Review: A Scandalous Deal

Review: A Scandalous DealA Scandalous Deal (The Four Hundred, #2) by Joanna Shupe
Series: The Four Hundred #2
Published by Avon on April 24, 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
two-stars

FINAL DECISION: Felt more like historical women’s fiction than romance. I enjoyed the story of Eva’s fight to be recognized for her architectural talents, but I really didn’t think the romance was exciting or interesting.

THE STORY: Lady Eva Hyde has three dead fiances and a father who no longer can do his work. When Eva gets the opportunity to pretend to be her father in order to be an architect on a project in New York, Eva leaps on the opportunity. On the trip across the Atlantic, Eva succumbs to passion with a stranger and then flees. She is horrified when he arrives in New York and realizes that her stranger is Phillip Mansfield, who happens to be her employer. Eva continues to pretend that her father is in charge of the project and she is there to execute his will. The antagonism from others about her working on the project, threaten Eva’s desire to establish herself as a professional.

OPINION: I’ve really enjoyed Shupes Guilded Age books, but this one was a big miss for me. While I was really interested in Eva’s professional journey, I didn’t like the romance at all. In fact, I sympathized with Phillip through the entire book and really thought he should dump Eva to find a better woman.

This book felt like a historical woman’s fiction book focused on Eva remaking her life. But she felt selfish and self-centered to me. She lies about who is the architect and then has the nerve to be annoyed at Phillip when he is almost destroyed by her deception. While there is a pro forma “making up” on her part, I never felt that she put her relationship with Phillip over her own ambitions. She lies to him, keeps him at a distance, and basically treats him as beneath her dreams.

I didn’t like her treatment of him, couldn’t understand his willingness to deal with her unless he has no self-respect himself. I want my romances to be about the relationship over all and this book doesn’t come close to meeting that standard.

The book is well written for what it is and I am sure that readers looking for a woman’s journey to fight prejudice to be a trailblazer will find something good in this story, but I prefer my romances to be about romance.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book takes place during the Gilded Age.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A SCANDALOUS DEAL is the second book in the Four Hundred series. While there are small appearances by characters from the prior book, this book is a complete standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Edelweiss 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.

 

two-stars

Review: A Devil of a Duke

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: A Devil of a DukeA Devil of a Duke (Decadent Dukes Society, #2) by Madeline Hunter
Series: Decadent Dukes Society #2
on April 24, 2018
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: I enjoyed the interplay between Gabriel and Amanda. There story seems hopeless at times which makes the story poignant, but I wished for something more from the grand gesture at the end.

THE STORY: Gabriel St. James, Duke of Langford is used to getting what he wants. When he meets a mysterious woman who is willing to meet with him but doesn’t want to reveal anything about herself, Gabriel is intrigued and determined to uncover her secrets. Amanda Waverly is being forced into a double life. She is acting the respectable secretary to a society matron while plotting thefts. When she gets tangled up with Langford, she fears that everything will collapse around her.

OPINION: I enjoyed this book because of the couple. Gabriel and Amanda are a prickly couple. She has lot of secrets and he is determined to find out everything about her. I liked that she outsmarts him in the beginning and that he is ultimately willing to risk everything for her.

The book manages to have more fun than I expect because it operates on the fringes of society. Amanda is desperate but determined to do what she can to protect her loved ones. I thought that she was foolish for doing so much, but it also shows her kind heart. And her kindness is an essential part of her character along with her cleverness.

The weakness of this book for me was that we never really get to see Gabriel’s inner decisions regarding Amanda. He ultimately risks everything for her, but I suppose I wanted to see his turmoil or hear him verbalize more. The grand romantic moment was a bit muted for me as a result.

But I enjoyed these characters matching wits and I really liked Amanda’s character.

WORTH MENTIONING: I’m hoping we will eventually get to know more about Harry and Emilia.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A DEVIL OF A DUKE is the second book in the Decadent Dukes Society. Although there are some overlapping characters, this book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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

 

four-stars

Review: The Designs of Lord Randolph Cavanaugh

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 Designs of Lord Randolph CavanaughThe Designs of Lord Randolph Cavanaugh by Stephanie Laurens
Series: The Cavanaughs #1
Published by MIRA on April 24, 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
two-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: I found the topic very interesting dealing with an invention of the combustion engine, but I thought the romance bland and the ultimate story line didn’t have much consequence. I liked the characters, but the story didn’t give them enough to delve into.

THE STORY: Lord Randolph Cavanaugh is determined to make something of himself through his investments. Traveling to Throgmorton Hall to see the status of an investment in an engine and finds that the inventor has died. The son has taken on the task of finishing the engine. The daughter, Felicia, has been keeping the family afloat for years and is not a fan of inventors’ obsessions. With someone out to make sure that the invention fails, Rand and Felicia must work together to save all their fortunes.

OPINION: I really love the Cynster books and I loved the story of Rand’s brother, but I couldn’t love this one.

The characters were really nice and I liked them, but just about everything about the story failed them. Nothing was particularly interesting to me.

The romance was really bland and I never felt a connection between Rand and Felicia. There romance felt formulaic to me without any real spark between the characters. I ultimately liked how they related to one another, but I never felt that these two had the desperate passion between them that I would expect. The whole romance felt too left brain for me.

Then there was the story itself. The beginning felt like it would be dramatic and interesting and while the Victorian topic of engines was interesting, the story itself didn’t feel compelling. The twists hinted at in the blurb ended up less intriguing that I supposed.

The entire book felt too cold and plotted for me and lacked the passion on all levels that I look for in Laurens’ books.

WORTH MENTIONING: Ryder and Mary Cavanaugh make a significant appearance here.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE DESIGNS OF LORD RANDOLPH CAVANAUGH is the first book in the Cavanaughs series. This book is connected to THE TAMING OF RYDER CAVANAUGH which tells the story of Rand’s older brother.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2 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.

 

two-stars

Review: Midnight Wolf

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: Midnight WolfMidnight Wolf (Shifters Unbound, #11) by Jennifer Ashley
Series: Shifters Unbound #11
Published by Berkley on April 24, 2018
Genres: Paranormal
Goodreads
four-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: I enjoyed this couple a great deal. Tamsin’s personality perfectly fits her shifter animal and I loved how nimble and cute and sneaky she is. Angus is a wonderful father. I felt the romance was not as intense as I might have liked, but I felt these two found a comfortable relationship with one another.

THE STORY: Angus Murray is forced to hunt for a collarless shifter woman when his son is captured and held hostage. Angus is out to find Tamsin Calloway, a mysterious shifter who ran with Angus’s crazy (and deceased brother) for a while. While Angus tries to be focused only on capturing and turning over Tamsin in order to get his son returned, the slippery and smart Tamsin wins Angus’s admiration. Angus can’t risk his son, but he doesn’t want to sacrifice Tamsin either.

OPINION: I enjoyed this book because of the strength of the connection between Angus, Tamsin and Angus’s son. Their relationship was sweet and I liked that. There was also a lot of humor in their interactions. Tamsin’s zesty personality was a nice contrast with the often grumpy Angus. Tamsin seems irresponsible as the story begins, but we soon learn that while she is unattached, she is also serious about responsibilities.

The overarching story line here seemed somewhat insignificant and merely an excuse for Angus and Tamsin to go on the run together which leads to amusing adventures in a circus.

Tamsin is one of my favorite characters in the series now. She is amusing and clever and definitely feels like her shifter animal. She just made me smile especially as she brings Angus out of his shell.

I appreciated that Ashley made Angus’s son a big part of the story since Tamsin will be a part of their family. The relationship between them felt natural and I could see Tamsin acting as mother without betraying all her fun personality.

My only complaint is that the relationship between Angus and Tamsin felt more comfortable than passionate attraction. I totally bought these two together, but I just wanted to feel a bit more in their romance.

WORTH MENTIONING: I was so excited that we get to see more of Tiger!

CONNECTED BOOKS: MIDNIGHT WOLF is the eleventh book in the Shifters Unbound series. The romance in this book is self-contained but there are overarching storylines for the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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

 

four-stars

Review: The Duke Identity

Review: The Duke IdentityThe Duke Identity (Game of Dukes, #1) by Grace Callaway
Series: Game of Dukes #1
on April 19, 2018
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: Hot and sexy romance between a scientist turned policeman and the young woman who would rather rule in the underworld than marry a duke. Lots of secrets in this one, but I loved the chemistry between Tessa and Harry.

THE STORY: Harry Kent has been forced to leave his dreams of science and the Royal Academy behind when he was betrayed by a woman. Taking on the family business of being a policeman, Harry is tasked with helping to take down Black, the king of the underworld. When a chance encounter has him meeting, Tessa Todd, who is Black’s granddaughter, Harry takes on the job of her bodyguard in order to spy on the family. What Harry doesn’t expect, however, is the intense attraction between him and Tessa which once again threatens the life he has built for himself.

OPINION: This is an enjoyable tale. Harry and Tessa are adventurous and I liked their interactions and while the story depends a lot upon Harry keeping his identity from Tessa, the hotness between the two keeps any possible annoyance factor low.

Harry is a man trying to rebuild and reshape his life after all he worked for was destroyed. Harry loved and was betrayed and now has to find out what his purpose is. He also doesn’t want to make himself vulnerable to a woman again.  He has honor even as he continues to lie to Tessa because he has conflicting loyalties. The book goes on his journey where he has to decide what is most important to him. I like that Harry is vulnerable and a little nerdy and on the razor’s edge for most of the story.

Tessa is a spunky and independent woman. Her grandfather wants her to marry into the ton, but Tessa wants nothing more than to stand by her grandfather’s side.  Her unconventional upbringing makes her innocent but not ignorant. She can fit anywhere she wants to, but she feels at home with the whores and thieves of St. Giles. She doesn’t fit into any box of what a woman of the period should be. I liked that she is willing to do what she has to in order to make her own dreams a reality.  The interesting mixture of her traits and interests intrigue Harry the scientist.

I really liked how the book mixes the heat that the two generate and the curiosity and sweetness of their intellectual relationship. The plot also was interesting as it combined both the people of the streets and also the ton. The mixture allows the hero and heroine to be their own people rather than having to fit in perfectly into expected roles and social classes. I also really ended up liking the ultimate resolution.

The only negative is that Harry keeps his secrets for far too long. That ends up being the primary obstacle between Tessa and Harry. After a while, I tired of him lying to Tessa and justifying it because it seemed to become clear that his reasons were not as strong as in the beginning.

Despite that, I really enjoyed this book and I look forward to the next one in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: Two words: pet ferret.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE DUKE IDENTITY is the first book in the Game of Dukes series. This book is, however, connected with the Heart of Enquiry series through the hero. It is not necessary to read that series, however, to enjoy this one.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book from 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-stars

Review: Interlude in Death

Review: Interlude in DeathInterlude in Death (In Death, #12.5) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #12.5
Published by Berkley on August 29, 2006
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 88
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: This is a nice novella in the In Death world. The novella manages to pack in many of the same elements of the novels including the humor, romance, the large cast of characters, and an intriguing mystery.

THE STORY: Eve has one of the challenges of her career when she is supposed to give a speech (of all things) at a police convention at Roarke’s off-planet Olympus resort. When one of the attendees ends up murdered, Eve is on the case. The case is complicated by Eve having an altercation with the victim and his boss’s obsession with bringing down Roarke.

OPINION: This is a nice “interlude” in the series. It has all the elements in the full length novels, but manages to compact everything into less than 100 pages. I especially enjoyed that the story gives Eve and Roarke a significant amount of time together and yet there is plenty of time for action, for interaction with important characters in the series (pretty much all Eve’s colleagues), nuggets about Eve and Roarke’s pasts, and some sexy moments as well.

The story happens quickly and if there is any complaint it is that the mystery is not deep, but one cannot expect much more of a short novella. I did like that Eve is given a bump in the road by having a local cop to deal with.

The solution seemed pretty obvious to me at first, but I liked the twists even if it wasn’t really possible to reason out that solution, but regardless I liked the journey to get there.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book has an interesting moment when it is discussed why Eve is seemingly being passed over for promotion.

CONNECTED BOOKS: INTERLUDE IN DEATH is book 12.5 in the In Death series. This is a novella that gives a taste of the series. It can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

 

four-stars

Review: Betrayal in Death

Review: Betrayal in DeathBetrayal in Death (In Death, #12) by J.D. Robb, Nora Roberts
Series: In Death #12
Published by Berkley Books on March 1, 2001
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 355
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: More a thriller than a mystery, this one tests Eve’s skills as she hunts a professional killer who has Roarke in his sights. I loved the pacing of this one and the exploration of Roarke’s past.

THE STORY: The rape and murder of a hotel maid in one of Roarke’s hotels brings Eve on the case of a professional killer who seems to be targeting those who work for Roarke. Eve fears that Roake is the final target. But because the killer is a hired gun, Eve also has to figure out who is the hidden figure behind these crimes. The solution might rest in Roarke’s shady past.

OPINION: This is a page turner from beginning to end as Eve races against time to find the killer. The book is focused and exciting and has plenty of emotional heft between Eve and Roarke as she is the caretaker this time. This story shakes Roarke and Eve is the one who not only has to solve the crime but also manage the emotions of Roarke.

This book demonstrates how well this series does crime combined with serious character development. Eve and Roarke center this story. While the crimes are salacious and over the top at times, the emotional heart of the series is the relationship between these two and how they are opening up to one another and building a relationship.

The killer in this case is a professional who has some interesting quirks which make him memorable and particularly vicious. It is a particularly nasty episode, but the twist at the end gives this some good emotional connection.

WORTH MENTIONING: A cute part of the book is Eve and Roarke ending up giving relationship advice to Peabody and McNab.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BETRAYAL IN DEATH is the twelfth book in the In Death series. This book has an independent and stand alone mystery with continuing personal story lines.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

 

five-stars

Review: The Thief

Review: The ThiefThe Thief (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #16) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #16
Published by Ballantine Books on April 10th 2018
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 480
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“Destiny was such a thief.”

FINAL DECISION: Loved, loved this one and would have been a 5 star but the resolution was just a bit too quick for me. I’ve been anticipating Sola and Assail’s story for years and this one did not disappoint. Plus V and Jane tossed in, new threats and some advancement of the overarching storylines.

THE STORY: Sola Morte, was a thief until an attempt on her life led to her promise to leave Caldwell and make a new and honest life. Hiding in Miami with her dear grandmother, Sola still cannot forget the man she left behind. Assail was who she left behind but unknown to Sola, he is not a man at all but rather a vampire. Assail lies near death after trying to recover from a cocaine addiction. His cousins make a desperate attempt to save Assail by asking Sola to visit Assail.

OPINION: I really enjoyed this book. I’ve been looking forward to Sola and Assail’s story because I enjoy these two complex characters. They are both damaged characters who shift between doing good and doing bad. This book takes place already significantly into their story. Readers of the series will know that they have already begun their romance and cut it off when Sola leaves for Miami. This book recaps, but of course the character development of those earlier encounters is lost in this book.

But having read those early encounters, I love this story. The emotional drama is high from the beginning. Sola comes to Assail at the moment of his rebirth in many ways. The two of them always had a strong connection, and I really feel it in this book where the crisis makes these two people who are closed and secretive open up to one another.

The book is hot because not only do we have Sola and Assail as a couple, but also the continuing story of V and Jane. The two have had some problems recently (which has been shown in prior books). This book brings their lingering problems to a crisis moment.

And that is what brings these two stories together in a thematic way. Here are two couples facing a crisis where their secrets and their separateness threaten to tear them apart.

Although the two stories cross one another, they are separate and distinct narratives. The overlapping themes, however, give this book a wholeness that I don’t always feel in the BDB books with the overlapping and multiple narratives.

My only negative in the book is that Sola and Assail’s story is resolved too quickly in the end. After building the conflicts and drama and bring it to a head, things get fixed and then the book is over. I think the build up needed some additional space. In this book, I missed that.

WORTH MENTIONING: Murhder!

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE THIEF is the sixteenth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. I think these books should be read as part of the series. Perhaps a better reader than I could appreciate them as standalones.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

 

four-half-stars

Review: Murder in St. Giles

Review: Murder in St. GilesMurder in St. Giles by Ashley Gardner, Jennifer Ashley
Series: Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries #13
Published by JA / AG Publishing on April 10th 2018
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 300
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Very enjoyable entry in the series. This one is more mystery than personal but is an interesting jaunt with plenty of appearances by the cast of characters in the series.

THE STORY: Captain Lacey is called to look at a body in St. Giles by Brewster (who is the bodyguard/spy who follows Lacey around). The man appears to have been beaten to death and Lacey intends to make sure that Brewster is not unjustly accused of the crime. Lacey’s desire to investigate, however, is complicated by his stepson being in danger from his relatives who want to take him away to live with them. This mystery has multiple layers and storylines.

OPINION: This book is focused primarily on the mystery which although Lacey has some concerns about protecting Brewster is not really a personal quest for Lacey. Instead, there is some distance between his emotions and the case (which happens to make him more rational in his investigations). Indeed, the book has a very meaty set of clues and characters who need to be interviewed. The story has a nice flow and ultimately the solution works perfectly for the set of facts.

For me, however, I prefer these books for the personal journeys of Lacey rather than the pure mystery portion of the book. The moments I remember best are of Lacey’s humor and relationships with the recurring cast in the book. Ultimately, I most enjoyed that Lacey has some struggle to make in determining the relative moral positions of the people that he meets.

The secondary story about Lacey’s stepson works to give some personal drama that the main mystery is lacking. I wish that there had been more integration of that story throughout, but I still enjoyed the chaos that the conflict causes in the Lacey household. The ending of that story and the book were especially well done. In fact, the last couple of chapters had me bumping up my rating because the surprises that were revealed. My appreciation was entirely character based as development and changes were evident. This book also nicely sets up some developments that I’m certain will be explored in future books.

WORTH MENTIONING: I’ve become a big fan of a bunch of historical mysteries lately. This series is one of my favorites because Lacey is so imperfect a character who has a strong moral compass that doesn’t always follow the rules.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MURDER IN ST. GILES is the thirteenth book in the Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries series. This mystery is self-contained but there are characters that have stories which go from book to book. I think the book can be read as a standalone unless having to catch up bothers you.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book from 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: Judgment in Death

Review: Judgment in DeathJudgment in Death (In Death, #11) by J.D. Robb, Nora Roberts
Series: In Death #11
Published by Berkley Books on September 1st 2000
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 356
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: This is a great character book. The mystery was okay, but I loved how the mystery brings out some conflicts with characters and also gives the opportunity to delve more into Eve and Roarke’s pasts.

THE STORY: When a cop is found beaten to death in one of Roake’s clubs, Eve has to wonder what the motive is. When things about the cop are revealed, it appears that someone it targeting dirty cops. Both Eve and Roarke also find that people from their pasts are mixed up in the case as well which makes their own relationship a little bumpy for a while.

OPINION: This book is an example of what I enjoy about this series. I read the books as the character story of Eve with the mysteries and crimes as the excuse to delve into her world. Honestly, I find the crimes interesting, but I don’t generally analyze them. I want to know more about these characters and how they react to the crises before them.

This book is a good example of that. For me, the central conflict in this story is between Eve and Roarke when their pasts come back against to haunt them in this case. In comparison to the relative happiness in the prior book, this book reignites some of the conflicts between Eve and Roarke. While this is the eleventh book in the series, the two have been together for just over a year. They still have much to work through in their relationship and as things from the past pop out to disturb their happiness, Eve and Roarke have to navigate their relationship.

This book has some significant events especially about Eve’s past. There are lingering questions about Eve’s past and this book brings new information to light that will continue to be teased out in future books.

My favorite scenes in this book involve Webster. He becomes a catalyst in this book and I like the mess he stirs up.

The crime works well to carry the character moments for a purpose, but otherwise I didn’t find it one of the memorable ones.

WORTH MENTIONING: Man fight! This book also is the introduction of Max Richter.

CONNECTED BOOKS: JUDGMENT IN DEATH is the eleventh book in the In Death series. This series has mysteries in each book that operate as standalones but overarching character storylines. I think it is better to read the series in order to get the full impact, but this book can be read as a mystery standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars