The Imperial Orchid – Nicola Italia

This book contains:

  • References to past murder
  • Attempted murder
  • Attempted rape.

Frances is our first main character, she’s a modern woman pushing the boundaries heading towards what we know of today with equal rights for women and the ability to work for ourselves. She excels in her field of work, is financially independent and respected equally by her male counterparts.

Miles St. Clair is a Lord’s son, out of place at home after war and with no direction for his life to take. To help him, his father cuts him off financially and gives him a final choice to turn his life around and become a productive citizen of society.

Frances returns home from a working trip to Switzerland in time to have multiple run ins with Miles and to find out about a new trip being funded by Lord Holloway, the President of the Royal Horticultural Society. Of course she’s interested, but how would it work travelling in a team for an unknown project with a group of men?

Miles is the only part of the expedition team that knows from the start what they’re after, and he knows how dangerous it is. He expected to find trouble along the way, but where it came from was a surprise to them all.

One of my favourite things about Nicola’s books is that the women are forward thinking and expect more from the world even in a period of time when they were nothing more than daughters, sisters, wives and mothers. While most of them are driven to work by necessity, Frances is different in that she’s working because she wants to work.

While I love the working aspect, the action was amazing!

There were jungle searches, midnight rendezvous, secret liaisons, subterfuge and of course, murder subplots. Not to mention the general anxiety caused by a massive monsoon storm!

I wasn’t sure who to trust or believe, even right up until the final moments when it was all revealed. You got little suspicions along the way in such perfectly timed and presented ways that it was impossible to not get hooked in and start playing who-dun-it.

Among the Darkness Stirs – Nicola Italia

This book contains:

  • Death of father
  • Murder and its investigation

Audrey is the daughter of a vicar, university educated and in need of work. Throughout life’s challenges and changes, she stays true to herself as she picks up her, and her families lives and works to give them the life they deserve.

With the help (and eventual romance) of Henry, Audrey is able to weather all the storms the workhouse throws at her while Henry continue to support her, offer friendship and help her in her investigation. Although Henry only wishes to help Audrey in the beginning, this changes to more intense feelings that he has to pursue, while trying to keep her safe from her own investigations.

Audrey’s father dies leaving her family destitute with no where to turn to. Thanks to the help of Henry, she’s able to secure a role in a workhouse teaching the children in the hopes of bettering their lives. While working there she makes friends with some of the staff, “inmates” and Henry’s mother.

The first half of the book is about Audrey finding her place in the workhouse, getting to know Henry, his mother, Norwich and getting comfortable teaching the children. Then, about halfway through the book, one of her friends suddenly dies and she discovers a diary that concerns her. The remaining half gives Audrey and Henry time to investigate the odd diary and figure out exactly what is happening.

On the whole, the book was quite interesting. Various aspects of society and the changes we likely take for granted now were pointed out numerous times. Simple things like everyone deserving a basic education, women getting a university or college education, women holding jobs and even the idea that people who fall on hard times are lazy.

I did find the first half of the book a little bit slow. Looking back on it I can see how most of it was needed, the pace of it just felt a little slow. Especially when compared to the second half. The first half spanned a few months, whereas the second half spanned maybe a week or two.

It’s not that I think the second half was rushed! I actually think it was really well done.

There was enough detail, enough intrigue and enough drama that it worked really well. It was just a bit of a shock to have the pace suddenly change. When I got to about 60% of the way through I found myself wanting to keep coming back to the book, ditch work and just find out what was happening!

And I was left shocked at the end!

When it was described I thought it was one, normal(ish) thing, but then when it was truly revealed I couldn’t believe it! Did that stuff actually exist in those times?! WOW!

Of Night and Dark Obscurity – Nicola Italia

Welcome back everyone, we went from a regency romance to an erotica and today it’s a Victorian romance with a murder mystery!

It was quite some time ago when Nicola contacted me asking if I’d like to review this book. At the time it was still a work in progress, and she wasn’t sure when it was going to be released. Other than a really brief idea on what the novel was going to be about I didn’t know anything about it when I agreed to read it.

I mean. I’ve read and reviewed two of her other books, The Sheik’s Son and Sea of Revenge and loved both of them. Surely I’d like this book that I hadn’t been told much about. Right?

It took me ages to get to reading this book but I got there! I don’t know what book I was thinking of when I started reading it, but the cover made me think it was something other than it was. But that’s totally on me coz it was ages between getting it and reading the blurb and reading it!

Unlike most romances that I read this one primarily followed Valentine, our male protagonist. While alternating to Caroline for a short stint once a chapter (roughly) to add context and her voice to the story. Given that this book focused around a murder investigation this makes a lot of sense.

Having Caroline drive the story from the victim’s perspective while Valentine drove it from the investigation perspective felt well done. While Caroline’s character was consistently concerned for others, charitable and interested in Valentine, I had a couple of moments of confusion with Valentine’s behaviour. He was always so considerate of Caroline and her safety, yet s couple of times felt aggressively possessive and jealous. It didn’t feel like it fit with his personality.

A few times sporadically throughout the book Nicola included snippets of what was happening with the criminals responsible. I loved this. Not only were no names or details included in these, as Valentine came across a new bit of evidence we were kept in the dark until the last possible moment. I loved this because it allowed me to try and guess who the culprit was right until the very end.

