Review: More Than Pleasure You

Review: More Than Pleasure YouMore Than Pleasure You (More Than Words, #5.5) by Shayla Black
Series: More Than Words #5.5
Published by Evil Eye Concepts, Incorporated on November 12, 2019
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 127
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: This was an enjoyable read especially right now when I wanted something easy to read. Concise and fast-paced, I breezed through this one.

THE STORY: Stephen Lund arrives in Maui seeking distance from his father. At his rental, he meets Skye Ingram who is the caretaker. Skye is having a crisis. Her ex is getting married and she needs a pretend fiance to attend the wedding with her. Overhearing, Stephen offers to fill the role.

OPINION: I liked how these two worked together, and I’m always a sucker for the fake engagement trope.¬† I really did love the relationship between Stephen and Skye which is funny and sexy. The story has some obvious turns and reveals, but that made this a comforting read. The complexity is in the relationship between the characters in the story — not only Stephen and Skye but also the supporting characters. Characters have deep and sometimes contradictory motives. What could have been formulaic villains end up being complicated — even if not always likable.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a novella told in alternating first person.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MORE THAN PLEASURE YOU is book 5.5 in the More Than Words series. While it is not necessary to read the other books in the series since this book gives you the essential conflict, it does help to be familiar with the characters in the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

 

four-stars

Review: A Kingdom of Dreams

Review: A Kingdom of DreamsA Kingdom of Dreams (Westmoreland, #1) by Judith McNaught
Series: Westmoreland #1
Published by Pocket Books on May 31, 1991
Genres: Historical
Pages: 438
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Beautiful Historical Romance

“A toast to the Duke of Claymore and his bride!”

THE STORY: This book takes place in 1497 when disputes continue between the English and the Scottish. Jennifer Merrick is the daughter of a Scottish earl who has been sent to an abbey because of her stubborness. One day, Jennifer and her stepsister are taken captive by The Wolf. Royce Westmoreland, Earl of Claymore and the English King’s “Wolf”, takes the two sister to use as leverage to defeat Jennifer’s father. The Scottish girl soon challenges Royce in unexpected ways and her pride and willfulness intrigues him. Despite the fact that the two should be enemies, there is no doubt that the two find in one another something they both need. At the same time, danger and intrigue threatens to tear them apart.

OPINION: This book is complicated and layered and so is the relationship between Royce and Jennifer. In a world filled with violence and war, both Jennifer and Royce really want peace, but are constantly pulled toward discord and violence. Jennifer is spirited and is no victim when held captive by Royce. I liked how the balance between the two is always kept even when it seems that Royce should have the upper hand. The story was interesting and grounded firmly in historical events. My favorite part of the novel, however, was Royce. He is a hero whose gentle qualities are slowly revealed throughout the book. He makes serious mistakes that threaten his relationship with Jennifer and he takes action to make reparation and to draw his wife back to him. His willingness to treat Jennifer as an equal is also something that develops through the novel. This novel has definite emotional development and movement for the characters which makes the ending satisfying.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is some physical violence between Jennifer and Royce (including spanking), but I didn’t feel that it was particularly serious considering the book occurs in 1497.

FINAL DECISION: I ended up loving this book primarily because of Royce, who I initially thought distant but whom I ended up loving because of how he treated Jennifer.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A KINGDOM OF DREAM is the first book in the Westmoreland Saga that spans centuries of the Westmoreland family.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Three Little Mistakes

Review: Three Little MistakesThree Little Mistakes (Blindfold Club, #3) by Nikki Sloane
Series: Blindfold Club #3
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on August 1, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica
Pages: 240
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Enjoyable book with plenty of hot sex and little angst. There is a “secret” that Joseph keeps from “M” that causes problem and that was a bit of a thin plot.

THE STORY: Joseph Monsato, at thirty eight, is the owner of a club and sees a young woman who he believes is underage and thus a threat to his business. When the young woman is an unintended victim in a “bar fight” Joseph comes to her rescue. The woman won’t give him her name but instead insists on “M”. She isn’t underage but rather is twenty-three and agrees to have Joseph take her home. The chemistry between the two is intense. But “M” has secrets that might threaten Joseph in another way.

OPINION: I thought this book was interested because the relationship between Joseph and “M” is one where “M” is more powerful than in many of typical books of this type. Although she is younger, less experienced, and submissive, she is strong and makes her needs known. I really felt that this journey was mutual and Joseph has vulnerabilities as well which are developed as the book progresses.

The negative of this book for me was the secret keeping, which is okay in the plot but a bit annoying as the main conflict.

I enjoyed the book, but it is definitely an erotic romance and heavy on the sex which is an important part of the book.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book has a group sex scene.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THREE LITTLE MISTAKES is the third book in the Blindfold Club series. This book can be read as a standalone. I haven’t read the other books in the series and didn’t feel that I missed anything. Characters from prior books appear, but I got all the info I needed in this book to understand the relationships involved.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

 

three-half-stars

Review: The Unseen

Review: The UnseenThe Unseen: A Novella of the Elder Races by Thea Harrison
Series: Elder Races #9.9
Published by Teddy Harrison LLC on July 13, 2020
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal
Pages: 95
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I’m so glad that Harrison decided to continue Dragos and Pia’s story. They are such compelling characters that I can read about their adventures any day. This novella introduces a new challenge for the couple as they leave New York and move to a new realm. It ends on quite a cliffhanger, and I want to know what happens next.

THE STORY: Dragos and Pia are sad to leave New York but anticipate starting a new, better world in the land of Rhyacia. Moving to a new land is complicated and while some friends are traveling with them, some things and people must be left behind. Arriving in Rhyacia, however, is even more complicated as there is something mysterious going on.

OPINION: This novella was great. Or more accurately, this first part of the story was great. In rating the story, I kept a half star because the story is not complete, and I have been burned by serialized stories before.

What I loved about this story: (1) Dragos and Pia: their interaction was as vibrant and interesting as ever. Dragos’ ancient attitudes and Pia’s thoroughly modern self. Their connection is still palpable and I loved seeing them deal with their relationship. Pia has matured and I loved how Dragos supports her in this story. (2) Stinkpot aka Dragos’ and Pia’s youngest son: is just adorable. (3) Appearances by other Elder Races characters: Other couples make appearances and have their own issues to be resolved. (4) Action: The book has a great hook by the end. I just want to read what is next.

What I didn’t love: That I have to wait to find out more of the story.

WORTH MENTIONING: This novella is part of a serialized story and this part ends on a cliffhanger.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE UNSEEN is the book 9.9 in the Elder Races series. It is part one of a four-part serialized story. The book follows Dragos and Pia as they build a new life away from New York. The story here is self-contained, but the characters appear in the Elder Races series and therefore it is better read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC from the author. 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: Daring and the Duke

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: Daring and the DukeDaring and the Duke (The Bareknuckle Bastards, #3) by Sarah MacLean
Published by Avon on June 30, 2020
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
three-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: I’ve liked each book in this series less. Unfortunately, this series does not live up to previous ones by this author. The romance was weak, the hero was boring after being built up as the villain in prior books, and the heroine didn’t seem to actually love the hero. I’ve been a big fan of the author, but I was disappointed in this one.

THE STORY: Grace Condry is the Queen of Covent Gardens as the owner of a women’s brothel — where women go to get their pleasure. Her past confronts her in the form of the Ewan, the Duke of Marwick, a man who was once the boy who loved her and betrayed her in order to gain the dukedom. Now a threat to Grace and her brothers, Ewan must be defeated and Grace is the only one who can do that.

OPINION: There is something wrong with a romance that seems to hate the hero. Ewan is inscrutable in this book and he seems to be merely a foil for the heroine’s drama. I prefer books about two (or sometimes more) people changing and growing together which respects both characters. This book doesn’t care about Ewan. All of his growth and change happens off screen and is less believable for that. And, ultimately, his prior “villain” behavior is a trick. I loved redeemed characters, but here it is ultimately the heroine and her brothers who look bad.

This book has a big job — to redeem a villain. I think this book fails. Not because Ewan is not redeemed, but because the book doesn’t do the hard work of redemption. Instead, Ewan is misunderstood from the beginning. Unfortunately for MacLean, there is an amazing book about the redemption of a hero who seems nonredeemable — her own book DAY OF THE DUCHESS. Same general story arch, much better characters, plot, drama and the grovel there was amazing. This book feels like a retread that isn’t as good. In fact, skip this book and read DAY OF THE DUCHESS instead.

