Review: The Heiress’s Deception

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

Review: The Heiress’s DeceptionThe Heiress's Deception (Sinful Brides, #4) by Christi Caldwell
Series: Sinful Brides #4
Published by Montlake on December 12th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 284
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: The story of two kids (a duke’s daughter and a pickpocket) who find one another as adults. The characters sometimes prickly relationship is a highlight here.

THE STORY: Eve Pruitt is on the run from her older brother who has squandered his fortune and wants to force her to marry in order to control her dowry. She manages to get a position as the bookkeeper for the Hell and Sin Club. There she encounters Calum Dabney who is running the club. Eve realizes that Calum is the boy that she met and cared for years ago. Eve believed that Calum has been hanged and Calum believes that Eve betrayed him. Calum does not recognize Eve (who was herself but a child when they last met) but there is something about the desperate but stubborn woman that attracts him.

OPINION: I liked the characters in this one (perhaps my favorite ones of the series) because they are both good people just trying their best. There is less anger and darkness in these characters.

Calum, although he has a tragic history as well on the streets, knows what being part of a family is like and has a tremendous amount of compassion for others. I liked knowing his background and seeing how he managed to make himself. I also loved what he is willing to risk for love. This book clearly shows the difference that knowing about love allows one to see in others. He also doesn’t ask completely as a jerk as some heroes who are in his shoes might.

Eve is a woman who was raised with every material advantage and yet experienced her own type of hellish childhood. She has managed to make a life for herself in small ways, and she has also managed to help people.

The story is intensely focused on a few weeks when these two encounter one another again. I liked the childhood friends who become adult loves and also the cross-class story. (Although why everyone in this series has to get associated with dukes is beyond me).

WORTH MENTIONING: Although this is the last book in the series, readers need not fear that the last “brother” of the Hell and Sin Club will not get his story. His book starts out the next series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE HEIRESS’S DECEPTION is the fourth book in the Sinful Brides series. While there are overlapping characters, this book is complete unto itself and can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to provide a 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: Amid the Winter Snow

Review: Amid the Winter SnowAmid the Winter Snow by Elizabeth Hunter, Grace Draven, Jeffe Kennedy, Thea Harrison
Published by Jeffe Kennedy on December 12th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Paranormal
Goodreads
four-stars

This is an anthology of four separate novellas with the only connection being that each has a connection to the longest night of the year.

I liked all the stories in this anthology which is unusual. I thought each gave a glimpse into a different world and each had great characters.

IN THE DARKEST MIDNIGHT by Grace Draven: Jahna Ulfrida is bullied and made an outcast because of the birthmark on her face. While hiding from one of her tormentors, she meets her brother’s new swordmaster Sir Radimar Velus who promises to help her defend herself.

This was a sweet story that built from the beginning and takes place over quite a period of time so the characters get to know one another. I enjoyed how Jahna grows and changes through the years of the story and how these two find their way together in the face of overwhelming odds. Sometimes short novellas don’t work with complex stories, but this one was well developed and quite enjoyable. Rating: 4 stars.

THE CHOSEN by Thea Harrison: Lily has had visions where she has to choose between a wolf and a tiger. The man who she falls in love with has the possibility of saving her realm or destroying it. When a warrior comes to town, Lily has to decide which man he is.

This novella takes place in Harrison’s Elder Races universe although in a place apart from the characters and places in the novels. I very much enjoyed this story although the outcome seemed completely obvious from the start. The characters were so well drawn and interesting that I was disappointed that the story ended. (Maybe we will revisit them someday). Rating: 4 stars.

THE STORM by Elizabeth Hunter: Maxim of Riga has searched for Renata’s secrets for years. Renata lost her soul mate in a massacre that killed many of her people. Having annointed herself as a warrior to judgment, she has spent centuries getting revenge. Although Max and Renata have been acquainted for years, she will not allow herself to get any closer to him.

This was a painful story because Renata’s story shows the result of a dark war. This is not a story about two people falling in love, but rather a story of how someone goes on when all hope is lost for a future. The characters are the center of this story. There is a lot of information about the Irin Chronicles that I suspect that someone who has read that series would pick up on immediately, but even though I haven’t read the series, I could understand the conflicts involved and I enjoyed the story very much.  Rating: 4 stars.

THE SNOWS OF WINDROVEN by Jeffe Kennedy: Ash, the lover of Amelia the new Queen of the Twelve Kingdoms knows that his time with Ami is coming to an end. Ash knows that he is not worthy of being with Ami even though he loves her. Determined to escort her to safety and then leave, danger provides the opportunity for something else.

This is the story of a man who doesn’t think himself worthy and the woman who doesn’t want to let him go. Told in the first person, readers get to see Ash’s point of view throughout the entire story. It is clear that he is deeply in love but doesn’t know a way forward to what he wants. I thought this story was good because we see that Ash is such a good man who doesn’t see that in himself. I liked seeing how gentle and sweet he is but also with a good sexy strong man. Ami also is no prissy pushover herself. We don’t get to see these two get together here, but rather this book is at a critical point in their story. This is a Twelve Kingdoms/Uncharted Realms novella but I haven’t read anything from this series. Rating: 4 stars.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book from the author in order to provide a 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: Once Upon a Christmas Eve

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

Review: Once Upon a Christmas EveOnce Upon a Christmas Eve (Maiden Lane, #12.6) by Elizabeth Hoyt
Series: Maiden Lane #12.6
Published by Forever Yours on December 5th 2017
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“Sarah St. John should have been utterly forgettable. He’d met the lady only once, and that fleetingly.

Yet he remembered her for two reasons.

The first was that Miss St. John had made it plain she hated him on sight — an occurrence unique in Adam’s experience.

The second was that on that occasion he’d found himself immediately and overwhelmingly attracted to Miss St. John.”

FINAL DECISION: A much anticipated story since the two met in LORD OF DARKNESS, I loved finally reading their tale. The novella is short, but the action works so well between these two that the story left me smiling.

THE STORY: Adam Rutledge, Viscount d’Arque doesn’t like Christmas but he does love his grandmother so he does his duty escorting her to the holiday festivities. An accident strands them at the St. John house where he meets Sarah St. John again. Sarah hates rakes and she is not afraid to let Adam know it. As the two are forced into close proximity, the simmering attraction between them combusts.

OPINION: Readers of the series may recall that Adam and Sarah had a confrontation in LORD OF DARKNESS. Ever since, many fans of the series have wanted these two together. In a final gift to fans, Hoyt gives these two secondary characters their own happy ending.

Adam is such a sweetheart. Although he is a rake, he is always seen as having a heart because of his love for his grandmother. We get to see more of his history here in this novella and it doesn’t disappoint. He is sexy and rakish, but he is also a good person who respects women. (Thankfully all his behavior and history fits nicely with his character as he has appeared through the series).

Sarah is smart and witty and certainly can compete with Adam on all levels. She also hides some hurt in her past that challenges the relationship between her and Adam. This Christmas is set up as an opportunity for her to find a husband, but the only man she had eyes for is Adam.

I love that these two exchange so many cutting snarky comments. There is something entirely comforting about how these two interact on an intellectual level. I loved how their talk contrasts with their essential goodness. These two are both nice people on the fundamental level and their interactions allow them the opportunity to see that in one another and find a way to trust one another.

This is a sexy story, but limited by its length. I loved all the glimpses of other characters and also how the promise of these two that appeared in LORD OF DARKNESS is fulfilled here.

While I was a little sad that there weren’t more appearances by characters in the series, I was so happy that this well done little story was written. A warm little Christmas story that left me with a warm feeling in my heart and a smile.

WORTH MENTIONING: Readers get to see the St. John family.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ONCE UPON A MAIDEN LANE is the 12.6 and final installment of the Maiden Lane series. This novella has the romance of two secondary characters from the series. It is not necessary to read the other books to enjoy this one, but this novella is a treat for those who followed the series and wondered about these two.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

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

four-half-stars

Review: Rugged Texas Cowboy

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

Review: Rugged Texas CowboyRugged Texas Cowboy (Cowboys and Captives, #1-2) by Lora Leigh
Published by St. Martin's Press on December 5th 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads
three-stars

This is an anthology of two separate novellas that have overlapping characters although the stories are separate.

COWBOY AND THE CAPTIVE: Melina is the “good” twin who is constantly seeking her parents approval in the face of their preference for the “bad” twin who is always in trouble. Now Melina has been kidnapped by Luc Jardin who is seeking revenge against Melina’s twin — and doesn’t realize that Melina is not her.

This is a very sexy story. I enjoyed the relationship between the main characters, but I have to admit the story of Melina being intimidated to taking punishment in place of her sister is a thin story in a modern context. I also was a bit annoyed with Luc in his continued willful ignorance of Melina’s identity.  I wish he had had to grovel more for his treatment of Melina. But this was a quick and easy read.

Rating: 3.5 stars.

COWBOY AND THE THIEF

Angel Manning is furious when the family heirloom that is supposed to lead her to the man for her is sold by her father to Jack Riley. She is determined to get back what is her destiny and certainly has no intention on becoming attached to a playboy like Jack. She’s been that way before and knows to protect her heart.

This story felt a bit disjointed and I never really became attached to the characters. For me, I felt there was something missing in their interaction and not enough drama. I didn’t feel the emotional connection and even the sexual tension wasn’t that exciting. I certainly didn’t think that this book was as good as the first in this anthology.

Rating: 2 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to provide a 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: Rainshadow Road

Review: Rainshadow RoadRainshadow Road (Friday Harbor, #2) by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Friday Harbor #2
Published by Piatkus Books on February 28th 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Paranormal
Pages: 308
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION: This was a fine story and parts were really good, but I thought the first half was better than the conclusion and nothing about it was really memorable.

THE STORY: Lucy Marinn discovers that her live-in boyfriend of two years has dumped her for her younger sister. Lucy asks herself why she keeps getting involved with the wrong kind of man. When she meets Sam Nolan, owner of a local vineyard, she knows she bad man streak continues. Sam is a nice man but he is upfront that he never intends to marry and any relationship with him can only be physical. The two cannot seem to avoid one another, however, as accidents, matchmaking and coincidences keep bringing them together.

OPINION: I wanted to really love this book, but I only ended up liking it and that was primarily because of the characters. In some ways this felt like a book made up of jumbled genres. Contemporary romance, women’s fiction, and paranormal just didn’t work together in this book.

I loved the characters and wish this was more like a true contemporary romance. Instead, this book has a women’s fiction feel where the story is more about Lucy’s personal growth than the romance. We don’t get enough about Sam and Lucy together. In fact, much of their story ends up taking place in the space of a couple of paragraphs noting that they spent months together as a couple.

I liked the characters and the story, but I thought the romance ended up a bit disconnected even though it had great potential.

The book also has paranormal elements that seemed to have no real purpose in the story. They were weirdly placed and didn’t really contribute to the story. They were neither fully integrated into the characters nor significant enough to the story to make their placement worth breaking the contemporary romance rules.

Parts of the book were really good. I loved the parts where the deep emotions between Lucy and Sam are allowed to be the focus, but those moments were only enough to make the overall book likable.

The book feels like an experiment that I didn’t find entirely successful.

WORTH MENTIONING: I think the blurb for this book doesn’t really describe the story in this book as it suggests that Sam and Lucy get together because of her ex’s interference. That is just not true.

CONNECTED BOOKS: RAINSHADOW ROAD is the second book in the Friday Harbor series. It can be read as a standalone although there are overlapping characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars

Review: A Matter of Class

Review: A Matter of ClassA Matter of Class by Mary Balogh
Published by Carroll & Graf on December 7th 2010
Genres: Historical
Pages: 186
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: Don’t read spoilers for this book. Yes, there is a gimmick to it, but it is a successful one and I enjoyed the stories of this arranged marriage very much.

THE STORY: Raised and educated to be a gentleman by his rich coal mining father, Reginald Mason has become accustomed to gambling and overspending as many of the ton do. His father decides to settle him with a marriage. When the opportunity arises for social advancement by contracting a marriage with a ruined aristocratic daughter, Reggie concedes to his father’s demands. Annabelle Ashton ran off with a servant and now must marry. When her father arranges the marriage with the son of his longtime enemy, Annabelle has no choice but agree.

OPINION: This is a book where the less said about its content the better. The story is unique and very unexpected. There are lots of surprises and secrets in this book. A reader who is willing to take an adventure of a well constructed story will appreciate this book.

Reading the spoilers will diminish the power of this book. The book isn’t long and doesn’t ask for a big commitment, but it is certainly memorable.

I enjoyed the interaction between Reggie and Annabelle. The banter and interaction between them makes this book a wonderful reading experience.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a shorter novel which works well with the story.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A MATTER OF CLASS is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor

Review: Christmas Eve at Friday HarborChristmas Eve at Friday Harbor (Friday Harbor, #1) by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Friday Harbor #1
Published by St. Martin's Press on October 26th 2010
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 221
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION: A good Christmas story if a bit simplistic and lacking the emotional depth and humor of other Kleypas books. I enjoyed this book but I’ll keep it in my holiday reads rather than my keepers.

THE STORY: The last thing Mark Nolan expects is to take on raising his niece Holly, but when his sister dies in an accident, Mark realizes that no one else will do it. Even as he and his brother take on caring for Holly, Mark realizes that Holly wants and needs a woman’s presence so he thinks about getting engaged to the woman he is dating, but he can’t stop thinking about Maggie Collins. Maggie has come to Friday Harbor after the death of her husband and she plans never to love so much again because it almost destroyed her before. But the sweet Holly and her uncle are something she can’t resist.

OPINION: I enjoyed this book, but it certainly reads more like a shorter holiday novel than the complex romance I expect from Kleypas. This story started out incredibly well but just at the time that Mark and Maggie recognize their feelings for one another, the remained of the story becomes simple and easily resolved.  The truth is that there is not enough conflict between these characters or the situation in the beginning. So when the situation with Mark’s current girlfriend is resolved, there is really nothing keeping them apart and all that is required is the happy ending.

I thought the book was well written and enjoyable as a simple holiday read. The characters are well constructed and I enjoyed seeing Mark become a father to Holly. There was nothing that I didn’t like about this book, it just wasn’t a particularly deep or complex story.

WORTH MENTIONING: There was a television movie made of this book entitled CHRISTMAS WITH HOLLY.

CONNECTED BOOKS: CHRISTMAS EVE AT FRIDAY HARBOR is the first book in the Friday Harbor series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars

Review: Break the Night

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

Review: Break the NightBreak the Night by Anne Stuart
Published by Bell Bridge Books on June 8th 2017
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: A gothic-type romance where the line between the hero being the “hero” or being the one who threatens the heroine is blurred, this book has an intriguing concept and at times a very interesting plot. Not as well developed as Stuart’s later books, this one is still a fun and only slightly scary read.

THE STORY: Jack the Ripper is terrorizing Los Angeles. Lizzie Stride has become involved because her custom masks are being used by the Ripper in the murders. J.R. Damien is haunted by the murders and he fears that he might have a closer connection to the murders than anyone expects. Lizzie might be the next target for the Ripper and Damien and Lizzie work together to protect Lizzie. But what are their connections to the murders?

OPINION: Anne Stuart is known for her anti-heroes that walk the edge between being the hero and being the villain. This book also has that device although I wasn’t as convinced as I should have been that Damien was the villain — but he did some atrocious things. And at times he treated the heroine abominably.

Yet, I always enjoy the Gothic feel of these types of stories. The book combines a murder and suspense story with a creepy feel that always keeps me unbalanced as I read the story. I know this type of story is not for everyone and isn’t even the best example of Stuart’s work. The Jack the Ripper story was approached in a different manner. This book’s best feature is it’s story concept. The characters were not as developed as I like (especially Lizzie who we never really know much about) and there are some gaping plot holes, but the entire feel of the story led me to enjoy the journey.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book was originally published in the early 1990s.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BREAK THE NIGHT is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

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

three-half-stars

Review: A Duke in Shining Armor

Review: A Duke in Shining ArmorA Duke in Shining Armor (Difficult Dukes, #1) by Loretta Chase
Series: Difficult Dukes #1
Published by Avon on November 28th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 400
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“She pushed open the window. ‘Adieu,’ she said. And climbed through, in a flutter of satin and lace.”

FINAL DECISION: I loved this book and the characters. Focused intensely on the hero and heroine, this book is about moments which change their lives, fate and chance, and making and living with their choices.

THE STORY: Hugh Philemon Ancaster, Duke of Ripley, has arrived in London for one of his best friend’s wedding. He is one of the trio of dukes known as Their Dis-Graces for their rakish and reckless behavior that had society hiding their innocent misses from them. Tasked with making sure the wedding goes off without a hitch, Ripley has a challenge when the brides slips out a window and disappears. Lady Olympia Hightower is in a position that women envy. Seven years the Most Boring Girl of the Season until she became engaged to one of the Dis-Graces. On the eve of her wedding, she has second thoughts and fueled by too much alcohol she makes a run for it.  Ripley is determined to protect Olympia on her run and intends on returning her to his friend — until he realizes he can’t.

OPINION: I have to admit that while I read all kinds of books and certainly all kinds of romance books, what I read for is relationship and characters. The external drama in this book is small — a woman engaged to one man falls for his best friend. What makes this book extra special is the exploration of how these two characters fall in love and deal with their love and their guilt.

The relationship and dialogue between Ripley and Olympia sparkles with humor and great emotion. The exploration of fate and missed chances and grabbing onto what one wants gave this story depth. It is would incredibly easy to formulate the story of the fiance who is unworthy or a liar or who doesn’t really care. Chase doesn’t take the easy route. These two feel intense guilt and really wonder if they had missed their chance.  Choices are not always easy or clear. There is a real call to action — what will you regret now, what will you regret forever?

There is such a connection between Ripley and Olympia — humor, exasperation, understanding, lust, anger. They days they spend together and the intensity of their experience brings them to love. Usually romances that only last days are difficult to understand. This book works beautifully in that sense. This is not insta-love but a mutual recognition of something more that is built upon years of awareness combined with an intense period of interaction.

There are some laugh out funny scenes in this book — including an indoor race that might be my favorite I’ve read this year. The intensity, humor and deep emotion of this book will stay with me for a long time.

WORTH MENTIONING: Introduced in this book, there are two other couples and the cast off Duke of Ashmont whose stories should be explored in this series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A DUKE IN SHINING ARMOR is the first book in the Difficult Dukes series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

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

four-half-stars

Review: Cowboy’s Legacy

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

Review: Cowboy’s LegacyCowboy's Legacy (Cahill Ranch #3) by B.J. Daniels
Series: Cahill Ranch #3
Published by Harlequin Books on November 28th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: This might be my favorite B.J. Daniels book I’ve read. I really liked the combination of the romance and the suspense story. This book is more suspense than romance, but I really liked the “romance in review” way of going through Flint and Maggie’s story.

THE STORY: Sheriff Flint Cahill’s girlfriend Maggie disappears just as the two are moving in together. Flint knows that his crazy ex-wife must be involved, but Flint is forbidden from being involved in the case. The question is whether or not Maggie will be found in time.

OPINION: This book covers the kidnapping of Maggie. The focus is primarily on the search for what happened to Maggie and Flint trying desperately to find her. As might be expected with B.J. Daniels’ stories, there is a strong focus on the suspense and mystery aspects of the story.

But there is also an interesting method of exploring how much Flint and Maggie mean to one another as they are separated. Through flashbacks, thoughts and explanations, the relationship between Flint and Maggie is explored and experienced by the reader. I don’t think I’ve ever read a romance I liked so much where the main characters spend so much time apart.

The drama and suspense works really well here and for readers of the series, quite a few stories are nicely wrapped up by the end.

As a matter of full disclosure, this book isn’t a romance in the sense that most people might expect. While the story explores Flint and Maggie’s story, they are already together as the book begins and there is quite a bit of their story in the prior books in the series (although reviewed here for new readers).

I just liked the whole sense of the book. It’s construction felt different than others I’ve read and I liked that about it.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book seems to wrap up the overarching storylines from the series so it seems in some way as the end of the series. However, there are a number of characters who are available for their own stories so I hope we see more of them in the future.

CONNECTED BOOKS: COWBOY’S LEGACY is the third book in the Cahill Ranch series. This book can be read as a standalone, but this story has been percolating in the prior two books so reading those will give the background to this one. I think that this book should be read as part of the series to get all the nuances.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

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

four-half-stars