Review: Malcolm & Isabel

Review: Malcolm & IsabelMalcolm & Isabel (Pennyroyal Today) by Julie Anne Long
Series: , Pennyroyal Today #1
on October 15, 2018
Genres: Contemporary

“Our story begins right where the Epilogue of The Legend of Lyon Redmond ends . . . “

FINAL DECISION: Passionate, optimistic, emotional and funny this was a book that made me smile, sigh and just feel better about the world. Thankfully, Malcolm & Isabel’s story lived up to the promise in THE LEGEND OF LYON REDMOND.

THE STORY: Isabel Redmond, raised in a series of foster homes, comes to Pennyroyal Green having discovered a long family history centered in this English town . Under the historic trees that have seen centuries of lives in Pennyroyal Green, Isabel meets Doctor Malcolm Coburn. Instantly there is something between them that could change both their lives if they are willing to take the chance.

OPINION: The epilogue of historical THE LEGEND OF LYON REDMOND jumps again centuries and introduces readers to the contemporary world of Pennyroyal Green. Centuries after the events of the Pennyroyal Green series, readers are introduced to Isabel and Malcolm. Readers got to see their first meeting and that moment which changes everything. Reading reviews of the book some readers were confused by the epilogue, but I have always believed it is part of the greatness of THE LEGEND OF LYON REDMOND. A promise that the love that Lyon and Olivia not only is a “they lived happily ever after” but still resonates through the centuries. And that moment that occurred centuries before — two people who see one another and just KNOW still happens. To me the epilogue said, the lives and loves of the characters in the Pennyroyal Green series mattered and continue to matter.

This story picks up EXACTLY after the end of the epilogue. Isabel and Malcolm have met and this book tells their story.

This story reminds me of the famous Faulkner quote: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”  The history of Pennyroyal Green lives in these contemporary characters. Not that they don’t have their own paths, but there is something incredibly comforting thinking that all the lives of those who have gone before have significance in the present.

Isabel, an American, has arrived in the English town Pennyroyal Green after discovering her own heritage. She is a thoroughly modern woman who designs jewelry and likes music. She seems well adjusted but definitely has abandonment issues.  Isabel doesn’t connect deeply easily.

Malcolm is a doctor who has been around the world but come to build his life in a town which is home to him. (He also happens to like the same type of music Isabel does!) He is dedicated to his profession and to the town. He feels solid and committed to his profession, but he remains disconnected from any romantic attachments.

I really liked Isabel and Malcolm. Their connection is palpable, sweet and geeky in the best of ways. Anyone who has had the experience of meeting a person and immediately wanting to talk the night away, will recognize these characters closeness.

This is not a story about external obstacles. There are some small difficulties which arise, but the real obstacles for these characters are their own emotional lives. Can a chance meeting change your life? Are you willing to risk pain and rejection to take a chance on that possibility of something more?  These characters can’t be safe and take things slowly and carefully. Life demands these characters take big risks and open themselves up to pain and rejection. In this shorter novel, the obstacles they have are more than enough to fill the pages.

Like the characters, this novel is big and open about the emotions. I really enjoy Long’s writing style which often feel like an ode to love. As a result, the story feels eternal and big and important. I left this book warm and happy and just smiling more about the world.

I read this book through at a rapid pace, and then immediately went back to my favorite sections. And even as I write this, I’m tempted back into Isabel and Malcolm’s story. I know this will be a story I return to over and over again.

WORTH MENTIONING: Please, oh please, Julie Anne Long write the stories of the other characters in Pennyroyal today. I have hopes that there will be more since this book is billed as Pennyroyal Today. I want to know about Finn and Poppy and Liam (the new dishy vicar) and the current owner of Eversea House, and the “very private” head of Redmond Worldwide. Long has a knack of writing a community of characters who are intriguing and have complexity.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MALCOLM & ISABEL should be read after the epilogue of THE LEGEND OF LYON REDMOND. It is certainly possible to read this book after reading only the epilogue, but why not treat yourself and read the amazing Pennyroyal Green series?

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.


