Review: Craving

Review: CravingCraving (Regency Lovers 3) by Carole Mortimer
Series: Regency Lovers #3
Published by Carole Mortimer on December 7, 2018
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I really enjoyed this novella. Yes, it isn’t very deep and the events happen quickly, but I thought the story was well constructed and I really liked the relationship between Sophia and Magnus.

THE STORY: Miss Sophia Marchment is the head of a school for young women where she teaches her students her independent and somewhat scandalous ideas. When she is in London, she meets with a prospective student and her father. Magnus Spencer, Duke of Weston is shocked by his attraction to the young headmistress and while he knows that Sophia has secrets, the heat of the attraction between them brings them together. But someone is threatening Sophia and her past may be the reason.

OPINION: This is my favorite of the series so far. I think I grade these books on a curve. A book trying to be a different length and level of sophistication, or a different author, my rating might be different. But I read these Mortimer books with the intent to enjoy the story alone and not to look for an introspective or complex story.

As a novella this one works very well and I enjoyed the characters more than I expected. Although there is some deep material here, the characters do manage to develop a relationship (although there is some insta-love). I also thought that Magnus ended up being a nice character especially with how he treats Sophia (with one exception — he is a jerk with how he breaks the twist in the story to her).

I especially liked Sophia who is nobody’s doormat here. She is independent and determined to do what she thinks is right. I thought that the strong wills of Sophia and Magnus worked well here. Sometimes the Mortimer heroines are overwhelmed by her strong Alpha heroes, but not here. Sophia definitely holds her own.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is novella length.

CONNECTED BOOKS: CRAVING is the third book in the Regency Lovers series. Although there are some overlapping characters, this book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Before We Were Strangers

Review: Before We Were StrangersBefore We Were Strangers by Brenda Novak
Published by MIRA on December 4, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A good romantic suspense. I enjoyed the combination of the relationship with the suspense/mystery. I really loved Micah (who is a sweetie) and eventually understood Sloan although I didn’t like her actions which seemed reckless and not well thought out at times.

THE STORY: Sloan McBride fled her hometown a decade ago to free herself from her oppressive father. Now she has returned to find out what happened to her mother who disappeared when she was five. Sloan, however, not only has to face the questions from her parents’ past, but also what she left behind when she left. She had abandoned her best friend and her boyfriend, Micah Evans who turned to one another, married, had a child and divorced. Sloan’s return brings complications in these relationships as well.

OPINION: This was an enjoyable romantic suspense. The scariness factor isn’t too high and there is plenty of romance. Indeed, while the mystery is central to the plot of the book, I enjoyed the second chance at romance the best.

Sloan is completely determined and that makes her reckless at times. She annoyed me at her willingness to do stupid things and keep telling people what is going on when there were people who could betray her. That being said, her character was interesting because of her flaws. I liked that her recklessness and impulsiveness is something that is consistent about her character.

Now Micah I adored. He is incredibly kind and responsible and if I have a complaint it is that he forgives Sloan very quickly for her abandoning him a decade ago. I just didn’t buy her reasons for not contacting him at all and it seemed pretty cruel.

I thought that the book described well the difficulties of the relationship between Sloan, Micah and Paige (Sloan’s best friend and Micah’s ex wife). I liked that the characters had complexity and good and bad traits.

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the Evelyn Talbot books which I found to be a much more suspenseful story, but this one was a good read.

WORTH MENTIONING: I liked that there was an epilogue that wrapped up the story.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BEFORE WE WERE STRANGERS is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

 

four-stars

Review: My Favorite Half-Night Stand

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: My Favorite Half-Night StandMy Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren
Published by Gallery Books on December 4, 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 400
Goodreads
three-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: This was okay. Not great but not terrible. I enjoyed a once through reading, but never really connected with the heroine, and the hero was way too accommodating of her.

THE STORY: Millie Morris is one of the guys, the only woman hanging out with a group of male friends. But one night, she and her “best friend” Reid Campbell end up having sex. Millie doesn’t want to ruin her friendship so she insists that the two date. Along with their friends Millie and Reid sign up for an online dating service. But when Millie doesn’t like her profile, she decides to sign up for a new one under a different name and is surprised when she and Reid are matched. So while Millie and Reid are dancing around one another in real life, Millie’s alter ego and Reid are hitting it off online.

OPINION: This book was okay, but all the interesting parts in the blurb really felt like insignificant to the actual story. First, there is little with Millie’s interest in serial killers. She might have been interested in polar bears and it would have made no difference to the story. It’s only a tiny part of this book even though it was part of what peaked my interest in this book. Second, I didn’t find the online connection as compelling as I expected. There didn’t seem much to it and the two only communicated for a short period. I have read other stories with online dating and this one didn’t work as well.

I really loved Reid and honestly, I spent most of the book thinking that he was much too good for Millie. She didn’t feel closed up, she felt like a jerk for most of the book. Unfortunately, while that gets resolved, her dogged determination to not share even basic facts — her middle name? — with her “friends” made her seemed like she needs a whole lot of therapy rather than a relationship.

On the plus side, I really enjoyed the relationship between all the friends. That felt fun and lighthearted. I thought that the complications that arise as Millie and Reid’s relationship developed were funny and I enjoyed seeing the difficulties that arose. I also really liked the good parts of Millie and Reid’s relationship as the two moved from friends to lovers. Their interactions in real life made me smile.

Overall the book was okay, but not as good as I wanted it to be. Readers who just want a fun romcom would probably enjoy this more.

WORTH MENTIONING: I wish that the other friends hadn’t had their stories resolved, it might have been an interesting series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MY FAVORITE HALF-NIGHT STAND is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in helping 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: Three Weddings and a Kiss

Review: Three Weddings and a KissThree Weddings and a Kiss by Catherine Anderson, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, Lisa Kleypas, Loretta Chase
Published by Avon on September 1, 1995
Genres: Historical
Pages: 389
Goodreads
four-stars

This is an anthology of three short novellas and one very short story. All are unrelated to one another.

FANCY FREE by Catherine Anderson: Clint Rafferty trying to raise his brothers and keep the family together after the deaths of his parents. Rachel Constantine wants to get revenge for her sister’s heart being broken by Clint’s brother. When revenge goes wrong, Clint and Rachel end up with a “shotgun” wedding. The two attempt to give their marriage a go. This book takes place in the American West. The story is built on humor as Rachel doesn’t wear her needed glasses and ends up making a mess of cooking, cleaning and all the household activities. I didn’t mind the device, but it went on too long and eventually got tiring to read. The story is pretty fluffy as a story as these two never really get to know one another as people even as their relationship progresses. It wasn’t a bad story, but pretty forgettable. Rating: 2 stars.

THE MAD EARL’S BRIDE by Loretta Chase: THE MAD EARL’S BRIDE is a short story that has a connection with Loretta Chase’s classic LORD OF SCOUNDRELS. The couple from that book, Dain and Jess, make a small but significant appearance here.
This story is the romance between Gwen and Dorian. The two meet because of an arranged marriage because Dorian is dying of an inherited brain disease that killed his mother and is expected to soon kill him. Before he dies, however, he is expected to father an heir. Gwen agrees to the marriage because she seeks the influence and money that marriage will give her so that she can open a hospital. She does not mind that her future husband will soon be a lunatic because she has studied medicine and had wished to be a doctor (of course, she is not permitted to do so because she is a woman). Dorian initially does not wish to marry at all , but decides to help Gwen realize her dream. The romance between the two is sweet and full of angst as they are living under the sadness of having such a short time together. Dorian is reluctant to engage in a true relationship because he cares for Gwen but she overcomes him. What I liked best about this story is how he respects Gwen’s abilities and trusts in her judgment. The resolution of the story comes not from miracles, but rather the intelligence of Gwen and the trust between the couple that uncovers the solution. I really enjoyed this story and I highly recommend it. Rating: 4 stars.

PROMISES by Lisa Kleypas: Lidian Acland is waiting for the man she loves to return from the Continent even though her mother insists that Lidian is only hiding from her hurt of his leaving her. Lord Eric De Gray meets Lidian while escorting his sister at a party and is struck by her kindness. They dance, but Lidian tells Eric that she it taken. Eric takes a liking to Lidian and is determined to make her confront that the man she is waiting for is not worthy of her and Eric himself wants her. This story was okay but nothing particularly stood out with one exception — Lidian and Eric go to Craven’s (yes, Derek Craven’s gambling hell from DREAMING OF YOU). We get a small glimpse of Derek and how his character jumps from the page in only a few lines demonstrated how pale the other characters are in comparison. Nothing was bad about it, it just wasn’t the standard I expect from Kleypas’s work. Rating: 3 stars.

THE KISS by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss: A few things need to be said about this work. Most importantly, this is only one story of two plus a novel about this couple. This story is only a small vignette and really needs especially the novel to feel complete. Jeff Birmingham, the brother of Brandon from THE FLOWER AND THE FLAME, is shopping for a gift for his sister-in-law when he runs into — literally — into a young woman dressed in rags. Raelynn Barrett who is running from her uncle who intends to sell her to a man who may “eventually” marry her. This story doesn’t have much substance to it when read alone. There is instant attraction which then leads to a marriage based upon Raelynn being ruined. We don’t get to know much about her. Jeff is better known primarily because of his appearance in THE FLOWER AND THE FLAME. This story should be read only as a sequel and prequel to the actual book about Jeff and Raelynn which was its intent more than a self-contained story. Rating: 2.5 stars.

four-stars

Review: The Secrets She Kept

Review: The Secrets She KeptThe Secrets She Kept (Fairham Island, #2) by Brenda Novak
Series: Fairham Island #2
Published by MIRA on July 26, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 394
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: I really liked this one which had a twisty mystery combined with a nice romance. My only real negative is that I think that Nancy should have made Keith grovel much more before taking him back. Their relationship needed a little more to be truly satisfying as a conclusion.

THE STORY: The beautiful, rich and selfish Josephine Lazarow is found dead from an apparent suicide. But her son, Keith, doesn’t believe that his mother would have committed suicide so he returns to Fairham Island five years after he left and begins to poke his nose into the secrets of his mother. But those secrets might destroy Keith’s family. Keith’s return to the island also rekindles his relationship with Nancy Dellinger who Keith had a relationship five years ago and left.

OPINION: This one had a twisty mystery and in interesting romance. Towards the end of the book, I thought I was going to be very happy with the romance but only marginally happy with the mystery, but then a twist came and I was surprised by the twist and then felt that the romance needed some more resolution to be truly satisfying.

Keith’s mother was a pretty terrible person. This book explores many of her secrets which combined with what we found out in THE SECRET SISTER made it difficult to feel sorry for her. I did like that she wasn’t a complete villain and we get to see some good things about her, which make her complicated but not sympathetic. The revelations of secrets put this book into the I just kept reading category.

Keith and Nancy have a history. They were involved in a relationship five years ago when Keith was taking drugs. He left soon after and managed to reinvent himself and get clean. Now that he has returned, the two resume a relationship. I really liked the connection between Keith and Nancy, but considering the complications in their pasts, I expected a better resolution. Keith and Nancy needed either to get some counseling together or there needed to be more of a recognition on Keith’s part as to the hurt he inflicted on Nancy. He needed to grovel and be passionate about his love for Nancy, and I just didn’t get that from this book.

But I really enjoyed this book and thought it was a good read. I also thought that it was better than the first book in the series (which I did like) because it had a deeper suspense and romance story.

What I really needed was a really good epilogue wrapping up all the siblings stories or there to be another book in this series.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book completes the circle from THE SECRET SISTER and is especially satisfying read with that book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE SECRETS SHE KEPT is the second book in the Fairham Island series. This book can be read as a standalone, but is better if you already know the cast of characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: The Secret Sister

Review: The Secret SisterThe Secret Sister (Fairham Island, #1) by Brenda Novak
Series: Fairham Island #1
Published by MIRA on July 28, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 400
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I enjoyed the romance more than the mystery here which is okay with me, but I expected more suspense while I had things pretty much figured out early.

THE STORY: Maisey Lazarow comes back to Fairham Island to help her drug addicted brother after a tragedy in her own life and divorce have sent her reeling in her own life. But coming home means also dealing with her difficult mother which sends Maisey to the other side of the island to stay and puts her next door to Rafe Romero. Maisey and Rafe have a history, and Maisey is determined to keep her distance. But when a discovery of photographs raises questions about what Maisey knows about her family and what happened in the past, Maisey struggles with what secrets her family is hiding.

OPINION: This was an enjoyable story. I really liked Maisey and Rafe as characters. I did feel that the suspense/mystery of the story was not particularly complex and suspenseful, but it was enough to keep me interested in the story where I really liked the romance.

What I really enjoyed in this book was Maisey’s personal journey. The transformation she makes in her life as she emerges from her grief and disappointment to building relationships with her family and with Rafe and his daughter and with those on the island was the most compelling part of this story to me.

I think for readers who want some suspense, but not a too scary or intense book this one would work quite well.

WORTH MENTIONING: I loved Rafe’s daughter and it would be great if she got her own book someday.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE SECRET SISTER is the first book in the Fairham Island series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: Someone to Trust

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: Someone to TrustSomeone to Trust (Westcott, #5) by Mary Balogh
Series: Westcott #5
Published by Berkley on November 27, 2018
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: This is a gentle sweet romance that takes its time developing the characters relationship. This is grand passion restrained in true Mary Balogh fashion.

THE STORY: At Christmas, Elizabeth, Lady Overfield decides that it is finally time to remarry after a disastrous first marriage. This time she wants stability and trust. Colin Handrich, Lord Hodges, also decides that he wants to marry to establish a family as close as the Westcotts after a childhood with a highly dysfunctional family. Elizabeth and Colin enjoy one another’s company but since Elizabeth is nine years older than Colin they know there can be nothing but friendship between them. They do agree, however, to dance a waltz together at every ball during the season.

OPINION: This is a quiet slow developing story based completely on the relationship between Elizabeth and Colin. I really enjoyed how the two of them build a friendship. There is always an underlying attraction between the two, but the two fight against it believing that a relationship is impossible.

I very much enjoy these stories. By the time these two marry, I completely believe that the two of them can build a lasting relationship. Those looking for big passionate romances might not enjoy this book, but I appreciated that these two have a quiet romance but one built on laughter and friendship and yet still the passion of falling in love.

The sexual content was also dialed way back in this one which completely fit the characters. Respect, friendship, companionship and trust all come before the sex in this story which was a nice change.

My one complaint is that I wish I had gotten to see some glimpse of their future. I’m sure we will see more of them in future books in the series, but I missed some confirmation that their marriage will manage to work for both of them and they will achieve their mutual goals.

WORTH MENTIONING: I loved seeing Avery who has a vital role at critical points in this story.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SOMEONE TO TRUST is the fifth book in the Westcott series. The romance here is self-contained and thus it can be read as a standalone. However, new readers should be aware that the book is filled with characters from the prior books and knowledge about them is largely assumed so this book is probably better read as part of the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley which was used 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-stars

Review: The Other Miss Bridgerton

Review: The Other Miss BridgertonThe Other Miss Bridgerton (Rokesbys, #3) by Julia Quinn
Series: Rokesbys #3
Published by Avon on November 20, 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
two-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I so much wanted to love this book, but in the end I found it pretty banal. It was okay but I didn’t feel any real heat between the hero and heroine and I thought it was well written but utterly forgettable.

THE STORY: Poppy Bridgerton inadvertently comes across a smuggler’s hiding place and finds herself kidnapped aboard ship. Left on the captain’s bed, she meets Captain Andrew James Rokesby who is masquerading as a privateer as a cover for his work for the British government. Andrew has no choice but to take Poppy with him as she threatens his current mission. What Poppy doesn’t know, however, is who Andrew really is — his brother is married to her cousin.

OPINION: This book had great potential but ended up a boring predictable story with characters who were too perfect and made no missteps. They felt unreal and had no real connection with one another. At points, I wanted to love this story, but I never felt anything for the characters. As a result, I ended the book saying okay and promptly forgot just about everything about the book.

The story has potential — the heroine is kidnapped and taken aboard the ship to meet the captain who is masquerading as a privateer in order to cover his work as a courier for the British government. Of course, the hero is without any faults. The heroine is only taken because the government gives him no other choice! He treats her with great courtesy and respect at all times (with the exception of some mild teasing)! He gives her a puzzle to relieve her boredom! They spend the week talking about their hopes and dreams! When they are taken hostage, he makes sure to be a totally wonderful man and doesn’t take advantage even while she wants him! He has spent his adult life on the sea, but really wants to work on land so there won’t be any conflicts in their future!

The hero was just boring with no faults (except not telling the heroine his real name). And the romance is pretty boring and as expected as a result.

WORTH MENTIONING: This series certainly doesn’t live up to the amazing original Bridgerton series. In fact, I realized while reading this book that I couldn’t remember either of the other two books in the series when I read this one (even though when I looked at my reviews I gave them pretty high marks), but I can remember several of the original Bridgerton books although I haven’t read them for several years.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE OTHER MISS BRIDGERTON is the third book in the Rokesbys series. Although there are overlapping characters, this book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2.5 stars.

two-half-stars

Review: A Lady Awakened

Review: A Lady AwakenedA Lady Awakened (Blackshear Family, #1) by Cecilia Grant
Series: Blackshear Family #1
Published by Bantam on December 27, 2011
Genres: Historical
Pages: 346
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: An intellectually interesting twist on the normal romance story, but ultimately I found the book too uneven to be a great book.

THE STORY: Martha Russel is newly widowed and determined to protect the people of her estate from her husband’s brother who stands to inherit. So she concocts a scheme: she will quickly get pregnant and pass the child off to as her husband’s heir. She approaches a temporary newcomer to the area, Theo Milkwood, with a proposition. She will pay him to impregnate her. Theo, sent by his father to learn some responsibility, is insulted by Martha’s offer, but is happy to take the widow up on a month of irresponsible sex.

OPINION: I wanted to really love this book. There was something fresh and interesting in the story. The relationship between the hero and heroine begins cold and through their interactions, I loved how the two of them change and find something special together.

That first part of the book, however, was pretty difficult to get through. There is a lot of unsatisfying sex to get through. Unfortunately, when things change for them, the satisfying encounters don’t really outweigh the two thirds of book that come before.

What I did like was the development of the heroine. I never really liked her much. She’s not a character that I came to really love, but I found her journey intriguing. This was an interesting exercise of a book to read, but it didn’t really seem like a book that I would voluntarily pick up again.

Parts were really good, and I didn’t really mind way the relationship between the characters develop, but I left the book really not feeling that the happy ending outweighed everything that went before.

WORTH MENTIONING: I think the book might have been better with an epilogue showing these characters happy together.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A LADY AWAKENED is the first book in the Blackshear Family series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: Perfect

Review: PerfectPerfect (Second Opportunities, #2) by Judith McNaught
Series: Second Opportunities #2
Published by Pocket Books on December 1, 2002
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 704
Goodreads
five-stars

“I love you, Julie. I loved you in Colorado. I love you here, where I am. I will always love you. Everywhere. Always.”

FINAL DECISION: One of my all time favorite books, this book has action, suspense, mystery, a sexy leading man, a strong heroine, a full and complete story and a sense of romance and drama. I’ve loved this one for years and it doesn’t disappoint after decades of reading it.

THE STORY: Julie Mathison has done everything she can to do live an exemplary life after being adopted. On a trip out of her small town, she is taken hostage by Zachary Benedict, the former superstar Hollywood actor and director who was convicted of murdering his wife. Zach has escaped from prison and needs Julie and her vehicle to get to to the place he will be temporarily hiding. At first desperate to escape her kidnapper, Julie soon is convinced that Zach is innocent.

OPINION: I love this book. It is one of my all time favorite books. I love the heart of this story. Zach and Julie are such a wonderful couple.

This is a long book, and I enjoy every page. The story has time and space to breathe in these pages. We get to see what formed these characters before they even meet and then we get to see their relationship develop, the problems that almost tear them apart and then a resolution. And that might be what I love most about this book — when the “big problem” is resolved, the story is not over. Instead, we get to see the characters actually create their happy ending.

Julie could have been written as a stereotypical do-gooder, but instead, she has complexity. Her reaction with Zach mirrors other events in her life so it doesn’t feel like a stretch that she would turn her kidnapping into an advocacy for his innocence. I liked that she has morals even when she doesn’t live up to them all the time.

Zach is my favorite actor hero. I absolute loved how he is gobsmacked by his reaction to Julie. The cynical actor is enchanted with Julie who discovers Zach’s secret soft heart.

Not only is Zach and Julie’s relationship sweet and romantic, the book allows other relationships to be explored. Parental love, sibling relationships, and friendships are all important in this story. All the characters in the book have complexity and interest. (We also get some side romances.)

I especially enjoyed seeing Mathew and Meredith from PARADISE. They have significant roles in this book and the friendship between Zach and Matthew worked especially well.

This book was written in the early 1990s and the pop culture references are from that time. The book does, however, clearly point to taking place at a particular time.including dates and years for the events rather than being a book that could take place in current times.

WORTH MENTIONING: One of the significant twists in the story at the end has been negated by the subsequent changes from the original cover. The original pink with roses cover has an important role in the book itself so I’m rather sad that new readers might be left wondering what the characters are referring to at the end.

CONNECTED BOOKS: PERFECT is the second book in the Second Opportunities series. This romance here is self-contained and it is not necessary to read the first book in the series. The couple from that series does, however, make a significant appearance here.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

 

five-stars