I really did love the relationship between Grace, Whit and Devil which was wonderfully loving and combative — just as I expect siblings to be. I also thought Whit and Devil’s insights into what drive Ewan was just about perfect. Two men deeply in love can recognize it in Ewan — even if they don’t want to.

WORTH MENTIONING: There are little Easter eggs for fans of MacLean’s other books.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DARING AND THE DUKE is the third book in the Bareknuckle Bastards series. It is not necessary to read other books in the series to read this book although there is a slight overarching storyline.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC from Netgalley. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

 

three-stars

Review: Alpha Night

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: Alpha NightAlpha Night (Psy-Changeling Trinity, #4; Psy-Changeling, #19) by Nalini Singh
Published by Berkley on June 9, 2020
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 368
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: A fast-paced, action packed entry in the series. I was amazed by the end to realize that only a few days had passed. Loved the alpha heroine queen and her devoted knight. The only negative is that is hard getting to know another changeling group. Hopefully, we will have all the main characters of the Trinity series soon so that every book is not a new group.

THE STORY: Selenka Durev is an alpha wolf who meets Arrow Ethan Night and instantly knows that he is her mate. Selenka’s pack is in danger as the Architect continues to make plans to disrupt the fragile peace of the Trinity Accord and build an empire for herself. Ethan believes himself damaged and operating on borrowed time before his mind becomes a weapon that must be destroyed. An mating between two strangers who have both been betrayed is difficult. There is something different about Ethan that the two must investigate while getting to know one another.

OPINION: Enjoyable entry in the Trinity series. This was an interesting combination of personalities. Selenka and Ethan were definitely not what I was expecting. Having a female alpha changeling was great with different issues. I especially liked that Selenka is definitely just as ruthless as an alpha as Lucas and Hawke but gives the alpha role a different twist. (Valentin is the softie of the group — but bears). Ethan is a different Arrow than what we have seen before as well. Singh is expanding and breaking her own constructs which only makes this series more compelling and complex with every book.

Ethan’s condition kept me interested to the end and I was not expecting what the resolution was. It was surprising and yet completely obvious once I knew the ending. Singh did a great job planting clues and yet not giving the game away.

My only slight disappointment/complaint is that once again we are introduced to another new group — BlackEdge. I’m hoping that now that we have three packs, the books will begin to explore more deeply the characters and dynamics we have already been introduced to. Much of each of these books in the Trinity series has to take time to introduce the particular dynamics and characters which is understandable but keeps this spin-off series from really rising to the levels of the original. Let’s have some more BlackEdge, BlackSea or StoneWater characters!

WORTH MENTIONING: There are some cameo appearances by beloved characters from the original cast, but they are only cameos.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ALPHA NIGHT is the fourth book in the Psy-Changeling Trinity Series. It is also the nineteenth book in the Psy-Changeling series. A reader could pick up the series at the start of the Trinity series. While the story here is mostly self-contained and the romance is completely self-contained, there is so much world-building and background that a newcomer to the series might spend a lot of time trying to catch up.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC of this book via Netgalley. 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: A Dark and Stormy Knight

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 Dark and Stormy KnightA Dark and Stormy Knight (Victorian Rebels, #7) by Kerrigan Byrne
Series: Victorian Rebels #7
Published by Gnarly Wool Publishing on June 2, 2020
Genres: Historical
Pages: 266
Goodreads
five-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: A great payoff for those who have followed the Victorian Rebels series from the beginning. Loved, loved the dark and tormented Carlton with his hidden past and Pru who is going to take something for herself before being forced into marriage.

THE STORY: Sir Carlton Morley lives a double life. The stiff-lipped respected Chief Investigator of Scotland Yard is also the vigilante by night who assures that justice is done. His night investigations take him to a pleasure garden where he encounters Prudence Goode who has come to take her pleasure before being married off to a man who has betrayed her.

OPINION: I have been waiting for this book since the first in the series. It was always clear that there were depths to Carlton’s characters. The upright investigator is haunted by his past and the lack of justice he can see in his job. I loved how it is clear that he is beloved by his men who see his thirst for justice and doing right.

Pru is a woman who believed she had the perfect engagement until she finds out the truth. That is the beginning of Pru leaving the expectations of a woman of her time and taking her life into her own hands.

After the first encounter between Carlton and Pru, they next meet when Pru becomes a suspect that Carlton must investigate. The combination of the personal relationship with Carlton’s suspicions of Pru made this book very interesting to me. I enjoyed the back and forth and difficulties these two have in finding a happy ending.

What elevates this book is the appearances of characters from the Victorian Rebels series. I loved seeing them again and having them play a role in Carlton’s romance after his interference in theirs. The interaction between the men was especially humorous.

I’m glad that Carlton had his story told at last.

WORTH MENTIONING: The book introduces characters who will appear in the Byrne’s next series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A DARK AND STORMY KNIGHT is the seventh book in the Victorian Rebels series. The romance here is self-contained, but some of the best part of this story is the development of Morley’s character through the series so I recommend reading from the beginning.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

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

 

five-stars

Review: Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors

Review: Pride, Prejudice, and Other FlavorsPride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors (The Rajes, #1) by Sonali Dev
Series: The Rajes #1
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on May 7, 2019
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 512
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Straddling the line between women’s fiction and romance, this book doesn’t always comfortably satisfy either genre. I liked the book, but didn’t find the romance here as compelling as prior Dev books.

THE STORY: Dr. Trisha Raje is a celebrated neurosurgeon who has a difficult relationship with her family but even while she complains about them, she longs for something more with them. As would be expected in a Pride and Prejudice retelling, on the night that she is attempting to bridge the gap between them at a party, she meets DJ, a chef who is cooking for her family’s event. DJ finds Trisha stuck up and unlikable on their first meeting and judges her accordingly. Trisha, however, is DJ’s sister’s neurosurgeon so they are bound to meet again.

OPINION: I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of Pride and Prejudice. Therefore, any book that so closely depends so much on that book is already a problem for me. I liked the family dynamics at play here, but I think that trying to shoehorn some of these things into the original Pride and Prejudice template doesn’t always work as well here — especially the Wickham story.

I thought that both the main characters were well conceived. Trisha isn’t the easiest character to identify with but women characters often face more criticism for being successful, determined and unemotional. I really felt her mistakes and her inability to express herself as she wants. She also learns a lot through the book.

DJ is adorable but also a jerk in how he quickly judges Trisha. He is a caring brother who is struggling with his sister’s illness and how to allow her to make decisions in her life that are not the ones he would make.

The family drama was the weakest part for me as it seemed to overwhelm the romance at times. It also felt that this book, as the first in the series, was attempted to introduce everyone and do a lot of work that didn’t feel natural.

I wanted more romance and Trisha and DJ didn’t spend enough time together for my tastes. That being said, I liked the book and it was worth reading.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is a gender role reversal version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

CONNECTED BOOKS: PRIDE, PREJUDICE, AND OTHER FLAVORS is the first book in the Rajes series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: Blood of a Gladiator

Review: Blood of a GladiatorBlood of a Gladiator (Leonidas the Gladiator Mysteries, #1) by Ashley Gardner
Series: Leonidas the Gladiator Mysteries #1
Published by JA / AG Publishing on May 21, 2020
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Goodreads
four-half-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: The unusual setting along with the introduction of characters with mysterious pasts kept me turning pages on this one. The author now has three great historical mystery series going. I can’t wait for the next one in this series.

THE STORY: Set in ancient Rome, Leonidas, a famous gladiator, is freed from the deadly games by an unknown benefactor who gives him a place to live and a servant but he has to earn his own living. Cassia, a slave, is sent to help Leonidas, but also to spy on him. Leonidas’s first job is as a bodyguard, but it also lands him — and Cassia — in a series of mysteries involving death and kidnapping.

OPINION: This book is a mystery set in historical Rome, during the time of Nero. In this book we get to meet Leonidas who has been retired from gladiator fighting — something he has been very good at but is heart weary and does not desire to continue to kill and maim. One of the overarching mysteries is who Leonidas’s mysterious benefactor is and what his plans for Leonidas are. Leonidas’s story is interesting as he tries and find a place for himself and determine what he wants after years of his life being decided for him. I really liked him as a character because he has secrets that are yet to be mined in the story.

Cassia is also an intriguing character. What is her history, her purpose and her true motives. She is clever and because readers are not privy to her thoughts, she remains mysterious throughout the story. I really liked reading about her because she uses her brains and her recording skills (she is a scribe) to help resolve the mysteries.

Cassia and Leonidas are a good pair. Thrown together for some mysterious purpose, they are developing a good working relationship in this book. I especially liked the respect and care that they show for one another. The book also manages to have quite a bit of action along with the mental exercise of the crime — which is appropriate for a man of physical feats and his scribe slave.

The mystery here has multiple layers which I really enjoyed. The plot is developed through the interviews with various characters in different stations in life — from the emperor himself to merchants to builders to gladiators to brothel women. The story gives a nice view of Roman society along with a good mystery.

I really enjoyed this book, and I look forward to reading more about these characters.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a straight-up mystery without any romance — at least right now. I have hopes for the future.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BLOOD OF A GLADIATOR is the first book in the Leonidas the Gladiator series. This book occurs before the events in the novella BLOOD DEBTS.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC of this book from the author. 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: Say Yes to the Duke

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: Say Yes to the DukeSay Yes to the Duke (The Wildes of Lindow Castle, #5) by Eloisa James
Series: The Wildes of Lindow Castle #5
Published by Avon on May 26, 2020
Genres: Historical
Pages: 400
Goodreads
five-stars

 

She had powdered her hair, of course, but just around her face he could see little wisps of golden-brown curls. “You have freckles,” he said.

“A few,” she said, shrugging. “I know you’re supposed to hate them, but I don’t.”

Devin discovered that he didn’t hate them either.

FINAL DECISION: Beautiful, lyrical, emotional and just so wonderful. I loved how Viola and Devin fell in love with one another without excessive drama. This book was a slow sinking into a loving relationship with humor and plenty of romance.

THE STORY: Miss Viola Astley feels like a fraud amongst the wild Wildes. Painfully shy and prone to vomit when forced to socialize, Viola’s life changes when she meets a young, handsome vicar. Unfortunately, the vicar is betrothed to a stern, controlling, humorless woman, but Viola is determined to rescue him for herself.¬†Devin Elstan, Duke of Wynter has decided that it is time to marry and one of the Wilde daughters who are having their debut will do. Unseen, he’s decided on the “real” Wilde not the one whose mother married into the family. Upon meeting the “unsuitable” Viola, however, Devin knows that she is the woman for him and is determined to woo her for himself.

OPINION: This has become my favorite series by Eloisa James. There is a boldness and complete willingness to be open to love by the men in the series. Completely undone by Viola, Devin wants her for himself and yet he knows and respects her at every turn. These two truly make one another better and the focus of the book is the relationship they build together rather than outside drama or manufactured misunderstandings.

Viola is the beloved step-daughter of the Duke of Wilde. Despite her loving family, she has always felt inadequate compared to the beautiful, tall and passionate Wildes. When she meets the vicar, she begins to find reasons to believe in herself. When she meets the Duke of Wynter, she is so offended by him that she forgets to be her “mousy” self and instead completely captivates Devin. I loved seeing Viola overcome her shyness and find a place for herself and a purpose.

Devin is controlled and distant after a childhood with a hotheaded and irresponsible father. When he meets Viola, she inspires him to learn to reach out to others and express his feelings. His complete devotion to her was so romantic and incredibly sweet.

I am a big fan of books where the characters actually talk to one another, discuss their issues and feelings and generally act like responsible adults. Discussion and respect can be incredibly sexy as this book demonstrates. These characters always act with respect towards one another and I fell in love with them.

The Wildes as a whole play less of a role here than in prior books, but that lent a great intimacy between Devon and Viola as most of their courtship is comprised of discussions and conversations between the two. That was something that I very much enjoyed.

One of the best parts of this series is that each romance is completely different from the others in the series. Each character, their arc, the issues and tone of the books are different. Plus, I really enjoy the historical tidbits that James includes and which gives a real sense of the real Georgian period where these books are set.

WORTH MENTIONING: The book has a cute secondary romance as well.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SAY YES TO THE DUKE is the fifth book in the Wildes of Lindow Castle series. This book can be read as a standalone. It is not necessary to have read the other books in the series to enjoy this book.

RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

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

 

five-stars