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November 23, 2019

Seekers of the Past by Amy Valentini ~ a Series Review

by MK French


Today I'm reviewing the four books in the Amy Valentini's time traveling romance series Seekers of the Past. It is a "journey to where the past meets the present and love lives forever".
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Seekers of the Past by Amy Valentini

June 2019; 978-1983217975
ebook, print (394 pages); romantic suspense
When Emma discovers clues about her family's stories, she doubts that her grandfather's death was an accident. She enlists the help of a friend, her ex arrives instead. Sam had driven Emma away five years ago through the power of drunken bad decisions, but now he's determined to not only help her uncover the truth but repair the damage he'd done.

I love that from the outset, Emma is confident in her work as an archaeologist and the ability to do research. Never once does she apologize for these strengths just to make someone else feel better about themselves. Sam might be apologetic about being caught cheating, but I'm with Emma on this one. Being so drunk that he blacked out is not an excuse, and it's worse than it was with one of his college students. That's normally a huge squick for me, so I'm glad it was glossed over in the beginning of the book. It does bother me that he calls her "Emma girl" and "kiddo" from the start, even when Emma made it clear that she wasn't interested in anything other than his expertise with antiquities. I understand it's likely a callback to the nicknames from their prior relationship, especially since Emma doesn't call him out on it, but it annoys me a bit. If we're supposed to root for the two of them getting back together, he should be less irritating at the start!

Many paragraphs are long, especially in the beginning, giving a very info-dump feel and creating a wall of text across the page. When there are scene breaks beginning in chapter two, they feel as though they're breaking apart scenes into separate ones that actually belong together. It continued intermittently as the rest of the story progressed, though I got used to it and just let my eyes skip over the breaks and continue reading the story. That was especially the case when the mystery of the hidden items, journals and creepy guy that wanted the belongings intensified after a death and break-in on the property.

Other than the pet name thing that annoyed me about Sam, he did seem fairly genuine that he hadn't intended for anything to happen in the past and wanted to make it up to Emma. There are sparks between them, and Sam does try to rekindle their relationship. Emma is more invested in the hunt for whatever might be hidden on the family property, though she has her own feelings for Sam lingering. None of their feelings about the past are discounted, which did make me respect Sam a little more. How he handled the catastrophe on the farm as well as the repeated attacks was impressive, and he clearly showed his respect for Emma and care for her well being. The tension continues to ratchet up, until we get to the finale of the novel. A lot of the mystery pulls together, and it's almost too sudden of a solution. But it's a neat and tidy one, at least, with plenty of hope for the future.

Buy Seekers of the Past at Amazon

For The Sake Of Honor by Amy Valentini

September 2018; 978-1723871481
ebook, print (274 pages); regency romance
Emma discovers the diary of the youngest Embry family member and reads about Anna Pelt and Joshua Embry. He had come home from England with a bride chosen by his parents, and Anna was a servant in the household. While Joshua loves Anna, he has to marry his betrothed for the sake of honor. But what about love?

The prologue framing the story summarizes book 1 so that it isn't necessary to have read that one. Emma is interested in delving into the past, researching her genealogy because of the resemblance she and Sam have to one of her ancestors. In delving into the diaries and birth records, Emma goes to sleep and dreams about the events that had taken place in her ancestors' lives.

This novel focuses on Anna and Joshua. From the outset, Joshua was betrothed to someone else, though it wasn't discussed until two years prior to this novel's opening. His father Jason is actually just as protective of Anna as he is of Joshua, and is just as disappointed in Joshua's fiancee. Elizabeth is almost a caricature of a woman, as she is haughty and rude to everyone based on social class. While I have no doubt there were plenty of people with that outlook in the time period (they still exist now, after all), there is no effort to flesh her out as an actual person. If anything, there are some situational inferences that paint her in an even worse light. This is fine, given we're clearly meant to root for Anna and Joshua, but I'm not overly impressed with Joshua. Yes, there's a marriage contract between the two families, but he falls back on that as his excuse to avoid pursuing a woman that he supposedly loves more than life itself, despite two years where he didn't even write to her after he heard news from his sister that other men were interested.

I really liked Anna and the rest of the Embry family. Joshua's siblings are a lot of fun to read, and their interactions with Anna are wonderful and more like siblings. They back her up at every turn, and I very much like them a lot more than Joshua. This is still a historical romance novel, so we have a happily ever after where the marriage contract is clearly invalid.

Buy For the Sake of Honor by Amy Valentini

In The Arms of Her Angel by Amy Valentini

December 2018; 978-1792652721
ebook, print (328 pages); time travel
Emma continues to read journals, this time following the story of Daniel Embry and Ginny Blackwood. Daniel had caught a thief that turned out to be Ginny, seeking help for her father. The two can't trust each other from the start, but they have no choice but to work together and unravel the clues scattered in Ginny's memory.

We start right in the beginning with the meeting between Daniel and Ginny; she literally just stole something and crashed into him. He is far more understanding in this situation than other people would be, and agrees to help her figure out the clue left in a rhyme. He's fascinated by the mystery of it, and is physically attracted to her as well. Ginny is attracted enough to kiss him, but not enough to trust him when she had been practically abandoned while her father was drunk. Still, he is her father, and she feels compelled to save his life if she can. This indicates an honorable streak, which she probably never learned during her travels as a child.

The description of Ginny's difficulty reading is pretty classic for dyslexia, and it's nice to see that kind of representation even in historical fiction. She might be ashamed of her difficulty, but again, Daniel is very understanding about it and eager to help. From here, details about Ginny's life comes out in dribbles, mostly when things trigger memories for her. Some she'd rather forget, such as her assault history, but there are some pleasant memories as well. Because of her past traumas, Ginny had forgotten a lot of her past, and the turn of events leading to the climax of the story is confusing for her. She doesn't know who to trust, and her thoughts waffle back and forth as she tries to reconcile it. I felt so bad for her in this period, as well as for Daniel.

Buy In the Arms of her Angel at Amazon

To Love And Be Loved By Him by Amy Valentini

April 2019; 978-1093374254
ebook, print (490 pages); romance
Emma now is reading the journal of Emily Embry, who was determined to avoid the marriage contract her parents set and fell in love with the ship captain that saved her life. Unbeknownst to her, Beau Hawkings is that man, who had been trying to avoid the contract his grandfather had signed. The deceptions might have started out with good intentions, but could drive them apart as well.

The past section begins with Beau coming across a ship being attacked by the French and rescuing Emily Embry and her aunt from its destruction. Sparks fly immediately, of course; she's upset that her father's ship sank, and Beau isn't thrilled about having to reverse course to drop off the survivors. Beau knows right off the bat that Emily is the one that he is supposed to marry, but decides to say it's his cousin, who he was planning to transfer all of his inheritance to.  This gets worse once they actually arrive in England, and more misunderstandings arise. Instead of coming clean right away, Beau keeps perpetuating the problem and digging the hole deeper. I kept wanting to reach through the page and smack him upside the head. There was so much more emotional turmoil and misery, and Emily was way more forgiving than I would have been in her place.

I really admire Emily and how she wasn't afraid to take care of herself as best as she could in the situations she found herself in. While there were certainly tears and the occasional pity party, she was able to muster whatever resources she had to try to get back to her family, who she cares about. I have to say, I think I like the heroines in this series more than the heroes, and Emily is definitely a fun one for me to read about.

Buy To Love and Be Loved by Him at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband and three young children.

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