Review: Once a Soldier

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: Once a SoldierOnce a Soldier (Rogues Redeemed, #1) by Mary Jo Putney
Series: Rogues Redeemed #1
Published by Zebra on June 28th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 368
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: This was an enjoyable read but not particularly compelling a re-read.  I enjoyed the characters and the story and was glad that I read it.  I thought that the hero was really sweet.

THE STORY:  Will Masterson went to war despite being heir to a title.  He was running from his past but years of war have made him yearn for home in England.  Now that the Peninsular Wars have ended, Will has one last mission to complete before he can return home.  Will escorts a group of soldiers back to their home in San Gabriel in order to see how the kingdom fares.  In San Gabriel, Will meets an Englishwoman Athena Markham.  There are sparks between Will and Athena from the beginning, but Athena’s past makes her distrust men especially titled gentlemen.

OPINION:  This story is heavy on the action as Will and Athena work to save San Gabriel.  The romance between them is slow and steady and wrapped in their duties toward the kingdom.  I didn’t feel that the romance was intense and sparkling but rather of two people who have the same values and loyalties finding one another.

While I enjoyed the story overall, I didn’t feel that there was a deeply compelling romance between Will and Athena.  I thought they were a match, but their story didn’t have the intense interest for me that I consider a requirement for a 5 star book.  On the other hand, I did believe that the book had a good overarching story (including a secondary romance) and likeable characters that I cared about.

Because the characters met in unusual circumstances, their behavior did not rely on convention which made their characters more interesting.  Because the action of the book takes place far from the ballrooms of London, the characters are not as restrained and seem more free and real. I liked how modern Athena feels (not improper for the times, just strong and independent) and how Will is drawn to Athena because of those attributes.

I think this book is a good kick off to the new series and I hope we see more of Will and Athena in the future.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This new series follows a group of men who met by chance when they were sentenced to die as spies and then escaped together.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ONCE A SOLDIER is the first book in the Rogues Redeemed series.  The hero in this book also appears as a secondary character in the Lost Lords series.  One doesn’t have to read that series, however, to enjoy this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: Addicted

Review: AddictedAddicted (Outlaws #2) by Elle Kennedy
Series: Outlaws #2
Published by Signet on June 28th 2016
Genres: Futuristic
Pages: 368
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“I go where you go.”

FINAL DECISION:  Friends to lovers story that is emotionally complicated, sexy and a great second book in the Outlaws series.

THE STORY:  In the post-world outlaw world, Lennox and Jamie have known one another almost all their lives.  They are the closet of friends — almost family. After the events of the first book in the series, CLAIMED, the two have moved into the Outlaws compound.  Jamie has a crush on one of the Outlaws, but Lennox knows that she will always return to him.  Jamie loves her hot friend, but what she is not willing to do, however is risk giving into the strong sexual attraction between them because their friendship is more important than sex.  When Jamie realizes that her crush is futile, she turns to her best friend and things seriously heat up between them.  The two have to discover whether it is possible to be the best of friends and the best of lovers.

OPINION:  If a hot sexy, erotic romance can depict a hard violent life and yet have a sweet romance at its core, this book it is.  Lennox and Jamie have a long relationship that they have kept as friends, but sexual attraction has been an underlying factor for a long time. The two have a deep relationship and understanding of one another.  Once they begin their sexual relationship, they discover that no matter their hopes, things are different and they must learn to navigate their new feelings and desires.  I thought the shifting relationship between Lennox and Jamie was particularly complex and subtle.  These two love one another but learn to be in love with one another.

I was impressed with how Lennox and Jamie dealt with their sexual history with others (you have to accept that these two had sex with other people while in the same room) with such equanimity.  I also loved how these two highly sexed people come to realize that they are so possessive of one another that they don’t want other people involved in their sex life at all.

This book begins to flesh out more the overarching story of the series. I have a great fondness for storylines which span a series.  I believe this gives the books more depth and reward readers, like me, who like to commit to reading multiple books.  This book doesn’t pick up that story right where CLAIMED left it (and if you haven’t read claimed, you can figure out all the pertinent points in ADDICTED).  Instead, ADDICTED gives a new viewpoint and a new set of problems that I expect with intersect at some point with the events in the first book.

Finally, this book managed to surprise me. I didn’t expect the death of a character.  I like it when writers can do the unexpected.  I ended up liking this book better than the first one because the romance and conflict felt much more cohesive.  I may even end up liking the first book better because the world these characters inhabit is becoming more familiar. I can’t wait until the next book (the romantic conflict begins here).

WORTH MENTIONING: The book depicts both the hero and heroine having sex with other people before they get together and a couple of MMF scenes including the hero and heroine together.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ADDICTED is the second book in the Outlaws series. While a reader of the first book will be ahead in knowing about this world, ADDICTED can be read as a standalone since all the relevant information is given here.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

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

We are also having a giveaway for a copy of CLAIMED, the first book in the Outlaws series.  Enter here by 6/30. Claimed Giveaway

four-half-stars

Review: Angel in Scarlet

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: Angel in ScarletAngel in Scarlet (Bound and Determined, #4) by Lavinia Kent
Series: Bound and Determined #4
Published by Loveswept on June 28th 2016
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-stars

“I want to trap a man.”

FINAL DECISION:  Kent once again has a great balance between erotic sexual encounters and the building of an emotional connection between the hero and heroine.  I enjoyed the trip and think this book a great addition to the series.

THE STORY:  Angela Ripon wants revenge on the man who she thought intended to ask for her hand in marriage but instead rejected her.  For this purpose, Angela goes to Madame Rouge (Ruby) a brothel owner to find out how to make this man desperate for her so that she can reject him.  Ruby tells Angela that she must shed all her inhibitions.  Matthew Harkness, Earl of Colton never intended to hurt Angela, but his tastes don’t run to sweet vapid innocents.  Then Angela approaches him and he begins to wonder if she might indeed be the woman he needs.

OPINION:  Romance books that slip towards the erotica category sometimes substitute hot sex for emotional connection between the characters.  Kent’s Bound and Determined series has done a great job of using the hot sex to explore and heighten the emotional connection between the hero and heroine.

As Angela and Matthew discuss the limits and desires that each of them have, they learn to communicate with one another.  Their relationship begins before the novel starts and ends because of lack of communication and assumptions.  As Angela claims to want revenge on Matthew, the truth is that she cannot let go of the connection she felt with him.

Adventurous and a bit wicked, Angela felt her joy suppressed by Matthew’s perceived betrayal.  While she tells herself that she wants revenge, her willingness to participate in Matthew’s proclivities demands trust.  Although the two begin without much trust between them, their sexual exploration develops and then deepens the trust between them.  As their sexual relationship becomes more intense, their emotional connection blossoms and flowers. I especially liked how Matthew curbs his own desires in order to synchronize his desires with Angela’s willingness. Ultimately, the sexual relationship between Matthew and Angela is about trust and caring and the unity of desire.

WORTH MENTIONING:  There is a minor MMF scene.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ANGEL IN SCARLET is the fourth book in the Bound and Determined series.  This book can be read as a standalone although other characters from the series make cameo appearances.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: How the Duke was Won

Review: How the Duke was WonHow the Duke Was Won (The Disgraceful Dukes #1) by Lenora Bell
Series: The Disgraceful Dukes #1
Published by Avon on April 26th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 370
Goodreads
four-stars

“Four ladies.  Three days.  How bad can it be?”

FINAL DECISION: Funny and with unconventional characters, HOW THE DUKE WAS WON is a light and amusing Regency romance.  The unexpected characters and hysterical situations made this a winner.

THE STORY:  James, Duke of Harland requires a bride.  Having unexpectedly inherited the dukedom, he wants a bride who has a spotless reputation and is the epitome of what a duchess should be so that he can leave her in England to manage the dukedom’s affairs while he returns to his international interests.  To efficiently choose his bride, James invites four eligible women and their mothers to spend some time at hi estate so that he can choose among them.  One of the women is Lady Dorothea who is supposed to be a paragon but who quickly appears unconventional and attracts James despite his reluctance.  But Lady Dorothea has secrets.  The biggest one is that she is not Lady Dorothea at all but rather her illegitimate half-sister Charlene Beckett. Charlene has agreed to impersonate Lady Dorothea in order to secure a proposal from the duke. If Charlene does this she will gain a fortune which will allow her to care for those she loves.  The problem is that Charlene begins to care for the duke herself.

OPINION:  At points in this book I laughed hysterically.  This is definitely not your proper restrained Regency novel.  No, indeed, it is irreverent and tosses some tried and true Regency tropes on their head.

The hero is a duke, but he is neither stuffy nor conventional. At the same time, his view of what he needs in a wife is completely conventional and conservative.  He defaults to this view in order to keep his distance from any potential mate.  As Charlene tell him, James has become an expert at running away from love and connection.

Charlene may be impersonating her half sister, but despite her great accomplishments she has internalized the rejection that her father and society have given her.  Through her competition with the other ladies, she finds that she is not inferior in any way.  In fact, she wins the duke’s heart as well as the proposal.

I like that both James and Charlene are unconventional people and thus complement one another perfectly.  I loved how Charlene steals James’ heart despite his wish for a conventional wife.  The twist at the end as all is revealed endeared me further to him.

The only reason this isn’t a five star romance for me is that I generally prefer more drama and angst in my stories.  For a lighter, funny romance this one sparkles.

WORTH MENTIONING:  I suspect that we will see many of these characters again in future book in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  HOW THE DUKE WAS WON is the first book in The Disgraceful Dukes series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Lover Reborn

Review: Lover RebornLover Reborn (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #10) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #10
Published by NAL on March 27th 2012
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 592
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“If I can live though the events” she said, “I can get through the memories.”

FINAL DECISION:  Ward takes a difficult romance and slowly draws readers into the heart of these characters.  A minor quibble about the rationale of an important element of the story keeps this from a higher rating, but I thought this was a great addition to the series.

THE STORY:  In the vampire world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, it has been over a year since Tohrment’s shellan and unborn child were murdered.  He is a shadow of himself unable to move forward.  Instead, he hopes for the day when he will be able to join his loved ones in the fade.  Then Tohr finds out that his beloved and child are trapped by his love and longing in the inbetween unable to find peace in the fade.  The only way to save her is to move on with another woman.  The woman who has caught his interest is No’One who is trapped in her own way.  She had been raped and gave birth to a daughter as a result.  Committing suicide immediately after the birth, No’One was given a second chance, which she has taken by serving others by cleaning and living a modest sacrificial life.  She agrees to help Tohr help release his loved ones by connecting with her in a sexual way.  But the two end up finding more than they expected with one another.

OPINION: This is a book about people who are trapped in one way or another. Tohr is trapped by his love of his shellan Wellsie and his unwillingness to let go of that past.  Wellsie and her child are trapped by Tohr’s love.  No’One is trapped by her rape, pregnancy and suicide.  For Tohr and No’One guilt (even though unwarranted) plays a strong role in trapping them.  While the plot centers around Tohr’s determination to save Wellsie, the central conflict is how Tohr and No’One free themselves and one another.

I commend Ward for writing a story about grief and the guilt that survivors feel.  It would have been infinitely easier to find a way of bringing Wellsie back. Many more fans would have been satisfied.  Instead, she wrote about moving on and the joy that can be found by those who are left behind.  I thought this story was complex and nuanced and the fact that it was a huge book where the events happened over a long period of time gave realism to the story.

My one complaint is that I don’t think there is any logic why No’One despite having committed suicide is allowed to return to the world why Wellsie is sent to the fade.  Ward, to her credit, addresses that controversy, but doesn’t really have a good explanation.  A reader thus has a choice — accept that things in life don’t have logical explanations or complain and fret about the illogical events. Perhaps, Wellsie’s work in the world was done and No’One still has a purpose.  Like so many tragedies in life, there is no answer.

I very much enjoyed this book and have acclimated to Ward’s multi-narrative approach to these books.  There are several secondary storylines.

John Matthew and Xhex are having problems adjusting to being mated.  John Matthew doesn’t find it as easy to accept Xhex risking her life as he had believed.

Qhuinn/Blay/Layla/Saxon continues to steam along.  It is clear from the end of the book, however, that Qhuinn and Blay’s book is next.

Xcor and his Band of Bastards continue to make themselves into the the opponents to the Black Dagger Brotherhood.  At the same time, the Lessers which have been the primary enemies to this point have begun to diminish in importance.  Xcor and his followers have some interesting developments in this book.

I greatly enjoyed this book.  After some initial problems when Ward changed her narrative focus in the series, I have again tremendously enjoyed this series (although they are better for me when I space out the reading rather than gorging on them).

WORTH MENTIONING:  Ah, I loved how this book ends with a nod towards the next book about Qhuinn and Blay.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  LOVER REBORN is the tenth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. This book, as is true with others in the series, has overlapping storylines which begin before this book and some which continue into subsequent books. I think it is almost impossible to understand what is happening in this book without having read the others in the series first.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Giveaway: Claimed by Elle Kennedy

by Elle Kennedy
Genres: Futuristic

In anticipation of ADDICTED the second book in the Outlaws series which will be released on Tuesday, June 28th, we are giving away a paperback copy of the first book in the series.  If you haven’t tried the series, check out our recent review of Claimed.

Claimed (Outlaws, #1) by

US only apologies to international friends.

Use Raffllecopter to enter the giveaway leave a comment below as to what one book you would want to have if the world fell apart and following us on Twitter by 11:59 pm PST July 1, 2016. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Archangel’s Heart Cover Reveal

by Nalini Singh
Genres: Paranormal

Simply gorgeous cover for the next book in the Guild Hunter series!  I’m especially excited that this book focuses again on Raphael and Elena.  How amazing does Elena look here?

Archangels Heart Cover

Archangel’s Heart is the 9th book in the

Guild Hunter

Archangel’s Heart releases November 1st!

Now Available for Pre-order HERE: http://bit.ly/28P4Qel

Add it to your TBR: http://bit.ly/GoodreadsArchangelsHeart

Blurb

One of the most vicious archangels in the world has disappeared. No one knows if Lijuan is dead or has chosen to Sleep the long sleep of an immortal. But with her lands falling into chaos under a rising tide of vampiric bloodlust, a mysterious and ancient order of angels known as the Luminata calls the entire Cadre together to discuss the fate of her territory.

Accompanying her archangelic lover Raphael to the Luminata compound, guild hunter-turned-angel Elena senses that all is not as it seems. Secrets echo from within the stone walls of the compound, and the deeper Elena goes, the uglier the darkness. But neither Raphael nor Elena is ready for the brutal truths hidden within—truths that will change everything Elena thinks she knows about who she is…

Nothing will ever be the same again.

Author Information

nalini Singh

Nalini Singh is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Psy-Changeling, Guild Hunter, and Rock Kiss series. She lives and works in beautiful New Zealand, and is passionate about writing.

If you’d like to explore her other books, you can find lots of excerpts and free short stories on her website. Slave to Sensation is the first book in the Psy-Changeling series, while Angels’ Blood is the first book in the Guild Hunter series. The Rock Kiss books are all stand alone and can be read in any order.

STALK HER:  Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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Review: Claimed

Review: ClaimedClaimed (Outlaws, #1) by Elle Kennedy
Series: Outlaws #1
Published by Signet on October 6th 2015
Genres: Futuristic
Pages: 368
Goodreads
three-half-stars

“Didn’t anyone ever tell you that you can’t always get what you want?  I think someone even wrote a song about it once.”

“I don’t care.  I still want to come with you.

“Sorry, sweetheart, but this is a boys-only club.”

Her agitated expression gave way to indignation.  “Wow.  So you’re rude and sexist.”

FINAL DECISION:  A mixed bag that started out slowly but won me over by the end with its intriguing characters.  By the end of the book, I liked this book enough to want to continue to read the series.

THE STORY: In a dystopian future, the world consists of an authoritative government which tightly rules cities and outlaws which exist without rules and without resources hunted by the enforcers of the government.  Hudson Lane, a privileged woman from a city, runs when an unwanted marriage is going to be forced upon her.  In the outlaw world, she finds Connor Mackenzie who leads a small band of men.  Hudson begs Connor to give her refuge.  Despite his reservations, Connor agrees to show Hudson the ways of the Outlaw world which is violent and intensely sexual.  Hudson, however, has secrets which will cause Connor to distrust her.

OPINION: This book was mixed bag.  Sometimes a first book of a new series that involves world building can feel uneven as too many things have to be accomplished in the first book.  That is true here.  For me, the book started out slowly as the numerous characters from the series are introduced and the highly sexual, violent world is introduced with its particular rules.  During these pages, I found it difficult to get connected with the characters — especially Connor.  In a way, the beginning mirrored some of the worst of erotica, with sexual encounters more about titillating with body parts and multiple partners rather than any emotional connection.  By the end of the book, I decided that some of the emotional disconnect is purposeful as it reflects the emotionless sexual encounters that are common in the outlaw world.

Once Connor and Hudson began to emotionally connect, the book got much better for me.  I genuinely began to care about the characters and their journey.  The pace of the story also began to pick up at that point as the drama of Hudson’s secret became more relevant.

Women and men in the Outlaw world are fiercely independent and both have sexual autonomy without moralistic constraints or restrictions.  Just about everything goes in the Outlaw world.

I also liked that this first book leaves some questions about what is going on with the enforcers and what the future holds in this world.  I especially like that the series seems to be created with an overarching storyline.  I prefer my series to truly be connected rather than just having completely separate storylines.

By the time this book ended, I wanted to read more about Connor’s men and this world.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a lot of sex combinations in this one.  MMF with depictions of MFF.  The hero and heroine have sex with other people during the book both with and without the other present.

CONNECTED BOOKS: CLAIMED is the first book in the Outlaws series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3.5 stars.

NOTE:  I received a free copy of this book from the publisher at the RT Convention. I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

three-half-stars

Review: Something Wicked

Review: Something WickedSomething Wicked (Malloren, #3) by Jo Beverley
Series: Malloren & Friends #3
Published by Signet on January 4th 2005
Genres: Historical
Pages: 374
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Loved how Beverly made this enemies to lovers story feel real.  The issues involved are paced out so well.  I loved the connection between Elf and Fort even as I initially thought the premise was going to be ridiculous.

THE STORY: Lady Elf Malloren is on the shelf at the age of 25, the youngest of the Malloren sibling, Elf has a wild side that she feels pulling at her as her twin brother has married.  With her friend, Elf attends a masquerade at Vauxhall.  The night ends with her being kidnapped by her family’s enemy Fort Ware, Earl of Walgrave.

OPINION: I loved how this story came together.  Fort hates the Mallorens for something that happened in the past.  Fort is coming apart and doesn’t know how to handle it.  He struggles with his guilt and anger.  When he comes across a young masked woman that he ends up kidnapping, he doesn’t realize that he has captured Elf.  The attraction between Fort and Elf is palpable.

I questioned the premise of this book.  I found it improbable that Elf could hide her identity from Fort.  I still found it somewhat incredible, but ultimately, it only diminished my enjoyment in a minor fashion.

I especially liked the story after Fort learned Elf’s true identity.  There was no quick resolution to the conflict.  These “enemies” still had a ways to travel for them to have a happy ending.  Fort is a hero who evolves through the book in surprising ways.  His conflict is not what I would have expected.  Without using the words, he is clearly suffering from depression combined with guilt and self-loathing.  I have a great fondness for wounded heroes and I liked Fort as this incarnation of wounded hero because he is clearly a funny and gentle man who is tormented.  He was my favorite part of the book.

Elf is an intriguing heroine.  A conventional life does not satisfy her.  Her intelligence and determination are central to her character — along with her wickedness.  The dialogue and situations are snappy and fresh.

This was a very enjoyable read and I look forward to reading more of this series.

WORTH MENTIONING: After reading this book, I want to read the others in the series.  That is the best testament to this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  SOMETHING WICKED is the third book in the Malloren & Friends series. It is not necessary to have read the other books in the series.  I haven’t read them and easily figured out everything I needed to know.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Bay of Sighs

Review: Bay of SighsBay of Sighs (The Guardians Trilogy, #2) by Nora Roberts
Series: The Guardians Trilogy #2
Published by Berkley on June 14th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Paranormal
Pages: 319
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION:  I enjoyed this book but it felt like the middle book it is. It is dependent upon knowing what happened in the first book including the relationships which developed there and in the end the story feels incomplete because there is another book left to go.

THE STORY:  This book begins right after the events of Book 1 of the Trilogy.  After acquiring the first star in their quest, the band of six have moved on to the search for the second star.  Annika, the mermaid, has a special role to play here in the search for the water star.  Granted legs for only a few months, Annika enjoys her life on land and her flirtation with Sawyer King.  Sawyer is the traveler with control of a compass which can take one through space and time.  Sawyer is attracted to Annika but worries about getting involved with the lovely mermaid who will only be on land for such a short time.  As Sawyer and Annika along with their friends search for the star, danger lurks with the reappearance of their enemy. She has a new minion to threaten the six as the danger increases.

OPINION:  I really wanted to like this book.  I had been looking forward to the story of the mermaid because it had ready made angst involved since she was only given legs for a limited amount of time.  What disappointed me most in this book was the resolution or lack thereof of that impediment.  I have hopes that the issues might yet be resolved in the final book, but as a story, I was disappointed in the poor version of a happy ending that Annika and Sawyer have to endure.

I also thought that their romance was given short shrift here.  The romance seemed expected and neither fought too hard. The drama in the story came from the plot regarding the stars.

On the other hand, I thought that this was a good continuation of the first book in the series and set up the final book in a way that made me highly anticipate it.  The story was action packed and I love the relationship that has developed between the six.  The book would have been more highly rated by me except for my disappointment with the resolution of Annika and Sawyer’s story.

WORTH MENTIONING:  I want to read the final book about the immortal and the werewolf more than I wanted to read this one.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  BAY OF SIGHS is the second book in the Guardians Trilogy.  This book relies heavily on having read the first book in the series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars