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Review: A Torch in His Heart by Anna Belfrage – Time Travel Romance/Suspense

Hi all, I have been way backed up on reviews and interviews due to work and life with kids and my own writing, but here is the first of many more upcoming reviews and posts I have promised to squeeze in voluntarily for authors. I can’t wait to share.

A Torch in His Heart, Review –
*could be minor spoilers*

A Torch In His Heart Cover

A Torch in His Heart (book one of her new Wanderers series) by Anna Belfrage is somewhat out of my usual reading comfort zone and carrousel of reading. However, I got on the ride because there was some sort of time slip or movement element, there was an ancient element, and of course, it’s Anna. I believe I’ve read about twelve of Anna’s past books – she has a superb historical time traveling series that rivals Outlander and another great historical fiction series. You’ll find all of them reviewed on Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I love Anna’s writing, even if I am not generally a romance reader. I will read various genres that feature some romance, though. Those things said, I was ready to give it a whirl. I hoped it would be a summer read, but with kids and work and my own writing, time got a bit away from me so here we are in September – and no worries, it’s a great book for any season.

Why is A Torch in His Heart such a great book? To put it succinctly, in usual Anna prose, there are memorable characters, clear hero and villain tracks, a strong female main character, rousing prose, and witty dialogue. The additive this time that readers should know (of Anna and my own followers here) is the steamy sections. I hadn’t read the Amazon or other site warnings myself, so they caught me by surprise. Anna amped up her romance game by including many explicit sex scenes between the main characters. So fair warning, but also, the good thing is that they appear in proper spots and aren’t corny, but are naturally occurring. I’m blushing to tell you that Anna’s scenes lit the page on fire this series! Some of you will like it, some won’t mind it, and some won’t like it, but as I always say, you can skip those paragraphs if it bothers you and still enjoy the story! They are definitely a small part of the story and there for entertainment, not the meat or foundation of it.

Now that we have that part out of the way, the things I liked the most about the book was quickly learning that Sam, Jason, and Helle all had many lives in the past. A conflicted past with conflicted relationships. The flashbacks were shown in italics, and it’s a preference of my own, but I much preferred the story in the flashback portions more than the modern story because I love ancient history. However, I liked how Anna intertwined the two together and how she pitted good vs. evil and the love triangle.

When Helle gets a new job for Mr. Woolf (Sam) she is almost immediately scared of him and his piercing black eyes and controlling demeanor. He reminded me A LOT of Loki from the Thor/Asgard mythology!! Later, when Jason sees Helle on the street, he is instantly excited, until he realizes Sam must also be around. For the rest of the book, we are flipping pages as Sam tries to put Helle in precarious work scenarios to control her, while she, instantly feeling she knows Jason, but doesn’t know how, throws caution to the wind because she feels an instant connection with him (maybe too instant, but we’ll go with it). He becomes her hero and she calls on him time and again in dealing with Sam. I’m obviously not supposed to like the controlling character of Sam, and I don’t, nor am I intimidated by him or enamored by his aggressive nature, but he was well-written in his role and quite complex and calculating.

Mostly I didn’t like Alison. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. As Helle’s roommate, I feel she should have supported her and not been a vessel for Sam’s whips and chains lifestyle, but I see within the narrative why it was used and how it showed how men can have mind control over some women. I hope this was to show Sam’s evil character and not just for erotic content. I didn’t really like the dynamic between Alison and Helle though. It was uncomfortable to me. Maybe it was supposed to be. It made for good reading drama. I might have liked for another strong female ally or friend to be included, but I also know in the set-up of many of these stories, there often isn’t. I might be thinking outside the box here.

The last half or last twenty-five percent of the book was outstanding. I loved the drama, the action, the love, and most of all, more of the flashbacks. I came to understand more of their ancient past and struggles. I’m an ancient historical fiction type of reader and writer so these parts caught me best. I’d have probably liked the whole book to have been written from this perspective, if it was my birthday and I was given a choice, but of course then there wouldn’t have been the time movement element, which I did like of course. Anna did an excellent job capturing the modern time period though. She had the business world and descriptions down well. The ending of the ancient parts just killed me inside – so sad – though it’s a love story told before, as many take a nod from Shakespeare, it was touching and still hit the heart strings. I enjoyed the ending in the modern era too and I’m looking forward to reading book two and seeing where this cliffhanger goes…

It’s the long-time editor in me and the fact the romance genre is a bit out of my element as a reader that’s made me pick at some areas, but I write to be helpful and with honest thoughts.

For romance readers and fans of time travel or reincarnation-type romances, I have a feeling you’ll love this book. It’s got all the steamy scenes, drama, action, conflict, and enduring connections that will make you both groan at the bad and swoon with the good. Anna has the making of another great series under her established belt and carries a flaming torch herself as she forays into romance.

Note: I was supplied a complimentary copy of this book for review.

ATIHH-1801

A Torch in His Heart, Synopsis –

In the long lost ancient past, two men fought over the girl with eyes like the Bosporus under a summer sky. It ended badly. She died. They died.
Since then, they have all tumbled through time, reborn over and over again. Now they are all here, in the same place, the same time and what began so long ago must finally come to an end.

Ask Helle Madsen what she thinks about reincarnation and she’ll laugh in your face. Besides, Helle has other stuff to handle, what with her new, exciting job in London and her drop-dead but seriously sinister boss, Sam Woolf. And then one day Jason Morris walks into her life and despite never having clapped eyes on him before, she recognises him immediately. Very weird. Even more weird is the fact that Sam and Jason clearly hate each other’s guts. Helle’s life is about to become extremely complicated and far too exciting.

ADULT CONTENT: This book contains explicit sex scenes

Purchase/Add A Torch in His Heart

Available Kindle/Print (395 p); Aug 2018

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Anna Belfrage, Biography

Anna BelfrageHad Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does not exist, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing. These days, Anna combines an exciting day-job with a large family and her writing endeavours. Plus she always finds the time to try out new recipes, chase down obscure rose bushes and initiate a home renovation scheme or two.

Her most recent releases, A Torch in His Heart (Wanderers 1) and Smoke in her Eyes (Wanderers 2), are a step out of her comfort zone. Having previously published historical fiction & historical romance, with this first book about Jason and Helle Anna offers a dark and titillating contemporary romance, complete with a time-slip angle and hot & steamy scenes.

Her first series, The Graham Saga, is set in 17th century Scotland and Virginia/Maryland. It tells the story of Matthew and Alex, two people who should never have met – not when she was born three hundred years after him. With this heady blend of time-travel, romance, adventure, high drama and historical accuracy, Anna hopes to entertain and captivate, and is more than thrilled when readers tell her just how much they love her books and her characters. There are nine books in the series so far, but Anna is considering adding one or two more…

Her second series is set in the 1320s and features Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power. The King’s Greatest Enemy is a series where passion and drama play out against a complex political situation, where today’s traitor may be tomorrow’s hero, and the Wheel of Fortune never stops rolling.

If you want to know more about Anna, visit her website!

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My Thoughts on Anna Belfrage’s Graham Saga Book Five: Serpents in the Garden

Serpents in the GardenSerpents in the Garden is book five in Anna Belfrage’s time slip series. It’s been an interesting ride in following along with this family and their adventures in history, with Alex coming from modern times and incorporating pretty well in to Matthew’s 17th Century world, all things considered.  As they’ve moved on now to the New World, and as the present keeps appearing into the past, we see how both times collide. Then, there are the new characters introduced and assisted in each novel that really make each story unique. Yet, there is also a seamless feel to them as well.

As this is book five, we start to see more of their children as they grow, and in this novel we experience watching Jacob and Daniel find their career paths, Ian and his wife Jenny struggle, people out for revenge due to Matthew’s actions, and more. The life of Matthew and Alex is always full of love, but also outside conflicts and the violence with others who believe they’ve been wronged heat up in this book as much as the sexual scenes. If you love a lot of action and steamy romance, this book will keep you turning the pages!

There’s always feisty and independent Alex, and loyal and patient Matthew, and though they do get into tiffs now and again, they have a deep love that transcends all the plots of all the novels. But the romance part isn’t what draws me to her books, it’s that she’s written a well-done novel of time travel that features Alex fitting in and making a life in history. I enjoy her deep character development. It’s been exciting, as a modern woman, seeing Alex travel from my period and into all the various tumultuous periods of history. Seeing the struggles of life during these travels through her eyes, is enlightening.

Anna is a wonderful storyteller and her books are always well-written. This series is definitely one you’ll want to collect with its sweeping saga of prose and its elegant and gorgeous covers. You could probably start with any of them and enjoy the story, the way they are written, but I definitely thinking buying the whole set is worth it if you like historical romance with a twist.

Serpents in the Garden, Synopsis~

Serpents in the GardenPublication Date: March 1, 2014
SilverWood Books
Formats: Ebook, Paperback

After years of hard work, Matthew and Alex Graham have created a thriving home in the Colony of Maryland. About time, in Alex’s opinion, after far too many adventures she is really looking forward to some well-deserved peace and quiet.

A futile hope, as it turns out. Things start to heat up when Jacob, the third Graham son, absconds from his apprenticeship to see the world – especially as Jacob leaves behind a girl whom he has wed in a most irregular fashion.

Then there’s the infected matter of the fellow time traveller Alex feels obliged to help – no matter the risk. Worst of all, one day Philip Burley and his brothers resurface after years of absence. As determined as ever to make Matthew pay for every perceived wrong – starting with the death of their youngest brother – the Burleys play out a complicated cat and mouse game, and Alex is thrown back into an existence where her heart is constantly in her mouth, convinced as she is that one day the Burleys will achieve their purpose.

Will the Burleys succeed? And if they do, will the Graham family survive the exacted price?
Serpents in the Garden is the fifth book in Anna Belfrage’s time slip series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham.

Graham Saga Titles
Book One: A Rip in the Veil
Book Two: Like Chaff in the Wind
Book Three: The Prodigal Son
Book Four: A Newfound Land
Book Five: Serpents in the Garden
Book Six: Revenge & Retribution (coming August 2014)
Book Seven: Whither Thou Goest

Buy the Book~

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Amazon US
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Book Depository
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Author Anna Belfrage, Biography~

Anna BelfrageI was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result I’m multilingual and most of my reading is historical – both non-fiction and fiction.

I was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Instead I ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for my most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career I raised my four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive …

Nowadays I spend most of my spare time at my writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and I slip away into my imaginary world, with my imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in my life pops his head in to ensure I’m still there. I like that – just as I like how he makes me laugh so often I’ll probably live to well over a hundred.

I was always going to be a writer. Now I am – I have achieved my dream.

For more information, please visit Anna Belfrage’s website. You can also find her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/serpentsinthegardentour
Tour Hashtag: #SerpentsintheGardenTour

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Hands of Time, by Irina Shapiro, First in Her Time Travel Romance Series

Hands of Time, by Irina Shapiro, is the first book in her five-part time travel series, the fifth part just being made available to the public this week. It’s more of the plush romance, think 1980s Harlequin-esque tone, and is best for women readers who primarily enjoy bawdy romance without much historical substance. There is a huge market of women who purchase these kinds of book and it should be marketed primarily to them for best return.

The protagonist, Valerie, is an American woman who is visiting a shop seeking a tourist-like gift when she comes across a beautiful clock. Instantly, she is transported back to the early 1600s. I agree to read this book as I was enticed by the clock being a time travel element. I always love the thought of historical pieces being linked to people and places of the past. I love when they are used in books for people to discover they are even more than what they thought they might have been or for a history mystery to be decoded or solved.

Being such a huge fan of time travel, either to the past or the future, and historical time travels with touches of romance and emotion are fun to read, I was hoping for more of an exciting plot. She did have a small family mystery, but didn’t allude to this until halfway through the book.

Unfortunately, though the writing is decent, it’s average. It’s easily read and the grammar is on point, but there just isn’t the emotion there. It wasn’t like the The Time Traveler’s Wife to me. It didn’t suck me in and make me burn to read it late into the night. There wasn’t any historical plot, no driving mystery that was alluded to throughout the book beyond the reader wondering how the clock transported her. There was not much exclamation or surprise by any party of what she was doing there. This seemed odd. Though she did try to include into the setting what life would be like in the 1600s, and the setting of the old castle-like home very quaint and lovely to think about, she just didn’t seem “misplaced” enough.

The book started abruptly with everything falling into place, without Shapiro really fleshing out the emotions of each character introduced or giving Valerie time to be aghast at her mysterious drop into the 1600s and the life of an English noble home.  I felt an initial spark of desire between Valerie and Alec, one of the brothers vying for her attention as she conveniently is holed up in their home, but she extinguishes that straight away upon that first meeting. After that, Alec becomes a rather crass character to me. Valerie sleeps with Finn rather quickly and without first creating any passionate romantic suspense for us. It’s somewhat tacky–its sexual parts–and it’s sex without eroticism.

I hate giving any criticism to authors, I know how that feels, and most readers and authors know that, but as a professional writer and editor myself, I just have to be totally honest. I wish no harm to Shapiro and commend her for living her writing dream and creating so many books on her own. My advice, if she asked, would be that she could re-work her content to be much more emotionally driven as the writing foundation is there. If she could connect her characters emotionally with the reader and put some suspense into it as well, the series would reach a wider audience. Her female lead should be stronger and more independent for me to enjoy it.

I bet until then she’ll get 5 starts from the faction of romance readers who read this type of romance (think Amanda Scott downsized) in a several hour sitting and want more….. and then 1 or 2 stars from the readers who are reading historical fiction works that are highly researched, absorbing, and emotional. You can decide which you are and let that be a way for you to know whether you should purchase this book, or the series. Maybe the rest of the series gets better with her time spent writing.

Her book covers and content could be updated and probably help her make more money, as readers would be attracted to more vibrant and readable covers. Also, her website does not make clear what order the books go in besides the fifth. I imagine she is trying to independently do this all on her own and again, I applaud her for living her dreams. But I’d love to see her modernize her brand a little more.

I’ll be giving her 3 stars on other sites. This means I liked it and it’s average in accordance to the really bad stuff I’ve read (and won’t even spend my time talking about) and the really amazing bestsellers I’ve read. It’s decent writing and an average romance. Female readers who love a good steamy romance, with a love triangle and a curious protagonist, will enjoy Hands of Time.

The Hands of Time, Synopsis~

The Hands of TimePublication Date: December 7, 2011
Merlin Press
eBook
ASIN: B006JRO9WS

When a young American woman vanishes without a trace from a quaint fishing village on the coast of England only one person knows the truth, but he remains silent, allowing the authorities to search for her in vain, safe in the knowledge that she will never be found. As Valerie’s bereft sister returns home alone, she struggles to understand what happened and come to terms with her terrible loss when she suddenly stumbles upon a clue that might finally shed some light on her sister’s disappearance.

Meanwhile, Valerie Crane finds herself transported to the year 1605. Terrified and confused she turns for help to the Whitfield brothers, who take her in and offer her a home despite their misgivings about her origins. Both Alexander and Finlay Whitfield fall in love with the mysterious woman who shows up on their doorstep, creating a love triangle that threatens to consume them all. Valerie must make her choice, deciding between the brother who will lead her down the path of destruction or one who will give her the love she couldn’t find in her own time.

Purchase the Book

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Hands-Time-Book-ebook/dp/B006JRO9WS

Author Irina Shapiro, Biography~

Irina ShapiroIrina Shapiro was born in Moscow, Russia, where she lived until she was eleven. In 1982 her family emigrated to the United States and settled in New York. Due to her love of reading, Irina was able to pick up English very quickly, and was an honor student throughout her school career.

After graduating from Bernard M. Baruch College in 1992 with a Bachelor’s degree in International Business, Irina worked in advertising for two years before shifting her focus to Import/Export. She worked her way up to the position of Import Manager in a large textile house before leaving the work force in 2007 to focus on her autistic son.

It wasn’t until Irina had been at home for some time that she began to write. Eventually the characters began to take on a life of their own and have conversations in her head, and once she started writing her musings down the stories came easily enough. Irina incorporated her love of history and travel into her writing to create a rich and detailed background for the characters.

Since then Irina has written eight novels. Book five of The Hands of Time Series, Shattered Moments, is available as of January 7, 2014.

Irina Shapiro lives in New Jersey with her husband and two children.

For more information, please visit www.irinashapiro.com. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/thehandsoftimetour
Tour Hashtags: #HandsofTimeTour #IrinaShapiro #HFVBT

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I was provided a free .pdf of this book in return for an honest review, which I’ve given.

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