Review: A Princess in Theory

Review: A Princess in TheoryA Princess in Theory (Reluctant Royals, #1) by Alyssa Cole
Series: Reluctant Royals #1
Published by Avon on February 27th 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Goodreads
two-stars

FINAL DECISION: I wanted to love this book, unfortunately, I didn’t even end up liking it very much. A woman in a STEM field taking care of herself and finding herself the missing fiance of a Prince who comes to find her. Great concept, but I ended up finding the book too stilted and sterile. I wanted more emotional drama or more humor, but ended up with just plot.

THE STORY: Naledi Smith is working hard towards her career goals and doesn’t have time for spam emails claiming that she is betrothed to a prince. When Prince Thabiso arrives in person to claim the woman who is supposed to be his bride, Naledi mistakes him for the new help. Intrigued by the idea of living a “normal” life, Thabiso gets to know the woman who is supposed to be his bride, but is definitely the woman with whom he shares an incredible attraction.

OPINION: I was incredibly disappointed in this book because it seemed exactly like a book I would love. Just about everything in the setup is fantastic. A woman working in science struggling to make her own life for herself and finding herself in a “Cinderella style” story of being betrothed to a prince.

Unfortunately, there was too much exposition and plot in this book for me. I wanted more passion and more character. I never connected emotionally with these characters and their relationship. There was lots of explanation and story, but it didn’t grab me like I expected or wanted. I kept losing the threads of the story which drained my interest and I also kept seeing holes in the story. Now I will often forgive those in character driven stories, but here the focus on the plot made me focus on the questions I had.

I really did like that Naledi is incredibly strong and independent and there is quite a bit of humor in the story. There are also some interesting secondary characters who might be getting their own books. I will give this series another chance.

WORTH MENTIONING: Having Naledi working to make a career in epidemiology and struggling with multiple jobs to reach her goals was the best setup part in this book. I would like to see more women heroines in STEM careers.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A PRINCESS IN THEORY is the first book in the Reluctant Royals series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2 stars.

two-stars

Review: The Sins of Lord Lockwood

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 Sins of Lord LockwoodThe Sins of Lord Lockwood (Rules for the Reckless, #6) by Meredith Duran
Series: Rules for the Reckless #6
Published by Pocket Books on February 27th 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 368
Goodreads
five-stars

“A man can learn to live for revenge.”

FINAL DECISION: At times dark and sad, this book is ultimately about the ability of the human spirit to endure and ultimately triumph. A wonderful companion to THE DUKE OF SHADOWS, I loved Liam and Anna’s story.

THE STORY: Liam Devaliant, Earl of Lockwood, was kidnapped on his wedding day and sent as a prisoner to the colonies. He has returned a changed man bent on making the man who betrayed him pay. What he doesn’t expect is the arrival of his bride who believes he deserted her on their wedding day. The four years that have passed have made Anna bitter.  The two talked of a marriage where each would be free, but she did not expect her groom to disappear without a wedding night. Anna, however, does have something she needs from Liam and is determined to get it and then return to her home in Scotland.

OPINION: Powerful, emotional and sometimes dark, this is the story of a man who lost everything and how the love he left behind brings him back.

I loved this story become of the complex emotional heart of it. Anna and Liam lost so much four years ago. The structure of the book makes this especially poignant by intermixing the story of their courtship with their current reality. The switching between these time periods brings emphasis on the pain of their separation.

Liam is an honorable man who is struggling. Seeing the difference between the man he was four years ago and the man he is now is sometimes difficult. The way the book is written puts the reader in the same place as Anna who has to discover who the man she married is. He is a wonderful hero who centers this book.

Anna is strong-willed and independent and yet vulnerable under the face she shows others. That is another theme of this book, the faces that one shows. As Liam and Anna both discover the complexity of one another. That no face is false, but rather an aspect of character. But that there is a face that only can be shown to the one you love.

I alternately found this book sad and triumphant. While these two were torn apart, they manage to find their way to one another and build something different and perhaps stronger than what they would have had four years before.

Some characters are so vivid and fascinating that it is hard to close the book on them. Anna and Liam are those kinds of characters to me.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book deals with what we now call PTSD in a complicated and sober fashion.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE SINS OF LORD LOCKWOOD is the sixth book in the Rules for the Reckless series. While the romance is separate, I recommend reading A LADY’S CODE OF MISCONDUCT and then a related book THE DUKE OF SHADOWS because this book flows nicely from those two books.  The events of this book run somewhat concurrently with THE DUKE OF SHADOWS.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

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

 

five-stars

Review: Collision Point

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: Collision PointCollision Point (Brute Force, #1) by Lora Leigh
Series: Brute Force #1
Published by St. Martin's Press on February 27th 2018
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 336
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION: The suspense and mystery really worked for most of the story, but the solution was a bit of a disappointment. I also wanted the connection between Amara and Riordan to be stronger but since they had a past, their relationship did not feel as immediate.

THE STORY: Amara Resnova has been having dreams and nightmares. Six months ago she was kidnapped by enemies of her father but she cannot remember anything that happened in the last year. But she dreams about Riordan Malone and knows that he was her bodyguard and her lover. Now fearing that someone is trying to kill her again, Amara turns to Riordan for help.

OPINION: This was a decent book that had the possibility to be much more. I really enjoyed the suspense in the story as Amara doesn’t remember what has happened and she has much of the solution in her mind.

For about eighty-five percent of the story, I really was engaged in the suspense of the story, but the resolution disappointed me because there was no way to guess what had happened. While the resolution made sense and was in keeping with the rest of the story, I had thought there would be something more interesting or dramatic to explain Amara’s abduction.

While I am perfectly willing to accept a less exciting personal story with a great suspense story, my disappointment with the suspense story also reflected a romance that was okay but not fantastic. The story had plenty of sex scenes, but lacked some of the excitement between Amara and Riordan. While I thought that everything was worked up well for most of the book, the ending was merely okay.

I would read the next book in the series because this book was okay even if it wasn’t superlative.

WORTH MENTIONING: Nathan Malone from WILD CARD makes a significant appearance here.

CONNECTED BOOKS: COLLISION POINT is the first book in the Brute Force series. This series is a spin-off from Leigh’s Elite Ops series and there are overlapping characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

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

 

three-stars

Review: Lord John and the Private Matter

Review: Lord John and the Private MatterLord John and the Private Matter (Lord John Grey, #1) by Diana Gabaldon
Series: Lord John Grey #1
Published by Delta on October 26th 2004
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 334
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A dense and intriguing political and social mystery. The tone of this book is different from the Outlander books because it is focused on the mystery, but there is plenty of historical doings. And I love the character of Lord John Grey.

THE STORY: Lord John Grey has got a family matter on his mind (he’s concerned that his cousin might be betrothed to a man with the pox) when he is tasked with investigating the murder of a comrade who might have been a traitor. He can’t turn away from either so he works on finding the truth on both matters.

OPINION: For readers looking for another OUTLANDER, it will not be found here. However, some of the same elements from that series — a sense of historical presence, intriguing tidbits from history and compelling characters.

This book also is simply fun in many ways with Lord John investigating a murder and also investigating his cousins betrothed. I really liked his character here as we are treated to seeing his cleverness, his determination and his essential kindness.

We get to see how Lord John struggles with his homosexuality — not who his is, but how he has to hide himself where society will destroy him because of who he is. We see him dealing with how to live his life when he has to live his truth in the shadows.

But mostly this book is about Lord John’s investigation, the political intrigue and murder. Lord John travels the underbelly of society in order to talk with people. The books feels like the genre of mysteries of Agatha Christie based very much on the talking and personalities of the people with a few physical clues dropped in. I have a fondness for these types of mysteries and liked this one.

WORTH MENTIONING: Jamie doesn’t appear in this book but is mentioned.

CONNECTED BOOKS: LORD JOHN AND THE PRIVATE MATTER is the first novel in the Lord John Grey series. This is a spinoff of the Outlander series. It is not necessary, however, to read the Outlander series to enjoy this one and the genre and tone of this series is very different as the books focus on mysteries/crimes to be solved.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Conspiracy in Death

Review: Conspiracy in DeathConspiracy in Death (In Death, #8) by J.D. Robb, Nora Roberts
Series: In Death #8
Published by Berkley Books on April 1st 1999
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 372
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: A dangerous and powerful killer is determined to keep secrets and will do anything — even destroy Eve — for protection. This is one of the best in the series because the story hits close to Eve when the killer turns on her.

THE STORY: A killer is expertly removing organs from vulnerable people for a mysterious purpose. The first kill is a street person with his heart removed in a precise and clean manner. It appears that the killer might be a well-trained surgeon.  When Eve presses for answers, she becomes a danger and has to be eliminated. Suddenly Eve, herself, is in the crosshairs and has to fight for what matters to her along with uncovering the killer.

OPINION: This is one of my favorite books in the series because of the connection between the events in the case and Eve’s personal life. And the connection is done in an interesting way and not the typical sexual crime case that triggers her memories so often.

Readers of the series know that Eve has a childhood filled with rape and abuse. She has made herself by dedicating herself to her job. This book challenges that part of her life and Eve has to deal with that along with solving the crime. When I read these books, I am not as interested in the solving of the crime as I am with the overarching story about Eve.

For me, this book by forcing Eve to confront some of her deepest fears about herself shows her strength and determination and also how much she has changed from the closed off woman from NAKED IN DEATH.

Although Eve is deeply challenged here, she is not alone anymore.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book introduces both Don Webster and Louise Dimatto.

CONNECTED BOOKS: CONSPIRACY IN DEATH is the eighth book in the In Death series. The crime/mystery is completely separate and independent, but there are continuing personal story lines in the series. I suggest the series be read in order because of the significant personal stories.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Midnight in Death

Review: Midnight in DeathMidnight in Death (In Death #7.5) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #7.5
Published by Berkley on September 27th 2005
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 90
Goodreads
four-stars

“It didn’t look as though the last days of December 2058 were going to be much of a party.”

FINAL DECISION: A quick and dirty crime investigation centered primarily on the personal aspect of Eve’s job. The compressed nature of this story ratcheted up tension in this story and the emphasis on the personal rather than the crime details makes this a really good story.

THE STORY: It’s Christmas and a killer has a naughty list of targets. Newly escaped from prison, the killer is out to get revenge against those who put him behind bars. He is taking, torturing and leaving the bodies in public view. Eve in in a race to stop him from killing more especially with both Dr. Mira and Eve are on the list so.

OPINION: This is an enjoyable novella and one that I recommend to people who just want to try out the In Death series without committing to a full novel. The crimes and investigation are compressed with a lot of pressure on Eve. Yet all the elements that make the series successful: the personal connection Eve has, the love between her and Rourke, the friendships that Eve has, and the humor and drama are all present in this story.

Things are clearer and more blunt in many ways because of the short story but I enjoyed that this book continues and expands all the important parts of the ongoing story in the series.

For readers of the series, this offers some drama and developments in Eve’s relationship with Dr. Mira.

The novella also allows some intense moments with Eve and Rourke that I enjoyed a great deal.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book follows immediately from the events of HOLIDAY IN DEATH and also serves as an epilogue to that book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MIDNIGHT IN DEATH is a novella in the In Death series and is book 7.5 of that series. This novella fits right in for readers of the series, but is a nice little crime mystery for those who haven’t dipped into the series yet.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Holiday in Death

Review: Holiday in DeathHoliday in Death (In Death, #7) by J.D. Robb
Published by Berkley on June 1st 1998
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 308
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: My favorite of the holiday mysteries. This one is a good crime mystery. Creepy and strange and what is better than a murderous Santa?

THE STORY: It’s almost Christmas time and Eve is struggling with getting gifts for all the people in her life and wonders if it was better when she was alone. At the same time a murderer has decided to make victims of people searching for true love. Taking inspiration from the song the Twelve Days of Christmas, the killer is hunting for a true love, killing them and leaving them decorated for Christmas with tokens of love. Eve has to work fast because this killer is quickly working through twelve loves.

OPINION: This is one of my go-to holiday reads. The story is really creepy and sinister in its crimes but it is nicely balanced by the innocence of Eve getting Christmas gifts. Although she has a hard shell, she is quite sweet when trying to do her holiday shopping.

I also enjoyed this one because the sexual violence brings more development of Eve’s personal story. She is growing and changing and healing from the horror of what happened to her as a child. While violent and horrible as crimes, this is a very intriguing and intense crime. The days are going quickly and the pace of the killers crime is especially draining for Eve who is fighting her personal demons along with trying to solve the crimes and stop anyone else from dying.

There is also quite a bit of chemistry between Peabody and McNabb as they are circling one another.

For me, I really enjoy the iconic characters involved in this case. The characters and the crimes are one that are memorable and the situations and solutions feel important and high in tension.

WORTH MENTIONING: The novella MIDNIGHT IN DEATH is a companion to this because it also occurs during this same holiday season and is closely related to this book as it deals with the aftermath.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HOLIDAY IN DEATH is the seventh book in the In Death series. The mystery is entirely separate and can be read as a standalone. Because there are overarching character story lines, I think it is better to read these in order, but this is one in the series that works on its own.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Stranger in My Arms

Review: Stranger in My ArmsStranger in My Arms by Lisa Kleypas
Published by HarperCollins e-books on October 13th 2009
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-stars

“Lady Hawksworth, your husband is not dead.”

FINAL DECISION: An enjoyable read that had a Gothic feel to it. The story was more intellectual than full of heart, but I enjoyed the experience of Lara’s uneasiness to the man who has returned to her and the two of them falling in love.

THE STORY: After two years of a miserable marriage, Lara was happy to see her husband go off to India. When she learned of his death, she was finally able to live her own life. Now a year later, she is told that her husband has returned. Lara is at first convinced that the man must be an impostor. But he knows things that only her husband could know. He is, however, not the man who left her. Hunter claims that his near death experience has changed him. The question is whether the man who returned to her is her husband or a stranger.

OPINION: This was an interesting book. A story that raises the issue of whether someone can change and whether a woman can begin to dream again.

This book is clearly an exercise in twisting back and forth over whether Hunter is actually Lara’s husband or an impostor. But it also raises the issue of whether it is possible for a person to change and become a “stranger” to his old life.

This book feels more Gothic than I expected. Who is this man? What is his purpose? Or is this actually Lara’s husband and her doubts and lack of trust are just blinding her to his identity. I liked the intellectual and mysterious elements in this story. And this is a book that I really recommend reading without spoilers.

The best part of the book for me is Lara’s indecision and how she realizes who Hunter is — not in the simple sense of a name but rather as a man. By using the uncertainty she has over whether or not he is her husband, a discovery anew is permitted. Lara finds out who her husband was and is.

Because Hunter remains mysterious for most of the book, the story feels more intellectual that emotional and maybe I’d not like all of my books in this model. But here it works for me.

WORTH MENTIONING: Do not read ahead in this book. Enjoy the way the story develops.

CONNECTED BOOKS: STRANGER IN MY ARMS is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Vengeance in Death

Review: Vengeance in DeathVengeance in Death (In Death, #6) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #6
Published by Berkley on March 3rd 2007
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 388
Goodreads
five-stars

“Revenge was always personal.”

FINAL DECISION: One of the best of the series. This one perfectly blends the personal story of Eve and Rourke with the mystery. This book gives readers more background on Rourke and the mystery is especially strong.

THE STORY: When Eve is called by a murdered who gives riddles to the scenes of crimes, she finds that her life and that of her husband are more closely involved in this case than she would like. With a clever murderer who is out for revenge, Eve must use every resource at her disposal to find the murderer before he reaches his ultimate goal — which might be her husband Rourke.

OPINION: This is one of the tent pole books in the series. This book is fantastic both in the mystery which is filled with drama and creepy and it is totally personal. Eve is completely dedicated to this case and it shows in her anxiety and her laser focus on what is going on.

This book is remarkable for its emphasis on Rourke’s story. Six books in and this is the first opportunity for readers to get a better idea of what Rourke’s past looks like. In the book there is both revelations about what Rourke was doing and also the very personal look at his relationships. This book gives Rourke a chance to revisit and reconcile some of his past.

Both the darkness and the contrast with current life makes this book intense and essential to the series.

Someone is out for revenge against Rourke and the personal insult and fear that possesses Eve makes this book work on various levels. Both Eve and Rourke are completely engaged which makes for a stellar entry. Although the two are married, this book allows more development in their relationship.

The mystery is also very dramatic and interesting in a race against time.

If I had to boil the series down to five books, this would be one of the ones I would pick.

WORTH MENTIONING: The first appearance of Ian McNab.

CONNECTED BOOKS: VENGEANCE IN DEATH is the sixth book in the In Death series. The mysteries in these books are standalones. However, there are overarching storylines about the characters. This book is connected to information learned in prior books and I think this book is much better being read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

 

five-stars

Review: A Dream of Redemption

Review: A Dream of RedemptionA Dream of Redemption (The Disgraced Lords, #8) by Bronwen Evans
Series: The Disgraced Lords #8
Published by Loveswept on February 20th 2018
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: An enjoyable cross-class romance with a hero with a dark past and a heroine who is determined to have him. I especially enjoyed seeing the characters from the series five years later.

THE STORY: Lady Helen Hawkestone has decided to stop searching for a man to marry at balls and soirees. She realizes that every person she knows who married for love found their spouse in an unconventional fashion and also she has been intrigued by her sister’s employee Clary Homeward. Clary, however, is no gentleman and no match for the innocent and aristocratic Helen. When the two work together on her sister’s new orphanage project, Clary and Helen face danger from those engaged in the seedy underbelly of child trafficking and also the attraction between them that society would be scandalized by.

OPINION: I enjoyed this entry in the series. While there is a storyline involving the orphanage, the real focus in this book is on Helen and Clary and their romance. I liked how the two interacted and how Helen becomes stronger throughout the book.

Clary is a man who has overcome a horrible past and this book forces further growth in his character. He must overcome his shame in his past. I did think that his past was glossed over a bit. While it was important to the story, we don’t really delve into his past. It is difficult to believe that Helen would be so blase once she found out because she truly doesn’t have the experience to understand the exploitation. I did like seeing how Clary and his brother have reinvented their lives and it was nice seeing a happy ending for them.

Helen is also a character that grows through the book. She falls for Clary and begins to see the world as more complicated and more dark than she imagined. While this progression would not work for a typical aristocratic woman, her own sister’s life and her sister-in-law’s determination to not hide the darker parts of the world from her. Helen is no fool and she begins to recognize that her relationship with Clary will be complicated and perhaps make her a pariah, but she is willing to do everything for love.

I liked the complexity that Helen and Clary’s relationship brings to the characters from the series. This is a complicated situation and I liked that the story reflected that complication.

This was an enjoyable read especially for those who have followed the series because it provides a nice wrap up along with giving some characters a well-deserved happy ending.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book left me feeling good about the entire series because the five years later update shows how happy everyone is.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A DREAM OF REDEMPTION is the eighth book in the Disgraced Lords series. This book can be read as a standalone, but the book might be more enjoyable if one reads A WHISPER OF DESIRE first because it introduces all the relevant characters.

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