Read Through the Smoke by Brenda Novak Online

through-the-smoke

A shocking betrayal... Riches. Power. An ancient heritage of pride. The Earl of Druridge wanted only for an heir. So when he learned that his wife was carrying another man’s child, he was filled with a thirst for vengeance. But he wasn't the one who caused Katherine’s death. Or was he? To his horror, he remembers nothing of that dreadful night, when their last shocking coA shocking betrayal...Riches. Power. An ancient heritage of pride. The Earl of Druridge wanted only for an heir. So when he learned that his wife was carrying another man’s child, he was filled with a thirst for vengeance. But he wasn't the one who caused Katherine’s death. Or was he? To his horror, he remembers nothing of that dreadful night, when their last shocking confrontation ended in scorching flame and cold blood. A forbidden love...Rachel McTavish, the beautiful daughter of a coal miner, knows something about the fire that took Lady Katherine’s life. In secret, the strong-willed girl strikes a bargain with the desperate earl: he must send his physician to help her dying mother or he may go to the scaffold—and the devil. The earl agrees, but Rachel is still unsure that her revelation will be enough to save him when so many wish him dead. Passionately drawn to the nobleman, despite all the doubt and mystery that shrouds him, Rachel wonders if he can really be a murderer. Or if he is the only man who will ever own her heart…...

Title : Through the Smoke
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 18108739
Format Type : Kindle Edition
Number of Pages : 303 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Through the Smoke Reviews

  • Navessa
    2019-01-28 14:46

    You know that phrase ‘It transcends the form’? That. Holy mother of God, how to do this justice?This book was nothing like what I’ve come to expect from the genre. There were no flighty females, no intricate descriptions of gorgeous gowns or extravagant house parties, I wasn’t subjected to a lengthy list of the ton and the details of all their various exploits, and nor was I treated to the constant witty banter between the female lead and the hero. Novak managed to avoid every single overused trope and theme that HR fans have ever complained about. I’m sure you’re wondering what this book is like and I’ll be happy to tell you. This book is dark. This book is gothic and creepy and unnerving and suspenseful and enraging and completely enthralling. From the very first pages it wrapped around me like a cold wind, raising goose bumps on my arms and the hair on the back of my neck. I finished it an hour ago and that chill is still gripping me. In the forward, Novak explains that when she first became a writer she wanted to create stories that had a similar gothic feel as one of her favorites, Jane Eyre. I’d say she nailed it. This book is a beautiful, haunting amalgamation of my own favorites from that time period and yet is stunningly original. Not only that, but it felt like it could have been written back then. This book is what I wanted all of those to be. It’s uncensored, revealing both the cruelty and the baseness that those classics skirted. Our main characters are a young woman named Rachel McTavish and Truman, the Earl of Druridge. I disliked both of them in the beginning of the book. Rachel is the daughter of a local bookseller. She’s also one stubborn and prideful woman and she wears both of these traits like chainmail. The Earl was no better. He could be very hard and very cold. He also owns the coal mine in which the locals start working as young as nine. This story reveals how difficult the lives of those laborers were, how dangerous their jobs, how hazardous to their health the air they breathed in those cramped, dark tunnels. Their plight did nothing to make me like the earl. Rachel’s father and brother both worked in the mines, the former dying of miner's lung and the latter of a cave-in, so it’s understandable that she too hates this enigmatic and arrogant aristocrat. Unfortunately, fate has thrown these two together. The earl suspects her father of having had a hand in starting the fire that burned his manor and killed his wife. At least he hopes he does, because he has almost no memory of that night and so the alternative is that Truman himself committed this crime in order to murder the woman that had tormented him throughout their marriage and who was carrying the child of another man. You find all this out within the first few chapters so it’s easy to see how quickly the plot grabs the reader. I don’t want to go much further into it other than to say that the rest of the book keeps you on your toes, keeps you constantly guessing as to whom the arsonist is and why they did what they did. I had so many theories while reading this that it became slightly ridiculous because every time I thought I had some fact, some aspect of what was going on figured out, Novak blew my assumptions out of the water.And that ending, my God. Bravo. This book is not for the faint of heart. This book is not for someone looking for a typical HR. This book is for those readers that loved Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights. It’s a slow burn with a lot of tension, a lot of twists and a lot of character. As much as I disliked Rachel and Truman in the beginning, by the end I was wholly on their sides. It’s not that their behavior changed or was explained away but that I was able to accept them for who they are and to believe in them as a couple. I just…GAH! This review can also be found at The Book Eaters.

  • Khanh (the meanie)
    2019-02-13 17:49

    Actual rating: 4.5Jericho fucking Barrons, man.That was literally what popped into my mind within the first few chapters of this book. And thank god for Jericho fucking Barrons, (and this is the most reluctant admittance I will ever make) because thanks to him, I came to appreciate Truman a lot more than I otherwise would have, and I hung onto this book despite my initial reservations as to his character. (And Rachel's character, at that.)This is Pride & Prejudice meets North & South, thankfully, without the verbosity of the latter, without having to navigate the social landmines (however enjoyable) of the former. It really helps if you picture the delicious Richard Armitage as Truman Stanhope, Earl of Druridge.Yum.My friend's review got me interested in this book. According to her, "Novak managed to avoid every single overused trope and theme that HR fans have ever complained about." Well, this got my eyebrows raised. I am a fan of the Historical Romance genre, it's my comfort read, mainly because the genre is so predictable. You are given a heroine who is more or less likeable, a rake of a love interest who is determined as hell to avoid marriage, or as some would term it, "the noose." You get predictable conflicts. You get a happily ever after. The plot is but an afterthought in between all the sexual tension and fucking. Without a doubt, 99.7% of HR falls into this category.As it turned out, my friend was right. This book falls into that ever-so-rare 0.3% in its originality, in its complexity of characters, in the relevance of its plot, which never takes a backseat to the romance. Screw your London season, your tea parties, your pretty dresses, your glorious ugly duckling transformations, your conniving and snooty Ladies and Gents, your rakes, your gambling hells. I'll take the mining town of Creswell any day.You know the thing about first impressions? It turns out, they're not always right. Our first impression of Truman, Earl of Druridge, is not a good one, to put it lightly. We meet him on a dark, stormy night. We know that he is the earl. We know he is furious, livid with rage. At whom? None other than his wife, Katherine. His very, very pregnant wife, Katherine. Whose child is most likely not his. He is simmering with violence, irrational through his threats, barely able to hold onto his sanity. Um, what? It took me until the first chapter to realize that this violent, angry man is one of our main characters, our heroine's love interest. There's a lot of things he wants to do to his wife once he gets home to see her, none of it pleasant....maybe once the baby was born, he’d have her committed to Bedlam.You could hear the gears in my head grind to a halt. BEDLAM? BEDLAM? AN INSANE ASYLUM FOR A WIFE WHO BETRAYED HIM? Are you fucking serious? I'm supposed to like a man who would commit his wife to a hell of an institution for the mentally ill against her will? Let's face it, 19th century insane asylums are not a pleasant place to be, and any man who would do such a thing becomes instantly reprehensible in my eyes. I'm not going to like this guy.As it turned out, his love interest and our other main character isn't exactly instantly likeable either. The beginning is highly, highly reminiscent of Pride & Prejudice on steroids, because there is little to no gentility nor civility in the interactions between our main characters. Rachel is actually the personification of pride and prejudice. She is a poor miner's daughter; as educated she is, and genteel as she acts, Rachel is solidly on the bottom ring of society. She is educated, but she is not without her inborn prejudices, her hate of the upper class, particularly against Truman, the man who owns the mine that has been the downfall of so many in her family and her town.I absolutely loved how well depicted, how complex both Rachel's character and Truman's characters were written. Neither are perfect; they are both far, far removed from perfection. He is not a man at peace, having been accused of murder, and desperate to clear his name and maintain his family's holdings. His desperation leads him to anger many times, but at heart, he is a good man, and I thoroughly felt his character and his complexity throughout the book. This is no Regency fop. This is no rake. This is a real man, trying to do what's right.Truman and Rachel work so well together, they are such a wonderful pair in that they confront each others' flaws instead of tiptoeing around it. There is plenty of angst and brooding, this book is rife with sexual tension, filled with brooding romance, but Rachel and Truman are more than a couple of horny adults. They grow with each other, they confront each other's weaknesses, they are a truly well-matched pair. There is no politeness, no following of society's conventions. They speak their minds, and I loved them for it. Their initial encounters are tense, rigid with anger simmering beneath the surface, filled with misunderstandings and unspoken distrust."Do you think I felt no betrayal when my wife slept with other men? Do you think it wasn’t painful to be taunted by the knowledge of it? To receive the bland smiles of those I considered my friends, who had taken my wife into their beds? That I could not feel—that I still do not feel—the loss of my son, a life I valued more than my own?” His fingers tightened almost painfully on her arm.“Stop, you’re hurting me,” she said, but he wasn’t hurting her. Not yet. She was just afraid he would. The pressure of his grip eased, but still Rachel could not twist out of his grasp.“Not until you answer me. Do only the poor feel pain, Miss McTavish, while the rich know nothing but peace and happiness? By your own admission, you are an educated woman. Please, do not try to sell me that bag of rot.”The dynamics change as they grow to like, then trust, then eventually love each other. But that love does not come cheaply. The danger is still there, the noose still threatens Truman's neck if he does not find the true murderer. The town itself is on edge against the Earl and his ownership of the mines. There is the constant knowledge of the social barrier between their love. There is so much within this book, and I loved almost every word of it.What prevented this book from a perfect 5 is its plot, and to an extent, the one-dimensionality of its villain. I could guess the "whodunnit" relatively quickly, and I was disappointed throughout the book with how one-dimensional the villain in this book was made to be. It wasn't a huge complaint, but compared to the care given to the other minor characters in the book, it was disappointing to have such a major character be so steoretypically, irredeemably bad.There were other parts of the plot that never quite made sense to me, like the mystery surrounding the missing paintings. Other parts crucial to the climax seemed rather rushed, and the action scenes were poorly written compared to the rest of the novel. The ending was rushed, and it doesn't feel like it quite fit in the context of the book.This book was regardless an amazing read, and held my attention from start to finish. Without a doubt, it stands out and holds its own among the many, many absolutely generic historical romance novels out there.

