Review: The Widow’s Auction

Review: The Widow’s AuctionThe Widow's Auction by Sabrina Jeffries
Published by Berkley Intermix on August 16, 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 84
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“She and Lord Warbrooke together? The very idea was absurd, impossible…Entrancing.”

FINAL DECISION:  I thoroughly enjoyed this novella.  The story is very compact and tight and thus it works well.  I enjoyed the characters interaction which covers a lot of ground for such a short story.

THE STORY:  Isobel, Lady Kingsley is a widow who has dedicated herself to charitable causes. Her nemesis is Justin, Lord Warbrooke.  The two strike sparks off of one another as they take opposite sides.  Isobel, however, also has several secrets.  One of them is that she found the marriage bed unsatisfying with her deceased husband.  Convinced by her dear friend to participate in the notorious Widow’s Auction, Isobel hopes to find some passion. Isobel is shocked when Lord Warbrooke purchases her favors for the night.  Although masked, Isobel worries about Justin discovering her identity. Then as the two discover something special together, Isobel knows that her secrets prevent any chance of happiness between them.  What she doesn’t know is that Justin already knows who she is.

OPINION:  This is a short novella so it doesn’t have the complexity or depth of a full length work.  Despite that, however, this story really worked for me.  I liked Isobel and Justin who clearly have an attraction to one another from the beginning. The majority of the story is spent on how they discover the real person beyond the one they thought they knew. For a story about purchasing a night of sex, these two quickly enter a personal emotional intimacy with one another which culminates in sex rather than just being about sex.  (Not that the sex isn’t hot as well).

I also liked Justin a great deal because he always treats Isobel with respect.  In fact, the purchases the night with her because he respects her (and he doesn’t want anyone else to have her).  I liked that these two have passions in common and an ability to recognize the good in one another.

Many times I wish than a novella had been written as a full length novel.  This story, I think is good as it is.

WORTH MENTIONING: THE WIDOW’S AUCTION was previously published in FANTASY.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE WIDOW’S AUCTION is a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this novella 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: A Taste of Seduction

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: A Taste of SeductionA Taste of Seduction (The Disgraced Lords, #5) by Bronwen Evans
Series: The Disgraced Lords #5
Published by Loveswept on August 16th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 283
Goodreads
three-stars

“Your leaving broke my heart, and it’s been broken ever since.”

FINAL DECISION:  This book was a difficult one for me to rate.  While I liked parts of it and was deeply engaged, at times I was frustrated by the repeated dramas and the necessity of knowing what has happened in prior books.

THE STORY: Lord Hadley Fullerton, the second son of a duke, had his heart crushed five years ago when the woman he loved, Evangeline Althorpe abandoned him to marry for a title and money.  Now when Hadley is on the verge of entering his own marriage, Evangeline has returned.  Now a widow, Evangeline insists that she never left Hadley willingly.  Hadley doesn’t know what to believe but he knows that he is in danger from the enemy who has been after him and his friends.  Danger and secrets abound in this story as Hadley and his friends try to unmask their enemy and Hadley tries to determine the truth of what happened five years ago.

OPINION:  This book was a mixed bag for me.  I enjoy angst filled stories and this one has great possibilities.  Hadley and Evangeline have such a sad story.  Even when this story is resolved, there is still some sadness because not everything can be fixed.  I didn’t mind this.

The problem is that this book desperately needs a view in the future where readers can be assured that everything is wonderful in the end.  Otherwise, there is a lingering sadness that makes the happy ending somewhat tainted.  Such an epilogue, however, is impossible with the way this book and series is structured.  There is an ongoing storyline about the enemy of the men. This book ends on a cliffhanger as to that story.  Therefore, none of the stories in this series are truly resolved yet.  My hope is that the final book of the series will resolve all the lingering issues, but that doesn’t help a reader that starts and ends with this book.

I don’t mind a series where there is a continuing storyline that requires the reading of prior books.  In fact, I enjoyed this book enough to want to read the prior books in the series and continue on to the next book.  For a reader, however, who starts here, there will be some things that are missing or don’t make sense immediately.

I enjoyed the relationship between Hadley and Evangeline.  Because there is no real internal conflict between the characters (they loved one another as the book begins and it never ends), there is a lot of external conflict.  In order to keep them apart, problem after problem arises.  There were just too many things for me.  Rather than so many issues, I would prefer that the conflicts be fewer and deeper.  I eventually got tired of Hadley and Evangeline not talking to one another for artificial reasons.  After a misunderstanding pulls them apart, I would expect that these two would highly desire complete openness between them.  Instead, they continue to act independently causing more problems.

So why did I give the book such a good rating?  The book has a fascinating story with strong characters. I liked them and wanted to read more.  The impulse I had to want to start again from the beginning of the series demonstrates that this book is worth reading.  I would just recommend starting the series from the beginning.  Once I have read this book again in context, my opinion overall might change.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book ends on a cliffhanger as to the ongoing storyline and sets up the next book.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  A TASTE OF SEDUCTION is book 5 in the Disgraced Lords series.  I have not read the other books in the series and while I figured most of the ongoing story out, I believe this book would be better after reading the other books in the series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars

Review: Arcana Rising

Review: Arcana RisingArcana Rising (The Arcana Chronicles, #4) by Kresley Cole
Published by Valkyrie Press on August 15th 2016
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“All you have to do is surrender…draw on your hatred and pain. Become her: the Empress you were meant to be.”

FINAL DECISION:  Sad and powerful and a game changer for the series, this great adventure also has significant things to say about love and pain and grief and survival.  And what a cliffhanger!

THE STORY:  Beginning immediately after the events of DEAD OF WINTER, Evie is almost killed by the attack of the Emperor and the counter attack by Circe.  After witnessing the death of her beloved Jack, Evie is separated from her other love Aric.  Now Evie travels along to discover what happened to the two men in her lives.  Separated from friends and allies, Evie turns toward darkness as she meets new Arcana players.

OPINION:  I have started and rewritten this part of my review several times.  This is a difficult book to write about without spoilers and yet this is a book where spoilers can truly spoil the experience of the book.  Part of the beauty of this book and indeed the entire series is the surprising journey which always ends on a cliffhanger and leaves readers begging for the next book in the series.

So I’m now begging.  Luckily the next book is scheduled for next spring rather than next summer.

As this book begins Evie has lost everything. Throughout this series, just when Evie appears to have reached bottom, more is stripped from her.  Evie has been struggling for a while between herself and her red witch side (which Evie sometimes perceives as dark and evil).  Having been separated from everything that has meaning for you, Evie once again struggles against the darkness.

At this moment, she meets some new Arcana (so that most of the players are now revealed to to Evie and the reader).  I really enjoy the complexity of the characters and their continuing mysteries.  The motivations and the question of friends, allies and enemies remain a enduring complication in this book.  Friends might be ready to betray; enemies might be doing you a favor.

Something is going on with Evie.  She is not herself and it isn’t clear why.  One of the strengths of this series is that so much remains unrevealed.  As I read each book, I can’t help but ask how many more books are there…and yet, that mystery in itself gives an extra amount of anxiety which deepens the dissonance of the story.  After all, Evie doesn’t know where this story is going either.

This book while having all the secrets and action and surprises of an Arcana Chronicles book also has a lot to say about love and grief and surviving.  Evie has evolved from the high school student who appeared in the first book.

This book saddened me for several reasons dealing with the plot and relationships.  I don’t want to give anything away, but there are going to be some unhappy fans — and some very happy ones.  I can only say, despite the cliffhanger, I think things are more complicated than they appear.

I can’t wait until THE DARK CALLING to see if I am right.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Without giving spoilers, I want to note that this book made me sad and unhappy at the direction the story went in. Despite that I have great faith that Kresley Cole can make it all work out in the end even if it doesn’t follow what I expected.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ARCANA RISING is the fourth book in the Arcana Chronicles.  It is dependent upon the prior books in the series and should not be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: A Gentleman Never Tells

Review: A Gentleman Never TellsA Gentleman Never Tells (Essex Sisters, #4.5) by Eloisa James
Series: Essex Sisters #4.5
Published by Avon Impulse on June 28, 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 160
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  A sweet repentant hero and a woman who no longer finds joy in life find the gentle possibility of love together.  This novella is abbreviated but has sweetness and humor.

THE STORY: Lizzie Troutt has been left a virgin widow with a poor sense of her own worth as a woman after being subjected to a marriage where her husband preferred his mistress to her.  Despite her older sister’s wishes, Lizzie just wants to be left alone to read. Oliver Berwick has come to Lizzie sister’s house party to apologize for his boorish behavior which helped brand Lizzie’s sister as the Wooly Breeder.  Ashamed of himself, Oliver agrees to Lizzie’s sister request that he do two things: make Lizzie laugh and get her back on a horse. At the first look at Lizzie, however, Oliver wants so much more.

OPINION:  This is a novella and as such is not as developed as a full novel would be.  Despite that, I simply adored Oliver.  He has developed tremendously from the young man who found himself repeating insulting remarks about others.  While it is easy to sympathize with the victim of bullying, this story is about what effect bullying can have on a bully.  While Oliver certainly was not the worst of his group of friends, he certainly sustained and participated in the bullying.  For years, he has been ashamed of that behavior.  While his shame caused him to avoid his victims, he finally finds the opportunity and the courage to apologize for his behavior.  That apology and the forgiveness that flows from his victim finally allows him to forgive himself.  Oliver’s recognition of his mistakes is what makes him so wonderful as a hero.  He now devotes himself to caring for others.  First his niece and then Lizzie.  I absolutely adored how he makes sure that she eats when he sees that she is too thin and only barely picking at her food.  His gentle concern and determination to seeing to her well being begins to break through the shell that Lizzie has created for herself.

The romance between Oliver and Lizzie is short but these two are sweet together.

My negatives are this: I hate the virgin widow trope and this story is no different.  Also, because of the length of this novella, the romance between Oliver and Lizzie felt rushed towards the end.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Indoor croquet.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  A GENTLEMAN NEVER TELLS is book 4.5 of the Essex Sisters series.  It can be read as a standalone as it is only tangentially related to the series. It is a spin-off of PLEASURE FOR PLEASURE, so for background reading that book is more than sufficient.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: The Official Essex Sisters Companion Guide

Review: The Official Essex Sisters Companion GuideThe Official Essex Sisters Companion Guide by Eloisa James, Jody Gayle
Series: Essex Sisters #4.4
Published by Avon Impulse on May 24th 2016
Genres: Commentary, Historical
Pages: 592
Goodreads
four-stars

The OFFICIAL ESSEX SISTER COMPANION GUIDE contains information about the creation of the books in the Essex Sisters series.  There are small, easily read essays regarding the background to the books, historical information surrounding various aspects of the books including clothing and publications, and some thoughts on the themes of the books.

Even readers who are not interested in the academic writings here should at least read the new material for the series.  There is the final 10 years later epilogue to the series which gives readers the updates on the characters including children. There is also a short story entitled A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DISGRACE which tells the story of one of the women who was also branded with a notorious nickname like Josie in PLEASURE FOR PLEASURE.  In A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DISGRACE, Cecilia who was tarred by her brother’s nickname “Silly Billy” because men where afraid that her brother’s mental disability might be hereditary.  In this story, Cecilia gets her happy ending.  She decides to court ruination in order to be able to avoid continuing in society.  When she approaches the musician who caught her attention, she gets more than she expected. While the story is short, it is sweet and I enjoyed the interaction between the hero and heroine.  While only tangentially connected with the series, Josie and Mayne make an appearance.

Finally, there is an alternate ending for KISS ME, ANNABEL. This definitely should not be read until after the novel itself.  Apparently, the entire second half of that novel was re-written and the original draft is included in this guide.  It was interesting to see the differences between the original and final book.  I prefer the final story, but I did like that in the original version, a portion of Rafe and Imogen’s story from THE TAMING OF THE DUKE.  One of my complaints of that book was the Rafe’s kicking of his addiction to alcohol happened too close to the romance for me.  In the original version of KISS ME, ANNABEL, Rafe begins his sobriety in that book which is exactly what I wanted emotionally for Rafe and Imogen’s story.  It was a fascinating exercise to see how that story might have been different.

For readers of the Essex Sisters series, this Companion Guide is worth reading even if you just read the extra material for the series itself.

four-stars

Review: Pleasure for Pleasure

Review: Pleasure for PleasurePleasure for Pleasure (Essex Sisters, #4) by Eloisa James
Series: Essex Sisters #4
Published by Avon Books on November 28th 2006
Genres: Historical
Pages: 404
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: Entertaining and sweet redemption for women who are more pear shaped than fashionably thin, PLEASURE FOR PLEASURE provides a warm conclusion to the Essex Sisters quartet.

THE STORY: Miss Josie Essex has obtained the unfortunate nickname ‘the Scottish Sausage” because of her full figure. Abandoning the possibility of a traditional courtship, Josie is persuaded by family friend, the Earl of Mayne to throw away her ugly restrictive corset, obtain some clothes to flatter her curvy figure and realize the attractive possibilities of her own body.  When Josie is almost ruined by a boorish rakehell, Mayne steps up to save her.

OPINION:  I enjoyed this book precisely because Josie, the young woman with a poor self-image of herself, the woman who is taunted by bullies having been given the moniker “the Scottish Sausage” manages to claim the man who has gotten away from every woman in this series (including Josie’s own sisters). In this story, there is something especially lovely about the jaded Mayne falling for the lively youngest Miss Essex.  Josie is not a stereotypical sweet gentle miss. She is tart and argumentative and simply wonderful.

I honestly am usually more interested in the hero than the heroine, but this book was one where I so identified with Josie that I focused on her journey.  While she is young, I love how she is able to keep Mayne once she catches him.  I loved her personality which is so different from the mousey wallflower one might suspect.  She feels like an incredibly well rounded and complex character.

One of the interesting parts of this book is how James has Mayne and Josie fall in love in the quiet.  There is no “ah, ha” moment. Yet, by the time the big moment comes at the end of the book, it is clear that these two are perfect for one another.  Mayne has been bored with life, not truly engaging with life.  Josie is so full of life, that she pulls Mayne with her.

My one quibble with the story is that I thought that Josie deserved a bit more in her happy ending with Mayne. After he had been matched with so many women, I would have liked something just a little more demonstrating his devotion to Josie alone.

There is also a secondary romance involving Mayne sister.  I enjoyed that romance as well and it neatly wrapped up all the characters from the series.

WORTH MENTIONING:  The epilogue has a little “in the future”

CONNECTED BOOKS:  PLEASURE FOR PLEASURE is the fourth book in the Essex Sisters series.  It can be read as a standalone but is a great culmination of everything that has happened in the series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Illuminae

Review: IlluminaeIlluminae (The Illuminae Files, #1) by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 20th 2015
Genres: Futuristic, Young Adult
Pages: 599
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Observations on a Unique Young Adult Futuristic/Sci-Fi/Romance Book

07:33

I don’t read many physical books anymore preferring the convenience and instant gratification associated with ebooks (plus I don’t have to find a way to store all those books).  ILLUMINAE cries out to be read in its physical form, however.

Consisting of texts and emails, official reports, observations and recorded dialogue, ILLUMINAE tells the story of Kady Grant, a teenager who lives on tiny planet in the year 2575.  On the day where the worst thing that should be happening is that Kady breaks up with her boyfriend of a year Ezra Mason, her planet is savagely attacked.  Kady and Ezra end up fleeing the planet with other refugees and end up a part of small group of space craft fleeing for their lives.  Tracing the story of what happened and what is happening and the complicated relationship between Kady and Ezra.

The odd format where the story is not told in a linear fashion will not be every reader’s cup of tea. The disjointed nature of the narrative demands that readers engage intellectually with the material rather than just sliding into the story’s narrative.  As is true when relying only on written documents, there remains much that is hidden from the reader as the narrative is constrained by documents themselves which allows much to be hidden from readers.  That literary device works beautifully allowing the story to build to an exciting and surprising conclusion. This is not a book to read the ending of too soon because the puzzle of the book is part of its appeal.

The first half of ILLUMINAE is an intellectual struggle — not because the book is poorly written (it is not) but because this book demands active reading and puzzling from its reader.  Once a base of knowledge is achieved, however, the pages of the book begin to quickly slide by.  I am a big fan of disjointed narrative books.  Whether it be Faulkner or Morrison or the postcards and letters of the Griffin & Sabine books by Nick Bantock, I enjoy the intellectual and then emotional connection that these books bring.  That being said, these books are not for everyone.  If you enjoy reading primary documents, historical letters or just want a mental challenge, give this book a chance.

What especially appealed to me was that while I began this book as an observer, the format eventually became one where the characters felt more real, less filtered.  When the characters face pain and desperation, I felt it keenly.  What began as an intellectual challenge became a deeply emotional connection with the characters.  Even the romance worked for me although it is non-traditional.

Why, you might ask, don’t I speak more about the plot?  I feel that the more a reader knows about the story going in, the less enjoyable this book will be.  The book’s format and how the narrative unwinds is an essential part of building the emotional conclusion to this book.

When I finished this book, I immediately began flipping back through the pages discovering what I had missed in the narrative. The secrets that are revealed are so neatly woven into the documents provided that this book almost feels like a good murder mystery. Only on reflection and review do the clues become obvious.

ILLUMINAE is the first of a trilogy of books which tell three different stories about the same event.  The next book will focus on other characters.

four-half-stars

Review: The Taming of the Duke

Review: The Taming of the DukeThe Taming of the Duke (Essex Sisters, #3) by Eloisa James
Series: Essex Sisters #3
Published by HarperCollins Publishers on November 28th 2006
Genres: Historical
Pages: 400
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  I liked this book but there was just too much going on with too complicated issues to be resolved so quickly.  Despite that, I liked the romance between Rafe and Imogen which has been going on since book one of this series.

THE STORY:  Imogen, Lady Maitland, has been widowed for a year and is ready to take a lover. She targets Gabe Spenser, the illegitimate brother of her former guardian, Rafe, Duke of Holbrook.  Imogen has had a contentious relationship with Holbrook especially as he managed to almost drink himself to death.  Newly sober, however, Rafe, has no intention of allowing Imogen to engage in illicit relations with another man.  He masquerades as his brother intending to help Imogen avoid ruin.  Instead, Rafe ends up engaging in a series of inappropriate encounters with the woman who constantly bedevils and entrances him.

OPINION: I was looking forward to this book because Rafe and Imogen seemed likely to set things on fire considering their arguments in past books.  In that sense, I was not disappointed.  Rafe and Imogen had an obvious connection from the beginning.  Imogen spent much of the previous books being petulant and then grieving.  As this book begins, she recognizes her prior bad actions and begins to act in a more mature way.

I liked the story about Rafe turning to sobriety after years of wallowing in drunkenness.  My concern is that he makes that change and then his romance with Imogen happens so quickly after. While the epilogue assures readers that Rafe has been able to stick with his sobriety, I couldn’t help but feel apprehension during the story.  It might be because of my personal experience with alcoholics or my modern thinking about the disease, but I found it difficult to turn off that part of my brain during the story.  I wished that Rafe had decided to kick his drinking in a prior book to give some space before his romance with Imogen. That being said, there is nothing pretty or easy about Rafe’s journey.

Or maybe it was just one too many things for me to accept.  The idea that Rafe could masquerade as his half brother without Imogen immediately realizing the deception was something that I had to accept on faith because it was just too impossible to imagine it actually happening.  It was a silly farce much like the Shakespeare tropes upon which it is based, but it is not realistic.  I did enjoy the situations it allowed Rafe and Imogen to become embroiled in and gave the story some much needed humor.

I just thought that there was too much crammed in here that it didn’t allow the romance the space and time and quiet it needed to really grab me.  There was so much happening that Rafe and Imogen’s romance seemed to be resolved too quickly for my tastes.  It just felt like there needed to be a little more development at the end to fully satisfy me.

WORTH MENTIONING:  There are two romances in this book.  Readers of MUCH ADO ABOUT YOU will be pleased to see the Miss Pythian-Adams again.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE TAMING OF THE DUKE is the third book in the Essex Sisters series  It can be read as a standalone although I think it is better to read Imogen’s whole journey which begins in book one.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: The Player

Review: The PlayerThe Player (The Game Maker, #3) by Kresley Cole
Series: The Game Maker #3
on April 12, 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 334
Goodreads
five-stars

“When you’ve been in the dark as long as I have, moy angel, there is no mistaking the light.”

FINAL DECISION:  Oh, how I ended up loving this book. The book was good until the last portion of the book which made me rethink the entire book.  I then found the book to be amazing because I was surprised and completely satisfied.  Plus, the book is really hot and sweet!

THE STORY: Victoria “Vice” Valentine comes from a long line of con-artists.  Desperate to help her family satisfy a deadly debt, Vice approaches the reclusive billionaire Dimitri Sevastyan. She intends on bilking him out of the money her family needs.  But there is something about the sexy Russian that tempts the “cold as ice” Vice to burn in ways she never suspected. Soon she is pulled between her loyalty to her family and the sweet man who seems to want only her and claims love at first sight.

OPINION:  This book didn’t end up where i expected.  I really appreciate a book that can surprise me in a good way.  This book was a 4.25 or 4.5 until the ending.  That pushed the book to a definite 5 for me!

Dimitri was a hero that I really liked.  Damaged and secretive, sexy and domineering but completely dedicated to doing anything for Vice, I loved him more than the either of the other men of the series (and they weren’t slouches). I loved how his painful past slowly was revealed. Who wouldn’t fall in love with a man who will do anything for you?  Vice, despite her best intentions, just can’t help herself.

Vice is a heroine who is herself imperfect and in fact might be more shady than the hero.  She is a con artist from a family legacy of the same. Even more, she is not repentant about her actions or those of her family.  Surprisingly, as a reader, I was rooting for these “bad guys”.  Her conscience begins to bother he as she realizes that Dimitri is a damaged but kind and caring man.  Her feelings for him begin to threaten her loyalty to her family.  The tension and conflict there works very well in this story.

Indeed, this book has beautiful pacing.  The relationship between Vice and Dimitri plays out in a winding and revealing manner.  Vice believes that she has the secrets, but Dimitri has a past filled with secrets.  As the story goes on, Dimitri’s secrets are slowly revealed to Vice and to the readers (although readers of the series will know some of the story).  I especially liked how the structure of the book reveals Dimitri’s secrets while forcing Vice to feel that she cannot reveal her own without risking the joy she is finding with Dimitri.  When the end of the book arrives, I was shocked and thrilled with the entire book.

And, oh this book is hot, hot, hot!  Vice and Dimitri just sizzle off the pages.  There is plenty of sex, but even better, it is all intertwined with deep emotional intensity which makes the book even sexier in my estimation.

This book ended up being my favorite of the series and definitely made me want to read the entire series over again.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Don’t read the spoilers for this book!  The payoff is amazing when read in context.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE PLAYER is the third book in the Game Maker series.  It can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Kiss Me, Annabel

Review: Kiss Me, AnnabelKiss Me, Annabel by Eloisa James
Series: Essex Sisters #2
Published by HarperCollins on December 13th 2005
Genres: Historical
Pages: 400
Goodreads
four-stars

“The day the Scotsman came to Lady Feddrington’s ball, Annabel’s sister decided to give him her virtue, and Annabel decided not to give him her hand in marriage.”

FINAL DECISION:  I enjoyed this book much more than the first in the series.  Ewan, the hero, is sexy and sweet and just my type of catnip. I’m fond of the roadtrip romance in this book.

THE STORY:  Annabel Essex, the second of four sisters, knows her requirements for a husband: he will be rich and English.  After living impoverished in Scotland with her horse mad father, Annabel knows that she can use her feminine attributes to snare the perfect mate.  On the verge of achieving her goal, Annabel ends up in a compromising situation with Ewan, Earl of Ardmore which forces them to marry.  Ardmore is not the man Annabel wants to marry, he is Scottish and impoverished, in London searching for an heiress wife.  Rather than marrying in London, the two agree to wait until they arrive in Scotland to marry.  On the trip to Scotland, the two pretend to be married while exchanging only 10 kisses a day — until they begin to want more.

OPINION:  I found this book very appealing primarily because I absolutely loved the hero, Ewan. Ewan comes to London searching for a bride.  He immediately is attracted to Annabel and tries to woo her although she has no intention of falling for an impoverished earl.  Ewan is incredibly sexy, sweet and immensely kind.  When he is propositioned by Annabel’s grieving younger sister, Ewan recognizes her pain and his impulse is to care for her rather than to take advantage. Ewan has morals that come from his convictions rather than societal convention.  His struggles with his own moral code and his attraction to Annabel is gentle and sweet.  I absolutely adored this Scotsman.

I even ended up liking Annabel when I didn’t expect to at first.  Despite her mercenary view of marriage, I came to understand and sympathize with her.  What turned me toward her was her concern for ruining Ewan’s plans for marriage when they are forced to wed.  Those thoughts and her intent to make the best of the situation made me see her as more complicated than I expected.

The courtship between Annabel and Ewan was quite lovable as the two had 10 kisses a day but could get more if they honestly answered questions.  That brought the relationship some depth and intellectual connection.  These two ended up knowing one another very well by the time they consummated their relationship.  Their courtship was unorthodox but clearly brought these two closer in a sweet and tender way.

My only complaint is that once again it took a while for the romance to actually start.  Both the first book and this one had a lot of confusion with the sisters and the hero until the actual romance began.  I quickly tired of that.  Luckily that portion was shorter in this book.

WORTH MENTIONING:  The book has a bit of the Taming of the Shrew vibe, but it is Ewan who ends up tamed.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  KISS ME, ANNABEL is the second book in the Essex Sisters series.  It can be read as a standalone although there are overarching relationships that involve all the books.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars