Review: Trial by Desire

Review: Trial by DesireTrial by Desire (Carhart, #2) by Courtney Milan
Series: Carhart #2
Published by HQN Books on September 28th 2010
Genres: Historical
Pages: 360

Unique Concept

TRIAL BY DESIRE is the second novel in the Carhart series. It is the sequel to PROOF BY SEDUCTION and fans of that book will be happy to see Ned Carhart get his happy ever after. In PERIOD BY SEDUCTION, Ned gets married after mistakenly compromising Lady Kathleen. This book takes place three years later. Ned, who is bipolar (though it is never called as such in the book) left because of his struggles with depression. He has now returned to a wife he barely knows. Kate has spent the years that Ned has been away helping women flee their abusive husbands.

This story is about two people who have secrets and yet are married. I liked how Milan makes these two characters struggle. There are no magic answers in this book. At the end, Ned still struggles, but has learned to struggle with Kate. I thought that was a wonderful and hopeful message.

The edition I read is an enhanced version that includes some additional material from the author including deleted scenes, commentary, pictures and some small audio clips. While these enhancements are not extensive, they are an interesting addition. For example, I learned how difficult this book was for Milan to write and how many problems she still had with it.



Review: Her Every Wish

Review: Her Every WishHer Every Wish by Courtney Milan
Series: The Worth Saga #1.5
Published by Smashwords Edition on March 29th 2016
Genres: Historical

Story of a Woman Finding Her Own Power with a a Little Romance Thrown in

FINAL DECISION: A fascinating story of a woman breaking the mold that society and to a large extent herself. A story of second chances and breaking the mold, this story which is about “regular” people provides a viewpoint often not seen in historical romances. The romance is not the primary focus of the story but rather the heroine’s personal journey.

THE STORY: Daisy Witlaw has dreams of being more than a flower shopgirl and so she decides to enter a competition where the winner will get funds to support a new business. She knows that the judges will never choose her as the winner, but when the man from her recent past offers to help her refine her presentation, she agrees. Crash loved Daisy but when he realized that his unsavory connections were an embarrassment to her their short romance ended. Now the two are working together and perhaps getting to understand themselves and one another better.

OPINION: I found this little story fascinating because of Daisy’s struggle with discrimination and her own mental limitations because of society’s view of her place. Her desire for more, for something different, for her hopes and dreams was a good story. I also liked how Crash supports her and helps her to break that final barrier. Why only four stars then? For me, the romance was lacking. It was more an intellectual romance that a deeply emotional one. I prefer romances that delve into the emotional connection between the characters. In this novella, the story is more Daisy’s personal journey with the romance as a part of that journey but not the focus. I enjoyed the novella and it is a good addition to the Worth series as it ties up these secondary characters’ stories.


CONNECTED BOOKS: HER EVERY WISH is book 1.5 in The Worth Saga. It can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this novella 4 stars.



Review: The Lady Always Wins

Review: The Lady Always WinsThe Lady Always Wins by Courtney Milan
Published by Courtney Milan on February 22nd 2013
Genres: Historical
Pages: 71

Story of Love Found,Again

THE LADY ALWAYS WINS is a short novella about Ginny Barrett and Simon Davenant. Simon and Ginny were childhood friends and sweethearts but when Simon wanted to marry her in the face of his father’s disapproval, Ginny refused. Seven years later, Ginny is a widow and Simon intends to marry her. He only has the days to convince her because he will lose everything in the days and she refuses to marry a poor man.

This is a great short story. Milan was able to give these characters life and a long story without rushing or shortchanging the romance. This story has a great plot and I liked the resolution to the romance. I liked the romance and ended up liking both characters even though I didn’t start out liking them. Great job for a short story.


Review: What Happened at Midnight

Review: What Happened at MidnightWhat Happened at Midnight by Courtney Milan
Published by Courtney Milan on March 14th 2013
Genres: Historical
Pages: 104

Story About Complicated Lives

WHAT HAPPENED AT MIDNIGHT is a novella about Mary Chartley who is the daughter of the business partner of John Mason. When it is revealed that Mary’s father has embezzled from the partnership, it severs the relationship between Mary and John. Eighteen months later, John is searching for Mary because he believes she knows what her father did with the embezzled funds. He is surprised when he finds Mary living not on the money but as a lady’s companion.

I liked this story because there were many twists to edge secrets that Mary is keeping. My description of the heart of the story is from the story itself: “He wished this were clean and uncomplicated. But it was messy and complex. For a short novella, Milan packs a lot in about expectations and topless and overcoming limitations.



Review: Deceived

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: DeceivedDeceived (The Wicked Woodleys, #2) by Jess Michaels
Series: The Wicked Woodleys #2
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on October 13th 2015
Genres: Historical
Pages: 236

Wallflower Gets Her Happy Ending

“Josie Westfall despises me, you know.”

FINAL DECISION: At times heartbreaking, DECEIVED is the story of a Wallflower who ultimately prevails in getting the man she always wanted. Although the hero is a true jerk at times, he grovels enough in the end to gain my forgiveness.

THE STORY: Josie Westfall had a crush on Lord Even Hartwell as children. He thoughtlessly destroyed her in dismissing her and giving her a nickname which haunted her in society. Sixteen years later, Evan and Josie are thrown together again at his sister’s wedding. Encouraged by his brother, Evan tries to find out what Josie knows about the location of his sister who has been missing. Even as he tries to get information from Josie, Evan begins to realize how badly he has hurt the sweet Josie and is surprised by the attraction between them. Torn between his duty to his family and his attraction to Josie, Evan worries who will he have to betray.

OPINION: I’d like to start by saying that I think that Evan is jerk for most of this book. He’s not a hero that I adore. From the beginning, Josie is too good for him. His repeated and thoughtless action in hurting Josie might be understandable, but they are not easily forgiven. What I did like in this book is that ultimately Evan really does have to grovel to get back into Josie’s good graces. The redemption of the hero is is a jerk depends so much upon the quality of the grovel and Michaels has done a good job of making Evan pay for his thoughtless treatment of Josie. I really liked the character of Josie who is stronger than she believes she is. Although at first she doesn’t believe herself worthy of Evan, she eventually realizes that she deserves to be treated with respect and dignity and that might make her too good for Evan. I am a fan of the Woodley family and am happy to see them again and I am looking forward to the next two books in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: The outlines of the next romance for the Woodleys is beginning to be made clear in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DECEIVED is the second book in the Wicked Woodleys series. It can be read as a standalone although I recommend reading the other books in the series because there is an ongoing story involving the Woodley sister that has an important part in the story in this book.

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: Forbidden

Review: ForbiddenForbidden (The Wicked Woodleys, #1) by Jess Michaels
Series: The Wicked Woodleys #1
Published by Passionate Pen on August 25th 2015
Genres: Historical
Pages: 251

“For years he had born a secret. And with each passing day, it weighed more heavily on him.”

THE STORY: Lady Audrey Woodley has been fascinated with Jude Samson for years. The friend and man of business of her older brother, the Marquis of Woodley. Although born of a good family, Jude and his mother were shunned by his father’s family after his death and Jude has had to make his own way in the world. Although Jude has strong feelings for Audrey, he knows that they have no future together. He believes that his status as an employee disqualifies him from having a relationship with Audrey. Even worse, Jude has been keeping secrets that he knows that will make Audrey hate him if she knew. When the two end up unchaperoned at the family’s country estate, Jude and Audrey cannot contain the passion that bursts between them. Jude knows that when his secrets are discovered that Audrey will never forgive him and he risks losing the family he loves.

OPINION: Michaels introduces readers to a fun, intriguing, sexy family that have enough secrets to justify the series that this books kicks off.

The Woodleys siblings are comprised of Edward (the Marquis), Evan, Gabriel, Claire and Audrey. Edward is newly married (A MARQUIS FOR MARY). The older sister has disappeared after running off to marry a man who turned out to be a scoundrel. Claire’s disappearance negatively effects all the members of the family — most especially Audrey who now fears passion as a result. Audrey is supposed to be hunting for a husband, but has lost interest because she worries about allowing her passions to lead her astray.

To give Audrey a break from the Season, her mother and she travel to the family’s country house that is being remodeled. Edward sends an unhappy Jude along to handle the business issues. Their seclusion allows the longtime friendship between Jude and Audrey to blossom into passion and love. Audrey and Jude do not plan on a longtime relationship even though each is attached to the other. Their passionate relationship begins on the excuse of showing Audrey that she doesn’t have to fear passion, but both clearly know that it is only an excuse and the trust is that Jude and Audrey have wanted one another for years.

The characters here are fresh and fun. Like the Flynn series, the Woodleys are not stuffy, staid typical ton. This is a family and they have deep connections to one another and their missing sibling has left a hole in their lives. Each of the siblings experiences that differently and Michael has managed to distinguish each of the Woodley siblings through their response to their loss.

Audrey is the more reasonable daughter. After what happened to Claire, Audrey fears and yet yearns for passion and love. She is not bound by convention and doesn’t allow expectations to interfere with her desire for Jude.

Jude has wanted a family like the Woodleys. Although they consider him a part of the family, Jude has been damaged by the rejection of his own family and cannot help but expect for the Woodleys to ultimately reject him as well. He knows that his affair with Audrey will ultimately separate him from the only family he has ever known but he cannot resist her. He wants the chance to love her and to show her that she doesn’t have to fear her passions. Jude has made poor decisions in the past and believes that Audrey will never forgive him. He is filled with guilt and yet continues to do what he feels best even if it means lying to Audrey.

I love these books where there are conflicts arising over the stations of the characters and Michaels does a great job reversing the usual trope of the woman being of a lower working class. (Michaels has a similar cross-station story in the excellent NO GENTLEMAN FOR GEORGINA). This book doesn’t shy from confronting the inadequacy that Jude feels because he is employed by Audrey’s brother.

What is also wonderful is the strong love that the Woodleys have for one another – and also for Jude even though he insists on not accepting that the Woodleys really do see him as family.

Finally, this book is really hot. Michaels has built on a true emotional relationship to make the sexual relationship between these characters not only hot and sexy, but also emotionally engaging. Michaels does a great job in writing hot sex scenes and her most recent books have also created fully developed engaging characters. Her characters are likeable people and it makes it easier to root for their happy endings.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a fascinating story regarding the missing sister Claire that I look forward to discovering more about in future books. Her story appears to be an ongoing dilemma for the family that will cover several books.

FINAL DECISION: Likeable characters, sexy romance and secrets that threaten to tear them apart, FORBIDDEN is definitely a book I recommend. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series to find out more about these Woodleys.

CONNECTED BOOKS: FORBIDDEN is the first book in the Wicked Woodley’s series. There is a prequel story about the oldest brother called A Marquis for Mary. That novella is not necessary to read to enjoy this book, but I recommend reading it first anyway because it introduces the Woodley family.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley in order to provide an honest review of the book. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own.

View all my reviews



Review: Poison Princess

Review: Poison PrincessPoison Princess (The Arcana Chronicles, #1) by Kresley Cole
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on August 19th 2014
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 369

“The beginning is nigh….”

FINAL DECISION: The book has a great prologue, then a little bit of a slow part while the story begins to spin out, but the ending is fantastic.

THE STORY: Sixteen year old Evie Greene seems to have a charmed life. She’s popular, has a handsome and nice boyfriend and is smart.  But she has been having frightening nightmares and has so many delusions that her mother had her committed to a mental institution. She meets Jackson Deveaux, a Cajun boy from the wrong side of town and the two argue and strike sparks off of one another.  When it becomes obvious the Evie is not having delusions but rather visions. When the world is hit with an apocalypse, Evie and Jack must find out the meaning of Evie’s visions.

OPINION:  This is not my normal reading material.  Although there are romantic elements, there is not a straightforward romance in this book. There is no resolution, no HEA — at least not in this book.  But I am always looking for good books regardless of format or genre.

This book begins with a rocking suspense angle.  I was dragged immediately into the drama of the story.  Then the story goes back to the time before the apocalyptic Flash that begins the Arcana battle.  I thought the worldbuilding and concept was amazing.  I haven’t read a similar concept so I was captivated and my brain was engaged in trying to sort out the players. The agendas and motivations of the various characters remain opaque throughout this book.

I liked Evie as a character.  She discovers that she is one of the Arcana which are depicted on the Tarot cards. She is naive, immature and spoiled as the book begins, but her experiences begin to change her.  By the time the book ends, she has had an epiphany that makes me want to jump into the next book of the series.  I liked how Evie develops.  I like that she doesn’t start out as a 16 year old with a 30 year old’s mind. I believed her development.

Jack, the romantic interest as this book begins, is cocky and annoying and oh so attractive to Evie. A definite bad boy who has secrets of his own, he and Evie spend much of the book arguing and fighting with one another.  As two very different young people in a horrendous situation and forced together, they are merely developing their working relationship.  He is funny and annoying and I ended up liking him very much as well.

Once the prologue of the book ends, the book is a little slow for a while as the past is recalled and then the terms for this new world are defined and new characters are introduced. Then the book really takes off in action. The final third of the book was just extraordinary and the ending made me want to immediately turn to the next book in the series.  I’d give 4 stars for the beginning, a 3 for the middle and 5 stars for the end. I’ve averaged all that to give the book 4 stars.

This book is not complete in itself as it is clearly intended to be only the beginning of a long journey.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a young adult novel, but it has plenty to interest adults and in fact, I think it skews toward older teens rather than younger based on content.

CONNECTED BOOKS: POISON PRINCESS is the first book in the Arcana Chronicles.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Lover at Last

Review: Lover at LastLover at Last (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #11) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #11
Published by NAL on March 26th 2013
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 608

FINAL DECISION:  I was happy that Qhuinn and Blay finally got their HEA but I thought this story lacked something perhaps because the most dramatic parts of their story took place in other books sapping some of this book’s emotional core.

THE STORY: Qhuinn has loved his friend Blay for years but has denied the attraction afraid of adding being gay to his other perceived “imperfections”.  Despite the fact that he has impregnated the Chosen Layla, Qhuinn finally has reached the point of admitting that he wants Blay. At the same time, Blay has apparently moved beyond his own attraction to Qhuinn after years of unrequited love. Blay is in a relationship with Qhuinn’s cousin.  Despite the relationships pulling them in different directions, Blay and Qhuinn cannot deny the passion that exists between them.

OPINION:  After being thoroughly engage in Qhuinn and Blay’s story in the last couple of books, I was a bit disappointed by how things went in this book.  First, I think that if you haven’t read the other books in this series, this book fails to make the romance compelling.  I think the most dramatic and emotionally compelling part of their story took place in prior books and without those portions here, the angst just dragged on rather than move the story forward.

I felt the story was “Q&B don’t talk to one another”, sex, “Q&B don’t talk to one another”, sex, etc, etc. until “I love you” and HEA. What I didn’t like was that it felt like the two always loved one another, Qhuinn had made the significant breakthrough in admitting his feelings in the previous book and all that was keeping them apart at this point was lack of saying “I love you.”

Despite that, there were moments between Qhuinn and Blay that I really liked and the longtime connection between these characters gave depth and significance to them finally finding their path to one another.  I’d give a 5 to their entire journey together, but only a 4 to this book alone.

Of course, there is not only one storyline in this book.

The continuing storyline about the Band of Bastards attack on Wrath’s reign is accelerating in preparation for the next book of the series which revisits Wrath and Beth’s relationship.  The intriguing relationship between Xcor and Layla also continues here. A new relationship appears on the horizon between the drug dealer vampire Assail and his “burglar”.  Finally, someone from Qhuinn’s past unexpectedly reappears and thus a new storyline is born.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I will reread it later and perhaps my opinion will evolve after I get over some of my expectations disappointment.

WORTH MENTIONING:  The Lesser Society has made a welcome reappearance after being mere fodder for the vampires to kill in the last few books.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  LOVER AT LAST is the eleventh book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. This series has intertwined stories which cover a number of books. A single book has multiple viewpoints.  Qhuinn and Blay’s story takes place over a number of book merely culminating here.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Irresistible

Review: IrresistibleIrresistible (Horsemen Trilogy, #3) by Mary Balogh
Series: Horsemen Trilogy #3
Published by Berkley Books on October 2nd 2007
Genres: Historical
Pages: 320

FINAL DECISION:  This book was just okay. I enjoyed most of the relationship and story but I couldn’t relate how Sophie reacted to being blackmailed.  Her irrational behavior just bothered me throughout.

THE STORY:  Mrs. Sophia Armitage, as the wife of an officer, followed the drum during the war became the friend of the Four Horsemen. Now a widow, Sophie resides in London and for the first time in three years, meets up with Nathaniel Gascoigne — a man that even a respectable wife could admire.  Now an opportunity for a special kind of friendship between the two arises and both are surprised by the intense passion that arises. Their fledgling relationship is threatened by the fact that Sophie has a secret — she is being blackmailed.

OPINION:  I liked how this book developed in the relationship between Nathaniel and Sophie. Two adults who want physical companionship begin to develop an emotional connection that they didn’t expect. They were sweet together and I liked them.

Unfortunately, the blackmail plot drove most of the action in the story.  Because of that Sophie’s continuing actions in giving in to the blackmail began to wear on me.  Not because I didn’t understand that she was afraid and wanting to be independent and used to hiding.  What I expected was that once the blackmail was revealed that she would gain a stronger emotional connection with Nathaniel by admitting her fears and anger. Instead, the story fell flat emotionally for me at that point.

I’m a big fan of Mary Balogh especially her restrained emotional intensity but I think this book was too emotionally restrained for me. On the other hand, I loved the ending where Nathaniel confesses his love for Sophie.  I thought that moment was almost perfect.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Fans of the series will know that there are four horsemen and thankfully although there are only three books, the fourth horseman gets his HEA in a secondary romance in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  IRRESISTIBLE is the third and final book of the Horseman Trilogy. It takes place 2 years after the events in the first two books in the series.  Although characters from those books appear, this book does not rely on those books at all and thus it can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 2.5 stars.


Review: Unforgiven

Review: UnforgivenUnforgiven: The Horsemen Trilogy by Mary Balogh
Series: The Horseman Trilogy #2
Published by Signet on July 12th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 400

FINAL DECISION:  Oh, I wish I could have liked this book but I ended up being annoyed with the characters lack of communication, continued antipathy toward one another and then how quickly all the past was so neatly resolved.

THE STORY:  Kenneth Woodfall has returned from war to find that the girl he once loved and then hated has just gotten betrothed.  Miss Moira Hayes fell in love with Kenneth and met him secretly until the long running feud between the families flared up again and she could never forgive him. She blames him for the death of her brother.  There is nothing but passion between Kenneth and Moira whether it be love or hate. When a snowstorm forces them to take shelter together, their lives are changed.

OPINION:  I really wanted to like this book after enjoying the first book in the series, but unfortunately, I just got tired of the antipathy between the characters.  Almost the entirety of the book consists of arguments and sometimes outright hatred especially from Moira.  Then at the end, she learns the truth and never acknowledges that she was a jerk. In the same way I expect heroes to grovel when they have been grossly unfair, I expected her to at least admit that she was wrong.  Nope, not here.  For me, when the conflict between the characters is so intense, I believe that it takes more than a couple of pages at the end to completely resolve the conflict.

I think the antipathy from Moira was just too strong during the book so everything else was overwhelmed. Their romantic moments fell flat because of it. Their first sexual encounter was strange and just didn’t work for me.

So what did I like?  I liked Kenneth who I felt was a much more well rounded and likeable character.  Despite Moira’s treatment of him, he was a nice guy most of the time.  I also liked the Romeo and Juliet family dispute part of the story. I also did like how Kenneth and Moira began to work through their relationship to try and have a marriage.  I just felt that the balance between hate and love was off in the entirety of the book.

WORTH MENTIONING:  The heroine has a miscarriage during the book for those who might be sensitive to the topic.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  UNFORGIVEN is the second book in the Horsemen Trilogy.  It takes place concurrently with the events in the first book and can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2 stars.