Review: Vexed by a Viscount

Vexed by a Viscount
Vexed by a Viscount by Erin Knightley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sweet, Clean Novella with Gentle Drama

“Here she was, naked as the day she was born, her clothes an impossible distance away on shore, trying to do something brave and daring for once in her life and this was what happened.”

FINAL DECISION: This is my favorite novella of the series. More complex than the others, this story of a woman trapped and the man who shows her that she needs to stand up for herself is sweet but worth reading.

THE STORY: Prudence Landon has always done what was expected including agreeing to marry a man over twice her age. Before her marriage, Prudence is determined to live life by her own rules for the few weeks before her wedding. For that reason, she finds herself naked in a pond when she encounters her neighbor William, Viscount Ashby. Ashby has been betrothed since the age of seven which protects him from marriage minded misses. When he finds out Prudence’s plans, he wants to help her enjoy her rebellion.

OPINION: This tightly written, at times funny and at times incredibly sad story is the best of the series. Because of Pru’s situation, this story is more serious than the others in the series, and thus the whole situation is more dramatic and more fulfilling as a story. I thought that William was an adorable hero whose plans to help Pru with her rebellion are gentle and meaningful and incredibly romantic. I was especially pleased with how the resolution of the story happened because it gave the power to the characters and did not rely on artificial plot devices. Quite enjoyable.

WORTH MENTIONING: Readers looking for a clean romance will be pleased with this novella.

CONNECTED BOOKS: VEXED BY A VISCOUNT is the fourth novella in the All’s Fair in Love series. It can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

Review: All’s Fair in Love 3 Novella Box Set: Ruined by a Rake, Scandalized by a Scoundrel, Deceived by a Duke with BONUS Second Epilogue

All's Fair in Love 3 Novella Box Set: Ruined by a Rake, Scandalized by a Scoundrel, Deceived by a Duke with BONUS Second Epilogue
All’s Fair in Love 3 Novella Box Set: Ruined by a Rake, Scandalized by a Scoundrel, Deceived by a Duke with BONUS Second Epilogue by Erin Knightley
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Sweet, Clean Trio of Novellas

This collection contains the first three novellas in the All’s Fair in Love series.

RUINED BY A RAKE: Eleanor Abbington has had a sparring relationship for years with her step-cousin Nicholas Norton. When her uncle orders her to marry a man of his choice for his political advantage, Nicholas ends up being Eleanor’s only ally to help her escape his step-father’s plans.

SCANDALIZED BY A SCOUNDREL: Lord Gabriel Winters, an unlikely half-American Viscount, plans on upsetting his English relatives by returning to America and finding an American bride. When visiting his military buddy for his wedding, Gabriel meets MIss Amelia Watson who is holding a pistol on him. The gun carrying lady intrigues Gabriel who ends up helping her with self-defense.

DECEIVED BY A DUKE: Elizabeth “Libby” Abbington, the niece of an Earl has no intention of marrying into the aristocracy after seeing them up close. On a trip to Spain, she meets Philip and his brother who are traveling from England. What Libby doesn’t realize is that Philip is actual the Duke of Giillingham who has come to Spain with his spoiled brother and challenged him to live for one month without the benefit of their status.

Each of these three stories (all of which have overlapping characters) is sweet and clean (kissing only). They are light on drama and an easy read. I enjoyed them, but they aren’t particularly memorable or stories that I would necessarily pick up again to read. That being said, I did enjoy them. I liked the characters and I felt that the pacing worked well with the short novella format. Each of the novellas does feel different as the characters are individuals.

Thankfully, Knightley ended up writing the story of Nicholas’ younger step-brother in VEXED BY A VISCOUNT. These novellas are all easily read together.

Rating 3.5 stars.

Review: Silent Night Man

Silent Night Man
Silent Night Man by Diana Palmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Little Gem of a Classic Diana Palmer Story

“She’d spent enough time eating her heart out over a man who couldn’t even seen her.”

FINAL DECISION: Short and sweet with a heroine who has been hurt but loves the hero longer than he knows, this story isn’t particularly complicated but has some of the really best parts of a Diana Palmer novel.

THE STORY: Millie Evans, a librarian, has been in love with Tony Danzetta for years. When a childhood friend commits suicide, however, Tony blames Millie. What Tony doesn’t know is that his friend stalked Millie and has sent a hit man to kill her. When he finds out, Tony, a special government agent, insists on protecting Millie. He doesn’t expect that the sweet and innocent librarian will challenge his conceptions of his own life.

OPINION: I’m a fan of Diana Palmer. This book has all the traditional parts of a Diana Palmer novel: hero who acts like a jerk to the heroine based on a misunderstanding, a sweet and innocent heroine, some drama (here Millie is being hunted), and hero being a jerk which sends heroine running into danger. This book executes that story with some finesse. Even better, the jerky parts of the hero are shorter and therefore he is less of a jerk than some of Palmer’s heroes. I really liked Millie and I thought the story was the perfect length for their story.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a pretty clean story for those who are concerned with such.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SILENT NIGHT MAN is about a character from a secondary character from the Long, Tall Texans book, but this novella can be read as a standalone. I haven’t read the book where Tony is introduced and it didn’t interfere at all with my enjoyment of this story.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

Review: After the Storm

After the Storm
After the Storm by Linda Castillo
My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars

This One Was Just Too Sad for Me

FINAL DECISION: This story was good. There was an old mystery and personal problems with Kate and John, but this one ended just too sad for me. The stories are getting too predictable in that there is never any positive resolution. It’s beginning to feel like Shakespearean tragedy.

THE STORY: A tornado comes to Painters Mill and brings destruction but also uncovers old secrets. When a set of human bones are discovered in the wreckage, a murder that occurred decades before comes to light. Kate Burkholder, Chief of Police, stirs up old mysteries. Also, just when things seem to be going well for Kate and her live in lover John Tomasetti, a new problem brings fractures in their relationship to light.

OPINION: There is so much sadness in this story. The mystery itself has a sad story. The investigation uncovers so many other sad stories. The result of the tornado is sad. And then there is Kate and John’s relationship which has a sad turn but which seems like there will be some happiness in this story — but then that also ends in a sad manner. All this might work well if this was one story among many, but honestly, just about every one of these books are so sad. It seems like there is no bright spot in these stories. This was one book where I hoped that someone would have a happy ending — alas, it was not meant to be.

All that being said, the story was good and had great pacing. Once starting this book, I couldn’t stop until I had finished it. Exciting with many stories intertwining. Just too sad for me.

WORTH MENTIONING: These books always end up too sad and unhappy at the end. I keep wishing for something good to happen once in a while.

CONNECTED BOOKS: AFTER THE STORM is the seventh book in the Kate Burkholder series. It can be read as a standalone although the relationships and characters grow and develop throughout the series.

STAR RATING: I give this one 4.25 stars.

Review: Love in the Light

Love in the Light
Love in the Light by Laura Kaye
My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars

Followup to Original Novella Emphasizes Survivor Guilt, PTSD and Redemptive Power of Love

“He’d never been happier in his life. And he was having a damn hard time trusting it.”

FINAL DECISION: This book is sometimes dark, always emotional and a great story of how a man with demons fights for the woman he loves. The story is painful to read in parts because Caden is such a wonderful character that you want him to prevail and it takes a while. Feels real but ultimately has a happy ending.

THE STORY: Two months ago, Makenna James and Caden Grayson met in a dark elevator. The elevator allowed the two to get to know one another without appearances getting in the way. Makenna is a straightlaced accountant and Caden is a tattooed, pierced and scarred paramedic. They have been together since that night. Now on Thanksgiving, Caden is coming to meet Mackenna’s father and brothers. As the two get closer, Caden becomes more and more afraid that he is not worthy of Makenna and it is beginning to strain their relationship.

