Review: Wicked Captive

Review: Wicked CaptiveWicked Captive (Regency Sinners, #5) by Carole Mortimer
Series: Regency Sinners #5
Published by Carole Mortimer on February 14th 2018
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
two-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Okay but not extraordinary. It added to the storyline in the entire series, but the relationship part didn’t work for me as well. The connection wasn’t as strong.

THE STORY: Jericho Black, Marquis of Wessex, is up for his investigation of a potential traitor. His target is his ward Lady Jocelyn Forbes. Jocey has just returned from France (which is one reason she is a suspect) and is pleased that Jericho is taking more of an interest in her because she had been attracted to him since Jericho took over her guardianship when she was eighteen.  Jericho’s problem is that his first sight of Jocey in months has him staggered to realize what a beautiful woman she has become.

OPINION: I wanted to like this one more than I did. The guardian/ward story had interesting possibilities. I also liked the characters: Jericho with his world weary attitude that is taken by Jocey’s light and joy; Jocey with her determination and caring for others.

The execution of the story, however, had elements that bothered me. The strongest one was that Jericho knew Jocey. If we had picked up the story when Jericho hadn’t spent time with Jocey, his mistrust and anger towards her might have worked. But here it seems clear that he knows her enough that he shouldn’t be so distrustful.

My other complaint is that while the two engage in various sexual activities, I wanted there to be some culmination to their relationship. It appears that happens totally off screen at the end which was disappointing.

WORTH MENTIONING: Now I really want to know about the woman that Stonewall is going to investigate.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WICKED CAPTIVE is the fifth book in the Regency Sinners series. The book is a standalone although there is a continuing story line about a woman who is a traitor and the men trying to find her.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2.5 stars.

two-half-stars

Review: On His Knees

Review: On His KneesOn His Knees (Blasphemy #4) by Laura Kaye
Series: Blasphemy #4
on February 13th 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: For a short novella, this one was surprisingly good. I enjoyed how the relationship between Jamie and Alex develops. The ending where a crisis requires a dramatic gesture, this one was emotional and dramatic. My only negative was that I didn’t get to know Alex enough as a character.

THE STORY: Attorney Jamie Fielding is at a crossroads in his life. A series of failed and unfulfilling relationships send him on a personal journey to challenge his own notions of his sexuality and sexual needs. He makes his way to the sex club Blasphemy where he meets Alex McGarrey who is one of the dominant masters of the club who also is a sadist. Alex feels a pull towards Jamie when they meet, but Alex doesn’t intend to take on someone who is just investigating being an masochist and bisexual. But there is something about Jamie and Alex just can’t resist.

OPINION: This was a book that I enjoyed more and more as it progressed. I worried that I would not be able to see how Jamie who is totally new to both masochism and bisexuality would work with the more experienced and jaded Alex. But something just clicked between these two. Their encounters are definitely on the more extreme side but there is a undercurrent of consent and respect that works better here than perhaps in any of the other books in this series.

I felt an understanding and connection with Jamie whose personal journey is central to the story. Alex’s character remains more elusive. When there is a dramatic problem towards the end of the book, I didn’t feel enough understanding of Alex’s character to feel connected to his reaction. Intellectually I understood, but there were deeper issues that I didn’t feel were fully explored.

While this book is beautifully crafted as a novella, I think that a longer book would have explored Alex’s backstory more and give better insight to his character. But that is a quibble in what is a very enjoyable read.

For fans of Kaye’s Hard Ink series there is even a cameo by a character that jump starts Jamie’s personal journey.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a m/m romance.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ON HIS KNEES is the fourth book in the Blasphemy series. These books are connected by the club and small appearances by others, but each book is independent and can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: More Than Love You

Review: More Than Love YouMore Than Love You (More Than Words, #3) by Shayla Black
Series: More Than Words #3
Published by Shelley Bradley, LLC on February 13th 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“I had no idea when I purchased my dream home that it would come with the woman straight out of my fantasies.”

FINAL DECISION: My favorite of the series. This one is hot, hot, hot. And perhaps because the character with the secrets and pain (Harlow) isn’t the narrator this time, I can understand why the character who is treated badly sometimes (Noah) stays in the relationship. Noah’s dedication and caring for Harlow is a highlight.

THE STORY: Noah Weston is transitioning from famous quarterback to retired player and arrives in Hawaii trying to decide whether or not to take a job as a commentator.. Harlow Reed is looking for fantastic sex after ending her engagement in a public manner. The two agree to a three month arrangement…but things get complicated.

OPINION: I quite enjoyed this book because although Harlow is often distant and difficult to understand, it feels like the reversal of the typical romance where the heroine is trying to understand the distant and hurt hero.

Harlow, like her brothers, is hiding a tremendous amount of pain and hurt from her childhood (her parents are terrible people). She is, however, a funny and sexy and strong woman who who has overcome much but doesn’t recognize that she deserves more than she is allowing herself.

I really liked Noah who quickly recognizes that Harlow is special to him but has to find a way to keep her from running from him. Harlow clearly fears intimacy and will take any opportunity to flee.

This book is sexy (very sexy) and yet has a sweet undertone to the relationship between Harlow and Noah. There is darkness here, but it isn’t overwhelming in the tone of the book.

WORTH MENTIONING: Book told in first person (primarily from the hero’s point of view).

CONNECTED BOOKS: MORE THAN LOVE YOU is the third book in the More Than Words series. While this book can be read as a standalone since the couple is separate from the other books, there are overlapping characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via the author 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: Midsummer Delights

Review: Midsummer DelightsMidsummer Delights: A Short Story Collection by Eloisa James
Published by Avon Impulse on February 6th 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 96
Goodreads
three-half-stars

This is a collection of three previously published short stories.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DISGRACE is connected with the Essex Sisters series and the story was previously published in the Official Essex Sisters Companion book.  A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DISGRACE tells the story of one of the women who was also branded with a notorious nickname like Josie in PLEASURE FOR PLEASURE.  In A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DISGRACE, Cecilia who was tarred by her brother’s nickname “Silly Billy” because men where afraid that her brother’s mental disability might be hereditary.  In this story, Cecilia gets her happy ending.  She decides to court ruination in order to be able to avoid continuing in society.  When she approaches the musician who caught her attention, she gets more than she expected. While the story is short, it is sweet and I enjoyed the interaction between the hero and heroine.  While only tangentially connected with the series, Josie and Mayne make an appearance. Rating: 3.5 stars.

AT MIDNIGHT: Elias Hempleworth-Gray, Earl of Leyton is in love with his childhood friend, Miss Penelope White. Elias, however, is poor because his father gambled away almost everything. Elias knows that he has to leave England because Penny will be marrying Elias’s friend after he proposes. Elias cannot propose to her himself because he cannot bear the idea that Penny would marry him for any reason other than love. A masquerade gives Elias one last chance to be with Penny before the leaves. A take on Cinderella (with the roles reversed) this is a short story, but cute. The story focuses on the meeting between the two and the revelation of their feelings. It was a nice story. Rating 3 stars.

EVER AFTER: Miss Violet Leighton doesn’t believe in fairy tales and has refused seven proposals on her way to her desire never to marry. Now the man who broke her heart years ago has returned, Rothwell Talcott, Duke of Cambridge. This was a favorite in the book. Even though the story is short, there is drama over the parting of Violet and Rothwell and Violet’s anger to deal with. With only a small glimpse of these characters I wished to read more about them. Rating: 4 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: The Duke of Shadows

Review: The Duke of ShadowsThe Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran
Published by Pocket Star on March 25th 2008
Genres: Historical
Pages: 371
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: Powerful as the characters have to overcome their experiences with death in Colonial India. The romance is sweeter than I might expect but life gets in their way. One of Duran’s best.

THE STORY: Emmaline Martin is an heiress who has come to British Colonial India to marry the man who has been selected for her since her childhood. Emma suffers after the death of her parents on the journey to India. When Emma arrives, her fiance is not the man she thought he was and as India seems to be exploding all around her, Emma turns to Julian Sinclair, Duke of Auburn for help.

OPINION: I’ve had this book on my to-read list for years, but always shied away from reading it because people called it dark and difficult to read. I’m sorry now that I waited although it turns out that I read it at exactly the right time since it falls right before Duran’s new book.

Yes, the subject matter is dark and the journey of this characters, especially Emma is difficult to read at times, but the story is fantastic and the romance balances beautifully the darkness of the plot.

That is what surprised me most about this book. The beauty of the love between Julian and Emma in the face of the darkness that threatens them everywhere. And the darkness is not merely external. Emma especially has trouble dealing with the events of her parents’ deaths and then the horror of the Insurrection. I won’t lie, sometimes these brutal events are difficult to read, but they are not gratuitous or unduly graphic. Emma has PTSD in a time that didn’t have the vocabulary or understanding of what was happening to her.

She is difficult to get close to as a character because her pain keeps her emotions closed off and frozen. And that is one reason that I adored Julian. His determination and dedication to her when she pushes him away is sweet and lovely. I loved him and his strength in not allowing Emma’s pain to push him away.

This is ultimately a hopeful book and I look forward to reading the story of Julian and Emma again and again over the years.

I really enjoyed the different setting for this book. It exposed me to a time period that I did not study in school and the book sparked my interest in reading more.

WORTH MENTIONING: The book takes place in India during the turmoil of attempts to overthrow of British rule in the Indian Rebellion of 1857. The book is sometimes violent and difficult to read but powerful.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE DUKE OF SHADOWS was written as a standalone. However, Duran has written, years later, a book in the Rules for the Reckless series, THE SINS OF LORD LOCKWOOD, which tells the story of Lord Lockwood and his wife who appear in THE DUKE OF SHADOWS.  The timeline of this book and its content now places is right around the same time as THE SINS OF LORD LOCKWOOD in the Rules of the Reckless series and it might even be considered to be part of that series now.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

 

five-stars

Review: A Whisper of Desire

Review: A Whisper of DesireA Whisper of Desire (The Disgraced Lords, #4) by Bronwen Evans
Series: The Disgraced Lords #4
Published by Loveswept on December 1st 2015
Genres: Historical
Pages: 300
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Darker than the other books in the series, this book made me cry at the injustices done to this couple. The most complex and layered book, this is the best book of the series for me.

THE STORY: Lady Marisa Hawkstone is planning her marriage to the man she loves when everything goes wrong. She wakes up naked in the arms of her brother’s friend Maitland Spencer, Duke of Lyttleton. Maitland has a reputation of being cold and controlled, but secretly he fears the seething amount of passion and emotion he feels. Compelled to marry as Marisa is ruined, Maitland is challenged at every turn by the passionate Marisa. At the same time, it becomes clear that the secret enemy that is stalking Maitland and his friends has turned her attention to him.

OPINION: This is my favorite book in the series even though it tears my heart out. The story definitely isn’t “fair” as Maitland has one of the darkest backstories from among his friends and also there is a very dark moment in this book.

Maitland is a man who, like the other Libertine Scholars, had a miserable excuse for a father. Maitland saw his father ruthlessly indulge himself in his passions and Maitland has imposed deep controls on himself as a result. He intends never to feel enough passion to challenge those controls — because he is scared. And that is one reason that I really enjoyed this book because Maitland is a fallible and complex character who struggles through this book.

Marisa is another character that I liked. She is thoughtful and strong and determined to make her husband talk and listen to her. In fact, one of the best parts of this book is how the characters actually have discussions and work out their problems.

One small dislike in this book is how quickly Marisa declares her love for Maitland. As he observes, just a few days ago she claimed to be in love with someone else. That bothered me a little as well.

The sadness and darkness in this book is its strength. It demands more complexity and nuance in how these characters lives deal with their adversities and while I cried through much of the last quarter of the book, I think this book is the best of the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: One of the minor characters in this book gets his own happy ending in A DREAM OF REDEMPTION.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A WHISPER OF DESIRE is the fourth book in the Disgraced Lords series. While the romance can be read as standalone, there is an ongoing storyline involving the villain out to destroy the heroes in the series. This makes the series better read in order. I began the series by reading book 5 and while I quickly understood what was going on, it is better reading from the beginning.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

 

four-half-stars

Review: A Touch of Passion

Review: A Touch of PassionA Touch of Passion (The Disgraced Lords, #3) by Bronwen Evans
Series: The Disgraced Lords #3
Published by Loveswept on March 24th 2015
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION: This book had a great premise, but I thought that it eliminated what would have been the most adventurous and exciting parts for a more pedestrian story. It was okay, but I wish we got to see more of the adventure.

THE STORY: Lady Portia Flagstaff is kidnapped and sent to a harem by the enemy of her brother and the man she has loved for years, Grayson Devlin, Viscount Blackwood. Grayson comes to rescue her. But Portia is ruined and Grayson is determined to keep his promise to Portia’s deceased brother by protecting her and thus marrying her. Portia, on the other hand, has no intention on being married to a man who doesn’t love her — even if he is her dream.

OPINION: The description of this book was more exciting than the actual book itself. I read the preview and it was amazing. The scene in the book where Grayson comes to save Portia from the harem is tense and filled with emotion.

Unfortunately, the book itself was not as well developed. Most of the book turns into one endless argument — Grayson is falling for Portia but fears love and loss. After the two talk this same thing out a dozen times, I just wanted to start skipping to where something new happens in the book.

While the story was perfectly good, I think my disappointment that the book didn’t live up to the description colored my experience. I just didn’t get the sex and tension between the couple that I wanted.

On the positive side, I enjoyed the continuing mystery in the series and Portia is certainly a heroine who isn’t going to be pushed around. I also enjoyed the interaction between the characters in the series. Their relationships are definitely a highlight of the book.

Finally, I really did enjoy the relationship between Portia and Grayson once he stopped being stupid.

WORTH MENTIONING: I liked that Portia is physical and strong and willing to be independent.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A TOUCH OF PASSION is the third book in the Disgraced Lords series. While this book has a self-contained romance, there is an overarching storyline regarding a villain who is trying to destroy the heroes of the series. I recommend reading the books in order to better experience the overarching mystery.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

 

three-stars

Review: Dark in Death

Review: Dark in DeathDark in Death (In Death, #46) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #46
Published by St. Martin's Press on January 30th 2018
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 384
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: This is on the lower end of the series’ books for me. The book felt more self-indulgent (since it too is about a series of mystery books) and the pace was really slow. A decent entry, but not among the best.

THE STORY: A woman is murdered during a showing of Psycho in a way that recalls the murder in a detective series. When it turns out that it is not the first murder replicated from the series, Eve must figure out who is obsessed with the thriller series and who is the next target.

OPINION: I wanted to like this book, but it took forever for me to get into the story even though the concept sounded great in the blurb. I still think the more recent books suffer because of the movement away from the personal journey of Eve to more a standard mystery format.

I just started re-reading the series and having just read the first couple books in the series, it is quite obvious that this book lacks something compelling pushing it forward. For that reason, I was able to continually walk away from this book and it took me several days to read when I usually finish the book in a day.

I’m not sure what exactly struck me wrong about this book. I think there really didn’t feel like an urgency to the story even though there were the possibilities for continuing murders. Also because the mystery series is made up, there is no way to feel connected with the possible murders coming up. There is also a distance between Eve and the killer which means that the crime is a bit more intellectual.

I did really like several elements of the story. Eve and Rourke are alone as Summerset takes his vacation and the two have a different vibe when it is just the two of them living in that big house. Their relationship has grown and deepened and I appreciate that the author allows her characters to grow and change as their relationship deepens.

I also thought that the last few chapters really were a good resolution to the story and I’m glad that I persevered through the book.

WORTH MENTIONING: There are also some wonderful moments with Eve and the secondary characters especially Feeney. I keep hoping that we will get some stories with the secondary characters which might increase the personal interest in the stories.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DARK IN DEATH is the forty-sixth book in the In Death series. As the series has continued, there has been movement away from the overarching storylines so this book can pretty much be read as a standalone although it doesn’t really introduce the characters if you haven’t read about them before.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars