Review: I Will

Review: I WillI Will: A Christmas Novella by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Capital Theatre #2.5
Published by Avon Impulse on December 13th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 144

“She was pure. He was tarnished. She was honest. He tailored the truth to fit his own purposes. She was self-disciplined. He had never restrained himself in any regard. She was calm and serene. He had never known a moment’s peace in his life. Andrew envied her, and so he had mocked her mercilessly on the few previous occasions when they had met.

“Now Caroline hated him, and he had come to ask for a favor — a favor he desperately needed.”

FINAL DECISION:  Enjoyable followup to BECAUSE YOU’RE MINE about the younger disreputable brother.  A reformed rake story, this is sweet but a little rushed as a novella.

THE STORY: Andrew, Lord Drake, dissolute rake, has been disinherited by his dying father.  In order to regain his inheritance, Andrew devises a plan to court a thoroughly respectable woman in order to demonstrate to his father that he is reforming his life.  The only woman he can imagine helping him is his friend’s older sister, the proper Miss Caroline Hargreaves.

OPINION:  This was a very enjoyable read, but I think it is better as an add on to the previous book in the series. To truly understand Andrew’s journey, I felt I needed to know what he was like in the previous book.

I did like the relationship between Andrew and Caroline (although I wish we had seen more of their developing relationship which occurs mostly offstage).  There is a long distance for Andrew to travel to be a good man.  This novella has some quite funny moments, including Caroline’s Christmas wish which might be one of my favorite moments I’ve read in a while.  Funny and a sense of justice.

I’m glad that Andrew got his redemption and it is even better that it is as a result of his own attempts at outsmarting his father.  Instead he managed to get his own comeuppance.  This book had a little flavor of DEVIL IN WINTER (a superlative book).  This novella doesn’t reach the heights of that book, but the rake who finds his schemes with an innocent woman resulting in him wanting to turn his own life around to be worthy of her is very similar here.

I enjoyed this story especially for readers who enjoyed BECAUSE YOU’RE MINE.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This novella was previously published in the anthology WISH LIST.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  I WILL is book 2.5 of the Capital Theatre series.  It can be read as a standalone, but is better after reading book two of the series.

STAR RATING:  I give this novella 3.5 stars.


Review: Because You’re Mine

Review: Because You’re MineBecause You're Mine (Capital Theatre, #2) by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Capital Theatre #2
Published by HarperCollins on February 8th 2005
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384

FINAL DECISION:  The strength of this story is the compelling Logan Scott — a self made man with deep conflicts and desires.  The sweet but strong Madeline is a match for him. I loved their story.

THE STORY:  Lady Madeline Matthews is on the verge of being married off to a lecherous old peer by her father. Determined to avoid that fate, Madeline runs away to London intending to meet with the famous actor Logan Scott and become his lover. In that way, Madeline intends to make herself marriageable and thwart her parents ambitions.

OPINION:  Kleypas has a wonderful way in depicting men who are self-made.  While Logan Scott isn’t up the standards of the marvelous Derek Craven, I found Logan a compelling character.  I was fascinated by his rise from a farmer’s son to the most celebrated actor and theatre owner in London.  Such a journey has taken ambition, talent drive, discipline, determination, dedication, desire and will.  Logan’s hard focused exterior hides a man who has been deeply hurt in his life. Abused by his parents, betrayed by the woman he loved, Logan has opened himself up only on stage in his characters.

Things begin to change, however, when he meets the sweet and innocent Madeline who appears honest and open with nothing to hide.  But, of course, Madeline has much to hide. As she begins to discover the real Logan, she feels guilty about her deception. Madeline is a bright and generous woman who faced her own emotional abuse at the hands of her parents who are cold and do not understand their lively daughter.

This book is divided into two parts which makes a nice narrative break because there are truly two relationships between Madeline and Logan — before and after the revelation of Madeline’s secrets.  I loved how each of the parts worked as its own story and yet they are part of a whole journey for these characters.

Some books just hit the right spot and for me I loved the setting of the story (regency theatre), the character of Logan (and this book is really his story) — a good, forward thinking, damaged, self-made, brilliant man — and the love story between Madeline and Logan which is filled with sweetness, angst and drama.  When you fall in love with the hero, it is often easy to really like the book.

WORTH MENTIONING:  For readers of the first book in the series SOMEWHERE I’LL FIND YOU, there is a nice update on the couple.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  BECAUSE YOU’RE MINE is the second book in the Capital Theatre series.  Although there are overlapping characters, this book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.


Review: Star-Crossed Lovers

Review: Star-Crossed LoversStar-Crossed Lovers by Kay Hooper
Series: Once Upon a Time #5
Published by Loveswept on December 13th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 244

FINAL DECISION:  Classic Hatfield/McCoy, Romeo and Juliet tale about two people who were born to hate one another and yet fell in love. The story also has a romantic suspense element as the two need to discover who wants to make sure that hate prevails.

THE STORY:  A modern day Romeo and Juliet.  The Logans and the Stuarts have been enemies for five centuries. In every generation there is an opportunity for the families to avoid the feud or make it personal and more bitter.  Michele Logan and Ian Stuart unexpectedly meet on a tropical island away from the feuding families and while there is no personal enmity between them. there is a wariness caused by the feud.  There is also a deep attraction.  The question is whether they can overcome the feud or be completely subsumed by it.

OPINION:  I’m a sucker for the family feud stories. This one is particularly well done as Michele especially feels the programming done by her family to hate the Stuarts — including Ian. There is the real chance that love is not enough to overcome five hundred years of hate. The story also has a little romantic suspense element as the question arises what is actually happening between these families in the present day.

Angst, drama, suspense, two people destined to be apart but drawn inexorably together. Just my kind of catnip.  I read this book when it was originally published and I had forgotten how much I liked it then. It expanded my idea of what a good romance could be when it was written.  The romantic suspense with just a bit of magic became the direction that Kay Hooper went when she stopped writing pure romance.  This book shows the beginning of her journey in that direction.

This book was written as an “extra-long” category series book and thus doesn’t have the full complexity one might expect from a full length novel, but I seriously liked the drama between the characters, their intense desire to hold on to the love that it developing between them and the little bit of good fortune that comes their way.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book was previously published in the early 1990s.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  STAR-CROSSED LOVERS is book 5 in the Once Upon a Time series (although it was published 6th).  The series is only loosely connected by the matchmaker who briefly appears in each book so each book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.


Review: Somewhere I’ll Find You

Review: Somewhere I’ll Find YouSomewhere I'll Find You (Capital Theatre, #1) by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Capital Theatre #1
Published by Avon on October 1st 1996
Genres: Historical
Pages: 377

FINAL DECISION: A different type of story about child marriages, a marchioness turned actress and two people who have to learn to compromise.  Don’t read this if you are going to nitpick the story.

THE STORY:  Julia is an actress who has finally gotten a position in a respectable theater.  She is living her dream of independence. Her heart stays her own, and she has a big secret. Damon, Marquess of Savage is searching for the bride his father married him to as a child.  The heiress has fled her family. Damon is shocked to find out that the woman he has been married to for years is none other than the actress he wanted for his mistress.

OPINION: I really enjoyed this book.  Is it unrealistic? perhaps, but if you regularly read my reviews you should know that I will forgive a lot of historical inaccuracies, plot holes, grammatical errors, etc for a good story with characters that I fall in love with.  Does it seem reasonable that a aristocratic woman would abandon her family, become an actress and eventually become a duchess.  Maybe not, but this is one great story anyway.

Julia is a woman who wants to make her own independent decisions. If she was born in modern times, she would fit right in, but in her times, she is disinherited by her father and on the run from her “husband”. Is she too obsessed with her independence? Perhaps it seems so to our modern sensibilities, but in her time, when men owned their wives, is it unreasonable to be worried about losing your independence when your husband could control everything that you could do? Or when your father could marry you off when you are a little child.  I loved how Kleypas brings the opposing forces of Julia and Damon each wanting control. After both were stripped of control by their parents each wants to be in total control of their lives.

Damon has made himself into a completely responsible predictable gentleman because his father was irresponsible — resulting in Damon being offered in marriage to Julia (when both were small children) in order to save the family coffers.  The lesson Damon learned from that was that he needed to control his circumstances.  He struggles with Julia who will not submit to his control. Even worse, he ultimately realizes that she would not be the Julia he falls in love with if she did.

The story of how Julia and Damon navigate their desire for control and their trust issues was what kept me turning pages. The characters sparkled off the pages, their pain and struggle and intense attraction to one another kept me interested until the very end.

The secondary characters also were full of life. The best story is one where I could imagine all the relationships and intrigues involved and this one does a great job at that.

I only took of a star because I have read better books by Kleypas, so I know that she has pushed these boundaries even further with even better characters.  I can’t wait for the next book about Logan Scott.  He’s got some story.

WORTH MENTIONING:  I loved the epilogue which was necessary for this book to show how these two adapted to one another and continued to evolve their relationship.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  SOMEWHERE I’LL FIND YOU is the first book in the Capital Theatre series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.


Review: The Daredevil Snared

Review: The Daredevil SnaredThe Daredevil Snared (The Adventurers Quartet, #3) by Stephanie Laurens
Published by MIRA on June 28th 2016
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 464

FINAL DECISION: My favorite of the series so far.  I loved the hero Caleb and I thought the story was active and interesting and I loved that Caleb and Kate spent so much time together falling in love.

THE STORY:  Caleb Frobisher, the youngest brother, has taken on the next part of the mission — without permission. His brothers have worked to discover the secret of the missing English people in the West African town of Freetown. People are being abducted by slavers to work in a mine.  Caleb is to find the location of the mine and send the information back so that a rescue can be mounted. Katherine “Kate” Fortescue is a governess who has been taken by the slavers to care for the captive children.  She meets Caleb and under extreme circumstances, the two find a way to bring hope to the captives and fall in love.

OPINION:  This is the third book in the series and I really think the action has picked up from the second book.  Caleb is a daredevil who might seem reckless but is actually an amazingly optimistic and flexible thinker. He is willing to change plans, to make adjustments, to work towards a goal without being deterred by setbacks.  I really loved his character which I found compelling. He seems like a guy I would like in real life. He doesn’t have an ego that demands he be recognized as the leader.  He is willing to share responsibility, work with other people and take suggestions. All of these qualities are ones that Kate admires in Caleb.  The most important thing he brings to the captives, including Kate, is hope.

Kate is a leader herself. Independent. Strong. A woman who has made the best of a horrible situation. She is willing to take the hope that Caleb’s presence provides and work for her rescue and future. She is a good match for Caleb.

One of the best parts of this book is how Caleb and Kate manage to have a relationship in midst of bad circumstances. Somehow, they have a sweet courtship and get to know one another.  There is something beautiful about love in the midst of horrible circumstances. It gives hope and also shows that things like friendship, love, community can prevail even in the most dire of circumstances.

This book has a countdown clock on it and thus the pacing was well done. Things matter in this book — every moment is important. The captives need to live through this by working together towards making it to their rescue.

This book has set up the series for a great conclusion.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Oh, oh!  I can’t wait to find out who the troublesome woman is in the fourth book.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE DAREDEVIL SNARED is the third book in the Adventurers Quartet.  While the romance is self-contained in this book, there is an overarching story which is told through all four books.  The books are meant to be read in order.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.


Review: Seduced by a Marquis

Review: Seduced by a MarquisSeduced by a Marquis (Regency Unlaced 8) by Carole Mortimer
Series: Regency Unlaced #8
Published by Smashwords Edition on December 20th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 118

FINAL DECISION:  A sexy novella that has interesting characters and which I found to be a fun little read.  One of the better stories in this series, this novella manages to pack in a whole bunch of story and a developing relationship between Bella and Lysander in its few pages.

THE STORY:  Bella Reynolds is under the thumb of her older brother who uses her younger sister to compel Bella to give in to his wishes. Bella ends up engaged to Lord Lysander Falkner, Marquis of Trent who is jaded by all the women who have tried to get him to marry them.  Unwillingly betrothed, Bella knows that Lysander has no reason to trust her and yet forces are conspiring against them.

OPINION:  I found this story very appealing.  Perhaps it is the idea that Bella and Lysander are such good people who end up agreeing to a marriage of convenience that quickly becomes a passionate love match.

This is a novella so I’m judging it on that basis.  The character development is not as deep as I would expect in a full length novel and the story is not as well fleshed out.  But there is something fun and compelling about this story.  I loved these two people who are both hurt by their past.

Lysander is an illegitimate son turned heir to a duke (yes, improbable) — a common man raised to the heights of title.  Bella is a woman who has been used by her brother to advance his own agenda. She knows that she cannot hope for a happy marriage with children because of her past.

As is true with all the Regency Unlaced series, the focus with these characters is on their sexual attraction at first. This book manages to be hot while also making it clear that these two go have emotional possibilities with one another.

The plot is enough to keep the book moving but not so much as to take away from the focus on Bella and Lysander’s relationship.

This was a good read.  I found it enjoyable, I liked the characters and there was enough heat to make the story interesting.

WORTH MENTIONING:  If you want total historical accuracy in your historicals, you can pass on this one.  But if you value characters and an interesting story over details, you might give this one a try.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  SEDUCED BY A MARQUIS is the eighth book in the Regency Unlaced series.  This book stands on its own although there are overlapping characters.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.


Review: Puppets

Review: PuppetsPuppets by Jenna Ryan
Published by Harlequin Books on December 1st 1992
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 250

“Today I’m a teller of tales. Tomorrow, who knows? I live in the vaults beneath the Puppet Theater, but no one know exactly where. Sometimes I go up and wander through the streets of Paris, but not so much now as when I was young.

“Now I will tell you a story, and maybe when I’m finished, I’ll be wiser than I am at this moment.”

FINAL DECISION:  Seemed like a great idea, but most of the story was the mystery with little in the way of romance.  The couple seemed already set immediately and there was no real story between them. An okay read, but not one I would pick up again.

THE STORY:  Raul Sennett lives in an underground lair beneath the Paris Puppet Theater. He spends his time watching the new human puppet Katarina Lacroix. He wants her and lures her beneath the theater.  But Raul has secrets which keep him confined in his lair. Katarina has her own secrets and tragedies which sent her fleeing to Paris. Now the two navigate the secrets and shadows surrounding them.

OPINION:  I was disappointed in this book because I expected something more than I got. The entire book is mystery with little romance involved.  I’d term it a suspense book with a small smattering of relationship.  The description seemed like it would be moody romance based on the Phantom of the Opera theme, but instead, the story was all mystery.

I just didn’t care enough about the solution of the story.  The book was well written and had some creepy vibes to it as it tilted between mystery, suspense and paranormal.  I just wish there was more romance involved.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book has a strange paranormal vibe to it.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  This book is a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3 stars.


Review: The Lady and the Lion

Review: The Lady and the LionThe Lady and the Lion (Once Upon a Time) by Kay Hooper
Series: Once Upon a Time #6
on December 13th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 192

FINAL DECISION:  I loved this book because of the moody atmosphere, the great use of the fairy tale concept and the connection between the characters.  Yes, there is insta-love, but in the fairy tale concept, it works.

THE STORY:  Erin Prentice is taking a vacation from the controlling nature of her father when she meets a voice across a hotel balcony.  Keith Donovan intends to take revenge on the men who killed his family.  He is playing a dangerous game and doesn’t have time for romance.  Despite this, however, Keith is pulled by Erin’s voice and her reminding him who he actually is.

OPINION:  I loved this book. The story is loosely inspired by the tale of a man who lives as a lion by day and a man by night. The idea of duality, of hidden identities is what this book is based on.

Keith Donovan is a man who seeks revenge.  Pretending to be a cartel member by night, he is attracted to the moments in the dawn when he talks to the hidden woman in the next hotel balcony because it grounds him and makes him remember who he actually is.  He risks getting lost in the role that he is playing.

Erin Prentice is a woman who is trying to find out her own identity after living so much for her father’s life. She accepts the extreme limits that Keith places on their relationship because she falls for him and wants what she can get.  She isn’t weak and she knows that there are limits to what she can accept, but she wants what she can get right now.

I loved the way this story developed as one about revenge and the power of love. About choice and pain and what makes life worth living.  Yes, there is instant love here and the story isn’t really realistic, but the characters are intriguing and I love how the story focuses on their relationship rather than getting lost in the crime story.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book was originally published as a Loveswept series romance in 1990.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE LADY AND THE LION is book six in the Once Upon a Time series (although it was published fifth). These books can be read as standalones as they only are connected by the fairytale concept and the matchmaker who makes brief appearances in each of the book.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.


Review: The Only One

Review: The Only OneThe Only One by Lauren Blakely
Series: Holiday/Hammer #5
on December 6th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 135

FINAL DECISION: Great setup for the story, but the explanation was so stupid and all the anger and disappointment was immediately gone.  I just didn’t buy it and thus this story fell a little flat for me.

THE STORY: Ten years ago, Penelope “Penny” Jones met a man in Barcelona and they had a torrid affair for a few days.  They were to meet in New York but he never showed. Now Penny owns an animal rescue business and is looking desperately for a restaurant to host her business event. She ends up meeting again Gabriel Mathias, the hot restaurateur (in more ways than one).  He is the man with whom she had the affair but when they meet again, Gabriel doesn’t recognize her.

OPINION:  This novella had a fabulous premise and the book went really well until the issue of what happened ten years ago was brought up.

Penny is a woman who was heartbroken when she was stood up by Gabriel ten years ago.  But that event also propelled her into changing her life. She has never been able to forget Gabriel, but she hasn’t been sitting in her room weeping either. She loves animals and has made herself a success in her animal rescue work.  When she meets up with Gabriel again, she is torn between wanting to avoid him, wanting to get some kind of revenge, and just wanting him.

Gabriel has hit the big time.  After winning a television cooking competition, he has become a hot commodity. Yet, he has never forgotten the woman he knew for a short time ten years ago.  He has gone on, but he hasn’t forgotten her.

This book was a real winner until the real reason for their missed date ten years ago is revealed.  I had a couple of problems with it.  First, I just didn’t buy the reason.  I lived through those years and I don’t buy that they didn’t have ways to get in touch.  Ever heard of writing a letter? He knew where she worked.  Second, Penny immediately dismissed her ten years of biting anger and resentment.  I just don’t believe that she would immediately forget what motivated her for years even if she realized that it was a mistake.

For me, this was a book with a good premise but it didn’t live up to the promise.

WORTH MENTIONING: Shortcake is a great name for a dog.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE ONLY ONE is the fifth book in the Holiday/Hammer series of books (although they are listed as standalones there are overlapping characters).  This book has characters from THE SEXY ONE and WELL HUNG.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3 stars.


Review: A Buccaneer at Heart

Review: A Buccaneer at HeartA Buccaneer at Heart (The Adventurers Quartet, #2) by Stephanie Laurens
Published by MIRA on April 26th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 512

FINAL DECISION:  I generally love Laurens books, but this one was almost boring for the first half. The second half (after the hero and heroine meet) was really good, but I couldn’t help but wish that they had met earlier to pick up the pacing.

THE STORY: Captain Robert Frobisher picks up the investigation into the disappearances of people in West Africa. He travels there with the mission to find the camp of the slavers who have been kidnapping men, women and children.  When he arrives, Robert finds another person doing her own search. Miss Aileen Hopkins has come to West Africa searching for her younger brother who is one of the missing.  Robert knows that he has to convince Miss Hopkins to stop her search before she disturbs the wrong person and ends up missing as well.

OPINION:  This book was just so-so for me.  Once Robert and Aileen met and began investigating together, things heated up and the pace of the story picked up.  Unfortunately, that really didn’t happen until halfway through the book.

For the entire first part of the book Robert and Aileen are engaged in their own investigations and the investigation is the central story in the book.  What I really wanted was to know more about these characters, but instead, I got detail about the kidnapping and methods of investigations.  Those items don’t bother me in a Laurens book because the mystery is central to the story, but here, the hero and heroine spent too much time apart on the investigation.

Once Robert and Aileen join forces, the story picked up and I was happily turning pages.  The two are clearly the perfect match and there wasn’t much keeping them apart except for the adventure they are on.  Truthfully, the adventure/mystery itself was much more intriguing and exciting once they joined forces.  If there was more of that in the book and less of them apart, I would have really enjoyed this book.

WORTH MENTIONING: I usually never mention things like covers, but I have to say this one might be one of the worst I have seen.  The expression on Robert’s face on the front creeped me out every time I looked at it.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A BUCCANEER AT HEART is the second book in the Adventurers Quartet.  These book feature a continuing overarching storyline and are meant to be read in order.  That being said, the romance itself is completely self contained.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 2.5 stars.

Rating Report
Overall: one-star