Review: A Mackenzie Yuletide

Review: A Mackenzie YuletideA Mackenzie Yuletide (Mackenzies & McBrides, #11.5) by Jennifer Ashley
Published by InterMix on October 29, 2019
Genres: Historical
Pages: 125

FINAL DECISION: For fans of the Mackenzie series, it was lovely to see all the characters that we have known and loved with the kids grown up a bit.

THE STORY: It’s the holiday season for the Mackenzie family when Ian Mackenzie is trying to track down a necklace for his wife Beth, and a ghost seems to have invaded the Mackenzie household.

OPINION: This was an enjoyable book that is really for fans of the series because there are no real explanation of the characters or their histories. That is fine for me because I love these characters and am happy to spend more time with them especially because we are introduced to the next generation of Mackenzies (who we might have seen as small children but here we get to see their personalities). There is a plot, but I didn’t particularly care about the resolution of the mystery. I just luxuriated in getting to see who these characters are now.

WORTH MENTIONING: After this novella, I’m hoping that we are going to get books about the younger Mackenzie generation.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A MACKENZIE YULETIDE is book 11.5 in the Mackenzie & McBrides series (or the Mackenzie series). It should be read after the Victorian era books in the series because its really an update about those characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.



Review: Angel in a Devil’s Arms

Review: Angel in a Devil’s ArmsAngel in a Devil's Arms (The Palace of Rogues, #2) by Julie Anne Long
Series: The Palace of Rogues #2
Published by Avon on October 29, 2019
Genres: Historical
Pages: 368


FINAL DECISION: A book that just lifted my spirit and heart. Beautiful, lyrical and filled with acceptance and redemption.  Some books just fill my heart so much that I can’t find the words to express how much it touched me. This is one of those books.

THE STORY: Angelique Breedlove has begun to build a new life for herself. After failed love affairs and a turn as the mistress of her now business partner’s deceased husband, Angelique knows that men are trouble. Trouble walks into the Grand Palace on the Thames in the form of Lucien Durand, Lord Bolt. Ten years after his supposed death, Lucien has returned to London seeking revenge. Angelique is deeply attracted to Lucien, but that is a reason she is determined to keep her distance. Lucien ends up having to decide if he wants to pursue Angelique or seek his own justice.

OPINION: I loved this book. It didn’t feel huge in the story (in that it didn’t feel like the world was at stake), but the heart of it was large and emotional and it lingered in my thoughts. Long has become a favorite of mine because the story is always centered on the emotional journey of the characters. The heart is always unabashedly center her books.

Angelique is a woman who has a disappointing past love life, but she accepts her life without apology. She is not a virgin and doesn’t see that as shameful but rather as a person who looked for love and was disappointed by the men she trusted. Indeed, a theme of both this book and the prior one are the ways that men disappoint and use women and how those women find strength to go on. I liked Angelique’s brassy and bold personality which hides a deeply hurt and vulnerable heart. She has loved too unwisely because she loves deeply. The question here is whether she is willing to risk again. How does she know that Lucien is a man who will not be yet another disappointment for her.

Lucien is always dealing with his own disappointment. Rejected by his father and left for dead in a plot which send him on a decade journey to make himself, Lucien has returned for revenge. But it is clear that what Lucien really wants is to belong. His question is whether he is willing to give up the chance for revenge in order to have his chance to be a part of something. Lucien, like so many of Long’s heroes, have a deep emotional center. They feel so much and indeed his emotional core is quickly unlocked in this book. Much of the book is him finding a way to show his worth to Angelique.

I’m impressed how this book creates and expands a community that is primarily based in a few rooms in what is essentially a bed and breakfast. The characters and their relationships have significance and there are some nice payoffs from what appeared to be peripheral issues in the first book.

Lyrical and emotional, this is another winner by Julie Anne Long.

WORTH MENTIONING: I love the found family in this series and want to know more about the characters as the series develops.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ANGEL IN A DEVIL’S ARMS is the second book in the Palace of Rogues series. Although the romance here is self-contained, I think the series is better read in order because the interconnected relationships between the characters are important.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

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



Review: Betrothed by Christmas: A Holiday Duet

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: Betrothed by Christmas: A Holiday DuetBetrothed by Christmas by Elizabeth Essex, Jess Michaels
Published by The Passionate Pen LLC on October 15, 2019
Genres: Historical
Pages: 355

This is a duet of two stories which are separate but take place at the same time and the characters do meet.

A LADY’S GIFT FOR SEDUCTION by Jess Michaels: Lady Evangeline doesn’t intend to submit to her father’s plans for her. If she doesn’t find a man to marry quickly, he intends to marry her off to someone “appropriate”. Evangeline is having nothing of that and intends to take her future into her own hands by marrying a “biddable” man who will allow her to control her own life. Evangeline sets her eyes on her friend Henry Killam. Henry has his own problems as his father has forbidden him to do his “work” as an astronomer and threatened to cut him off. Marriage to Evangeline might solve his own problems but things become complicated. I enjoyed this book as a reversal of the typical historical romance. Here, the heroine is the aggressive one and the hero is the wallflower. I liked both Evangeline who wanted control of her life and Henry, who was sweet and only wanted to do his scientific work in a world that would have respected him more if he was a drunken womanizer. This story works well in the novella format. Rating: 4 stars.

A LADY’S GIFT FOR SCANDAL by Elizabeth Essex: Tamsin Lesley wants only to be a bluestocking but she fears being married off to her father’s heir. She decides to get herself “slightly” ruined in order to avoid an unwanted marriage. And the perfect man to accomplish her goal is wallflower Colonel Simon Cathcart. Simon has his own secrets and the face that he puts on with the public does not fully represent the man. This story wasn’t quite as good as the other story, but it was a nice easy read. I liked Tamsin, but never felt that Simon’s situation and thoughts were as well developed. This was a story that could have been longer with the themes that were trying to be addressed. It was a nice read. Rating: 3.5 stars.


Review: The Art of Theft

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 Art of TheftThe Art of Theft (Lady Sherlock, #4) by Sherry Thomas
Series: Lady Sherlock #4
Published by Berkley on October 15, 2019
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 336


FINAL DECISION: This book leans towards adventure more than cerebral mystery, but it works very well. I especially enjoyed those surrounding Sherlock Holmes joining together as a group to investigate. Grounded nicely in character and emotion, I enjoyed the progression of the various characters stories.

THE STORY: Following the intensely personal events of THE HOLLOW OF FEAR, this book turns to the supporting characters in the series who have bigger roles here and their history and relationships are explored more. It is Mrs. Watson who desperately needs the help of Sherlock Holmes and the cast of characters to help an old friend. The group end up traveling to France to steal a piece of art.

OPINION: After the intensity of the prior book being focused on Charlotte and Lord Ingram, this book primarily focuses on others in Sherlock’s orbit. There is much progression here character wise. (We do also get some of the emotional aftermath between Charlotte and Ash).

This book goes in a new direction with more of a heist book than a thoughtful mystery. I enjoyed both the mystery and the character moments in this book. As with all the books in this series, this feels original and interesting. Charlotte is a singular character — my favorite adaption of the Sherlock Holmes character.

Every moment feels fresh and interesting. I love the characters and I want to know how they are going to solve the mystery that comes before Charlotte. This book is very much a collaborate effort between the various characters and while Charlotte is definitely the lead, this one feels more like a group effort. There are more characters who rise to importance and their stories are intriguing as more secrets are revealed.

With plenty of exciting adventures, this one kept me turning pages until the end. (And what an ending…now I have to wait a year for the next in the series, oh no!)

WORTH MENTIONING: As with other books in this series, the main story here is completed, but the book ends on a cliffhanger for the next in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE ART OF THEFT is the fourth book in the Lady Sherlock series. While the mystery here is self-contained, the characters and the overarching stories make this deeply connected with the other books in the series. I believe a reader should start at the beginning, otherwise, there is much to the mystery that will be unanswerable.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 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: The Widow of Rose House

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 Widow of Rose HouseThe Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on October 8, 2019
Genres: Historical, Mystery, Paranormal
Pages: 352


FINAL DECISION: Enjoyable historical romance combined with a ghost story. While the book had some parts that dragged, overall, I thought this was a good story with interesting characters. I wanted to read more of the Moore family.

THE STORY: Alva Webster returns to New York after the death of her estranged husband as the notorious widow. She intends to build a life for herself by renovating a dilapidated house and using it as the subject of a book. But when her plans are derailed by tales of ghosts that haunt the house, she ends up working with Samuel Moore, a scientist and inventor, who takes up investigating what is haunting the house. Samuel also is intrigued by Alva even as she wants to avoid any entanglements. As the two get closer and search for the secrets of Alva’s house, Alva’s own secret past threatens her plans for the future.

OPINION: This book is an interesting combination of a Gilded Age historical romance, a mystery, and a ghost book with the attendant thriller and suspense aspects. I thought the combination of these genres worked really well. I never felt that the story was out of balance. I enjoyed all aspects of the story.

I liked the relationship between Alva and Samuel. Alva has been grievously injured by her marriage and she treats Samuel pretty poorly because of it. Indeed, if I have a complaint, it is that Samuel is way too accommodating to Alva. She leads Samuel on knowing his feelings for her. I also thought that her insistence on handling her past problems herself was pretty idiotic. The inability to ask for help is not strength but a weakness.

But apart from that, I really loved when Alva and Samuel’s relationship was working. He is adorable and there was such fun and sweetness in their interactions.

The book had some really interesting parts. I thought that parts were repetitive and the book dragged somewhat when Alva is dealing with her past. But the parts with Alva and Samuel together were lovely. I also thought that the ghost portions themselves were suspenseful and scary without being too graphic. The portions of Samuel and Alva doing investigations of the origins of the ghosts in the house also introduced readers to a variety of well drawn characters.

And ultimately, it was the strength of the characterizations which made this book for me. I not only really enjoyed Alva and Samuel, but also Samuel’s family and other more minor characters that help with the investigation.

I thought the ghost story portion was well done and certainly was rooted in real trials of the time.

WORTH MENTIONING: I really want to read the stories of the other Moore siblings (including Henry).


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.