OPINION: The first book of this series was serious but not overly so. In fact, part of the attraction of the novella was that these two connected despite the reality of their lives. This book answers the question — what happens after the happy ending. The answer this book provides is that messed up people have to resolve their problems or it messes up the happy ending.

This book takes the problems that Caden has and addresses them head on. There is no simple answer. This is one of the most realistic take on PTSD, survivor guilt and depression. As with the first book in the series, I liked seeing a hero portrayed as having problems while the heroine is strong and supportive.

This is a great book but difficult to read at times because it is so sad. Ultimately, I was happy to see the journey that Mackenna and Caden take and am happy where they end up.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a book where I didn’t think the blurb adequately described the book. The problems that MaKenna and Caden have arise not from her family but from Caden’s own past, PTSD and guilt.

CONNECTED BOOKS: LOVE IN THE LIGHT is the second novel in the Hearts in Darkness Duet. Both books deal with the same couple and should be read as a pair because this book has a lot of pain in it and readers should see the good from the first novel before tackling this one.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.25 stars.

Review: The Pleasure Principle

The Pleasure Principle
The Pleasure Principle by Jane O’Reilly
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Erotic Little Tale

FINAL DECISION: The story between Verity and Cal is cute and sometimes sweet but the sex doesn’t always seem to develop any closeness between them. There is a lot of emphasis on Verity with little insight into Cal’s character.

THE STORY: Verity is devastated when her ex lists her sexual inadequacies on a website. She is even more embarrassed when Cal Bailey sees the website. When Cal invites her to one of his notorious parties where sex is rampant, Verity goes to prove something to herself. She is determined to show that she is better than what her ex posted while at the same time she fears she is not.

OPINION: I don’t mind sexy erotic stories but this novella gave me mixed feelings. At times, I felt that there was a connection between Verity and Cal and at times the story was so focused on Cal that I didn’t think he mattered at all to the story. Because of that, the numerous sex scenes felt uneven to me. Ultimately, I liked the story because of Verity, but I can’t help but wish that we learned more about Cal’s struggle to make this a better romance.

WORTH MENTIONING: I liked how Cal explains to Verity that her feelings and pleasure is important.

CONNECTED BOOKS: This is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this story 3 stars.

Review: A Hidden Secret

A Hidden Secret
A Hidden Secret by Linda Castillo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Small Mystery But Chance to See Kate and John’s Relationship

FINAL DECISION: A sad solution to a small mystery but with an optimistic ending. I liked this book more for the development of Kate’s character and the chance to know how her relationship with John is evolving.

THE STORY: Someone has abandoned a newborn baby and Kate Burkholder comes to investigate. The infant was left with some items which lead Kate to believe that the mother might be Amish. With the help of her lover John Tomasetti, Kate must determine what would lead a woman to abandon her child.

OPINION: One thing I liked about this story was that there was really a happy ending — especially for this series. The mystery here is small and it solution is pretty obvious because of the short nature of the story but the story works out well. This novella gives Kate and John a chance to have further development in their relationship. It is clear that Kate is serious about John and their relationship might be taking a new direction.

WORTH MENTIONING: This novella gives a good sense of the structure of the novels in this series although the mystery is less grim. In fact, this may be one of the happiest endings ever.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A HIDDEN SECRET is book 6.5 of the Kate Burkholder series. It can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

Review: The Dead Will Tell: A Kate Burkholder Novel

The Dead Will Tell: A Kate Burkholder Novel
The Dead Will Tell: A Kate Burkholder Novel by Linda Castillo
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Very Creepy Crime Thriller in Amish Country

FINAL DECISION: Sad, creepy and filled with secrets. This is a story of how the past doesn’t stay buried and what people will do for revenge. The overlap between the main mystery and John’s story gives this book extra heft and interest.

THE STORY: Kate Burkholder. chief of police in a small town, and her team are called to an apparent suicide. A man hanging from the rafters of his barn seems obvious but quickly the investigation turns to murder when it is discovered that the man was shot. His murder seems connected an 35 year old crime — the horrendous murders that decimated most of an Amish family. It seems like a ghost has come back for revenge. At the same time, Kate’s personal life seems to be going well until her lover John gets news that one of the men connected with the death of his family has gone free.

