Review: A Regency Duo

Review: A Regency DuoA Regency Duo by Angelique Armae, Carole Mortimer
Series: Regency Lovers #1,
Published by Angelique Armae on June 22, 2018
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
three-stars

This book contains two separate short novellas that are the first book in their series.

INDECENT by Carole Mortimer: Miss Emma Harris rejects the idea of marriage to the Adam Stirling, Duke of Harkwood. He proposed to her and then flaunts his affair with another woman on the same day.  When Emma discovers she was mistaken, she is contrite, but Adam intends to teach Emma a lesson about jumping to conclusions — a very erotic lesson.

I enjoyed this story. It is short and easy to read. The characters are not complex and the facts of the story feel completely unrealistic. But this is a good easy read that is really focused on the sexual exploits of these characters. Fans of Carole Mortimer’s more sexy series will instantly recognize this situation and this story is one of the better stories.

This is the first book in the Regency Lovers series.  Rating: 3.5 stars.

PRINCE OF SCANDAL by Angelique Armae: Lady Elizabeth Littlefield must figure out how to save her work on her orphanage in face of her brother’s insistence that she wed a man she has no desire to be associated with. When an old friendship with the youngest prince Freddie is renewed, Lizzie and Freddie end up in a compromising situation that threatens to ruin Lizzie and put her in danger from the secret work that Freddie is doing.

This story had promise, but there is too much plot for such a short book to be combined with an actual romance. The story might have been better as a longer book. But because there is so much plot to explain, the relationship suffers. Even worse, the plot has a lot of inconsistencies which cause more problems. One example is that Lizzie won’t disobey her brother in order to protect her orphanage, but yet she still has to send all the children away because the man she will marry won’t approve of the orphanage. If the focus had been on the relationship, I might overlook these plot problems, but when the plot is the focus, I tend to concentrate on these types of problems.

This is the first in the Seduced by Scandal series. Rating: 2 stars.

three-stars

Review: A Gathering of Secrets

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: A Gathering of SecretsA Gathering of Secrets (Kate Burkholder, #10) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #10
Published by Minotaur Books on July 10, 2018
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 308
Goodreads
four-half-stars

 

“Some people say murder is a senseless act. I don’t agree. There’s no doubt murder is a brutal act. It’s a cruel act. An immoral act. It’s wrong in the eyes of the law. A sin in the eyes of God. Murder is an unthinkable deed in the mind of any decent human being. But murder is rarely senseless.”

FINAL DECISION: A great mystery that is deeply grounded in character and relationships rather than forensics and clues. Kate is deeply involved emotionally in this one and I really like seeing how her character has grown in the series. This one has lots of twists and turns and I couldn’t put it down.

THE STORY: The burning of an Amish barn brings Chief of Police Kate Burkholder to the scene, but the arson case turns to a murder investigation when the body of an eighteen year old boy is found inside. As Kate tries to determine who would want to kill a young man who by all accounts was a hard worker and a good person, Kate begins to discover that there are secrets that no one wants to talk about which might be a motive for murder.

OPINION: This one was a page turner. The book has lots of twists and things are not what they appear. This book is deeply entrenched in the personal. The secrets that people keep and the fears and shame and guilt that surround those secrets. As the story winds its way through to its conclusion, I liked that the sense of right and wrong is challenged on all sides. People who seem sympathetic might not be. People who seem good make terrible choices and take terrible actions.

These books work best for me when Kate is deeply involved not only on a professional, but also a personal level and this book succeeds in that. Kate is fully engaged as the mystery brings out many parts of her life. The story feels personal even if Kate doesn’t know the people involved.

I thought the mystery was very good and while I had glimpses of the ultimate resolution, I really didn’t put it together until the end. And there were plenty of shocking surprises along the way to keep me glued to the pages.

Beyond the mystery, there were also several developments with the ongoing characters that I enjoyed. And there is a real sense of growth of these characters which I appreciated. For readers of the series, it is nice to see that events and time change these characters and they are not kept in stasis to just solve crimes.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book has some good moments between Kate and Tomasetti for those who are interested in their relationship.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A GATHERING OF SECRETS is the tenth book in the Kate Burkholder series. This is a series of separate mystery stories. There are overarching character developments, but this book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to prepare this review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

 

four-half-stars

Review: Scandal Above Stairs

Review: Scandal Above StairsScandal Above Stairs (Kat Holloway Mysteries, #2) by Jennifer Ashley
Published by Berkley Books on July 3, 2018
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 320
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I enjoyed this one more than the first in the series. I really enjoyed learning more about the characters and developing the backstories of the cast of characters.

THE STORY: Kat is called to help investigate the theft of artwork from a friend of her employer. Kat is soon drawn into a series of thefts including ones being investigated by her friend, the mysterious Daniel McAdam. Open doors in the home she is working in and breaking in a new assistant are some additional challenges for Kat while also preparing meals for the household. Kat’s investigations lead her into the uncomfortable position of moving in the world of the upper household.

OPINION: This book allows times to delve into the relationships between the characters and also presents a whole series of mystery situations. I liked that we got to move through various stories at once. Things overlap and it is not clear what is relevant and what isn’t. In other words, it is a good mystery set up.

I really enjoyed how the mystery is both evidence and personality. And we get to know a lot about the characters surrounding Kat. Some of the information and facts are misdirection but all are interesting. The emphasis in this book is relationship and I especially enjoyed that we get a lot more of Kat and Daniel. They make a cute couple and I like seeing them reveal more to one another.

The book is interesting and I wasn’t sure where the story was going until the end which is enjoyable in a mystery.

I look forward to more from this series.

WORTH MENTIONING: Who knew how much work was involved in Victorian kitchen work?

CONNECTED BOOKS: SCANDAL ABOVE STAIRS is the second book in the Below Stairs aka the Kat Holloway Mysteries series. This is a self contained mystery that can be read as a standalone, but there are ongoing character developments that continue through the series and for that the books should be read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via First Reads. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-half-stars

Review: Devoted to Pleasure

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Devoted to PleasureDevoted to Pleasure by Shayla Black
Series: Devoted Lovers #1
Published by Berkley Books on July 3, 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 352
Goodreads
four-half-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: I loved this bodyguard and star book. Hot and sexy, I loved how these can be combined with a sweetness between the main characters.

THE STORY: Bodyguard Cutter Bryant has agreed to protect his dearest friend by committing to a marriage of convenience between them. But before things are finalized, Cutter is off to Los Angeles to serve as a bodyguard for Shealyn West, one of the hottest new television stars. Cutter is thrown off balance by Shealyn from the moment they meet. Shealyn is being threatened by a blackmailer. Wary of revealing her secrets to Cutter, Shealyn is strongly attracted to the man she has hired to protect her. Deciding that there can be nothing long term between them, the two struggle against their feelings and their attraction while trying to find out who is threatening Shealyn.

OPINION: For some reason, I really like a good bodyguard/star story. It might be watching The Bodyguard or perhaps reading Silhouettes with similar stories in the 1980s. For whatever reason, I really was inclined to like this book from the start — and thankfully, this book exceeded my expectations.

I could have done without the “like a sister” best friend who Cutter has to protect, but that is one of the dramas keeping the couple apart so I think it works as a plot device. What worked much better for me was the blackmailer story. I liked just about everything about it. It was suspenseful, the resolution was dramatic and good. Just good stuff.

I also really, really liked these characters. Both Cutter and Shealyn are wary but oh so willing to fall for one another. Shaelyn is a great combination of strong and independent and sweetness. At times she seems naive, but she is also savvy and determined.

Cutter is a genuinely good guy which is what causes him so many problems. He wants to solve the problems of his friend and doesn’t know how to deal with having to take his own happiness.

I liked the relationship between Cutter and Shaelyn. They manage to pack a lot into what turns out to be only a few days. Of course, the danger and drama forces them into confessions that might have taken other longer, but I felt the connection between these two from the moment they met.

This is a good start to a new series. I haven’t read the stories of some of the characters who appear here, but I didn’t feel that I missed anything (although now I’m tempted to go back and read their stories).

WORTH MENTIONING: There are a whole bunch of characters introduced who I hope get their own stories in this series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DEVOTED TO PLEASURE is the first book in the Devoted Lovers series. (There is a prequel DEVOTED TO WICKED that is a crossover with the Wicked Lovers series.)  Prior books are not necessary. I haven’t read any other than DEVOTED TO WICKED and I didn’t feel I missed anything.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to prepare this review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

 

four-half-stars

Review: The Risk of Rogues

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Risk of RoguesThe Risk of Rogues (The Sinful Suitors, #5.5) by Sabrina Jeffries
Published by Pocket Star on July 2, 2018
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
three-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: Nice little story that wraps up the series but isn’t particularly deep. I enjoyed it and seeing the characters from the series.

THE STORY: Captain Lord Hartley Corry lost the woman he loved years ago when her father refused his suit and he joined the army. On the verge of getting a promotion to spymaster, Hart meets Lady Anne at a houseparty with his friends. Hart is determined to claim that woman he has never forgotten but he has to convince her that he is not the reckless and irresponsible man her father believed he was. And he has to do it while keeping secret his work as a spy.

