her mother during their destruction of the valley, knows nothing of her existance because Father Phenlick enlisted the help of Nagareth, the wizard of the woods, to shield Liara and the village from further attacks all while outlawing the very power he is secretly trusting. At St. Sophia, Liara is safe until she steals from the village busybody. When Liara’s extensive hidden stash is discovered  in a “magicked” hollow tree, the Venetian soldiers who protect the valley force Father Phenlick to ostracize Liara. Abandoned by even her friend Kresimir, Liara is taken in by Nagareth, who promises Phenlick that he will not teacher Liara his craft, and even though Liara begs Nagareth for instruction, he only allows her to care for his extensive magical library. Gradually, Nagareth sees great potential in his new ward, but when everyone in Dvigard is killed by a mysterious plague, he begins to fear that he can’t protect her from her powerful creator who will want her powers for his own. Liara cannot see the danger around her, and as her own magical knowledge grows through her maintenance of Nagareth’s books, she can only see her own need for revenge against her father. As her abilities grow so does her anger and confusion at the only person standing between her and distruction. 

Liara is a complex, dynamic character. Her history gives her more than the normal teenage problems. Liara’s mother was driven crazy by her rape and was never able to truly care for and love Liara, eventually dying and leaving Liara to the cruelty of the villagers. Without Father Phenlick, Liara would never have survived, and though he tries to give her a home, he isn’t able to fill the emptiness of her life. Liara desparately needs something and somewhere of her own, which is why she steals–to fill her life with things that are her own. In creating her hollow-tree hiding place, she creates that place where she isn’t afraid to be herself. Though she is unaware of her own magic, it is as much a part of her as her history. In the beginning, all Liara wants is to grow that power. She desires the very thing others accuse her of having to give her what she has never had, but it’s a double-edged sword. She is hated for her supposed abilities even before she shows evidence of magic, but when she finds the magic she wants so badly, it will define her. That is all she will be, not a real person. She wants others to see she has feelings and dreams, but in the very thing she wants most, this undeniable power, people will ONLY see that. She limits herself to this magical creature, and that drive quickly becomes an obsession. Only too late does she see Nagarath’s minimal use of magic isn’t a waste. She almost allows her prejudiced idea that magic should be grandios to cloud the important lesson she learns about living simply, living for love and not power. As she grows through her relationship with Nagareth, she learns what magic should truly be.

The evolving bond between Liara and Nagareth is a beautiful story. Only nine years Liara’s senior, Nagareth sees Liara as child in the beginning, but over the novel’s development, he begins to see Liara as a true companion. The joy she brings to his life, the peace she makes him feel, even the annoying insistence that she teach him become invaluable to the lonely wizard.

He wants to make sure she has a life of stability, not fear. As he opens himself up more and more, he becomes her friend. He realizes she has given him more than he has returned and relents in his promise not to teach her. Nagareth grows as much as his precious ward.

The magic of this fantastical history will charm the reader and leave them wanting more.

This review was written for Chanticleer Reviews.

Book Review: The House at Ladywell by Nicola Slade

A surprise bequest, a cryptic benediction, and a box of letters–Freya Gibson is in the middle of a life-changing mystery. As the personal assistant to successful novelist Patrick Underwood, Freya never takes a vacation. She believes herself content to be surrounded by the hustle and bustle of London, keeping Patrick on track and reigning in her newly discovered and completely uncertain feelings for her boss. When Freya is given a house by a distant relative she has never met, she isn’t sure how to handle it, and with a clause preventing her from immediately selling the relic, Freya has no choice but to visit the home, still fairly certain she will rid herself of the property-that is until she sets foot in the ancient home in Ramalley. With Patrick gone on a business trip to the US, Freya decides to spend a week getting to know her new home and the village nearby. She quickly decides she wants to keep the enigmatic house with the enormous stone mantle, former church windows, and hand-carved hares, but as she falls in love with the house, she uncovers evidence that Violet, her cousin and the former owner, knew a great deal more about Freya than Freya knows about herself. With each step closer to her truth, the house seems to draw her closer in a protective grip and maybe give her a chance at a new future. 