Review: Lionheart

Review: LionheartLionheart (Moonshadow) by Thea Harrison
Series: Moonshadow #3
Published by Teddy Harrison LLC on October 15, 2018
Genres: Paranormal

FINAL DECISION: This was a great read. Exciting with a strong hero and heroine. I enjoyed this conclusion to the Moonshadow trilogy which sewed up all the loose ends of the overarching story.

THE STORY: Dr. Kathryn Shaw is a skilled trauma surgeon and everything is going well for her in New York when she is asked to take on the task of her life — to attempt to save the life of King Oberon. King Oberon was the beloved ruler of the Dark Court until an assassin’s needle slowly began to freeze Oberson — first his emotions but soon his heart will stop as well. All of Kathryn’s skills as a surgeon and powerful magic user will be needed if she is to save Oberon. But the biggest danger might be from Oberon himself who is dangerous and doesn’t know what to make of this stranger who might be a threat.

OPINION: Kathryn and Oberon are a fierce couple. Both strong willed and independent, I loved how these two battle one another and then fall passionately for one another.

I especially liked Kathryn who is competent and professional. All of the passion she brings to the relationship is grounded in her being strong and demanding to be treated as an equal. When she finds the man for her, she is going to be battling at his side — even if she has to battle him to be there.

Oberon is a definite alpha male and a man who is used to ruling. But his encounter with a woman who won’t be ruled by him is quite amusing. I also really loved that Oberon is finding himself again as this book progresses.

This book reminds me most of the first book in the Elder Races series DRAGON BOUND about Drago and Pia. Oberon is definitely a man who is a beloved ruler and whose world is turned upside down by the appearance of the woman who could be his mate. But I really liked the differences in this book as well. Kathryn’s spirit matches her Wyr form and she brings that difference to the relationship.

This book brings the Moonshadow story to a close — the stories are resolved and we get to see (at least briefly) characters from the prior books.

WORTH MENTIONING: Little cameo by Drago here for fans of the original Elder Races series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: LIONHEART is book 3 in the Moonshadow series which is set in the Elder Races world and has connecting characters with that series. It is possible to read this book as a standalone although much of the world building is assumed here and there has been an overarching storyline in the Moonshadow trilogy.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an electronic ARC of this book from the author which aided the preparation of this review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.


Review: Dark Wild Night

Review: Dark Wild NightDark Wild Night (Wild Seasons, #3) by Christina Lauren
Series: Wild Seasons #3
Published by Gallery Books on September 15, 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 341

FINAL DECISION: My favorite of this series by far. I loved Lola and Oliver. Their friends to lovers story was complicated and emotional and difficult. These two are perfect for one another but have to find a way to be together.

THE STORY: Lola and Oliver are the final couple of the three that met and married impulsively in Las Vegas. But Lola and Oliver see themselves as the wise couple. Instead of engaging in sex, the two spent the evening walking Las Vegas and talking before their quickie divorce the next day. In the months since the two have become good friends. But there are deep undercurrents to their friendship as each is intensely attracted to the other but fear destroying their friendship by reaching for more.

OPINION: This is the first book that I really loved in this series. Lola and Oliver felt much more relatable to me. They are proud nerds, Oliver owns a comic book store and Lola writes graphic novels. Both have issues arising from parental abandonment when they were children. But each has a different sensitivity because of their past — and that causes complications.

Lola and Oliver have built a special friendship with one another. I loved their relationship which felt real and connected. When so often romance books concern couples meeting and falling in love in days, I really enjoyed this story where Lola and Oliver have an obvious rapport with one another. By the time their relationship becomes something more, there is a deep emotional significance. And that made the sex scenes hotter and more emotional.

I adored Oliver who is much more understanding and tolerant than many would be of Lola’s quirks, insecurities and naivete. I might have believed him too tolerant until he finally took a stand. I loved that he retains all his strength but loves Lola and wants her to be her best self as well. I also really love a hero with glasses.

Lola is the more difficult character in this book. She was sometimes hard for me to feel sympathy for, but I loved how this book unravels her fears and shows her development. Things are messy with her and imperfect and I enjoyed seeing how she grows as an individual.

I was really into these characters. I truly felt that these two had a basis for which to love one another. Their issues are many, but I think this is one couple I can see making it long term.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book sets up the couple for the next book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DARK WILD NIGHT is the third book in the Wild Seasons series. This story can be read as a standalone although there are overlapping characters and their relationships span the entirety of the series so far.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.


Review: Beautiful Secret

Review: Beautiful SecretBeautiful Secret (Beautiful Bastard, #4) by Christina Lauren
Series: Beautiful #4
on April 14, 2015
Genres: Contemporary

FINAL DECISION: This book was okay, but disappointing compared to the other books in this series. I quickly got annoyed by Ruby who seemed immature and annoying for pretty much all the book.

THE STORY: Ruby Miller has had a crush on Niall Stella for months. When she is sent to New York with Niall for work, Ruby worries that she will embarrass herself because she can’t think when Niall is near. But soon the two are flirting with one another. Niall is finding his feet after his divorce. He doesn’t know how to deal with women, but there is something about Ruby that brings Niall out of his shell. But time spent away from real life in London might not last when they return.

OPINION: I think this book would have benefited from giving this couple some time to live their relationship. Ruby comes across too aggressive emotionally toward Niall. If the roles had been reversed, he would be excoriated as being an alpha jerk. This is Ruby. She’s pushing a man who is just divorced from his wife of fifteen years and plays the victim when he doesn’t act as committed as her.  Just because she has been “stalking” him for months is no reason for her to not give him real time in their relationship. Parts of this book made me cringe because I kept thinking — just give the guy some time to breathe.

Despite this, I did enjoy this quieter man who has been keeping himself so under control for years finding his sexual groove. I also enjoyed the two different characters finding a middle ground for their lives together.

Niall was adorable in the prior novella where he was introduced, but I wish he was more adorable and less neurotic here. He is still recovering from his relationship with his ex-wife, the only woman he has ever loved or ever had a relationship with. He is tentative and unsure about how to move forward. This seemed a reasonable position to me.

I had mixed feelings about this story. I would greatly enjoy portions as the two got to know one another and then I would feel uncomfortable at points. I wanted to like this more and thus I was disappointed.

Things seemed to finally be getting better when the two returned to London and then we had the big problem and that was resolved in a few pages. I left this book not feeling confident about this couple.

WORTH MENTIONING: The heroine here, Ruby, was mentioned in a very, very minor way in DIRTY ROWDY THING.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BEAUTIFUL SECRET is the fourth book in the Beautiful series. This book can be read as a standalone although there are some overlapping characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.


Review: The Hollow of Fear

Review: The Hollow of FearThe Hollow of Fear (Lady Sherlock, #3) by Sherry Thomas
Series: Lady Sherlock #3
Published by Berkley on October 2, 2018
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 326

FINAL DECISION: Cementing this series as one of the most original and intriguing historical mystery series around, Thomas allows readers to delve into the relationship between Charlotte Holmes and Lord Ingram in ways that are unexpected and clever.

THE STORY: Charlotte Holmes, who uses her intelligence and reasoning to solve crimes, is confronted with the most serious case of her career. Lady Ingram, the wife of her friend, Lord Ingram is found dead and Lord Ingram is the prime suspect. Beginning on the heals of the event of A CONSPIRACY IN BELGRAVIA, Lord Ingram’s estranged wife has been running from Moriarty and Charlotte has to go undercover to save Lord Ingram.

OPINION: I loved this book. I enjoy a story that surprises me and this one had me twisted around until the very end. Unfortunately the nature of the book precludes much discussion of the plot beyond the blurb, but I very much enjoyed the mystery in this book. It was complex and intriguing and by the end I was surprised but also satisfied by the resolution.

Charlotte and Ingram are the focus of this book and readers who may have wondered about the chance of a romance between them will get some interesting time between these two. Yet Charlotte still remains her own person with a strong sense of self and her own agency. I loved how the story progressed and the book feels satisfying while pushing some of the overarching storylines forward for future books.

Original and compelling, the seriousness of the events can be impressed upon readers that Charlotte, loses her appetite — which basically makes this a serious crisis.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book follows directly from the events in A CONSPIRACY IN BELGRAVIA and I recommend refreshing the memory of what happened in that book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE HOLLOW OF FEAR is the third book in the Lady Sherlock series. This book especially should be read after the second book in the series. I think it assumes knowledge about the characters and situation that one can only really gleam from having read the prior book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.


Review: Lord John and the Hand of Devils

Review: Lord John and the Hand of DevilsLord John and the Hand of Devils by Diana Gabaldon
Series: Lord John Grey #0.5, #1.5, #1.5, #2.5, #2.5
Published by Delta on November 25th 2008
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 336

This is a collection of three novellas about Lord John which have all been previously published. The stories about Lord John are a spinoff of the Outlander series.

LORD JOHN AND THE HELLFIRE CLUB: Lord John is approached by a man who bears a resemblance to Jaime and agrees to meet with the man about a political problem. The man is soon murdered and Lord John investigates and is drawn into the Hellfire Club. This is a very short story (around 40 pages) which gives a glimpse into Lord John’s life and a quick investigation, but it didn’t really stick with me. Neither the mystery, nor the life glimpse seemed that grand. Okay story for fans, but not a necessary read. Rating 2.5 stars.

LORD JOHN AND THE SUCCUBUS: Lord John is in Prussia and encounters another murder. This time the suspect is a succubus (female demon). Lord John investigates the death. This is a longer story (about 100 pages) and has a bit of supernatural flare which won’t surprise readers of the Outlander series. The mystery was intriguing to be because of the supernatural possibilities mixed with possible prosaic answers. The closeness of the possibility of supernatural answers feels really time appropriate. The story was enjoyable and I liked the resolution. Rating: 3.5 stars.

LORD JOHN AND THE HAUNTED SOLDIER: Lord John is engaged in an inquiry as to the explosion of a cannon during battle. Through a series of events, Lord John ends up with the only evidence that the cannon was poorly constructed, perhaps even criminally so. The novellas in this series have so far not interested me as much as the previous novel. I was interested in the investigation but perhaps the parts of this novella that overlap with the Outlander series was the most interesting part to me. Rating: 3.5 stars.


Review: Beautiful Beloved

Review: Beautiful BelovedBeautiful Beloved (Beautiful Bastard, #3.6) by Christina Lauren
Series: Beautiful #3.6
Published by Pocket Star on February 2, 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 102

FINAL DECISION: Max and Sara are probably my favorite couple in the series, and I loved seeing them struggle after the birth of their daughter with how to deal with all the changes in their relationship. The book is funny and serious and sweet and hot, hot, hot.

THE STORY: After the birth of their beautiful beloved daughter, Max and Sara are trying to find the balance between parenthood and the sexy escapades that they have enjoyed as a couple. With help from their family and friends, they try to recapture the joys of being a couple while adapting to being a family of three.

OPINION: This is a continuation of Max and Sara’s relationship. Now that their daughter has been born, the two have to find a new balance between them. I loved that this story continues the tone of BEAUTIFUL STRANGER. This novella has humor and is super hot (if you were offended by the sexcapades of Max and Sara before, this novella is not any different). This is a definite read for fans of Max and Sara. As a parent, it also felt uncomfortably and amusingly real and immediate. Loved this one for fans of the Beautiful series.

WORTH  MENTIONING: This book also introduces Max’s brother Niall who is the hero of the next book in the series, BEAUTIFUL SECRET.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BEAUTIFUL BELOVED is book 3.6 of the Beautiful series. This is a followup on Max and Sara from BEAUTIFUL STRANGER. This novella is better knowing everything that has happened before in the series, but at least BEAUTIFUL STRANGER should be read first.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.


Review: Strong

Review: StrongStrong (Stage Dive #4.5; 1001 Dark Nights #88) by Kylie Scott
on September 25, 2018
Genres: Contemporary

FINAL DECISION: Nothing to dislike about this story, but it is pretty unremarkable. The best parts of the story are the humorous scenes with the existing Stage Dive characters. A nice add on for fans, but I wouldn’t recommend it for new readers.

THE STORY: Sam Knowles, the head of security for Stage Dive, has had his eye on Martha Nicholson for years. When Martha returns to help her brother and his wife with caring for their son, Sam begins to make his move. Martha, who has been a troublemaker and who doesn’t intend to get involved with the quiet and determined Sam, nevertheless can’t help but be attracted him.

OPINION: I enjoyed this story, but I didn’t think it had much depth to it. Much of my enjoyment came from the appearances by the Stage Dive band and their wives. I can always enjoy seeing Mal again! But all the depth to the story (Martha confronting her misdeeds) comes from the prior books. I enjoyed the story and would definitely read it as an add on to the Stage Dive series, but I don’t think it stands on its own. Sam and Martha don’t have much depth to their story. Therefore, I put this as a good read that really depends upon the prior series to make it worth reading.

WORTH  MENTIONING: I don’t believe the official blurb is an accurate depiction of the story here. Sam doesn’t have any reservations about the relationship and indeed spends most of the story chasing Martha.

CONNECTED BOOKS: STRONG is book 4.5 of the Stage Dive series. The romance in this book is self contained and can be read independent of the series. The assumption of knowledge, however, makes me recommend this only as part of the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.


Review: Dirty Rowdy Thing

Review: Dirty Rowdy ThingDirty Rowdy Thing (Wild Seasons, #2) by Christina Lauren
Series: Wild Seasons #2
Published by Gallery Books on November 4, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 352

FINAL DECISION: Better than the first in the series, I really enjoyed how these two traveled in their relationship. Getting both characters points of view helped with understanding when they acted like jerks to one another. Fun and really hot.

THE STORY: Harlow Vega and Finn Roberts can’t get along except their hot sexual escapades. Married for less than a day in Vegas (after a drunken wedding and a quickie divorce), the two seem like oil and water and yet they keep circling back to one another. Both hard headed and fiercely independent, perhaps they are both too alike for their own good.

OPINION: This antagonistic relationship to something completely different was much better than the first book in the series to me. Perhaps because we get the thoughts of both characters, I understood them both even when they were pretty much jerks to one another.

Both characters are at crossroads in their lives and only slowly reveal themselves to one another. The sex in this book is definitely scorching and as the two draw closer, readers can see their fears of true intimacy. Their sexual encounters become more intimate emotionally and they both have fears.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is told in alternating first person points of view.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DIRTY ROWDY THING is the second book in the Wild Seasons series. The book can be read as a standalone although the characters from this book appear in the prior book and the events where the two have a Vegas wedding are in the first book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade

Review: Lord John and the Brotherhood of the BladeLord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade (Lord John Grey, #2) by Diana Gabaldon
Series: Lord John Grey #2
Published by Delacorte Press on August 28, 2007
Genres: Historical
Pages: 511

FINAL DECISION: A winding walk through 18th Century England with Lord John Grey who is investigating the truth of his father’s allegiances, preparing his troops for war, and trying to live his life as a gay man where dangers threaten at every turn. The character of John is so vivid here, that I enjoyed this journey.

THE STORY: In the mid 1700s, Lord John and his brother are both soldiers in the Seven Years’ War. As their mother prepares to marry again, secrets from their father’s death and questions of whether he was a Jacobite traitor arise again. Lord John looks into the matter and someone seems to be taunting the family and threatening Lord John int he process. At the same time, Lord John’s new stepbrother is attracting Lord John’s attention.

OPINION: This book rests almost entirely on the character of Lord John. I enjoy reading of his life and how he deals with the complications of his family, his sexuality and just how he fits into the historical events of his time. He is a complex character. He has an unrequited love for Jamie Fraser, but he continues to live his life.

This book is driven by the mystery surrounding Lord John’s father’s death and whether he was a Jacobite sympathizer. However, while that is the framing of the story, this book is also about relationship and family and the dangers and events that Lord John experiences in his historical time period.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit and am more and more impressed with the historical depth of Gabaldon’s books.

WORTH MENTIONING: Jamie makes a couple small appearances here in a book that happens during the events of VOYAGER.

CONNECTED BOOKS: LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE is the second book in the Lord John Grey series which is a spinoff of her Outlander series. I don’t know if people read these books apart from the Outlander books, but I think that this book assumes a reader already knows who these characters are so I would only recommend this series if a reader is familiar with the Outlander books

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.