Review: The Devil of Downtown

Review: The Devil of DowntownThe Devil of Downtown (Uptown Girls, #3) by Joanna Shupe
Series: Uptown Girl #3
Published by Avon on June 30, 2020
Genres: Historical

FINAL DECISION: I’ve read this book before, and it has much better versions. It feels like it was cribbed from prior authors who pioneered the romance series. The book has some good moments but lacks emotion and depth in the characters and it left me cold.

THE STORY: The story centers on two main characters: Jack Mulligan, a self-made man who has risen from a difficult childhood on the Bowery to become a powerful figure in Manhattan’s underworld, and Justine Greene, an upper-class woman dedicated to social causes such as workers’ rights and holding negligent husbands accountable. The story examines the clash and eventual alignment of their worlds as they form an alliance that evolves into a romantic relationship.

OPINION: THE DEVIL OF DOWNTOWN presents an intriguing premise set against the backdrop of Gilded Age New York. The contrast between Jack Mulligan, a self-made criminal kingpin, and Justine Greene, an upper-class social reformer, initially promises a compelling exploration of class dynamics and unexpected romance. The historical setting and the clash of worlds between the protagonists set up what could have been a riveting narrative.

However, the execution falls short of its potential. The romance between Jack and Justine develops too rapidly, lacking the gradual build-up and tension that make such unlikely pairings captivating. Justine’s character, in particular, suffers from a lack of meaningful growth throughout the story. Her initial passion for social causes doesn’t evolve or deepen in ways that feel authentic or engaging, leaving her character feeling somewhat flat and predictable.

While the book does have its moments, particularly in its depiction of 19th-century New York and some of the social issues of the time, it ultimately fails to deliver the emotional depth and character complexity that the premise suggests. The narrative often feels formulaic, echoing plot points and character dynamics that readers of historical romance may find overly familiar. This sense of déjà vu detracts from the originality of the setting and initial concept.

WORTH MENTIONING: I suggest reading DREAMING OF YOU by Lisa Kleypas instead. Much better book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE DEVIL OF DOWNTOWN is the third book in the Uptown Grils series. This book can be read as a standalone. The couples for the prior books appear, but everything the reader needs to know is explained here. I haven’t read the other books in the series and didn’t need to.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.


Review: A Grave Robbery

Review: A Grave RobberyA Grave Robbery (Veronica Speedwell, #9) by Deanna Raybourn
Series: Veronica Speedwell #9
Published by Berkley on March 12, 2024
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 336

FINAL DECISION: The story dragged more than others in the series, and I was not as engaged with this one as much, but it is still enjoyable overall. It is a little disappointing based on the high standards for the series.

THE STORY: Veronica and Stoker are faced with a new mystery when their patron, Lord Rosemorran, purchases a wax figure of a woman and asks for a clockwork mechanism to be incorporated to create a breathing “Sleeping Beauty” figure for his daughter. Stoker and Veronica, however, discover that “Sleeping Beauty” is actually the preserved body of a real person. This sends the duo on a quest to determine who the woman was and what happened to her.

OPINION: The book started off strong. The mystery of the wax figure was creepy, and Veronica and Stoker’s reaction was well-set. As the story progressed, however, I found myself less interested in the characters involved in the identity of the dead woman. Everything felt too removed from the actual possible crimes in this case. The entire case felt too intellectual and less personal to anyone. The story worked out, but it felt clinical, and I really didn’t feel that there was anything about the story that I needed to turn the page quickly to find out. It felt more remote than the usual Veronica Speedwell story. This might be my least favorite of the series, but I still love Veronica and Stoker and the other recurring characters in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: The book has strong Frankenstein vibes.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A GRAVE ROBBERY is the ninth book in the Veronica Speedwell series. This book’s mystery is self-contained, and the book can be read on its own. It is true, however, that there are ongoing relationships that develop over the life of the series and thus it is better, but not necessary, to read the series in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Inheritance

Review: InheritanceInheritance (The Lost Bride Trilogy, #1) by Nora Roberts
Series: The Lost Bride Trilogy #1
Published by St. Martin's Press on November 21, 2023
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 448

FINAL DECISION: INHERITANCE by Nora Roberts is a spellbinding start to the Lost Bride Trilogy. It was impossible for me to put down. It is a supernatural romance and mystery centered around a multi-generational tragedy set in a haunted mansion, well-paced and cleverly written.

THE STORY: Graphic designer Sonya MacTavish’s life takes an unexpected turn when she learns that her late father had a twin brother she never knew about. Her newly discovered uncle, Collin Poole, has left her almost everything he owned, including a majestic Victorian house on the Maine coast. The catch? She must live in the house for at least three years. As Sonya begins to unravel the secrets of her family’s past, she discovers that she has inherited far more than just a house – she has also become the key to solving a centuries-old curse.

OPINION: I was absolutely captivated by this story from beginning to end. Roberts created a rich, atmospheric setting in Lost Bride Manor, and I felt as though I was right there with Sonya, experiencing ghostly happenings and unraveling the mystery alongside her. The characters are well-drawn and relatable, particularly the strong bond of sisterhood between Sonya and her best friend Cleo.

The supernatural elements are woven seamlessly into the plot, adding an extra layer of intrigue and suspense. The ghosts that inhabit Lost Bride Manor are not merely there for scares; they each have distinct personalities and roles to play in the unfolding story. From the helpful spirit who tidies up after Sonya to the malevolent presence on the third floor, these otherworldly characters are just as integral to the tale as their living counterparts.

I also really enjoyed the developing romances in this book — yes, there are more than one. Roberts, as always, is amazing at her craft and after reading some rather unsatisfying books, it was great having such a well-written book to read. The story never drags, despite its length, and the cliffhanger ending left me desperately eager for the next installment. I can’t wait to see what awaits Sonya and her newfound family as they continue to unravel the secrets of the past.

WORTH MENTIONING: The book ends on a cliffhanger, so if you prefer a more conclusive ending, you may want to wait until the following two books in the series are published and read them consecutively.

CONNECTED BOOKS: INHERITANCE is the first book in the Lost Bride Trilogy.

STAR RATING: I give this book an 5 stars.


Review: Ice Planet Barbarians

Review: Ice Planet BarbariansIce Planet Barbarians (Ice Planet Barbarians, #1) by Ruby Dixon
Series: Ice Planet Barbarians #1
Published by Berkley on April 3, 2015
Genres: Paranormal, Sci-Fi
Pages: 188

FINAL DECISION: A unique and steamy sci-fi romance that transports readers to a distant ice planet where human women and alien barbarian men forge unexpected connections. Ruby Dixon’s imaginative world-building and sizzling chemistry between the characters make for an entertaining read.

THE STORY: Georgie Carruthers, along with a group of other human women, finds herself abducted by alien slavers and stranded on a desolate ice planet. Struggling to survive in the harsh environment, Georgie encounters Vektal, the leader of a primitive tribe of alien barbarian men. As Vektal helps Georgie adapt to life on the ice planet, the two discover a powerful attraction that transcends their differences. But with danger lurking around every corner and cultural misunderstandings threatening their budding relationship,

OPINION: Ice Planet Barbarians is a delightful escapist story. Dixon’s creative premise and attention to detail in crafting the Ice Planet setting drew me in from the start. The contrast between the human women and the alien barbarian men creates a dynamic that allows for both humor and heart.

Georgie is a relatable and resilient heroine, adapting to her new surroundings while maintaining her sense of self. Vektal, though initially intimidating, proves to be a protective and caring partner, learning to understand and appreciate Georgie’s human quirks. The chemistry between them is scorching hot, with Dixon balancing the steamy scenes with moments of tenderness and emotional connection.

The supporting cast of characters, including the other human women and the members of Vektal’s tribe, add depth and richness to the story. (And plenty of future couples).

WORTH MENTIONING: The unique “resonance” concept between the alien barbarians and their mates adds an intriguing layer to the romantic relationships in the story, raising questions about fate versus choice.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ICE PLANET BARBARIANS is the first book in the Ice Planet Barbarians series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars for its inventive premise, engaging characters, and steamy romance.


Review: People in Glass Houses

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: People in Glass HousesPeople in Glass Houses (Ghost Hunters, #16) by Jayne Castle
Series: Ghost Hunters/Harmony #16
Published by Berkley on May 7, 2024
Genres: Paranormal, Futuristic

FINAL DECISION: PEOPLE IN GLASS HOUSES is a very enjoyable entry in the Ghost Hunters series, offering a well-balanced mix of romance, mystery, and paranormal elements. Castle’s engaging characters, intricate plot, and unique setting make for an enjoyable read that will satisfy fans of the series and attract new readers to the world of Harmony.

THE STORY: Joshua Knight, the disgraced explorer now known as the Tarnished Knight, seeks refuge in a remote, mirror-filled mansion after a disastrous expedition in the Underworld’s Glass House sector. With his psychic senses shattered and memories lost, he is determined to uncover the truth behind his team’s disappearance.

Molly Griffin, a gifted crystal artist, believes Josh holds the key to finding her missing sister, Leona, who was part of the ill-fated expedition. She arrives at the mansion, ready to help Josh regain control of his abilities, but she must abide by his rules: stay away from the basement and leave the draped mirrors undisturbed.

OPINION: Castle’s masterful world-building and skillful storytelling create an immersive experience from the very first page. The author knows the rules of this world well, and thus, it feels as real as her contemporary books. The plot, filled with secrets and supernatural elements, keeps readers engaged and guessing until the end.

One of the greatest strengths of this novel lies in its characters. Molly and Josh are both incredibly likable and relatable, each with their own unique personalities, flaws, and motivations. As they spend nearly the entire book together, Castle allows ample time for their relationship to develop organically. The initial tension between them gradually transforms into a deep, genuine connection that feels both earned and satisfying.

The dynamic between Molly and Josh is electric, their personalities clashing and complementing each other in equal measure. Castle expertly weaves together their individual struggles and shared goals, creating a compelling and emotionally resonant relationship.

The presence of Newton, Molly’s loyal and adorable dust bunny companion, adds a delightful touch of humor and warmth to the story, as dust bunnies always do.

WORTH MENTIONING: Gabriel Jones and Lucy Bell, characters from the previous book GUILD BOSS, make an appearance as Molly works on their wedding celebration. This nice tie-in rewards longtime readers and adds depth to the interconnected world of Harmony.

CONNECTED BOOKS: PEOPLE IN GLASS HOUSES is the sixteenth book in the Ghost Hunters/Harmony series. While it can be enjoyed as a standalone novel, starting from earlier books is recommended to provide a richer understanding of the Harmony universe and its inhabitants.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

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


Review: Tourist Season

Review: Tourist SeasonTourist Season by Brenda Novak
Published by MIRA on April 23, 2024
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 352

FINAL DECISION: This well-paced story about a woman’s growing doubts about the men in her life is a good read despite an ending that may not fully satisfy.

THE STORY: Ismay Chalmers decides to spend her summer at her fiancé Remy’s family’s opulent cottage on Mariners Island. However, her plans for a tranquil getaway are disrupted when a hurricane strikes the island before Remy’s arrival. As Ismay weathers the storm alone in the spacious house, she stumbles upon an unsettling secret hidden in Remy’s childhood closet. Amidst the chaos, the estate’s caretaker, Bo, comes to Ismay’s aid, repairing the cottage and providing a sense of security during the tumultuous weather. With his own home damaged, Bo temporarily moves in with Ismay, and an unexpected bond begins to form between them. Ismay starts to question her feelings for Remy as she finds herself drawn to Bo’s quiet strength and genuine nature. Just when she thinks she can trust Bo, she finds out that he has secrets, too.

OPINION: TOURIST SEASON is a suspenseful contemporary romance that keeps readers on the edge of their seats and the pages turning. While the cover may suggest a light, romantic read, the novel delves into darker territory as Ismay finds herself questioning the motives of the men she encounters and whether they might pose a danger to her.

Throughout the story, Ismay’s discoveries and interactions with the characters, particularly her fiancé Remy and the enigmatic caretaker Bo, lead her to question the trust she has placed in them. As secrets are unveiled and the plot thickens, Ismay’s suspicions grow, and she begins to wonder if anyone is truly who they seem to be. This element of suspense adds a layer of tension to the story, keeping readers engaged and eager to uncover the truth alongside Ismay.

Novak’s pacing is well-executed, with a gradual buildup that allows readers to become invested in the characters and their struggles. The luxurious beachfront cottage on Mariners Island serves as an atmospheric backdrop.

While the ending may not fully live up to the potential established by the story’s buildup, TOURIST SEASON remains an engaging read and a good choice for a summer read. Novak’s ability to craft relatable characters and explore the complexities of relationships, particularly in the face of doubt and potential danger, makes this novel a satisfying choice.

WORTH MENTIONING: The cover of this book is deceiving. It is a great suspense/mystery and pretty creepy for quite a bit of the story.

CONNECTED BOOKS: TOURIST SEASON is a standalone. It takes place on Mariners Island, the same as BOOKSTORE ON THE BEACH, but the books are not connected otherwise.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Archangel’s Lineage

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: Archangel’s LineageArchangel's Lineage (Guild Hunter, #16) by Nalini Singh
Series: Guild Hunter #16
Published by Berkley on April 23, 2024
Genres: Paranormal

FINAL DECISION: ARCHANGEL’S LINEAGE feels like the end of an era, wrapping up major storylines while leaving the door open for potential future developments. Nalini Singh has crafted an emotionally charged and gripping tale that will leave fans of the series both satisfied and eager for more.

THE STORY: Raphael and Elena are finally experiencing a year of true peace, free from the horrors of war and archangelic power. However, their tranquility is shattered when the earth beneath the Refuge begins to tremble, endangering the fragile young of angelkind and the sanctuary that has kept them safe for eons.

Amidst the chaos, Elena’s father suffers a violent heart attack, threatening to extinguish their last chance to heal the wounds of their shared past. As Elena battles grief, Raphael is torn from her side by the sudden disappearance of an archangel. To make matters worse, an ancient Ancestor awakens from his slumber to warn the Cadre of a darkness so terrible that it causes empires to fall and civilizations to vanish.

OPINION: ARCHANGEL’S LINEAGE is a fitting return to Raphael and Elena’s story and feels like it could possibly serve as the series’ conclusion. The world is unsettled, with quakes and natural disasters plaguing the globe, and the couple must strive to protect their people and the failing natural barrier of the Aire.

Nalini Singh masterfully blends action, suspense, and character development, creating a riveting story that keeps readers engaged until the very end. The exploration of Elena’s mortality and her relationships with her human family adds depth and emotional weight to the narrative.

The introduction of new characters, such as the enigmatic Ancestor, and the emergence of a secondary story involving a former Guild character and a mysterious vampire add fresh elements to the well-established world.

This book really feels like a conclusion to the initial story of the series. In Singh’s skilled hands, the narrative ties up loose ends and provides a sense of closure for the characters and their arcs while still leaving room for potential future developments. In Singh’s Psy-Changeling series, she made a deliberate pivot to end the initial “Season” and move into new stories. This book can operate in the same way. It feels like much is resolved. If she intends to continue the series, I hope this opens new stories and characters for exploration.

WORTH MENTIONING: The book provides satisfying updates on couples from previous books, such as Titus and Lady Sharine, and offers glimpses into the lives of the growing children in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ARCHANGEL’S LINEAGE is the sixteenth book in the Guild Hunters series. To fully appreciate the character development, story arcs, and satisfying wrap-ups provided in this installment, it is essential to read the previous books in the series. While ARCHANGEL’S LINEAGE offers some context, the emotional impact and the significance of the resolutions will be most keenly felt by those who have followed the series from the beginning.

STAR RATING:  I give this book a well-deserved 5 stars for its perfect blend of action, romance, and emotional depth and for the satisfying resolution it offers to the series’ fans.

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


My Season of Scandal

My Season of ScandalMy Season of Scandal (The Palace of Rogues, #7) by Julie Anne Long
Series: The Palace of Rogues #7
Published by Avon Books on April 23, 2024
Genres: Historical

FINAL DECISION: A captivating and emotionally charged tale of an unlikely love between a world-weary man and an innocent country girl. Long’s signature wit, lyrical prose, and masterful relationship-building are on full display in this seventh installment of the Palace of Rogues series.

THE STORY: Catherine Keating arrives in London for her first season, determined to find a suitable husband. However, the glittering ballrooms and societal expectations prove more daunting than she anticipated. When a chance encounter leads her to the Grand Palace on the Thames, Catherine finds herself drawn to the enigmatic Lord Dominic Kirke, a man known for his fiery speeches in Parliament and his ability to captivate any woman he chooses. As they navigate the season together, attending balls and sharing secret moments, Catherine and Dominic discover a connection that goes beyond mere attraction. But with Dominic’s tragic past and Catherine’s innocence, their love seems doomed from the start. Dominic must decide whether to protect his battered heart or risk everything for the woman who has captured it so completely.

OPINION: Once again, Julie Anne Long has crafted a delightful romance in returning to the Grand Palace on the Thames. The pairing of an older, cynical man and a young, optimistic woman is an unlikely combination that surprises even the characters themselves. Long’s incredible use of language elevates the story, while cameos from beloved characters add depth and continuity to the series.

The emotional journey between Catherine and Dominic is the heart of this book. Their conversations are emotionally resonant, allowing them to understand each other on a profound level. The love they share brings out the best in both of them, a testament to Long’s skill in building relationships. The “tragic past” trope is handled with a fresh perspective, making Dominic’s story compelling and relatable.

The yearning and angst between Catherine and Dominic is palpable, creating a delicious tension that keeps the pages turning. Their secret meetings and desperate attempts to resist their feelings only heighten the slow-burn romance. Watching them navigate their big, scary feelings and put each other’s hearts back together is a beautiful and rewarding experience.

Dominic, usually so eloquent in Parliament, finds himself tongue-tied and baffled by Catherine, who slips under his defenses like water through a leak. Catherine, in turn, refuses to let Dominic hide away from his pain and hurt. The result is a love story that is both tender and passionate, with a satisfying ending that will leave readers sighing with contentment.

WORTH MENTIONING: The secret alcove run-ins and rendezvous add a delightful touch of forbidden romance to the story.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MY SEASON OF SCANDAL is the seventh book in the Palace of Rogues series. While the romance stands alone, reading the series in order provides a richer experience and allows readers to fully appreciate the cameos and connections to previous characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.


Review: The Messy Life of Jane Tanner

Review: The Messy Life of Jane TannerThe Messy Life of Jane Tanner (Coyote Canyon, #3) by Brenda Novak
Series: Coyote Canyon #3
on February 20, 2024
Genres: Contemporary

FINAL DECISION: Disappointing in both the relationship and in engagement in the story.

THE STORY: Jane Tanner, a small-town vintage gift shop owner, longs for adventure and motherhood while caring for her ailing grandfather. She drunkenly propositions Kurt Elway, her younger sister’s ex-boyfriend and the man secretly pining for her, to father her baby. As they navigate their complicated relationship, Jane and Kurt must determine what they really want from life and one another.

OPINION: THE MESSY LIFE OF JANE TANNER, the final installment in the Coyote Canyon trilogy, fails to be charming or even particularly romantic. Jane Tanner’s character is frustratingly inconsistent, with her desire to move to San Francisco and have a baby seeming poorly thought out and illogical. The romance between Jane and Kurt lacks the spark and depth needed to make their relationship believable, as their entire relationship feels immature. While the book attempts to tackle themes of friendship, family, and embracing life’s messiness, it ultimately falls flat in its execution. Fans of Brenda Novak may find this book disappointing compared to her usual standard.

WORTH MENTIONING: I was disappointed that the book really didn’t wrap up the series as much as I would have liked. If it is a series, I think there should be some resolution of the secondary stories brought up in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE MESSY LIFE OF JANE TANNER is the third book in the Coyote Canyon series. It can be read as a standalone, although there are characters from the prior books in the series and some secondary stories that continue during the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2 stars.


Review: Preferential Treatment

Review: Preferential TreatmentPreferential Treatment (Indecent Proposals #2) by Heather Guerre
Series: Indecent Proposals #2
on August 21, 2022
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 254

FINAL DECISION: I would have DNF’d this book if it wasn’t so short.

THE STORY: Mikhail Volkov, once an orphan in poverty, is now a wealthy tech CEO who yearns for a strong woman to conquer him. Kate Pasternak, struggling to make ends meet, encounters Mikhail, who offers to help her financially in exchange for companionship. This is a femdom story.

OPINION: The entire story is described in one sentence. A submissive male whom the heroine gets to be “socially responsible” and give away all his money. It was a dumb story, and the characters had no connection. She was using him the whole time and never seemed to care about him. She also has the nerve to complain about him being a billionaire, and yet she constantly demands that he buy her things. Bleh.

Not for me, but I’m sure that for the right person this book would be perfect.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a shorter book at about 250 pages.

CONNECTED BOOKS: This is the second book in the Indecent Proposals series. I haven’t read the first book and didn’t even realize there was a prior book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 1.5 star.