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review 2018-06-20 16:10
Under the Desert Moon by Marsha Canham
Under the Desert Moon - Marsha Canham

Aubrey Blue is this close to avenging her family. There's just the last leg of her journey between her and her goal, a journey that will take her through the desert, fending off Comanche attacks, unwanted drunken advances from one of her travelling companions, and not-so-unwanted advances from another, a former convict who's after the same man she is, Christian McBride...

Marsha Canham never disappoints. Be it set in the Highlands, on the high seas, or way back in the medieval times, her stories never fail to entertain and/or intrigue the reader.

This one was no different. Set in the wild-wild West in the late 19th century, it featured everything one comes to expect from a western, and what I've come to expect from Ms Canham.
Old feuds for land, money, power, and/or women, gunslingers, chases through the desert, fighting "Injuns", gun fights, saloons...descriptive, evocative narration, wonderful characters, drama galore, and a romance that makes you tingle.

Christian McBride might've been a typical Canham hero (they all pretty much look and act the same), but it was still a pleasure learning about him, discovering the depths of his personality, and watch him topple like a felled oak for the one).

“You’re supposed to make a wish on a falling star,” he murmured.

“Did you?”

“I most certainly did. It took two dozen, but you’re finally here.”

Audrey Blue was rather special. An acquired taste and as much of a puzzle for both her hero and the reader. Some of her choices and decisions were rather incomprehensible (when there were simpler ways to accomplish what she wanted) as was her unwillingness to tell Christian the entire truth. Turns out, she had a good reason for keeping her cards close to her vest, and that reason sure was a doozy.

Together, these two made for quite a couple, with sparks flying every each way whenever they shared a scene, and though the romance might've come across as rather rushed, it was fiery and all-consuming, like romances "of old" are supposed to be (and Ms Canham sure can write a fiery romance).

The rest was just as wonderful, rife with mystery, intrigue and enough suspense to keep the reader engaged, on the edge of the seat and furiously turning pages to learn what would happen next. Multiple villains with multiple motives, each got their well-deserved end, with the most satisfying confrontation offered as cherry on the cake.

Rife with intrigue, wonderful characters with more or less shadowed pasts, revenge-seeking, scorching passion, and stunning imagery, this novel is a must read for all Marsha Canham fans, as well as fans of romance set under the sizzling sun of the frontier or under the glowing desert moon.

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review 2018-05-05 10:08
The Far Horizon by Marsha Canham
The Far Horizon - Marsha Canham

While bored out of his mind in the middle of a London ballroom, Jonas Dante sees her. Intrigued by her seeming indifference, he follows her, only to discover the lady is named Bellana Harper (formerly known as Bella Baker) and is a jewel thief.

Bella has no choice but to employ her nimble fingers once more. Her old husband dies without an heir, leaving her without any solid means of survival. To top it all off, her no-good half-brother knows where she is, and her former protector (in her more nefarious days) is gunning for her for a crime she didn't commit. She doesn't have the patience to deal with the arrogant pirate, but she quickly finds out she doesn't have any choice in the matter, as the infuriating man saves her life...And offers her temporary protection on board his ship, promising to disembark her in Cornwall as they sail past.

But there's no time to stop in Cornwall (or anywhere else, for that matter), for his brother-in-law carries on board a peculiar rumor. A rumor about a wolf hunter and a possible raid on Simon Dante's supposedly secret lair.

If you ask me to pick a favorite out of this series, you'll find me at a loss (I only know which is my least favorite). But if you ask me which of the four is the most suspenseful/dramatic/intense, it would have to be this one.
It's the last in the series, true, and so it packs an added emotional punch when the destruction is revealed and when the story of what happens is told (not in its entirety, mind you).

The first part of the story established the character of Jonas Dante, the eldest of the Pirate Wolf's children, who so far has only played a very marginal (sometimes for comic relief) role in the books. I couldn't say I was overly impressed with the guy, having come to know his father and brother before him, yet there was something larger than life in him. Tall, broad, scowling, with his thick mane of red hair...The depictions and descriptions sure were vivid. But he was also a little too rough around the edges, even after his softer side (he takes after his mother in artistic talents) was revealed. He was rather dissonantly brusque and rude.
Yet the heroine worked well in that context. She wasn't a fainting virgin or a wilting flower. She was sarcastic, ungrateful, calculating and manipulating...Yet the two worked perfectly together.
The romance wasn't worth its name, since in the end they more or less came to a mutually beneficial agreement than anything else, and there wasn't anything overly "romantic" about their interactions in and out of his cabin...But once again, it worked rather well in context of both their personalities.

But what made this story shine, was the second part so aptly and chillingly promised in the prologue. The treachery and betrayal, the horrifying scenes of destruction, the cold vow of vengeance and the execution of the plan. It was a bit too easy at times, but it sure got the goose bumps erupting and the blood flowing.
The suspense and the action were perfectly executed with the pacing spot-on to keep the reader on the edge of the seat and turning pages to see what would happen next, hoping all would be well in the end.

There were casualties, even among the beloved characters, so the story ended on a rather bittersweet, yet hopeful note of endless possibilities for more happy endings.

If you like your pirates/privateers, intrigue, mystery, suspense, wonderful characters, vivid imaginery, and fiery romance, this is the series for you.

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review 2018-05-03 16:27
The Following Sea by Marsha Canham
The Following Sea - Marsha Canham

With his Valour at the bottom of the ocean, Gabriel Dante sails the former Spanish galleon, now renamed Endurance back home to Pigeon Cay as they come across a ship sailing in a fixed circle and flaying the yellow flag announcing it's a plague ship and others should steer clear. Doing his seafaring duty, Dante orders his men to sink it, but after the first broadside, he notices a lone survivor...A slender, pale, yellow-haired waif standing on deck.

Despite his survival instinct, Gabriel decides to save her, towing her behind his ship in a boat in order to prevent possible contagion, but a storm changes his plans once more when he's forced to save the girl from drowning.

Despite the crew's superstitions and fears, Evangeline "Eva" Chandler isn't contagious or a witch, but merely searching for her missing father, and Gabriel, despite his better intentions, decides to help her...And soon they're embroiled in decades long intrigue involving a ghost ship disappeared during a hurricane carrying a treasure many would kill to possess.

This was yet another wonderful addition to the Dante saga. It had a much more dramatic story arc than the previous two novels, and the romance seemed a bit of an afterthought, but the ending slayed it with the culmination of the suspense/mystery sub-plot and that final action-y confrontation.

The prologue was reminiscent of Through a Dark Mist as the reader is thrust in the middle of the action, while travelling back in time to establish the story and characters with the first chapter.

As I said, the plot had a pretty dramatic flare with a displaced girl searching for her father, surviving the plague on board a ship and almost blown to smithereens, only to be rescued (twice) by a rather snarly, bruised pirate, but thanks to the characters (both main and secondary) and their interactions, the story worked very well.
The plot unfurled slowly and leisurely, yet the pacing never suffered, flowing easily, picking up the pace or slowing down when needed.

I liked the two leads, especially the heroine who was no wilting violet no matter what happened to her (holding strong even under duress), while the hero remained a slight enigma throughout the story. Even that worked in the book's favor, maintaining the sprinkle of mystique and intrigue no matter what.
The romance (mostly the quick resolution toward the end) might've seemed added as an afterthought with all the other things going on, but it also strangely worked well into the canvass of the plot. I liked the fact the hero and heroine were rather evenly matched, maintaining a nice balance of power without Eva appearing much weaker (unless physically, of course) than Gabriel.

What I liked most was the ghost treasure ship part of the story. It could've been done as a treasure hunt, instead of the way it was presented, but it offered enough mystery and intrigue to keep things lively, and provided that added incentive for the suspense to unfold and the action to kick in.

This was a wonderful mix of well-developed characters, mystery, suspense, and action with that added sprinkle of romance to tie it up nicely.



P.S. And there's another discrepancy in the time continuum of this series. It's set directly after the end of the final battle in The Iron Rose. But The Iron Rose is set in 1614 (it says so in the book) and this one (it's in the first sentence of the prologue!) in 1623. Something doesn't add up.

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review 2018-04-24 18:04
The Iron Rose by Marsha Canham
The Iron Rose (Pirate Wolf series Book 2) - Marsha Canham

Juliet Dante, daughter of the notorious Simon Dante, comes to the rescue of an English envoy ship about to be blown to smithereens by the Spanish. On board is the twelfth duke of Harrow, Varian St. Clare, who saves Juliet's life and then gets knocked unconscious by a blast...Only to wake up on board of Juliet's ship, the Iron Rose and bound for the secret island where the pirate wolf reigns...

I liked this one. The story flew nicely, the tempo was spot-on, increasing with each and every chapter, the action sequences were gripping, the sea battles intense (especially the heart-wrenching last one), and it was nice seeing old friends again and learning of their life beyond their story.

The only major problem this book had were the two leads. There was a glaring imbalance of power between the two from the beginning. He was injured and then spent chapter upon chapter coming across as a weak, spoiled English aristocrat, while she, unlike her mother, spent the majority of the book in full bitch mode.
I like my heroines strong and spunky, yet Juliet's bravado and obstinacy truly grated on my nerves. There's a difference between a strong, self-assured and resilient woman and a pig-headed, obstinate, unbending bitch.
I didn't like her, and I especially didn't like the imbalance of power between the two in their "romance", as the hero was forced to do all the work, while she kicked and spat almost the entire way.
I wished there was an apology scene or some grovelling thrown into the mix in the end.

Granted, I didn't care much about the two protagonists or the romance aspect of the story, but the rest more than made up for it. I'm also looking forward to Juliet's brother's stories.

P.S. Something else pricked me in this story—the glaring continuity error of Lucifer, the hulking black, scimitar and loincloth loving behemoth Simon Dante rescued all those years ago. In Across a Moonlit Sea Lucifer communicated through sign language and grunts, since, according to Simon, the Spanish had cut out his tongue. In this book, the man spoke without problems. Which one is it? Was the tongue thing a lie? Or is the speaking part in this book a mistake?

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review 2018-04-23 12:15
Across A Moonlit Sea by Marsha Canham
Across a Moonlit Sea - Marsha Canham

Simon Dante, a French count with a British mother, prefers to spend his time on the deck of his ship, Virago, battling the Spanish on the high seas, instead of being a man of leisure in the court of Queen Elizabeth. Then one day, he's betrayed by his fellow sea hawk and left to die in the circle of six Spanish zabras.
Dante and his crew put up a fight, remaining afloat long enough for a merchant ship, Egret, to sail by, captained by Jonas Spence and helmed by the man's daughter, Isabeau "Beau" Spence.

Sparks fly immediately between Dante and Beau, mostly thanks to the "unorthodox" way his crew come to stay on board the Egret, and later due to the palpable attraction between them. But they've both been burned before, so trust doesn't come easily...Even as they sail toward England and embark on a quest to help Sir Francis Drake in ruining King Philip's plans of war.

I love Marsha Canham's books. Simply love them. The narration is evocative, painting incredible vivid pictures of characters and their surroundings no matter which era the story is set in. This one was no different...The sea was brilliantly blue, the storms frighteningly loud, the battles at sea gripping (you could smell the gunpowder and hear the thunderous roar of cannons), and the battle of wits between the two sexes intriguing, engrossing and inspiring even though the outcome was predictable.

The set-up might sound formulaic—Marsha Canham always pits two headstrong leads against one another with the hero always towering over the heroine, at the peak of physical condition, dark, handsome and extremely arrogant and his heroine loving to antagonize him, matching him word for word as they both try to fight the passion and attraction blazing between them—but each story is an entity of its own (even if they're part of series or trilogies) with characters so distinctly different (albeit similar in physical descriptions), and romantic couples never encountering obstacles and woes similar to those before them (except for the fighting against the inevitable part), that the reader notices the initial formula or template, and then promptly forgets about it as they're swept along.

This story was no different. Both Simon and Beau were strong, self-sufficient characters, stubborn and afraid to trust the unknown, but they both became even stronger as a couple. Their verbal battles were amusing and rather arousing as they served as foreplay for what was to come. But even as they succumbed to the inevitable, they never lost those individual character traits that made them tick, keeping up with the battles of wits and words long after their fates were already set.
I loved them separately and I loved them together; the sparring and the loving equally wonderful to read.

Then there was the supporting cast (with an additional romance thrown into the mix) with two motley crews of seamen, friends and confidantes, a father talking to his daughter about itches that might need to be scratched, a hulking Cimaroon with his two gleaming scimitars, a gunman with unsteady sea legs constantly falling in love...And added to all that was Sir Francis freaking Drake.

The action sequences were breathtaking and intense, culminating in the singeing the King of Spain's beard in the port of Cadiz serving as backdrop to a much smaller battle brewing in the peripheral vision since the prologue.

This book offers a remarkable mix of a wonderful cast of characters, intense battle sequences, and a delightfully epic romance.

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