I’ve been to each of the houses Jamie and his brothers have worked on so far and none of them ever came close to being this rundown before they were renovated. I knew Jax was living in the “pink house,” as it was slated by Jamie and April, but I didn’t know it was this bad.
Putting my Prius in park, I look out my window and take a minute to try and see whatever potential the guys must’ve conjured up when they bought this place.
The trim is pink, the porch is pink, the damn door is fuchsia and the turrets—yes, it even has two freaking towers on either side—are too-much-sun-in-summer pink. It’s so bright and garish it’s giving me flashbacks of my childhood when my mom would make Gilly and I wear matching froufrou dresses to church every Sunday, the kind that would enter the building before we did.
My perusal is interrupted when my phone vibrates on the passenger seat.
Jax – Are you going to sit out there and admire Her Majesty or come inside and get a private tour?
Ronnie – I’m too scared to come any closer in case Barbie and her merry minions hold me captive and roll me in pink glitter.
Jax – Now, now, don’t besmirch the house without seeing her in all her grand, blushing beauty.
Ronnie – She’s blushing alright, with embarrassment. Barbie called, she wants her Dream House back.
Jax – Barbie is too busy getting porked by Ken. She’s moved on to a beach house in Malibu, playing happy polygamy with Ken and his transgender lover, Kendra.
Ronnie – You seem to know a lot about Barbie
Jax – Just get your ass out of that prissy Prius and come inside.
Ronnie – If I start turning blond and saying like in every sentence, promise you’ll take me out the back and put me out of my misery.
Jax – Veronica . . .
Ronnie – Yeah, yeah. I’m coming, Ken.
Jax – Fucking finally, Barbie.
Ronnie – Call me that again and you’ll start sounding like my prissy Prius.
I grab my purse and get out of the car, locking it behind me and walking through—you guessed it—the pink picket-fence gate toward the front door. He appears just as I step onto the porch.
“Did you find the place okay?” he says with a grin.
“NASA called, said I couldn’t miss the massive pink pimple called your house.”
Twilight Empress tells the little-known story of a remarkable woman—Galla Placidia, sister to one of the last Roman Emperors. Roman princess, Gothic captive and queen—Placidia does the unthinkable—she rules the failing Western Roman Empire—a life of ambition, power and intrigue she doesn’t seek, but can’t refuse. Her actions shape the face of Western Europe for centuries. A woman as well as an Empress, Placidia suffers love, loss, and betrayal. Can her strength, tenacity and ambition help her survive and triumph over scheming generals, rebellious children, and Attila the Hun? Or will the Dark Ages creep closer and bring down the Empire?
In my non-book reading, reviewing, and blogging life, I am a trained Art Historian who has been teaching Art History for nigh on twenty years. For most of these years, I have taught a wonderfully preserved and beautifully decorated site in Ravenna, Italy known as the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia. Though there is little remaining, historically speaking, about her life, what we do know as fact is terribly fascinating and indicative of a woman far, far ahead of her time and place.
I knew going into Twilight Empress there would be a greater emphasis on the fiction part of historical fiction. This is often a very tricky thing for an author when there is so little to be relied upon from the historical record and if it isn’t dealt with in just the right way, the book becomes an absolute disaster. From the first chapter I knew I had something special: Justice has taken what little there is, historically, and woven those precious few facts into a compelling story about a woman bound and determined to protect her rightful place in the world and ensure the places of her children.
As with so many women of the period, and particularly royal women, Galla Placidia was seen as a pawn, a piece to be placed in the game of thrones. As a member of the royal family of the failing Roman Empire, Galla Placidia faced great adversity and was used by her family to their advantage rather than her own. However, Galla Placidia refused to be anyone’s pawn and with her strength, capabilities, education, and connections, she was often able to turn incredibly difficult situations into something good or, at the very least, tolerable. Case in point: her first marriage was to her captor and her second to a man she was never able to love. The first marriage brought Galla Placidia the title of Queen and the respect of many among the barbarian hordes, the second marriage brought her two children, an elevated royal title among her own family, and the assurances of her son’s right to inherit the throne. To be sure, Galla Placidia knew how to use her intelligence, how to manipulate when necessary, and how to remain loyal and worthy of respect and loyalty in the worst of circumstances.
The Bottom Line: This was my first Faith L. Justice read and it certainly will not be my last. Justice took the story of a woman I have long been interested in and created a world in which she has once again come to life. From her time amongst the Goths to her reign over the western half of the Roman Empire, Galla Placidia led with integrity, loyalty, shrewdness, and cunning. Though I was familiar with her story prior to reading this book, I found myself completely entranced and loving the heavily fictionalized portion of this solid historical fiction. I found every aspect of this book to be well-researched, well-written, and woven together (the history with the fiction) is a most pleasing manner. As if this all weren’t enough, Twilight Empress is just the first of the books in The Theodosian Women series.
Sometimes it takes a new beginning
Caroline Carruthers thinks she buried her dreams along with the love of her life…until a stranger named Celeste dares her to chase a dream all on her own. Moving to Redemption, Texas, is chapter one in Caroline’s new life story. Opening a bookstore is the next. Finding love is the last thing on her mind as she settles into this new place called home. But when she meets a handsome, soulful man who’s also starting over, all bets are off.
To reach a happily-ever-after
Jackson McBride came to Redemption looking only to find himself, not someone to love. Ever since his marriage ended, he’s been bitter. Sure, he used to believe in love—he even has the old song lyrics to prove it—but the Jackson of today is all business. That is, until a beautiful young widow who’s moved to town inspires a change of heart. Could it be that the myth of Redemption’s healing magic is true…and Jackson and Caroline can find a second chance at a happy ending after all?
Three sexy men, a rundown and ready to be resuscitated ranch, a small idyllic town, and one sweet romance? YES, PLEASE!
Jackson McBride is something of a broken man. His ex-wife is vindictive and has deep pockets as well as very good lawyers which has cost Jackson his career as a songwriter, his home, and time with his young daughter. To avoid making matters worse than they already are, Jackson has, at the request of his cousin, made his way to Redemption, Texas where he discovers an inheritance he and his cousins never imagined.
Jackson is now the part owner of a rundown former brothel, a dance hall, a saloon, and the surrounding area. With few ties to his former home, Jackson makes the decision to stay in Redemption and oversee the overhaul of the site. With his cousins on board and backing the decisions, Jackson intends to return the dance hall to its former glory and open it to up and coming musicians, singers, and bands, the brothel will become a bed and breakfast, and the saloon will be a refashioned bar and restaurant. The surrounding area, given its gorgeous natural landscape will make a perfect retreat for the outdoor loving visitor. While the work certainly takes Jackson’s mind off his personal troubles, it doesn’t erase the troubles or the loneliness he feels.
When Jackson initially meets Caroline Carruthers, she is a married woman with a very sick husband and a broken heart. When next Jackson encounters Caroline, she is a widow, opening a bookstore in Redemption, with a still broken yet hopeful heart. Caroline’s move to Redemption is meant to be a fresh start, a way to begin anew following the loss of her beloved husband. With a highly anticipated bookstore in the works a few good friends in the making, Caroline is satisfied with her life and hoping to eventually move toward happiness. Jackson McBride would certainly be a move in the direction of happiness.
Jackson and Caroline are meant to be together, but understandably, each has serious reservations. Caroline is still grieving the loss of her husband and Jackson is still tied to his spiteful ex through his adored daughter. With both being clear and honest with the other, Jackson and Caroline decide to embark on a friends with benefits journey that will surely run its course, be done and over with sooner rather than later. And then, Fate laughed 😊 Outside of the benefits package part of their arrangement, Jackson and Caroline genuinely like one another. Spending time together, talking, helping one another, and becoming a part of one another’s life is as natural as breathing to both. All it takes for Jackson and Caroline to accept and embrace what it so obvious to everyone around them is one massive tragedy that nearly destroys all the hope and happiness they were building.
The Bottom Line: I knew I would like this book from the first page! I simply adore small town, sweet romance reads, and Jackson fits the bill on every level. Jackson is broken and angry, but between Caroline, Redemption, and the revitalization of his inheritance, Jackson finds peace, love, acceptance, and road back to true happiness. Caroline, like Jackson, is broken and Redemption is just the place for her to heal and move beyond her immense grief. What I appreciated most about this read is the very real sense of family and community that is built around Caroline and Jackson. Both have been beaten and battered by life, but the people of Redemption gladly and warmly welcome them into their community and help lift them up as they lift one another up. What’s more, with the addition of Jackson and Caroline to town comes a blossoming for the town itself and a promise of more to come. Though there are some naughty bits in this read, they are low heat and focused more on the emotion of the event(s) rather than the physical aspects. I mention this only to reinforce the focus of this book is about the feels, overcoming life’s obstacles, learning to live and love again, and being open to all the possibilities life has to offer, even in a small town!