book review

The Betrayed

Every time Irina Shapiro releases a new book, I wonder if it’ll have a happy ending. Will the couple who left only bones behind actually end up together? Will Quinn unlock her own past, which seems more unlikely with each page? In a collection of books that never get old, I’m always left with questions that never have easy answers.

Introducing The Betrayed, Echoes From the Past book seven by Irina Shapiro.

As always, I will try to avoid spoilers, but since this is the 7th book in the series, some things will slip through the cracks. Want to avoid that? Start with book one today, The Lovers. Trust me.

  • Heat Level: ❤️❤️
  • Genre: Historical and Contemporary Fiction
  • Overall Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

In 2005, Dr. Quinn Allenby unearthed a crucified skeleton in Ireland. Among the bones and dirt is a hamsa charm, a protective amulet often often used by Muslims. She can’t figure out how a Muslim would have found his way to Ireland and what led to the crucifixion.

In 1588, the Spanish Armada ship Rafael de Silva was sailing on crashes on the rocky coasts of Ireland. With limited English, a hidden hamsa, and wounded comrades, he’s trapped in hostile territory with no way home. And as the Protestant English forces progress into Catholic Ireland, protecting his identity becomes more vital than ever.

While trying to learn more about Rafael, Quinn is mired in mysteries in the present day as well. Her long lost sister isn’t lost anymore, not physically at least. But as Quinn pushes to get closer to Jo, Jo begins to run before her own past catches up to her. The secrets never end for poor Quinn, although she’ll do anything to set things right.

As always, I need a breather after each of Shapiro’s books. Not since Outlander has a series so completely set the bar for what a good book is. Each installment is so deliciously dark, but still makes you hope for just once, things won’t be as bad as Quinn’s skeletons make them out to be.

Quinn is completely lovable. Kind, selfless, and always eager to see the best in people, she’s never prepared for those close to her to betray her. Every book, I root for things in her life to go east on her, just once, and things always seem to just fall apart in both the past and present.

Overall, I suggest this book in ebook and audio format to all book lovers.

book review, New Book

Once Upon a Highland Glen

It’s no secret I’ve been a fan of Suzan Tisdale for years. Before Outlander, she was my introduction to the world of hot Scots. And now she’s launched her own publishing house called Glenfinnan Publishing and launched her new endeavor with a historical, romantic anthology, Once Upon a Highland Glen.

Since there are six stories, I’ll have six sections in this review, with my thoughts italicized for easier reading.

  • Heat Level: the stories range from wholesome to steamy.
  • Genre: Historical Romance
  • Overall Rating: 5/6 Glass Slippers

The Legend by Violetta Rand

Laird Bron Kieth was not a kind man, and one night when we went out in search of his prized ram. He was set upon by his enemies and drug himself to the safety of a glen. A mysterious woman gives him one wish and he asks for a second chance at life, so he can be a better man.

This short introduction set the scene for the rest of the stories.

Wager of the Heart by Suzan Tisdale

Graham Kieth is the descendant of Bron, but has yet to learn the same lesson. A directionless cad, he drunklenly stumbles into a glen after a game of cards, where he laments his loneliness and wishes he had a family to care for him. When he awakes to find his wish comes true, he’s less than thrilled with his new reality. But when he must decide what kind of man he wants to be, more than one future will depend on him.

I thought this story was cute and could have easily been a full length book on its own. Graham and Leelah weren’t a match made in heaven, and he’s certainly no match for her stubbornness. It’s hard to tell who needs who more by the end of this story.

Clouds Across the Moon by Kathryn Lynn Davis

Braida is only sixteen when her daughter is born. Her husband Bran is twenty-two, the tutor for the laird’s children, and not an overly kind man. He feels detached from his daughter and longs for his wife to be the carefree, moldable teen he once met.

I have to admit I wasn’t a huge fan of this tale. A husband being basically disgusted by his child bride’s changed body and her devotion to their baby made me uncomfortable. There wasn’t the romance I expected.

Highland Heart’s Desire by Victoria Zak

The fairy Breena was enchanted by the forbidden human world. While she’s not very good with magic yet, she does what she can to keep the animals in her forest safe. When a hunter is injured, she breaks the fae laws to tend to him. Robert Keith thinks he imagined the beautiful woman that day, but five years later, he’ll question everything he ever knew.

This story was sweet and charming with a lot of heart. Breena was adorable and Robert was a gem. Watching their romance span the years was lovely.

The Lost Soul by Ceci Giltenan

Spoiled Margaret Grant is sent to live with her betrothed, Logan Carr’s clan in an attempt to make her come to peace with her betrothal. After a fall, she finds herself in a glen where she makes a wish to prove she can be a better person. But before she can go back to her pampered life, she must walk in the shoes of another.

This story was a bit on the humorous side, without losing the message that’s been carried through the anthology. It also held a nice amount of detail that really set the tone.

Whispers to the Soul by Kate Robbins

Kenzie is on the run from a vile clan guardsman when she’s rescued by the handsome Gaelin. But she soon learns she is no simple kitchen maid as she and Gaelin go on a journey to find safety and the truth.

This was my favorite story in the anthology, so I believe Robbins has found a new fan in me! Witty and steamy, Kenzie was a heroine in her own right and I would have lived to read a full book focused on her tale.

The Courageous Highlander by Lily Baldwin.

Laird Owen MacArthur rules over a secluded clan where every year the laird must hunt alone to bring prosperity to the people. On one of these hunts, he finds the beautiful Gwynn help captive in a strange glen. He’s struck by her beauty and promises to free her, but at what cost?

A magic tale, Baldwin’s addition was action packed with a touch of mystery. It was a wonderful addition.


Overall, I enjoyed most of the anthology with a few standing out as deserving a full length novels. I recommended this collection to all historical romance fans.

history

Romantic Irish Folklore

Hello, everyone! I’ve gone through Scottish history, products, and fairytales, but now I want to talk about Ireland. Andrea Collins, creator of the new subscription box Simply Ireland will lend a hand as well, seeing as no one can know the country better than a woman who lives there.

Ireland is a country rich with traditions, history, and folklore that I’d like to explore a bit. From tiny, stone pubs to rolling, green hills, we’ll be spending the next few weeks going over important holidays, customs, people, castles, events, and more!

First up is romantic stories from the Emerald Isle…but not all have happy endings.

Niamh the Golden-Headed was the daughter of the king of Tír Na NÓg, also known as “The Land of the Young,” which was the Celtic Otherworld. One day she rode a white horse to Ireland, where she encountered a band of warriors, one being famed fighter Oisín.

The pair fell in love and she offered to take him with her to the Otherworld. On the way, he saved a maiden from a giant and his skills were so great, Niamh’s parents allowed the pair to marry.

Over the next three hundred years, which only felt like three years to Oisín, they had three children and were very happy. But he was homesick and wanted to see his people and father. Reluctantly, Niamh said he could visit, but could never touch the ground. If he did, they would ever see each other again.

Once in Ireland, Oisín searched for all he knew, but they were long gone. When he saw a group of men trying to move a large stone, he forgot Niamh’s warning and jumped from the horse. As soon as he touched the ground, he withered into an old man.

He was brought to Saint Patrick to be baptized, but refused on his deathbed. If he went to Christian heaven, he would never see his loved ones again. And so he died, reuniting at last with his father and never seeing Niamh again.

Deirdre’s great beauty was prophesied before she was born, and it was said blood would spill over her and great warriors would leave the kingdom of Ulster. Because of this, many called for her to be killed at birth. But King Conchobar was already excited at the thought of a legendary beauty as his wife and spirited her away to live in the woods with a wise woman until she was old enough to marry.

Years later, Deirdre told the wise woman she dreamed of her husband, a young man with black hair and white skin. The wise woman knew she had dreamt of the famed warrior Naoise and concocted a plan for them to meet. And when they met, they fell in love at once and fled to Scotland with his brothers.

Conchobar heard his best warriors left Ireland with his bride and sent spies after them to see if Deirdre lost her beauty. When he finally heard she was still radiant, he went to collect her with a troop of warriors. Naoise was killed by a man called Èogan and Conchobar took Deirdre as his wife.

After a year of unhappy marriage, Conchobar was angry his wife still despised him for killing her love. He asked her who she hated more than him and she responded with Èogan. So Conchobar took Deirdre to marry him instead. Refusing to live as a captive any longer, Deirdre threw herself from the chariot and died. She was finally buried beside Naoise and a pair of trees grew from their graves, reuniting them at last.

An ancient king called Midir lived with his wife Faumnach for many years. They were a fine match and both were very happy until Midir went on a journey to visit his foster son Aengus, and saw a beautiful young woman beside a well. She said her name was Étaín and the pair fell in love.

For a year and a day they lived as husband and wife at Aengus’s house until Midir decided it was time to return home. He took Étaín with him and Faumnach was furious. She cast a spell to turn Étaín into a pool of water. When the pool dried up, she transformed into a butterfly. Midir knew Étaín at once by her scent and the music that played when she flew and the pair were again together.

Angered, Faumnach conjured a storm that blew the butterfly Étaín away. But Étaín ended up at the home of Aengus, who also recognized her and kept her safe from the magic storm. All was well until Ètaín tried to return to Midir. She fell into Faumnach’s cup, and the woman unknowingly swallowed the butterfly.

Étaín was reborn as Faumnach’s child and went on to marry a great king. Midir never forgot his true love, and in his immortal form, he disguised himself and found her. But Étaín didn’t remember him and stated she was a married woman, but if her husband gave his blessing, she would go with him.

Midir challenged her husband to a game of chess, and when he won, he asked for a kiss from Étaín as a reward. When they kissed, Étaín remembered her past life and her love for Midir. They transformed into swans and flew away.

The beautiful Clíodhna lived in the Otherworld and was queen of the banshees. One day she met the mortal, Irish prince Ciabhán and fell deeply in love with him. When she had to return home, he stole a boat to follow her across the water. He was saved by drowning by the sea god Mannannán and was finally reunited with Clíodhna.

They lived in happiness for many years until Mannannán’s wife warned the couple that the sea god was annoyed by their presence. Clíodhna couldn’t bear to be parted from Ciabhán, and decided to give up her immortality to be with him.

They stole Mannannán’s magic boat for the journey, which angered the god further. When Ciabhán went ashore in Ireland to hunt, Clíodhna fell asleep and the sea god sent a wave to punish her. She was swept away and drowned.

Princess Graínne is horrified to be betrothed to the elderly, twice widowed, King Fionn. When she sees one of his young warriors, Diarmuid, she knows she can’t go through with the wedding. She slips a sleeping potion to all the wedding guests and implores Diarmuid to run away with her. At first he refuses, but soon agrees to elope.

The couple are soon followed by Fionn’s men, but evade them for many years. But one day they came across a boar and Diarmuid fought it, despite the prophesy that a boar would be the only thing that could kill him.

Diarmuid is fatally gored just as Fionn and his men catch up to them. Fionn could save him by having him drink water from his hands. He lets the water slip through his fingers twice until his son Oisín forces him to save Diarmuid. But it’s too late. The pair will never be together again.


I hope you enjoyed the first installment of our Touch of Ireland posts! Check back soon for posts on the difficult political history, the wonderful ruins, and other highlights.

On to the Simply Ireland Subscription Box. Creator Andrea Collins wanted to build a box that truly captured her country. For months, she’s been carefully curating the best products, such as jewelry from the famous Tipperary Crystal, handmade soaps from Soap Out Loud, and organic lotions from the Dublin Herbalists.

Every season, you could have your own taste of Ireland. While the official website is still under construction, you can still get your piece of Ireland.

  • To speak with Collins directly about placing your order, you can email her at simplyirelandsubscriptionbox@gmail.com
  • Visit her Facebook page HERE
  • Visit her Instagram page HERE

book review

The House Girl

What I want to talk about today isn’t a romance. There’s no flowers, candlelit dinners, or date nights. This books talks about slavery in the old south, and while not any more graphic than zombie books or psychological thrillers out there, The House Girl by Tara Conklin is more upsetting because it tells the type of story that happened over and over again for hundreds of years.

Genre: Historical/Contemporary Fiction

Overall Rating: 3/6 Glass Slippers

Josephine was born into slavery in Virginia. She doesn’t remember her mother and never knew who her father was. She was taken in as a house girl by her mistress Lu Ann Bell, where she learned to read and draw. But she was still a slave and her master never let her forget it. Freedom was only a dream, but there were whispers of an undertaker, a railroad, and a possible way to escape.

In 2014, Lena is a successful lawyer in New York City. Her father is an artist and her mother died when she was young, although she knows nothing about her. Her boss gives her the task of preparing a reparations case for the descendants of slaves, sending her on a whirlwind of discovery. As she tries to find the descendants that would act as the face of her case, the famous artwork of Lu Ann Bell comes to town, bringing with it the question of who was the real artist and what became of the slave girl in the grainy photograph.

While Josephine plans her escape from a master who rapes her and a mistress who is on death’s door, Lena tries to find the true identity of Josephine and what happened to her back when people were bought and sold. Both women live drastically different lives, but a few charcoal drawings and a stack of old letters bring them together across centuries.


The dual timeline of Josephine and Lina was an interesting way of connecting the past and present though the slavery reparations court case. I adore a dual timeline book, as with such works by Irina Shapiro, and was immediately excited to see how things would pan out as Josephine planned her escape and Lina found how to repay hundreds of years of slavery.

To be honest, I had a difficult time connecting to Lina’s role in the book. Her musings about befriending the secretary and wondering if her father had a girlfriend took me away from Josephine’s much more compelling story. I found myself skimming Lina’s parts as she thought about her dead mother’s dark hair and parts of her story began to unravel and disappear. It was only when she got into the meat of the repetitions case that I became invested in her as a character. Then there were the flaws in how a lawsuit of this magnitude would work and how historic pieces would actually be treated.

If you’re looking for a story with a happy ending, I’ll tell you now that this one is merely bittersweet. There’s no burst to freedom or grand step to justice. It merely ends and that has to be enough, even if you don’t want it to be. But perhaps that’s the point–to have wanted more for Josephine and live with the knowledge that happy endings in the days of slavery were few and far between.

New Book, Writing

Tule Birthday Bash

Tule Publishing is celebrating their 6th birthday! That means party favors for you! From Friday September 6th until Sunday the 8th, all ebooks are 50% off with the code TULE6 at checkout in their online bookstore HERE.

You can snag books about sweet cowboys, mobsters on the run, romantic pirates, and holiday escapades. We’ve reviewed several Tule books on this blog and haven’t read one we didn’t love. Sweet or steamy, it’s all there in the bookstore. Cick HERE to start shopping.

BTW if you haven’t read Kelsey’s contemporary romance series set in Scotland, the first two books are in the Tule book shop, ready to be read! Catch up with all the hot Scots before book 3 comes out this winter.

Match made in heaven or maid of dishonor?

Tight-laced Rose Henselarrives in Scotland for her best friend’s wedding with a plan—to be the greatest maid of honor ever, let loose for the first time in years, and find out what Scottish guys really wear under their kilts. After meeting the best man, she thinks she found the man who checks all the boxes for a no-strings-attached romp among the heather.

Lachlan Calder-Mackinnon knows how to show a girl a good time. Gourmet dinners in castle ruins, picnics among rolling hills, and a seaside escape create some unforgettable dates. But as the fling begins to morph into something more, an unexpected wedding guest threatens to ruin Rose and Lachlan’s new romance.

With a plane ticket in one hand and her broken heart in the other, Rose prepares to head home to reality. However, she’s about to learn that what happens in the Highlands don’t always stay there.

Order your copy in the Tule store HERE

Can she stop her past from ruining her future?

Sorcha Mackinnon isn’t your typical tortured artist. She is also a party girl, a vintage shopper, and the heiress to a whisky fortune. But when inspiration suddenly flies out the window, she’s left with an empty whisky glass and a blank canvas…until a childhood friend waltzes back into her life.

She’s known Danny Gordon since birth, but they lost touch as their careers took them in different directions. He offers to show her the parts of Scotland he swears will spark life back into her brushes. And as they tour the sights on the back of his motorcycle, Sorcha realizes that under the tattoos and smart mouth, Danny may inspire more in her than just a new painting.

But as a good time begins to morph into an ever after, Sorcha is reminded of old wounds that just won’t heal. Danny tries to open her heart, but her self-imposed isolation makes things harder than ever. Now she must decide what to do, because what happens in the ruins doesn’t always stay there.

Order your copy from the Tule store HERE

book review, New Book

The Condemned

Whew, I always need a minute to recover every time I come into contact with a book from the Echoes from the Past series by Irina Shapiro. Beautifully written and emotionally jarring, each installment leaves me wanting more, even though I know not everyone gets a happy ending. Introducing The Condemned.

As always, I’ll try to keep far away from spoilers. But this is book six, and if you’re not already invested in this series, you’re missing out!

  • Genre: Historical/Contemporary Romance/Drama
  • Heat Level: ❤️❤️❤️
  • Overall Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

In 1620, England is trying to stabilize their new colony in Virginia and women are asked to go to the New World to marry men they’ve never met and start families. Mary is terrified to leave the only home she’s ever known, but it’s the only way to escape her abusive uncle. She bonds with her fellow wives during the voyage, but her intended is less than she hoped. A chance meeting in the forest with a stranger gives her hope her life could be something more. But in a time of unrest in Virginia, a step in the wrong direction could be deadly.

In 2015, Quinn is called to a seaside cave, where a skeleton is found, evidence of a crude medical procedure and a birth evident. But she can’t focus on the body when she receives news that her twin sister is missing. Through war-torn Afghanistan, Germany, and colonial Virginia, Quinn isn’t just reconstructing the life of a long-dead woman, but her own reality as the puzzle pieces of her past fall into place.

The historical work Shapiro puts into her writing is always fantastic. People have the idea of colonists who went to the New World as happy families who grew corn alongside the indigenous people and loved in cozy cabins. The truth is messier with colonial aggression, “main order brides,” and a history that paints the settlers in a less than flattering light. Then there’s this bit about the lost colony of Roanoke that had me going down a research wormhole, something I always enjoy.

On the question of the Native Americans (Side note, I use this term as this is what my husband and his family describe themselves as. Others may dislike this term and we should take individual wishes into consideration.) described in this book, I always hold my breath when someone is introduced. Since going to college and marring my husband, I’ve learned more about tribal culture and the backstories of forced relocations and “re-education.” So I’m always a bit annoyed with how some books “fetishize” the Native experience. But Shapiro didn’t do that. The ones seen in the book were written as actual people with real struggles. The added conversations surrounding the differing religions and social hierarchies was also true to form, and I really appreciate the added depth.

Overall, I thought this book was amazing. Between the narrative talent of Wendy Wolfson, the sweeping storyline, and the twist near the end that left me reeling, this installment was another hit.

book review, history, New Book

Secrets of a Highland Warrior

Hot Highlander alert! I’m always pumped to read a book based in my favorite country, so when Nicole Locke told me about Secrets of a Highland Warrior, I was totally on board.

  • Genre: Historical Romance
  • Heat Level: ❤️❤️❤️❤️
  • Overall Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

The year is 1293 and Rory Lochmore is the son of the chief of Clan Lochmore. Their lands are separated from the McCrieff’s by a single stream, one too thin to keep them from constantly drawing their swords. Rory is eager to prove his worth yet again by claiming the land given to them by the king, but a pair of deep, green eyes catch him off guard. Yet he’s not one to be swayed by a pretty face, until he’s made an offer he can’t refuse.

Ailsa McCrieff is the healer for her clan and the daughter of the next chief. When her father inherits the title, he’ll also be inheriting generations of hatred between the McCrieffs and the Lochmores, but he has a plan to mend the strife…have Ailsa marry Rory. She’s horrified at the thought of being tied to a savage, despite his handsomeness, but she knows it could be the only way to save lives.

There’s nothing more then animosity and physical attraction between them, not a great start to a marriage. But the fates of both their clans rest on their shoulders and only a wedding will stop the bloodshed. Can they come together to make a true match, or are they doomed to lives of misery?

While this is book four in the Lochmore Legacy Series, it’s the only book I’ve read. While I did feel that I missed out on some backstory and a few tidbits what would have made reading much smoother, it wasn’t anything crazy. I would suggest starting with book one, as you should with all good series, but I enjoyed myself immensely, even by starting at the end.

Ailsa was a fantastic character. Her tongue was just as sharp as the shears she used for cutting herbs and she wasn’t one to be meek and obey. She’s really makes the marriage happen by seeing Rory see reason and I liked how she wasn’t just a swooning lass. Their relationship was also a pleasure to follow, as they went through not only newlywed growing pains, but found a way to trust that the other wouldn’t stab them in their sleep!

I also found the historical side to be very believable. If you’re not familiar with me, or the blog, you won’t know that I’m a historian and nothing ruins a historical book for me than blatant mess ups. For example, many people will write books set in Scotland and throw kilts around like confetti, despite using the wrong tartan or having the time period set before kilts were even a thing! It’s silly, but having Locke not throw Rory into a kilt was fabulous.

Overall, I enjoyed this book immensely and recommend it to all historical romance lovers.