Even when they are caught, we aren’t told who they are. Until literally the last chapter. It made for a bit of a nail biter that I enjoyed every second of.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this review; on Wednesday I’ll be reviewing New Beginnings at Glendale Hall by Victoria Hall.

Sea of Revenge – Nicola Italia

Welcome back everyone, we’re coming into a super busy period in my schedule which means I’m due for a holiday right?In the meantime, we have this sweet author request to review. I’m so thankful for Nicola reaching out to me after seeing my reviews of her other books I’ve read. Thank you!

I was due for an adventure packed regency romance when I picked this one up. I’d read a few contemporary romances and chick lit books, but I needed this fix. Considering the two other books of hers I’ve read I assumed the female lead would be a strong independent character. And I was right!

In The Sheik’s Son the female lead was a writer stirring up discontent against the higher classes, while in Love in the Valley of the Kings the female lead was educated, ahead of her times and so sweet. A noblewoman that moonlights as a pirate captain? That kinda fits the bill I reckon.

Although I was surprised by how and when our main leads met, I really enjoyed seeing them grow and develop. Especially because he was totally ok with her beating him in a sword-fight in front of his entire crew! How many men can say they are secure in their masculinity that they’d be ok with this?

I did feel like this book should be written in two parts. One during the pirate days and one after. It felt like these two sections were very different, and so should have had a bigger way to differentiate between them without creating a sequel. I agree that it didn’t need a sequel, but I still would have preferred a bigger “separator” in the story.

What I didn’t like was how casual Tamzen was when she found out why she’d run away from her “fiancé”. I can’t see someone being so casual about learning that fact, so it was weird that it felt like she was just like “o ok, but you won’t do it again? Ok that’s fine then.” It just confused me a little bit.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this review, I don’t have another review until July 31st, but I do have a cover reveal and an interview with Samantha Parks coming out next week. Then on July 31st I’ll be reviewing Reclaimed by her Rebel Knight by Jenni Fletcher.

The Sheik’s Son – Nicola Italia

Welcome back, I’ve been looking forward to writing this review pretty much since I first started reading this book because it combines two things that I really love. History and books. Not only is it a book steeped with history, but it’s also filled with iconic individuals from history writing about their thoughts and experiences and then discussing these in salons.

This book is set in Paris in 1788, less than a year before the French Revolution began in earnest. As soon as I saw the date I started scrambling back through my memories of high school history when I studied the French Revolution to remember when it began, how it broke out and how quickly it impacted the French high classes. Thinking back on these memories I found myself eager to jump in and find out what exactly this book could be about, especially since the title suggests there’s an Arabian prince involved.

I quickly discovered that this book was going to be a typical romance novel, however it would be set in a specific time in history which would also impact what would happen throughout the book. Sophie, our main character, is a young Parisian woman who is educated more than most women in that time who’s grandmother has been trying to marry off for the past few years. However Sophie doesn’t want another Parisian dandy man. She wants an intelligent man who isn’t afraid of the fact that she is educated and he needs to be able to challenge her intellectually. Which in that time is difficult to find.

While Sophie is resisting marriage due to the difficulty of finding someone that will complement and challenge her, she is introduced to Madame Necker and her salon. Madame Necker is a well known French woman who ran one of the most celebrated salon’s in French history; if you Google her you can find her fairly easily. By taking part in this salon Sophie is constantly thrust into the same space as Sebastian, our other main character who we also hear from throughout the book. While pushing Sebastian away Sophie is also trying to educate herself about any topic that comes up in the salon’s that she doesn’t know much about.

Sophie’s drive to educate herself further really struck a chord with me as I tend to do the same thing. Maybe not to the same degree as Sophie does, however I also found that just like in Sophie’s case there are many people today that will criticise and judge those that seek to further educate themselves. I don’t know if people do this out of fear of being left behind or being made redundant by someone who likes to educate themselves. And I certainly hope people can rise above these thoughts, because in France’s case it ended in a Revolution that changed the country forever and I’d hate to think that it could take similar radical changes to allow people to grow and develop.

Due to Sophie educating herself she goes from writing radical pamphlets about women’s rights to revolutionary pieces that criticise the French monarchy and it’s upper classes. This results in a power hungry inspector going after Sophie to gain confidential information to blackmail other people. Later in the book we discover that not only is he blackmailing his way into a position of power, but he also murdered his wife and last lover due to her cheating on him. I don’t know about you but I can’t believe he managed to murder 2 people and dispose of their bodies alone without being discovered. Especially because he works for the French law enforcement!

While the inspector is going after Sophie she pretty much forces Sebastian to marry her to give herself more protection against the inspector. Sophie thought just because he worked for the English Ambassador that it’d give her more safety from him. What I don’t understand is that Sebastian knew how much danger Sophie was in and so married her to protect her. Yet waited until the inspector tried to kill them both to suggest moving to Arabia? And for all their friends and family to leave France? Like really, if you think a country is about to break out into an all out Revolution wouldn’t you want to get the hell out of these ASAP to avoid the bloodbath and ensure you don’t accidentally get caught up in it? That really irked me and took a little bit of joy out of the overall story because I spent so much time fixating on why they didn’t just move to Arabia. But it certainly didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying the read.

Thank you and I look forward to seeing you again next week when I review “Conduct Unbecoming of a Gentleman” by Wareeze Woodson. I will come back to the next book in the series in the future, so keep an eye out for that one!

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