Review: The Most Dangerous Duke in London

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: The Most Dangerous Duke in LondonThe Most Dangerous Duke in London (Decadent Dukes Society, #1) by Madeline Hunter
Series: Decadent Dukes Society #1
Published by Zebra on May 30th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 304
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Fabulous start to a new series.  Didn’t go in the direction I expected and I ended up loving Adam. Motives are mysterious until all is revealed which built suspense and interest.  Loved these two together.

THE STORY:  Adam Penrose, Duke of Stratton, has returned to England after years in France following his father’s death.  Adam has returned for revenge and to find out who set the events in motion which led to his father’s death.  He is also in pursuit of a wife.  He discovers Lady Clara Cheswick, the daughter of his family’s longtime enemy.  Lady Clara has no intention of agreeing to Adam’s determined pursuit of her as she is independent and spending her time managing her own property and interests.  Then there is the also the question of what Adam’s true motives are.

OPINION: This book was more intimate and personal than I expected from the description.  Really focusing on the developing relationship between Adam and Clara, the reader is left questioning what Adam’s motives are.

Clara is a woman who desire for independence even if that means upsetting conventional behavior and roles for women.  Having inherited property of her own, Clara plans never to marry but instead publish a paper for women — written by women.  She is independent but isn’t willing to toss away all convention.  That creates tension as she tries to exist both in and outside of society’s expectations.  She also struggles with her relationship with her family.  While she doesn’t always feel close to them, her loyalty to her father makes her suspicious of Adam’s motives — perhaps rightfully.

Adam is mysterious through much of the book.  By the end of the book, however, I loved Adam. In the book, people wonder what Adam’s motives are for returning to England…and the reader is left to wonder as well.  By not cluing readers in to Adam’s thoughts on the matter, the story has more tension and mystery.  And the story needs that mystery because this book is truly driven by Adam’s reasons for returning to England and what his plans are.

This book feels more intimate and personal because the focus of the book is truly the relationship between Adam and Clara.  Can Clara trust Adam? Why is he pursuing a relationship with her? Does he truly intend to marry her? Why?  What I ended up loving about this book is that the answers are more complex than a simple narrative.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Oh, I can’t wait for the other two upcoming heroes. There are some good stories to be told there.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE MOST DANGEROUS DUKE IN LONDON is the first book in the Decadent Dukes Society.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 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.

four-half-stars

Review: The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband

Review: The Girl with the Make-Believe HusbandThe Girl with the Make-Believe Husband (Rokesbys, #2) by Julia Quinn
Series: Rokesbys #2
Published by Avon on May 30th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“Husband? They were calling him her husband? Was he married? He couldn’t be married. How could he be married and not remember it? Who was this woman?”

FINAL DECISION:  Behind the British lines in the American Revolutionary War, this intense and emotional story of a husband and wife learning one another is a winner.  The twist? They aren’t actually married but only she knows it.

THE STORY:  Edward Rokesby awakes in a military hospital in the American colonies, he has a hole in his memory of what he was doing on an assignment in Connecticut.  Months are missing during which he apparently also acquired a wife he does not remember — Cecilia Harcourt.  The sister of Edward’s best friend, she has come from England in search of her brother who is missing.  There is a good reason that Edward doesn’t remember marrying Cecilia — they are actually not married.

OPINION:  An usual Julia Quinn book with less humor and more seriously emotional content.  Quinn’s books always have an underlayer of seriousness but usually there is more amusing events.  This book is quickly more serious than I expected.  With a different setting (the colonies during the American Revolution) and much of the action taking place in confined settings (so much happens in the four walls of a room) and a different emotional temperature, this book feels more fresh and different than other Quinn books while retaining the wonderful and likeable characters.

One of the best parts of this book is that both Edward and Cecilia are such nice people. Yet, circumstances twist them up and make them do things that they don’t anticipate.  This story is how two people who seem like they should have an easy road to happiness together become so mixed up that it seems like their happily ever after will pass them by.  The story goes deep into these characters as these semi-strangers begin to get to know one another.

I would say that this is a slowly developing story, but I don’t want to give the impression that the story is boring.  No, this is the story of two people who are discovering one another.  The deception that lies between them and the search for Cecilia’s brother has enough drama to keep the story interesting even as these two talk and laugh and cry and know one another.

