Review: Blood Fury

Review: Blood FuryBlood Fury (Black Dagger Legacy, #3) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Legacy #3
Published by Ballantine Books on January 9th 2018
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 432
Goodreads
four-stars

“You couldn’t soar it you didn’t leap.”

FINAL DECISION: Two romances that feel like romances rather than an add on to an ongoing story. Although very sexy, both of these romances were sweeter emotionally than I expected with less angst and drama.

THE STORY: This book has two stories.  First, the story of Peyton and Novo. Peyton is an aristocratic vampire who expected to find a worthy female of his class to marry and carry on his family legacy. The female, he wanted, however, rejected him in favor of another male. Instead, he is intrigued by Novo who is definitely not what he expected to want. A fellow trainee, Novo is brash, very sexual and not at all aristocratic. But she has secrets that keep her from opening up. Second, is the story of Saxon and Ruhn. Saxon was rejected by the male he chose for himself. But when Ruhn comes into the Black Dagger household, Saxon finds himself attracted. Ruhn, however, may not want to explore the possible connection between himself and Saxon.

OPINION: This was a book that was evenly split between the two couples and didn’t have any extraneous stories to take away from those two romances. There is also common threads between the two romances: both have one person who has a tragic past and suffers from feelings of lack of worth; and both have some crummy father figures.

I enjoyed these stories because although there are dark aspects of the pasts of these characters, the stories themselves are less dark than many of the Black Dagger Brotherhood books. The stories were lighter in many ways and happier. The couples get together quicker than I expected and have to work through their problems together.

Although I enjoyed the recruits’ romance story, I was most satisfied with Saxon finally getting his happy ending. We get the chance not only to know more about him and see him getting the opportunity to be more than just a plot device. Ruhn is an interesting pairing for him and I enjoyed the sweetness of their interaction (and the hotness). The weakness of that story for me is that there is almost too fast a connection between them (especially because Ruhn has not had a relationship with a male before).

Peyton and Novo have a more traditional romance (well as traditional as could be expected in the Black Dagger universe. Like the other trainee stories, their romance has a bit of a new adult feel to it as opposed to the Black Dagger Brotherhood couples. Their problems seem smaller and more manageable but no less important. I thought they were funny at times, but intense and sweet at others. (And seriously hot).

I enjoyed this book very much, it feels like a relief from the intense drama of the main series and has a more romance feel to it.

WORTH MENTIONING: The book contains a couple of public sex scenes.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BLOOD FURY is the third book in the Black Dagger Legacy series which is a spinoff of Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. I think the Black Dagger Legacy books at least should be read in order because of the developing relationships. With the cross-over with the Black Dagger Brotherhood, however, a reader is better served by reading the entire two series in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Starlight Nights

Review: Starlight NightsStarlight Nights by Stacey Kade
Published by Forge on January 9th 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Goodreads
five-stars

“I’d never understood why people called it ‘falling’ in love. You either love someone or you don’t, like an on/off switch. End of story. But in that second, I get it. Because suddenly it’s not the floor tilting anymore, it’s my whole world. And I’m sliding helplessly toward feelings that are way bigger than I am.”

FINAL DECISION: Choices, mistakes, second chances. Calista and Eric do not have an easy uncomplicated path to one another and I loved it. They are flawed and struggling and they don’t figure everything out by the end of the book and that was perfectly okay with me. I loved this book almost as much as 738 DAYS.

THE STORY: Calista Beckett has lived a lot in her twenty-three years. After a wildly successful stint as a teenager on the show Starlight, she fell into a heroine addiction. Now sober, she is trying to build a new life for herself as a student at a midwestern college. Eric Stone comes back into her life wanting her to star in his new web series based on a book that Calista loves. Eric played Calista’s brother in Starlight but there has been something between them since Eric gave Calista her first kiss at her audition for Starlight. She fell in love with him that day but their relationship has ended up giving her nothing but pain.

OPINION: Sometimes books and characters just capture my attention despite flaws that might otherwise make me dislike them. Eric and Calista are definitely flawed characters. Their romance is rocky and before the epilogue, I was barely convinced that they would be able to overcome the years of mistakes that they had made with one another.

For people so young, history weighs heavily on these two. This book is all about second chances. About how choices and mistakes can overwhelm and how love is not always something positive. Yet by the end of this book, I felt the distance the characters had traveled and the welcome epilogue shows that they finally found a way to deal with one another in a positive affirming manner.

Calista is a young woman who has already made many mistakes and is threatened by an overbearing mother who uses her love to keep her under her thumb. Calista has become the breadwinner for her family and the mother is desperate to keep things together. Torn between wanting to live her own life and her responsibilities to her mother and sisters, Calista has to learn to assert herself even when she will disappoint others.

Eric also has family problems. Abandoned by his mother, dealing with a father who wants to control and crush him, Eric struggles with abandonment issues. These are a pair that seem destined to be at cross purposes: Calista fears control; Eric fears loss.

These characters are flawed and make very human mistakes. They backslide. They succumb to their fears and the easy way out. They are definitely not perfect. Some readers might find this a difficult read because the flaws and failures of these characters are on full display. They struggle and sometimes flail in their relationship with one another and with others. Yet this is the very reason that I ended up loving this book. The journey of these characters gave me a sense of their accomplishment by the end of the book.

As I began this book, I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to like these characters. Eric, especially, seemed at times arrogant and a jerk; Calista seemed weak. But as I got to see these characters change and fail and succeed and determine their path, I found myself liking not only them but the possibilities of their relationship.

This is a book that will be on my keeper shelf and along with 738 DAYS be one that I will revisit again and again.

 

WORTH MENTIONING: For fans of 738 DAYS, the epilogue of this book is definitely worth reading.

CONNECTED BOOKS: STARLIGHT NIGHTS is the sequel to 738 DAYS. It is not necessary to read that book first as this operates as a standalone. However, readers of 738 DAYS will get to see what is going on with Amanda and Chase.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 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.

five-stars

Release Day Blitz: The Crown Prince’s Bride

Release Day Blitz: The Crown Prince's Bride

A lovely and romance with a royal prince and the woman who has made herself his right hand. He has loved and lost and fears going that path again. She worries about losing their years of friendship.  My review is here.

If you want to get a sense of the book, you can read an excerpt here from the beginning of the book where things begin to change for our couple.

Summary:

A Crown Prince gets a second chance at love with the woman who’s always been there – in the next book in the prince duology from Donna Alward!

The Crown Prince of Marazur is suffering from a broken heart. After losing his wife and future queen, he knows he’ll never find love again with a partner as wonderful as her. He’s thrown himself into his duties and is trying to be a better father to his two children, but he’s lonely. Even though falling in love seems impossible, so does spending the rest of his life alone.

Stephani has been Raoul’s assistant for years. Smart, loyal, and discreet, Stephani is fantastic at her job. Except for the fact that she’s been in love with her boss since her first week of employment, not that she would ever act on it. Besides, Raoul is first in line to the throne and she’s his assistant. If Raoul ever marries again, it’ll be with someone who can be a future queen. Not someone like Stephani.

When Raoul’s date for a state dinner is unable to attend, he invites Stephani. She’s well-versed on the issues and castle protocol, and Raoul’s always been comfortable with her. But when Stephani arrives, Raoul hardly recognizes her. Is this stunning woman the same one who’s run his office for years?

The Crown Prince’s Bride
is the ultimate fairytale for readers looking for Cinderella to get her prince—and be able to keep him past midnight.

Author Bio:

A busy wife and mother of three (two daughters plus the family dog), Donna Alward believes hers is the best job in the world: a combination of stay-at-home mom and romance novelist. Donna loves being back on the East Coast of Canada after nearly twelve years in Alberta where her romance career began, writing about cowboys and the west. She is the author of Somebody Like You, Somebody’s Baby, and Someone to Love.

 

Buy Links:
B&N Nook

Google Play

Kobo

eBooks.com

iBooks

 

Social Links:

Twitter: @DonnaAlward

Author Website: http://www.donnaalward.com/

Facebook: @DonnaAlwardAuthor

 

Excerpt: The Crown Prince’s Bride

Late August

Stephani surveyed the ballroom, ensuring everything was running smoothly and to her satisfaction. As the executive assistant to the Crown Prince of Marazur, it was her job to make sure that Raoul Navarro’s birthday party went off without a hitch.

So far the dinner had been delicious, the traditional almond cake devoured, and the music and dancing had begun. She started to breathe a bit easier now.

“Señorita Savalas? Champagne?”

She turned to the footman who carried several full glasses on his silver tray. “Sí, gracias.” She smiled and took a flute from the tray,then sipped gratefully. The dry, fizzy liquid delighted her tongue. By royal standards, the party was small, but no expense had been spared. Including this particularly fine vintage.

Raoul deserved a wonderful party after the year he’d had.Considering this was the first real event at the palace since his wife,Princess Cecilia, had tragically died, Stephani had pulled out all the stops.

It was her job. And it was more than just a job, too.Because for the last seven years, she’d been in love with her boss.

Her boss, who had been married to her cousin.

Her boss, who was now a widower with two small children.

Right now Raoul was mingling with a group that included the finance minister and the gentleman’s twenty-something daughter. The girl looked up at Raoul with something like hero worship, and Stephani smiled to herself.He was at least ten years too old for her, but he was extraordinarily handsome with his black hair and dark, soulful eyes. New lines had appeared at either side of his lips, but Stephani thought they only added to his allure.

She joined the group and smiled at everyone, then spoke briefly before turning her attention to the Italian attaché. There was also a representative from the French tourism ministry and she switched languages effortlessly.

“You’re exceptionally good at that.”

Raoul’s deep voice vibrated at her ear and she suppressed adelighted shiver. She pasted a platonic smile on her face and turned around.“Oh, hello. Having a good time?”

“More than I expected. And what about you? Are you enjoying yourself? Or just working the room?” He lifted an eyebrow.

“Just making everyone feel welcome.”

“And showing off the fact you can speak . . .” He counted silently on his fingers. “Five languages? Six?”

“Five,” she confirmed. “My Russian and German are more of a danger than an asset. I could ruin diplomatic relations in two sentences.”

He chuckled, and she let herself enjoy the sound. Raoul didn’t laugh much at all recently, but the wine pairings at dinner and the open bar had loosened him up considerably.

She hadn’t seen him this relaxed since . . .

A confusing wave of grief swept over her. Maybe she’d had a secret thing for Raoul for ages, but she’d also loved her cousin deeply.Everyone had loved Ceci. And Stephani missed her. Ceci would have loved a party like this. She would have sparkled like the diamond she was. Stephani was far better behind the scenes. It had always been that way, even when they were kids.

“It’s good to hear you laugh, Raoul.”

His eyes met hers. “It’s good to laugh again. It’s been awhile.”

“Of course.” She didn’t want to dampen the mood of the evening, so she smiled instead and nodded toward a woman skirting the dancefloor. “Look. Rose has come back. The children were lovely at dinner, don’t you think?”

His gaze followed the new nanny. “You helped with her dress for the evening?”

“I did.”

“My brother can’t take his eyes off of her.”

“I think Diego has finally met his match. Do you approve?”

“Yes and no?” He shrugged. “My first priority is the children, and they seem to adore her.”

“Of course.”

“But she is also a lovely person.” He sent her a sideways smile. “Better than Diego deserves.”

She laughed a little. “You don’t really believe that.”

“No, I don’t. He’s been . . . different. Especially the last few months. Since . . .”

His voice trailed off, but she knew what he’d meant. Since Ceci died.

Everything was different since Ceci had died.

He nudged her elbow. “I don’t want to drag down the party.Do you want to dance, Steph?”

Did she? She’d only imagined it a million times.Particularly at every palace function when she’d stood on the sidelines with her clipboard while Ceci held Raoul in her arms. The perfect couple, a prince and princess, utterly in love.

She hesitated long enough that he stepped back. “Lo siento.I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”

“You didn’t,” she hurried to assure him. “I’d love to dance.” It might be her one and only chance. She put her champagne down on a nearby table and smiled up at him. “Shall we?”

The band had switched to a slower song, and he led her to the polished parquet and took her in his arms. She swallowed tightly . . . ohmy. He was smooth, effortless, and his hand was warm against the hollow of her back. His fingers tightened over hers and she bit down on her lip. Raoul, she thought, wondering why on earth she insisted on torturing herself day in and day out. Why couldn’t she manage to shake this silly attraction? Besides, he only ever saw her as his assistant. If he had any idea of her feelings . . .Ugh. Work would be unbearably awkward.

“You look lovely tonight,” he said, his lips only inches from her ear. “The little black dress was a good choice.”

“It’s Versace.” She strangled out the words.

Their feet kept moving, and their bodies seemed to drift closer, until the lapels of his jacket brushed against her breasts. She could feel his heat, smell his cologne.

She should resign. Find another position somewhere, away from the longing for what she could never have. Except this was the perfect job. Wonderful pay, wonderful perks, and . . . well, the family relied on her.She knew that. It was more than a job, and more than just Raoul. She cared about them all. King Alexander, Diego, the children . . . they were her family now that Ceci was gone. She had no immediate family of her own. What remained of the Savalas family was spread out over Greece and Spain. She didn’t even know half of them. Ceci had been her anchor, and in her absence, the Navarros had become her surrogate family.

The song ended and Raoul stood back, but his face had lost the relaxed easiness of before, and a small furrow had appeared between his brows. “Is everything okay?” she asked, suddenly panicked that maybe she’d been the one to drift closer and inadvertently created an awkward moment between them.

“Diego danced with Rose, and she’s just left him standing in the middle of the floor,” he said quietly.

“Maybe there’s trouble in paradise.”

“You should talk to him.”

“I know. It’s never been easy, though. We’re so different.We always seem to cross swords.”

“That’s because you’re more alike than you think. You have to start giving him a chance. He’s more reliable than you give him credit for.”

Back to business. She felt on solid ground when she could focus on business.

She patted his arm. “I’m going to check on the kitchen staff. Señora Ortiz is planning a smaller buffet close to midnight.”

She went to leave and he reached for her hand. “Stephani?”

She focused on his face, because the fact that he was holding her hand was doing funny things to her insides. “Yes?”

“Thank you, for all this. I know I’ve been difficult the last few months. Tonight, having people and music in the house again . . .”

The butterflies in her belly grew heavy. “It must be difficult.”

“Yes. No. I mean, it’s been good. I can’t live my life being gloomy and unhappy all the time. This wouldn’t have happened without you.”

She smiled. “The people need to see that you’re still okay.”

He squeezed her fingers. “I need to know I’m okay. Thishelped. Thank you.”

And he leaned forward and kissed her cheek.

His breath was warm against her skin, and she might be mistaken but she would swear his mouth lingered there just a moment longer than necessary. Heat rushed to her face and she muttered a hasty “you’re welcome”before darting away. She didn’t want him to see her blush. Or the fact that his casual touch had the power to make her normal unflappable reserve desert her completely.

* * *

Raoul downed his fourth—or was it fifth?—Scotch and put the cut crystal glass down on a table. The midnight buffet had been set out, a light meal for those partygoers working up an appetite on the dance floor.Diego had disappeared ages ago, chasing after Rose.

His brother was in love. The real thing. And Raoul had congratulated him and wished him well, when all he could think of was how horrible it felt to have his heart ripped out of his chest in the actions of a moment. That perhaps love wasn’t worth it. He might actually believe that if it weren’t for Emilia and Max. The children were all he had left of Ceci, and he wouldn’t trade his marriage with her for anything.

Not even the pain of losing her.

They hadn’t let him go to the scene of the accident, but he didn’t have to. The news had shown the mangled wreck in full detail. A leaked phone video had shown the paramedics taking Emilia and Max from the car, and their driver, Marco, sitting with a white bandage on his uncommonly pale face.And there’d been a glimpse of the body bags, too—Ceci’s, and Mariana’s, the royal family’s nanny.

He went to the bar and got another Scotch. He was a year older, and life did go on. He even had moments of happiness. Tonight had been fun, but now that the evening was winding down, he was missing Ceci more than ever.

Would it be very bad form for him to leave the party before his guests? He suspected it would.

As he took a drink of his Scotch, he spotted Stephani across the room. She didn’t look tired at all, even though he knew she’d been here since about seven this morning and hadn’t stopped all day. He wasn’t sure where she got her stamina, but she was the best assistant he’d ever had. She’d been working for him long enough that she anticipated his needs. Hiring Ceci’s cousin had started out as a favor to his wife. Stephani had graduated from university but was working as an event server at a resort in Barcelona to make ends meet. She hadn’t had the resources Ceci did—she’d been the poor cousin who’d had to work her way through. Ceci had known Stephani wouldn’t take a handout, and Raoul had reluctantly agreed to give her a chance. It turned out to be a brilliant business decision.

He sipped again. Didn’t hurt that she was gorgeous, either.Her silky hair was the same inky color as her black dress and she wore heels that showed off her very fine legs. Stephani worked the room like the greatest of ambassadors and hostesses rolled into one. She was so like Ceci in that regard,warm and generous. But different, too. Focused, sharp. Ceci’s biggest quality had been her capacity for love and kindness. Stephani’s was to take that warmth and use it to its best advantage—while staying out of the spotlight.

She laughed and he swore he heard it across the room, above the music and the chatter. His body tightened in response, an uncomfortable and yet somehow welcome experience. He was thirty-seven, for God’s sake, and heir to the throne. Unlike his brother, he didn’t have the luxury—or the inclination—to play the field. But he was still a man. A young man, really.What was he going to do, stay a widower for the rest of his life? Stay celibate? It was utterly unrealistic.

Maybe he shouldn’t have had so much Scotch. He should go. No one would miss him now, would they? Particularly not Steph. He’d thanked her and kissed her cheek, and she’d literally run off. What had he been thinking?

He left the ballroom and headed for the stairs, then reconsidered. He’d rather get some fresh air and clear his head after all the alcohol.

The hall to the back entrance of the castle was narrow and once he descended the steps, he reached a stone-encased alcove. Fresh air filtered in, moist and balmy in the summer heat, and he shrugged off his jacket and dropped it in a corner. It would be dusty but he didn’t care. Instead he leaned back against the cool stone and closed his eyes. His head swam instantly and he opened them again, seeking equilibrium.

And there she was.

“I brought you a bottle of water,” Stephani said softly. She uncapped it and held it out. “You need to rehydrate.”

He took it and drank deeply. “How did you know I was here?”

She met his gaze evenly. “Your Highness, it’s my job to know where you are at all times. Even more than your security.”

“Thass right. You’re my right hand.” He heard the slur andwas mortified. He never got drunk. Never. But he had tonight. It was definitely a good thing he’d left the party.

She smiled at him. “Oh my. You did hit the Scotch ratherhard, didn’t you?”

He didn’t answer. Didn’t know how to answer.

“Slurring in front of the finance minister wouldn’t be a smart move.”

He looked over at her. “Really? I doubt he’d notice.”

“Oh, he’d notice. Rumor has it he addressed his own alcohol issues a few months ago and has been dry ever since. I watched. He didn’t take any wine at dinner.”

And this was one of the reasons Steph was so valuable. She always had her ear to the ground. Always seemed to know what was going on and with whom.

Which made him look at her a little more closely. “So, Miss Observant, how long did you know about Diego and Rose?”

She laughed. “Almost from day one.”

“I like it when you laugh.”

Her smile faded. “Sir?”

“Don’t ‘sir’ me, Steph. We’ve been past that for years.You’re family.”

A strange look passed over her face and he wondered what it meant, but then she was smiling again and he thought he might have imagined it.“I’m Ceci’s cousin, that’s all. We’re not blood relatives.”

“No,” he said quietly. “We’re not.”

And the strange feeling he’d had while dancing with her returned. Like his skin was somehow shrinking, taut with . . . damn, he couldn’t be feeling attraction. That would just be wrong.

And yet . . . he dropped his gaze to her lips. They were plump and red, fuller than Ceci’s had been, and right now they opened just a little as Stephani inhaled sharply.

“Raoul,” she cautioned.

He dragged his gaze back up to her eyes, expecting to see disapproval, but instead they were wide with what he could only figure was equal awareness. He stepped closer, testing her, and watched as her pupils dilated.

“Raoul,” she repeated, an edge of desperation in her voice.But not fear. He was clear-headed enough to recognize that wistful sound of longing, and when he lifted his hand and placed it along her cheek, her breath came out in a rush against the pad of his thumb.

And then he kissed her.

She tasted like dry champagne and a trace of almonds and citrus from the cake earlier, plus a darker flavor that was sultry, sexy woman.The little dress she wore was utterly appropriate, even conservative, but the woman inside it was so very alive and responsive. Her tongue met his as he deepened the kiss, and with a sigh of surrender she curled her arms around his shoulders and melted into him.

His body responded, and he was just man enough—just drunk enough—to be grateful. For the first time since Ceci’s death, he was happy he hadn’t died with her.

Ceci.

He stepped back from Stephani, breaking the kiss and putting a few feet between them. Her chest rose and fell rapidly, her lips were slightly swollen and parted. It would be so easy to step forward and take her in his arms. Press her against the stone wall, feel her body beneath his.

But she was Ceci’s cousin.

And she was too valuable . . . no, too important for him to treat her in such a cavalier, self-indulgent way. She was Stephani. The person he counted on most.

“I’m so sorry,” he murmured, shoving his hands into his pockets. “Steph, I . . . I have no excuse. That was so wrong of me.”

Her lips closed and she lifted her chin, though he thought,for just a fleeting second, that her lower lip quivered a bit. “Think nothing of it, sir,” she said firmly. “It was the Scotch talking, that’s all.”

“Yes, the Scotch . . .” His voice trailed off for a moment.“Forgive me, Steph.”

“There’s nothing to forgive.” Her voice sounded oddly thick,but he thought maybe it was because they were still ensconced within the stonewalls of the alcove.

“You put together this wonderful party. You always have my back. You must know how I appreciate all you do.”

She met his gaze and smiled a little. Was she sad? Why wasn’t she angry? He took a breath, then remembered the little sound of acquiescence she’d made as she wrapped her arms around his neck and the word she had been going to say stuck in his throat.

She had welcomed the contact. Wholeheartedly. What the hell did this mean?

He wasn’t sure how to ask, and after too long of a hesitation, she put her hand on his arm and gave a little squeeze. “It’s my job,” she said softly. “Try to sober up. I’ll see you in the office tomorrow.”

Then she slipped away, her footsteps echoing on the stone steps.

Raoul had no desire to go back to the party. Instead he picked up his dusty jacket, made his way into the garden—Ceci’s garden—and found a vacant bench.

Then he took the little silver flask from his jacket pocket,unscrewed the cap, and took a big swig.

Stephani was off-limits. Tomorrow he’d reset the boundaries and they’d go back to normal. And if he ever did decide to . . . have a romance again, it wouldn’t be with his assistant.

No matter how alluring she’d turned out to be.

 

 

 

Copyright © 2018 by Donna Alward in The Crown Prince’s Bride and reprinted by permission of Swerve.

 

Review: The Crown Prince’s Bride

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 Crown Prince’s BrideThe Crown Prince's Bride (Royal Duology #2) by Donna Alward
Series: Princes of Marazur #2
Published by Swerve on January 9th 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 250
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: Lovely, lovely story of two adults working through their relationship. I loved how these two talked and addressed the difficulties of their relationship as adults. Sweet and sexy read.

THE STORY: Stephani loves her job as the assistant to the Crown Prince of Marazur. But she also has a secret — she has been in love with Raoul for years. Stephani was able to live with her unrequited love when Raoul was married to Stephani’s cousin. Now that Raoul is a widower, however, Stephani realizes that she cannot spend the rest of her life pining for Raoul. Raoul doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life alone, but falling in love again seems impossible. But a chance kiss with his assistant is something that he cannot stop thinking about.

OPINION: I loved this book which is a friends to lovers story and the story of how someone can learn to love again after loss. The story is about mature people making mature decisions and (apart from one dramatic plot twist) is mostly about these two talking through their problems.

In a characterization that gives one relief about who is running the governments of the world, Raoul is a mature, serious heir and father. Indeed, his problem is that he is too responsible and too concerned about things being figured out and right. Although he is attracted to Stephani, he worries a lot about every move they make in their relationship.

Stephani is also a mature adult who has a career that she is good at (her job as Raoul’s assistant isn’t just an excuse for these two to be in close contact). The book takes seriously both of these characters concerns about getting involved in a relationship.

I liked these characters and their exploration of their relationship. My one complaint is that I wish we had gotten more with Stephani and Raoul’s children. Most of the story is getting the kids of out of the way in order to progress their relationship, but I wish we could have seen more of them together rather than being told how good Stephani’s relationship is with his kids.

Enjoyable without getting too dark and serious, this book also satisfies a romantic heart.

WORTH MENTIONING: The romance is on the sweeter side as most of the sex scenes occur behind closed doors (and between chapters).

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE CROWN PRINCE’S BRIDE is the second book in the Princes of Marazur series. The books operates as a standalone but because of the overlapping characters it reads better after the first book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to be able to write 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 Perilous Undertaking

Review: A Perilous UndertakingA Perilous Undertaking (Veronica Speedwell, #2) by Deanna Raybourn
Series: Veronica Speedwell #2
Published by Berkley Books on January 10th 2017
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 338
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Very strong followup to the first book in the series. The integration of the personal relationship and the mystery is better done here and the emotional intensity of the characters’ story is a highlight.

THE STORY: Veronica is asked to prove the innocence of an art patron who is set to hang for the murder of his mistress. But there are a lot of secrets involved in this case. From the identity of the person asking for Veronica’s help to hidden reasons why the condemned won’t defend himself, Veronica and her partner Stoker are steeped in secrets as they race to find the real killer.

OPINION: After the first book in the series, this one feels like it has hit a groove. The combination of the mystery and the relationship between Veronica and Stoker is well balanced and compelling all the way through.

Readers of the first book will recall that Veronica is an independent woman ahead of her time. She is opinionated, has made a career for herself, unapologetically takes foreign lovers, and is sarcastic and at times caustic in her tone. She is also clever and observant and a scientist. Even as Veronica remains true to her character, there is clearly a connection between her and Stoker. And I love the relationship between her and Stoker. There is simmering passion, but also real respect and annoyance with one another that is not based on passion at all.

Here, more is revealed about Stoker’s relationship with his family and Veronica continues to deal with the fallout of her family connection revealed in A CURIOUS BEGINNING. I liked that the mystery was developed throughout the book and at the same time the characters remain the focus of the book.

This book reminds me of the some of the best slow simmering man/woman mystery couples. There is an attraction but also verbal jousting and respect and at times bubbling resentment. These two are not going to quickly indulge in some quick passion because what is between them is too dangerous to treat lightly.

This book is funny and quite enjoyable. I can’t wait for the next in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: Opium indulgence results in some interesting advancements.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A PERILOUS UNDERTAKING is the second book in the Veronica Speedwell series. The mystery in this book is completely self-contained and thus the book can be read as a standalone. However, I recommend reading the series in order for the continuing personal storylines.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Glory in Death

Review: Glory in DeathGlory in Death (In Death, #2) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #2
Published by Berkley on December 28th 1995
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 296
Goodreads
five-stars

“Their fates had intertwined, personally, professionally. It was murder that had brought them together, and murder that would continue to poke fingers into their lives. The woman beside him defended the dead.”

FINAL DECISION: Wonderful followup to the amazing NAKED IN DEATH. In this book, Eve has another murder to solve that becomes connected to her personally as her relationship with the mysterious Roarke deepens.

THE STORY: Months after the events of NAKED IN DEATH, Eve has become more visible as a murder cop. When a well-known prosecutor is murdered by having her throat slashed, Eve is asked by her commander to take the case. When the next murder of a high profile woman occurs, Eve can’t find a connection between these two highly visible women — except that both has a connection to her lover Roarke. While Eve doesn’t believe that Roarke is involved, she is feeling stress because their relationship is getting too intense and close and this case only puts more pressure on Eve.

OPINION: I loved this book and even knowing the answer to the mystery, I can read it again and again with enjoyment. The combination of a mystery that matter to Eve along with the drama of the developing relationship between Eve and Roarke makes this a book worth reading.

In this series, the best books have three elements (1) a mystery that is personal to Eve in some manner; (2) Eve’s personal demons; and (3) some wonderful relationship moments with Eve and Roarke.

This book is one of the templates of that formula that works for dozens of these books. Eve is investigating the murder of someone she knows and whose murder touches on those around Eve. Even more, there is some parallel with Eve herself as she is feeling out her relationship with Roarke in the murder victim’s relationship with her lover. In this book, Eve’s personal demons are beginning to reveal themselves in stronger and more serious ways. Finally, this book sets up a conflict between Roarke and Eve as she has to deal with how serious the relationship has become and whether she is willing to take that next step of vulnerability.

While the first book in the series is a classic, this one feels more like the others in the series. Eve’s character is more defined and her relationship with Roarke is more important.

This one also has a good mystery that actually has some possibility of being figured out rather than the solution just being sprung on the reader. Enjoyable the whole way through.

WORTH MENTIONING: The introduction of Peabody.

CONNECTED BOOKS: GLORY IN DEATH is the second book in the In Death series. While the mysteries in each book are standalones, there are continuing and overarching storylines (these early book are mostly about Eve’s background and her relationship with Roarke) that continue book to book. I recommend reading the series in order although it is not strictly necessary.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: A Curious Beginning

Review: A Curious BeginningA Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell, #1) by Deanna Raybourn
Series: Veronica Speedwell #1
Published by Berkley Books on July 12th 2016
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 368
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: A mystery where most of the book it taken up with the developing relationship between Veronica and Stoker. There is no overt romance at this point, but it seems likely that these two who develop a investigative partnership might have some slow burn romance in the future.

THE STORY: Veronica Speedwell is on her own after the death of her aunt. She is now free to pursue her interests out of the country. Veronica is a butterfly hunter and a woman with the taste for foreign affairs (with men). Just at that moment, a man breaks into her cottage and she ends up traveling to London with a German baron who claims that he is going to protect her by delivering her into the hands of his friend Stoker. Stoker is also a natural historian and has many secrets. When the German baron is killed Veronica and Stoker are forced to solve the murder before Stoker is arrested as the prime suspect.

OPINION: The highlight of this book is without a doubt the characters of Veronica and Stoker and their burgeoning relationship. The two are both misfits in the world and thus have a commonality that is interesting.

Veronica is an independent and forward thinking woman in a time where women’s roles are beginning to change but still constrained by convention. Veronica is opinionated and outspoken. She believes in free love. She believes in women’s education and self determination. She isn’t ashamed by any of her oddities.

Stoker is a haunted man. We learn some of his history here and despite his attempts, he is fascinated and frustrated by Veronica. He is a grumpy scientist and adventurer who has been broken and this adventure begins a sort of healing for him.

The tension and sexual interest between these two is high in this book, but the story is satisfied with the slow burn and getting to know one another. For these characters, that is perfect and demonstrates that this relationship (whether it is sexual or not) is going to be important to both of them. Neither fits in the box that they expect.

For me, the mystery was satisfying, but secondary to the introduction of these characters and the development of their partnership. I did expect some of the mystery surprises, but I thought that the entire book was well done. I don’t want to give away spoilers so I will leave the mystery at that.

WORTH MENTIONING: Interested in running away to the circus?

CONNECTED BOOKS: A CURIOUS BEGINNING is the first book in the Veronica Speedwell series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Death Below Stairs

Review: Death Below StairsDeath Below Stairs (Kat Holloway Mysteries, #1) by Jennifer Ashley
Series: Kat Holloway Murders #1
Published by Berkley Books on January 2nd 2018
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 336
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: A lively main character combined with a far reaching mystery and the presence of a man with many secrets makes this Victorian historical mystery an enjoyable read.

THE STORY: Cook Kat Holloway has found herself a new position which almost immediately embroils her in the murder of one of the servants. Determined to discover who has murdered the young girl, Kat asks for help from her friend/acquaintance Daniel McAdams, a man with a lot of secrets. Kat and Daniel’s search takes them far from the murder of an Irish servant to the possibility of treason.

OPINION: I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I began reading mysteries and I always liked the ones with relationships between the “detectives” and this book fits right in that tradition. While the mystery is interesting and keeps the pace of the story lively, what I really love about this book is the strength and independence of Kat and her relationship with the mysterious Daniel.

Kat is strong and lively and I loved reading about her struggles. Unlike most women in historical novels, Kat works hard every day and has a career that she has created for herself. It is interesting to read about her daily life and the status differences “below stairs”. The struggles and limitations on women of all status is emphasized here.

Daniel’s character is also intriguing as he has plenty of secrets that are slowly revealed — although not all of them are uncovered in this book. He is a good match for Kat and his obvious caring and concern for her even while they are friends makes their romance a slow burn but an interesting one.

The cast of characters, which includes the offspring of both Kat and Daniel, are tossed into a high stakes mystery. Like all good murder suspense stories, this one begins with what seems to be an insignificant death and eventually turns into quite a big deal through a series of twisty plot turns.

I enjoyed the mystery as well as the romance in this one. Everything meshed so well so that all the interesting characters were given something important to do in the unfolding plot, but no one seemed out of place. I enjoyed this one and would read it again to see all the little turns that I missed.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a continuing series where the romance between Kat and Daniel is slow moving and part of the continuing storylines of the series with a book emphasis on a particular mystery.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DEATH BELOW STAIRS is the first novel in the Kat Holloway Murders series. There is a prequel book that introduces the characters. While it is not necessary to read that novella first, it certainly provides some background to the characters here.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via First to Read by applying points that I earned. 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: Heart on Fire

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: Heart on FireHeart on Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles, #3) by Amanda Bouchet
Series: Kingmaker Chronicles #3
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on January 2nd 2018
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 448
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A good ending to the trilogy. Although it didn’t quite hit the highs of the first two books as it wrapped up the story, I thought it was a worthy end.

THE STORY: Picking up after the events of BREATH OF FIRE, Cat and Griffin now take on their greatest challenge in unifying the three realms. Now Cat must go home and confront her murderous mother.

OPINION: I have loved the world building and complex relationships in this series. This book brings everything (at least regarding Cat and Griffin) to a close as Cat confronts her biggest fear — her mother.

As the story progresses, the relationship to the Greek Gods that has been present throughout the series becomes explicit as Cat’s destiny is fully revealed.  There is less tension and drama in this story as between Griffin and Cat and I think the book suffers somewhat from this. While the action and fantasy is good, I was not as interested in Cat and Griffin’s journey.

This book was necessary to finish everything up, but I missed the personal tension that made the first two books so good. Don’t get me wrong, this book was not disappointing but rather suffered just a tiny bit in comparison to the other books in the series.

That being said, I really enjoyed the revelations here and seeing Cat and Griffin’s relationship become more centered. Griffin is a wonderful partner for Cat and looking back on the series, all the qualities that make him so were obvious. They end up being such a grounded and complementary pair — and part of the reason is revealed in this book.

WORTH MENTIONING: I hope there are more books set in this world because there seem to be more stories to tell.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HEART OF FIRE is the third book in the Kingmaker Chronicles. This book is intended to be read as part of the trilogy as it follows one couple and their quest.

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