Review: Captivated by You

Captivated by You
Captivated by You by Sylvia Day
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Now Readers Get to Know Gideon’s Point of View

FINAL DECISION: By adding the point of view of Gideon, this book finally begins to address the deep problems that Gideon has. It truly feels like Gideon and Eva are moving forward even as things seem to be falling apart for them.

THE STORY: Gideon and Eva are married and while things should be going well for them, it seems that everything is falling apart. There are new pressures on their relationship from Eva’s work (dealing with a competitor of Gideon’s) and Gideon’s past is still haunting him. There are also dangers from a woman in Gideon’s past. All the forces against Gideon and Eva’s relationship seem to be circling. Rather than bringing them together, this may finally tear Gideon and Eva apart.

OPINION: This book finally gives Gideon’s viewpoint. The series until this point has been told solely from Eva’s perspective. By giving Gideon’s viewpoint, readers can see what pressure Gideon is under. He attempts to compartmentalize his life by denying the abuse he suffered as a child. I have liked the way that this series has dealt with both Gideon and Eva’s abuse. By giving contrasting ways that the two have dealt with their abuse, the book gives a bigger picture of survivors than most books portray. Denial, acting out, self-loathing, blinding anger, hate, revenge. Gideon’s failure to deal with his own abuse continues to threaten the happiness that both Gideon and Eva want. This series takes the long road to happiness but I think that the ability to go deeply into the emotions and thoughts of these two characters is fascinating. The plot is sometimes crazy like a daytime soap opera, but the path that Gideon and Eva have to travel never feels forced. By finally delving into the Gideon’s dark past, the pace of the story has increased with multiple conflicts and challenges arising simultaneously. Fans of the series will be pleased to see that progress is being made even as more challenges arise. If you haven’t read the other books in the series, you shouldn’t be reading this one first.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is only one more book left in the series and much to wrap up.

CONNECTED BOOKS: CAPTIVATED BY YOU is the fourth book in the Crossfire series. This book should not be read without reading the prior books in the series first. The series follows one couple and thus is highly dependant upon the events in the prior books.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

Review: The Art of Sinning

Review: The Art of SinningThe Art of Sinning (Sinful Suitors, #1) by Sabrina Jeffries
Series: Sinful Suitors #1
Published by Pocket Books on July 21st 2015
Genres: Historical
Pages: 400
Goodreads
four-stars

Battle of Wills Between a Woman Determined to Do What She Wants and a Man Running from His Past

FINAL DECISION: Strong characters make this an intriguing read. I was somewhat disappointed by the rushed resolution of Jeremy’s story.

THE STORY: Jeremy Keane is an American artist in England who won’t return home to take over his father’s business. Jeremy is a rake who is running from his past and is obsessed with his art (which isn’t your portraits or pastoral scene but rather is dark and seedy). Jeremy is looking for a model for a work that is his current obsession. Across the room he sees Lady Yvette Barlow and is determined to make her his model. Under the cover of doing a sedate portrait, Yvette agrees to be Jeremy’s scandalous model in exchange for Jeremy giving her ability to search for a woman in London’s brothels.

OPINION: The story of two wilful people who are determined to use one another for their own purposes but slowly peel away one another’s secrets. Yvette needs Jeremy in order to accomplish her mission but knows better than to trust a rogue. Jeremy is fleeing from his past and knows that he can only offer a good woman like Yvette misery.

I enjoyed this story because of its characters. Character and emotional based stories are my favorite and this book provides intriguing characters not only with Jeremy and Yvette but also the supporting characters who also seem vivid and intriguing without taking over the book.

The story takes some time to spin out and I was completely along for the ride until the big reveal happens towards the end of the book. After all the grief and buildup, I was somewhat disappointed at the quick resolve. It seemed to me that Jeremy should have had to do more groveling. The resolution had me dropping my rating slightly.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book gains some liveliness by meshing English and American sensibilities.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE ART OF SINNING is the first book in The Sinful Suitors series. It is also connected to THE DUKE’S MEN series. I haven’t read that series so this book can be read without any prior knowledge.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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four-stars

Review: The Study of Seduction

Review: The Study of SeductionThe Study of Seduction (Sinful Suitors, #2) by Sabrina Jeffries
Series: Sinful Suitors #2
Published by Pocket Books on March 22nd 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-stars

Remote Hero and Flighty Heroine are Not Who They Appear

“I do like you. Sometimes. But I also can’t resist provoking you. You get so deliciously annoyed. And you take my remarks far too seriously.”