I also especially enjoyed the change in venue to the colonies — especially because we get a glimpse of the British side of the war (which is not the usual side in this time period). Moving away from the expected place gives energy to the story as these new details suffuse the story was new relationships and details.  (Plus, I’m glad that we finally get a glimpse of a significant event that is often missing from historical romance books of the period).

I liked this book much better than the first in the series primarily because I really liked these characters who feel like nice people trapped in a situation that they cannot control which challenges their essential goodness.

WORTH MENTIONING:  It is pretty obvious who the next book in the series will be about.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE GIRL WITH THE MAKE-BELIEVE HUSBAND is the second book in the Rokesby series.  It is not necessary to have read the first book in the series since this book is only loosely connected and the other characters of the series only make a very brief appearance.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book via Edelweiss in order to provide a review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-half-stars

Review: An Affair with a Notorious Heiress

Review: An Affair with a Notorious HeiressAn Affair with a Notorious Heiress (Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James, #4) by Lorraine Heath
Series: Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James #4
Published by Avon on May 30th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Lyrical and emotional story of a woman who is a scandal and the man who wants to avoid scandal and yet ends up not wanting to avoid her.  I loved the unexpected sweetness and romance of this story.

THE STORY:  Alistair Mabry, Marquess of Rexton and future duke, has no plans to marry soon, but when he does he will choose a bride with a perfect reputation.  His own childhood showed him the consequences of being the child of a scandalous union.  While he loves his parents, he has no desire to repeat their story.  When he is asked to court a young sweet woman in order to help her marriage prospects, he agrees, but finds himself spending more time thinking about her older and scandalous sister, Tillie, Lady Lansdowne.  Divorced after her affair with a footman became known, the American heiress lives separate from society but is determined to see her sister happily married.  She doesn’t think that Rexton is the man for her sister, but can’t stop thinking about him herself.

OPINION:  This book follows two books that are among my all time favorites.  The stories of Rexton’s parents and that of his sister are so heartbreakingly beautiful.  As I began this book, I was honestly a bit disappointed because I thought Rexton’s attitude toward his mother’s past was not worthy of the oldest son of his parents.  As the book progressed, however, I fell in love with Rexton and understood his position (even if thought it misguided).

Heath has a marvelous way of making the romance between Rexton and Tillie seem completely hopeless. There seems to be no future for these characters, but all that is needed is complete and utter surrender to love.  I am always done in by Heath’s way of ripping into my emotions.  This romance is quieter and sweeter than I expected — perhaps because their outward challenges are so large and overwhelming.

I love watching these two fall in love.

The man who thinks that he wants perfection, but discovers that all he really wants is love — even if it is messy and imperfect — and perhaps because it is. The woman who has been so thoroughly disappointed by love that she fears risking any part of herself again. And perhaps she has internalized her lack of worth because no one has ever put her first.

The story slowly built until reaching a wonderful crescendo.  This book wasn’t as gut wrenching as my other favorites in this world, but the intense sweetness was worth the journey.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Fans of the series will be pleased to see quite a bit of Rexton’s family.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  AN AFFAIR WITH A NOTORIOUS HEIRESS is the fourth book in the Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James series.  The book can be read as standalone, but honestly is much better after reading both the Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James series and the connected series about the parents generation, the Scoundrels of St. James series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book via Edelweiss in order to provide a review.  I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-half-stars

Review: Just One Touch

Review: Just One TouchJust One Touch (Slow Burn, #5) by Maya Banks
Series: Slow Burn #5
Published by Avon on May 23rd 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 352
Goodreads
three-half-stars

“But the simple truth was that he needed her every bit as much as she needed him, and he couldn’t come up with a reason that made any sense to him.”

FINAL DECISION:  A good romantic suspense with a paranormal bent.  The weakest part of the story is the instant love between the main characters.  That being said, the two are a good match and the story is well paced and filled with twists.

THE STORY: Isaac Washington comes out to his car after getting coffee and bagels to find someone attempting to steal his vehicle.  Instead of the thief he expected, Isaac finds Jenna — a young abused woman who is fleeing for her life.  When Isaac is shot by her pursuers, he finds out why.  Jenna saves Isaac’s life when she heals his mortal wound.  Once he meets her, Isaac, who works for Devereaux Security is determined to use his skills to protect this vulnerable woman.

OPINION:  This was a good suspense story with a paranormal twist as is true of the other book in the Slow Burn series.

The main weakness of the story from my view is the instant love aspect.  Before the two even know anything about one another, there is something between them.  (That works in many books where there is a paranormal or supernatural aspect, but here there is no “mate” or explanation for the instant connection).  But this book is anxious to get into the suspense story and deep into the potential of the relationship.  I can put aside my initial disbelief in the instant love if the rest of the story is good…and this one worked for me.

Isaac is a strong alpha protector and is determined to protect Jenna and make those who have harmed her pay.  While he is possessive, he is also completely devoted to Jenna from almost the moment that they meet.  He throws over everything in his life to help her.  While the devotion appears unrealistic at times, it also jacks up the tension and suspense in the story because the immediate devotion he has for Jenna makes the story move.

Jenna begins the story abused and weak.  But she does not stop there.  Much of the story is about Jenna discovering herself and obtaining autonomy over herself.  There are quite a few twists and turns in the story and I don’t want to give any of the plot away because the suspense is an essential part of the story.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Readers should be willing to accept Banks version of the Alpha male who is possessive with a lot of talk about the heroine belonging to him.  Some might find it a little too aggressive and controlling.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  JUST ONE TOUCH is the fifth book in the Slow Burn series.  While there are overlapping characters, this story is independent of others in the series and can be read alone.  There are plenty of appearances by the characters from the other books and readers of those books will be happy for the updates.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3.5 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book via Edelweiss in order to write a review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

three-half-stars

Review: The Girl Who Knew Too Much

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: The Girl Who Knew Too MuchThe Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick
Published by Berkley Books on May 9th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 352
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“You must not trust anyone — not the police, not the F.B.I.  Above all, never trust a lover.”

FINAL DECISION:  My favorite Amanda Quick book in a long time.  The move to 1930s California has given new energy and freshness to what is often a familiar romantic suspense storyline.  I hope we will be reading more in this time period.

THE STORY:  1930s California is a place where people can reinvent themselves.  Irene Glasson has come here on the run from the murder of her prior employer.  Irene (and that is also a new name) is now a reporter for a small gossip paper when she becomes involved in yet another murder.  The murder of an actress takes place at the hotel of Oliver Ward.  Oliver is also starting his life over again.  Previously a famous magician whose career ended in blood during a performance, Oliver is determined to protect his hotel from scandal when he discovers that Irene didn’t seem to exist prior to four months ago.

OPINION:  I’ve been reading Amanda Quick books since the first ones in the 1990s.  In the intervening years there have been books I have absolutely loved (RAVISHED and THE PERFECT POISON) and ones that I found completely forgettable. The most recent books have been adequate but have lacked the energy and vibrancy of the best books.

THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH moves to a new time period.  I was wary of the change because the 1930s is not a time period often used in romance novels and I did not know how the Quick books would translate into that time period.  I’m happy to report that I loved the time period move to the 20th century.  In taking place in an era that has not been done ad nauseum, the book is allowed to investigate different morals, complications and motivations than the Regency or Victorian eras.

These characters feel fresh and new and the entire book has a vibrancy and drew my interest in an entirely new manner.

Irene is a career woman who is caring for herself.  She arrives in California at a time when she can completely reinvent herself (without pesky complications such as social security numbers and needing government identification). She’s tough and clever and determined. I love smart heroines and Irene is no exception.  She just keeps picking herself up after her disappointments.  She is independent and thus her willingness to trust Oliver is a major point in their relationship.

Oliver is adorable.  Sexy and wounded and oh so willing to engage in witty verbal combat with Irene.  He’s a man who cares for his own. Like Irene, he is also a man who has reinvented himself (for different reasons).  Being a survivor and adapting is a strong theme in this book with these two characters.  They live in a time and place of reinvention and they both are living out that possibility.

Along with a romance there is a peppy suspense story that keeps the pace humming along. The suspense works very well with the romance here and doesn’t overpower the relationship between Oliver and Irene.  Instead, the two work together hand in hand to undercover who is killing the women the Irene keeps discovering. I found the mystery and the solution satisfying and the adventure served to bring the characters closer.

This book was a real winner for me and I hope that there are more books in this time period (and I think there is possibility right in this book).

WORTH MENTIONING:  This is the first Amanda Quick novel to take place outside of the 19th century.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH is a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 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.

four-half-stars

Review: Red Wolf

Review: Red WolfRed Wolf by Jennifer Ashley
Series: Shifters Unbound #10
Published by Berkley Books on May 2nd 2017
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 336
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A friends to lovers story with an exciting mythology laden plot, Dimitri and Jaycee — red wolf and leopard — are an exciting pairing.

THE STORY: Shifter Dimitri is a red wolf and has had to fight for most of his life because of his uncommon nature and because of his stutter. He has mate claimed leopard shifter Jaycee but she hasn’t decided whether or not to accept his claim. When they are asked to investigate some shifters who are involved in mysterious and perhaps dangerous actions, the two are challenged both in their relationship and also their lives.

OPINION: This friends to lovers story has depth because these characters are challenged again and again in their relationship. There is also an intriguing story that keeps the pace of the novel hopping. Dimitri and Jaycee are already comfortable together but the story asks the question — are they meant to be together forever as mates or is their friendship with occasional benefits what they are meant to have.

Jaycee is a strong, kick-butt heroine. She is certainly Dimitri’s equal the two are partners and friends who are challenging one another. I loved how their relationship develops as challenges comes from all quarters. Again and again, these two have to evaluate what they want from their relationship.

There is a little slow start to the story, but once Dimitri and Jaycee are off on their mission, the pace picked up quite a bit.

I love the Shifters world and this book expands the mythology of the series in ways that I can’t wait to see what develops.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book has a reveal that sets up the next stage of the overarching storyline.

CONNECTED BOOKS: RED WOLF is the tenth book in the Shifters Unbound series. This series is much better read in order although the romance is self-contained in this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Never Trust a Pirate

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: Never Trust a PirateNever Trust a Pirate (Playful Brides, #7) by Valerie Bowman
Series: Playful Brides #7
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on May 2nd 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 288
Goodreads
five-stars

“The Black Fox Strikes Again”

FINAL DECISION:  Twisty with lots of secrets and strong independent characters but not too dark, I loved this one!  The story didn’t go where I expected it to from the title.  The characters were slowly revealed both to the reader and to one another.  The story was so fun but with some depth and purpose.

THE STORY:  Danielle LaCross seeking work as a lady’s maid for a viscountess.  She mistakes Cade Cavendish for his twin brother the viscount.  Cade is a known rogue and the black sheep of the family.  Rumored to be a rake and perhaps a pirate, Cade has a lot of secrets that he is keeping.  Danielle has secrets as well.  Once she realizes that Cade is not who she thought he was, she still cannot seem to resist the intriguing man.  Soon they realize that they have a common purpose and join forces to resolve the shadows that still haunt them.

OPINION:  This one hit all the right notes with me.  The book jumps immediately into the action and a lot is happening here.  The characters have secrets and these was plenty to keep me intellectually interested in the plot even as I emotionally fell for these characters.

A great part of this story is the twists along the way, so I recommend staying away from spoilers to maintain the suspense in the story.

Cade’s role as the black sheep of the family is important to him.  A twin, he has made a role for himself as the irresponsible rake…but there is much more going on with him.  I loved his personality which keeps a lightness even as the drama is ratcheted up in the story.  Because although readers might not know what Cade is doing, there is never any question that he is on the right side.

Danielle is strong and independent (and perhaps a little too assertive for a true lady’s maid). Normally the lack of class distinctions between them would seem false in the story, but Cade did not grow up part of the aristocracy and (along with some secrets to be revealed) thus the ultimate reason for how these two interact with one another works.

Fans of witty banter between the characters will like this one.  Cade and Danielle circle around one another as each is trying to figure out the other without giving away their own secrets.

One of my favorite parts of this book is that I actually was surprised by the resolution of the mystery and yet it made perfect sense.  The mystery has a real purpose here and is well integrated into the romance. The suspense and mystery of the story worked really well here and felt totally natural for the times. Yet the story never veers into angst and darkness.  There is a brightness to the story that I really enjoyed (even though I’m generally a bigger fan of the dark romances).

WORTH MENTIONING:  Fans of the series will get some glimpses of favorite characters.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  NEVER TRUST A PIRATE is the seventh book in the Playful Brides series.  While it is certainly possible to read this book as a standalone, it is so much better having the backstory of the characters.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 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.

five-stars