  • Misfit
    2019-01-25 16:28

    From the author's notes at the front, she planned this as a gothic-like tribute to Jane Eyre, although my reading experience didn't pick up on any gothic undertones - just a romance with flawed, not so perfect characters and a murder mystery. A mystery that was pretty easy to guess from the get-go.So there's Truman Stanhope, Earl of Druridge, whose wife was murdered two years prior in a terrible fire. Truman was pulled out of the fire in the nick of time by his cousin, but remembers nothing of what happened prior to that. - His now former in-laws believe he murdered his adulterous wife (she was preggers by another man, but which of her lovers impregnated her is another mystery), and he needs to prove his innocence before he's forced to face the hangman. Truman believes someone paid off Rachel McTavish's father to do the dirty deed (he's now dead), and he tries to strong arm her into revealing the truth.Of course there's lots more to it than that, but plenty of other people have gone into enough detail that I don't need to waste time and words with another plot rehash. I'm just here to discuss the reading experience, and from looking at all the glowing reviews it appears I'm in the minority. Part of that may be that many of the folks who loved this mainly read today's mainstream romances, with all those rakes and wounded dukes and sex-in-a-carriage wallpaper historical kind of stuff - and for those readers I can see why this would be a refreshing change with a darker hero and heroine. I'm not knocking today's popular Regency romances, they just aren't my cuppa tea.Outside of the too-predictable baddies, my main issues with this are the characters. I didn't find any chemistry, just a case of insta-love (actually insta-lust might be more accurate). I disliked the absence of any class barriers between servants/shopkeeper/townspeople and the mighty earl - there were none. No one blinked an eye at Rachel's relationship with the earl. Not. One. Eyelash. I don't believe a young underfed girl can go and work in a mine and tote whatever it was she was toting upwards of 200 pounds. Don't believe it for a minute, nor do I buy sending Truman's aging butler who relies on a cane to help him walk out in the night to spy on some baddie or the other. I'm having a hard time buying into the earl's wife finding so many lovers whilst stuck up in a small mining town in northern England.But my biggest bugaboo has got to be the earl and the threat of murder charges. I'm not an expert on the ins and outs of the British Peerage, but I did ask some friends at a historical discussion board for input and the general consensus was (if I have this correctly):A peer would have to be tried by his peers in The House of Lords, not sure who could bring the charges, assume it would have to be another peer? If convicted and it was their first offense, they could claim "privilege of peerage" and get off. According to Wiki this privilege was halted in 1841, so our earl at the time so assuming he had no prior offenses should have been able to claim this privilege and shouldn't have worried so much about hanging.As noted previously, I can see why this novel is so popular with some readers, and it's clear Ms. Novak has a lot of fans - I expect this review won't be very popular, but such is life. I'm just one of those folks that follows Judge Judy's rule of if-it-doesn't-make-sense-it's usually-not-true, and there were just too many things that didn't add up for me to rate this any higher. Perhaps I shouldn't compare this to the deliciously dark Eden series by Marilyn Harris, starting with The Prince of Eden.

  • Robin (Bridge Four)
    2019-02-21 19:34

    4.5 Fantastic Stars!!!True confession time, my absolute guilty pleasures are books or movies from books by Jane Austin and Charlotte Bronte. I’m a sucker for them and probably have seen most movie or made for T.V. adaptions multiple times. Through the Smoke has the feel of one of those novels if they included sex and possibly a murder. Bonus right!I was hooked from the prologue, right away you learn that the wife of the Earl of Druridge has cheated and become pregnant, he would like to kill her, he is actually racing home to confront her and when he gets there it is all a blur. There was a fire and she was killed but he is not sure if he did it or if someone else is to blame.He wouldn’t let her win. In life, she had tied to destroy him, had hated him for knowing the leprous character beneath her pretty face. In death, she was more vengeful still.Enter Rachael the headstrong prideful daughter of a man who was paid to set fire to the Earl’s home. The Earl is desperate to find who set the fire, hoping that it truly wasn’t him and is using all of the enticements at his disposal to learn from a reluctant Rachael everything she knows of her now deceased father and any part he played in the fire.They are nemesis at the beginning of the story as Rachael is helping organize a union against the Earl’s mine. Rachael is completely distrusting of himLike Persephone, she was making a deal with the devil. She was warming herself at his fire, dining on his food –But as she learns more of the man she cannot help but be drawn to him. Both are strong willful characters and they took a little time for me to warm to them.There is always a lot happening in the book. Between searching for the true murderer, the mine drama and the budding romance there really weren’t any dull moments. Every time I thought I had a handle on who set the blaze and murdered the Earl’s wife I felt myself change theories or complete direction. I was kept guessing as to the who and why of it until the last few chapters. The story definitely builds. I loved that some things were kept simple. Sometimes with historical romances the details become daunting as everything is explained in the minutest of details. But the author focused more of the telling of the story. There are enough details about the time and setting to build a vivid picture but it is beautifully crafted and not overdone. The suspense building for the story had my reading chapter after chapter not wanted to set it down.There were only a few small details that didn’t get closed out as well as I would have liked. But they are small and I don’t think most readers will notice at all.If you ever read/watched Jane Eyre and like me thought, I wish they did more than just kiss, then my friend this book is for you. I love that this is an adult romance that reads like it is from the era of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte. Fantastic Historical Romance. ARC provided by Amazon Publishing – Montlake Romance via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes may not be in the final novel.

  • Lady Vigilante (Feifei)
    2019-02-10 22:44

    DNF. Too boring for me and though I love historical romance/fiction, this one missed the mark.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~BR with Christine The Dark Romance Junkie!!!

  • Sharon L
    2019-01-27 16:28

    Before I start this review I need you to understand something, while reading this book a few things happened to me:I walked on the street with my nose stuck to my phone (where I read the book), I lost sleep, I got on the right bus but missed the right station to get down on and had to walk all the way back, I was late for class, I missed some classes and I hardly listened in the ones I was in. In short, I was so immersed by the book I forgot about the people around me and the things I needed to do, my full attention was on the book (thus all those mistakes I made). It has been a long time since I was this caught up in the book- up until now I was sure it was my great discipline and self-control, I was fooling myself to think so. Brenda Novak says in the introduction how she wrote this book inspired by the gothic feeling of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Only time will tell if she accomplished her goal. But your humble servant here thinks she did but she also managed to create something entirely her own!This historical romance is written so very beautifully, and sometimes it had maintained a gothic feeling, but even when it didn't it was still chilling heart wrenching or heartwarming and completely terrifying, especially the last few chapters that had me so nervous and afraid!I have to give you a fair warning- unlike Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights or any historical romance that was written at that time, this book, influenced by these day and age, had sex in it. At first I found it somewhat weird, since I thought that if the author aimed at a certain style she would not write such thing. But she did and I'm glad she did, because despite my love for Jane Eyre I found it lacking in sexual tension and I didn’t know that it bothered me until I read the sex scenes in this book, that are wonderfully and tenderly written. Both main characters- Rachel and Truman (the earl), might not be likeable at first (though I loved them in first read). They are full of pride, and property and passion. Sometimes they can be found a bit cruel or naïve, full of prejudice. They can appear somewhat cold- but they stay true to themselves and their ideals through the whole story, not wavering even once.Rachel with her naiveté, pride, stubbornness and honesty- showed her strong will enduring all the hardships in the village. I could not belief the lengths to which she went to keep her brother safe and to provide to him, her actions were truly admirable. And Truman, with his determination to find his wife's killer, his will to protect and help Rachel, his love for her and the way he noticed every little change in her. He was truly a noble man.The mystery is not that much of a mystery though some of the reasons behind things were surprising, and even when I suspected who the "bad guy" was, Mrs. Novak managed to have me wishing it wouldn't be him. This book avoids all the tropes historical romance book are so well known of. The things I usually find annoying in these books- like a lousy excuse for a lady/lord- you won't find here. Both characters are smart and act accordingly. And all the things there is to love about historical romance- like the time and the love in the etiquette- are all presents here. Oh, the time, Mrs. Novak did a wonderful job describing the work in the mines, the poverty in contrast of the high social standing of the earl and all his money. The village life just sprang to life out of the book- with the brothel and how many didn't know how to read, the rumors and the fact the each and every character was more than the sum of her actions and what she seemed to be. Mrs. Tate and Mr. Linley were wonderful side characters and very loyal it was touching. And Geordie (Rachel's brother) was such a sweet kid. I enjoyed every minute of reading this book, even when I thought it might break my heart and when I was so afraid, so very afraid of what was to come. A copy was kindly provided by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*Original pre-review**Looking around in a haze, damn, I missed my bus station! oh well, at least I finished the book* Review to follow shortly, but trust me, you want to read this book.This review is also posted on The Accidental Reader

  • Christina ~ Brunette Reader
    2019-02-17 22:32

    No rating, DNF at 25% or soThis was supposed to be a suspenseful read, a sort of old-fashioned Gothic romance, but after having struggled for almost 100 pages hoping to find a spark of interest and become engaged in the story, I decided to give up. I understand the careful building of the setting, I understand a certain vagueness both in delineating the characters and the plot in order to achieve a higher level of mysteriousness... but I also understand the difference between mysterious and "not going anywhere" and unfortunately the story fell in the latter category for me and when, at the third heroine's donkey-ride from the village bookshop to the manor and back my eyes started to glaze, I realised it was time to call it quits. To be honest, what ultimately broke the deal was that also the romantic aspect took a turn I usually find extremely irritating; explaining how and why would mean giving away too much, but let's just say that (view spoiler)[ I don't like when the hero has sex with the heroine under the wrong assumption she's being paid to do so. It's a quirk of mine, I know, but it's a trope that irremediably spoils all the possible ensuing love-story for me. (hide spoiler)]So, with this premise, I really didn't care what happened between these two any more. Failed the romance, this being a romance, failed the book as long as I'm concerned.Personal quibbles aside, I'm not necessarily saying this is not a book worth giving a try. You may have more patience than I do for a slower narrative and a more sedate pace, presumed suspense sub-genre notwithstanding, and if the romantic dynamics I described in the spoiler (if you went for a peek) are not a problem for you, then I think you might find something to enjoy here: I had never read any book by her before, but I am aware of the fact that Brenda Novak is a seasoned and appreciated author and indeed the writing per se was good and polished and I'm sure the mystery sub-plot will take an engrossing twist sooner or later (given the many positive reviews I've read)... I just didn't have the will to go further as I've read too many historical novels during the years that I now immediately recognise the signs which make it useless for me to persevere. But again, it was just my individual reception.

  • Kathylill
    2019-02-15 19:32

    Trying to link this to Jane Eyre was very pretentious and made me dislike the book that much more. Maybe I am hypercritical. I have to admit this is a really unusual historical romance. And some people might like it exactly because of its imperfect characters, the uncommon romance and the historically realistic description of the mining conditions during the industrial revolution era. It just wasn’t for me. The premise of the supposed mystery:Two years after his first wife, pregnant with the child of another, died in a mysterious fire that the Earl escaped only barely, Truman Stanhope, Earl of Druridge, still has to account for murder???? And if he doesn’t find proof of his innocence he is forced to marry the daughter of an influential Duke????????? Are you shitting me? I found this side plot to be completely unnecessary. It doesn’t add anything to the mystery of Lady Katherine’s murder; it only confuses me as a reader. A peer is almost above the law and has the right to be tried by other peers of the realm instead of juries of commoners. At the end of the trial, peers in the House of Lords voted on the question before them declaring their verdict, starting with the most junior baron and proceeding in order of precedence ending with the Lord High Steward. For a guilty verdict, a majority of twelve was necessary. The entire House also determined the punishment to be imposed, which had to accord with the law. For capital crimes the punishment was death; the last peer to be executed was Laurence Shirley, 4th Earl Ferrers, who was hanged for murder in 1760. According to this, Truman Stanhope, Earl of Druridge shouldn't have worried so much about hanging, or should have felt compelled to marry a Duke’s daughter in order to escape this punishment. There wasn’t much danger in him being ever arrested or condemned. I would have found it much more believable if this whole being forced to marry to escape jail two years after the initial incident would have been left out. It was enough (for me) that he couldn’t remember anything of this night, that he simply wanted to clear his conscience and find out for himself if he was the murderer or if his cousin paid the miners to do the job for him, or who else was behind the murder, the fire and the maybe stolen Brueghel paintings. Precisely in the moment when Rachel and Truman seem to get closer Miss Penelope, the soon-to-be-second-wife, and her father the Duke make an unexpected appearance and force the star-crossed lovers apart. Just because this kind of interruption happened in Jane Eyre (where it completely fit the story and made sense), doesn’t mean you have to incorporate into your own storyline a plot device something akin to a reverse deus ex machina whereby a ‘good’ situation is suddenly and abruptly made into a seemingly unsolvable one by the contrived and unexpected intervention of a new event / character, in this case the arrival of the Duke and his daughter. Gothik Jane Eyre atmosphere vs. industrial Revolution and coal miningI am sorry to say but those two shoes didn’t fit together well. I love Jane Eyre; I love the bildungsroman aspects as well as the elements of social criticism and spiritual sensibility, its gothic feel, the dark corners, the eerie mystery, the almost supernatural of voices in the wind and ghostly laughter in the night. But trying to make the mystery of the fire and the murder of Lady Katherine fit in with coal mining, the industrial revolution, the coal mining union, the living and working conditions of the labor class and child work seemed almost forced to me. I would have been happy with either an eerie mystery or the industrial realism, but both together didn’t merge well in my book. For example: it is hard to believe that a young, educated woman wouldn't find another employment than work in a coal mine. I especially dislike the coal miner manner in this book, how viperish Cuthbert is how all her former miner friends from the union instantly turn against Rachel and the attempted rape in the pit although most of these men were friends with her father and brother, who also worked there. Where is the collegiality and solidarity I ask. The mean, simplistic and drab miners in this novel undermine what miners had to go through 200 years ago during the industrial revolution to achieve reforms to better living and working conditions. Dark Romantics emphasized human fallibility and proneness to sin and self-destruction, as well as the difficulties inherent in attempts at social reform. This is not done here in this book: There is no self-destruction, no proneness to sin. Contrary to Mr. Rochester Truman leads no sinful life, he has no mistresses, no bastard children and doesn’t try to seduce Rachel. Rachel isn’t seduced into sin, she is forced and then walks free into the arms of the Byronic hero: a man proud, moody, cynical, with defiance on his brow, and misery in his heart, a scorner of his kind, implacable in revenge, yet capable of deep and strong affection. But I will come to the characters later. This book is not gothic but tries to be, sometimes too hard. We have the typical castle, gloomy forest but without the hidden passages or dark dungeons. There is the forbidding Blackmoor Hall at the Northeastern Coast of England, five hilly miles from the next small village. It is of course a cold winter with plenty of dark nights, full of wet snow and daunting moonlight etcetera etcetera. Rachel is rather fond as it seems of walking these 5 hilly miles several times in the dark or at night amid the growling of the sky and the howling of the wind. Blackmoor Hall was a daunting edifice. Built in the Strawberry Hill Gothic style, with a little Palladian thrown in, its gray stone walls rose several stories high, extending along cliffs that fronted the ocean. Although most of the structure had been rebuilt after the fire, nothing looked new. Large, diamond-cut windows spaced symmetrically on two long wings collected snow in the cradle of their panes. At least half a dozen chimneys rose from the roof. And an elaborate portico sheltered the entrance. Ancient and overwhelming, the manse resembled something out of a history book, with tall columns, expansive gardens, fountains and Greek statues. Now, late as it was, the estate was dark and rather forbidding.Even though our story takes place in the (pseudo)-gothic castle I missed the paranormal aspects, inherent to gothic fiction as well as the horror as in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the works of Edgar Allan Poe or Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Rachel is not caught in an unfamiliar and terrifying landscape; she is born in this village. There is no supernatural to be terrified of; no dark and bloody dungeons or lingering ghosts, there are no voices in the wind, or crazy laughter in the attic. Rachel doesn’t possess the romantic temperament that perceives strangeness where others see none like Jane Eyre. And there is the culprit of my dislike for this novel because the author states in her forward: “Jane Eyre was one of my favorite books when I was a girl. I love the gothic feel of it, the air of mystery and, most of all, the heart-pounding romance.” But this book for me feels like a parody on Jane Eyre. I am sorry. The parody of a heart-pounding romance There is absolutely no heart-pounding romance. I didn’t feel it. Apart from Truman’s character, who I have to admit was very appealing in my imagination, the romance fell completely flat. There is this one night stand at the beginning under the influence of a drug and then for almost 60% of the story there is not even a kiss. The next carnal insinuation involves horse salve, which he brings her in the middle of the night for her chapped hands. She wanted him to slide his hands up her arms, to pull off her nightgown and smooth that ointment all over her body. Horse salve … Yuck Rachel, you naughty little ewe! And a little bit later after a few games of chess she almost confesses her undying love. What if she were to tell him shed fallen in love with him? That she thought of him constantlyNow where did this come from? They haven't even kissed since that one night. I found it extremely creepy that he is several times in the night in her room watching her sleep. And when she wakes up in the middle of the night, they have a perfectly neutral conversation as if being in her room is perfectly normal. And finally the night comes to be finally together: Rachel: “The last time we were together, I wasn’t as aware of what was happening as I wish I would’ve been.” The Lord: “If only I had the strength to make myself tell you to leave. This isn’t fair to you.” (wtf happened to Mr. Rochester). Rachel: “I’m not sure it does (she is talking about preserving her honor), not if I’m spreading my legs for you every night in my dreams,” she said and her nightdress hit the floor with a soft poof."That is no heart-pounding romance that is hammering headaches that I get. This book must be a parody!!!! Chuck Norris meets RachelIf Jericho Barrons and Mr. Rochester / Michael Fassbender could somehow melt together to impersonate the Beast in a gothic-like romance then Truman Stanhope, Earl of Druridge, would be at first the outcome. He has all this Byron hero going on. But my Byronic hero wears a ninny name, reminding me of Truman Capote and the Truman Show. Meh.Truman in fact is an old English first name referring to loyal and true. And Truman really is loyal: He saves Rachel from rape, gives her work, is there for her and helps her whenever he can. He even wants to launch a profit-sharing program with the miners. Difficulties with social reforms, you ask? He can handle them in less than half a page. Goodbye Byron, farewell Barrons and hello Chuck Norris. We all dream about Perfection.... Perfection dreams about Chuck Norris and Chuck Norris dreams of Rachel (and horse salve). LOL The earl had turned up the collar of his coat to keep his neck warm, but he wore no scarf, and Rachel could see tiny, frozen crystals clinging to the shadow of a day’s beard growth. Rachel, I dislike you so much. You’re a well-red, beautiful young women, a bookseller’s daughter but absolutely misguided in your morals. She has no qualms of keeping the money her father was given to set Blackmoor Hall on fire, she has no problems of denying the Earl the truth, although he is suspected of murder, she has no problems in associating with the whores in town BUT she has problems if people think she spent the night with the Earl, even though she really did it??? Because it is MUCH better to lie for people who are mean to you, casting you out, threatening you, as to be honest with the one person who has thus far been nice and fair-minded, true to his name. Another point that irks me is Rachel’s outsider status. I dislike the suggested correlation in this novel: bookworm equals remote recluse. She is a persona non grata after spending a night with the Earl. The villagers hate her, the coal miners want to rape her; the servants at Blackmoore (Mrs. Paulson) resent her, all because she had a one night stand with an Earl. Even the local brothel whores don’t want anything to do with her, because her nose is always in a book and she therefore is so naïve and escapist. But even though she is so literate she has no clue how to manage a bookshop, doesn’t know shit about Greek mythology and Brueghel is a complete unknown to her. Well, I can almost understand the whores. I didn’t like Rachel one bit. And while she is being treated like a lady at Blackmoor Hall with invitations to dinner and a dressmaker waiting on her, I was wondering where is her little brother? Ah right, still in the stables and working. She really has to brave so much for the sake of him! *Snort*So in the end the characters were unlikable, the romance hilarious, the mystery not mysterious at all, the world-building was faulty and the plot felt a lot constructed to me.

  •  Simply Sam ツ
    2019-01-26 21:30

    There were elements to the book that I really liked, but for the most part the characters annoyed me. Rachel, dubbed strong and smart and resilient, also loved to play the martyr, while Truman was blind to so many things. It was very frustrating. However, even with that being said, I devoured every word. What can I say? I am a sucker for this type of book, and it suited by mood perfectly.

  • Rose
    2019-02-08 20:33

    "Through the Smoke" is the very first book by Brenda Novak I've ever read and I am quite certain this will not be my last read from her. This wonderful story struck me well in so many ways for its dark tone, Gothic texture, romantic relationship between the two leads, and overarching mystery/suspenseful elements peppered through the narrative. The story revolves around a bookseller named Rachel McTavish who is confronted by the local Earl of Druridge (Truman) over the events of a fire that killed his former wife (Katherine). Rachel wants nothing to do with the man, yet finds herself not only drawn to him but reeling from a set of events that have her asking questions in the midst of many personal tragedies and hardships that come with her association with the Earl.Truman is a man who doesn't take no for an answer, and considering Katherine bore a child that wasn't his, he's determined to find whatever means necessary to discover the truth of who the father of her unborn child was, and who set the fire that killed her that night. This book had me from point one with the strong writing and perspective points between Truman and Rachel. It's a dark toned story, with many events in the measure of tragedy for both characters and uncovering a larger mystery that involves them both. The romance between Rachel and Truman was incredibly well drawn, as were the established tensions that came with their relations and class differentials. It causes far more problems than anything that Rachel expected and I really felt for her and her little brother as they deal with their personal tragedies, ostracism from the town around them, among other hardships.I actually found myself really caring for Truman as well, because while there are times when he is incredibly persistent and cruel (which tie into his own fatal flaws as well as the situation), Novak aptly develops him as a rounded character who develops such a realistic affection and protectiveness of Rachel, as well as has to deal with his own internal demons and social status about to fall by the wayside with the allegations made against him.The narrative carried the overarching mystery very well and I didn't expect the players or the rationale to be what it was - it kept me reading between the convincing chemistry of the leading characters. This is one of my favorite historical romances of recent note and I wholeheartedly recommend it for those who want to read a enthralling Gothic mystery/romance. Definitely looking forward to reading more from the author in the future.Overall score: 5/5 starsNote: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Montlake Romance.

  • Mary
    2019-02-13 21:31

    England, 1838. A fire at Blackmoor Hall kills the pregnant wife of Lord Druridge, but he remembers nothing of the fiery night save his murderous rage at the knowledge that the baby is not his. Did he murder his wife? To avoid the hangman's noose, the Earl must provide proof of his innocence, and he believes that Rachel McTavish, the poor daughter of the local bookseller can help him discover the truth. So the plot sounded interesting enough, and I was intrigued by reviews that claimed Through the Smoke to be original and surprising. The book was readable and fast-paced, but it moved into predictable as soon as it was obvious we were dealing with a stubborn, lusty virgin and an arrogant, temperamental alpha-male. Their relationship development was not believable, from its humble beginnings to their awkwardly-plotted first sexual encounter. It seemed out-of-place, way too soon, and had no emotional repercussions for either character. In a time when a woman's virtue was of the utmost importance, would Rachel really have felt no guilt, shame, or self-recrimination at being used by the Earl? Doubt it.The mystery aspect of the novel wasn't very mysterious. Maybe it's just me, but I thought the villain was pretty obvious, and he was so wooden he wasn't very interesting. I prefer my villains to be complex, with characteristics other than greedy and amoral. It would have been way more interesting if the villain had a mix of qualities that made Rachel (and the reader) question whether he was redeemable, etc., but maybe that's just me falling into a different sort of literary trope.And to end on a completely shallow note, why name your hero Truman? That's about as sexy as Ernest and just as sophisticated. Every time he said, "Rachel, call me Truman, please," I was like, "Oh, please don't." Truman does not make me think dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. It makes me think pale-faced chess superstar with well-intentioned but over-bearing mother. Nope, not sexy.Perhaps my high expectations affected my enjoyment of this novel, but unless you're a seasoned romance reader, I'd skip this one. Then again, the majority disagrees. Maybe it's time to admit I'm just not a genre reader?

  • Joana
    2019-02-08 19:42

    3.5 stars Katherine,the beautiful and vicious wife of Truman (the Earl of Druridge) died in a fire. The Earl was rescued but he doesn't recall any of the events that lead to the fire.It was well known that the child Katherine's was carrying wasn't his.Who set that room on fire to kill her? All the servants were are church, only Truman was there. Was he capable of murder?Here enter Rachel, the daughter of former worker on the Earl's coal mine that was accused of setting up the fire. But the Earl is convince that Rachel knows more that she is telling, and by extreme circumstances they strike a deal.In a fog of betrayals, suspicions,conspiracies and murderers...Rachel and Truman are drawn to each other, despite their social disparity between them and despite all the events that keep them apart.Can Truman prove he isn't the murderer? And who is the wolf hiding in a sheep clothing?"When he finished, he looked at Katherine's portrait again, only this time he smiled.He wouldn't let her win. In life, she had tried to destroy him, had hated him for knowing the leprous character beneath her pretty face. In death, she was more vengeful still.But he would persist, and when he could eventually see through the smoke that clouded the truth, he would know at last, whether his soul had been worth the fight.How awesome is this scene?****One of the things I liked in this book was the Gothic vibe through the whole story. A murder,dark secrets and betrayals...i just loved it!I won't say I didn't have some problems with it BUT I enjoyed it so much the story that I confess I kind of overlooked them.If you judge Truman by that first chapter, you'll hate him! You'll know his thoughts in a moment of rage, when he is going to meet his wife...let's just say that he even considers committing her to Bedlam ( an asylum). Folks,that's a big no no. Even if his wife was manipulative, a cheater, you don't think on trowing her to an asylum! But well,I didn't hold that against him because well I don't think he really meant that and he proved several times later on, that he is a a good man. And yep, I ended up liking him a lot!And Rachel? I didn't liked her that much at first...and then when all this terrible things kept happening to her, I just thought " Damn it, It's like Tess of the D'Urbervilles",one disaster after another. The women always paid the ultimate price, and that infuriated me.Anyway, these characters started to grow on me and I started to kind of root for them...and I confess, even swooning at their love. "I hope you can find what's missing."When she glanced back at him, a sad smile curved his lips."I fear, if I lose you, I never will."Still lots of plot twists that I still don't buy it(AT ALL)...and even if they aren't that realistic I did found them at least entertaining ( the whole "first time" together scene, Truman at risk to go to the gallows...and the list goes on).And gosh, I just knew it who is wife cheated him with! Oh yeah!(Ok I confess, it wasn't that unpredictable,ahaha)

  • Eva Rose
    2019-01-27 16:36

    Uploaded with ImageShack.usSometimes, I feel like I expect too much out of books. Like this one, it had everything I could have possibly liked but the execution of the story as a whole wasn't really to my liking. I was expecting a Gothic romantic storyline but somewhere along the way all I got was a whole lot of fretting and hand wringing from absolutely every character.I liked Rachel but she fretted a lot most of the time. Truman was okay but he failed to turn my oven on. I could just not connect to either of them as a romantic proxy. I also didn't fancy much the "who dunne it?" plot. I always tire of those books and this one was no exception.Also, there was a lot of exposition that could have easily been edited out as it only serve to lengthen the book and not add much substance. The dialogue was okay but that first 'serious' conversation Rachel and Truman had, over rights and class and who killed his wife, read a little too convoluted for my liking. It felt like the author tried too hard to make it sound smart and deep.I don't know, this book and I just didn't connect.

  • Jane Stewart
    2019-02-21 15:58

    This was no fun to read. A downer all the way. Bad luck. Stupid actions.There is also a problem with the AUDIOBOOK. The narrator Justine Eyre did not use a microphone screen. You can hear her breaths.AS TO THE STORY:No one is doing anything that gives me hope or anticipation. I wanted it to be over. The whole thing was a struggle to read and then you have a tiny bit of happiness at the end.Rachel does not do interesting things or smart things. Several times she goes out alone at night and bad things happen. She didn’t have to do that. She could have gone out during the day or taken someone with her. Later in the book she has some leads to help Truman solve the mystery but she doesn’t tell him. He and she could go places together regarding the leads. But they don’t - because she will go out alone by herself at night to investigate. Later in the story Truman is out one night and Rachel is anxious. So again she goes out alone at night to find him to help him. She has no horse, no weapon. All she does is put herself in danger and something bad happens to her. Only through luck does she survive. I would have preferred someone do something interesting to save her, not luck.Rachel repeatedly has bad luck. She gets two different jobs and terrible things happen because her superiors hate her and cause her harm.Early in the book Rachel and her brother are starving. When she visits the earl he has tea and food placed in front of her like he would any guest. She drinks the tea but won’t eat the food because of her pride (stupid). In another scene Truman gives her money (like he would give anyone in need that way), but she refuses it for the same reason.I don’t know whether to call Truman stupid or what. His main housekeeper Mrs. Poulson is doing bad things but Truman won’t fire her - because he wants to be kind to his cousin Wythe who likes her. But his cousin Wythe does horrible things. Truman knows that. When Truman overhears Wythe threaten to murder someone, Truman should have exiled Wythe from the area. But no, Truman lets Wythe stay around and do more bad things.(view spoiler)[Wythe did something that did not make sense. He was a sex fiend, having sex with anyone and everyone and going to a brothel frequently. He found Rachel semi-conscious and carried her into the house and made her drink some laudanum so she was groggy. Then he removed her clothes and left her in Truman’s bed. That didn’t fit. Wythe was the type to rape her - not set that up for someone else. (hide spoiler)]OTHER BOOKS:So I didn’t like this book. But I liked many of this author’s other books, for example: Dead Silence, When Lightning Strikes, Take Me Home For Christmas, This Heart of Mine, When We Touch, Dead Giveaway, Every Waking Moment, The Secret Sister.DATA:Narrative mode: 3rd person. Story length: 315 pages. Swearing language: mild. Sexual language: mild. Number of sex scenes: 4, plus 1 attempted rape. Setting: 1838-1850 England. Copyright: 2013. Genre: historical romantic suspense.

  • Mei
    2019-02-17 21:56

    A solid book!The historical period is very interesting - the beginning of industrial capitalism, in this instance the Wlesh coal mining.It was interesting to read about the appealing work conditions and more so when I read that women and children were emplyed too. Obviously, I knew it and I've study it, but to find it in a romance novel is very unusual for me!The heroine, Rachel, has inherited a bookstory from her mother, while her father and brother were miners. One of her brothers died in a mining accident, while her father died of disease and under heavy suspition of having fired up the mine's owner house. She's struggling to make a living for her dying mother and her younger brother. She's also involved with a budding Union, but very marginally.The hero, Truman, the Earl of Druridge, is the mine's owner. He's a very bitter man and with a good reason. His pregnant wife died in the fire. Pregnant not with his child... And he's suspected by his in-laws to having put on the fire to get rid of her and her betrayal... He's angry and confised, but determined to find out what happened and who did fire his house, but he doesn't remeber what happened during that night. They clash since the beginning: he wanting Rachel to admit her father did it and Rachel doesn't want to help because saying anything could condemn her in the eyes of the Union and the other miners in the town who hate Truman for their inhuman and underpayed work conditions.A nasty situation for a love to bloom. But still it does.Rachel is compromised by Truman thanks to his odious cousin machination, but she doesn't want anything to do with Truman after that. Unfrotunately the town doesn't see it that way! They think her his mistress and ostracize her and her brother bringing them at the brink of straving. Truman, being a much sensitive person than everybody think he is, tries to help her, but gets a completly opposite effect: the more he tries, the more the town people hate her.A very good description about how the people unjust treatment and malignant talk could destroy a person can be applied both to Rachel and to Truman. I wanted to shout out loud the injustice done to both of them.Obviously Truman, being the Earl, doesn not suffer physically as Rachel does. He doesn't go hugry, he doesn't get attacked and almost raped while wroking in a dirty, damp mine for a pittiance. He's defered to, but hated and mocked behind his back.Both of them suffer and their suffering is what brings them together and understanding each others misery and pains brings them to fall in love.A wonderful love born from struggle both physical and mental, but because of that all the much stronger.So why, did I give it only 4 stars?Because I couldn't get why Truman didn't see what was happening under his nose when it was so obvious!And also why Rachel insist on not telling Truman what she knows about the night of the fire being it: absolutly nothing!I felt that much misey and suffering could have been avoided if both have spoken and thought with clear heads. This way, both Truman and Rachel did some really, really stupid things and I don't like stupid behaviour!

  • Jonetta
    2019-02-09 22:38

    The set upTruman Stanhope, the earl of Druridge, has lived under a cloud of suspicion for two years. His unfaithful wife, Katherine, died in a fire at their manor home and many believe at his hand. Truman has no memory of what happened, only that he was on his way to confront her after learning she was pregnant with someone else's child. He believes Rachel McTavish and her family know who set the fire and he'll use any means to force her cooperation. The issuesRachel's father recently died and her mother is desperately ill so she's willing to accept medical help facilitated by the earl in return for telling him what she knows. When the people in the village learn of her betrayal of sorts, they turn on her and she's ostracized. Truman and Rachel are falling for each other but she's a commoner and he's facing the gallows if he doesn't find the real killer or succumb to the demands of a benefactor that can thwart his dead wife's family's efforts to charge him with the crime. What I enjoyedThe mix of romance and mystery in an historical setting was a nice change of pace. Truman was a decent man, if not sometimes a bit clueless, and he was immediately taken by the bright and educated Rachel. She was strong willed, intelligent and attractive but still respectful of the social constraints of the 1830s. Their relationship was given an unintended boost and things steamed up pretty quickly. The obstacles they were forced to deal with because of her commoner status and his position made the affair poignant and really touching. Neither wasted a lot of time denying their feelings and there was always a sense that they were star-crossed lovers. Solving the mystery was also interesting as there was a nice range of suspects to consider and my choices seem to change with each chapter. I still was unsure until the final reveal. What bugged me somewhatTruman's passiveness drove me crazy at times. While he was passionate about Rachel, his reluctance to effectively deal with those who betrayed him time and again was maddening. In fairness, I think his behavior was perfectly fitting for the aristocracy of that era. It still was irritating:)The bottom lineThis was an intriguing mystery, a heartwarming romance and an interesting story overall. My frustrations with Truman aside, I liked how his relationship with Rachel developed. I'm not an expert of this era but the details of the story seemed accurate for the period. And, I know this isn't intended to be a series but there are some secondary characters that really should be explored (hello, Penelope!). (I received an ARC from NetGalley)

  • Ruth
    2019-02-20 20:36

    I LOVED this one, provided by netgalley. Just like I did the other two historical romances by this author (Honor Bound and Of Noble Birth, there is a freshness that clearly comes from the contemporary/thriller romances that this author has written, which just bring the plot and the development come alive for me. Add that to the wonderful, wonderful setting and the rich characters (not just the hero and heroine, but a whole ensemble cast with parts to play), and you get a really quite intense look behind the doors of the well-to-do and relatively poor in a mining community in the North. I can never really understand why more authors don't choose settings that a little bit original, rather than the usual Society balls and house parties. There's nothing wrong with that, but those social interactions were not what most people spent most of their days doing, and I'm constantly aggravated by the lack of any involvement in historical romances of people who were not aristocracy or gentry, except perhaps as servants. Why do they get ignored, when there were there generating all the wealth their "betters" lived off with their sweat?Equally, I really like it when what could be a fluffy romance weaves in actual historical events and the undercurrents of political life. The Victorian era was more than just big skirts and bigger mustaches. The Industrial Revolution was really still in full flow, and the clash of the rulers and the ruled was there. Why ignore it when it could make for such an intriguing plot? Well, this one uses all of that, and then adds a dash of Jane Eyre gothic grimness, that is just enough to make it enticing, but not too much (no eye-rolling here!).It did feel as if the story became slightly looser at the climax, but I'll forgive it because it was such a great read that I really struggled not to read it through in one single, delicious gulp.5 stars. All time favorites list and I can't wait for the next historical by this author.

  • Mona
    2019-02-04 16:29

    I received an ARC of this book for an honest review. It was fast paced...kept me interested from the beginning all the way to the last page. It was fantastic. The Earl of Drurdige is furious after finding out Lady Katherine his wife has betrayed him and his pregnant with another man's child....He was saved by his cousin Wythe..there are accusations that he is so blame for the fire..He goes into town and speak with Rachel McTavish.....He asks her some questions maybe she knows something....she tells him she knows nothing...but some circumstances come into play she decides to go to the Earl for help...The Earl promises to help her mother in return for her help with some answers about the fire, or anything her father may have known...He was part of the mine's maybe he knew something...but by the time they came back they were too late. When Rachel is left taking care of her little brother the Earl gives her a solution wether she takes it is entirely up to her. Truman is the Earl's real name and he and Rachel have a special connection..after one night they shared a very special bond. It's after his cousins inference that Truman believes that Rachel was put there by his cousin for a reason. It's belittling and very hurtful...but Truman get's the truth from Rachel and apologies for the misunderstanding. When an arrangement to protect the Earl is put into place it's heart breaking, but also heartwarming to see when he takes matters into his own hands. It is beautiful...The story get's you turning the pages so fast to see what will happen next, and will just excite you to find out what happens next...you won't see coming...to learn what is left between his cousin Wythe and the mine, or even what actually happened with the fire. In this book I learned something that true happiness is a gift. Through the Smoke when Truman opened his eyes he opened himself up to be truly loved. He was clouded and therefore he could not see...but he did afterwards. He loved Rachel with all his heart. He didn't allow anything to come between them..That was Priceless...Brenda Novak hit this one out of the ball park. I truly enjoyed this book. It was my first historical book....and I will read more...

  • Keertana
    2019-01-29 22:48

    Brenda Novak’s Through the Smoke is the first historical romance novel I’ve read in awhile now. After a string of misses, I have refused to touch this genre with a ten-foot long pole, but this book wormed its way onto my radar and stubbornly kept re-appearing. Eventually, I couldn’t resist. After all, with dozens of readers labeling this just as gothic as Jane Eyre and just as romantic as Pride & Prejudice, how could I resist?Needless to say, Through the Smoke delivered – enormously so. For one, the romance is tortuous and rewarding, a slow build-up of admiration, understanding, and desire. Although Truman and Rachel are from different worlds – one wealthy, the other poor – they manage to make their romance work through the hurdles they face. Truman is an Earl, suspected of murdering his cheating wife in the fire that consumed her, but In reality, he remembers nothing. Thus, when the bookseller’s daughter, Rachel, claims to have information about the murder, Truman seizes the opportunity to interrogate her. Truman’s entrance into her life forces Rachel into a world of worker politics, similar to that in North & South, and introduces her to a love she could have never imagined.Although Through the Smoke does contain a handful of historical romance tropes, consummating in a villain who is more black-and-white than gray, the setting of this story is vividly imagined and the mystery all the more so intriguing. Both Rachel and Truman are complicated characters, carrying messy pasts and even more doubtful futures, but their forbidden romance settles itself into your heart artfully. What I appreciated most about this novel was the fact that Rachel’s existence did not revolve around Truman and, instead, she proves herself a strong and capable protagonist, fiercely independent and determined for an equal relationship. Granted, Through the Smoke isn’t all that thought-provoking, but it is the perfect guilty-pleasure read to curl up with for a few hours – no harm in that. You can read this review and more on my blog, Ivy Book Bindings.

  • Leea
    2019-02-20 14:47

    What a refreshing Historical Romance, Through The Smoke was. I was expecting the same old characters and outlines but this was different in a good way.The Characters:Rachael is not your traditional minors daughter. Like her mother she's smart, beautiful and caring for others. She spends her time at the family bookstore and also helping others to read. Rachel's mother is sick and the Earl comes to town wanting to know if Rachel's father had anything to do with his wife's murder by fire. Truman is the Earl, he's misunderstanding but he's also so used to seeing the world from his side of the blanket. The relationship between Truman and Rachel was some thing that had to build. It was a slow burn and that was so nice to read. Rachel is not trying to seduce Truman, no in fact she spends most of the book running from him because he's a different class than her.The Story:This is part murder mystery where a lot of the characters seem to be on the wrong side for most of the book. I found all the characters confusing at times. The mystery was fun to solve and not to hard to figure out. The relationship was believable except for the class difference. I thought Novak wrote the towns reaction to Rachel's relationship with the earl very spot on. In conclusion, this was my first book by Miss Novak and I was pleasantly surprised. I love historical romance but when you have a smart strong female lead it just makes for good reading. Paired with realistic side stories, that's just a lot of fun. I can't wait to read another book by this author. ARC provided by Amazon Publishing via Negalley in exchange for an honest review.

  • Mindy (Naughty Book Snitch)
    2019-02-24 22:32

    Ohhh... this is going to be good I can tell!Oh my word! I don’t think I have enough words to say how much I LOVE THIS BOOK! This book was absolutely, positively ah-mazin! The heat level was low, but the story more than made up for it. This book is now number 1 in my top 5 historical romance favorites. There was never a dull moment in this book. I was hooked from the first page. This book is suspenseful and a little darker then other HR’s Ive read. By dark, I mean there is murder, betrayal, hate, verbal abuse and oh the plots to destroy are very creative and keep you guessing! There are a lot of characters, but I never once got confused and it was easy to follow the story. I cant gush enough about this book. The ending!! YES! YES! YES! Oh and after the epilogue please read little bit “about the author”. That made my jaw drop. And for only $3.99 on Amazon, its worth every penny. So you cant beat that price. This is a book I will re-read over and over. I received a copy of this book from Amazon Publishing and Brenda Novak via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

  • Susana
    2019-02-13 18:43

    DNF at 23%Okay... currently there's a vast number of things bad to one's health.Drinking, smoking, too much sugar, too much fat... ridiculous plots and characters! o_OIn a time in which there are rumours of authors planning to sue reviewers for negative reviews (freedom of speech, anyone? And, can I just say mental institutions!), what about the readers/reviewers health? Oh, yes...What is good for the goose is good for the gander...Of course we would be entering the most silly dystopia ever created, but "hey"!You guys started it! All this crazy logic is meant to show that it isn't only writers who suffer. The same thing happens to readers.For instance, me while reading this book:_I had brain cells who committed suicide... I could hear them screaming!!_Shortness of breath due to the stupidity involved..._Headache, because... honestly? Who calls this historical romance?Imagine a soap opera...Silly plots, silly characters...Now dress those characters in nineteenth century clothes, and claim that they're supposed to be an homage to Jane Eyre... or I don't know, Elizabeth Gaskell's "North and South"... because there are some talks about the Industrial Revolution. O_OOh, my God! I know that I sound like a book snob! Which I ain't!! Trust me!But this was really, really bad!!I don't expect authors to write historical romances while getting all the details of a period right. But this one had some ludicrous moments!There's the fact that Truman (ugh) is apparently running against time, trying to find out what happened on the day his wife was murdered.Was it him? He doesn't know (See, this tinny bit of plot was good!!).Who was it?He was angry with her because she's was deceiving him with another one..but could he have killed her?But he mainly conducts his investigation because he's afraid of his dead wife's parents, who threaten him with justice...What JUSTICE? He's a peer of the realm. He's practically above justice.The probability of him being accused by the House of Peers, with such circumstantial evidences would be very remote. Then if he wanted, he had an ace against them.You see, he suspects that his wife killed their infant son of six months old! I'm guessing that this would be the kind of thing people wouldn't want to get out....Regarding Rachel....*facepalm*..well she's one of those special snowflakes that abound in today's literature:She had always been different. While the other miners’ daughters had cooked and cleaned or worked in the mine, she’d had her nose in a book. Instead of plying her needle, she was teaching herself French or penmanship. Instead of gossiping with the village girls, she was gossiped about.There's a STRONG difference between maturity and stupidity.Guess in which one, Rachel, our main character fits? o_OKnowing the truth about something, and not telling it because of ~ high morals and stuff~ doesn't cut it.Especially when she's always behaving like a stupid, reckless, spoiled brat!!For instance, in the beginning of the story her mother is dying, and they don't have the resources for a proper doctor. So when Truman offers to help her with that, if she just told him the truth about something. She refuses!And then waits until her mother is almost dead to reconsider....Oh, and she "loves to walk" _ i don't remember how many miles _ in the dark, all alone. Isn't this just unbelievable _______.Yes, the word begins with an S!Then there's the villain!Play violins!!Who upon threatening our courageous, quirky (also known as reckless and stupid... which doesn't go hand in hand with our brilliant snowflake who is so smart!) heroine, finds her fainted (she ran away from him in the dark. Took a fall from the horse and fainted), and what does he do?Rapes her as he threatened?Or option B:Undresses her (to save his cousin the hard work) and places her in our brooding hero's bed.The villain went with option B.Here's how things must have gone in Truman's head:Uh, Rachel in my bed, naked?Rachel who hates me, in my bed, naked?Okay!!!Of course she never really woke up because, head trauma and _drugs, she says _ dreams, and... because this is just silly, stupid, corny, and gives another description to rape!He’s beautiful, she thought.But he was no dream. She didn’t know how it had happened. At this point, she couldn’t even guess. But she was in the earl’s large, soft bed.And he had just taken her virginity.That night Truman didn’t dream. Once he was able to coax Rachel into letting him touch her again, he’d obtained one of the most powerful climaxes he’d ever experienced, and then he’d slept like the dead—comfortable, relaxed, content at last.Ugh, I'm done!The only reason this doesn't get a lower rating, is due to the fact that I only read about twenty percent of it.

  • Dangerous Dotz
    2019-02-06 19:29

    It pains me to place this in the DNF pile, but I'm a believer of life being too short to waste time reading a book you're not enjoying (unless it's required for school, of course). And rather than on my kindle, I kept finding myself surfing GR or playing with the new kitty over the past weekend.So yes... at some point I stopped buying into the chemistry between Rachel and Truman. Well written/easy read, but I think their situation was too far out of my realm of understanding... too archaic for me to really identify with maybe? The intimate moments between the two just didn't do it for me. No butterfly effect like I was hoping for. I guess it'd be nice to know what happens of the mystery element to the plot, but not enough to finish the book. I mean, thanks but no thanks, I'll stick to rags before I put on your dead wife's frocks. And Truman hiding in a dark corner while Rachel slept? Brought back flashbacks of Edward Cullen.

  • Danielle (Love at First Page)
    2019-02-06 18:39

    Brenda Novak's Through the Smoke is a book I stayed up late into the night to finish. It adds so many elements together to create one truly gripping reading experience: a foreboding, eery atmosphere, a toe curling romance full of tension, heartache, and hard-won love, and a suspenseful plot that feels nothing short of a ticking time bomb. It is both a throwback to those Gothic classics such as North and South, Jane Eyre, and even Beauty and the Beast, but it is also a wonderful addition to today's popular historical romance genre. If that's not enough to convince anyone to read it...The story begins on a late, fateful night with the Earl of Druridge riding home to confront his wife. He received a letter from her stating that she's pregnant, and he knows for a fact that the child could not possibly be his. The marriage has never been a good one: she was unfaithful from the beginning, and Druridge has his own suspicions that she killed their firstborn son. So, he's very, very angry. The story jumps two years, and we learn that on that night part of Druridge's home, along with his wife, burned down in a fire. Druridge was rescued by his cousin but unfortunately has no memory of what actually happened. He's working to put the pieces together because there is every suspicion that it was he who killed his wife. His clues lead him to the door of Rachel McTavish, a poor daughter of a coal minor and bookshop seller. There is animosity aplenty between them, mainly due to their class divide. She believes him to be careless, untouchable, heartless. One of his holdings is the village's coalmines, which is the cause of both her brother and father's deaths. On the other hand, Druridge has reason to believe that Rachel's father was somehow part of the murderous plot that killed his wife. What follows is a cleverly woven plot that not only kept me on the edge of my seat but made me an emotional mess as well. In the middle of it all are Druridge and Rachel: two characters who I truly came to care about. Druridge has been obsessed with finding his wife's killer, the desire to clear his name stronger than any other impulse. He is a gentleman at heart, having never cheated on his wife during their marriage despite her infidelity, so the accusations against his character are staggering. What's more, he himself, though he doesn't want to believe that he is capable of such an act, doesn't know for sure if his anger got the best of him that night. It's a heartbreaking realization. When Rachel firsts meets him, she finds him aloof and foreboding but also strangely magnetic. Beneath his veneer of ruthlessness lies a very passionate and caring man. Like Jane Eyre, it would be easy to get lost in the sheer force of our hero's personality and forget about our heroine were it not for her own strength of character. Rachel is intelligent, loyal, stubborn, and willing to do anything to protect her younger brother. She does not allow her attraction to the earl, nor her eventual love for him, destroy her morals, which makes the foundation of their relationship only that much stronger. And let me say, their romance is smoking. Almost immediately there is a spark between them. Novak doesn't convey this by telling but by showing: whether it be in a darkened bookshop late at night, their lips nearly touching, or by a crackling fire in the earl's home as he stares at her with his piercing eyes. The tension Novak creates is a palpable thing, heightened even more by the suspense. Their relationship is not easy, but the journey is well worth it. What starts as animosity turns into an unlikely truce coupled with sexual attraction. As Rachel begins to help Druridge, she comes to believe that he is truly a good man and incapable of committing such a crime. This realization weaves her more deeply into his spell, and she cannot stop herself from falling in love. Druridge, too, cannot escape the pull between them, but more than that he finds comfort in Rachel's steady presence that he has never experienced before. Her honesty is like a salve. For the first time in years, the driving force behind his actions is something other than solving the mystery."I hope you can find what's missing."When she glanced back at him, a sad smile curved his lips. "I fear, if I lose you, I never will."With the division between their classes, there is seemingly no hope for a marriage alliance between them. For a portion of this book, after they've declared their feelings, my emotions were tugged every which way. The obstacle between them felt very real, but I wanted so badly for them to find a way to be together. I swear, my heart was breaking for them. When a romance can make me feel that, the author is definitely doing something right. Novak perfectly balances those moments of hopelessness and despair with even stronger instances of love and longing. When Druridge makes a certain decision ("I will do what I was going to do anyway"), I did a very embarrassing happy dance. :) Beyond their tangible love and devotion, they make a fantastic team. There is an open communication that develops between them once they learn to start trusting one another. I adore them as individuals but even more as a couple. Everything up until this point has developed slowly, easing the reader into a sort of suspended trance. The conclusion, of course, is nothing short of nonstop, heart-pounding, edge of your seat thrills. The romance and the mystery are tied together beautifully, and when the smoke clears all you can do is think wow and whew and wipe your sweaty palms off. Novak has written one of the most exciting reads of the year, one that has both a gripping story and a stirring romance. A slow burner that eventually blazes hot. I have the highest hopes that she decides to write more of this genre in the future.This review can also be found at Love at First Page.

  • Bryce
    2019-02-03 14:46

    Two years ago, Truman Stanhope, the Earl of Druridge, lost his faithless wife in a fire. Now he stands accused by his in-laws of murdering her. In his search to find the real killer, he crosses paths with Rachel, the orphaned daughter of a poor miner. Even though they sit on either side of a giant social chasm, and even though Rachel’s father may have had something to do with the fire that killed his late wife, Stanhope cannot stop from being infatuated with Rachel. They team up, reluctantly at first and then with the passion of a budding relationship to track down the real murderer and clear Stanhope’s name. Hey, characters of Through the Smoke, here is a helpful tip on how to be a good detective: Don’t go blabbing your deductions and secrets to everyone you encounter. Finding a murderer is inherently a secretive, stealthy activity with little-to-no value as a social outlet. But Rachel and Truman run around willy-nilly, confronting everyone they suspect with their half-baked ideas and suspicions and making sure the real murderer can easily remain one step ahead of them in the process. If those two were looking for a hobby that allows them to get out and meet people, they should really take up knitting or join a book club. I mean, the Scooby Gang had a more systematic approach to sleuthing than these two.Good thing they’re better at having sex than catching a killer, because otherwise.... oh, wait. No. There is absolutely no real chemistry between these characters. On page 1, they dislike each other. By page 30, they’ve had weird “I totally didn’t know you were an unwilling virgin” sex. By page 200, Stanhope has decided to marry someone else to clear his name. By page 202, she’s a lesbian so never mind. By page 240, they’re back together and erecting THESE ARE THE CLUES WE HAVE billboards all across the English countryside. At page 300, they’re happily married, having “class divides don’t really exist, even in a country and time period with a strict peerage system” sex. Also, this book ends up being really anti-union. Which is just the bizarre maraschino cherry on top of the bizarre sundae that is this book.

  • Jayme Bowman
    2019-02-07 20:58

    Set in Creswell, England in the 1840’s, this historical mystery/romance novel takes you into the lives of the rich Earl of Druridge, and a struggling-to-survive commoner, Rachel McTavish. Their lives are not meant to intercept each other given their social class, but they do when the Earl (Lord Truman Stanhope) tries to solve the mystery of his wife Katherine’s death. He believes that Rachel holds the key to the person that caused the fire that killed Katherine. Though Rachel claims to the Earl that she knows nothing about the cause of the fire, he not only doesn’t believe her, but becomes drawn to her. She also has suppressed feelings towards him, but being a commoner, she risks being shunned by the village she grew up in if she dare sleep with the rich enemy. However since the death of her mother, she has been left to raise her little brother Geordie by herself, and being on the good side, or the bedside, of the Earl, might not be a bad idea for her to ensure Geordie gets a good life. Both Rachel and the Earl are left to try to see “Through the Smoke” and search for the truth about the murder, and their feelings towards one another. Without giving too much away, throughout the book you are hoping for the “happily ever after”, but will they get it?!Don’t let the fact that this is a “historical” romance discourage you from reading it. It’s FAR from a history lesson. The only thing that has changed in this book vs. any other Novak book is the setting (and a little bit of the language with some of the characters). It’s definitely the page turner that I’m used to with all of her other books! Another five star book, by any means DON’T miss this one!!  LOVED IT!

  • Jo(Mixed Book Bag)
    2019-02-09 21:32

    I have been reading and enjoying Brenda Novak’s Whiskey Creek Contemporary Romance series. Historical romances are not what she usually writes and I wanted to see if I liked Through the Smoke as much as I liked her other books.She did take a slightly different slant for the romance. While the hero is a nobleman and an Earl the rest of the characters are not part of the nobility. Truman Stanhope, the Earl of Druridge, is a tortured character. He cannot remember what he did on the night his wife died and now someone is trying to kill him. His cousin saved him that night or he might suspect that he is the guilty one. To add to his problems his late wife’s parents want to try him for murder and see him hang. He needs to prove that he is innocent.Rachel McTavish knows something about that night. She might be able to prove that he is innocent. She and Truman are drawn together but even if she helps she still has other secrets. This book moves rather slowly but that allows great plot development as the book unfolds. The attraction between Rachel and Truman builds in spite of the secrets both have. The coal mine that Truman owns and the men that work there are central to the danger, the secrets, and the tension in the story.While I suspected who was the villain there was one surprise relationship in the book. The writing in Through The Smoke was good, the plot was interesting and the journey to the HEA was filled with problems.In other words there was everything needed to make Through the Smoke an enjoyable read.

  • Gloria
    2019-02-19 16:57

    I read an advanced ebook copy from the author to read and review.Rachel McTavish is the daughter of a coal miner who died from a lung disease caused by working in the coal mine owned by Truman Stanhope, Earl of Druridge. Her brother, Tommy, was killed in the mine during a cave in. Truman approached Rachel because he thinks that she has information about who started a fire in his home that killed his pregnant, unfaithful wife, Katherine. Rumor has it that Rachel's father started the fire. Katherine's parents are accusing Truman of Katherine's death and he is heading to the gallows unless he can prove his innocence. The book has many twists and turns as Truman tries to unravel the mystery of who did the deed. In the process Rachel and Truman develop a relationship...a no-no between the working class and nobility. She is ostracized by most of the townspeople and some in Truman's household. Rachel's mom died at the beginning of the story and she is left to take care of her young brother. This leaves her in a desperate place. Historical genre used to be my favorite. These days I read mostly contemporary books. I was reminded why I enjoyed the historical period so much in reading THROUGH THE SMOKE. I stayed up until 1 AM to finish this book! For that reason I give the book 5 stars. Once more, Brenda Novak doesn't disappoints!

  • Lisa
    2019-02-14 22:41

    Loved! I cannot praise this book enough. I just can’t. From the very beginning as I read the author’s note and saw that she was a huge fan of Jane Eyre (major points) and that Historical Romances are her first love, and she was so glad that she got the opportunity to get back to it, I was sold.“He’d kill her. Just as soon as he could get his hands around her delicate neck, he’s stop the black heart that beat beneath all that misleading beauty and put an end to his own misery.”Full review can be seen on Fic Talk.An Advance Reading copy was provided by the author/publisher.

  • Gail
    2019-02-22 18:32

    The author sent me an advanced reader's copy- uncorrected proof of the book to read for my honest review of the book. This book is different from the Whiskey Creek series which I love. This book is a historical romance. So far I am enjoying it.I don't normally like historical romances I usually find them boring and hard to get thru. This book about Rachel and the Earl of Druridge is amazing. Never a dull moment. It keeps you guessing at what will happen next. I had a hard time putting it down because I had to find out what will happen next. This is an awesome read and you won't be unhappy if you find a copy to read. Thanks again Brenda Novak for my copy of your latest book.