OPINION: This is a nice little story. It isn’t particularly deep and there aren’t many surprises, but I enjoyed the characters — especially the quirky Anne with her hats. This second chance at love story springs from youth and misunderstanding, but these two are so clearly meant for one another that I knew that they would always work things out. I think this story works best as a wrap up to the series because knowing all the characters makes this little story more meaningful. I liked that we get to see Hart having his happy ending. I enjoyed the story and I recommend that those who have followed the series read this little coda.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a short story.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE RISK OF ROGUES is book 5.5 of the Sinful Suitors series. The story can be read as a standalone although there are lots of characters from the series that a new readers might be puzzled by.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to prepare this review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

 

three-stars

Review: Loving the Secret Billionaire

Review: Loving the Secret BillionaireLoving the Secret Billionaire (Love at Last Book 1) by Adriana Anders
Series: Love at Last #1
on April 19, 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads
one-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Disappointing and banal after a great description of what the setup for the story is.

THE STORY: Veronica Cruz is a teacher turned political candidate when she wants to be active in her community. A big underdog, Veronica is out campaigning door to door when she arrives at a house with a mysterious occupant. Zach is a reclusive man. Blind, Zach lives in his own world. But Veronica touches something in him and begins to bring him out. But Zach has lots of secrets including why he has secluded himself.

OPINION: This novella was disappointing on just about every level. The connection between the hero and heroine was boring and didn’t interest me at all. The reasons for Zach being secluded were not persuasive. After we learn the lengths that Zach would go to help Veronica’s candidacy and which she found objectionable, she was still willing to continue on. A person so concerned with the morality as her would have withdrawn herself. Instead, she basically benefits from what he did and allows herself to claim she is not tainted by what he did — but she clearly did benefit. Then she completely forgives him in the end. And he escapes all punishment for his actions. And did I mention that there basically was not connection between the characters.

I read this novella because it came highly recommended on by an author that I love. Just goes to show me that just because I love an author doesn’t mean we have the same tastes in books.

WORTH MENTIONING: Hero is a virgin.

CONNECTED BOOKS: LOVING THE SECRET BILLIONAIRE is the first book in the Love at Last series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 1.5 stars.

one-half-stars

Review: In Dark Company

Review: In Dark CompanyIn Dark Company (Kate Burkholder #9.5) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #9.5
Published by Minotaur Books on May 29, 2018
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 60
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A little mystery that is centered in the characters. I always enjoy seeing Kate doing her work. Wish there was a little more Tomasetti.

THE STORY: Chief of Police Kate Burkholder is awoken with a call about a woman who has run out of the night fleeing a mysterious man. The woman claims to have amnesia but knows that someone is trying to kill her. Kate has to find out who the woman is and discover if she is the victim or a criminal herself.

OPINION: I enjoyed this story but I missed the interaction between Kate and Tomasetti. While I appreciate that she is the main character and I expect in the large books that she will be acting as Chief of Police and an independent woman, I’ve liked the short stories the best when we get to see the two of them working together.

The story was a well crafted mystery with a definite and clear arc in the story. The characters were well designed for such a short story.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a short story that focuses on a mystery with no romance involved.

CONNECTED BOOKS: IN DARK COMPANY is book 9.5 in the Kate Burkholder series.  This is a standalone mystery can be read without knowledge of any of the other books.

STAR RATING: I give this story 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Grigor

Review: GrigorGrigor (Dragon Hearts #5) by Carole Mortimer
Series: Dragon Hearts #5
Published by Carole Mortimer on May 25, 2018
Genres: Paranormal
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: Fun and fast read. Nothing deep here, but I loved the sexy dragons and the trouble that the stuffiest one of them gets with the independent and original woman who is destined to be his mate. Like eating cotton candy.

THE STORY: Grigor Pendragon is close to turning into a feral dragon who will have to be killed by his brothers when he scents his mate. But the woman he finds is nothing like the sophisticated woman he expected to find as his mate. Instead, Grigor finds Gayle Wilson, computer geek, mouthy and independent. Gayle is being kept a virtual prisoner in the castle as a way of her sister and her dragon mate to protect Gayle. But Gayle doesn’t want to be protected, but when she is threatened, she might have no choice but to turn to Grigor even though she doesn’t believe the crazy man who believes he is a dragon shifter and she is his mate.

OPINION: Enjoyable fun read. The opposites attract story between Grigor and Gayle with the banter and arguments between them was what I really enjoyed. The story is pretty standard and for those who have read the rest of the series, follows the template of the others. The amusing pairing of these two, however, was something that I particularly enjoyed.

The series has gotten better in the last couple of books. While the stories are formulaic, they are something that I enjoyed as light reading. The humor and heat in the stories make these a nice diversion. Two people who wouldn’t otherwise pick one another are stuck and have to find a way to deal with one another and even come to like and eventually love each other.

WORTH MENTIONING: We get an update on Dylan and Holly from the previous book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: GRIGOR is the fifth book in the Dragon Hearts series. The romance is a standalone although the characters appear in prior books.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

 

four-stars

Review: Wicked and the Wallflower

Review: Wicked and the WallflowerWicked and the Wallflower (The Bareknuckle Bastards, #1) by Sarah MacLean
Series: The Bareknuckle Bastards #1
Published by Avon on June 19, 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 396
Goodreads
four-stars

“Felicity Faircloth,” he said, “in the few days I’ve known you, I’ve learned one, unimpeachable truth. You are no kind of ordinary.”

FINAL DECISION: Enjoyable book with an emotional center, but suffers from introducing all the conflicts and thus loses a bit with the couple in this book. There is clearly an overarching storyline so this book misses a complete resolution.

THE STORY: Lady Felicity Faircloth keenly feels the loss of her social position. Impulsively, she claims to be engaged to the catch of the season — a reclusive duke. A mysterious and dangerous man, Devil, comes to Felicity and promises that he will make all her dreams come true — for a price. A bastard and the king of the dangerous streets of London, Devil intends to use Felicity for his own purposes to destroy his enemy, but Felicity might be Devil’s own downfall.

OPINION: MacLean has a deeply emotional and dramatic style of writing that I always enjoy. Her characters have complex emotional lives and the emotion is strong and deep in the relationship. I enjoyed this book, but because it feels like the first book in the series which is setting up relationships and because there is much unresolved at this book, it doesn’t feel complete.

On the positive side, I really connected with the world that MacLean has chosen to explore. The seedy side of London and the aristocratic world are combined in interesting ways. I believe the set up of the overarching story has definite possibilities. In fact, I think what is probably the big set up in the story is a drag on this story because I was more interested in the secrets yet to be revealed than the romance here.

Felicity is an interesting character. She is growing beyond the bounds of the aristocratic world while yearning to be part of it. When she meets the hero, she finds the place where she actually can be her truest self. But part of that growth is shedding the protective cocoon of what her entire life has been directed to prepare her for. One thing I especially liked was the realism of Felicity’s feelings towards her family. It felt good to have her examine the complexity of her feelings rather than being docile and accepting. One thing her character lacked, however, was that her willingness to toss away what she claimed to want felt too quick for me.

I really loved Devil, but the fact that secrets are still being kept about the past means that we still don’t know everything about his character. I never felt his conflict as well as I wanted to. We are being kept in the dark towards some future revelation and I don’t think that worked to the advantage of Devil’s story. The exploration of the BKB’s business gave the story some historical interest and I loved the relationship between the siblings.

This is a book that might improve once the series is done but I’ve been especially disappointed with some overarching stories lately so I’m reserving some judgment until I see how things play out.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book introduces and sets up some of the conflicts with the bastard siblings which clearly will play out through the series. This book does not resolve those conflicts so there are unresolved issues as this book ends.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WICKED AND THE WALLFLOWER is the first book in the Bareknuckle Bastards series. The heroine, however, appeared in THE DAY OF THE DUCHESS. It is not necessary to read that book to understand everything in this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Dylan

Review: DylanDylan (Dragon Hearts #4) by Carole Mortimer
Series: Dragon Hearts #4
Published by Carole Mortimer on March 16, 2018
Genres: Paranormal
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: This was a light and fun story. There is nothing deep or thought provoking here, but I enjoyed the diversion of the story. Dylan and Holly have an amusing relationship that I enjoyed in this short read.

THE STORY: Dylan, one of the Pendragon brothers, awakens in a hospital and finds this elusive mate in Doctor Holly Barnes. But Dylan needs to find out why he blacked out and ended up in the hospital and thus isn’t ready to claim his mate. But when Holly seeks Dylan out, he finds himself having to deal with a human woman who is pretty sure Dylan’s stories of dragon shifters and King Arthur means the sexy man is crazy. But Holly needs Dylan’s help and Dylan is determined to keep his mate by his side.

OPINION: This series has a definite formula but the characters and the situation can make the books fun. I can enjoy a book for what it is and not every book has to be an intense emotional journey. This book was fun and I liked the characters and how they deal with the situation.

The book was a quick and easy read (but I have to admit I like these books much better if I don’t read them one after another because the similarities are too glaring).

It was nice seeing the characters from previous books. My real disappointment is that we didn’t get more with the dragon.

WORTH MENTIONING: We get an appearance from two characters from another series which was fun.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DYLAN is the fourth book in the Dragon Hearts series. The romance in this book is separate from others in the series, but the characters overlap.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars