This title is included in Audible Escape

Thorns of Eden

Narrated by: Reagan Boggs
Length: 9 hrs and 43 mins
Categories: Romance, Military
4.5 out of 5 stars (6 ratings)
This title is included in Audible Escape

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Publisher's Summary

Major Rayce Hampton is the Confederacy’s final hope to turn the tide of war. Haunted by heartache of generations past, love is the last thing he has on his mind when he meets Eden Blair. The emerald-eyed beauty is as headstrong as she is tempting, but Rayce must keep his wits - and his secrets - as he executes his dangerous undercover mission to save the South.   

Accomplished nurse Eden Blair has secrets, too, only she doesn’t know about them yet. Stung by her fiancé’s betrayal, she has no reason to trust the scandalous Major Hampton. But as Yankee troops close in, Eden must take refuge in the major’s mysterious ancestral home, leading her into the shadowy corners of deceit and desire, where endless love lurks within every soft whisper.

©2015 Diana Ballew (P)2019 Diana Ballew

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The steam comes right off the pages!

As always, I have to state that this book was given to me for free in exchange for a review.
I always like to state that this does not impact my review or my opinion of the book. My reviews are honest and my own opinion of the story, performance, and overall thoughts on the book.

RAWRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.....

The lush and richly textured setting, a spunky, romantic heroine, and a dashing, daring hero are woven together within the pages of Thorns of Eden by Diana Ballew.

The romance between Eden and Rayce begins with Rayce choosing Eden as his next affair. Our courageous heroine, though wounded and longing for love and romance, sets him in his place. Thrown together again because of a family connection, he pursues, she resists - until she realizes she can't live without him. He makes her feel alive and safe and secure in her recently turned upside-down world. Drawn to Eden's bold spirit as he never had been before, Rayce soon realizes that he wants her for more than one night, he wants her for a lifetime.

The author's descriptions drew me back to the time when our country was split in two by war, making me feel like I was actually there, an observer to the action. The story has everything a romance reader could wish for - great characters, a touching romance, and sizzling love scenes. The book is a lively and entertaining read, keeping me enthralled from start to finish. I look forward to reading more from this author.

I am a virgin romance novel reader. It has never been my genre of choice but when a friend recommended Thorns of Eden, I gave it a chance. Let me tell you, I could not put this one down. I am a now a bonafide historical romance fan and cannot wait to read the next novel by Diana Ballew. Her characters are likable and engaging and the witty flirtations between the spirited Eden and dashing Rayce are fun and entertaining to read. I love how Ballew crafted the character of Ann, a snarky and insecure woman who is oh so fun to hate!

As a southerner, I enjoyed the lush descriptions of life in the south. The stately Manor with the sweeping lawn, the molasses cakes, the "aroma of fresh mint, rosemary, and lavender" as well as the sounds of "melodic birds" all made my senses feel like I was actually experiencing the South during that time period. The harsh reality of the Civil war provided a dramatic background to the growing love story.

And the love scenes, oh Lord, if I knew what the vapors were, I would probably be having them after reading those scenes. Dare I say they are passionate and sizzling!!!

This book captivated me from the first page. From the start, Ms. Ballew's lush description of Virginia during the Civil War placed me squarely in the time period, and I could vividly imagine the events transpiring as they did.

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:)

This was an interesting, entertaining, and steamy story about love, loss, survival, tolerance, trust, and hope. As a Yankee, I can't vouch for the accents, but they seemed believable to me.

I listened to it at 2x speed.

I was given an ARC copy of this audiobook, but that neither affected my opinion nor my review.

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Highly problematic elements

Amanda Lyn here again from your favorite romance audiobook review source, Sounds Like Romance.

I'm going to have to tackle the performance first on this one because I've got a lot more to say about the story, most of it not good.

Reagan Boggs has a lovely southern drawl that is pleasant to listen to and she adds in little sighs, yawns, and laughter to the dialogue to amp up the delivery of the characters' actions and personalities. She seemed to struggle with maintaining consistency among the female character voices and lacked truly unique intonations for most of the cast but, overall, provided a lovely listening experience.

Regarding the story, I will preface this by saying that Ballew writes lyrically and beautifully, but I was unable to overcome the HIGHLY problematic elements in this story.

***

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD - TW FOR TOPICS OF SLAVERY AND CHILD RAPE

***

We have a heroine who, despite her sheltered life, never takes the initiative to educate herself about the intricacies of why the South and the North have gone to war, and is completely ignorant about the problems with slavery. Throughout the book she refers to her family slaves as "family" and yet never comes fully around to free them or pay them wages. They also don't move with her to her temporary housing, making the reader wonder why, if she considers them family, she would leave them behind.

The hero in the story is mildly progressive, having freed his slaves and paying them wages, aware that a large part of the war is over the issue of slavery. However, as a spy for the Rebel army at one point in the book, he blames the North for being the cause for the South having slaves and it was such a cop-out for the South not taking responsibility for not only using slavery but abusing it that it turned my stomach.

Perhaps about midway through the book, we learn that the hero has a half-sister who is Black and is living in hiding in his house, posing as a servant, who is also presented as odd for her cultural religious practices. Despite learning this fact, the heroine continues to treat her as a servant despite knowing her connection, further removing the heroine from any sort of relatable plane for me.

To cap things off with content that would have made me hurl the book against the wall if it weren't digital, we have a character who was sent away from the South and ended up as a Union soldier. The reason for him being sent away? He raped a 14/15 year old slave girl. This character suffered no real repercussions and, later, was even given the opportunity to enlist with the Rebels after deserting his post in the Union army. This unforgivable portrayal of violence against a black CHILD resulted in this white man initially being sent away and, later, the heroine heals him when he's sick and then, along with the hero, lets him escape. When the man is on his death bed, the heroine is tries to comfort him and mourns his loss when he passes. The unacceptable nature of how this played out--trying to portray a f*cking rapist as sympathetic--was the last straw for me.

The author had so many opportunities to not rely on slave stereotypes, to have her heroine take some initiative to change the ways she thought about slavery, to engage in ongoing discussion about how it was something that had to change, and didn't. Instead, she focused on trying to make the Rebel army a sympathetic cause and how the push-pull of the romantic relationship blurred the edges of doing the right thing.

I sincerely doubt this author utilized Black sensitivity readers for this title and it shows. I cannot recommend it to anyone.

I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

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An enjoyable, passionate listen

I will start out by saying this book is not my usual go-to romance; I'm more of a Regency or Victorian era listener. That said, I enjoyed this book more than I initially expected to - the story was suspenseful and didn't drag, I cared about the characters of Eden and Rayce, and was rooting for their HEA! At the end I was surprised and saddened that the book was over! I wanted to stay with the characters a little longer.

The narrator's voice is soothing and easy on the ears, even though going into a story set against the Civil War I was afraid at first this would sound too much like the dated, cringe-worthy dialogue in "Gone With the Wind" – Southern accents for all the characters were well-executed and Reagan Boggs' voice is a great match for the story. I will give this a re-listen for sure... her performance was top-notch and added to the story, making it all the more enjoyable.

I definitely recommend this title! Diana Ballew has crafted a passionate, enemies-to-lovers tale that I thoroughly enjoyed. A+ to both author and narrator.

I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

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Loved it

This book was given to me for free at my request and I provided this voluntary review. I loved this story. The characters were well written with a very interesting story line. The description of Richmond in the Civil War 1862 was a very well done.

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  • Kate
  • 06-27-19

A sweet, Southern, love story amidst a Civil War

I wasn't really sure what to expect of this audiobook as I have listened to very few stories from this period of American history. This book is set during the American Civil War, from the Confederate perspective; which was something I struggled with a bit at the beginning. At first I thought it was going to be harder to warm to the Military heroes given what they were fighting for. My knowledge of American history is limited and not particularly nuanced, but I do find it difficult to view that era with any sympathy for the slave owners and anti-abolishonists, and I was concerned that the contentious issues would be glossed over or romanticised.

I need not have worried so much at the start, however, as the author's position on this point was clarified near the beginning by Eden's brother, Isaac, who pointed out Eden's naive view of the war. The contrast between the way they had treated their valued farmhands and the abuses suffered by slaves on neighbouring farms helped Isaac to educate Eden in the Yankees' cause, and made him a much more sympathetic character. A clear line was drawn, with Isaac fighting for his land, his family, and his home state but not agreeing with all the reasons for the secession. Discovering that Rayce had freed his slaves and employed them honestly was also comforting, and quelled my unease.

It did feel a bit like it was Making A Point when each of the Confederate soldiers expressed very forward-thinking views for the time, and the Union soldiers were unilaterally more degenerate. This black-and-white theme was carried throughout the book, with each new person to whom we were introduced being either a Rebel Hero or a Yankee Villain. War is anything but tidy, with the moral issues often as mangled as the bodies of the men and women on the front line. However, I do appreciate that many in Southern states are incredibly proud of their Confederate history, and that this book aims to be a positive, nostalgic, chocolate-boxy interpretation of the time; where all the women were beautiful Belles, all the men were handsome heroes, and love conquered all far beyond the battlefield. It is not really a social or political commentary the way that Lars D. H. Hedbor's Tales From A Revolution series is for the War of Independence.

Once I had settled into the period and the characters, Thorns of Eden fit the historical romance template well. The sexual tension between Eden and Rayce was palpable from the beginning, and her feistiness was a good foil for his stubbornness. Though they clashed upon first meeting, it was inevitable that they would succumb to the attraction one way or another, and I was rooting for them to do just that.

This is, in many ways, a very traditional romance novel. The language is often very florid and over-the-top in a slightly Mills & Boon fashion but I believe that to be consistent with the regional culture. Both protagonists were achingly perfect; Eden's skin was always flawless ivory and her hair honeyed perfection, her greatest weakness being to always think of others before herself. Rayce's bearing was the height of masculine allure, his voice burning into her core like the finest brandy, and he cared more for his country than his own life. The romantic and intimate interactions suffer a little from the aforementioned lace-fan-wafting language, which sometimes feels rather dated (and not to the historical period), but it wasn't unpalatably saccharin because Rayce's gruffness helped take the edge off.

If you dislike stereotypes then this isn't the book for you, but if you've ever swooned at a technicolour Hollywood musical then - chances are - you'll like this, too.

Reagan Boggs' performance was delightful. Her rich, smooth, Southern drawl was very evocative of the location and she remained entertaining and engaging throughout this audiobook. I would have liked Rayce's voice to be a little deeper and more masculine but it is almost always a trade-off in books like these with a single narrator. I think this book could have been perfect for dual-narration, with a male narrator joining for the masculine parts, but it wasn't really necessary as Boggs did a fine job. Hers is a name I will look out for now that I know how pleasant she is to listen to.

I would recommend Thorns of Eden to people who like sweet, sweeping love stories with a traditional feel, and to anyone with the US Romance Package - recently rebranded Audible Escape - in which this audiobook is included.

*I received this audiobook free of charge in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.