In this frame story, the real gem is the historical background for the house and well. Lovers of history will relish the retelling of so many stories from various time periods that all shaped and were shaped by the area. From an adolescent Roman deserter to a broken-hearted WWI soldier, the stories not only show the residents of the area but also the tapestry of England at each telling. Through centuries of time, the well at Ladywell drew the sick, the needy, and those looking to begin again, and just like the modern protagonist, each time it brought renewal and hope. Freya’s story usually shadows the scattered historical episodes that often explain some aspect of the house or village. Through the historical details and period dialogue, the short excerpts are just as rich as the main plot. 

Reinvention and rebuilding are major components of both Freya’s and the house’s story. Damaged by an abusive relationship and the death of both of her parents, Freya discovers as much about herself as she does about Ladywell through her investigation of her new home. While searching through her cousin’s belongings, she finds more questions than answers, and she must search deep within herself to find the strength to pursue the truth of her parentage as well as the means by which her birth was arranged. As she muddles through her sense of wonder and disbelief, she learns to lean more on the support of Patrick, who needs Freya as much as she needs him. Just like the house, their love is both new and comfortably worn. She comes to grip with the need to reconcile her past, embracing the stony parts, and learning from it, just like the history of all those at Ladywell. She finds solace and strength in the worn floors and crumbling ceilings and allows the healing “waters” of the well to wash her clean. In restoring “the balance” of her home, she restores the balance in her own life.

This review was written for Chanticleer Reviews.

Book Review: Wissahickon Souls by PJ Devlin

Claire Penniman, a free black living near Philadelphia in the early 1800s,  is only six years old when she is indentured to Raymond and Anna Williams, white landowners who have known her family for many years. Elizabeth and Moses, Claire’s parents, have already indentured their older son Samuel to the Williams in hopes that both of their children will learn invaluable life skills as well as reading, writing, and arithmetic in exchange for working the land and tending the animals. Wissahickon Farm quickly becomes a part of who Claire is, and she easily befriends five-year-old Lawrence, the youngest son of Anna and Raymond. As Claire and Lawrence grow so does their bond, creating an uneasy relationship between Claire and Anna who sees the danger with her son becoming too attached to a black girl. Near the end of her twelve-year indenture, Claire and Lawrence run away to Haiti to begin a life together in a country where they believe their races won’t matter, but they quickly learn they can’t escape prejudice, and their love may not be stronger than fear. 

Set in time when trains are new and steamboats rule, Wissahickon Souls spans thirty years in the life of Claire Penniman. She grows from an impetuous, daring little girl to a strong, independent woman. Claire’s journey, both physically and mentally, showcases the trials of African Americans in the 1800s. Though Claire’s family has a long history as free blacks living in a Northern city, they are far from free. Prejudice lurks around every bend and dark alley in Germantown and Philadelphia, and the Penniman family keeps a dangerous secret–the family “business.” For decades, the family has helped runaway slaves seeking asylum and has delivered hundreds of “packages” farther north, even giving permanent refuge to some. This episodic tale shows numerous examples of the risks this family endures, and though the Penniman’s are fictional characters, it is not hard to see the real dangers evident in their exploits and to appreciate the courage of those who did provide safe havens for all those runaways.
A theme of monumental importance within the novel revolves around sewing. Claire’s sewing literally becomes the tie that binds. Claire is taught her craft by her mother and grandmother, just as she learns the skill of helping slaves to freedom. She uses her ability to both heal the injured and protect her family from the harsh world. As an adult, her needlework becomes a means of feeding her children and bonding her to strangers who become vitally important within the novel’s tight fabric. Repeatedly, she is called upon for her talent and earns hardwon respect for it. 

The idea of love’s boundaries is clear in this Romeo and Juliet tragedy. From vicious white men to a raging flash flood, Lawrence repeatedly saves Claire but is unable for years to stand beside her in public. As children, Lawrence doesn’t see Claire’s race until others force him to see it then he is unable to reconcile himself to the difficulty of their life together. Even after running to Haiti, the land of free blacks, the couple is torn apart by race. They seemingly can’t completely love each other anywhere, often not even in their own hearts, and though the doomed couple is most obviously an example of this theme, it is perhaps more poignant between Claire and Anna. 

Anna, Lawrence’s mother, fears Claire’s influence from the beginning. She has seen how the world treats race and, to a certain extent, does nothing to change it until it is almost too late. She wastes many years believing Claire unworthy of her white son and nearly loses everything before learning that character is built upon more substance than color.

Claire’s sprawling, twisting journey from rescuer to runaway to redeemer will transport the reader on an intense trip through history.

This review was written for Chanticleer Reviews.

Book Review: Persuading Lucy by Tammy Mannersly

Lucy Spencer has everything, a successful career in advertising, good friends, and a quiet life. For fourteen years, she’s pushed aside her feelings for a childhood friend, Callum Hawthorne, and become a strong, independent woman, burying her hurt over his betrayal and creating her own life free of the drama of Cal’s womanizing ways–that is until he saunters back into her life.

Callum Hawthorne only wants one thing, to reconnect with his former best friend, Lucy. Cal has done everything he can think of to worm his way back into his Lucy’s life even enlisting the help of one of their mutual friends, but he can’t get Lucy to agree to meet him. With no idea what he did to create the rift between them, Cal doesn’t know how to make amends, but he does know one thing for sure: His life will never be complete without Lucy.

When his father’s first acquisition, a failing resort on the Gold Coast, is threatened, Cal hires Insight Marketing to help him save the crippled business. Lucy has no idea who the new, ultra-rich client is until she sees Callum. With no choice but to do the job she was hired to do, Lucy must find a way to put aside her old hurt and work with Cal, who hopes his high school crush can evolve into a grown-up relationship.

Friendship is an endearing theme in this well-written, fast-paced novel. It exists in every form, long-time friends, new friends, the kind of friends who will help drown your sorrows in wine, and the kind who will literally and figuratively rescue you from yourself. Lucy’s friends often ride to her defense. From Madison’s refusal to divulge Lucy’s whereabouts to Mia and Steph showing up at her door, pizza and booze in hand. Lucy’s female friends make a strong nexus, but the entire premise is based upon the friendship of Lucy and Cal, a lasting friendship that holds both love and hate.

Cal is the typical hot, rich protagonist (yes this is a familiar trope), but his friendship with Lucy sets him apart from the norm. He realizes quickly that he must win her back through that friendship. In order to win her, he must set aside the fiery passion he feels every time they are together and re-establish their friendship. He vows to gain her friendship, then her love, a love for which he’s pined most of his life. In fact, his surface philandering began as his way to preserve their friendship, fearing that admitting his feelings in high school would push her away.

Lucy quickly realizes she can’t just give up on Cal’s friendship again. He was once her closest confidant and letting that go proved to be a huge mistake. Nearly every happy memory she has includes the delectable Cal, and her traitorous heart refuses to release him without trying to be what they once were (and maybe more). They both have to take a headlong plunge into something that could prove heart wrenching and disastrous, but isn’t that the duality of this crazy emotion called love? The ability to heal and kill all in one. With only one month to save their childhood memories and to resurrect a dead friendship, Cal and Lucy will take the reader on a face-paced, romantic adventure.

Persuading Lucy won 1st Place in the 2018 CIBA in the Chatelaine Awards for Contemporary Romance.

This review was written for Chanticleer Reviews.

Book Review: Nowever by Kristina Bak

At 16, Stevie Wales suddenly blossoms. Seemingly overnight, “Stevie the Mouse” disappears, and in her place stands a tall, beautiful girl, too beautiful in the eyes of her best friend the ultra-popular Winter. After Stevie snaps and attacks Winter, Stevie is shunned by many of the fickle teens in her Puget Sound island community, so she decides to become what she believes they all see anyway–the weird girl. As her oddity status rises, so does her anger, but when she is forced into a therapy program that includes working on a horse ranch, Stevie discovers her unusual ability to take away pain sensations in both animals and humans. Beginning to feel needed, Stevie seems to be on a positive path when she is seriously injured by one of the horses. Her life becomes a twisted version of an already blurry existence as she struggles to find “normal” again. In an attempt to find her true self, Stevie goes on an incredible journey to find her father, a man the world believes dead. She convinces her mother and therapist that she needs to go to Australia, the place where the wreckage of her father’s boat washed ashore. Her search takes her physically to a strange continent, and though this exploration becomes much, much more, she may find a truth she isn’t ready to accept.

Despite being set in a not-so-distant future, Stevie’s teenage world isn’t so different from now. Mean girls are still mean girls, and the smart, shy Stevie doesn’t feel like she belongs. So many teenagers, both male and female, can relate to Stevie’s (partially  self-imposed) alienation. Her artistic talents and her empathy for others are endearing traits that help bring Stevie to a culminating awareness. Both of these bring Stevie full-circle to find her own version of normal, her definition not the world’s. Seeing Stevie evolve into a confident young woman through her own efforts is inspirational and a lesson that adolescents–and some adults–need.

Though Stevie’s paranormal gift isn’t a major part of the novel, the gift symbolizes the noble need to help others. While Stevie can literally take away the pain of others, most people could figuratively do the same by sharing in the pain of others and trying to understand what someone is experiencing. Stevie can’t deny her ability even though she repeatedly tries to ignore it. When she stops her denial, she not only helps other characters, but she heals herself. This lesson isn’t lost on the all-about-the-self society of today. If only everyone could recognize suffering and try to eliminate it, this world could be a much better place.

One of the most engaging parts of the novel is Stevie’s time in Australia. This exotic, culturally diverse continent becomes a character unto itself, drawing Stevie into the adventure of a lifetime while giving her the closure she desperately needs. Pulled into the mysterious murder of a boy she meets, Stevie encounters others who inspire and help her find the man she once called father, and she learns true contentment by helping the family of the dead boy all while searching for own history. Ironically, in the midst of death, she finds life as she navigates a land as wild as her emotions.

This journey into self-awareness offers multiple stories in one. From a murder mystery in an alluring land to a revelation with a supernatural catalyst, Nowever will keep readers twisting and turning till the end.  

This review was written for Chanticleer Reviews.

Book Review: La Luministe by Paula Butterfield

Berthe Morisot knows from a young age that she is destined to be an artist, but living in eighteenth-century France severely limits her path. As a girl, she longs for the education any male artist would receive, and though her parents support her dream at first, Berthe isn’t even allowed to view some of the great works deemed unsuitable for females. Before long, she realizes she is uninterested in being any man’s student, wanting instead to explore her own style, painting the world of a modern woman–a real, intimate representation, not the perfection shown by most male artists. When her sister Edma, who originally paints with Berthe, marries and becomes the picture of femininity, Berthe feels the societal pressure to give up her painting and choose a husband. The one man she feels any connection to, fellow artist Edouard Manet, is a controversial rogue, and although she knows he feels it, too, he marries another. However, the two cannot break free of their would-be love, and when Berthe decides to model for Edouard, she is more tantalized than ever. As her fascination becomes obsession, Berthe will be forced to choose between her desire to be a respected artist or the fallen lover of a scoundrel. It will take a revolution for Berthe to have either.

This first-person fictionalized autobiography littered with famous Impressionists is the  story of a woman’s love affair of both art and a man. In discovering her style, she finds a love she didn’t want and often questions the sanity (and more importantly) the healthiness of that love. As though her struggle to be an independent artist in a world of oppression isn’t already enough, Berthe knows she should dislike, maybe even despise, Edouard but is drawn to the proverbial flame. Unable to have him but unwilling to give him up creates clashing needs: becoming an independent woman but still tangled in what is proper and expected. On top of her obsession for him, she is torn between admiration and envy a this man who often feels as much repression as Berthe and wonders which she’ll lose first, her determination to paint or her societal constraints.

A modern woman trapped in the nineteenth century, Berthe embodies the female struggle. Limited in infinite ways by societal views on women, she navigates a world of male domination in life as well as art, evolving much more quickly than her beloved Paris. If she marries, she wrestles with whether she is giving in or growing up, but as she matures in both art and life, she becomes angry with herself for her single-minded obsession of Manet and decides he is “not worthy of the woman [she would] become,” a woman (like so many modern women) who will find a way to have both a ground-breaking career and a family. As the list of prohibitions rises, so does her determination, and though her fight is for the individual woman (herself) it transcends that.

Just like Berthe Morisot’s paintings, La Luministe shows a real woman, a woman with hopes and dreams that outreach her environment. Just as Paris was thrust into revolution, Berthe set herself free in a bloody battle of change. This novel will show readers the beauty and struggle of both the artist and the female spirit.

This review was written for Chanticleer Reviews.

Book Review: Magic of the Pentacle by Diane Wylie

Richard Blackstone, aka The Mesmerist, is a successful magician working in San Francisco, but in the city of millions, he is truly alone because Richard has a secret. He is immortal. Centuries ago as a medieval knight in King Edward’s service, Richard’s life changed when he met a traveling magician and stole an enchanted amulet granting him immortality, magical abilities, and the power to sense others’ emotions, but magic comes with a price. After an enemy kills his wife and sons, he sees how miserable his long existence will be and gradually becomes determined to never love again rather than feel the heartbreak of loss, but following on overnight stay in a psychiatric hospital for an incidence in a bar, Richard meets a woman who challenges his long-held beliefs. What began as a bargain to help a patient becomes so much more for Dr. Juliana Nelson. After agreeing to attend one of Richard’s magic shows, Juliana can’t keep her mind or her hands off the sexy magician who is as mysterious as his magic show, but when she his learns secret, she is uncertain whether she can believe the tale. If it is untrue, Richard should be committed, but if she allows herself to believe it, she should be committed. If he is immortal, Julianna will inevitably be forced to give him up, and she is left to wonder if love can conquer time.

One strength of the novel is the paradoxical irony of Richard and Juliana’s relationship. After spending five hundred lonely years, he has now found his love redemption with Juliana, but in order to fully immerse himself, he must give up love as well, the family he watched die in the fifteenth century. If Richard ever wants to find happiness in his present life, he has to free himself from his past life, and Juliana is the key to his freedom. In a beautiful quest with his lady love by his side, Richard must face literal and figurative trials to release not only himself but also his suffering family. He learns the ever-powerful lesson of letting go, letting go of his love and his guilt. In addition to this emotional baggage, the couple also faces the issue of whether or not the joy of their current love can balance the future pain of loss. Because Richard is immortal, he will be forced to watch Juliana age and die. In facing her mortality, he questions his immortality and whether he can again give up love in exchange for finite happiness. Juliana also wonders if she can love a man who will be forever young and healthy while she drowns in the possibility that she will develop the same mental illness that her mother and grandmother have. She doesn’t know if she can saddle her magic man with what she fears she will become, but their love proves to be stronger than life AND death.

A mixture of romance, the paranormal, and historical fiction, this novel is has something for everyone. Romance lovers get their literal knight in shining armor. History fans will get to experience a fifteenth-century battle in a video game style quest, and paranormal buffs will love the power of the amulet.

This review was written for Chanticleer Reviews.