CAB Reviews Vagabond Heart by Ann Roberts

Let’s start with the blurb:

Contractor Quinn O’Sullivan has traveling in her blood. Her aunt is a famous travel writer while Quinn herself moves from one apartment complex to the next as her team remodels them.

When dear Aunt Maura kicks the bucket on her beloved Route 66, she leaves a dying request for Quinn—to take her on one last adventure.

Suda Singh is the total opposite of risk-taker Quinn. As an emergency room doctor, Suda is calm, methodical, and intuitive. But most of all, Suda is safe.

When the two women are thrown together by Quinn’s latest injury, Suda offers to accompany Quinn on the adventure of a lifetime.

Can Quinn and Suda find love, three cats, and the mysterious woman named Rain, all on America’s fabled highway—Route 66? Join Ann Roberts on this adventure of a lifetime in Vagabond Heart.

I’m going to admit that I am pretty negative when it comes to the “Romance” genre. Maybe it’s because I’m old and lately they all seem to be cut from the same cloth. The author looks up Romance Formula #127 and follows it. The character names change but, otherwise, it is what it is. So you’re asking yourself why did I even attempt to read this one? It was the sentence in the blurb: “When dear Aunt Maura kicks the bucket on her beloved Route 66, she leaves a dying request for Quinn—to take her on one last adventure.” Yeah that one; it grabbed my attention so I threw caution to the wind and said I’d read it.

I am so very glad that I did.

The story starts off with a bang and kept my interest all the way through. It’s been forever since I picked up a book that I had trouble putting down. This one could easily make it into my read again pile.

Reasons why:

Both Quinn and Suda are interesting characters and their interactions didn’t feel scripted or overplayed.

The author managed to weave in several real life xenophobic /bigotry issues which just made the characters feel like they were operating in real life without detracting from the story. In fact, I’d say it enhanced the story because we need to call more attention to these things.

I’ve never been on Route 66 but based on the descriptions and the adventure it’s on my bucket list moving forward.

I’d easily give this story 4.5 out of 5 stars. I could have given it 5 but I hated the character Rain.

This book was read in exchange for an honest review.

You can download a sample or purchase Vagabond Heart by clicking here.

Blu Reviews Daughter of Mystery by Heather Rose Jones

I am intrigued when I read the blurb for Heather Rose Jones’ debut Bella Book:

Margerit Sovitre did not expect to inherit the Baron Saveze’s fortunes—and even less his bodyguard. The formidable Barbara, of unknown parentage and tied to the barony for secretive reasons, is a feared duelist, capable of defending her charges with efficient, deadly force.

Equally perplexing is that while she is now a highly eligible heiress, Margerit did not also inherit the Saveze title, and the new baron eyes the fortunes he lost with open envy. Barbara, bitter that her servitude is to continue, may be the only force that stands between Margerit and the new Baron’s greed—and the ever deeper layers of intrigue that surround the ill-health of Alpennia’s prince and the divine power from rituals known only as The Mysteries of the Saints.
– Amazon blurb

The setting of the story is one of the facets that initially attracts me: Alpennia, a fictional 18th Century European country filled with political and social intrigue in which Ms. Jones uses her considerable historical knowledge and significant research to create a very believable backdrop for the unfolding story. Throughout the tale I am provided with just enough information to ensure I am kept in the correct time and location, but I am not overwhelmed with historical data.

Margerit Sovitre is a somewhat naive young woman who is attempting to navigate the social expectations of her environment, yet is also determined to attain her academic goals in a society that frowns upon such endeavors. Sweet and considerate, surrounded by ambitious relatives, she soon reveals a determined core that stands her in good stead as she resists others’ expectations. Her mystical skills are hinted at and deftly revealed throughout the course of the story and their importance steadily unfolds as we learn about the role “mysteries” have within Alpennian society.

Barbara is deeply disappointed to discover that the death of her owner has not secured her the promised freedom she was assured. After a period of adjustment, this stoic and reserved armin accepts her allotted role in the life on the new heiress. Surrounded by her own supporting characters, the charismatic woman comes to grips with a changed reality, investigates intriguing clues regarding her own identity, all while assisting her charge maneuver through high society.

Ms. Jones’ well built world is populated with a wonderful cast of believable characters. Margerit’s family are slightly cliched, yet quite ably serve the purpose set for them. Alternately challenging and abetting Margerit’s goals, they are neither too domineering nor diluted for the plot. Barbara’s set of supporters provide me with a deeper appreciation for this intriguing young woman, but she remains a somewhat unknown entity at the conclusion. The quintessential villain is ever lurking, and he is introduced very smoothly throughout the story, his actions quite believable and appropriate for the plot and setting.

I was pleasantly surprised by the length of this novel. A well-paced introduction to the lives of lesser nobility in Alpennia was successfully achieved, filled with issues of inheritance, political intrigue, criminal maneuvering and romance. The latter is a pleasant development evolving out of a professional-turned-friendship and while I typically prefer more romantic detail, I am content with the relationship as described.

Both main characters behave and react very believably and their responses to one another, misunderstandings, and conversations are well crafted and realistic. I admit to wishing for more of Barbara’s back-story – particularly her entry into and training in her dangerous profession. Ms. Jones is very adept at introducing various characters and elements into the plot in her debut novel. I am particularly impressed by her ability to keep my interest piqued, to build the tension, and to deftly reveal important information throughout the story.
I would certainly agree with the blurb’s final claim:

Heather Rose Jones debuts with a sweeping story rich in intrigue and the clash of loyalties and love.

If exploring a new land, meeting new characters, and having your curiosity roused is what you desire, then Daughter of Mystery is certainly a novel you should consider for your shelf!

You can download a sample or purchase Daughter of Mystery by clicking here.