Review: Unclaimed

Review: UnclaimedUnclaimed (Turner, #2) by Courtney Milan
Series: Turner #2
Published by HQN Books on September 20th 2011
Genres: Historical
Pages: 422

Courtesan and Virgin Trope Elevated

UNCLAIMED is the second novel in the Turner series about the three Turner brothers. This book is about Mark Turner, the youngest and a virgin (but not innocent as he tells the heroine). Mark has written a book that has taken society by storm. It is a book about chastity for men. Mark’s reputation has masse other men want to ruin him. Jessica Farleigh is a courtesan who has come to seduce Mark and ruin him publicly in order to get enough money to stop being a courtesan.

I am not a fan of this troupe, but this book is much more than that basic story plot. Milan has created real, dynamic characters who experience so much pain and growth. I loved these two together especially because Milan does not allow their happy ending to come easily.

Both of these characters have reputations that do not encompass who they really are. They are more complex than the label. Mark is not a virgin because of his moralistic principles but because he doesn’t want to cause harm. Jessica is not a poor girl ruined by a man and in need of rescue. Jessica is strong but at the same time she receives from Mark’s regard an ability to make things right for herself.

I loved this book much more than I had expected. One doesn’t have to read the prior novel and novella in this series, but UNVEILED does give the reader more information and understanding of the charger of Mark and the Turner family.



Review: Persuasion

Review: PersuasionPersuasion by Jane Austen, Gillian Beer
Published by Penguin Classics Genres: Historical
Pages: 236

“She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older: the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning.”

FINAL DECISION: Finally, a Jane Austen book that I really liked.  I know that I am a heretic because Austen has never really appealed to me.  This second chance at love book, however, struck me because I really felt for Anne because she made a mistake in her youth and she grew from the experience.  And there is a happy ending!

THE STORY:  Eight years ago, Anne Elliot was to marry Captain Frederick Wentworth before she was dissuaded by her family that he was not an appropriate man for her to marry because of his lack of standing and wealth.  Now Frederick and Anne meet again.  At the age of 27, Anne has never married and deeply regrets her decision years ago.  Now Frederick intends on finding a bride, but it will not be Anne.

OPINION: Up front I will confess that I’m not a Jane Austen fan.  I can appreciate that they are classics, but, for the most part, I find the stories too filled with social conventions and discussions whereas I am more interested in the characters and emotions of the story.  I often find that I like the main story but get bored by all the surrounding events.

For some reason, this book hit me much better.  The story seemed more focused, the heroine more appealing to me.  Perhaps because Anne’s mistakes were years ago and she has had time to reflect and regret and grow, I could understand what had led her to make a mistake and liked her better because of it.

I also liked the Anne and Frederick’s relationship and liked watching them work their way back to one another.

WORTH MENTIONING:  PERSUASION is the last of Austen’s completed novels and was not published until after her death.


STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Seduced

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

Review: SeducedSeduced: The Wicked Woodleys by Jess Michaels
Series: The Wicked Woodleys #5
on May 17, 2016
Genres: Historical

“I have never been abducted by a lady before,” he drawled, looking at her pale face in the dim carriage.  “This is very exciting.”

FINAL DECISION: An enjoyable conclusion to the Wicked Woodleys series that essentially is an add on to RUINED.  Employing one of my favorite tropes: the lower class hero with a heroine who is his social better, this story lacked the angst of RUINED but still had a lot of action.

THE STORY:  Jack Blackwood is known as Captain Jack, a criminal mastermind who is king of the criminal world that lurks in London. As his brother has married into the titled class, Jack ends up mingling with the aristocracy. There he meets Viscountess Leticia Seagate, a widow who has a secret.  As the two circle around one another, Letty decides to take a lover and can think of no one who fits her better than Jack.  There is danger, however, as Jack has a rival for his business who threatens him and anyone he cares about.

OPINION: Jack and Letty’s story was enjoyable but a little bit of a letdown from the wonderful RUINED. For me, there was a lot of things going on in the story (Letty’s secret, Jack’s enemy, Letty’s brother’s issues) and while I enjoyed the book, I was not enthralled.  I felt that with so much going on, the connection between Letty and Jack was not as strong as I would like.

I still enjoyed the book especially because I am a fan of the lower class hero story.  Michaels has done several of this trope in this series and I seriously love these guys.  Jack is a criminal but he clearly has done well for himself and is in the process of improving himself.  The marriage and happiness of his brother has made him question his own life.  It is at this pivotal time that he begins his relationship with Letty.  The two expect nothing beyond sex from one another and yet, they become intertwined with one another.

I liked the sexy relationship between Jack and Letty and there is always a sense of equality between them personally even if society does not see it.  I also liked how Letty’s personal sense of worth is healed by Jack’s devotion to her.

Overall, I found the story and romance uneven but I liked the characters, loved getting updates on the prior couples and was satisfied with the book as a whole.

WORTH MENTIONING: Michaels also gives a nice update on the other Woodley couples without it being forced.  A nice treat for fans of the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  SEDUCED is the fifth book in the Wicked Woodleys series.  The book gives readers enough information to be read as a standalone although I recommend reading RUINED first because the two stories are closely connected.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.


Review: Troublemaker

Review: TroublemakerTroublemaker by Linda Howard
Published by William Morrow on May 10th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 400

FINAL DECISION: Different than I expected from the description, this book is about two guarded people who are forced together and unexpectedly find peace and love.  Less suspense and more traditional romance, this is a solid book that lacks the power of Howard’s best but is a good read.

THE STORY:  Morgan Yancy, a team leader for a paramilitary group, is ambushed and almost killed.  To protect him, Morgan is sent to a small West Virginian town and told to lay low.  Morgan ends up the housemate of Isabeau “Bo” Maran, the part time administrative police chief.  Bo isn’t happy to house Morgan, but she can’t turn the recovering man away.  Bo knows that Morgan is trouble just when her life seems to be going right.

OPINION:  This was an enjoyable, although not outstanding, read.  I expected the book to be more suspense than it was.  It ended up being bookended by the suspense story but the middle is really a standard romance.  I really liked the quiet between these characters.  Morgan and Bo are both loners and not used to opening up to others.  The quiet time they spend together, the peaceful, alone time they spend was what made their relationship work.

The gentle way in which the two open up and end up finding understanding and companionship withe one another was the best part of the book.  The romance takes a slow journey which was good and worth reading.

I thought the suspense part of the story was fairly predictable with no real surprises as to the villain of the tale.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is primarily romance with a smattering of suspense thrown in.


STAR RATING:  I give this book 3 stars.


Review: This Heart of Mine

Review: This Heart of MineThis Heart of Mine (Chicago Stars, #5) by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Series: Chicago Stars #5
Published by Avon on February 5th 2002
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 432

Witty Story of Two Kindred Souls

THIS HEART OF MINE is the fifth novel in Phillips Chicago Stars series. Molly Somerville is the younger sister of the owner of the Chicago Stars. She has always been so perfect except for times when she has changed her hair — and then a reckless, self-destructive person has emerged. Kevin Tucker is the quarterback for the Chicago Stars and Molly has had a long-time crush on him. The two end up together and Molly takes advantage of Kevin while he is asleep. She ends up pregnant and they end up married. That is where the romance actually begins.

This book is not for everyone. Molly, in essence, rapes Kevin while he is sleeping. This premise will probably turn off some readers. Having lived through the bodice ripper romances, however, this did not prevent me from enjoying the romance. There is also a miscarriage and its emotional aftermath that I thought was dealt with in a realistic manner. Ultimately, I enjoyed this story of two people who want love so much but are afraid of being hurt. Phillips has a way of making a story funny and yet serious. The characters in her story make serious mistakes on their way to happiness, but I liked the journey. A Story that can make me smile ans sigh at the same time is special indeed.

I’d rate this a 4.5.



Review: Big Easy Temptation

Review: Big Easy TemptationBig Easy Temptation (The Perfect Gentlemen, #3) by Shayla Black, Lexi Blake
Series: The Perfect Gentlemen #3
Published by Berkley on May 3rd 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384

“You broke her heart.”

“Yeah, well, she broke mine, too.”

FINAL DECISION:  The most emotionally complex story of the series so far, BIG EASY TEMPTATION expands the overarching conspiracy while always keeping the focus of the story on the characters and their relationship.

THE STORY:  At their first meeting almost decade ago, Naval Officer Dax Spencer knew that Holland Kirk would be special to him.  The two circled around one another for years until 3 years ago.  The death of Dax’s father brings the two together as Dax seeks answers to what happened to his father.  Holland’s work as a NCIS agent gives her jurisdiction and for a time the two work together and finally begin building a relationship.  Then everything falls apart separating the two.  Now the two reunite as the conspiracy The Perfect Gentlemen are investigating appears connected to Dax’s father’s death. Dax has questions for Holland about what happened three years ago.

OPINION:  I loved the emotional complexity of this story.  The narrative is unusual in that the story is divided in two parts. The first part takes place in the past and ends badly with Holland and Dax separated.  The second part begins in present time and ultimately brings the two lovers back together.  I especially liked that the story takes the time to bring readers into the past and show the entirety of what went wrong with Holland and Dax.  Without that context, it would be difficult to understand and forgive the betrayals that tore them apart.  By following Dax and Holland through the entirety of their story, the pain they both experience is more immediate, fresher and thus more devastating than a mere exposition of the past would have been.

This is a second chance at love story and I became engrossed in Dax and Holland’s journey and was deeply saddened at the end of the first part of the story and then rejoiced when the two found on another again.  The complexity of the story, the characters and the emotional heft of the story matched the increasing complexity of the overarching story.

One thing I especially like about this series is that each of the books in the series is different.  This is the not a series with different characters in the same story. Each of the stories, each of the characters, each of the situations and challenges are different.  At the same time, each of the novels adds to the overarching story and I love that I get to see all the characters throughout the series.

Both Dax and Holland make many mistakes on their way to finding one another and I like the optimism of that.  Even with all their mistakes and misses in getting to their HEA, the do eventually get there.

The most angst filled story so far, this book feels like a pivot point in the series as the third of the five Perfect Gentlemen gets his woman and some of the outlines of the conspiracy are beginning to be revealed.  The conspiracy which has ensnared The Perfect Gentlemen is breathtaking in its scope.  It also keeps me guessing!

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book also reveals the likely pairings for the other Perfect Gentlemen and now I can’t wait for the next book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BIG EASY TEMPTATION is the third book in The Perfect Gentlemen series.  This book should be read as part of the series because the suspense thread is part of an overarching story.  The overarching mystery continues past this book as well so be willing to continue to read the series.  Not a hardship!

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

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


Review: Seduction in Session

Review: Seduction in SessionSeduction in Session (The Perfect Gentlemen, #2) by Shayla Black, Lexi Blake
Series: The Perfect Gentlemen #2
Published by Berkley on January 5th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 400

“He’s taken one glance inside Lara’s fridge and known he would need help to survive.  The woman didn’t even have real milk.”

FINAL DECISION: The second entry in The Perfect Gentlemen series is funny, suspenseful, and spicy hot.  Connor, Lara and all the supporting cast of characters makes this a read that is fast paced and exciting.

THE STORY:  Connor Sparks, one of the Perfect Gentlemen, has picked up the mystery of who killed one of their own. A mysterious informant has sent the crew looking at Lara Armstrong, who runs an online tabloid, Capitol Scandals.  Connor, who works for the CIA, intends to use all his skills to find out what Lara knows.  Pretending to be a bodyguard, Connor inserts himself into Lara’s life but finds that the quirky woman brings a light to his life that the man who has lived in darkness for so long desperately wants.  Lara is a woman who wants to change the world but when someone tries to kill her, she has to turn to her sexy new bodyguard for protection.

OPINION: A perfect blend of humor, complex drama and suspense, SEDUCTION IN SESSION picks up where the first book in the series left off.  The overarching mystery continues as the question of who killed Maddox expands into a true conspiracy that goes far beyond the murder of one man.  I love that the suspense story is not external to the characters and the romance, but rather is built into the fabric of the relationships both between the hero and heroine but also The Perfect Gentlemen themselves.  I adore a good romantic suspense but only where the focus remains on the romance and not the suspense.  Here, as with the first book in the series, I found the balance just perfect. The overarching story kept me turning pages, while I relaxed into the romance between Connor and Lara.

The romance between Connor and Lara is complex and intriguing with a layer of humor which kept the story from being too dark.  Connor is a man who is marked by all the work he has done to protect people.  Working for the CIA has led Connor into a dark world and he now sees himself separate from those he cares about because of his secrets.  When he first approaches Lara, Connor knows that he will find a spoiled girl who is playing at revealing secrets or a woman who is trying to harm his friends. What he discovers instead is a woman who believes in the good in people and who wants to help others.

It is was easy for me to fall a little in love with Connor.  I love heroes who are wounded and have a darkness at their core. Connor is a good man who has had to do bad things for good reasons.  The love of a good woman brings him into the light.

Lara is not a character that I normally would like.  She is fussy with her Vegan diet, her obsession with environmental and social issues. She did eventually win me over because her genuine concern and caring for others, her ultimate recognition of the complexity of the world and her ultimate complete acceptance of Connor showed her to be someone that I could like and see as a match for Connor.

In less talented hands, these characters could have been caricatures.  Instead, the story goes deep into these two people giving them depth and complexity and life.

This series scares me a bit because I feel that it is one that I will want to re-read again and again, but so much depends upon the remainder of the series because these books are so intertwined.

WORTH MENTIONING: I’m not a big fan of pets in books because they often are a distraction, but I loved Lara’s struggling Vegan dog Lincoln.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  SEDUCTION IN SESSION is the second book in The Perfect Gentlemen series.  I cannot recommend a reader skip the first book, the stories build upon one another in the overarching story so just start at the beginning with this series.  You won’t regret it.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.


Review: Scandal Never Sleeps

Review: Scandal Never SleepsScandal Never Sleeps (The Perfect Gentlemen, #1) by Shayla Black, Lexi Blake
Series: The Perfect Gentlemen #1
Published by Berkley on August 18th 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 400

“Gabriel Bond really wanted to murder his best friend.”

FINAL DECISION:  How did I miss this series?  I absolutely loved this book which has funny, sexy and likeable characters, complex issues, an intriguing mystery and is hot, hot, hot!  I totally fell in love with the characters and flew through this book.

THE STORY: Gabriel Bond, one of the six “Perfect Gentlemen” of Creighton Academy, is left adrift after the death of one of his best friends Maddox Crawford.  Grieving and angry and a little lost, Gabriel seeks some forgetfulness with a woman he meets in a bar.  Everly Parker isn’t a woman who engages in one night stands, but the handsome and sexy Gabriel is an opportunity that she doesn’t want to pass up.  Things become complicated, however, when Everly and Gabriel meet again and find out that Gabriel is Everly’s new boss and Gabriel finds out that Everly is the woman he believes was Maddox’s mistress.  Then Gabriel becomes a suspect in Maddox’s murder.

OPINION: This book just sucked me in and wouldn’t let go. The Perfect Gentlemen are sexy, dominant men who have a funny and even somewhat sweet relationship.  They call one another brothers and their relationship is the central pivot point in the overarching story. The men needle, tease, taunt, challenge one another and are devoted to one another.  Without this foundation in the book, it would be impossible to understand or believe what these men are willing to do for one another.  The unshakable relationship between these men also serves to show how important the relationship between Gabriel and Everly becomes as she dislodges the other Perfect Gentlemen as most important to Gabriel.

Some readers might grumble about the fact that the overarching mystery that begins in this book with Maddox Crawford’s death is not resolved in this book.  I like my series to be closely connected and prefer that there be overarching issues which thread through all the books in the series.  This book is just about perfect in that regard.  Some questions are answered in this book and some questions linger on and is picked up by the next book in the series.  The romance itself is complete.

Before I began reading romances, I was an avid mystery reader and I still really enjoy a good romantic suspense or romance/mystery book.  My complaint is often that either there is too much suspense and little romance or the mystery is no real mystery but rather nothing more than an excuse to create drama for the hero and heroine.  Not so here.  The mystery seems organic and vital to the story and yet never overshadows the romance between Gabriel and Everly.  I was satisfied with the answers I got in this book even as I wonder about the bigger questions left unanswered.  Obviously, I don’t know what the ultimate answers are but the writers have earned my trust by creating a clever and intelligent beginning.

While Gabriel is definitely a yummy hero.  Unapologetically a highly sexed man, I loved how Gabriel doesn’t apologize for his sex life and doesn’t ask Everly to apologize for hers.  Powerful and yet willing to listen to Everly (after some initial misunderstandings). He treats her as an equal to him intellectually and sexually.  He’s funny and sexy and has some darkness in his past — what’s not to love?

I adored Everly as well.  She is smart and capable.  And can she handle Gabriel!  I especially like that Everly has a profession that is not usually given to women in books.  She is head of information security and is a hacker.  Her particular skills are especially useful in the mystery.  Loved, loved that Everly is not a damsel in distress but an active participant in the story and in the mystery.

This book just hit me in the right spot.  In fact, the hardest decision for me was whether to read the next book right away or re-read my favorite parts of this book.  My decision was to continue with the series and then re-read.  The best of both worlds.

WORTH MENTIONING:  The books in this series all deal with one overarching mystery that begins with the death of Maddox Crawford in this book. The overarching mystery is not resolved here even though the immediate issues raised in the book are resolved.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  SCANDAL NEVER SLEEPS is the first book in The Perfect Gentlemen series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

NOTE: I received a free paperback copy of this book at the RT Booklovers Convention. There was no request or requirement that I write a review or that I say positive things about this book.  All opinions contained herein are my own.


Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

Review: Lessons in Pleasure

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

Review: Lessons in PleasureLessons In Pleasure by Victoria Dahl
Published by Lyrical Press on May 10th 2016
Genres: Historical

“Sarah Rose Hood was in love with her husband. She was almost sure of it.”

FINAL DECISION:  An enjoyable read, LESSONS IN PLEASURE is the story of a new husband and wife exploring their sexuality together.  The historical context gives some twists to the story that makes it especially intriguing.

THE STORY:  Sarah Rose Hood married with hopes of companionship and care. She cares for her husband, James Hood.  James is a young barrister with a seat in the House of Commons.  The two have been marrried for two months.  Just as the two begin more deeply exploring their sexual relationship, Sarah begins having fears about a secret she kept from her husband.

OPINION:  This was an enjoyable read.  Sarah and James are a sweet couple together. The story is really about Sarah’s innocence and the historical ignorance about women’s sexuality.  This novella is sexy and I really do enjoy books about married couples finding deeper levels of intimacy between them both emotionally and physically.  This novella hits all those points.

A very enjoyable one time read that brings a different historical perspective.

My only complaint is that the format doesn’t really allow much time to get to know these characters.  The focus is on the situation and thus I never really completely connected with the characters in a way that would make this novella one I would want to pick up again and again.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This is a very short novella.


STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.


Top 10 New to Me Books I Want to Read After RT Booklovers Convention

by Alice Clayton, Alyssa Cole, Donna Grant, Elle Kennedy, Em Shotwell, Julie Murphy, Katherine Reay, Leigh Bardugo, Lexi Blake, Savannah J. Frierson, Shayla Black

In April, I attended the RT Booklovers Convention in Las Vegas. It was a fantastic experience.  The parties were fun, the panels were usually very interesting and I came home with bags full of free books, but what I loved most was standing around talking with people about the books that they love.

The convention opened my eyes to authors, genres and all kinds of books that I never knew were out there.  I made a commitment that I would pick 10 books by authors that I haven’t really read before and try them out in the next year.

There is no method in the books I chose other than my limitation that they not be from authors that I regularly read. I ended up with dozens of possible books to read, and decided to just chose 10 that sparked my interest in some way.

What follows are my list of books in no particular order:

Blackbird Summer

Blackbird Summer by Em Shotwell: This might be the most shallow reason for choosing a book — I was walking around the book fair and loved the cover of this book.  I spoke with the author who gave a good pitch for the book.  It features a heroine with supernatural powers and takes place in the rural South. It happened to be on sale on Kindle so I bought it right then. The cover looks like a pictures I’d like to have on my wall.

Mixed Signals (Off the Grid, #3)

Mixed Signals by Alyssa Cole:  I saw the author speak at one of the panels and was impressed by how articulate and funny she was.  I really like clever books so I have hopes that this author’s personality will transfer to what she writes. The book is part of a post-apocalyptic series and I’m going to have to decide whether or not to read from the beginning of the series or start here.

Being Plumville

Being Plumville by Savannah J. Frierson:  I met this author at the Book Fair.  I was wandering around talking to different authors and approached her table.  I asked what her book was about.  When she told me that the story was about an interracial couple in the 1960s, I was hooked.  I know I haven’t read this book before so I was determined that it would make my list of books to read.

Scandal Never Sleeps (The Perfect Gentlemen, #1)

Scandal Never Sleeps by Shayla Black and Lexi Blake: One of my favorite events at the RT Convention was the Perfect Gentlemen event.  Lots of cool swag and a free copy of this book along with a signing by the authors.  As we waited in line for the signing, the group of women I was with laughed and drank the pink champagne.  It was a fun time. The entirety of the event plus the blurb on the back made me put this book in the read really soon pile.  A group of powerful and really sexy men finding strong women while investigating the death of one of their members is definitely my type of catnip.


Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy: This book was chosen as Book of the Year at the RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards.  I love the idea that all people deserve a happy ending.  Once again, I was impressed with the author as she accepted her awards that night.  Her remarks were touching and I knew I would have to read this book.

Wallbanger (Cocktail, #1)

Wallbanger by Alice Clayton: Lot of buzz about this author and series at the convention.  Someone else had recommended the book to me a while ago, Sarah MacLean has recommended it several times, and the repeated recommendations at the convention finally moved it to my list.

Dear Mr. Knightley

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay:  I went to the Sweet Romance Morning Coffee Break event and this author was in attendance.  One of the attendees at my table recommended reading this book and I was intrigued by the letter writing involved in the book and its connection to Pride and Prejudice.

Claimed (Outlaws, #1)

Claimed by Elle Kennedy: Another of those post-apocalyptic books, I received and ARC of the second book in this series at a blogger event and decided I had to look at this book to decide if I had to read it first.  I read the blurb “Her best chance at survival is Connor Mackenzie, an aggressively sensual fugitive who opens her eyes to the wicked possibilities of a world without rules.” and I had to add it to my list.

Smoke and Fire (Dark Kings, #9)

Smoke and Fire by Donna Grant: Dragon Shapeshifters.  Nothing else needed except I do need to decide where I want to start with this series.

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1)

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo: I talked to many people able YA books and two different people suggested this book to me.  I know that it was on sale on Kindle not long ago so I decided I would give it a try.

Over the next year, I’m going to read these books.  Stay tuned to read my reviews.

Do you create book challenges for yourself? If so, what is on your challenge list?