FINAL DECISION: Darker because of the subject manner, this book is the story of two people who have known one another for ages without really knowing one another. There is a lot of struggle for these two to find one another but that makes the finding sweeter.

THE STORY: Edwin Barlow, Earl of Blakeborough is serious and cynical and believes his best friend is crazy when he asks Edwin to squire his cousin around town to protect her from a stalker. Edwin knows that Lady Clarissa Lindsey will never agree. Edwin and Clarissa have known one another forever and cannot stop sniping at one another. Clarissa believes Edwin too stuffy and judgmental and Edwin thinks Clarissa too flighty and free spirited. The two agree on one thing, Clarissa would make a terrible wife for Edwin. Clarissa has no intention of marrying and Edwin wants to find a wife to give him a heir and little trouble. When the two agree to spend time together to thwart Clarissa’s stalker, they soon find themselves deeper and deeper in a deception to protect Clarissa. They also find out that they don’t know one another as well as they thought.

OPINION: This book made me smile and cry. Edwin and Clarissa are a study in opposites attract. I loved how Edwin is so stuffy, serious and cynical on the outside, but is a bowl of mush on the inside. Having witnessed the disintegration of his parents marriage and emotionally abandoned by his father, Edwin had learned to rely on no one except himself. Loyal and kind, he cannot turn away from those who need him.

Clarissa is bright and lively and hiding a dark secret. She uses her flirty facade to hide her deep pain. When she accepts Edwin’s help, she begins to see the gentle and caring man that Edwin is and begins to reveal her interior self to Edwin.

I loved how Edwin cares for Clarissa is so many ways. He is always a gentleman and shows Clarissa that real men can respect and care for women without degrading them. This is a tricky tale that is well written to respect the emotional journey that each of the characters have to take to find their happen ending together. At times the story tends toward seriousness and darkness but never dwelling in the past or in the pain so much to become depressing.

Ultimately about how love, respect and caring can overcome the dark past, this book has enough lightness to feel redemptive.

WORTH MENTIONING: SPOILERS and Trigger Warning!!! The heroine of this book was raped and is dealing with shame and fear of intimacy as a result.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE STUDY OF SEDUCTION is the second book in the Sinful Suitors series. It can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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four-stars

Review: A Kiss For Midwinter

Review: A Kiss For MidwinterA Kiss For Midwinter (Brothers Sinister, #1.5) by Courtney Milan
Series: Brothers Sinister #1.5
Published by Smashwords Edition on December 18th 2012
Genres: Historical
Pages: 121
Goodreads
four-stars

Romance Between Two Prickly Characters

A KISS FOR MIDWINTER is a novella in the Brothers Sinister series. It is the story of Lydia Charingford, Minera’s friend in THE DUCHESS WAR, who was seduced at left pregnant at the age of fifteen. Doctor Jonas Grantham is a bad reminder of that time since he was observing Lydia’s doctor during her pregnancy. Five years later, he has met her anew and fallen in love with her. However, he is part of her bad memory.

This is a novella and the story is short, but it did not feel rushed to me. These two characters are very forthright. They speak plainly and their romance is very straightforward. Lydia has further to travel in this book. She was Hubert very badly and has not truly dealt with her pain. It is easier for her to dislike Jonas as a reminder of her past than to deal with her feelings for him.

This book is a nice Christmas treat that clears up Lydia’s story and only tangentially touches upon the main story from the Brothers Sinister series.

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four-stars

Review: Unveiled

Review: UnveiledUnveiled (Turner, #1) by Courtney Milan
Series: Turner #1
Published by HQN Books on January 25th 2011
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
five-stars

Unique Version of Familiar Story

UNVEILED is the first book in the Turner series. It is the story of Ash Turner who is the eldest of three brothers. Ash has managed to make himself the heir to the Duke of Parford a distant cousin by proving that the Duke’s children are illegitimate because the Duke had a secret marriage to his mistress in his youth. Margaret Dalrymple is the Duke’s daughter. She is, however, masquerading as the dude’s nurse to find out more information about Ash in order to restore her family.

The premise of this story may sound familiar but zero Milan has a way of executing these familiar story tropes in a way that is unique and empowering to her characters. Ash and Margaret are simply amazing. Ash makes Margaret see herself as empowered — as a person who makes things happen rather than having things happen to her. He gives her the confidence to see in herself the strength to make her own future.

Milan subverts the expectations of the reader and thus pulls her characters into being more real, more human.

I had read the synopsis of this book before reading it and had in fact put off reading the book because Ash sounded like a horrible person, but he is simply amazing.

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five-stars

Review: Nobody’s Baby But Mine

Review: Nobody’s Baby But MineNobody's Baby But Mine (Chicago Stars, #3) by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Series: Chicago Stars #3
Published by Avon Books on February 1st 1997
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 374
Goodreads
four-half-stars

NOBODY’S BABY BUT MINE is the third novel in Phillips’ Chicago Stars series. Jane Darlington is at the crossroads of her life. A genius, she has never fit in. At thirty-four, she desperately wants a child of her own. That desperation leads her to decide to masquerade as a prostitute in order to trick Chicago Stars quarterback Cal Bonner into fathering her child. Cal is also at a crossroads in his life. He is thirty-six and while it is obvious that his career is coming to an end, Cal refuses to accept it. When he finds out that Jane is pregnant, he is furious, but insists on marriage to protect the child. The two end up traveling to Cal’s hometown where their relationship becomes more complicated.

Upfront I want to say that I really found the premise distasteful and it made it difficult to like Jane. The first time that I read this book, I could not accept the premise and it colored by view of the entire book. As I read the book again, however, I was able to accept the premise as part of the exaggerated, melodramatic style that Phillips employs in this series. With that aside, I enjoyed these characters who are witty and strong and are a perfect match to one another. The battle of wills between them made me laugh and the resolution was hard fought and heartwarming.

I’d rate this a 4.5.

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four-half-stars

Review: Entwined with You

Entwined with You
Entwined with You by Sylvia Day
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Emotional, Intensely Sensual. THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR FIRST TWO BOOKS!

Please Don’t Read This Review If You Don’t Want to Be Spoiled About the First Two Books of the Series.

“The man I loved had killed for me. A lot of things become inconsequential after a sacrifice like that.”

FINAL DECISION: I found this book deeply emotional with great movement in the relationship between Gideon and Eva. It truly feels like they have entered a new phase in their relationship. While still a work in progress, the two have a new level of closeness which makes this book feel the most optimistic of the series so far.

THE STORY: As readers of the series know, Gideon Cross and Eva Tramell have had a difficult relationship. Both are survivors of childhood sexual abuse which has damaged them and made it difficult to fully engage in their relationship. Trust and communication are problems for them both. This book begins right after the end of book 2 and the revelation that Gideon has murdered Eva’s rapist. This event ripples through Gideon and Eva’s relationship both bringing them closer together and placing additional barriers between them.

OPINION: I am constantly surprised by how engaging I find these books. The events are just crazy and the relationship between Eva and Gideon feels glacial at times. This book feels like a breakthrough. Finally, they have moved beyond some of their problems (but things are not all good yet). There is a new level of emotional maturity and connection between the characters that makes this book feel like a breath of fresh air.

As a late comer to this series, I have the advantage of knowing that there are five books in the series and that there is more drama to come. Many readers expected a trilogy and thus this book was a disappointment to them. For me, however, this book feels like an island of unexpected peace in this series. There is joy and happiness to be found and not just drama and pain and sadness.

It is the combination of all the emotions that makes this series so compelling to me. Here are two people who have so much baggage that they probably should have given up on one another long ago. Instead, they have such a deep connection to one another that it compels them to fight through all their pain and sadness to be together.

WORTH MENTIONING: I especially liked that the stories of the secondary characters are also progressing in this series. There are some big reveals in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ENTWINED WITH YOU is the third book in the Crossfire series. It is intended to be read as part of the series. Following one couple, the book relies upon knowledge in the first two books and this book does not complete the story.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

Review: Reflected in You

Reflected in You
Reflected in You by Sylvia Day
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Crazy Plot, Crazy Story And I Reluctantly Loved It

“Our relationship was swiftly becoming a minefield of words left unsaid and secrets not shared.”

FINAL DECISION: The plot is crazy and these two people are incredibly messed up and thus continue to muddle their way through a largely disfunctional relationship, but I find the entirety of the book so compelling that I can’t help but turn pages and then buy the next book. I can’t decide if it is like watching a train wreck or a soap opera.

THE STORY: PLEASE DON’T READ THIS REVIEW IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE FIRST BOOK IF YOU MIND SPOILERS!!

This book continues the story of Gideon Cross and Eva Tramell who met and began a sexual and emotional relationship in book one of the series. The two both experienced childhood sexual abuse which has not been well dealt with. Each has serious problems because of the abuse which effects their ability to engage and sustain a relationship on an emotional level. Gideon and Eva’s relationship is threatened by Gideon’s continued refusal to talk about his past and his keeping secrets from Eva. Eva acts out and almost sabotages the relationship as well. Past loves and their abuse continue to break them apart.

