Review: Devil’s Daughter

Review: Devil’s DaughterDevil's Daughter (The Ravenels #5) by Lisa Kleypas
Published by Avon on February 19, 2019
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384

“Phoebe had never met West Ravenel, but she knew one thing for certain: He was a mean, rotten bully.”

FINAL DECISION: I loved this book. I finished in in one sitting (stayed up late at night) and then immediately began to re-reading passages. Phoebe and West are so sweet and sexy together, and I loved the story of West having to overcome his past — mostly in forgiving himself and trusting in the future.

THE STORY: Phoebe, Lady Clare, is a widow with two small children. When her family attends her brother’s wedding, Phoebe encounters West Ravenel who she has never met but knows all about. West was the childhood bully of Phoebe’s beloved husband. Despite Phoebe’s dislike of West’s actions, she can’t help but be attracted to the charming West. West realizes that his past makes him completely unworthy of Phoebe even as he cannot stop thinking about her.

OPINION: The story of two people who have an instant connection, but any romance is threatened by West’s past. I loved this book and the characters, and it will be one that I will put on my keeper’s shelf.

West Ravenel is a man who is just beginning to put his life right. In the two years since he has taken over managing his brother’s estate West have been seen by all as a compassionate, intelligent, thoughtful and hardworking man. But West has a past. Before finding his purpose, West was a wastrel on all accounts. He drank too much, slept with too many women, caused fights and generally just behaved poorly.  When he meets Phoebe, he sees her as completely above him. What she needs is a decent man who will be good to her sons and will be a role model. West knows that he cannot be that man because of his past.

Phoebe is a widow with two young sons. She married the love of her life, her childhood friend, and now out of mourning, she is ready to return to the family estate and protect her son’s legacy. When she meets West at her brother’s wedding, she is determined not to like him because he was the bully of her husband when they were children. But Phoebe cannot help but see the good in West — his kindness with her children, his respect for her intelligence by being willing to teach her about estate management.

This story is really about West and his demons and his inability to see himself clearly. He knows what he has done in his past and he cannot bring himself to forgive his own actions. To West, he is always on the precipice of being the drunk, bully, untrustworthy man he was. I loved seeing so many other people try and make West see that he is worthy of being loved, of having a full life with a wife and family of his own.

Readers of the Ravenels series know of West’s journey. Through the four prior books, he has become the rock and support of the other characters. I loved seeing him get a happy ending of his own after helping others get theirs.

Another thing that really worked for me here is how Kleypas shows West as a supporter of Phoebe’s taking charge of her life and her son’s estate. He supports her — he doesn’t take over and become her protector. Instead, he values her for who she is and acknowledges her opinions and intelligence. Indeed, West’s final capitulation to love in some ways a surrender to Phoebe’s view of him and their possible future.

Phoebe is a woman coming into her own. The death of her beloved husband has changed her and this book is about her finding out who she is going to be. A strong and compassionate woman (who else could the eldest daughter of Sebastian and Evie be), Phoebe was the strength in caring for her ill husband and now she is using that strength to protect her children. Despite her prejudices about West when they meet, she sees who he really is and is willing to put her judgment aside.

This book is also pretty hot between West and Phoebe but everything is grounded deeply in their relationship.

What really tips this book over the top is the number of characters from this series and the Wallflower series that make appearances. This book feels really grounded in the relationships between the characters. I am a sucker for appearances by favorite characters (and we even get a bit of Gabriel and Pandora’s wedding itself).

This series has been a real winner for me, and this book is a great addition.

WORTH MENTIONING: Can I fall even more in love with Sebastian from DEVIL IN WINTER? He is simply adorable at the matchmaking dad here. But he is always the scandalous rake and I love, love, love that Kleypas allows Sebastian and Evie to continue to have a loving and sexual relationship even as grandparents.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DEVIL’S DAUGHTER is the fifth book in the Ravenels series.  This book is much better if read as part of the series, but a new reader should also include DEVIL IN WINTER which is from Kleypas’s Wallflowers series.  At the very least, a reader should read DEVIL IN WINTER, DEVIL IN SPRING before this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.


Review: Connections in Death

Review: Connections in DeathConnections in Death (In Death, #48) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #48
Published by St. Martin's Press on February 5, 2019
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 384

FINAL DECISION: A solid entry in the series. I especially enjoyed the interaction between Eve and Roarke in this one as the two have become comfortable with one another in their marriage.

THE STORY: Eve and Roarke are working on their new school and youth center intended for children like they were growing up. When the brother of the new head psychologist is found dead, it at first seems that his troubles with addiction have resulted in his death, but Eve soon recognizes it as a disguised murder.

OPINION: I’m a big fan of this series. Most of the books are really good and a few are middling. This one is a solid entry. It has some of the aspects that I enjoy most about this series: a personal connection for Eve, a lot of interaction between Eve and Roarke, and appearances by Eve’s friends and coworkers.

I also admit that I am always more interested in these relationships than the mystery. There isn’t a tremendous amount of mystery here as the crime is quickly solved, but Eve has to put the evidence together to get the criminals. That worked well here. This book was more like a crime procedural than a mystery.

What I enjoyed the most was the continued maturing of Eve and Roarke’s relationship. Readers who have followed the entire breadth of the series will see a deepening and the two dealing with one another in a positive manner. I love watching these characters move beyond their painful pasts.

There is also a nice smattering of the other people in Eve’s life. She has a whole menagerie of people in her life now and we get a glimpse of many of them. I enjoy seeing Eve connect with others. Her growth has been amazing from the woman who was so alone in the first book in this series to someone who knows how to ask for and receive help from others.

This is a good entry in the series. Not one of the most compelling, but quite enjoyable.

WORTH MENTIONING: Although there have been 48 books in this series, just about 3 years have passed in the series itself so a lot has happened in those years.

CONNECTED BOOKS: CONNECTIONS IN DEATH is the forty-eighth book in the In Death series. This one can be read pretty much as a standalone although I think a casual reader misses a lot of character development.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.



Review: Logan

Review: LoganLogan (Steele Protectors 1) by Carole Mortimer
Series: Steele Protectors #1
Published by Carole Mortimer on January 25, 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 146

FINAL DECISION: Enjoyable start to the new series. The story and characters will be familiar to Mortimer fans but it was a nice version of her typical story.

THE STORY: August Harvey comes to the Steele brothers because her roommate (and the brothers adopted sister) is missing. There she meets Logan Steele who is recovering from being shot. When August is found to be in danger, Logan must protect her.

OPINION: Putting aside the quick turn to love in this book, I really enjoyed the interaction between these characters. The story was simple and compact which allowed the characters to have some interesting interactions with one another.

These book tend to be premised on an intense event which thrusts the characters into close proximity for a short time. That pattern is followed here, but I enjoyed the rude and annoying Logan being taken to taste by the feisty August.

This book is of a shorter length so there isn’t really much character development, but I enjoyed it as an introduction to all the characters in the series and some really hot moments between Logan and August.

WORTH MENTIONING: Atticus and Jenna almost stole the book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: LOGAN is the first book in the Steele Protectors series about six brothers.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.



Review: When Snow Falls

Review: When Snow FallsWhen Snow Falls (Whiskey Creek, #2) by Brenda Novak
Series: Whiskey Creek #2
Published by MIRA on October 23, 2012
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 446

FINAL DECISION: Mixed feelings on this one. I really loved the blue collar romance between Cheyenne and Dylan. I didn’t like almost everything else around the romance. The story of the sister’s drug addiction was over the top. The mystery woman story was only a mystery to Cheyenne so it wasn’t a mystery at all. The friend and other man story wasn’t convincing.

THE STORY: Cheyenne Christensen is struggling caring for her mother who is dying from cancer. Cheyenne also seems to have childhood memories about a caring woman who is not her mother. On top of this, her best friend has decided to ask out the man who Cheyenne has secretly been in love with for years. Determined not to interfere with her friend’s potential romance, Cheyenne finds herself in the company of Dylan Amos, the oldest of the troublemaking brothers. Even the possibility of the man of her dreams can’t seem to get Cheyenne’s mind off the bad boy.

OPINION: This book was made up of so many different plot lines that it felt disjointed to me. I wanted more of the Cheyenne and Dylan romance and less of the 50 other side stories. The first half of the book makes such a big deal of the Cheyenne/Dylan/Joe/Eve plot and then it just dropped.

I really liked the Cheyenne and Dylan romance. It was nice reading a blue collar couple for a change. I really liked how Cheyenne begins to see that Dylan is more than what he did in his past. While I thought the beginning of their romance was strange because it occurred so quickly and without any real connection between the characters, I quickly enjoyed their growing and complicated relationship.

I wanted to like this book more because I liked the romance, but I thought that the book lost focus and kept diverting from a good romance to cover a bunch of other stories that just weren’t that interesting to me.

WORTH MENTIONING: I don’t really like that the heroine keeps secrets from the hero even at the end of the book. It’s not a good start for their marriage.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WHEN SNOW FALLS is the second book in the Whiskey Creek series. Although there are characters from the town in each book, this book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.


Review: Mr. Hunt, I Presume

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: Mr. Hunt, I PresumeMr. Hunt, I Presume (Playful Brides, #10.5) by Valerie Bowman
Series: Playful Brides #10.5
Published by June Third Enterprises, LLC on February 8, 2019
Genres: Historical
Pages: 110


FINAL DECISION: This was an enjoyable little story where two people who were always meant to be together get a second chance at love. The length of the story means that the story isn’t as developed as I would want, but I found it a quick and amusing read.

THE STORY: General Collin Hunt is forced to take a holiday so he goes to visit his brother, the Duke of Claringdon. What he doesn’t expect is that his sister-in-law, a notorious and successful matchmaker, has targeted him. She has hired a new governess who happens to be the woman Collin once (and perhaps still) loves. Erienne Stone didn’t expect to be reunited with the man who abandoned her a decade before but one meddling duchess is determined to give these two a second chance.

OPINION: I enjoyed this little story. As a novella, the story is compressed and the characters are not as fleshed out as one would expect from a full length novel. Despite this, I enjoyed this story which contained a great amount of humor brought by Lucy who is a determined matchmaker. Readers will have to accept that much of the story is compressed. Erienne and Collin are in love when we meet them although they have been apart for over a decade. Despite this, however, I enjoyed the chance to see these two who want so desperately to be together manage to find ways to stumble apart. There is a definite sweetness to this story even as it has some over the top dramatic moments. Some might be annoyed by the drama, but I found it consistent with the humor of the series in general and this story in particular. Unfortunately, the length of the story means that much of the emotional drama between the characters is resolved too quickly, but this is a quick read that made me laugh in places and gave me the chance to see familiar characters from the Playful Brides series again.

WORTH MENTIONING: This story is almost more for fans of Lucy and Derek than those wanting a new story.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MR. HUNT, I PRESUME is book 10.5 in the Playful Brides series. This novella can be read as a standalone although Derek and Lucy from THE UNEXPECTED DUCHESS play significant roles in this story.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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



Review: Second Chances

Review: Second ChancesSecond Chances by Mary Balogh
Published by Class eBook Editions Ltd. on February 5, 2019
Genres: Historical

This is an anthology of four unconnected stories which were previously published.

ANOTHER DREAM: This is the story of Eleanor Thompson, an independent woman of almost forty. On the way to visit her sister, the Duchess of Bewcastle, she is forced to seek shelter at an inn because of the weather.  There she meets Michael Benning, Earl of Staunton and his two precocious children.  These two mature adults find sweet platonic companionship with one another but never expect to meet again.  When they do, at Eleanor’s sister’s home, they discover that Michael’s children already have plans for Eleanor to be their new mother.This story was reserved and sweet.  It is book 6.5 in the Bedwyn series and, for me, the best part was seeing all my favorite characters from that series again.  The relationship between Eleanor and Michael was not complicated and they are rather reserved characters, but I enjoyed their romance because it wrapped up some lose ends from the series and I like that these more mature characters also get their happy ending. The children in this story are simply adorable as well. Rating: 4 stars.

THE TREASURE HUNT: Jonathan Hayes, Viscount Whitley, has been sent by his brother to face Constance Manning. Constance has been waiting for Jonathan’s brother so that they can reveal their secret engagement, but her fiance has second thoughts and sends his brother instead. Jonathan has a secret as well — he has been in love with Connie for years. This story didn’t really work for me because of the short time frame involved and Connie changing from “loving” Jonathan’s brother to recognizing her own love for Jonathan. That being said, I loved the sweetness of the relationship between Connie and Jonathan and willingness to put her happiness above his own. Rating: 2.5 stars.

THE FORBIDDEN DAFFODILS: Kate Buchanan was banished by her father for refusing to marry the Marquess of Ashendon after they spent two nights alone together. Now Ashendon has traveled to Wales to see Kate and try again to gain her consent for them to marry. But Kate’s hate for Ashendon has not abated in the five years since her banishment. I really liked this story. It is short and somewhat old fashioned in its tone, but the characters actually have some interest here. I really did feel the two of them had something between them. Rating: 3.5 stars.

THE BETROTHAL BALL: Laura Melfort is the governess for the niece of the Earl of Dearbourne. Dearbourne intends on marrying and has his potential bride in attendance, but finds himself constantly intrigued by the bluestocking governess. This one was just okay. There were some funny moments which I enjoyed, but I didn’t really see the connection between the characters. The short length of the story felt more like a fairy tale than a serious romance. Rating: 2 stars.


Review: Cold-Hearted Rake

Review: Cold-Hearted RakeCold-Hearted Rake (The Ravenels, #1) by Lisa Kleypas
Published by Avon on October 27, 2015
Genres: Historical
Pages: 419

A Welcome Return by Lisa Kleypas to Historical Romance

“You are the vilest man I have ever met.”

FINAL DECISION: The return by Kleypas to historical romance typifies the heartwarming, character driven, deeply romantic books that made her a favorite among readers. COLD-HEARTED RAKE has one one my favorite storylines — a man who is changed for the better by a good woman.

THE STORY: Devon Ravenel unexpectedly inherits an earldom upon the death of his hated cousin. Devon has devoted his life to pleasure and lack of responsibility and the last thing he wants are floundering estates and caring for tenants and relatives of his cousin. He goes to the estate intending on sending the widow and sisters packing and selling the entirety of the estate. Kathleen was made a widow after only three days of marriage. She knows that the appearance of the new earl means that she must make her own plans for her future and is disgusted by Devon’s lack of caring about the history of the estate and the lives of the people who depend upon it. Open warfare emerges between Devon and Kathleen but the surprising result is that Devon wants to spend more time with Kathleen and begins to try and save the estate in order to spend more time with her.

OPINION: Devon and Kathleen are both strong willed and they have a passionate relationship. The relationship begins with passionate arguments and then turns to sexual passion. Kathleen is a woman who cares deeply although she constrains herself with rules and propriety. Her life has been filled with pain but she has reached out to others in response. Devon also has a painful past, but he has retreated to a life of excess in order to hide his pain. His interactions with Kathleen begin to change him. Determined never to marry or have children because of his own childhood, Devon slowly begins to change as his attraction to Kathleen compels him to reconsider his notions about responsibility. Kleypas writes wonderful rake stories. She realistically demonstrates how a woman can begin to change a man. Devon doesn’t even acknowledge that he is changing throughout the novel. He just knows that he is compelled to continuously make changes in his life in order to spend more time with Kathleen. Even better, Kathleen doesn’t become the catalyst for change by being a loving doormat…no, she changes him by challenging him to be a better person. It is only after he has changed that he becomes the kind of man who can love Kathleen.

This book is also filled with compelling secondary characters. I look forward to reading more about them as the series continues.

Kleypas fans rejoice. She has returned to historicals and hasn’t lost a step.

WORTH MENTIONING: I really liked this book but I am looking forward to the next book MARRYING MR. WINTERBORNE even more. The couple is introduced in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: COLD-HEARTED RAKE is the first book in a a new series about the Ravenel family and friends.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.


Review: A Wallflower Christmas

Review: A Wallflower ChristmasA Wallflower Christmas (Wallflowers, #4.5) by Lisa Kleypas
Published by St. Martin's Press on October 14, 2008
Genres: Historical
Pages: 225

Festive Followup to the Wallflowers Series

This novella is a followup to Kleypas’ successful Wildflowers series. It tells the story of Rafe Bowman, oldest brother of the wallflower Lillian and Daisy. Rafe has come to England because his father has found him an aristocratic woman to marry. Of course, Rafe is immediately attracted to his potential bride’s companion, Hannah.

The story takes place at Christmas and Kleypas has incorporated some historical information about celebration Christmas in the mid 1800s.

I enjoyed best getting an update on the Wallflowers. The main story was sweet, but certainly not as good as the main books in the series. The original wallflowers and their men just seem to be bigger than this story and I was almost more interested in the peek into their lives than anything else. I would recommend the novella, however, to fans of the series because the update was worth the price of the book.


Review: Scandal in Spring

Review: Scandal in SpringScandal in Spring (Wallflowers, #4) by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Wallflowers #4
Published by HarperCollins e-books on March 17, 2009
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384

Sweet Conclusion to Wallflowers Series

A SCANDAL IN SPRING is the story of Daisy Bowman and Matthew Swift. Daisy is the youngest of the Wallflowers. Daisy’s father has tired of waiting for her to find a husband. He has given her an ultimatum – find a husband before the end of the season in two months or she will marry his protege Matthew Swift. Daisy is appalled, but soon changes her mind when Matthew travels to England and he is not at all as she remembers. The two begin to fall in love but a secret from Matthew’s past threatens to keep them apart.

This book is a satisfying conclusion to the Wallflowers series, but is my least favorite. The conflict between the characters is mostly external and while there is a big buildup to the revelation of the secret, the resolution is too quick and easy. That being said, the book is not a disappointment and it is a sweet ending to the series.

For fans of the series, it is a necessary read. For others, I recommend starting with one of the other books of the series.


Review: Devil in Winter

Review: Devil in WinterDevil in Winter (Wallflowers, #3) by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Wallflowers #3
Published by HarperCollins e-books on October 13, 2009
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384

Fantastic Book! My Favorite of the Series

THE DEVIL IN WINTER is a classic for a reason. It is the third book of Kleypas’ Wallflowers series. This book is takes the classic rake and wallflower story and makes it simply amazing. The rake, Sebastian, Viscount St. Vincent is an incredible character. Kleypas does a great job of taking him from the unrepentant rake who was the villain in the second book of the series and making him a swoon worthy hero. The transition is slow and realistic and so incredibly moving. His slow developing love for the wallflower Evie makes this book one of my all time favorites.

At the same time, Evie is a wallflower, but not a sweet helpless idiot. She is incredibly strong and unlike similar stories it is Evie who approaches the rake. She has been subjected to much cruelty in her life and has built a strong character from those experiences. It is her strength that attracts Sebastian.

I have nothing negative to write about this book. The ability of Kleypas to write such intricate characterizations is one reason she is an amazing writer. I highly recommend this book. Honestly, one could read this book independent of the others in the series (I did the first time) and while the book is better read in context, it is not essential to read the others first.