OPINION: This book excels because of the connection between the revenge crime Kate is investigating and John’s own feelings for revenge. This book is all about how the past never really dies. Kate and John are in a good place as this book begins, but the crisis that arises shows that there are still problems that they have with trust. Kate doesn’t trust John not to seek revenge — because he has before — and John cannot truly talk with Kate. There are some very interesting parallels with the investigation (I won’t say more to not give away spoilers). These connections raise this book to a level beyond a standard mystery.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book takes place six months after the previous book in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE DEAD WILL TELL is the sixth book in the Kate Burkholder series. It can be read as a standalone although there are some ongoing stories which are secondary to the main mystery.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

Review: Dreamwalker

Dreamwalker
Dreamwalker by Allyson James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Return to Stormwalkers Universe

FINAL DECISION: A book ultimately about connections, caring and relationship wrapped in a paranormal shell, this book moves the mythology of the Stormwalkers series forward with the presence of all of Janet’s family and friends.

THE STORY: Janet Begay, Stormwalker and half-goddess, is planning her wedding to dragon Mick when the most powerful mage Emmett Smith demands her magic mirror or else he will take it from her — and he doesn’t care who gets hurt. When a battle with demons knocks Janet out and sends her to a dream world in the past, Janet and her friends and family begin to live in a world where the dreams of the past may not happen like before and where there are real dangers. Janet needs to find a way back to the present and defeat Emmett before everyone she loves is destroyed.

OPINION: This book has a lot of drama as Janet struggles through her dreams. Janet struggles with her ever increasing group of loved ones and friends. The more she cares about others, she is both more powerful and also more vulnerable. I especially liked how Janet’s relationship with her sister continues to evolve. In this book, they have a breakthrough. I also enjoyed being able to see Janet evaluate her relationship with Mick in her dreams. After reading the other books in the series, this book gives a sense of how far the two have traveled together and developed. While this book has a lot of action in it, I appreciate the relationships more.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is the first Stormwalker novel after a several year hiatus. Thankfully, the tone of the novels and the characters blend in nicely with the previous novels.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DREAMWALKER is the fifth book in the Stormwalkers series. The story here can be read as a standalone although there is a continuing mythology.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

Review: Nightwalker

Nightwalker
Nightwalker by Allyson James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Action Packed with Overlapping Mysteries in this Paranormal Series

FINAL DECISION: An exciting, action packed entry in the Stormwalkers series. All the series favorites make appearances here and the mythology of the series continues to develop in new and unexpected ways.

THE STORY: Stormwalker Janet Begay owns the Crossroads Hotel. The friends, family and fiance consists of a variety of magical and non-magical creatures. When Ansel, a Nightwalker (aka vampire) is being sought for the murder of his girlfriend, Janet and her fiance Mick don’t believe that Ansel would have committed the crime. Unfortunately, Ansel himself is not sure that he did not kill her in a blood frenzy. When powerful magical creatures come after Ansel, Janet realizes that more is going on here than a possible murder.

OPINION: This book is an exciting chapter in the Stormwalkers series. There is much ambiguity here which is where this series excels. It is not certain that Ansel is innocent — in fact everyone and everything points to guilt on his behalf. Janet’s defense of him threatens her life and those she loves. The struggle with power, the betrayal of friends, mistakes made. All these themes are present here. This book is filled with a whole cast of characters from the series as it appears that everyone is after Ansel. Janet and Mick’s relationship opens in new directions in small ways in this book. Mick opens up in ways he hasn’t in previous books in the series. All this combines into a good paranormal mystery adventure.

WORTH MENTIONING: What is Mick up to?

CONNECTED BOOKS: NIGHTWALKER is the fourth book in the Stormwalkers series. The story is self contained and can be read as a standalone, however, there are ongoing personal stories regarding the characters that span the series of books and are not necessarily understood by reading only this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.