OPINION: This book has a plot but I especially liked that the entirety of the story is keep revealed until the last couple of pages. Because the book is told in first person from Eva’s point of view, Gideon’s motivations remain concealed until the end. For me, I was surprised by what was happening in the margins of this book. In beginning this book, readers should understand that this story is about the internal change of these characters more than the plot. As a result, progress between these two is slow and often times feels glacial with many setbacks. I think that because I know that there are five books in the series, the pace of the relationship change doesn’t bother me. This is definitely a long term project. This book also slips into a crazy plot that is compelling but unbelievable. On the other hand, the problems that these two abuse survivors face feels more real than books where all the past is neatly resolved in 400 pages.

WORTH MENTIONING: Less sex in this book than in the first (which seemed to have a sexual scene on every other page) but that is a good thing.

CONNECTED BOOKS: REFLECTED IN YOU is the second book in the Crossfire series. It should not be read out of order. This series needs to be read in order as it tells one complete story.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

Review: Bared to You

Bared to You
Bared to You by Sylvia Day
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Surprisingly Compelling Start to Continuing Romance Series

FINAL DECISION: I didn’t have high expectations for this book, but I ended up really liking this story of two seriously damaged people who find one another and stumble their way through beginning a relationship with one another. The book had more depth than I expected.

THE STORY: Eva Tramell has moved to New York and begun a new job when she meets Gideon Cross, filthy rich and gorgeous. Gideon, at first wants Eva for some recreational no commitment sex, but when Eva refuses him, Gideon cannot forget Eva and so begins to make concessions to be with Eva. Both Gideon and Eva are damaged people whose pasts still haunt them and influence their relationships. This book is only the beginning of the romance which continues in subsequent books.

OPINION: It’s a good thing that Eva and Gideon have several subsequent books to work on their relationship because the two are pretty messed up as the series begins. I initially did not have high expectations for this book because I read that it was in the vein of 50 Shades of Gray. I thought this book was so much more. Eva and Gideon both have demons in their pasts. As a result, their attempts at having a relationship are frustrating because neither is good at relationships. Their relationship has fits and starts as they draw together and then break apart as they allow their pasts to come between them. This push and pull works here because with every mistake, the two end up drawing closer together. Much is left unresolved by the end of this book and thus one needs to continue to read the series. There are five books total in the series and things are not going to be resolved until the final book so readers should be willing to accept unfinished storylines.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book begins the romance between Gideon and Eva but readers should be prepared to commit to the other four books in the series. Much is left unresolved and unknown by the end of this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BARED TO YOU is the first book in the Crossfire series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

Review: Highland Rogue

Highland Rogue
Highland Rogue by Arnette Lamb
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Funny, with a Twist on the Classic Governess Story

FINAL DECISION: A quirky old school romance with a hero with four illegitimate daughters, a heroine who is an indentured servant who lies to get a job as the governess, HIGHLAND ROGUE has a crazy plot and a super romance.

THE STORY: Juliet White, an indentured servant from Virginia comes to Scotland to find her sister’s daughter. Masquerading as a governess, Juliet enters the household of Lachlan MacKenzie, Duke of Ross who has four illegitimate daughters — one of whom might be Juliet’s niece. Juliet tries to find out Lachlan’s secrets while avoiding the randy Scotsman’s charms.

OPINION: A hero with four illegitimate children conceived at around the same time is an unlikely hero and yet Lamb makes it work. The hero is imperfect and has made serious mistakes, but the book allows the readers to see real growth in Lachlan. I also really liked Juliet who reluctantly falls for Lachlan as she discovers depths to him she did not expect and also she falls for his daughters. She is smart, clever and dedicated. There are so many characters and yet this book does a great job of giving each of them a distinct personality. I especially liked the daughters’ characters and can see why this book led to a trilogy with Lachlans’ daughters romances.

I thought this book was fun, sensual and filled with emotions and surprises. The characters are interesting and the story kept me engaged.

I only have a small complaint and that is when Juliet’s big secret is ultimately revealed, it is resolved too easily and quickly to be taken seriously as a big impediment to Lachlan and Juliet’s happiness.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book has an interesting mix of historical information one might not expect to be found together combining New World indenture and Highland history.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HIGHLAND ROGUE is the prequel to the Clan Mackenzie Trilogy which tells the stories of Lachlan’s daughters. The book is also a spinoff of THREADS OF DESTINY but you don’t need to read that book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.