Review: Dukes Prefer Blondes

Dukes Prefer Blondes
Dukes Prefer Blondes by Loretta Chase
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lovely Bickering Couple Who Are Wrongly Perfect for One Another

“To begin with, he was obnoxious.”

FINAL DECISION: Simply adorable with a hero and heroine who are clever and witty to one another. The banter is high in this one. A social mismatched between an aristocratic heiress and a barrister is filled with laughter and a serious romance that is a keeper.

THE STORY: Lady Clara Fairfax is slowly being smothered by her role in society. She keeps getting marriage proposals from men who don’t interest her. She has begun to want more. When she sees a young seamstress in training upset because her brother has disappeared, Clara becomes determined to help. Clara ends up seeking legal help and meets Mr. Oliver “Raven” Radford, a barrister who also is in line of become a duke unless his cousin straightens out his own life. Raven is brilliant and steps on people’s toes. As the two join forces to help the young boy, they also bicker and argue into a sens of respect and then something more. But can a man who wants nothing to do with the aristocracy and a woman bred for nothing else ever have a future together?

OPINION: This was a book that snuck up on me. The pages went by and when the book ended, I realized that I adored it and went back to re-read my favorite parts. The fact that I wanted to re-read so quickly is a good sign that this book will be on my keeper shelf for years to come.

Clara and Raven make such a terrific bickering couple. No one does bickering love better than Loretta Chase. The main characters argue and push against one another and seem to be entirely wrong for one another until the moment when it becomes clear that there could never be anyone better.

This is a cross-social love story where it turns out that both social positions are necessary to the success of the romance. I love what Chase has done with Clara’s character. She has grown from the young woman who was willing to be led to become a woman of substance and determination. My favorite part of the courtship between Clara and Raven is his willingness to allow her to be herself and not be constrained by the rules for women. HIs acceptance of Clara is rather sexy and romantic. He sees her for who she is and he falls in love with her.

Honestly, however, my favorite part of this book is Raven himself. Irritating, brutally honest, brilliant and willing to annoy people to do right, he is one of my favorite heroes. This is a self-made man who is happy with his life but finds it turned upside down by this beautiful aristocratic woman. When he falls for her, he is willing to change everything for her. Sexy, sweet, annoying, nerdy, talented — I adored him as a character.

The plot of this book is multilayered. There is the story of the children who bring Clara to Raven and her determination to save the brother who has fallen into bad company. There is the story of the person who is trying to kill Raven (because he is the kind of man that people think about killing). There is also the story of Raven’s relationship with his cousin the duke. The threads of these stories are seamlessly woven into the romance in a way that everything advances as a whole.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book has a slow buildup for the romance but it is so worth it.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DUKES PREFER BLONDES is the fourth book in the Dressmakers series but it can be read as a standalone as it is really a spin off from the original series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

Review: The Lady’s Command

Review: The Lady’s CommandThe Lady's Command (The Adventurers Quartet, #1) by Stephanie Laurens
Published by MIRA on December 29th 2015
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384

“Marrying the lady of his dreams had proved surprisingly easy.  Forging the marriage of his dreams…That, apparently was an entirely different challenge.”

FINAL DECISION: Focused on developing a mystery that will play out between four separate novels, this book features a newly married couple working to develop a marriage that satisfies both of them.  Deftly focusing on the mystery allows for more harmony between the couple than might be expected, but this allows their relationship to grow rather than be mired in pointless conflict.

THE STORY: Captain Declan Frobisher quickly wooed and wed the woman of his dreams.  He knew immediately that she was the one. When a secret mission disrupts his honeymoon, Declan hopes to accomplish his mission and return to his wife in short order.  Lady Edwina nee Delbraith (a duke’s daughter and sister of gambling king Neville Roscoe from THE LADY RISKS ALL) is pleased with her husband but as a strong, definite and strategic woman she intends of building a marriage based on a working personal relationship.  She has no intention of staying home while her husband sails the seas.  She will take risks to show her husband that the two belong side by side.

OPINION: This book is more mystery than romance. The usual romance depicted in similar books happens before this book begins.  This book is about the formation of a marriage relationship.  That being said, I really like books that are about marriage.  There is much drama to be found in two people learning to navigate together and creating a life together instead of merely two lives running parallel.  That is what is at the heart of the romance in this book. Declan and Edwina have to discover what one another want and need in their marriage.  That requires talking and understanding and compromise from both of them.

Initially, Declan expects a marriage that will feature a lady wife to manage his home and children while he sails the world.  This conflicts with Edwina’s vision because she knows that she is not delicate and she is determined to fully share her husband’s life and she intends that the two of them wllll manage their life together.  Her adventurous soul attracted Declan to her and his desire to put her in a box to protect her cannot satisfy Edwina.

That being said, the normal drama and conflict is largely missing from this book.  These two respect and love one another from the beginning and therefore there is some — but not a lot — of conflict between Declan and Edwina.  Instead, there is the beginning of a mystery that will last throughout the four books of the quartet.  Therefore, anyone expecting a solution to the mystery will be disappointed.  This book is the first part of the mystery.  Some secrets are revealed, but there is much left for other couples to discover. Indeed, it is clear that Declan and Edwina still have a part to play in future books.  The mystery itself was well developed.  Regular readers of Laurens will know that she almost always has a serious mystery element in her books. Here, the mystery takes more prominance than in, for example, the Cynsters series.

This book clearly takes place in the same world that Laurens other novels.  Making a prominant appearance is Wolverstone (from the Bastion Club series) and there are mentions of the Black Cobra Quartet. While never overwhelming the current storyline, there are many Easter eggs for fans to find.

The remainder of the series will feature Declan’s brothers and the women they find.  This book has to do the heavy work of introducing characters and developing the ongoing storyline.  This book accomplishes that while giving readers a different type of romance.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book reminds me of the relationship between Penelope and Barnaby Adair in the Barnaby Adair Mystery series that Laurens also writes.  The emphasis on the mystery is also similar to that series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE LADY’S COMMAND is the first book in The Adventurers Quartet.  This is a truly connected four book series. Each of the books will build upon the story before and therefore the books are meant to be read together.

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 positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.  I also purchased my own copy of this book.



Review: The Rogue Not Taken

Review: The Rogue Not TakenThe Rogue Not Taken (Scandal & Scoundrel, #1) by Sarah MacLean
Series: Scandal & Scoundrel #1
Published by Avon on December 29th 2015
Genres: Historical
Pages: 419

Romantic Romp with a Woman in Men’s Livery, Highwaymen and Naughty Carriage Rides

“She hated him then. Hated him for involking the ridiculous moniker. For being just like all the others. For believing that she wanted the life into which she’d been thrust. For believing that life worth something. Worth more than the life she’d been born into. For refusing to see — just as the rest of London refused to see – that Sophie was different. And that she had been perfectly happy before. Before titles and town houses and teas and the trappings of the ton. Before those trappings had trapped her.”

FINAL DECISION: What romance reader can resist a bookshop buying hero? Decidedly lighter in tone than her Rules of Scoundrels series, THE ROGUE NOT TAKEN returns MacLean to her Love by Numbers series tone of hot encounters, humor and lighter drama. A delicious carriage journey through Northern England, King and Sophie sometimes experience the roadtrip from hell and at other times a great romantic journey toward love.

THE STORY: Sophie Talbot one of the Soiled S’s, daughters of a newly minted earl who themselves thrive in the world of scandal. When Sophie unintentionally causes a scandal by pushing her duke brother-in-law in a fishpond when Sophie catches him with another woman shaming his pregnant wife, Sophie is ruined. Running from the scene, Sophie seeks a ride to her home in Mayfair. She encounters Kingscote, the Marquess of Eversley fleeing from the window of a woman he has ruined and demands that he take her home. When he refuses, Sophie arranges to masquerade as an outrider for his carriage by buying the position and livery from King’s footman. But King isn’t going to Mayfair, he’s leaving London – but Sophie doesn’t realize it until it is too late.

OPINION: This book is a humorous romp until the tone turns serious towards the end of the book. Funny with crazy adventures and situations, this is a book that makes a reader smile and laugh. Even the serious parts are not too dark. Unlike the darker and grittier Rules of Scoundrels series, THE ROGUE NOT TAKEN is filled with light humor and farcical situations. It marks a return to the lighter tone of MacLean’s breakout book NINE RULES TO BREAK WHEN ROMANCING A RAKE.

The inspiration for this new series is the modern tabloid news which according to MacLean mirrors the scandal driven news of the 1830s when this novel is set. The scandal seeking and manipulating Soiled S’s are sisters whose names all begin with S mirroring some scandalous modern sisters whose names begin with K. The scene of Sophia’s scandal – attacking her cheating brother-in-law in public is inspired by a similar celebrity scandal. Historical readers can be assured, however, that while modern events might have inspired MacLean, the characters and events of THE ROGUE NOT TAKEN remain grounded in 1830s England.

What this book does is ask the question “who are the people behind the scandals?” Both Sophie and King have reputations which do not accurately reflect who they really are nor the pain and dreams of their lives. After Sophie suffers her disgrace, she decides to leave London and the ton and return to the village where she lived a common life until her father gained his titled when she was ten. Sophie believes that she will find a life there where she belongs and intends to open a bookshop. Searching for that sense of belonging, Sophie just wants to be known for who she is rather than who others expect her to be.

King’s reputation as the “Royal Rogue” also hides a great deal of pain and a good man using his reputation to protect him from women who might want more from him. And there can be no doubt that King is reluctantly a good man. In fact, by the time the final obstacle for this couple arrives, the pain and disillusionment that he experiences is difficult to read because he has been hurt before and barely recovered.

Filled with so many great tropes (highwaymen, Sophie dressed as a man, carriage shenanigans, pretend married couple, reluctant traveling partners, bickering and witty banter, forced marriages and disapproving fathers) but this book throughout makes the clear statement that these characters and this story is more than what might be expected.

Plus, you just have to love a hero who buys the heroine a bookstore and where books play such a seductive part of the story.

WORTH MENTIONING: Readers of MacLean might recall that King and Sophie first danced in NEVER JUDGE A LADY BY HER COVER. The events of THE ROGUE NOT TAKEN take place in June 1833 soon after the events of the main narrative of NEVER JUDGE A LADY BY HER COVER. There are some small references to their first dance and other events in the Rules of Scoundrels series, but no appearances by characters from that series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE ROGUE NOT TAKEN is the first book in the Scandal & Scoundrel series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.



Review: A Christmas Bride/Christmas Beau

A Christmas Bride/Christmas Beau
A Christmas Bride/Christmas Beau by Mary Balogh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Christmas Romances Where Christmas is Integral to the Stories

These are two full length Regentcy romances where Christmas is important to the story. Sometimes there is only a tenuous relationship between the story and Christmas. Here, Christmas is important to the story. That is true especially in the second novel where a significant portion of the novel takes place at Christmas.

A CHRISTMAS BRIDE: Edgar Downes is thirty six and it is time for him to marry. He promised his father that he would have a bride by Christmas. Edgar is a lawyer turned businessman and he has created his own fortune. He is wealthy enough and has enough familiar connections to find a lady to marry. He comes to London to find his bride. That night he meets Helena, Lady Stapleton, a widow and the two end up in bed. Helena then rejects Edgar because she is punishing herself for her attempts to seduce her stepson 13 years ago. Despite the fact that neither is what the other is looking for, the two are continually drawn together. This book was a fine coda to the Stapleton-Downes series. It resolves some lingering storylines and brings many of the main characters together again. Helena was the villain in her stepson’s book but her motivations are explained here. I appreciated that there was no attempt to excuse her behaviour merely a greater understanding of what motivated her. I am such a fan of how Balogh can bring such emotion and understanding to complex situations and characters. Helena has been punishing herself and any possibility of happiness has to be rejected because she feels she doesn’t deserve it. Helena’s coldness and icy veneer make her a difficult character to get to know and like but I liked how Balogh worked through the difficult issues in Helena’s life. Rating; 4 stars.

A CHRISTMAS BEAU: Max, Marquess of Denbigh finally has his chance for revenge. Eight years ago, he was jilted a month before his wedding. His betrothed ran off with another man without even speaking with him. He had loved Judith and he has never recovered from the pain she inflicted. Judith is now a widow with two small children. Max intends on making her fall in love with him and then jilting her. It is Christmas and love and hate war within Max. Max was a character that I loved even as I could see him going down the wrong path. He is reserved and unsure how to show his feelings to Judith. That is one of the reasons that he lost her years ago. He feels very deeply and the pain and love within him tear him apart. One of the best parts of this book is the total integration of the Christmas season. The theme of lightness and darkness mirrors the battle going on within Max. The deliberate and measured pace of the story adds depth and complexity to the relationship. I loved how their relationship developed but I think Max was the best part of the story. Rating: 4.5 stars.

Review: The Famous Heroine/The Plumed Bonnet

The Famous Heroine/The Plumed Bonnet
The Famous Heroine/The Plumed Bonnet by Mary Balogh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Duo of Regency Romances

This book contains two books from the Stanton-Downes series. The books can be read as standalones even though they are books 5 and 6 in the series.

THE FAMOUS HEROINE: Cora Downes is the daughter of a wealthy merchant. Exuberant and without polish, Cora is too physical for refined society. Because she rescued the grandson of a duchess, Cora has been brought to London to find a husband. Francis Kneller is nursing a broken heart. For years he courted Lady Samantha who ended up marrying someone else (book number 4). When Cora meets Francis, she is comfortable in his presence because his foppish appearance relaxes her. She knows that he cannot be interested in her. When the two are accidentally caught in a compromising situation, marriage is the only solution. Cora, however, is surprised to find out that Francis is not the effeminate peacock she thought him to be. This book is incredibly funny as Cora keeps getting into scrapes as she performs “rescues” that might actually be causing more problems than they solve. I love how Balogh creates these slow, intense emotional dramas that are all about the heart of the characters rather than a superficial plot. The deliberate pacing of this book allows these characters to build a relationship between them so that once the marriage is required, they are ready to actually have emotional intimacy. The humor of this book is pitch perfect. Cora is sometimes silly in her assumptions, but this book never makes fun of her instead showing readers her good nature and caring for others that leads her into misadventures. Rating: 4 stars.

THE PLUMED BONNET: Alistair Munro, Duke of Bridgwater is a former romantic who has made himself cynical to protect himself. He is now at an age where he realizes he might need to marry. While traveling, he comes upon a woman in a gaudy hat and cloak walking along the road. Because she pierces his ennui, he agrees to take her in his carriage while she tells him a tale of being a governess turned heiress who was robbed. He doesn’t believe her but is amused enough by her story to agree to take her to her destination. He figures that once they arrive, he will make her his mistress. What he doesn’t know is that everything that Stephanie Gray is telling him is true. I loved this book. Balogh can write such complex emotional stories. Alistair is playing with Stephanie but she believes him a hero. Her desire to be worthy of his good deeds toward her make her miserable. I loved how these two slowly have to work through their new relationship. These are two decent people who have to learn to deal with one another and build a relationship. Complex and with deep emotional overtones, this is my favorite of the series. Rating: 4.5 stars.

Review: Angels’ Blood

Review: Angels’ BloodAngels' Blood (Guild Hunter, #1) by Nalini Singh
Series: Guild Hunter #1
Published by Berkley Books on March 3rd 2009
Genres: Paranormal

Fabulous First Book In Series

“She’d never met a more deadly being in her life.”

THE STORY: Elena Deveraux is a vampire hunter, a Guild Hunter whose job it is to track down vampires and return them to their masters, the angels. Elena is summoned by the Archangel Raphael who controls New York. Meeting an archangel is dangerous business for a mortal and Elena is terrified by their confrontation even as she struggles to hide it. Elena has been chosen as the best of the hunters to hunt a creature more terrifying and dangerous than any Elena has tracked before.

OPINION: This book was amazing and completely different than I expected. It was so compelling that I immediately started reading the second book in the series and then the third. The series is about Elena and making her way in the world of angels and vampires and humans. Elena is strong and yet damaged in deep emotional ways. I was completely enthralled by her story because this book just begins to hint at the depth of Elena’s story. I also loved the story between Elena and Raphael. I have a weakness for dark and dangerous heroes who teeter on the edge of being the villain. The story is lush and dark and yet Elena is not a woman filled with darkness. Billed as urban fantasy, I think this book is more personal and emotional than I would have expected.

WORTH MENTIONING: ANGELS’ BLOOD is the first book in the series but Elena’s story is not concluded in this book. The ending of this book was unexpected and made me immediately turn to book two.

FINAL DECISION: This book is fabulous. Singh creates a fascinating world with unique rules and inhabited by fascinating individuals who are complex and compelling.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ANGELS’ BLOOD is the first book in the Guild Hunters series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.



Review: Velvet Promise

Velvet Promise
Velvet Promise by Carole Mortimer
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I Found This Book Disturbing In So Many Ways ***Spoiler Warning***

“But he didn’t really know her, or about the things that had happened in her life to make her a woman of strength and character, a woman who at only twenty-three was one of England’s most successful fashion designers while still managing to be what she loved best of all, an attentive and loving mother to Dani.”

FINAL DECISION: I could not like this book. The discussion and consequence of rape was too dated to be acceptable to me. In addition, for a woman who claims to be so strong, Willow felt entirely dominated by her rapist husband.

THE STORY: Willow Stewart is a fashion designer with a young daughter. Recently divorced, Willow has dark secret that is painful and shameful to her. When her ex-husband’s cousin, Jordan St. James begins to want to spend time with her, Willow knows that Jordan hasn’t forgiven her because he believes she trapped his cousin into marriage. Yet Jordan is attracted to Willow himself.

OPINION: This book fails on many levels. Willow was raped by her ex-husband in order to force her into marriage. The fact that she then tries to justify herself staying with him and wanting him to have a relationship with their daughter made me sick. Her justification of this behavior is that she didn’t want her daughter exposed has being the product of rape. But she wants her daughter to love a rapist as her father. In addition, she claims to be so strong from her past, but she folds immediately when her ex-husband begins to threaten her again. The truth is that Willow is weak and needs some serious therapy to deal with her violation. This subject is just too serious to be handled in a book of this length. The romance completely fails because Jordan doesn’t even know about the rape until the end and then everything is resolved in a couple of pages. For me, this is a book that might speak of the time it was written, but would never be acceptable today.

WORTH MENTIONING: I did appreciate that the hero and the villain’s parents believed Willow when the rape was revealed.


STAR RATING: I give this book 1 star.

Review: Liam Takes Manhattan

   For Fans of the Series, Liam is Growing Up

                                   Liam Takes Manhattan by Thea Harrison

                                   My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

“Everything felt at once too big and yet too restrictive  His chest constricted, and he couldn’t breathe as the wide, wild world crushed down on him.”

FINAL DECISION: This short story satisfies fans because we get to know more about the fascinating young man that Liam is becoming.  This novella focuses on Liam trying to figure of what to do as a young man in unique circumstances.  Cute, sweet and revealing about his character.

THE STORY: Liam is at an awkward phase.  The events in SHADOW’S END have left the young man feeling rebellious, confined and aimless.  He doesn’t know what to do with himself and has begun to feel the constriction of his loving family.  It is Christmas and his parents offer him something he has wanted for a while, but he is struggling with himself.

OPINION: This short story focuses on a moment of crisis for Liam.  Having too quickly grown into a young man, Liam is at the same crossroads that young people face — purpose in life.  I especially liked being given this glimpse into his life.  A fan of the series can expect that Liam will have an incredible story of his own one day and I appreciated being given insight into his evolving character.

Well written, sweet and moving the overarching story forward, this little gem of a novella will please fans of the Elder Races and provides a worthy coda to the events of SHADOW’S END.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is not a romance but rather part of the coming of age story for the amazing character of Liam.

CONNECTED BOOKS: LIAM TAKES MANHATTAN is book 9.5 of the Elder Races series.  It should be read after book 9 SHADOW’S END because it contains serious spoilers about that book.  It is also third of a trilogy of short novellas about the Cuelebre familly.  While readers don’t have to read the entire Elder Races series to enjoy this book, it would be better to at least read the prior books of the trilogy DRAGOS GOES TO WASHINGTON and PIA DOES HOLLYWOOD.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.


Review: Forgotten Lover

Forgotten Lover
Forgotten Lover by Carole Mortimer
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Good Storyline, but Romance Feels Incomplete

“Why are you pretending you don’t know me?”

FINAL DECISION: This book has a good storyline and premise but the romance felt flat and incomplete because it was resolved too quickly and without any real emotion.

THE STORY: Velvet Dale is a model who comes to Florida to do a shoot. She is a widow with a young son. There she meets Jerard Daniels, a businessman, who is a widower with a daughter of his own. Jerard confronts Velvet with the fact that the two were lovers several years ago. Velvet does not remember Jerard because she suffered selective amnesia after the death of her husband. Now Jerard is telling Velvet that they were lovers and that she was unfaithful to her perfect fiance. And he doesn’t believe that she actually has amnesia.

OPINION: This book disappointed me because the story was progressing so well until the ending. I was engaged with the story, but the resolution came so quickly and without any real movement in the characters that it felt forced and unnatural. I realized that the problem was that there was no real depth to these characters. The best part of this book was the plot itself but the characters remained distant and unknowable. Because Velvet has amnesia, her true motivations are forever left unknown. Without the drama and emotion, this book left me feeling empty.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book was originally published in the 1980s as a category romance.


STAR RATING: I give this book 2 stars.

Review: Mistress of Pleasure

Mistress of Pleasure
Mistress of Pleasure by Delilah Marvelle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If You Put Historical Accuracy Aside, Filled with Interesting Characters

FINAL DECISION: This book has a premise that doesn’t fit with the historical time period and while the characters are intriguing, the book never overcomes its shortcomings. Interesting, but not a keeper.

THE STORY: Maybelle Maitenon is the granddaughter of a courtesan but is also a virgin. Her grandmother is opening a school where men learn the art of seduction. Maybelle meets Edmund Worthington, Duke of Rutherford and ends up having sex with him that night. Edmund is a staid gentlemen and his encounter with Maybelle shakes his vision of himself. When he decides to pursue Maybelle, he ends up enrolling at the School of Gallantry with Maybelle as his teacher.

OPINION: My problem with this book is that Edmund’s mother is so determined to have Edmund marry Maybelle. The premise just didn’t work and the idea that Maybelle would even be invited to such events feels too incredible to be believed. Sometimes illogical premises can be overcome by an intriguing story or great characters, but this book was good but not great. Maybelle has too many issues for which the reader is not brought into her world to understand. This is definitely a book that is more talk than show as to character’s motivations. There were parts that I liked and I think I might try another book in the series to see if another premise might work better for me. Therefore, I give this book a three rating which means that I was okay reading it, but it wouldn’t be a book that I would expect to want to read again.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book introduces characters who will have their own stories in subsequent books in the series. I was really intrigued with these characters and their stories.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MISTRESS OF PLEASURE is the first book in the School of Gallantry series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.