Book Review

“A Strange Affliction” by Maria Piper (Book Review)

There is nothing I love more than a book that surprises you. Surprises you with the plot, with the characters, with its very existence. This was that book!

I found this book at Writers on the River 2021. I had stopped by Marie Piper’s table to have her sign my WOTR tote and saw the cover and my interest was peeked. But when she told me it was a historical romance set during the Salem Witch Trials — I knew I HAD to read it.

“A Strange Affliction” is a true work of art. It balances honesty and historical accuracy with a plot of romance, intrigue, and horror as you see the world through the eyes of Nicholas Cleary and Hannah Hibbard. Nicholas is the doubtful and pessimistic male lead who is working to bring to light what is really happening in Salem. Meanwhile, Hannah is a mother trying to make sure her, her daughter, and her faith make it through the horrors that have descended upon their town.

The dual perspective of Nicholas and Hannah and being able to see through both of their eyes and mindsets really brought this story to life. It indulged your heart and mind as the two perspectives battled each other for logic, meaning, and ultimately what it would mean to fall in love. It also shows just how important perspective and meaning are in each scenario, as how Hannah saw a turn of events and how Nicholas saw a turn of events could be drastically different.

What’s more, you feel the sense of urgency and injustice in the novel, especially through Hannah’s perspective. It was truly a book that I couldn’t put down, not only because I loved it, but because it draws you in and makes you feel like you’re actually there. You couldn’t stop because you had to know if the trials would stop or if only despair would win. I cried with each broken heart and loss and rejoiced with each moment of joy and happiness.

Marie Piper is truly a craftswoman of writing. I can’t wait to dive into her other books, including “Christine” (a Phantom of the Opera inspired story). If you’re a lover of historical and historical romance, I BEG you — pick up a copy of “A Strange Affliction” as I have no doubt you will love the story, the characters, and the author.


AUTHOR INTERVIEW

Meet Marie Piper!

What inspired you to write a historical romance set during the Salem Witch Trials? 

I have always loved American History, and – like many – have always found the Salem Witch Trials especially fascinating. The original idea for A Strange Affliction came in a little burst of creativity back when my book club re-read The Witch of Blackbird Pond and someone said, “I want this, but a romance novel!” But, writing a story of love with some optimism and hope in such a dark time is hard, so I put my original scribbles on the back burner. When COVID hit, I was working on a 1930’s Circus-set romance, but could not focus on that story, so I pulled A Strange Affliction out of the drawer and suddenly it was all I could focus on. Maybe because it was a similarly dark time in History. Who knows? Sometimes you have to follow the muse…

There were so many AMAZING scenes in this story (cough, cough, the forest scene!), but which was your favorite scene to write? 

Thank you! One of my favorite things in any book or media is the moment where a whole slew of weirdos comes together to accomplish something, so – without spoilers! – I had the most fun creating the end of the book where our heroine is in trouble and several peripheral characters set things in motion so the hero can help her. 

What was the most difficult part of writing “Strange Affliction”? 

Probably just being terrified of getting one of the real historical details or dates wrong. One thing I’ve learned from writing historical romance is that there are many people out there who know every single inch of a topic (like railroad history!) and will call you out on it. Salem is a time in history that is extensively written about and studied, and there are real people existing in this world even as my fictional Hannah and Nicholas weave in and out among them, and I did not want to mess it up. 

You did a lot of research for your story (and I loved the references you included at the end). What was it like researching the people and stories of Salem? Did you find any interesting details you would like to share that perhaps didn’t make it into the book? 

As I said, this is a time period that is extensively studied and written about. There are so many great books about Salem out there, and I read what felt like a billion of them. Like many, my original knowledge of Salem came from Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, and just learning how much of that play is inaccurate and how much he twisted in order to make it a parallel to McCarthyism, was eye-opening. One wonderful book full of interesting information I could not include was Salem Witch Judge: The Life and Repentance of Samuel Sewall. Sewall was one of the judges, but his post-Salem life, guilt, and turn to social activism is fascinating. 

What future projects can we look forward to seeing from you both in the future? 

I’m thrilled to announce that I have a holiday novella forthcoming – MADAMS & MISTLETOE, which I’m describing as “Like Harlots, but in Deadwood, at Christmas.” While I’m pondering which of a few projects to work on next, the third and final book in my Gilded Brides series will be coming soon (I’m hoping for Spring 2022) and I think its going to be a lot of fun. 

A sneak peek at Marie Piper’s next book!

Book Review

“The Kiss Quotient” & “The Bride Test” by Helen Hoang (Book Reviews)

I first heard of Helen Hoang’s books on one of my favorite romance podcasts. I was immediately taken with the premise of the novel and decided I had to read it myself. I went in expecting a sweet romance and came out having fallen in love with each character, reciting different lines, and becoming a new super fan of Helen Hoang.

“The Kiss Quotient” and “The Bride Test” are two novels by Helen Hoang. They are part of a series, but are standalone — so if you read the second one first (by accident), like I did, there aren’t major spoilers. Each book follows a different family member in a large family as they overcome past trauma and find themselves (and love) in the process.

I originally thought to do the reviews of these books separately, but I loved them so much as a pair that I had to share them together. Each book captured my heart and made it IMPOSSIBLE to put down. I read both books in one sitting–they were truly that captivating.

What I really loved about these books was the amazing representation of the characters. Each book includes individuals of all backgrounds, race, and includes individuals who are neruodivergent or are overcoming past trauma. These differences among the main characters and the challenges they face only strengthens their bond and love, and I enjoyed each moment. I loved the character development and arcs in each novel and was excited to see how each of the characters grew and came into their own strength and voice with each page.

I can’t recommend Helen Hoang’s books enough. They are truly a MUST READ for every romance reader. I promise you will fall in love with each main character (and many of the side characters) and be up all night reading “The Kiss Quotient” and “The Bride Test”. And if you want to go the extra step, join me in reading Helen Hoang’s next book in the series: “The Heart Principle”!

Follow Helen Hoang on all her platforms for more updates!


Book Review

“Roseblood” by A.G. Howard (Book Review)

I was really excited to dive into “Roseblood” by A.G. Howard when it was selected as a novel for my Romance Book Club, especially after reading the tagline: “A Phantom of the Opera-inspired retelling”. I’m a huge Phantom of the Opera fan and couldn’t wait to see what twists this story added to the classic tale. It was beyond my expectations — fantastic!

I have to applaud A.G. Howard for the amazing way this novel is written. Being a big fan of Phantom of the Opera, I loved seeing little details and Easter Eggs hidden throughout the novel. However, you don’t have to be a big PoTO nerd to read this book. Any important information in the history of the world is explained, making it a great book for any who want to take the first step into this world.

I adored the main characters, and of course The Phantom. The only piece of criticism I have of the novel is I wish we could have gotten more of the secondary characters. With such fantastic personalities and relationships given in the beginning, I wish they would’ve had a bigger role in the final climax and ending. Although, perhaps they will get their own book later?

If you’re looking for a fantastic story that will grab your imagination and have you believing in mystical Phantoms, while also giving you one twist after the next, pick up A.G. Howard’s “Roseblood”.

And be sure to pack tissues — because that final twist hit me in the feels!

Happy Reading!


Book Review

“From Blood and Ash” by Jennifer Armentrout (Book Review)

“From Blood and Ash” by Jennifer Armentrout is the Goodreads Choice Best Romance for 2020. When I saw this announcement, I was excited to dive in and start reading. I never could have imagined the book would capture my imagination (and my inner conspiracy theorist) so fantastically.

This novel was a magical trip into the fantasy world of Ascended, Atlanteans, Wolven, and of course the main character Poppy, the Maiden. It follows Poppy as she struggles with the weight that was put on her shoulder as being the chosen one, the Maiden. She fights against her wants and the needs of the people, her own attraction to her personal guard, and what it means to truly be herself.

Admittedly, I read this book for my romance book club and each meeting everyone enjoyed as I had so many theories about what was going on behind the scenes. Yes, I was very interested in Poppy and if she would finally wind up with Hawke, but the world building was what really had me in this novel. There was so much mystery and intrigue it was hard to put the book down.

My only negative take from the book was the ending. It left things on a huge cliff hanger that I wasn’t satisfied with. A lot was laid out at the end of book one that made if very hard to see the good that was to come or even feel like the story was at a good stopping point. It wasn’t the “HEA” (Happily Ever After) or “HFN” (Happy For Now) I have come to expect from romance novels. In fact, my book club and I had a discussion about whether book one should be considered a fantasy romance or just fantasy. However, the ending of book one did make diving into book two all that much easier.

Book two picks up right after book one ends and flows seamlessly from one to the next. Where book one deals with Poppy realizing who she is and what is really happening in the world around her, book two dives into her healing and discovering what power she holds. I must insert a warning here that there is abuse, torture, gore, and a great deal of betrayal in both novels. It can hit hard, so if you don’t like reading those themes, this book may not be for you.

I did enjoy these books and I’m excited for book three (which comes out next month!). I am hopeful that Poppy gets her happy ending and that all my theories about what is going on in the world is correct. This is a deep dive read, that has you thinking about each and every detail. If you’re looking for a fantasy romance that will pull you into the world, and you’re up for that deep dive, be sure to check out “From Blood and Ash” By Jennifer Armentrout.

Book Review

“Ice Planet Barbarians” by Ruby Dixon (Book Review)

“Ice Planet Barbarians” by Ruby Dixon has been on my to-be-read pile for a while now. Ever since I heard about it on the Heaving Bosoms Podcast, I have been obsessed. Let me tell you, it was well worth the wait! You may find yourself wondering what on earth is going on as you see the large, blue, horned man on the cover. Well, it is just an amazing little novel called “Ice Planet Barbarians”.

“Ice Planet Barbarians” is the first of an ongoing series by Ruby Dixon. It follows the lives of women who were stolen away from earth by horrendously evil aliens. When they decide to rise up and take over the ship, it crash-lands on a frozen wasteland of a planet and they have to fight for survival. In particular, the first book follows Georgie, the unofficial leader of their troupe.

This first book follows Georgie, the brave woman who sets out into the frozen tundra after their crash to find help. She finds it in Vektal, leader of a tribe of tall, blue, horned aliens. Between language barriers, cultural differences, and good ole misunderstandings, their first days spent together are rather…unique.

Vektal and Georgie make a fantastic pair, which leads to hilarious interactions and sexy love scenes. I spent my evening laughing my head off while squealing happily over nearly every scene the couple was in. It is a short book and a perfect read for after a long day at work.

However, I must warn you that the beginning of the book is NOT light hearted. It contains sexual assault – from the aliens who kidnap the women. If you are not comfortable with these themes, I would recommend sipping the early chapters or reading a quick synopsis on line and then jumping into book 2! If you are looking for a new series to dive into and want something completely different and unique, I recommend the Ice Planet Barbarian series. Each novel follows a different pair as they find love and connect as a mated pair. If you let it, I bet “Ice Planet Barbarian” by Ruby Dixon will become one of your favorite reads.

Check Out Ruby Dixon’s Works!


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