The Trembling Hills (Phyllis Whitney, 1956)

trembling hills

Why did you choose this book?

My mother introduced me to Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt, and Mary Stewart.  I’ve always enjoyed reading their books and I decided now was the time to read through them before they go out of print (and out of library collections) forever.

What’s it about?

It’s 1906.  Sara Jerome’s mother is the housekeeper for the Temple family, and Sara is desperately infatuated with Ritchie Temple.  He goes to San Francisco to make his way as an architect, and is staying in the home of the beautiful Judith Renwick.  When Ritchie’s parents die, he offers Sara’s mother a position in California, but she is hesitant to take it until Sara finally convinces her.  Will Sara find love and a new life in SF?


Romantic suspense, Gothic romance


This was Whitney’s third attempt at romantic suspense.  It wasn’t that suspenseful, as I was never really fearing for Sara’s life.  I also thought much of the mystery and intrigue came in too late in the story (last chapter), and too much of the resolution was contrived.  A gentle romance with historical fiction undertones more than Gothic/romantic suspense.  Some dialogue and descriptions may be offensive to modern readers (especially those relating to Chinese servant Ah Foong).

Refresher (here there be spoilers)

No really, this is a book summary/plot synopsis

Ok, I warned you…

Sara and her mother Mary assume their roles in the Renwick household.  Judith and Ritchie have become engaged, and Ritchie is working in the insurance business with Judith’s brother Nick.  Sara begins work as a secretary in their office and befriends the youngest Renwick, plain and precocious Allison.  Judith and Ritchie have their ups and downs, and Ritchie occasionally toys with Sara’s affections, even kissing her and showing up in her room uninvited.

Sara does some investigating, determined to see if her family came from old money, in order to impress Ritchie.  She discovers that her father was Leland Bishop, nephew of the queen of old money SF, Miss Hester Varady.

The earthquake and fire occur, pushing the Renwick entourage out of their soon-to-be-destroyed home, and they take refuge in the Varady mansion.  Also in the home is Geneva Varady, Nick’s betrothed and a shy, quiet soul.

Sara realizes she loves Nick and he loves her, but he won’t marry her because he can’t betray Geneva.

Sara’s mother hates being back in the house she fled after Leland’s death, and there’s something spooky about an upstairs room.

Other stuff happens.

In the end, Hester tells everyone the truth.  Her sister Elizabeth and her husband Martin died in a shipwreck, leaving Leland behind.  She took him in and raised him.  He married a barmaid named Callie, who had a streak of insanity.  She was Geneva’s mother.  Hester forced a divorce and sent Geneva to be raised by nuns until she could later claim her.  Leland married Mary, Sara’s mom, and Sara was born.  They all lived in the Varady mansion.  One day Callie showed up and pushed Leland over the banister in a fit of rage, killing him.  Sara witnessed this but had repressed it.  Hester locked Callie in the upstairs bedroom, Ah Foong gave her a kitten, and Hester has always been haunted by the cat.  Callie eventually died.  Mary and Sara fled to Chicago to make a new life for themselves in the wake of Callie’s death (though Mary didn’t know of Callie).

Sara was disinherited by Hester, but became a successful dressmaker with Mary’s help.

When Geneva learned about her mother’s insanity and about Sara’s love for Nick, she ran to the ruined Renwick place.  A wall collapsed, killing her, and leaving Nick and Sara free to marry.

Ritchie and Judith reconciled and got married, and he finally buckled down and became an architect.

The End.


Hot Attraction (Lisa Childs, 2016)

hot attraction

Why did you choose this book?

I’m trying to read through a variety of Harlequins to get a sense of the differences between imprints.  So far I’ve tried Special Edition, Presents, and Blaze.  I didn’t review the Special Edition but suffice it to say it was a little too bland and cheesy for me.  My favorite so far is Presents.

What’s it about?

Reporter Avery Kincaid is looking for a story while spending some time in her hometown.  Elite Hotshot firefighter Dawson Hess is putting out forest fires, saving lives, and trying to keep to himself.  After he rescues Avery’s nephews from a fire, he’s on her radar and she won’t let him get away without giving her a scoop!


Harlequin Blaze, romance

Other recommended reads?

Besides the other entries in this series?  I would try authors known for their steamy romance like Maya Banks or Lora Leigh.


My favorite is still Presents, of the Harlequins I’ve tried so far.  This one was mostly romance and not much plot, which I guess is why you read a Blaze in the first place.  My major issue is that the plot revolves around an arsonist (who tries to kill Avery multiple times), yet no one investigates to determine the arsonist’s identity.  He or she is still unknown at the end of the book.  Unless they unveil the arsonist in another volume of the Hotshot Heroes series, I feel that’s a very unsatisfying conclusion.  I also thought it was unrealistic for Dawson to remain on that Hotshot team after his past is revealed.

Up next?

We have two choices:

Dead Presidents by Brady Carlson

Devoured by Sophie Egan


A Diamond Deal with the Greek (Maya Blake, 2016)

diamond deal

Why did you choose this book?

My boss is obsessed with Harlequins, and I’ve been experimenting with different types to see what’s different in each series and what all the fuss is about.  This is my first Harlequin Presents, which he collects.  Also, for our Reader’s Advisory meetings, we have to read adult fiction published in the last six months and in our library’s collection.  This was short and fit the bill.

What’s it about?

Professional skier Rebel (short for Arabella) accepted money from her father, despite their strained relationship after her mother’s death.  When she arrives at his office to thank him, she finds that her worst fears have been realized – he embezzled the funds and then ran.  His boss, Draco Angelis, strikes a deal.  If she pretends to be his fiancee for the next few months, he will forgive her father’s crimes and let her keep the funds.  She’s unsure how she feels about the deal, but agrees to the offer and can’t deny their chemistry…



Other recommended reads?

Harlequin Presents or Blaze or maybe Desire (haven’t read a Desire yet)


I enjoyed this book both for the read and that the premise was both endearing and laughable.  I plucked it from the shelf at random but actually found that I enjoyed reading about the lifestyles of the rich and famous.  I had fun being whisked away to one of Draco’s estates and reading the descriptions of fancy clothes, private planes, and skiing tournaments.  All-in-all, I’ll probably read more Presents in the future.  I was expecting it to be more tame than Blaze (the only other Harlequin I’ve read).  It wasn’t any less explicit, but there was much less sexual activity.  Perhaps my favorite part was explaining the plot to my coworkers, who had trouble appreciating its finer points…

Up next?

First Women by Kate Anderson Brower