Review: Beauty and the Billionaire

Review: Beauty and the BillionaireBeauty and the Billionaire (Billionaire Boys Club, #2) by Jessica Clare
Series: Billionaire Boys Club #2
Published by Berkley Intermix on July 16th 2013
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 261

FINAL DECISION:  Disappointing because I did not find the story interesting beyond the concept and I felt no connection between the hero and heroine.

THE STORY:  Hunter Buchanan lives alone with his scarred face and body.  When he sees Gretchen Petty, he wants to find a way to get her into his life so he arranges for her to be offered a book deal that requires her to live in his mansion for a month.  Gretchen needs money and some space so she accepts the job.  Things go wrong when she meets Hunter for the first time when he is in the nude.  As Gretchen tries to convince Hunter that she is interested in him, she has to overcome his aloneness and his mistrust.

OPINION:  I love Beauty and the Beast stories and this one had an interesting concept.  Unfortunately, I didn’t like much else about the book.  I found the heroine annoying, self-absorbed and pretty thoughtless.  For two people who lived together for a month, there didn’t seem to be much between them except sex and frankly that wasn’t that exciting either.

I was bored by the entire plot of the book and couldn’t wait for it to end.  For me, I just felt that Hunter would realize that there are better women out there once he got some experience and opened himself up to other people. It’s not a good sign when I hope the couple doesn’t get together.


CONNECTED BOOKS:  BEAUTY AND THE BILLIONAIRE is the second book in the Billionaire Boys Club series.  It can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 1.5 stars.


Review: 738 Days

Review: 738 Days738 Days by Stacey Kade
Series: 738 Days #1
Published by Forge Books on June 7th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 432

“Oh yeah, she’s definitely not ready.  And neither am I.  This is such a bad idea.”

FINAL DECISION:  A powerful, angst filled story that retains a great amount of charm and humor, 738 DAYS is the story of two people who are rebuilding their lives and find inspiration in each other to become their better selves.

THE STORY:  Amanda Grace was abducted at the age of 15 and held for 738 days until she was rescued.  In the small room where she was held there was a poster of teen heartthrob Chase Henry which Amanda credited for helping remind her of home.  Now at the age of 20, Amanda is struggling to get her life together.  She fears that life will never consist of anything but her fears and her difficult relationships with her family members.  At 24, Chase is washed up.  A recovering alcoholic after experiencing the excesses of Hollywood, Chase is trying to pick himself up again.  When his publicist suggests surprising Amanda with a personal visit and the opportunity to go to the set of the movie Chase is working on, Chase believes it is a chance for him to get some good publicity.  Instead, things go horribly wrong. Despite that beginning, Amanda and Chase strike a deal.  Chase will get some good publicity and Amanda will get a chance to experience life away from her family. These two survivors don’t expect the growing connection between them.

OPINION: 738 DAYS is the story of two people who have experienced so much pain, mistakes and heartbreak in the young lives. As the two struggle to rebuild their lives, I especially liked that they don’t make one anther better rather each makes the other want to be a better version of themselves.  The story shares the truth that we cannot change for someone else, but we can become better to be worthy of those we love.

I was enthralled and mesmerized with this book which I couldn’t put down. The personal journeys of both Amanda and Chase were painful and yet redemptive. I especially loved that two people with so much pain in their lives had such a sweet and gentle love between them.  They have a difficult road and this book doesn’t shirk from that reality.  But their relationship is also funny and innocent and something quite beautiful. That reality is which compels them to chance their lives.

Told in alternating POVs, this book really digs into the emotional and mental journeys of Amanda and Chase.  Both begin the book allowing others to dictate their lives.  As the story continues, each learns to seize control of their lives and accept responsibility for their actions.  The dual POVs are important here where Chase could have otherwise come off as a serious jerk.  Because I could understand how he allows things to get away from him, I had more sympathy for him than I would have otherwise.

These two lost souls are bound together before they even meet and their journey is one of getting to know the real person beyond the headlines.  I think that focusing on the reality amidst the tabloid media gives the relationship between Amanda and Chase an intimacy, a focus and a reality that makes their story grounded rather than being a Hollywood fiction.

This book has a lot contained in it.  Both Amanda and Chase have individual redemption stories and then there is their romance along with some drama and mystery to push the story forward.  What is surprising is that everything gets resolved in a thoughtful manner.  By the time the book ended, I wanted more because the story was so good and I could read about these characters for hundreds of pages more.  Leaving readers satisfied but wanting more is a great accomplishment.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This is not a book I normally would have picked up.  Recommended in the Washington Post, I was intrigued by the blurb. Sometimes trying something new and unusual is greatly rewarded. For me, this was one of those occasions.

CONNECTED BOOKS: 738 DAYS is a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.


Review: Seeds of Deception

Review: Seeds of DeceptionSeeds of Deception (Kate Burkholder, #7.5) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #7.5
Published by Minotaur Books on May 31st 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery
Pages: 74

“Zimmerman’s Orchard was the last place fourteen-year-old Katie Burkholder wanted to be, especially with her older brother, Jacob.”

FINAL DECISION: An intriguing little story that gives more background and depth to Kate and her family and friends, this short story gives readers a glimpse into Kate’s life as a young teenager.

THE STORY:  Fourteen year old Amish Kate Burkholder is avoiding her chores with her best friend Mattie. When a barn burns, Kate is torn between the evidence and believing her best friend’s version of events.

OPINION: This short story taking place in Kate’s teenage years gives some interesting insights into Kate and her relationships with her Amish friends and family. Kate is as dogged as an adult and also willing to go for overall justice even if not particularly factual. I liked seeing this glimpse into Kate before her life became more dark and complicated.  I didn’t think this story was needed to understand Kate or those around her and I don’t think I would reach for this as a re-read but I was satisfied with the story.

WORTH MENTIONING: This story takes place not long before Kate’s rape.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  SEEDS OF DECEPTION is book 7.5 of the Kate Burkholder series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3 stars.


Review: Marrying Winterborne

Review: Marrying WinterborneMarrying Winterborne (The Ravenels, #2) by Lisa Kleypas
Published by Avon on May 31st 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 416

“I can’t be a gentleman,” he said hoarsely. “Not even for you.”

“You don’t have to be a gentleman. Only gentle.”

FINAL DECISION: Absolutely and completely adored Rhys, who might be one of my all time favorite Kleypas heroes.   I knocked down the rating a bit because I didn’t like Helen as much and became somewhat annoyed by her keeping secrets from Rhys.  Regardless, I overall enjoyed the book very much and look forward to the next in the series.

THE STORY: Rhys Winterborne is a Welsh commoner who has managed to create an business empire for himself. To complete his triumph he only needs an aristocratic wife to give him an entry into society.  Everything is going well with his engagement to Lady Helen Ravenel until their brief engagement is called off by Helen after their first kiss.  Then Rhys is surprised when Helen comes to him to plead with him to continue their engagement.  The gentle and quiet Lady Helen Ravenel seems a mismatch for the brash Rhys but something about him attracts her. She knows that she does not want to end their engagement although he overwhelms her. Helen scandalously comes to Rhys alone and is willing to do scandalous things in order to ensure their marriage.  As she falls for Rhys, however, Helen realizes that she has a secret that might destroy any chance they have together.

OPINION:  I would read this book again for no other reason that Rhys is so wonderful.  A self-made man who has the arrogance and determination required to be so, Rhys is also forwarding thinking, willing to adapt and change and take risks.  Incredibly supportive, understanding and really willing to do anything for Helen, I simply adored him.  What surprised me and endeared him to me most was his reaction once he discovered Helen’s secret.  Who could resist a man like that?

For me, the weakness of this book is Helen. She begins as a product of tradition and the stuffy aristocracy, but seems willing to break the chains in order to be with Rhys. Then he proceeds to keep secrets from him (which obviously will not be able to be kept secret) and fails to trust in him.  My annoyance with her grew as she takes bigger and bigger risks but won’t tell Rhys the truth.  (In comparison, Rhys is a saint).  It felt to me that she only revealed the truth when there was no other option rather than trusting in Rhys’ love for her.

I very much enjoyed this book and would read it again, but my reaction to Helen keeps this from being an instant classic for me.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Oh, oh I can’t wait for the next book of the series.  The preview for the next book gets 5 stars.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MARRYING WINTERBORNE is the second book of the Ravenels series.  Because the relationship between Rhys and Helen begins in the first book of the series, it is better to read that book first.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

UPDATE Feb 2018: I’ve given this book a 5 star review on re-read. Sometimes expectations of books can impact me when I read. This was one of those books. It didn’t go in the direction I expected from the reviews I had read and thus I was a bit deflated upon the first reading. Reading it a couple years later, I found that I found a subtlety of the relationship between Helen and Rhys that I really loved this time around. Also, the secrets in the story felt less forced this time. I truly loved this book this time around.


Review: The Suffragette Scandal

Review: The Suffragette ScandalThe Suffragette Scandal (Brothers Sinister, #4) by Courtney Milan
Series: Brothers Sinister #4
Published by Courtney Milan on July 15th 2014
Genres: Historical
Pages: 260

THE SUFFRAGETTE SCANDAL is the fourth novel in the Brothers Sinister Series. It can be read independent of all the others, but the others are so good that a reader should start with the prequel novella THE GOVERNESS AFFAIR. THE SUFFRAGETTE SCANDAL is the story of Frederica “Free” Marshall, the younger sister of Oliver from THE HEIRESS EFFECT. Free is a modern, strong, independent woman. She is a supporter of women’s rights and runs her own newspaper. Edward Clark is a self proclaimed scoundrel. Having been abandoned by his aristocratic family, Edward has spent years making himself. He returns to England to help an old friend and ends up involved with Free.

I loved this book. Free and Edward are characters that I haven’t seen before. Free is strong and independent without being strident and yet has brought pain to herself. Edward is damaged and believes himself unworthy of a happy ending. These two are haunted by their pasts but Edward has a very poor self image. I liked how adult and reasonable these two are. This book is also funny. From the beginning Free and Edward have a repartee that had me lagging, smirking and giggling. For me the pages flew in this book.

The romance ended up being sweeter than I expected, but I was completely happy with how the book turned out. Milan has a wonderful way of subverting expectations and tropes. The language, characters and resolutions always end up being fresh and vibrant. The previous heroes and heroines appear but not in ways that works befuddle new readers.

There is one additional novella that follows that will finish off this series. Huzzah!



Review: Out of the Frying Pan

Out of the Frying Pan by Courtney Milan
Series: Turner #2.5
Genres: Historical

OUT OF THE FRYING PAN is a short vignette posted on Milan’s website that gives more insight into the friendship/animosity between Richard Dalrymple and Smite Turner and the secrets they share. This short vignette is not intended to be read alone but rather is an add on for those who have read the series. Much of the information is disclosed in UNRAVELED as well, but having read it first, I understood some of the mysteries that were hinted at in UNVEILED.

This is a nice addition for fans.



Review: Proof by Seduction

Review: Proof by SeductionProof by Seduction (Carhart, #1) by Courtney Milan
Series: Carhart #1
Published by Entangled: Edge on July 7th 2014
Genres: Historical
Pages: 311

Story of People Trapped By Their Pasts

PROOF BY SEDUCTION is the first book in the Carhart series (there is a prequel novella as well). It is the story of Gareth Carhart, the Marquess of Blakely who is determined to save his cousin from the fraudulent fortune teller who Gareth believes is taking advantage of his cousin. Madame Esmerelda is actually Jenny Keeble who doesn’t intend to allow Gareth to judge her as unworthy.

This is Milan’s first book and is not as polished as her more recent books. Milan, however, has such an interesting take on characters. Jenny and Gareth are an interesting mix of hope and despair, optimist and pessimist. Both are constrained by what they see as their role in life although Jenny had taken the “bad” road while Gareth never deviates from what he sees as his role as Marquess. Jenny is adorable in this book and Gareth is hard to like because he protects himself with coldness and he has trouble connecting with people. I liked how Jenny challenges Gareth and he changes.

I ultimately liked this story because I felt that there was real change and growth in the characters.

The version I have is an enhanced edition that includes some additional information that reveals Milan’s thoughts about the book and explains some of the events, relationships, and quirks of the book.



Review: Once Upon a Marquess

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: Once Upon a MarquessOnce Upon a Marquess (The Worth Saga #1) by Courtney Milan
Series: The Worth Saga #1
Published by Courtney Milan on December 8th 2015
Genres: Historical
Pages: 372

Complex Romance to Kick Off New Series

“Once upon a time, there had been a marquess and Lady Judith Worth had thought that he would conquer the world. He had. She just hadn’t realized at the time that he meant to take it from her.”

FINAL DECISION: Complex and difficult situations face the couple in ONCE UPON A MARQUESS which proves that second chances are possible. Judith and Christian have a painful past and yet they yearn to be together. Complex, well written and an a great first course of the Worth Saga.

THE STORY: Judith Worth struggles to keep what is left of her family together. Eight years before, her life fell apart when her brother and father were accused of being traitors. The facts supporting the accusations came from the man that Judith once thought to marry. Christian Trent, Marquess of Ashford spent summers with the Worth family and Judith’s brother was his best friend. He expected to marry Judith but when he father killed himself and her brother was transported, Judith rejected him. Christian has never forgotten Judith. Now the two meet again when Judith needs his help finding out what has happened to her younger sister. Despite their sad past, the two still feel an uneasy attraction to one another.

OPINION: Milan is a master at crafting complex and difficult situations for her characters to navigate. ONCE UPON MARQUESS introduces readers to the Worth family who have many secrets. For me, the weakness of the book was the amount of exposition necessary to provide introductions to all the different dramas that are starting out for the members of the family.

I am a great believer in Milan’s work, however, and I am sure that the complexity and drama will continue and develop throughout the series.

The romance of Judith and Christian is difficult and I loved how they rationally talk through their issues. Milan’s characters are great talkers. Their romance is partially a debate regarding the issues that challenge their happiness. ONCE UPON A MARQUESS is not only about romance. It is also about finding oneself through challenges, about weighing following the letter of the law and the harm that it causes, about the challenges that women face.

MIlan’s books always make me think. Not only is the romance sweeping, but the issues they face are complex and the answer is not always clear. I thought that Judith and Christian have a sweet romance. Christian has challenges of his own. Losing Judith meant that he lost the woman who understood his quirks.

In the years since they parted, both Judith and Christian have been pretending. They have been living lives made comfortable by accepting lies. Those lies have become impossible for them to continue to live with. Christian fears that he made a mistake by disclosing the crimes of his best friend and Judith fears that her beloved brother might actually have been guilty of treason. Redemption for these characters comes from confronting reality rather than relying on comforting lies.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book introduces a whole lot of characters and situations that will be explored further in the subsequent books in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ONCE UPON A MARQUESS is the first book in the Worth Saga.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 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.



Review: Match Me If You Can

Review: Match Me If You CanMatch Me If You Can (Chicago Stars, #6) by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Series: Chicago Stars #6
Published by Avon Books on October 13, 2009
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 388

Great Addition to the Series

MATCH ME IF YOU CAN is the sixth novel in Phillips’ Chicago Stars series. It is the story of Heath Champion, the high powered agent to athletes and Annabelle Granger, a matchmaker. Annabelle has just taken over her grandmother’s agency and wants to land Heath as a client. Heath is looking for a elegant, sophisticated wife that will help him with his career and demonstrate how far he has come from the trailer park he grew up in. Although Heath is attracted to Annabelle, she does not fit his image of his wife. Of course, ultimately the two end up together.

I enjoyed this book although I think that this one is better for fans of the series than reading as a stand-alone. It was wonderful catching up on all the other characters from the previous books, but someone who was unfamiliar with the series might struggle to keep up with everyone. Also I was not as engaged in the secondary romance as much as I have been with those in past novels.

Despite this, however, I absolutely adored Heath. I just love having these high powered alpha types be completely undone by love. I also enjoyed how Annabelle and Heath change each other’s lives as they journey together.

I recommend this book and recommend it highly to fans of the series.



Review: Allegiance of Honor

Review: Allegiance of HonorAllegiance of Honor (Psy-Changeling, #15) by Nalini Singh
Published by Berkley on June 14th 2016
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 496

Must Read for Any Psy-Changling Fan

“The world has changed in countless ways since the day a cardinal empath sat across from a changeling alpha, the empath trying to hide her emotions, the alpha trying to see under her skin.”

FINAL DECISION:  The Psy-Changling book I will return to again and again, ALLEGIANCE OF HONOR not only is a window into the lives of the engrossing characters that Singh has created but also the book’s ensemble format itself demonstrates the themes of the bonds of love, friendship and respect that differing groups and people can build in order to create a better world.

THE STORY: ALLEGIANCE OF HONOR is a different book from the others in the Psy-Changling series and in paranormal romance in general. It does not have one central romance rather it is the last book in “Season 1” of the Psy-Changling series, an ensemble piece, which touches on almost all of the characters who appeared in the first 14 books of the series (and the novellas as well!).

The story picks up right after SHARDS OF HOPE.  Silence has fallen and the three powers in the world (Changling, Psy and Human) have joined forces in the Trinity accord. The alliances the various groups are fragile and there is a shadowy Consortium which is working against Trinity in order to advance its own interests.

Naya, the young daughter of Sasha and Lucas (from book 1 SLAVE TO SENSATION) is the first Psy-Changling child and has become the focus of those who want to defeat Trinity and keep the races separate.  Naya is a symbol that some look to as hope and some want to control or destroy.

OPINION:  A tapestry that depicts a wide swath of the Psy-Changling world, ALLEGIANCE OF HONOR is simply magnificent.  In a series which is founded upon crossing boundaries and making connections between disparate groups, this novel itself by its vignette nature demonstrates the power and beauty of the entirety of that interwoven world.  I love how the shifting points of view and small and big moments come together to provide the widest and most comprehensive view of the Psy-Changling world.

What I found incredibly powerful about this book is that Singh managed to take what might otherwise be merely an extended epilogue to the series without any other value other than good feelings and instead makes it a compelling conclusion to “part 1” of the Psy-Changling series and a kickoff to a whole new adventure.

Readers who had lingering questions about the series both big and small will get answers here and also get a good sense of where the series goes from here.  A pivot point in the series, it allows readers who have persevered through the prior fourteen books to get a conclusion while making it clear that there are new challenges and new characters ahead.

A reader could end their reading of the Psy-Changling series here (BUT WHY WOULD YOU?) and be completely fulfilled and satisfied because this book resolves almost everything central (and many tangential) to the main series.  There are lingering issues which will kick off the next part of the series but nothing that will haunt people for years.  This series is so incredible that there is no reason not to highly anticipate what will happen next. I can’t wait to see what Singh will do next in the Psy-Changling world.

There is something in this book for anyone who has read the series.  Stories of just about everyone are progressed demonstrating how fluid this world is. Intense joy, happiness and immense sadness are all present here.

If I have a suggestion for anyone getting ready to read this book — avoid spoilers.  Part of the beauty of this book is how the stories develop in somewhat unexpected ways.

I love this book and intend on reading it again soon — maybe today. Immensely fulfilling and I couldn’t imagine how it could have been better!


CONNECTED BOOKS:  ALLEGIANCE OF HONOR is the fifteenth book in the Psy-Changling series.  Because this book assumes knowledge about the characters and events of the series, it should only be read after the other books.

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.