Review: Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors

Review: Pride, Prejudice, and Other FlavorsPride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors (The Rajes, #1) by Sonali Dev
Series: The Rajes #1
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on May 7, 2019
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 512
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: Straddling the line between women’s fiction and romance, this book doesn’t always comfortably satisfy either genre. I liked the book, but didn’t find the romance here as compelling as prior Dev books.

THE STORY: Dr. Trisha Raje is a celebrated neurosurgeon who has a difficult relationship with her family but even while she complains about them, she longs for something more with them. As would be expected in a Pride and Prejudice retelling, on the night that she is attempting to bridge the gap between them at a party, she meets DJ, a chef who is cooking for her family’s event. DJ finds Trisha stuck up and unlikable on their first meeting and judges her accordingly. Trisha, however, is DJ’s sister’s neurosurgeon so they are bound to meet again.

OPINION: I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of Pride and Prejudice. Therefore, any book that so closely depends so much on that book is already a problem for me. I liked the family dynamics at play here, but I think that trying to shoehorn some of these things into the original Pride and Prejudice template doesn’t always work as well here — especially the Wickham story.

I thought that both the main characters were well conceived. Trisha isn’t the easiest character to identify with but women characters often face more criticism for being successful, determined and unemotional. I really felt her mistakes and her inability to express herself as she wants. She also learns a lot through the book.

DJ is adorable but also a jerk in how he quickly judges Trisha. He is a caring brother who is struggling with his sister’s illness and how to allow her to make decisions in her life that are not the ones he would make.

The family drama was the weakest part for me as it seemed to overwhelm the romance at times. It also felt that this book, as the first in the series, was attempted to introduce everyone and do a lot of work that didn’t feel natural.

I wanted more romance and Trisha and DJ didn’t spend enough time together for my tastes. That being said, I liked the book and it was worth reading.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is a gender role reversal version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

CONNECTED BOOKS: PRIDE, PREJUDICE, AND OTHER FLAVORS is the first book in the Rajes series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

UPDATE: 4/3/2022: I’ve increased the rating on this one to 4 stars. The book does somewhat suffer from being the first book in the series and having to introduce all the family characters. I increased the rating because I really did like Trisha and DJ and think that at least some of my negative feelings the first time were because of my expectations of the book. I really did enjoy this book and upon second reading will continue with the series.

four-stars

Review: Blood of a Gladiator

Review: Blood of a GladiatorBlood of a Gladiator (Leonidas the Gladiator Mysteries, #1) by Ashley Gardner
Series: Leonidas the Gladiator Mysteries #1
Published by JA / AG Publishing on May 21, 2020
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Goodreads
four-half-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: The unusual setting along with the introduction of characters with mysterious pasts kept me turning pages on this one. The author now has three great historical mystery series going. I can’t wait for the next one in this series.

THE STORY: Set in ancient Rome, Leonidas, a famous gladiator, is freed from the deadly games by an unknown benefactor who gives him a place to live and a servant but he has to earn his own living. Cassia, a slave, is sent to help Leonidas, but also to spy on him. Leonidas’s first job is as a bodyguard, but it also lands him — and Cassia — in a series of mysteries involving death and kidnapping.

OPINION: This book is a mystery set in historical Rome, during the time of Nero. In this book we get to meet Leonidas who has been retired from gladiator fighting — something he has been very good at but is heart weary and does not desire to continue to kill and maim. One of the overarching mysteries is who Leonidas’s mysterious benefactor is and what his plans for Leonidas are. Leonidas’s story is interesting as he tries and find a place for himself and determine what he wants after years of his life being decided for him. I really liked him as a character because he has secrets that are yet to be mined in the story.

Cassia is also an intriguing character. What is her history, her purpose and her true motives. She is clever and because readers are not privy to her thoughts, she remains mysterious throughout the story. I really liked reading about her because she uses her brains and her recording skills (she is a scribe) to help resolve the mysteries.

Cassia and Leonidas are a good pair. Thrown together for some mysterious purpose, they are developing a good working relationship in this book. I especially liked the respect and care that they show for one another. The book also manages to have quite a bit of action along with the mental exercise of the crime — which is appropriate for a man of physical feats and his scribe slave.

The mystery here has multiple layers which I really enjoyed. The plot is developed through the interviews with various characters in different stations in life — from the emperor himself to merchants to builders to gladiators to brothel women. The story gives a nice view of Roman society along with a good mystery.

I really enjoyed this book, and I look forward to reading more about these characters.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a straight-up mystery without any romance — at least right now. I have hopes for the future.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BLOOD OF A GLADIATOR is the first book in the Leonidas the Gladiator series. This book occurs before the events in the novella BLOOD DEBTS.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC of this book from the author. 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: Say Yes to the 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: Say Yes to the DukeSay Yes to the Duke (The Wildes of Lindow Castle, #5) by Eloisa James
Series: The Wildes of Lindow Castle #5
Published by Avon on May 26, 2020
Genres: Historical
Pages: 400
Goodreads
five-stars

 

She had powdered her hair, of course, but just around her face he could see little wisps of golden-brown curls. “You have freckles,” he said.

“A few,” she said, shrugging. “I know you’re supposed to hate them, but I don’t.”

Devin discovered that he didn’t hate them either.

FINAL DECISION: Beautiful, lyrical, emotional and just so wonderful. I loved how Viola and Devin fell in love with one another without excessive drama. This book was a slow sinking into a loving relationship with humor and plenty of romance.

THE STORY: Miss Viola Astley feels like a fraud amongst the wild Wildes. Painfully shy and prone to vomit when forced to socialize, Viola’s life changes when she meets a young, handsome vicar. Unfortunately, the vicar is betrothed to a stern, controlling, humorless woman, but Viola is determined to rescue him for herself.¬†Devin Elstan, Duke of Wynter has decided that it is time to marry and one of the Wilde daughters who are having their debut will do. Unseen, he’s decided on the “real” Wilde not the one whose mother married into the family. Upon meeting the “unsuitable” Viola, however, Devin knows that she is the woman for him and is determined to woo her for himself.

OPINION: This has become my favorite series by Eloisa James. There is a boldness and complete willingness to be open to love by the men in the series. Completely undone by Viola, Devin wants her for himself and yet he knows and respects her at every turn. These two truly make one another better and the focus of the book is the relationship they build together rather than outside drama or manufactured misunderstandings.

Viola is the beloved step-daughter of the Duke of Wilde. Despite her loving family, she has always felt inadequate compared to the beautiful, tall and passionate Wildes. When she meets the vicar, she begins to find reasons to believe in herself. When she meets the Duke of Wynter, she is so offended by him that she forgets to be her “mousy” self and instead completely captivates Devin. I loved seeing Viola overcome her shyness and find a place for herself and a purpose.

Devin is controlled and distant after a childhood with a hotheaded and irresponsible father. When he meets Viola, she inspires him to learn to reach out to others and express his feelings. His complete devotion to her was so romantic and incredibly sweet.

I am a big fan of books where the characters actually talk to one another, discuss their issues and feelings and generally act like responsible adults. Discussion and respect can be incredibly sexy as this book demonstrates. These characters always act with respect towards one another and I fell in love with them.

The Wildes as a whole play less of a role here than in prior books, but that lent a great intimacy between Devon and Viola as most of their courtship is comprised of discussions and conversations between the two. That was something that I very much enjoyed.

One of the best parts of this series is that each romance is completely different from the others in the series. Each character, their arc, the issues and tone of the books are different. Plus, I really enjoy the historical tidbits that James includes and which gives a real sense of the real Georgian period where these books are set.

WORTH MENTIONING: The book has a cute secondary romance as well.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SAY YES TO THE DUKE is the fifth book in the Wildes of Lindow Castle series. This book can be read as a standalone. It is not necessary to have read the other books in the series to enjoy this book.

RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC 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.

 

five-stars

Review: Close Up

Review: Close UpClose Up (Burning Cove #4) by Amanda Quick
Series: Burning Cove #4
Published by Berkley on May 5, 2020
Genres: Historical, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 304
Goodreads
five-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: This is one of the best of the series. I loved the paranormal elements that have crept back into the Krentz/Quick books. Vivian and Nick are a good couple and their relationship works well here combined with the mystery.

THE STORY: Vivian Brazier gave up a cushy life with a wealthy family when she refused to marry her parent’s handpicked man and instead left to make her way as an art photographer. To pay her bills, however, Vivian moonlights as a crime scene photographer selling photos to newspapers. When she becomes a target for a killer, Nick Sundridge is sent to warn and protect her.

OPINION: This was a thoroughly enjoyable book. I have really enjoyed the setting both in time and place for this series. The 1930’s California setting feels fresh and intriguing. Vivian, like many women of the era, is inventing herself and new roles for women. She has rejected the role that her family has chosen for her and instead struck off on her own. In her job and in her relationship with Nick, she is inventing herself.

Nick is a man struggling with his psychic talent which he often sees as a curse. He has a bad history with women in danger. His special talents make him just the guy to protect Vivian, but she is also a reminder of his previous failures.

These two are great together. I loved their work in investigating the threat against Vivian which also leads to the reason why she is being targeted which is another mystery they must solve together.

The two also have chemistry that sparkles on the page.  This is my favorite of the series so far because these two just feel well rounded, fun, sexy and full of conflicts and I just wanted to find out the resolution of their story.

WORTH MENTIONING: I am happy that Krentz is again including psychic paranormal elements in her books. Most of my favorite books of hers have at least some paranormal elements. There are also small references to the Arcane Society for those who read that series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: CLOSE UP is the fourth book in the Burning Cove series. However, the romance here is self-contained and it can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

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

 

five-stars

Review: Texas! Chase

Review: Texas! ChaseTexas! Chase (Texas! Tyler Family Saga, #2) by Sandra Brown
Series: Texas! Tyler Family Saga #2
Published by Bantam on July 1, 1991
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 320
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: A blast from the past. This 1990’s contemporary novel reads more like a historical at times, but I love the characters and this book is one of the early damaged hero stories I read.

THE STORY: Marcie John has been in love with Chase Tyler since childhood. When his beloved wife is killed by a teen driver while a passenger in Marcie’s car, Chase falls apart. When Marcie sees him again, she rescues him and in order to save the family’s business, she proposes a marriage of convenience. She gets a husband who will help her own business (although she is secretly in love with him) and Chase will get money to protect the family legacy. At the same time, Marcie has a stalker who is making obscene phone calls to her and has become more threatening.

OPINION: This is one of my old-time favorites. The story was shocking to my expectations years ago. Chase’s beloved wife is killed in the beginning of the book, and he becomes a mess afterwards. Broken, aimless, drunk most of the time, Chase is hardly the type of hero that I expected. Marcie rescues him from his circumstances and whisks him away to safety.

Marcie is put together, successful but haunted by the accident that took Chase’s wife’s life and also continues to pine after Chase. I loved that these two struggle to build a relationship together which has problems and fits and starts. As deep and complicated as more recent books would be expected to be? No, but this book blazed a trail that those books got to follow.

My recent re-read was comforting and completely satisfying. Marcie might be in love with Chase, but she doesn’t put up with his self-pity or his lashing out in his pain.

This was one of those books I remember from years ago that still worked for me.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book was written in the early 1990’s and thus readers should be aware that situations, themes and characters are set in that time and may be jarring for modern readers.

CONNECTED BOOKS: Texas! Chase is the second book in the Texas! Tyler Family Saga. The romance here is self-contained and the book can be read as a standalone although characters from the other two books in the series appear.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars