Review: Shameless

Review: ShamelessShameless (The House of Rohan, #4) by Anne Stuart
Series: The House of Rohan #4
Published by Mira Books on June 21, 2011
Genres: Historical
Pages: 411
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I loved the romance between Benedick and Melisande which is more traditional than the other books in this series (Benedick is not as rakish or as close to irredeemable as the other heroes in the series). The two are so perfect for one another from the start but are determined to resist the possibility.

THE STORY: Viscount Benedick Rohan has been exceedingly unlucky with women. He’s buried two wives and had a fiancee commit suicide. He needs an heir and this time he intends to find a woman that he can marry and then ignore while he finds his pleasure elsewhere. His attempts to find that pleasure are interrupted by Lady Melisande Carstairs who is a social reformer who has taken on protecting prostitutes as her cause. She’s called “Charity Carstairs” and she and Benedick can’t do anything but fight and bicker, but when Melisande needs Benedick’s help in foiling the Heavenly Host, the two end up striking all kinds of sparks off of one another.

OPINION: The most traditional of the series, Benedick is a man who doesn’t want to be hurt again so he’s determined to keep away from the woman who threatens his peace. I found Benedick’s desire to protect himself the most poignant part of this book. He comes from a place of hurt and that makes him strike out to protect himself. He hurts Melisande, but hurts himself during the process. He’s not the nicest or kindest hero, but compared to his sister’s husband (Lucien from BREATHLESS) he’s pretty much a choirboy.

Melisande is a woman who is incredibly strong and determined. After a marriage to an old and ill man, she has tossed convention aside in her desire to help prostitutes. It has scandalized the aristocracy and left her reputation in tatters, but she does not allow the opinions of others to keep her from doing what she believes is right. Eschewing marriage and family, Melisande insists she is content with her life.

Both Benedick and Melisande, however, hide an inner desire for love and family. And they are immediately attracted to one another. They hide and protect themselves with arguments and anger towards one another.

I loved their romance and Benedick in particular because he so desperately wants to love Melisande and is so afraid of doing so.

I also really enjoyed getting to see Miranda and Lucien again. Although we get to see their happy ending in BREATHLESS, I liked seeing how their relationship has grown and changed after several years.

Benedick is not the typical Stuart anti-hero. He’s much more traditional even if he is a jerk to the heroine for a lot of the book.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book also begins the story of Brandon and Emma. It took 7 years but Stuart finally has written their story which was painfully incomplete in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SHAMELESS is the fourth book in the House of Rohan series. There are overlapping characters in this series, but the romance here is self-contained and can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

 

four-half-stars

Review: As You Wish

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: As You WishAs You Wish by Jude Deveraux
Series: The Summerhouse
Published by Mira Books on March 6, 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 416
Goodreads
two-stars

FINAL DECISION: This book isn’t really for me. The intertwined stories of three women combined with time travel/alternate realities was just too odd women’s fiction. Not a bad book, but not one I would pick up again.

THE STORY:  Sixty year old Oliva is a newlywed with regrets. Not over her marriage, but over the years she wasted away from the man she loves. Forty year old Kathy is married to man who is in love with someone else. Elise is married to a man who seems to want to get rid of her — in any way possible. The three end up at Summerhouse with the opportunity to change everything in their lives and make things right.

OPINION: I’m not the audience for this book because something really bothers me about the entire premise of the story. I don’t like the “let’s have a redo” on stories in general. It’s tricky because it feels to me like a cop-out on having to accept the choices one makes. I am often willing to suspend disbelief, but this premise always bothers me.

The multiple storylines also kept me disconnected from all of them. I prefer my books more emotion and this book just felt like a gimmick based on the plot. The story wasn’t bad and neither were the characters, but the resolution just didn’t work for me. I think someone who was willing to look past the plot twist might enjoy this one better.

On the positive side, I like seeing the Montgomerys.

WORTH MENTIONING: I’m not sure I like the impact of this story on THE GIRL FROM SUMMER HILL.

CONNECTED BOOKS: AS YOU WISH is the third book in the Summerhouse series, but I haven’t read those books. For me, the book is a sequel of sorts to THE GIRL FROM SUMMER HILL.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2 stars.

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

two-stars

Review: Breathless

Review: BreathlessBreathless (The House of Rohan, #3) by Anne Stuart
Series: The House of Rohan #3
Published by MIRA on October 1, 2010
Genres: Historical
Pages: 379
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: This book is definitely not for everyone. The hero is one of Stuart’s dark antiheroes who teeters on the edge of being completely unredeemable — and some readers might find his action unforgivable. But for someone who likes Stuart’s antiheroes, Lucien is one of my favorites.

THE STORY:  Lucien de Malheur, Earl of Rochdale aka The Scorpion is out for revenge against the Rohans. Blaming them for the death of his only sister, Lucien arranges for the ruin of the Rohan daughter Lady Miranda Rohan. When things don’t go as planned, Lucien sets out to arrange a friendship with Miranda which he intends to lead to marriage as part of his revenge.

OPINION: The romance between Lucien and Miranda is dark and combative and there is something that I just love about them together. I have truly loved many of Stuart’s dark antiheroes, and Lucien is certainly one of those.

Lucien is almost unredeemable. He orchestrates the heroine’s loss of virginity at the hands of a truly awful man. He threatens her throughout the book. But he is totally not in control of the relationship. In the battle of wills, I believe that Miranda is the ultimate victor because she pulls Lucien from his plans and revenge and evil deeds. Miranda is the center and the strength of what is going on between them. She finds her strength and her passion with Lucien.

This book is definitely not for everyone. Readers who are sensitive about rape and threats of coercion probably should skip this book. While the hero does not rape the heroine, he certainly orchestrated what many will see as rape — even if the heroine will not name it as rape.

There is something compelling about these two. Most of the story occurs with them playing games with one another. The romance happens in what is not said between these two. In the moments that bring them together even if their words are a battle.

This ended up being one of my favorite Stuart books even as I dislike Lucien intensely as the book begins every time I read it.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a secondary romance that is almost a novella in itself and is wonderful itself.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BREATHLESS is the third book in the House of Rohan series.  The romance is completely a standalone although the heroine here is the daughter of the hero from the second book and the granddaughter of the hero from the first book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

 

five-stars

Review: Dragon Bites

Review: Dragon BitesDragon Bites (Stormwalker, #6) by Allyson James
Series: Stormwalker #6
Published by JA/AG on March 20, 2018
Genres: Paranormal
Goodreads
two-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I was disappointed that this book focused on Gabrielle who I don’t find as interesting a character as Janet. While I enjoyed the action and the plot, I couldn’t get immersed in the characters with the shifting points of view.

THE STORY: Janet has come to Las Vegas for some girl time. She stumbles into a situation with her dragon boyfriend, Mick. In the process of rescuing him, Janet’s sister, Gabrielle, ends up helping and triggering something really bad. Now Gabrielle is determined to make her own way and prove that she can handle things.

OPINION: Just too many points of view for me. The story is told in first person, but with four different voices. I found it distracting while trying to learn new characters. Perhaps if it had been only Gabrielle’s point of view, I could have felt more connected to her. Because of the four different views with people telling different stories, I just felt adrift from the characters.

I also just didn’t find Gabrielle as compelling a characters as Janet. I was interested in what was going on in the plot of the story and that kept me going through the pages.

By the end of the book, I did like Gabrielle better than in the beginning, so I expect her story might continue and I think I would be better prepared.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a new romance here, but I’m not giving it away.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DRAGON BITES is the sixth book in the Stormwalker series. Although this story is self-contained, the characters are the same throughout the series and thus, this book is better read as part of the series because a reader would have to catch up on the storyline and the prior events.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2.5 stars.

two-half-stars

Review: The Duke Who Lied

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

Review: The Duke Who LiedThe Duke Who Lied (The 1797 Club Book 8) by Jess Michaels
Series: The 1797 Club #8
Published by Passionate Pen on Jul 24, 2018
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
three-stars

 

“So Amelia would come to Hugh with hate and desperation. With heartbreak and resistance.”

FINAL DECISION: A solid addition to the series. I enjoyed the characters but the lie that sets their relationship in motion and the secret Hugh is keeping didn’t work well enough to support the plot of the story for me.

THE STORY: Hugh Margolis, Duke of Brighthollow, has been suffering with his own sense of honor. His sister was seduced by a wicked man and Hugh found himself keeping silent and paying the man off rather than seeking revenge. This lack of action has been eating at Hugh for a year. Now Hugh discovers that the villain is after his next victim. Hugh cannot allow him to ruin another woman’s life. Amelia Quinton thinks she has found the man of her dreams, when her father tells her she must marry the Duke of Brighthollow to settle his debts. Amelia and Hugh begin a marriage with lies and deception between them. What will happen when the two strangers begin to have feelings for one another with the lies Hugh told to force the marriage between them?

OPINION: The characters in this book were really nice. I liked them both and I thought that they had a nice rapport with one another. I book is as sexy as I would expect from this series and overall I enjoyed this entry in the series.

The part of this book that really bothered me was how quickly Amelia turned to trying to make her marriage to Hugh a good one. I just wasn’t convinced. She was too quick to think Hugh a good person and too quick to want and participate in a passionate marriage. A woman is forced to wed a complete stranger and only days later is taking the initiative in their sexual relationship. Nope, just didn’t work for me. I did enjoy the characters and only wish that the initial part of their relationship had been dealt with differently.

I also really didn’t understand why Hugh kept the secret after he and Amelia were married and continued to lie. He clearly could have told her the truth and it would have made their relationship better. Without the buy in to the storyline, everything else felt okay but a little bland.

WORTH MENTIONING: I want the story of Hugh’s sister as well.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE DUKE WHO LIED is the eighth book in the 1797 Club series. This book can be read as a standalone although there are overlapping characters and relationships between secondary characters that are developed over the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to help 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: Getting Schooled

Review: Getting SchooledGetting Schooled (Getting Some, #1) by Emma Chase
Series: Getting Some #1
Published by Emma Chase, LLC on June 26, 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 300
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: I loved, loved this book. A story of second chances, of rediscovering a love you thought you had moved behind. The story is funny and sweet, emotional and just amazing.

THE STORY: In high school Garrett Daniels and Callie Carpenter were a serious thing.  But when college took them in different directions, they broke up. Now Callie has returned to their hometown on a temporary basis and things are still hot between them. Garrett is now a high school teacher and football coach and things seem to be going well for him. Callie’s arrival, however, brings up the feelings he never got over. Callie remembers that there are some things she still misses about her hometown, including Garrett. But is history about to repeat itself as the two have separate lives across the country from one another.

OPINION: I just loved the romantic feeling of this book. The characters of this book are so normal that all the small moments feel real and romantic at the same time. This is a book about relationship on a small scale. There isn’t a secret billionaire or a horrible past or a murderer stalking the couple. There are just two people who turned away from one another years ago, lived their lives in the middle, and then meet again and have to see if the future can be different from the past.

I liked these characters. They are good people, the choices they have to make are hard, but not over dramatic. There is a great deal of heartwarming sweetness in this story.

The characters have a great deal of chemistry between them.  Things seem so fall in place so easily for them…until it doesn’t. The story is a manifestation of the phrase — those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. For most of the book, the two seem hurtling towards repeating their own personal history. Because of that the book gets energy because it always seems like something is just waiting to go wrong because these two can’t have it that easy — and they don’t.

I loved seeing how these two go a different way, how maturity and experience has changed them and made them recognize what matters.

Finally, I’ve been a fan of Chase’s male POV since the first book I read by her. She just seems to capture that male voice — or at least my idea of a male POV.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is told in alternating first person.

CONNECTED BOOKS: GETTING SCHOOLED is the first book in the Getting Some series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Wicked Sinner

Review: Wicked SinnerWicked Sinner (Regency Sinners, #7) by Carole Mortimer
Series: Regency Sinners #7
Published by Carole Mortimer on July 19, 2018
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: My favorite of the series, this one works because of the existing relationship between the characters and the development of the heroine, which I enjoyed very much.

THE STORY: Dominik Sinclair, Duke of Stonewell and spymaster, has run out of suspects. In searching for the traitor, there is only one woman left — his wife. Now he has returned to his estate to accuse his wife and find out her secrets. Angelique has known something is wrong as Nik has become distant in recent months. Now he demands her surrender to his passions and his suspicions.

OPINION: I really enjoyed this one. Nothing is too deep, but because the characters have a pre-existing relationship, things are more focused emotionally. The two have an adventurous sexual relationship. While the important moments in their relationship are explored through their sexual moments, this works better between the married couple.

Nik’s suspicion of Angelique is in conflict of his feelings for her. (I do have to wonder about a spymaster who has so much that is happening without his knowledge). Angelique won’t allow Nik to get away easy with his distrust. The power dynamic between these two was interesting in this book.

While short in length of the story, this couple worked the best for me. I liked their interactions and how the storyline helps develop their relationship.  The story isn’t a particularly deep one, but for someone who spent much of my early romance reading days devouring category romances, this one fits right in (if a lot more explicit in its sex scenes).

WORTH MENTIONING: There is going to be another wrap up book with all the characters from the series. Since we don’t get to see the characters together enough, I’m happy for this.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WICKED SINNER is the seventh book in the Regency Sinner series. This romance is self-contained but there is an overarching storyline that runs through the series about a traitor. This book resolves that storyline.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: A Regency Duo

Review: A Regency DuoA Regency Duo by Angelique Armae, Carole Mortimer
Series: Regency Lovers #1,
Published by Angelique Armae on June 22, 2018
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
three-stars

This book contains two separate short novellas that are the first book in their series.

INDECENT by Carole Mortimer: Miss Emma Harris rejects the idea of marriage to the Adam Stirling, Duke of Harkwood. He proposed to her and then flaunts his affair with another woman on the same day.  When Emma discovers she was mistaken, she is contrite, but Adam intends to teach Emma a lesson about jumping to conclusions — a very erotic lesson.

I enjoyed this story. It is short and easy to read. The characters are not complex and the facts of the story feel completely unrealistic. But this is a good easy read that is really focused on the sexual exploits of these characters. Fans of Carole Mortimer’s more sexy series will instantly recognize this situation and this story is one of the better stories.

This is the first book in the Regency Lovers series.  Rating: 3.5 stars.

PRINCE OF SCANDAL by Angelique Armae: Lady Elizabeth Littlefield must figure out how to save her work on her orphanage in face of her brother’s insistence that she wed a man she has no desire to be associated with. When an old friendship with the youngest prince Freddie is renewed, Lizzie and Freddie end up in a compromising situation that threatens to ruin Lizzie and put her in danger from the secret work that Freddie is doing.

This story had promise, but there is too much plot for such a short book to be combined with an actual romance. The story might have been better as a longer book. But because there is so much plot to explain, the relationship suffers. Even worse, the plot has a lot of inconsistencies which cause more problems. One example is that Lizzie won’t disobey her brother in order to protect her orphanage, but yet she still has to send all the children away because the man she will marry won’t approve of the orphanage. If the focus had been on the relationship, I might overlook these plot problems, but when the plot is the focus, I tend to concentrate on these types of problems.

This is the first in the Seduced by Scandal series. Rating: 2 stars.

three-stars

Review: A Gathering of Secrets

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 Gathering of SecretsA Gathering of Secrets (Kate Burkholder, #10) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #10
Published by Minotaur Books on July 10, 2018
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 308
Goodreads
four-half-stars

 

“Some people say murder is a senseless act. I don’t agree. There’s no doubt murder is a brutal act. It’s a cruel act. An immoral act. It’s wrong in the eyes of the law. A sin in the eyes of God. Murder is an unthinkable deed in the mind of any decent human being. But murder is rarely senseless.”

FINAL DECISION: A great mystery that is deeply grounded in character and relationships rather than forensics and clues. Kate is deeply involved emotionally in this one and I really like seeing how her character has grown in the series. This one has lots of twists and turns and I couldn’t put it down.

THE STORY: The burning of an Amish barn brings Chief of Police Kate Burkholder to the scene, but the arson case turns to a murder investigation when the body of an eighteen year old boy is found inside. As Kate tries to determine who would want to kill a young man who by all accounts was a hard worker and a good person, Kate begins to discover that there are secrets that no one wants to talk about which might be a motive for murder.

OPINION: This one was a page turner. The book has lots of twists and things are not what they appear. This book is deeply entrenched in the personal. The secrets that people keep and the fears and shame and guilt that surround those secrets. As the story winds its way through to its conclusion, I liked that the sense of right and wrong is challenged on all sides. People who seem sympathetic might not be. People who seem good make terrible choices and take terrible actions.

These books work best for me when Kate is deeply involved not only on a professional, but also a personal level and this book succeeds in that. Kate is fully engaged as the mystery brings out many parts of her life. The story feels personal even if Kate doesn’t know the people involved.

I thought the mystery was very good and while I had glimpses of the ultimate resolution, I really didn’t put it together until the end. And there were plenty of shocking surprises along the way to keep me glued to the pages.

Beyond the mystery, there were also several developments with the ongoing characters that I enjoyed. And there is a real sense of growth of these characters which I appreciated. For readers of the series, it is nice to see that events and time change these characters and they are not kept in stasis to just solve crimes.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book has some good moments between Kate and Tomasetti for those who are interested in their relationship.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A GATHERING OF SECRETS is the tenth book in the Kate Burkholder series. This is a series of separate mystery stories. There are overarching character developments, but this book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 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.

 

four-half-stars

Review: Scandal Above Stairs

Review: Scandal Above StairsScandal Above Stairs (Kat Holloway Mysteries, #2) by Jennifer Ashley
Published by Berkley Books on July 3, 2018
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 320
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I enjoyed this one more than the first in the series. I really enjoyed learning more about the characters and developing the backstories of the cast of characters.

THE STORY: Kat is called to help investigate the theft of artwork from a friend of her employer. Kat is soon drawn into a series of thefts including ones being investigated by her friend, the mysterious Daniel McAdam. Open doors in the home she is working in and breaking in a new assistant are some additional challenges for Kat while also preparing meals for the household. Kat’s investigations lead her into the uncomfortable position of moving in the world of the upper household.

OPINION: This book allows times to delve into the relationships between the characters and also presents a whole series of mystery situations. I liked that we got to move through various stories at once. Things overlap and it is not clear what is relevant and what isn’t. In other words, it is a good mystery set up.

I really enjoyed how the mystery is both evidence and personality. And we get to know a lot about the characters surrounding Kat. Some of the information and facts are misdirection but all are interesting. The emphasis in this book is relationship and I especially enjoyed that we get a lot more of Kat and Daniel. They make a cute couple and I like seeing them reveal more to one another.

The book is interesting and I wasn’t sure where the story was going until the end which is enjoyable in a mystery.

I look forward to more from this series.

WORTH MENTIONING: Who knew how much work was involved in Victorian kitchen work?

CONNECTED BOOKS: SCANDAL ABOVE STAIRS is the second book in the Below Stairs aka the Kat Holloway Mysteries series. This is a self contained mystery that can be read as a standalone, but there are ongoing character developments that continue through the series and for that the books should be read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

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

four-half-stars