Review: Noble Secrets


29626967Title:
 Noble Secrets
Author: Cecilia Dominic
Publisher: AIBHS
Release Date: March 2016
Length: 122 pages
Series?: Aether Psychics #.5
Genre: Historical Steampunk

Find the book: Goodreads |Amazon

A dangerous man from her past.
A handsome duke in her present.
Secrets that threaten their future.

After tragedy hits and danger moves in, Pauline Donahue flees London, searching for sanctuary and a way to start over. A job at a small university provides the escape she needs. Keeping recalcitrant professor Edward Bailey on task after a shattered heart renders him broken and destroyed becomes her daily routine. But when the same vicious man from her past sets his malicious sights on Pauline, her safe haven comes crashing down.

Duke of Waltham, Christopher Bailey, never counted on the gentle commoner, Miss Donahue, to save his brother–and himself–from broken pasts and a lifetime of mistakes. But she does just that. As their love blossoms, danger closes in, threatening Pauline and Christopher’s lives. Together, they are forced to face their biggest fears, revealing secrets that could ruin them both.

 

REVIEW

The Skinny

This is the prequel to the series and starts in 1862. Pauline is simply a secretary – who wants to learn, something taboo – and winds up being hired by the Duke (and ultimately his mother) to watch over the Duke’s brother, Edward, after suffering a devastating end to his engagement. They are concerned with his “mental welfare.” Since this is the beginning of Edward’s work with the aether project for the university, they are very interested in it being completed, so they agree to allow Pauline to change roles and act as Edward’s personal assistant.

Meanwhile, Christopher does not agree to his mother’s meddling in his marriage – or lack thereof. A ball to host all of the most eligible ladies of the land will be thrown, and as the date draws nearer, Christopher finds every means of escaping it. Even if that means checking in more frequently on his brother and his pretty secretary.

Pauline is working her tush off to pay for her accommodations at a boarding house, a place where she is safe from the goon who attacked her. Previously she worked as a maid to the prostitutes in another town, another place, another life. This is also the place where her mother entertained and eventually lost her life “at the hands of a jealous man.” After that, she ran away.

But there have been murders – of women very much resembling Pauline. And now someone is looking for her…

The Players

Pauline – a young woman on the run from her past

Edward – a young professor working in an entirely new department, recently heartbroken and not faring well

Christopher – Edward’s older brother, the Duke; he hires Pauline to look after Edward while

Johann – Edward’s friend, a violinist at the university

Duchess – a stronghold of a woman in a fragile state of health; insists on Christopher marrying  (and encouraged by the housekeeper on this topic)

Horace – Christopher’s townhouse butler, very opposed to Pauline’s presence in the Duke’s life

Inspector Davidson – a London detective investigating Pauline’s mother’s murder

The Quote

If only her mother’s murderer hadn’t been wearing a mask. He had been someone important, and the madam had humored his desire to keep is identity obscured. He had visited her for months, and rumors swirled around him, some that he was the crown prince himself.

Either way, it was the same. Wed or bed, women didn’t see him, only his title.

The Highs and Lows

  • Pauline. Poor Pauline has been running ever since that fateful night when she lost her mother. Little did she know she’d wind up in the best and the worst of situations. Hovington is a good enough place, small but still has a constant flow of people due to the university. She’s hired on and then given special duties to watch over the Duke of Waltham’s younger brother, aiding him along in his project work for the university. However, the life she’s lived she can’t outrun. Although she’s avoided the murderer these few years, she can’t outrun him forever. Now there is someone around circulating flyers looking for her. Her land lady puts her in a terribly bad position – spiked rent or a sure bet the madman will find her.
  • Social Station. Given the era, the social standing of the Christopher and Pauline play a very big part in the book. While the Duchess is pushing him to marry, he can’t just marry anyone. He must, of course, marry someone of his station. And it is getting more convoluted for him trying to discern the truth of Pauline’s background. While she claims to be from the city, small things continually indicated that she is from the lower class. Due to the mystery surrounding her heritage, Christopher makes some inquiries. It’s not entirely impossible for noblemen to marry commoners, as long as they come from reputable families.
  • The Strange Neighbor. After hiring Pauline to act as Edward’s babysitter, a strange man moves in next door to Christopher’s townhouse. Christopher thought it still under renovation, and nothing is known of this new neighbor. Indeed, it’s rumored he is of the peerage, but that is all. Christopher, though, takes an odd interest in the odd neighbor who is keen on sticking to the shadows and hiding in the alley, avoiding Inspector Davidson.
  • The Duchess. She surprised me. Although she is pushing strongly for Christopher to marry, when he reveals what little he’s learned of Pauline, he is shocked by his mother’s suggestion. Other arrangements could be made, as he is very taken with Pauline, just as his father was taken with another. His mother seemed so stodgy and pretentious, I never expected to see that coming.
  • Edward. He is so oblivious to anything besides his work. Unless, of course, you count that stupid Lily who crushed him. While danger is afoot and tension runs high for both Christopher, his mother, and Pauline, Edward is just happy as a clam once his work shows progress.
  • The Twist. There is twist so unexpected that I had to really work to piece things together properly. It explains all the reasons why Pauline can’t answer any of Inspector Davidson’s questions about her family when he inquires. Who doesn’t know if their parents were even married? Pauline. The Duchess once made the comment that Pauline looked familiar, and it all wraps up nicely with the twist. Of course, involving the killer.

The Take-Away

I loved Pauline’s attitude throughout the book. She is bent on making a little niche for herself and staying afloat while outrunning her mother’s killer. There are a few moments with both Christopher and Edward that she has to be strong and firm – in different respects – as well as with the Duchess and Horace. I don’t think I would be as kind or thoughtful if a killer was after me. I mean, it’s only a matter of time and she already suspects someone nearby. I would be on high alert.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

Borrow. This installment isn’t intregal to the series, but it does explain Christopher’s ties to the storyline, as well as the beginning of Edward’s aether work.

 

About the Author

Anne_Bartolucci_20150819_0200Tsep-ZF-6324-63043-1-004-300x200Cecilia Dominic wrote her first story when she was two years old and has always had a much more interesting life inside her head than outside of it. She became a clinical psychologist because she’s fascinated by people and their stories, but she couldn’t stop writing fiction. The first draft of her dissertation, while not fiction, was still criticized by her major professor for being written in too entertaining a style. She made it through graduate school and got her PhD, started her own practice, and by day, she helps people cure their insomnia without using medication. By night, she blogs about wine and writes fiction she hopes will keep her readers turning the pages all night. Yes, she recognizes the conflict of interest between her two careers, so she writes and blogs under a pen name.  She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with one husband and two cats, which, she’s been told, is a good number of each. She also enjoys putting her psychological expertise to good use helping other authors through her Characters on the Couch blog post series.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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Review + Giveaway: 27 Days to Midnight

27DaysToMidnight_Banner1

29413642Title: 27 Days to Midnight
Author: Kristine Kuppa
Publisher: Giant Squid Books
Release Date: May 2016
Length: 287 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Steampunk

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

Everyone in Dahlia’s world knows when they’re going to die. Except her.

Her father has never shown her the pocket watch counting down the days she has left to live. When he sacrifices himself to save her from her scheduled death, Dahlia abandons her comfortable home and sets off after his murderer to uncover the secrets her father died to protect…and the time research that could bring him back to life.

Then she meets Farren Reed. She should hate him. He’s an enemy soldier, a cowardly deserter, and the most insufferable man Dahlia’s ever met. Still, she needs all the help she can get, and Farren is the only chance she has to find the man who murdered her father. But Farren has only twenty-seven days left on his watch.

In that time, Dahlia must recover her father’s time research, foil a psychotic general’s plot, and learn to survive in a world that will never be the same. But the research holds secrets more dangerous than she had ever imagined. She will have to choose what is most important: revenge, Farren’s life, or her own. And time is running out.

 

REVIEW

The Skinny

Everyone in this world knows when they are going to die, and they live by strict rules according to their watch. They know when they are going to die. Dahlia’s father is a clockwork master. He can repair damaged watches and is known for his work. He’s been running, though, both from Dahlia’s watch and from Sebastian Macall. His time research is the key to it all…but Sebastian destroys Sainsbury.

Too bad he didn’t destroy Dahlia Walker. Or airman Farren Reed, whom he pushed from a flier and left to die – something he’s known for, people disappearing around him. And they’re coming back for justice.

The Players

Dahlia Walker – daughter of a famous clockwork master, she is saved and on a mission to take back what Macall stole

Ansel Walker – Dahlia’s master clockwork father

Sebastian Macall – an Anglian general of the Imperial Might, known for his nasty and deadly combat skills, many avoid him

Farren Reed – airman on Imperial Might, he has a major bone to pick with Macall

Keet Hawkins – an airship pilot bounty hunter out for Dahlia, married to Tiberius

Tiberius – Keet’s cyborg husband, a former surgeon

Harper – a friend of Farren’s

The Quotes

People could not die by natural means before their time. A serious injury could still kill, but a person couldn’t receive such an injury until their watch ran dry. If they faced a runaway carriage, they would manage to leap aside. If htey were trapped in a burning house, they would somehow struggle free. Survival was assured.

But watches and their owners were linked – if a person hurt their body, their watch suffered damage. If their watch was broken, injuries appeared on their body. And if a watch stopped working completely…so did its owner. Repairing watched while they still functioned was a delicate science, and her papa was a master of it.

 

“Hey,” Keet rotated her chair to face him. “You know, I think Dahlia likes you.”

Farren’s stomach lurched, nearly spewing his precious vodka all over the windshield. He clamped his mouth shut against it.

“L – likes me?” he choked.

“Yup, I can tell. Call it womanly intuition.” Keet’s smile grew as she watched his discomfort. “And you’re clearly into her, so why don’t you…you know? Make a move?”

“You don’t understand,” said Ferran. “Dahlia isn’t like that – she – she’d never want anything to do with me.”

Saying it made him feel heavy, but he knew it was true. Keet wordlessly examined him for a few moments, thinking, sparing the occasional glance for the clear sku up ahead. Her gaze made his cheeks burn.

This is stupid.

“Kinda easy to see why she doesn’t want to be with you,” Keet said, serious. “Women hate drunks.”

The Highs and Lows

  • Heightened Situations. Dahlia’s country, Delmar, is at war with Anglia. Although she lives in Sainsbury and it’s not the capital, it is a populous city…and where the clockwork master resides. This conflict sets off a chain of events and develops the plot of the story. Once Macall has what he needs, he returns to Port Argun (the capital of Anglia). Meanwhile, bounty hunters are sent after Dahlia for her knowledge.
  • A Touch of Fairy Tale. Dahlia (and Farren) go on a journey, and when they first meet and embark, I thought it very fitting that Dahlia’s father made sure she knew the Pathfinder Star, that it was set in the north, and if she ever got lost to follow that star.
  • Dahlia’s 18th Birthday. It is significant in many ways: it is the coming-of-age for her and it is also the day of her death. Until her father uses his time research to save her – and send her on a mission. Before his death, he recorded tapes for her, directing her where she can find the mystical source to transfer time. Promethium in caves.
  • The Mystery of Sita. She is Dahlia’s mother, and Macall knew her at some point. He is haunted by her, and yet Ansel and she discovered the promethium together. The mystery of how Sita fits into this puzzle of Dahlia and Macall – and revealing another facet of his motivations – had to be gleaned throughout the book. Eventually Ansel reveals Macall’s obsession with Sita in the third tape – and what a story it is! And it makes it that much more vital that Dahlia get back all of her father’s research.
  • The Research. Ansel’s research – conducted alongside Sita – was developed over time and merged between cultures and how they both viewed and researched time. Together, they discover two capabilities – both deadly in the wrong hands, and one capable of serious consequences.
  • The Fighting. High stakes! I found on two different occasions that my own heart was racing. That’s how strongly I fell into the story, wrapped up in the characters and their lives. It was intense.
  • Vivid Detail. The descriptions and detail were so well-crafted, giving a glimmer of their world with crystal clarity. There was nothing that confused me about their world, how things worked, or Ansel’s research – it was all explained well and woven into the story and plot so well.

The Take-Away

I read this book in one sitting. With the busyness I have this year, that’s unheard of, but I just could not put this down.

It struck me that Farren had 27 days left on his watch. Twenty-seven days and thirty eight minutes. What would I do if I knew for a fact that I had 27 days left to live, and there was no changing it? That’s a lot to think on.

I also really like Dahlia’s first scenes with Tiberius – fixing his watch and especially cooking together. How do you know how much? Just know, stir. Cracked me up!

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

BUY. IT. NOW.

And thank me later. 🙂

 

About the Author

KristineKruppaAuthor Photo_credit Sunny Wong,Kristine Kruppa is a mechanical engineer, writer, and world traveler. Her days are spent designing cool new car parts, but her evenings are filled with writing and cats. She has traveled solo to seventeen countries on five continents. Her other hobbies include hunting for the perfect cup of coffee, exploring used book stores, and accidentally climbing mountains. To keep up with her adventures, follow Kristine on Twitter @kskruppa.

 

Giveaway

One (1) winner receives a hardback copy of the book (US only)

Three (3) winners receive a digital copy (INT)

One (1) winner recieves a $10 amazon gift card (INT)

Ends 6/1

Prizing is provided by the publisher, hosts are not responsible. Must be 13 or older to enter and parental permission if under 17. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary to win.

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

This event was organized by CBB Book Promotions.

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Review + Giveaway: Aether Spirit

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AetherSpirit300-200x300Title: Aether Spirit
Author: Cecilia Dominic
Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
Release Date: May 2016
Length: 234 pages
Series?: Aether Psychics #3
Genre: Historical Steampunk

Find the book: Goodreads |Amazon

When Chadwick Radcliffe arrives at Fort Daniels to assume the position of medical chief, the prejudice against his mixed heritage is no surprise. But he never expected to encounter the one woman who’s beyond his reach—medically and emotionally.

A steamcart accident stole three years of Claire McPhee’s memories, and now as she helps soldiers cope with combat-related neuroses, she secretly hopes to find the key to filling that gaping hole.

There’s something vaguely familiar about Dr. Radcliffe, but every time she comes close to determining why, he pushes her away—and her hypnosis-induced memory blocks explode with pain.

Chadwick knows the Eros Element can heal, but its unintended side effects are too dangerous to risk using it to bring Claire’s memories out of the shadows. But with the key to the Union’s victory buried in Claire’s mind, Chadwick and Claire are forced to push past the boundaries others have placed on them—even if rediscovering their love risks their lives.

Warning: Vast amounts of Victorian mental health geekery and copious amounts of tea were poured into the writing of his book. No matter how pretty the aether is, the author cautions readers not to try using it to manipulate others’ emotions. The side effects could be atrocious.

REVIEW

The Skinny

Chadwick Radcliffe is the head of the hospital, essentially. As a black man in the American South during the Civil War – a war revolving around slavery – Chadwick doesn’t get any breaks. He is a bit of a broken man, having lost his fiance to a terrible accident several years ago. The thing is, she is still alive and well, but Claire’s memories of the steamcart accident claimed several years of her life and health. She is now stationed at his hospital to work with soldiers coping with combat-related neuroses. She doesn’t remember Chadwick, but he and his pal Patrick surely remember her, and they can’t let on that they knew her in a former life. Claire is gradually aware that things seem familiar, but the blocks in her hypnosis-induced memory keep things at bay or cause excruciating pain.

Chadwick does not want to pain Claire further, but she might be the key to solving more than one issue. The Eros Element has been shown to heal before, but the risk is great.

The Players

Chadwick Radcliffe – an African American doctor in charge of Distillery Hospital; he is Claire’s former fiancé; working with Patrick on his aether project

Patrick O’Connell – an Irishman in charge of a new weaponry project for the U.S. military involving the eros element, aether

Claire McPhee – a (white) doctor who has been assigned to Distillery Hospital to practice mental health medicine so soldiers can be sent back to the battlefront; she has recently recovered from traumatic events and is fragile; can interpret and feel things about others

Nanette – the head nurse at Distillery; she greatly loves Chadwick and resolutely hates Claire

Mrs. Soper – the housekeeper for the General’s House; she befriends Claire and takes her in like her own

Major Longchamp – the major in charge at the base; he is friends with Mrs. Soper and befriends Claire

Gregory Perkins – a white doctor put out that he was overlooked for a promotion; he is lewd and believes in amputation

Bryce McPhee – Claire’s cousin; a patient at Distillery

The Quote

“What is it? You can’t die. I need someone to help me, but they need to be alive.”

“Help you with what?”

“I’m not sure. Something happened before the attack, and it has something to do with why you can see me when no one could before you got here. Except for Mrs. Soper.”

The Highs and Lows

  • An Oddity. When I started reading this installment in the series, I realized it was a little different than the others. In the first and second books, a female character and her love interest – tied to the aether, of course – were the focus of the book. The female character in the second book had appeared in the first book and been a major supporting character. That’s not the case at all in this third book, which I found a little odd. When I started reading I kept thinking there was something off, and that’s why. The first two books also started with the opening in the POV of those female characters.
  • The Location and Setting. The book is set at Fort Daniels, Tennessee in 1871. This is toward the conclusion of the Civil War in the States, but things are still raging strong at this point. This is important to note because the book is set in the South, which was fighting for slavery and states rights, and Chadwick is a black doctor in charge of this base hospital. There are even patients who refuse to be under his care. As the book progresses, Claire does have flashbacks to other places within the last few years.
  • The Ghost of the General. It is rumored that the women’s quarters at the base are haunted. When Claire arrives at the General’s House for alternative sleeping arrangements, she encounters the ghostly form of the General’s daughter, who died a few years prior to “the consumption.” Emma ends up saving Claire from a disastrous outcome, and later follows her to the black quarters. She keeps saying she needs to do something before she is at peace. And then there’s this whole other aspect of ghosts and weird things going on. I’m still not sure what that was about.
  • Patrick. Once again, Patrick is an outstanding friend to both Chadwick and Claire. He’s just a great guy and I loved that he tagged along with Chadwick back to the States. Although he is struggling with the aether, he wants to create a weapon that will end the war.
  • Nanette. She is the head nurse and works heavily with Chadwick, but she is a nasty snake of a woman. She’s really good with the patients, but she is a horrible person.
  • Claire. She is very fragile and has undergone extensive psychotherapy – in what form, it is unclear, but her cousin Bryce reveals that he will not speak with Chadwick about what his mother and her mother did to her following the accident, so it’s not good. Throughout the book, Claire mentions a doctor in Europe putting “blocks” on her (her memory) and she does not remember hardly anything of her life before. When she encounters something of her life before (Chadwick, Bryce, familiar comments or words) it triggers horrendous headaches and sometimes fainting. She continues to have dreams and nightmares about her past, and a little bit more is revealed each time. Although some things are revealed about the accident through Chadwick and Patrick, nothing is known of Claire’s “care” after the accident. It was very frustrating trying to figure out the references Chadwick would make, not knowing what had happened, and the fact that Claire herself didn’t even know what had happened to her.
  • A Spy in the Ranks. After a time, there were a couple of comments from various characters to indicate that someone working inside the base was a traitor, working for the Confederacy. A double agent. I knew immediately who it was, but it turns out that there was more than one culprit.

The Take-Away

I liked the care with which everyone, ahem, OK, Chadwick, Patrick, Lacey, Mrs. Soper and Major Longchamp treated Claire. She was very delicate and fragile, despite being sent to the front lines of a brutal Civil War. Despite her challenges, they all pitched in to take care of Claire and keep her with them.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

Borrow! I’m not sure if this is the final book in the series – I hope not, I hope Patrick gets his girl!

 

About the Author

Anne_Bartolucci_20150819_0200Tsep-ZF-6324-63043-1-004-300x200Cecilia Dominic wrote her first story when she was two years old and has always had a much more interesting life inside her head than outside of it. She became a clinical psychologist because she’s fascinated by people and their stories, but she couldn’t stop writing fiction. The first draft of her dissertation, while not fiction, was still criticized by her major professor for being written in too entertaining a style. She made it through graduate school and got her PhD, started her own practice, and by day, she helps people cure their insomnia without using medication. By night, she blogs about wine and writes fiction she hopes will keep her readers turning the pages all night. Yes, she recognizes the conflict of interest between her two careers, so she writes and blogs under a pen name.  She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with one husband and two cats, which, she’s been told, is a good number of each. She also enjoys putting her psychological expertise to good use helping other authors through her Characters on the Couch blog post series.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

Giveaway

$10 gift card to Amazon or B&N (INT)

Ends 5/30

Prizing is provided by the author, hosts are not responsible. Must be 13 or older to enter and have parental permission if under 17. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary to win.

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Review + Giveaway: Light Fantastique

Welcome to my tour stop for the Aether Psychics Series by Cecilia Dominic! The tour runs December 14-18 with reviews of both Eros Element and Light Fantastique.  This is a New Adult Steampunk with a sweet romance (not graphic). The book is available in ebook formats worldwide.

Earlier this week I reviewed the first book in the series, Eros Element, and today I am reviewing the second book, Light Fantastique. You can read my review of the first book here.


Title:
 Light Fantastique
Author: Cecilia Dominic
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Release Date: December 2015
Length: 301 pages
Series?: Aether Psychics #2
Genre: Historical Steampunk

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

At the Théâtre Bohème, danger decides who takes the final curtain call.

Hailed as the most talented actress of her generation, Marie St. Jean has something more to her ability than mere talent. She loses a bit of her soul to each role. When the ghostly spirit of the theatre promises her an easy fix, she’s tempted by the chance to finally live a normal life.

Unfortunately, the man she’s drawn to is the last one to settle for normal. But with the Prussians surrounding Paris, there’s no escaping that temptation, either.

Violinist Johann Bledsoe thought he’d left his disgrace in England, but a murder outside the Théâtre Bohème makes him wonder if he’s been exposed. Another reason not to stick around once the siege ends, even if Marie fascinates him.

More murders, steam-powered ravens, and past and present secrets bring them closer to discovering just what lurks within the theatre, and who threatens from without. The only way to save themselves is to reveal their darkest shames—and use the Eros Element in a way that has already driven one man to the brink of madness.

 

***** Review *****

The Skinny

The convoy of Professor Bailey, his friend the Maestro Bledsoe, archaeologist Iris McTavish and her “maid” Marie St. Jean, along with their companions Dr. Radcliffe and Patrick O’Connell, have all returned to Paris to the theater Marie’s mother owns and runs. Of course, they return to Paris battered from their experiences in Rome, and are trying to recover from that incident while staying off of the radar of Parnabay Cobb and The Clockwork Guild, to whom Bledsoe owes a debt. Lucille St. Jean holds over the entire group of vagabonds that they are staying in her theatre free, so they are all contributing in various ways to keep her happy. Chief among their contributions is Professor Bailey’s work with the new Eros Element to produce gas lighting for the theatre. The more the element is studied and used, the more unusual things happen. Deadly things.

This second installment in the series focuses heavily on Marie, who is Fantastique in the play, and for which she is known by in Paris.

 

The Players

  • Professor Edward Bailey – a neuoritic professor who is suffering from his own guilt about what occurred in Rome; he is dedicated to making the aether and Eros Element work in the Théâtre Bohème; he is very good friends with Bledsoe and is semi-courting Iris
  • Maestro Johann Bledsoe – a formerly known womanizing, gambling musician; he is dedicated to Edward; he feels an affinity for Marie and is a target for most of the book

Madame St. Jean turned to Johann, and he had to take his eyes from the retreating figure of her daughter. He made it a policy not to ogle young women when their mothers were present – he’d almost gotten trapped into marriage that way once.

  • Iris McTavish – an archaeologist and scholar who is helping with the Eros Element and other research; she loves Edward and will be in the hot seat if she ever returns to London (with the authorities and more)
  • Marie St. Jean – a young actress turned maid for Iris during their trip; she has resumed her acting career for her mother at the Théâtre Bohème; she resents and regrets and is ashamed of admitting she was wrong

“Maybe I want to be someone else.” Or someone else wants to be me. She’d never been able to explain it, only that when she was preparing for a role and on stage, she felt possessed by whatever character she played. 

  • Doctor Chadwick Radcliffe – an African American doctor; he serves as the theatre’s in-house doctor
  • Patrick O’Connell – an Irishman who worked with Doctor Radcliffe and now is helping Edward with the lighting
  • Madame Lucille St. Jean – Marie’s mother and the owner of Théâtre Bohème; she has an insane network of spies and resources; an elite in Parisian society

Now Lucille beamed at her, and Iris wondered again just how much of what Lucille did and said was real and how much an act to manipulate others. 

  • Inspector Davidson – the London detective assigned to the monitor the convoy at the Théâtre Bohème, especially Bledsoe
  • Frederic LeClerc – another violinist in the production; favors Marie; at odds with Bledsoe
  • Fouré – a musical conductor invited to conduct for the theatre; Marie discovers another element of his identity

Marie couldn’t explain it, but she felt strangely at ease with Fouré. He was like Zokar, an older gentleman who never looked at her inappropriately and whom she felt she could trust. To a point. 

  • Zokar – an underground Roma whom Marie visits so often; he helps Marie always; Marie also discovers another element to his identity as well
  • The Spirit – a masked man who continues to “visit” Marie in the theatre; he wants to hear her story and role with Parnabay Cobb
  • Parnabay Cobb – the wealthy American  who fired the convoy and left them high and dry in Rome; at odds with the spying Clockwork Guild

 

The Quotes

 “I’ll let you know if the Prussians are upon us.” 

“You have nothing and everything to lose, so must never let them take anything away, least of all your pride.”

“And I know who you are, English swine.”

Sometimes dreams don’t come true the way you want or expect them to.

The rose opens, and the thorns will dance.

The Highs and Lows

  • + Lucille St. Jean. She is a master manipulator, even to those who know her best. It makes me wonder if she even manipulated a person with a double identity in the book. Iris believes she is 70% manipulator and 30% real. Lucille is beguiling and knows just where to twist with the perfect amount of pressure. She is one of the behind-the-scenes driving forces in the book.

Madame wanted to have control down to the smallest detail. She acted with the aggressiveness of someone who had let it slip once and had lost a great deal.

  • +/- Frederic vs. Bledsoe. Frederic’s opposition of Bledsoe is so strong it is comical, and extremely frustrating for Bledsoe. All the while, Marie does nothing to make her favor known one way or another. A love triangle that has some dire consequences later.

Johann found himself in the role of concertmaster, conductor and cat herder during the rehearsal. Every time he suggested something, Frederic would argue with him about it, and by the end of the first hour, he was sure he’d lost clumps of hair due to pulling on it in frustration. 

  • Setting. The book begins in 1870 England with the convoy returning to the Théâtre Bohème. There were a few times the era and year was referenced in narration, but not as time relative to the expedition. I found the negative commentary about the American “Civil” War unnecessary, especially the reference that it was “a proxy war between England and France.”  At this time, they are under siege by the Prussians. The city of Paris is essentially shut down at its borders and they cannot receive goods or people in or out, however, we all know what happens during times of dire trouble…rioting, looting, and those who have $$$ run the show. *hint hint*
  • + Théâtre Bohème. The theatre is the perfect place to have multiple characters coming and going. It is the set up that allows for Inspector Davidson to further his investigation due to the suspicion of individuals, and also allows Lucille St. Jean to run a lucrative business (and maintain her spy networks) as this is the only theatre in Paris still operation instead of serving as a hospital out of wartime necessity.
  • – Inspector Davidson. The inspector has it out for Edward, Iris, Marie and especially Johann. It is interesting how quickly he arrives on the scene when they fled Rome in secrecy. Everyone must keep the inspector happy, least he get arresting-happy. He’s like a dog who won’t give up the hunt for the bone, but is led on a wild goose chase in the process, but he’s going to get that damn bone, by God!
  • + Iris. She is devoted to Edward after Rome, and she is the classical woman yearning for him to open his eyes. All in a good way, as she will wait for him until he is ready and past his fragile mental state. She is also pretty smart and continues with her research where it left off in Rome, which I know is going to pay off big. After a time I felt her character kind of dissolved in to the background when the plot really picked up.

“Don’t worry about me,” Edward said and pried Iris’s hands apart before taking them in his.

“But I do.” The tears her eyes fragmented the reflection of the aether light into sparks. 

  • – Edward. He is very fragile and dealing with a lot that he refuses to talk about to his friends. They all walk around on eggshells, and he pushes them away and buries himself in his work with the aether for the theatre’s lighting. I feel like there were very few and small parts where he appeared in the book.
  • – & + Marie. She is a mixed character from beginning to end, especially in her interaction with Bledsoe. She fears she is going mad due to the theatre’s “spirit” haunting her. The main focus of the book revolves around Marie and the theatre (an extension of her mother), so she is involved in everything. When the spirit starts visiting, and all these other things, she begins to fear something far greater than Inspector Davidson.

Most girls her age were being trotted out for potential husbands. She was being put on stage, although she had never objected, only wondered. But as for confiding in her mother – absolutely not. Lucille would only want Marie to develop her talents further at the cost of her sanity. That was why she needed to get away, to spend time in an unfamiliar place among people who didn’t know her so she could figure out who she was. As young as she was, she was mature enough to know she needed to determine her own identity before she could think about loving someone.

  • + The Spirit. I was DYING to know who the heck this person was, whom I assumed was a man. (BTW, I was right, but had no clue who he was. Such little details!)
  • + Bledsoe. His hold on his womanizing ways is loosening, and he comes to stand as the protector of Marie and the theatre until other characters appear later in the book to stand by his side. He is a proponent and supporter of Marie and clearly cares for her, while trying to evade the Inspector and the Clockwork Guild.

And she is the idealized woman in a room full of fools and madmen.

 

The Take-Away

I liked one particular aspect above all the rest: the waiting game. None of the characters knew what was coming, nor was it ever directly hinted at by the narration, leaving absolutely no clue just where the ending was going…and who was orchestrating it, just like a puppet. Lucille is excellent at that kind of game, but for once even she was at odds and a loss of how to protect her Marie. I wondered the entire time what happened to a character from the first book, and was frustrated that the character seemed to have just died in this second installment, as if they didn’t exist anymore. Oh, no.

The ending is also marvelous. It was angsty and shocking, and I want to know what will happen in the next installment and where it will take the convoy.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

I definitely recommend buying! It will be needed for re-reading and referencing previous events in detail.

 

***** About the Author *****

Cecilia Dominic wrote her first story when she was two years old and has always had a much more interesting life inside her head than outside of it. She became a clinical psychologist because she’s fascinated by people and their stories, but she couldn’t stop writing fiction. The first draft of her dissertation, while not fiction, was still criticized by her major professor for being written in too entertaining a style. She made it through graduate school and got her PhD, started her own practice, and by day, she helps people cure their insomnia without using medication. By night, she blogs about wine and writes fiction she hopes will keep her readers turning the pages all night. Yes, she recognizes the conflict of interest between her two careers, so she writes and blogs under a pen name.  She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with one husband and two cats, which, she’s been told, is a good number of each. She also enjoys putting her psychological expertise to good use helping other authors through her Characters on the Couch blog post series.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

***** Giveaway *****

$25 Amazon or B&N gift card (INT)

Ends Dec. 23rd

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway! 

This event was organized by CBB Book Promotions.

 

Review + Giveaway: Eros Element

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Welcome to my tour stop for the Aether Psychics Series by Cecilia Dominic! The tour runs December 14-18 with reviews of both Eros Element and Light Fantastique.  This is a New Adult Steampunk with a sweet romance (not graphic). The book is available in ebook formats worldwide.

Today I will be reviewing the first book in the series, Eros Element. Look for Light Fantastique tomorrow!


ErosElement72lg-200x300Title:
 Eros Element
Author: Cecilia Dominic
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Release Date: August 2015
Length: 296 pages
Series?: Aether Psychics #1
Genre: Historical Steampunk

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

If love is the ivy, secrets are the poison.

After enduring heartbreak at the hands of a dishonest woman, Edward Bailey lives according to scientific principles of structure and predictability. Just the thought of stepping outside his strict routine raises his anxiety.

Adding to his discomfort is Iris McTavish, who appears at his school’s faculty meeting in place of her world-famous archeologist father. Worse, the two of them are to pose as Grand Tourists while they search for an element that will help harness the power of aether.

Iris jumps at the opportunity to prove her worth as a scholar—and avoid an unwanted marriage proposal—while hiding the truth of her father’s whereabouts. If her secret gets out, the house of McTavish will fall into ruin.

Quite unexpectedly, Edward and Iris discover a growing attraction as their journey takes them to Paris and Rome, where betrayal, blackmail and outright theft threaten to destroy what could be a revolutionary discovery—and break their hearts.

 

***** Review *****

The Skinny

Professor Edward Bailey has dedicated his life to science, and after a heartbreaking ordeal he decides to live by the structure and predictability of science. Everything about his life is strictly routine, right down to the half cubes of sugar he puts in tea. He works alone in the aether department at the university.

Johann Bledsoe is Edward’s closest friend and works at the university with Edward. He is a talented musician and also a notorious skirt-chaser, but is extremely protective of Edward.

Iris McTavish takes up in her esteemed archaeologist father’s stead when called to the university. A rich American has requested Professor Bailey and archaeologist McTavish tour Europe as Grand Tourists in search of an element that will harness the power of the aether, which will in turn save Edward’s job and department from being cut.

Iris has studied all of her father’s work and wants to follow in his footsteps. They share a special connection with objects that allows them further insight than strictly the historical. Iris snatches this opportunity to save Grange House, make her mark as a scholar and avoid an unwanted marriage proposal. All the while hiding the truth about where her father is and what he is doing.

Despite their magnanimous personality differences, Edward is drawn to Iris’s love of learning, the scholar in her as they set out for Paris and Rome. Bledsoe wants nothing but to keep them apart and protect Edward, even at the extent of lording a hurtful piece of blackmail over Iris.

As they make their maiden voyage via airship to Paris, the expedition is met with unexpected betrayal, blackmail and theft.

The Players

Edward Bailey – a neuoritic professor who is obsessed with the world of aether and will do anything to protect his department, which allows him to work alone; he has an interesting friendship with Bledsoe and has an instant animosity to Iris

Edward is like a child in a lot of ways. He seems insensitive but is easily hurt. 

Johann Bledsoe – a womanizing, gambling musician who is very loyal to Edward but is also very secretive; uses his wily ways to blackmail Iris

Iris McTavish – an orphaned young woman who wants to pursue work or study at university as a scholar; she possesses an uncanny power of reading objects; she sets out on the expedition under the guise of working with her father from afar to be able to keep her home

Marie St. Jean – a maid supplied to Iris for her journey by Cobb; she seems to have many secrets of her own and knows much more about the expedition from Cobb himself

Parnabay Cobb – a wealthy American contracting and funding the expedition; at odds with the spying Clockwork Guild

Doctor Chadwick Radcliffe – an African American doctor who is very interested in Edward’s condition in Paris

Patrick O’Connell – an Irishman who works with Doctor Radcliffe; he becomes very protective of Iris and Marie

The Quotes

 “Sometimes the universe drops things into your lap that you don’t recognize as gifts at first.”

From her childhood, her father had told Iris how objects all told stories, and the ancient ones had the best stories of all.

The Highs and Lows

  • + Edward. I was thoroughly impressed with Edward’s character, who is nothing but a pretentious ball of nerves. His character reminds me of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, and I couldn’t help but giggle at his dialogue.
  • – Bledsoe. Bledsoe also has the propensity to be an ass. His behavior and mannerisms in the beginning, and even about halfway through to Edward, are horrendous. For a gentleman whose reputation and livelihood are somewhat dependent upon other people, he doesn’t act like it. I didn’t like Bledsoe’s character in the beginning. I hoped something bad would happen to him just so he would be gone.
  • – Parnabay Cobb. The filthy rich American is some kind of powerful in London and in Paris. His connections are not clear, but he has a definite hold over many. It is like he is a puppet-master and has orchestrated many things in the book, and after the convoy’s arrival in Paris he suspiciously disappears. There are such peculiar things that happen you almost have to wonder if everything that happens wasn’t orchestrated just right and a set-up from the very beginning. His character is still an enigma to me, especially after the way the book ended. I have a feeling he will suddenly reappear in the second book under less than desirable circumstances.
  • + Marie. Marie is an interesting character. Like Parnabay Cobb, she also has a suspicious air, and even up until the end I wasn’t quite certain of her loyalties. She acts in such strange ways, but she is very helpful to Iris, so her position was very confusing. Regardless, she is a positive influence and much-needed friend to Iris.
  • + Bledsoe. Bledsoe grows as a character and as he and Iris must work together it is like the layers have been peeled back and there is compassion and concern that become evident on his end – and not just for Edward, but for Iris. Although he still has the item to hold over Iris for blackmail, he becomes a more understanding and sympathetic character. I wasn’t sure if Bledsoe had it in him, so each time a little glimmer of his growth happened, it was heartwarming, because if anyone deserves it, it’s Iris.
  • + Suspicion and Intrigue. As Iris continues on with the expedition, she begins unraveling some oddities from the time period they are researching. It seems the Pythagoreans had a very clear-cut organization and Edward and Iris’s research is making a centuries-old underground elitist group come out of the woodwork. Most of the characters have their own issues to deal with (Paranaby Cobb, Bledsoe’s “friends,” The Clockwork Guild, Jeremy Scott to name a few), so it is unclear which occurrences are one of their opposition or something unknown.
  • – Lord Jeremy Scott. The man is a pompous waste of body. He clearly has no real brains, and uses his nobility to force Iris into an engagement. He is a filthy snake who won’t give up and makes Iris’s life miserable.
  • – Setting. The book begins in 1870 England and as the expedition proceeds, the convoy travels to Paris and then Rome. There were a few times the era and year was referenced in narration, but not as time relative to the expedition. I found the negative commentary about the American “Civil” War unnecessary, especially the reference that it was “a proxy war between England and France.”

The Take-Away

I liked the character interaction the most. Each character had their own purposes and motives for accepting their roles in the expedition (or tagging along with it), and they are each focused on different components. Despite the individual’s gains, they all begin to work together to achieve the expedition’s goal.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

A book full of life and death, blackmail and betrayal, suspicion and secrets? I recommend buying this one.

 

***** About the Author *****

Cecilia Dominic wrote her first story when she was two years old and has always had a much more interesting life inside her head than outside of it. She became a clinical psychologist because she’s fascinated by people and their stories, but she couldn’t stop writing fiction. The first draft of her dissertation, while not fiction, was still criticized by her major professor for being written in too entertaining a style. She made it through graduate school and got her PhD, started her own practice, and by day, she helps people cure their insomnia without using medication. By night, she blogs about wine and writes fiction she hopes will keep her readers turning the pages all night. Yes, she recognizes the conflict of interest between her two careers, so she writes and blogs under a pen name.  She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with one husband and two cats, which, she’s been told, is a good number of each. She also enjoys putting her psychological expertise to good use helping other authors through her Characters on the Couch blog post series.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

***** Giveaway *****

$25 Amazon or B&N gift card (INT)

Ends Dec. 23rd

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway! 

This event was organized by CBB Book Promotions.