Review: Lake of Dreams

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: Lake of DreamsLake of Dreams by Linda Howard
on May 2, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Paranormal
Goodreads
three-half-stars

“It was as if he had been stalking her in her dreams, inexorably moving closer and closer to a conclusion that she already knew.  Because, in her dreams, only sometimes did he make love to her.  Sometimes he killed her.”

FINAL DECISION: I love gothic romances where there is a question of whether the love interest is the hero or the villain.  This story is so good that I was sad that it was resolved so quickly.

THE STORY: Thea Marlow has been having unsettling dreams which haunt her.  She keeps dreaming of a man who loves her passionately or kills her. When she goes to her family home by the lake, a knock on the door reveals the man of her dreams or her nightmares, Richard Chance.

OPINION: This novella has all the makings of a great gothic.  It is spooky and creepy and it is not clear until the resolution what is happening or what the outcome will be.  I don’t want to give away too much of the story because this novella is all about the mystery of what is happening.  Apart from the story, the characters don’t have much substance so this is not a novella in which to fall in love with characters. This story has a secret of what is happening and the question of whether or not Thea will live until the end. I loved the story but was disappointed that the ending came too quickly, too directly and too simply.  It is an enjoyable read, but it really depends upon the mystery so I don’t think it is a story for repeated readings.

WORTH MENTIONING: LAKE OF DREAMS has already been published in STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT and EVERLASTING LOVE so check to make sure you don’t have it already.

CONNECTED BOOKS: LAKE OF DREAMS is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this novella 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: Sidebarred

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: SidebarredSidebarred (The Legal Briefs, #3.5) by Emma Chase
Series: The Legal Briefs
on April 24, 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads
five-stars

Coda to The Legal Briefs Series is A Treat for Fans

“This is my life now.”

FINAL DECISION: A love letter for fans of the Legal Briefs series, SIDEBARRED takes readers into the adjustments and joys of the happily ever after of Jake, Chelsea and the six children they are raising.

THE STORY:  Two years of marriage have managed to be wonderful and yet things are changing again for Jake and Chelsea.  They have managed to navigate raising six children and two careers.  Happily ever afters are something that a couple has to keep working at and desires and wants might change as well.

OPINION: The story of a man who loves his wife, the children he has taken on as his own and his friends, SIDEBARRED does not take the route of creating unnecessary discord between Jake and Chelsea.  Instead, this novella emphasizes how much these two love one another, their willingness to talk and work through their problems and the compromise essential to any good marriage.

This novella was not necessary to the series and one could read the series without it, but as a fan of the characters of the Legal Briefs series, I enjoyed spending just a little more time with these people. Having Jake be the focus of the novella was appropriate because having taken on being the father of six children, he has the most difficult road amongst all the characters of the series.

Fans of the series will be pleased to get an update on all the couples and the adorable McQuaid children. I loved the adorable epilogue to APPEALED but SIDEBARRED brings the series to a close in a sensitive, emotional and funny way.

WORTH MENTIONING: 17 years later epilogue.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SIDEBARRED is book 3.5 in the Legal Briefs series. It really should be read after the series because it depends upon readers knowing the characters, but at the minimum SUSTAINED should be read.

STAR RATING:  I give this novella 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: The Bollywood Bride

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 Bollywood BrideThe Bollywood Bride (Bollywood) by Sonali Dev
Series: Bollywood #2
Published by Kensington on September 29th 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 352
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Painful, Sad but Ultimately Hopeful About Love

“Vikram was smiling. The last time she’d seen him he had looked like he would never smile again. She had looked into his eyes and watched him break, watched the gray-blue crystals shatter to bits. He was smiling.”

FINAL DECISION: Dark and emotional but ultimately uplifting, THE BOLLYWOOD BRIDE is darker in tone than Dev’s first book but infused with the same wonderful characterizations and sense of community and ultimately joy in life. Not an easy read, but a worthwhile one.

THE STORY: Ria Parker had loved Vitram Jathar when they were children. She knew, however, that they had no future and so she betrayed him and broke his heart. Ten years later, Ria is a successful Bollywood actress known as the Ice Princess because she doesn’t let anyone close. Her career has been scandal free until a paparazzi gets too close to her dark past. Returning to Chicago to attend a family wedding, Ria comes face to face with Vitram again. She knows that their being apart is best for Vitram but Ria can’t help but love the boy of her childhood and the man who hates her now.

OPINION: This book is sad and yet there is ultimately acceptance and hope. Ria is haunted by her family’s history and as a result has decided to spent her life alone. A casualty of that decision is Vitram. The two were childhood friends and young lovers together until Ria’s destiny tore them apart. I enjoyed the complexity of Ria. I didn’t like nor could I condone many of her decisions, but I certainly understood them. It is a special book that allows the reader to disagree with the character but comprehend their motivations. I liked Ria because she is an incredibly strong woman. She has dealt with so much in her life and tries to do her best.

Vitram is adorable. Strong and dedicated and yet gentle with those he loves, he makes a journey in this book. From anger, disappointment and hate, he opens himself up through forgiveness. Even before he understands Ria’s motivations, he forgives her.

Ria and Vitram have a serious and emotional chemistry from the moment they meet. They have no blinding moment of falling in love. The two have always loved one another – first as friends and then as lovers. The anger and pain that these two experience makes this a book that I had to read in bites and put down. The story is complicated and heartbreaking at times.

Dev has a distinctive voice. Her characters are immersed in their community and family. Readers of THE BOLLYWOOD AFFAIR will find this book darker and initially bleaker than that book. The story contemplates issues of destiny, identity, and family but always focuses on the characters. The desire to separate from one’s history, yet the inexorable pull back into the past is finally resolved when the characters accept the possibility of future pain but choose to be hopeful about the future.

I enjoyed this book and recommend it especially because of Dev’s strong, complex characters and unique view into Indian-American culture. My only downgrade of the book is because I wish that Vitram’s voice was more present. He is incredibly forgiving considering Ria’s actions and it would have been nice to understand more what was in his mind.

WORTH MENTIONING: Spoilers! This novel deals with mental illness is a realistic and painful manner.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE BOLLYWOOD BRIDE is a standalone.

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 positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-half-stars

Review: The Viscount Always Knocks Twice

The Viscount Always Knocks Twice (Heart of Enquiry Book 4) by Grace Callaway
Series: Heart of Enquiry #4
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Fun Feisty Romance with a Good Mystery and Lots of Sexy Scenes

“He had no doubt that Miss Violet Kent was responsible for the state of his mind and body.”

FINAL DECISION:  This is a fun romp of a historical romance with plenty of sexy scenes, a enemies to lovers story, and a little mystery tossed in.

THE STORY:  Violet Kent is an unconventional woman. She likes sports and wearing trousers. She is always getting into trouble because of her curious nature. Her best friend is a man and his brother wants to keep her away because he believes her to be an untrustworthy flirty. Richard Murray, Viscount Carlisle is determined to protect his brother from Violet. When they end up at a house party together, Violet and Richard reluctantly have to join forces to solve a murder for which Richard’s brother might be the prime suspect.

OPINION: I’m a fan of Callaway’s books and this one is in the middle for me.  I enjoyed the characters and their interactions — the two seem to have no hope of getting together in the beginning.  Violet is definitely not a stereotypical historical miss with her tomboy tendencies and her desire to help investigate crimes.  She is outspoken, gets in trouble that would destroy reputations of the women in most historical novels, and doesn’t blink at engaging in pre-marital sexual exploration with Richard.  The blatant sexuality of this book is typical of Callaway’s books, but I have enjoyed other books more.

For me, the tension between Violet and Richard is resolved too soon and the story relies more on the mystery to move the action forward.  While the story is perfectly fine and I enjoyed it, I missed the sizzling sexual tension in Callaway’s other books.

The book is a quick read and there is plenty here for followup in future books. I also enjoyed Richard’s character as he has to grovel for his poor treatment of Violet in the beginning of the books — and I always enjoy the hero having to grovel.

WORTH MENTIONING: Callaway’s books are always filled with very sexy scenes and this book is no different although most of it stops short of intercourse.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE VISCOUNT ALWAYS KNOCKS TWICE is the fourth book in the Heart of Enquiry series.  Although characters from the other books appear, this book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: Because of Miss Bridgerton

Review: Because of Miss BridgertonBecause of Miss Bridgerton (Rokesbys #1) by Julia Quinn
Series: Rokesbys #1
Published by Avon on March 29th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 375
Goodreads
four-stars

Bridgerton Prequel Spinoff That Satisfies High Expectations

FINAL DECISION: A worth successor (although a prequel) to the fabulous Bridgerton series, BECAUSE OF MISS BRIDGERTON is good with the feel of the Bridgerton novel with a whole batch of new characters, a different time period, and a different set of troubles.

THE STORY: Billie Bridgerton is what might be termed a tomboy. The eldest child, she loves the family estate and helps to run it, although she is denied the opportunity to inherit because she is a girl. She knows she will eventually marry and everyone (including her) expects that she will marry one of the Rokesby brothers, lifelong neighbors. There are so many choices between the brothers, but the one brother Billie never plans on hitching herself to is George, the heir of the earldom and the one that Billie can’t help but bicker and argue with. The two can’t stand one another and yet when they are thrust together unexpectedly, they find that the sparks they strike off one another might hide a passion for one another.

OPINION: I am a big fan of Quinn’s Bridgerton series. As a result, I worried that this book would be a disappointment because so many of those Bridgerton books are classics. For me, BECAUSE OF MISS BRIDGERTON doesn’t meet the best books of the Bridgerton series, but it would fall smack in the middle of the series. It is sold and satisfying and at times hilarious.

BECAUSE OF MISS BRIDGERTON has the wit and humor and genuinely nice characters for which Quinn is famous. I am a big fan of the “adversaries” to lovers trope. This one has hysterical situations between Billie and George. The two have known one another forever and yet never looked at one another in a romantic fashion before. Quinn is well known as having couples who fall in love slowly and unexpectedly. This story realistically portrays two people who grew up together but for the first time see one another as a romantic partner. I loved that they have so much in common and have a deep respect for one another which comes from their familiarity with one another. The romance in this one takes some time to develop but ultimately is sweet and fulfilling.

WORTH MENTIONING: Fans of THE VISCOUNT WHO LOVED ME’s infamous Pall Mall game will find another fabulous — and yet different — game here.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BECAUSE OF MISS BRIDGERTON is the first book of the Rokesby series which is a prequel spin-off series to Quinn’s immensely popular Bridgerton series. This book can totally be read as a standalone even though there are lots of Easter eggs for fans of the Bridgerton series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Dream a Little Dream

Review: Dream a Little DreamDream a Little Dream (Chicago Stars, #4) by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Series: Chicago Stars #4
Published by Avon on February 1st 1998
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 400
Goodreads
five-stars

A Story of Love After Loss

DREAM A LITTLE DREAM is the fourth novel in Phillips’ Chicago Stars series. It doesn’t actually deal with the Chicago Stars team, but rather is a spin-off of NOBODY’S BABY BUT MINE. DREAM A LITTLE DREAM is the story of Gabe Bonner, the younger brother of Cal Bonner in NOBODY’S BABY BUT MINE. Two years ago, Gabe suffered the loss of his beloved wife and son in a car crash. If not for his family, Gabe would have nothing to live for. He has abandoned everything in his life and is merely existing. Rachel Stone has come back to Salvation, North Carolina. Rachel is the hated widow of a discredited televangelist, but now lives in serious poverty with heroine year old son.

Gabe and Rachel are two people who have been smacked down by life. Both have great pain that they have to deal with in their journey to happily ever after. This story is more poignant and less funny than the other books in this series. It is not always easy reading about the relationship that Gabe has with Rachel’s son. Gabe is not very nice. I appreciated the realism of the story. It is a longer journey for Gave and Rachel’s so than for Gabe and Rachel. I really enjoyed the story and I was happy to get an update on Cal and Jane. There is also a sweet secondary story involving the youngest Bonner brother Ethan.

I highly recommend this book.

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five-stars

Review: Dirty

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: DirtyDirty (Dive Bar, #1) by Kylie Scott
Series: Dive Bar #1
on April 19th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 288
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Warm, Emotional Romance with Humor and a Great Cast of Characters

“We’d both had dreams go lopsided.”

FINAL DECISION:  Funny and emotional kick off to Scott’s new series centered around a location — Dive Bar – with characters who come together at a crossroads in their lives and unexpectedly find a new path forward together.

THE STORY:  Lydia Green is having a terrible day.  It is her wedding day and she gets a video of her groom making out with his best friend — and best man.  Fleeing from her wedding, Lydia ends up crying and soaked in her wedding dress in the shower of Vaughan Hewson.  This encounter is complicated by the fact that they have never met before, Lydia has broken into his house, and Vaughan is naked.  Vaughan and Lydia begin a friendship that day as both has been shaken up by life.  Vaughan is a musician whose group has just broken up, he is broke and confronting the death of his parents.  As Lydia and Vaughan put the pieces back together, they may find out that they are building something together they didn’t expect.

OPINION:  I’ve read all of Kylie Scott’s books and I think this one may have the most romantic hero ever.  Vaughan has lines that just made me sigh with adoration.  There is a scene where the Vaughan and Lydia are lying together in bed with their pinkies linked together.  This scene is so incredibly moving and so quiet and gentle.  I normally like the intensely emotional books with large dramatic scenes. This scene and others in the book were so gently beautiful that it stuck with me.  I read the book a week ago, have read several books in between and yet that scene sticks with me.

The main characters in this book are really likeable.  (There are secondary characters that I didn’t like as much, but I look forward to seeing their development). Vaughan is sweet and definitely sexy (oh la la, the opening meeting between Lydia and Vaughan).  He is also a good man who never plays games with Lydia.  Caring and protective but no wimp, Vaughan helps Lydia without taking over her life.  I simply adored him.

Lydia is a woman who wants to belong.  Her disaster with her fiance forces her to confront this need and push past it.  A plus sized woman, she has a poor self-image of herself.  Through her work at Dive Bar and her relationship with Vaughan, Lydia finds a strength and resilience that she always had but didn’t see in herself.  After the hysterical flight from her marriage, Lydia shows maturity and strength. I liked her in all her quirky nature.

This book also sets up conflicts and storylines that I expect will be explored in future books in the series.  Lydia and Vaughan’s relationship is straightforward compared to what is coming up — I can’t wait!

WORTH MENTIONING: Kylie Scott has a marvelous ability to create a whole community of characters who have complicated relationships, difficult lives, real affection for one another, and sometimes great pain between them.  The characters in and surround Dive Bar (who hopefully will be getting stories of their own in this series) are a group worth cheering for.  BTW: Stage Door fans get a little treat in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  DIRTY is the first book in the Dive Bar series.  This series is a very lightly connected spin-off of the Stage Door series, but you don’t need to read that series to enjoy this one.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: One with You

One with You
One with You by Sylvia Day
My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars

Worthy Conclusion to the Crossfire Series

FINAL DECISION: Finally, the story of Eva and Gideon comes to a conclusion, but there is a lot of external drama to get through before this couple is ready to move on to their happy ending. Bringing the series to a satisfying close, their relationship shows a stability and maturity that they have been working towards.

THE STORY: Continuing right where CAPTIVATED BY YOU ended, the book opens with Eva and Gideon meeting after Eva’s ultimatum regarding Gideon’s interference with her job and Eva’s revealing Gideon’s abuse to his stepfather. The two continue to navigate their relationship as they deal with the aftermath of their respective childhood abuse. Married now, the two are committed to one another and yet continue to have problems with communicating with one another rather than keeping secrets. As this book begins, Gideon has finally opened up regarding his abuse. Now the two need to resolve all the external issues threatening them.

OPINION: In a finale worth waiting for, this novel wraps up most of the pressing issues from the series. Most importantly, it shows the depth of the relationship between Gideon and Eva and demonstrates how much their relationship has grown and matured. The problems the two face are even larger now, but they have learned to trust one another, defy their own instinctive reactions and turn to one another. The action in this book is more external as most of the emotional conflicts have finally been resolved by Gideon and Eva.

Gideon finally made a breakthrough at the end of CAPTURED BY YOU and he continues his development after acknowledging the sexual abuse he suffered. He finally begins to work with Eva instead of working around her.

These books have portrayed interesting takes on people who have suffered abuse. Gideon and Eva reacted differently to their abuse and the effects continue to be what the two have to work through. This book isn’t all sweetness and light, however. There are some tough moments for these two to get through. By the end, however, I really got the sense that these two would make it.

WORTH MENTIONING: Not everything is resolved in this book. Not everything is tied up neatly rather this book makes it clear that Gideon and Eva will make it but leaves the supporting characters’ stories somewhat unresolved. People who want everything spelled out will be disappointed.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ONE WITH YOU is the fifth book in the Crossfire series. It should be read as part of the series as the series follows one couple through their relationship.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.25 stars.

Review: Taken by the Earl

Review: Taken by the EarlTaken by the Earl (Regency Unlaced 3) by Carole Mortimer
Series: Regency Unlaced #3
Published by Smashwords Edition on April 2nd 2016
Genres: Historical
four-half-stars

I Loved This Historical Romp of a Novella

FINAL DECISION: This short novella was fun, sexy with a tight story and a romance that I really enjoyed. This was my favorite of the series so far.

THE STORY: Mrs. Felicity “Fliss” Randall is a respectable widow. When she overhears a plot to murder the new Earl of Winterbourne, she is determined to warn the Earl. She ends up having to get an invitation to a notorious house party where she approaches the Earl in his bedroom. When Sinclair Montgomery finds Fliss in his bedroom, he believes the woman he finds in his room is there for pleasure and begins to make love to her. When Fliss insists he listen to her, Sin doesn’t know whether to believe Fliss, but she sure wants her.

OPINION: This was an enjoyable romp with a very sexy premise. Fliss has been restrained and respectable all her life. She has always done what she should until she decides that she must warn the Earl of Winterbourne of the murder plot against him. That decision leads Fliss to do things that she never dreamed of doing. She discovers a recklessness and a sensuality that she never imagined during her perfectly respectable marriage. What’s not to love about a Scottish hero named Sin who is determined to show the heroine her own sexual power and pleasure. The connection between the two is wonderful and the plot serves to move the romance forward without taking away the focus from the relationship between Fliss and Sin.

WORTH MENTIONING: Oh, there is a gentleman in this book who so deserves a happy ending of his own some day.

CONNECTED BOOKS: TAKEN BY THE EARL is book 3 of the Regency Unlaced series. This novella can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this novella 4.5 stars.

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four-half-stars

Review: Dragonfly in Amber

Review: Dragonfly in AmberDragonfly in Amber (Outlander, #2) by Diana Gabaldon
Series: Outlander #2
Published by Bantam on August 7th 2001
Genres: Historical, Time Travel
Pages: 743
Goodreads
five-stars

Political Intrigue and Romance With Claire and Jaime

FINAL DECISION: I ended up liking this one better than OUTLANDER itself. The story seemed tighter, the relationship between Claire and Jamie more complex and although there is plenty of death and pain in this book, it felt more civilized after the events of the first book. And I ended up in tears for most of the end of this book.

THE STORY: After the events of OUTLANDER, Jaime and Claire have fled to France. There they will try to prevent the coming battle of Culloden in order to prevent the destruction of the Highlanders culture. Their scheme requires them to participate in Eighteenth Century French court politics and intrigues with Bonnie Prince Charlie and the King of France. There are still repercussions from Jamie’s torture and rape at the end of OUTLANDER. Intrigues, danger and the past threaten to tear Jamie and Claire apart even at the point where they share joy at the coming of their child.

OPINION: I liked OUTLANDER, but I liked DRAGONFLY IN AMBER more. OUTLANDER was about Jamie and Claire discovering one another and falling in love. This book is about letting their love and marriage mature. In OUTLANDER Jamie and Claire ran the gauntlet of danger. This book is a slow burn. Things are quieter, more outwardly civilized and yet even more complicated and dangerous. Politics, society and intrigue take up the majority of this book.

For those readers who read OUTLANDER but don’t know more about the series, they will be surprised by the beginning of this book. (I don’t want to give it away, but it is a clever story device to begin the narrative there instead of being strictly chronological). The book feels fresh and different after OUTLANDER. The characters have grown and changed (not always for the good) and there are lots of new characters to get to know. Old friends and enemies also have returned so there is a good reason to review the events of OUTLANDER if you haven’t read it in a while.

Jamie is more remote in this book after the events with Jack Randall in OUTLANDER. He is still struggling with the aftermath and the pressures of trying to save the entire Highlands. Being involved in the political intrigue means that he and Claire spend less time together and thus immense pressure is placed on their relationship.

Claire is also struggling to find her role in this new situation. The new life in the Court of France has new conflicts and restrictions upon this twentieth century woman. She has to use her imperfect knowledge of the past to help avoid Culloden while know knowing whether such a thing is possible. She is also struggling with her relationship with Jamie. She gave up her entire life to be with him and now she has to deal with those consequences.

On a more philosophical point, the book also investigates the idea of changing the past. Is it even possible for Jamie and Claire to change the events that lead to Culloden or does everything they do actually cause that event to happen? Can the past be changed at all? These are universal themes in time travel stories and this book examines those issues with complexity and subtlety. Even better, there are no real answers.

I began reading OUTLANDER when the television series started because I always want to read the books first and I began reading this one in preparation for Season 2. I don’t know if I have been influenced by the series, but I felt that this book went more quickly and the events were clearer, the characters more defined and the outcome more devastating. I cried through the end of the book because it was incredibly well written and sad. At the end of this book, I desperately wanted to begin VOYAGER (book 3) to find out what happens.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book ends on a cliffhanger.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DRAGONFLY IN AMBER is the second book in the Outlander series. It can be read as a standalone, but why do that. Read OUTLANDER first to really appreciate DRAGONFLY IN AMBER.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

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five-stars