Review: Beyond Scandal and Desire

Review: Beyond Scandal and DesireBeyond Scandal and Desire (Sins for All Seasons, #1) by Lorraine Heath
Series: Sins for All Seasons #1
Published by Avon on January 30th 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-stars

“Is there not some part of you, some deep dark part of you, that longs for scandal?”

FINAL DECISION: A bit slow in developing, the romance between Mick and Aslyn builds up to a wonderful finish especially as the two spend quiet time together getting to know one another. In setting up the premise of the series and introducing all the characters, some of the emphasis on the couple is lost for the first third of the book, but the ending was unexpected and made me interested in the next in the series.

THE STORY: Mick Trewlove is the illegitimate son of a duke and a self-made businessman. Determined to get revenge for his father abandoning him to a baby farmer (where he might have ended up dead), Mick intends on ruining the Duke’s legitimate son and seduce the son’s betrothed. Lady Aslyn Hastings has been raised in all comfort and in expectation of marrying the Duke’s heir. But now that her betrothal is at hand, Aslyn feels something missing and is tempted to the scandalous Mick.

OPINION: For me, the highlight of this book are the clandestine meetings between Mick and Aslyn which show growth and companionship and a true relationship. There is great beauty in how these two people find something special together.

Aslyn is a sheltered woman whose future has been planned out since childhood. It was always expected that she would marry her guardians’ son and eventually become a duchess. As this book begins, Aslyn begins to find out that having one’s future planned out means that she has missed so much of her interactions with others (especially men). Because she has never been courted or even flirted with other men because of the expectation in everyone’s minds that she is settled.

When she meets Mick, she is tempted towards the scandalous, but rather than relying on the typical scandal plot line, this book instead focuses on the wrongness of the social rules that brand an illegitimate child with the sins of his parents. This book is deeply interested in the rules and the fates of those illegitimate children and the injustice of the social ostracism.

Mick is up to no good as this book begins, but finds himself challenged by his meeting with Aslyn. As the book begins, he is also trapped by the rules about illegitimacy. He seems to believe that all will be well if he can cause his father to acknowledge him (because being an acknowledged bastard is better). In many ways, his relationship with Aslyn turns his own notions around as well. He is a self-made man who cares about others despite his own perception of himself.

I loved the relationship between Mick and Aslyn as he shows her respect and treats her as a person — not just a beautiful woman. The times that they spent together were gentle and moving. I found their discussions to be a wonderful and quiet way of developing their relationship.

I also really liked the twist in this book which was unexpected and interesting (reading the author’s note at the end gave a insight as well).

The only problem I had with this book was the first third which was slow as it introduced quite a number of characters (which will be the subject of future books). The setup slowed the book down for me, but once the story truly began, I was caught up in the developing relationship between Mick and Aslyn.

WORTH MENTIONING: I love the potential stories of Mick’s siblings.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BEYOND SCANDAL AND DESIRE is the first book in the Sins for All Seasons Series about six illegitimate children raised as siblings. I have hopes that the series will include stories for each sibling.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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

four-stars

Review: The Trouble with True Love

Review: The Trouble with True LoveThe Trouble with True Love (Dear Lady Truelove, #2) by Laura Lee Guhrke
Series: Dear Lady Truelove #2
Published by Avon on January 30th 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“A woman who was shy and plain, who stammered when she was nervous and had never caught a man’s eye in her life, could hardly be splendid at advising people about love and romance.”

FINAL DECISION: A wonderful emotional story about two people who have a mature and adult relationship thankfully free of misunderstanding and drama. The slow burn of this relationship made me so happy.

THE STORY: During the absence of her recently married sister, Clara Deverill has taken the reins of her family newspaper and the Dear Lady Truelove advice column. The problem is that Clara doesn’t know what advice to give to people having problems with love — until she overhears a conversation between two men which convinces Clara to write a column directed toward the poor woman they are discussing. When Rex Galbraith finds out about the column (which is obviously about the conversation with his friend) he comes in search of Lady Truelove. Clara and Rex soon reach an unexpected agreement involving the Lady Truelove column and an orchestrated “courting” between them in order to satisfy Rex’s family.

OPINION: I loved this book because it was focused almost entirely on the couple and their developing relationship to the exclusion of everything else. No dramatic external storyline, no external barriers to their relationship. This is purely a story of two people developing a love for one another despite their initial belief that they could never be compatible.

Clara first sees Rex when he is giving advice to his friend (which involves lying to her about his intentions) and Clara sees that Rex is a rake who cannot be trusted. Clara has always wanted what is a traditional role — marriage and children, but her sister’s absence has placed her in charge of the newspaper and she begins to find her footing and the self-satisfaction of having a job. While Clara wants to marry, she is determined that she will marry for nothing less than love.

Rex is a man who has seen nothing but bad things come from “love”. He is determined never to marry, but he finds himself enthralled by an innocent and respectable Clara even as he knows that he must keep his distance from her. Although Rex has been a rake, he is an honorable man at heart. (And I think somewhat of a romantic despite his cynical musings about love and marriage).

I absolutely loved the slow burn of this book. The gentle way that these two draw together and eventually find a happy ending. The story of the shy wallflower who tames the rake is often done in romance, but this book is different. The wallflower finds her own footing and refuses to settle for less than what she wants. She is willing not only to sacrifice but also to forge ahead with her own altered plans.

My favorite books are emotional and focused on the couple. This story is about the growth and change in these characters on their journey and I enjoyed every step.

WORTH MENTIONING: I like this historical era (Victorian) where class distinctions are blurring and womens’ roles are expanding.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE TROUBLE WITH TRUE LOVE is the second book in the Dear Lady Truelove series. It is not necessary to read the first book in the series although there are some overlapping characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Edelweiss in order to prepare 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: A Devil in Scotland

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: A Devil in ScotlandA Devil in Scotland (No Ordinary Hero, #3) by Suzanne Enoch
Series: No Ordinary Hero #3
Published by St. Martin's Press on January 30th 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 320
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: Solid romance with an good danger/suspense/mystery story. I felt the romance was missing some real resolution of the past, but I enjoyed the book.

THE STORY: Callum MacCreath left Scotland ten years ago when his childhood friend agreed to marry his older brother. Now his brother has died (and Callum believes that foul play is involved) and Callum has returned as heir. Callum will do anything to punish those involved in his brother’s death — even if, and especially, if it is Rebecca.

OPINION: This is a cross between a second chance at love story and a former friends to lovers story. Callum and Rebecca had a closer and adventurous childhood together. When Rebecca grew up and chose a settled and responsible husband (who happened to be Callum’s older brother), Callum realized that his expectations regarding Rebecca would not be realized. Callum was disreputable — he spent his time drinking and wenching and his feeble attempts to pull Rebecca away from his brother resulted in Callum being banished from his family.

Callum was devastated by Rebecca’s acidic words which said that he was not a worthy man in any respect. For ten years, he used her words to fuel his transformation into a successful businessman in America. But losing her haunted him despite his attempts to hate her.

After discovering that his brother has died, Callum returns to Scotland in order prove that he was murdered. His plans change when he encounters Rebecca again and meets his niece for the first time.

The plot of this book is centered on the death of Callum’s brother. Callum believes he knows who is responsible and is determined to get revenge.

My favorite part of this book is how Callum and Rebecca deal with one another. Their relationship is wonderful because Callum cares about what Rebecca thinks and wants. He is willing to listen to her and change his opinion based on her opinions. Callum is also a darling sweetheart about Rebecca’s daughter. The child is not merely a plot device, but a character that shows what a good man Callum is.

What I wasn’t convinced by was the resolution of the past. I just didn’t buy that these two characters could resolve the scene and events of two years ago in such a simple manner. Their relationship progressed too fast and the two didn’t really deal with Rebecca’s choice to marry Callum’s brother. Yes, there were some minor discussions, but they almost made it more difficult for me to believe because Rebecca confessed that she had romantic feelings for Callum before and after marrying her husband. While she might have been right that Callum was immature, he was also right and Rebecca never really acknowledges that. Instead, there is the constant refrain that sometime they will have to deal with the past — but they never really do.

But that is a minor criticism. The relationship now between Callum and Rebecca works and I liked seeing them deal with the current drama.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book resolves the villain’s story from the first two books in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A DEVIL IN SCOTLAND is the third book in the No Ordinary Hero series. This book operates as a standalone although characters from the prior books make small but significant appearances.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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

four-stars

Review: A Promise of More

Review: A Promise of MoreA Promise of More (The Disgraced Lords, #2) by Bronwen Evans
Series: The Disgraced Lords #2
Published by Loveswept on April 15th 2014
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: My favorite of the series. I loved the couple and how the story played out. It was a good combination of the personal drama between the Beatrice and Sebastian and the overarching storyline.

THE STORY: After a duel where Sebastian Hawkestone, Marquis Coldhurst, kills her brother, Beatrice Hennessey and her family are in desperate straights. She comes to the docks to meet his ship with a proposition but instead she ends up being rescued from the Thames. She is rescued by Sebastian both from the Thames and from impending poverty. The two marry but Sebastian is determined that Beatrice will be perfect for the marriage of convenience he has planned after seeing his parents destroyed by the obsessive love for one another. At the same time, Sebastian is the focus of the enemy of the Libertine Scholars who is out to ruin and perhaps kill the men.

OPINION: This book is my favorite of the series. I enjoyed the interaction between Beatrice and Sebastian which begins as a spinster and rake story but has some interesting twists.

I liked the characters and this book is better developed than the first in the series (perhaps because everyone is introduced now). Beatrice is a woman who decides to sacrifice herself for the good of her family. (One negative is that we really don’t see her family so it is hard to put her sacrifice into context). She has been the responsible one in her family which has destroyed her marriage prospects because she has been given the nickname Henpeck Hennessey because she tried to turn her brother away from the vices in order to help their financial situation. Now Beatrice is stuck with the nickname, seasons without a match and no dowry. She is willing to do the only thing reasonable to her…convince her brother’s killer to marry her and save her family and sacrifice her dreams of love. I really liked how Beatrice is determined to make the best of her life and ultimately won’t sacrifice her dreams of more than a marriage of convenience with Sebastian.

Sebastian is a worthy hero. Although he is a rake and determined to live a life without the love that destroyed his parents, Sebastian is a good man. He cares for his sisters and is determined to right the damage done to Beatrice’s family — even if that means marrying her.

Watching Sebastian fall under Beatrice’s determined spell was fun to watch. As he finds the truth that love is not something that hurts, he and Beatrice build a relationship with one another.

I enjoyed the plot and drama in this one very much. A negative of the story is that, for me, Beatrice too quickly turns to her project of making Sebastian love her. Happened a little too quickly for my tastes.

WORTH MENTIONING: Spoiler but warning:  Some readers might be offended by Sebastian contemplating adultery and even engaging in some sexual situations with other women (although he ultimately rejects the women). I didn’t think it was serious but I know some readers don’t like sexual situations after the couple are together.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A PROMISE OF MORE is the second book in the Disgraced Lords series. This book has a continuing storyline that weaves the books together although each couple has its own book. While this book summarizes the events in the first book, I think this series is better read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: A Kiss of Lies

Review: A Kiss of LiesA Kiss of Lies (The Disgraced Lords, #1) by Bronwen Evans
Series: The Disgraced Lords #1
Published by Loveswept on January 14th 2014
Genres: Historical
Pages: 320
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION: Intriguing premise and I liked the characters, but I thought the execution of the story was uneven. Parts of the story did not hold my interest and the romance was resolved too quickly with only external things keeping them apart.

THE STORY: Christian Trent, Earl of Markham, is determined to return to England after having been shanghaied to Canada by a duke who accused Christian of raping his daughter. Christian will return to England and repair his name. While in Canada he acquired a ward after the death of the family that took him in. So Christian needs a governess to accompany them back to England. Sarah Cooper, a widow, is desperate to get the job as she runs from the darkness of her past. She once saw Christian when she was a young girl and had a crush on him. But Christian doesn’t know who she is, which is good because she is disguising herself — she is actually the daughter of a duke.

OPINION: I liked this book, but it has its weaknesses.

The positives: I liked Christian and Sarah as a couple. The story is very sexy and hot. I also enjoyed the premise of the story and the beginnings of the overarching storyline of the series. The other characters also make appearances here and I liked seeing how everything began.

The weaknesses: Too much needs to be explained in the beginning as everything is set up for the series. Too many new characters and stories mean that the momentum of the main storyline is stopped quite a bit. I also didn’t always enjoy the resolution of the problems that Sarah and Christian have. Sometimes things were too neat and quickly fixed for what should be extended and dramatic.

Overall, I liked this book knowing that there are other stories coming that I liked better. This book acts as a setup.

WORTH MENTIONING: This series has a continuing overarching storyline even as each book follows a different couple. The series is really meant to be read together in order. (I actually read the last books first and I think it would have been better to read in order).

CONNECTED BOOKS: A KISS OF LIES is the first book in the Disgraced Lords series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars

Review: Where Dreams Begin

Review: Where Dreams BeginWhere Dreams Begin by Lisa Kleypas
Published by Avon on November 26th 2013
Genres: Historical
Pages: 373
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION: This was an enjoyable book, with parts that I really enjoyed, especially the hero, but it felt uneven and the plot didn’t flow as well as I would expect. I was annoyed by the heroine’s reasons for rejecting the hero and that was the entire reason for them being apart so it made a difference to my enjoyment of the story.

THE STORY: Lady Holly Taylor is a widow with a young daughter. Entirely proper in every day, Holly is shocked when she encounters a man in a darkened room who, mistaking her for someone else, kisses her passionately. Even more shocking is when she realizes that the man is Zachary Bronson. Bronson is a commoner and a self-made man who is extremely influential but barely tolerated by society. Captivated by Holly, Bronson is determined to spent as much time with her as possible. When he makes her a scandalous offer of employment, Holly is tempted.

OPINION: There was a lot I really enjoyed about this story. The cross-class romance was quite wonderful as Holly begins to see something different that how she was raised and expected to live. She begins to question things about her own life.

I also loved, loved Zachary who is so sweet in how he falls for Holly. He is so taken with her almost immediately but treats her with such respect. His interactions with Holly’s daughter are also adorable. I also liked how he treats Holly as a flesh and blood woman and not as a status symbol. So often this story might be him deciding that he wants to improve himself by marrying into society and trying to coerce her, but that is not how this story works.

The drama is about Holly’s own reticence and that is where I had the problem. Holly is too concerned about what her husband would want and expect from her. I certainly understand that she might be concerned about how she was raised or society’s view, but I don’t get turning over your life to a dead man. There was just too much of that for me.

My second problem is with the secondary crisis in the book towards the end. It seemed manufactured because everything is really resolved and then we have chapters left to finish so we need a new drama — but since the two have already declared themselves to one another, it just didn’t feel that it moved the story forward in any real way.

Despite this, I really liked Holly and Zachary together. They had a sweet romance.

WORTH MENTIONING: A minor character, Dr. Linley, has his own romance in the novella “Against the Odds”.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WHERE DREAMS BEGIN is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars

Review: Rapture in Death

Review: Rapture in DeathRapture in Death (In Death, #4) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #4
Published by Berkley on March 3rd 2007
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 417
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: An enjoyable combination of relationship and crime mystery, RAPTURE IN DEATH deals with the early days of Eve and Roarke’s marriage along with a series of “suicides” among people who seem to have no reason to want to die.

THE STORY: A series of suicides where each person dies with a mocking smile on his or her face doesn’t sit well with Eve. She seems to find some brain abnormalities but no one can find a cause or whether or not someone is orchestrating these deaths. Just back from her honeymoon, Eve and Roarke settle down into their marriage while Eve (with Roarke’s help) tries to figure out who is targeting high profile New Yorkers.

OPINION: This is one of the early books in the series that made this a superlative series. I believe that the best books in the series (and this is one of them) have a great balance between the personal issues of Eve (here she is adjusting to her new marriage) and a rousing crime that Eve solves (and the best books have her working directly with Roarke as much as possible).

This book still feels fresh after I’ve read it at least a dozen times over the years. Eve and Roarke are vibrant characters and the crime had a double twisty resolution. There are a lot of things going on, plenty of significant appearances by the secondary characters and just a great centering on Eve and Roarke.

I don’t read these books as crime dramas or mysteries because I think that overall they are only just above average on those aspects because there is no real way to solve these mysteries on the clues given.  I read them as character driven stories about Eve and her life. This book does a great job of expanding on the characters in the series and thus is one of the better books in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: Hubba Hubba!

CONNECTED BOOKS: RAPTURE IN DEATH is the fourth book in the In Death series. While the mystery in the book is self-contained, there are continuing relationship and personal journey stories that span the series and thus I recommend reading the books in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: A Treacherous Curse

Review: A Treacherous CurseA Treacherous Curse (Veronica Speedwell, #3) by Deanna Raybourn
Series: Veronica Speedwell #3
Published by Berkley on January 16th 2018
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 352
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Very enjoyable entry into the series. The highlights were the Egyptology aspects and the reveal about Stoker’s past. The characters are further developed and their relationship moves forward in small but significant ways.

THE STORY: The utterly unique Veronica Speedwell and Stoker, her partner in museum organization and crime solving, become entwined in the disappearance of Stoker’s former expedition partner and ex-friend. He also happens to be the man who married Stoker’s ex-wife. The man disappeared under suspicious circumstances along with a priceless artifact from an Egyptian expedition but Stoker is a prime suspect. Ancient curses and appearances of the Egyptian god Anubis abound as Veronica and Stoker attempt to locate his ex-partner and clear Stoker’s reputation.

OPINION: Historical mystery and romance, this book continues the series of crimes that butterfly collector Veronica and naturalist Stoker get involved in solving. Here there is a personal aspect as Stoker might become the prime suspect if the disappearance is not solved.

Once again the highlight of this book is the interaction between Veronica and Stoker. While the two are not engaged in a romance in the traditional sense, they are certainly involved in a relationship — it’s just the seriously slow burn type. As the two investigate, the truth about Stoker’s relationship with his ex-wife is revealed.

This series is a fun read as Veronica and Stoker make an unusual couple with lots of witty repartee between them. These are unusual people who obviously fit so well together even as they argue and fight and at times hurt one another. While the series is content with the intensely slow burn of their romance, there is no reason to rush along as these two people develop a partnership, a friendship and a even a “romance” unlike any other they have experienced.

The mystery in this book was intriguing as the story exposes the Egyptian craze of the Victorian era. There are plenty of suspects and motivations for the disappearance and the solution (while not one that is “solvable” by the reader) works as a dramatic story.

I enjoyed this book because of its unique characters and voice. What keeps me coming back to this series, however, is the promise of the relationship between Veronica and Stoker.  And on that this book did not disappoint.

WORTH MENTIONING: Veronica and Stoker are such an amusing pair.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A TREACHEROUS CURSE is the third book in the Veronica Speedwell series. The book has a self-contained mystery and could be read on its own for that reason. However, a big part of the attraction of this series to me is the relationship between Veronica and Stoker and for that reason I recommend reading the books in order as their relationship develops.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: The Duke of Nothing

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: The Duke of NothingThe Duke of Nothing (The 1797 Club, #5) by Jess Michaels
Series: The 1797 Club #5
Published by The Passionate Pen on January 16th 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 211
Goodreads
four-stars

“Here we are, two people who’ll never get what they want because of what someone else did. Because of what we did to ourselves.”

FINAL DECISION: A sweet and sometimes angsty and seemingly doomed love between two people who don’t see a way forward together until they decide that love means more than anything and are willing to do whatever it takes to be together. Baldwin and Helena are a couple who seem perfect for one another and yet do not see a way forward — until there is no other choice.

THE STORY: Baldwin Undercross, Duke of Sheffield has been keeping a secrets from his friends and family — he is bankrupt. His father squandered the family fortune with gambling and Baldwin contributed his own bad decisions to the problem. In fact, Baldwin has only one solution now — marry an heiress. He has his mind on a rich American, but he cannot keep his eyes off her impoverished and scandalous cousin and companion, Helena Monroe.

OPINION: This is a sweeter book that I expected. The drama in the book is the necessity of Baldwin to marry for money and Helena’s lack of the same. It’s a book more about pride and doing what is expected rather than internal problems for the couple.

These are such nice characters that they obviously belong together from the moment that they meet. Everyone seems to recognize that, but Baldwin’s troubles and his pride and shame keep these characters apart. Baldwin has to learn to swallow his pride and rely on the people who are there always willing to stand by him if he just asks.

Helena has her own problems that stem from being betrayed by those who should care for her.  That gives the story some angst.

For me, however, this book is centered around these characters who need only to decide that nothing matters more than one another in order to find their happiness.

A great addition to the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: There are lots of appearances by the other couples and the bachelor dukes.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE DUKE OF NOTHING is the fifth book in the 1797 Club series about a group of dukes who have been friends since they were children. This book is a standalone with the romance but the friends make appearances.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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

four-stars

Review: Immortal in Death

Review: Immortal in DeathImmortal in Death (In Death, #3) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #3
Published by Berkley Books on July 1st 1996
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 320
Goodreads
five-stars

“Getting married was murder.”

FINAL DECISION: The book is one of the best blend between the personal as Eve tries to exonerate her friend from suspicion of murder and Eve battling her own personal demons. Twisty and personal.

THE STORY: Eve is racing against time as the woman who is her best friend (gosh, that sounds juvenile) is accused of the murder of the ex of her current lover. Eve must find out who killed the famous model.

OPINION: First, to get the mystery out of the way.  This story is compelling because of Eve being driver to solve the crime to save her friend. This is a good one. Plenty of suspects and the ultimate solution worked very well — especially upon re-reading where the clues are obvious. Good pacing and good set up makes this one of the mysteries that I really enjoyed in the series.

But for me, the value of this book is the leap that the relationship between Eve and Roarke takes. As part of Eve’s past is revealed, I loved seeing not only how Eve deals with it, but also the effect it has on Roarke.

“She was, he thought, capable, strong, and resilient. Whatever wounds she had, she would live with. She didn’t need him to heal, but to accept.”

For me, this is what makes this series so effective. Eve is strong and Roarke only helps her be even stronger and more centered. But she is independent and strong on her own. This works so well in the series. This book really begins to delve more deeply into their connection which grows beyond the cop and (former) criminal rich guy trope.

One of the essential books in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: Eve and Roarke are planning their wedding and some of Eve’s hidden past is revealed.

CONNECTED BOOKS: IMMORTAL IN DEATH is the third book in the In Death series. While the mystery in this book is completely self-contained, I think the overarching storyline dealing with Eve and Roarke makes these books so I recommend reading the series in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars