Review: The Counterfeit Scoundrel

Review: The Counterfeit ScoundrelThe Counterfeit Scoundrel (The Chessmen: Masters of Seduction, #1) by Lorraine Heath
Series: The Chessmen: Masters of Seduction #1
Published by Avon on February 21, 2023
Genres: Historical
Pages: 377

FINAL DECISION: Because Daisy is a private investigator, there is a mystery here to solve. Ultimately, there are some unexpected twists in the story that I enjoyed. The plot here somewhat outweighs the romance, but I thought the relationship between Daisy and Bishop was fun.

THE STORY: One of the Chessmen, Bishop, aka David Blackwood, is a notorious womanizer, having been named in various divorces as committing adultery with wives. Daisy Townsend is a private investigator who has taken a position in Bishop’s house to confirm whether or not he is having an affair with her client’s wife. Bishop can’t stop thinking about his new maid when he sees her. The two seem to be playing a game, outsmarting and flirting simultaneously. When Bishop becomes a suspect in a murder, Daisy has to help find the real murderer.

OPINION: This book is more mystery heavy than I expected from a Lorraine Heath book. (I think I could read a mystery series with Daisy and Bishop and be happy!) I thought the mystery was intriguing, and the twist in the story was unexpected but worked well in the context of this story.

I also really liked the interactions between Daisy and Bishop. There is clearly a real intellectual connection between the two, along with hot chemistry. The scenes where the two are together are the best in the book. The negative in this book is that the two need to be together more in the book. Instead, there is much setup of the plot that the romance suffers somewhat. There is a bit of instant-love in this book because the two don’t have enough time together.

But the moments the two are together are wonderful as they challenge one another as to what is happening in the plot and their individual hang-ups about relationships and marriage. This book ends up being about making the decision to trust despite the evidence that things can go very wrong.

Ultimately, this is a solid book that I liked because of the connection between Daisy and Bishop. It wasn’t as angst-filled as other Heath romances, and I missed that aspect, but it was enjoyable.

WORTH MENTIONING: I loved the Easter eggs of characters that appear from prior Lorraine Heath books.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE COUNTERFEIT SCOUNDREL is the first book in The Chessmen: Masters of Seduction series. However, the first Chessman is King, the hero of THE DUCHESS HUNT. It is unnecessary to read that book first, but I recommend it because it introduces the group of men about which this series is about.

STAR RATING: I give this book four stars.


Review: Risk the Night

Review: Risk the NightRisk the Night: An Ice Novella (Anne Stuart Short Reads) by Anne Stuart
Series: Ice #6.5
Published by Impeccably Demure Press on February 12, 2023
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 67

FINAL DECISION: Dark, with a heartless “hero” that is close to pretty much a sociopath, this short story is such distilled Anne Stuart that I loved it. Admittedly, however, this will only be for a particular audience.

THE STORY: Madison gets the interview of a lifetime with Constantine, a heartless assassin. She is undone by the seductive man who is extremely dangerous and seemingly soulless. Constantine is taken with the woman who is far too innocent for him and can’t help but seek her out again.

OPINION: A long analysis of this story might be almost longer than the story itself. The description tells the reader just about everything about this story. Madison is a woman who has an almost fiance when she meets Constantine. There is something dark and hot between them from the moments they spend in a dark room together talking. So much so that although they never see one another, they almost instantly recognize one another when meeting at a different time and place.

Like many of Stuart’s heroes, Constantine is not heroic but rather dark and deadly. There is nothing soft and caring about him except for what he feels for Madison, but readers and Madison never get that softness. For many readers, this story will be a hard pass because of the darkness of the antihero, but Stuart has a following for a reason: her heroes are incredibly hard and dark, but the heroine is someone that they are willing for whom they are willing to change the world.

WORTH MENTIONING: This short, dark novella has violence and sex intertwined, so readers should be aware.

CONNECTED BOOKS: RISK THE NIGHT is a short story that takes place in the Ice universe. It is a standalone that doesn’t rely on anything from the prior books in the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book five stars.


Review: Butterfly Swords

Review: Butterfly SwordsButterfly Swords (Tang Dynasty, #1) by Jeannie Lin
Series: Tang Dynasty #1
Published by Harlequin on October 1, 2010
Genres: Historical
Pages: 288

FINAL DECISION: Lush and romantic. Set in the Tang Dynasty, this is the story of two people who have no business being together and fighting the whole world and themselves to be together.

THE STORY: Princess Ai Li flees the man she is supposed to marry. On the way to meet him, she has learned that the man she is arranged to marry, province military governor Li Tao, is a traitor. Fleeing from the anticipated marriage, Ai Li depends upon her butterfly swords to protect herself and finds a protector in Ryam. Ryam is a blue-eyed foreigner who is trying to return to his home base and avoid capture. A swordsman, Ryam is convinced by Ai Li, who is in disguise, to help escort her home, even in danger to himself.

OPINION: This story has adventure and a really sweet romance. The characters are delightful together as they are clearly attracted to one another, but their differing status keeps them apart. Ailey keeps her identity a secret, which complicates things in this story.

Ailey is determined and, at times, very fierce. Having trained with her brothers, she does not fit into what society expects from her. Instead, she is honorable and a fighter, believing in her obligation to help her family and warn her father.

Ryam is somewhat broken as the story begins. While he travels home, he is on the run, an outcast, and in danger. Having been engaged in a mission that went wrong, Ryam has lost some of his easy self-confidence and questions everything around him.

Ryam wants to protect Ailey, especially from himself, and Ailey knows that she cannot surrender to Ryam. At the same time, the two are clearly attracted to one another from almost the start. They bond over sword fighting, and although they come from very different backgrounds, they feel a physical connection and an understanding of being an outsider.

I really enjoyed this book’s road trip plot as the two travel through this world, meeting intriguing characters (who have books of their own!).

WORTH MENTIONING: The story takes place in the Tang Dynasty in China, and presents a setting different from typical historical romance novels, yet is wonderfully romantic and sexy.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BUTTERFLY SWORDS is the first book in the Tang Dynasty series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Her Night with the Duke

Review: Her Night with the DukeHer Night with the Duke (Clandestine Affairs, #1) by Diana Quincy
Series: Clandestine Affairs #1
Published by Avon on September 29, 2020
Genres: Historical
Pages: 382

FINAL DECISION: Almost really good. There are parts that I loved, but ultimately, I didn’t get enough of the emotional connection between the hero and heroine. Instead, the story felt somewhat clinical as it was hitting the story beats.

THE STORY: Lady Leela Chambers is at a country inn on a rainy night when she runs into a gentleman who helps her out after she saves herself from some men who accosted her. Leela and the stranger spend one night together. The next day, Leela is shocked to find out that he is the duke who is planning on marrying her stepdaughter.  Elliot Townsend, Duke of Huntington, is shocked to discover Leela’s connection to his future betrothed, but he can’t stop thinking about Leela, and the two struggle with the attraction between them.

OPINION: Enjoyable and yet lacked a great hero to make this a great book. Instead, the heroine walks all over the hero and he feels weak pretty much the whole book. I prefer books where the couples compromise together as a real relationship requires not one where the woman never evolves. At the same time, the book is on the edge of developing a great emotional conflict because the hero is engaged to the heroine’s stepdaughter and the two feel like they cannot be together. At times I loved this book, but overall a good one-time read.

I wanted to like this book more, but ultimately the main characters didn’t feel like equals. Eliot never feels like a complete character. It is close, but I have read so many great heroes that I needed him to be stronger or more revealed to the reader or loved more by Leela. Instead, the book is focused on Leela and her wants and needs and Eliot has to be manipulated to fulfill everything that she wants.

At the same time, I loved so much of this book. I loved the emotional devastation of Leela telling Eliot that he must marry her stepdaughter and his willingness to do whatever Leela expects of him. I also thought the twin confrontations towards the end of the book were nicely mirrored with one another.

This book was worth reading, but I was intrigued and yet disappointed.

WORTH MENTIONING: The book was intriguing enough that I bought the other books in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HER NIGHT WITH THE DUKE is the first book in the Clandestine Affairs series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

Review: Seducing His Student

Review: Seducing His StudentSeducing His Student by London Hale
Series: Temperance Falls #9
Published by Carina Press on September 18, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica

FINAL DECISION: This taboo was a little bit bothersome to me even though Sam is only a few weeks away from graduation. Others might like it better.

THE STORY: Elliott Goodridge is seriously attracted to the barista at his local coffee shop. What he doesn’t know is that she is Samantha Monroe and a college student at the same school where he was just hired as dean. Any relationship between them is forbidden, but the two can’t help themselves. But their relationship threatens both of their futures.

OPINION: This one was a bit bothersome to me because the two alternatively are troubled by the problematic nature of their relationship and having sexual encounters. While the text is sure to indicate that there is nothing coercive or problematic between Elliott and Sam, I wish they had just waited until she was done with school. There just aren’t enough pages in this story to seriously deal with the issues which are problematic for me as a reader.

I’m sure other readers will not be bothered by this taboo trope at all. The author does a good job of mitigating all the issues that might be objectionable. I just felt that it was silly that they couldn’t wait a couple of weeks when they already had known one another for a time.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a short quickie erotic romance.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SEDUCING HIS STUDENT is the ninth book in the Temperance Falls series. The books take place in the same town but are only loosely connected so this book works as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2 stars.


Review: Bedding the Billionaire

Review: Bedding the BillionaireBedding the Billionaire by London Hale
Series: Temperance Falls #8
Published by London Hale on November 12, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica
Pages: 92

FINAL DECISION: This one I really liked. It is hot and steamy with some drama and angst because of the boss/subordinate situation (which some might have a problem with but never feels icky here). This is my favorite of the series.

THE STORY: Billionaire Colin Huntley spent a hot night with a woman forbidden to him, his VP Sloan McLaren. When Sloan leaves unexpectedly that night, Colin is determined to continue his relationship with Sloan — even though her being his subordinate is problematic. Sloan can’t forget her night with Colin but is determined to be taken seriously as a businesswoman and not the plaything of her boss.

OPINION: This one is well constructed. It is hot and short and the relationship between Colin and Sloan is just great. There is respect between them and their existing relationship makes the shortness of the story work fine here. The conflict feels less artificial than in some of the other stories in this series. Although Colin is the boss, there is a real sense of equality between these two — both in bed and out. The story is very sexy (in fact most pages here are sex scenes) but there is something really respectful and mature about this relationship.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a short story of about 55 pages. The story is also called BEDDING MY BILLIONAIRE BOSS.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BEDDING THE BILLIONAIRE is the eighth book in the Temperance Falls series. The books take place in the same town but are only loosely connected so this book works as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this one 4 stars.


Review: Cuff Me

Review: Cuff MeCuff Me (Temperance Falls: Selling Sin #2) by London Hale
Series: Temperance Falls #5
Published by London Hale on July 11, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica
Pages: 175

FINAL DECISION: For a story that could be angsty, this actually ended up being sweet because the relationship between Lola and Connor is so nice. Okay story, but not as compelling as it could have been.

THE STORY: Lola Perez and Connor Nash have been neighbors and friends for two years. Lola has a secret that she is keeping from Connor. She is a sex worker and worries about losing Connor’s friendship and also what Connor might do because he is a cop. When Connor saves Lola from an aggressive client, the passion between Lola and Connor finally begins to be revealed.

OPINION: This story started out well with the conflict between Lola’s job and her friendship with Connor. I think the middle when they get together is the least satisfying part of the book because there really isn’t any tension or drama to keep the story moving and the sex scenes are just okay. Then the ending of the book was also good.

I did like that the book doesn’t take the obvious tact of Lola’s profession causing problems with Connor’s work or him being judgmental. But in trying to be positive, I think the author went too sweet and normal for this one. There needed to be some plot to drive the story forward.

This one was okay but nothing special. The title “cuff me” suggested some fun that wasn’t in this one.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a short story of about 70 pages.

CONNECTED BOOKS: CUFF ME is the fifth book in the Temperance Falls series. The books take place in the same town but are only loosely connected so this book works as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.


Review: Tapping that Asset

Review: Tapping that AssetTapping That Asset (Brewery Duet #2) by London Hale
Series: Temperance Falls #11
Published by Kinship Press on October 27, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica
Pages: 132

FINAL DECISION: This is an enjoyable story of two people who have a one-night stand, end up being at cross purposes but are hot for one another, and then fall in love. This was an enjoyable read.

THE STORY: AJ Phelps hooks up with a beautiful woman for a one-night stand. The next day, AJ is approached by Kennedy Rochester whose brother intends on shutting AJ’s brewery down. Both AJ and Kennedy are surprised to see one another after the night they spent together and find themselves at odds — even while they are intensely attracted to one another.

OPINION: This is an enjoyable, instant attraction story. AJ and Kennedy are immediately hot together. Nothing stops even though they are cross purposes, except there are complications for them.

I liked this one because AJ and Kennedy are great together from the beginning. They are both bright and dedicated to their work. Quickly they realize that they have something special together. The conflict worked in this case.

The story is short and not very complicated, but I enjoyed how the problem worked out in this case.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a short story of about 70 pages.

CONNECTED BOOKS: TAPPING HER ASSET is the eleventh book in the Temperance Falls series. The books take place in the same town but are only loosely connected so this book works as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Reunion

Review: ReunionReunion (Brewery Duet #1) by London Hale
Series: Temperance Falls #10
Published by London Hale on August 24, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica
Pages: 129

FINAL DECISION: I liked the couple here, but hated, hated, the ex and how Hannah acted around him. It diminished my liking for the story because of how terrible the scenes with Hannah and her ex were.

THE STORY: Luke has wanted Hannah for twelve years, but she has been in a relationship with his stepbrother. As long as Hannah was happy, Luke wasn’t going to mess up things between them. When Hannah, Luke, and his stepbrother are all staying together at a friend’s house for a high school reunion, things become complicated. Hannah ended her relationship with her ex before making the trip, but staying together in one place makes him believe she will come back to him because she has so many times before. When Luke realizes that he has an opportunity with Hannah, he is determined to take the chance. That story choice diminished my enjoyment of this story.

OPINION: I liked the couple here. The unrequited longing these two have for one another was great. When they get together they are sweet and hot combined. The story was fine. What I really didn’t like was the ex storyline. He is just terrible and Hannah acted like a doormat with him. The problem is that the two of them were together for a really long time. I just didn’t see what she could see in the ex. If she had changed and gotten a spine before she and Luke got together, I would be happier. I just thought that she needed some backbone before getting into a new relationship. Her willingness to take what is emotional abuse at the hands of the ex needed more than just getting into a new relationship.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a short story of about 80 pages.

CONNECTED BOOKS: REUNION is the tenth book in the Temperance Falls series. The books take place in the same town but are only loosely connected so this book works as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2.5 stars.


Review: Knocking Her Up

Review: Knocking Her UpKnocking Her Up by London Hale
Series: Temperance Falls #7
Published by London Hale on October 10, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica

FINAL DECISION: The one is really hot. John really cares for Emery, but he is much more dominant in this relationship. There is a slight taboo with stepbrother/stepsister romance although they didn’t grow up together.

THE STORY: Emery Collins wants a child — now. She also wants John Hamilton, so she decided to ask John to be the father of her child. The complication is that John is Emery’s stepbrother. John is worried about his attraction to Emery will explode the family that means so much to them all. But at the same time, Emery and John have secretly wanted one another for over a year.

OPINION: I enjoyed this one. I wanted more drama with the family, but the story is pretty quick and focused more on Emery and John practicing to get pregnant than anything else. I enjoyed how Emery and John clearly have cared for one another for quite a while and only the family relationship is keeping them apart. In some ways, this is also a friends-to-lovers story. One interesting thing about the Temperance Falls series is that people are not shocked or angry at the relationships that would be expected to cause trouble. The story doesn’t really go beyond the tropes that are layered on one another: stepbrother/stepsister, friends to lovers, help to get pregnant. But that shorthand makes this a generally enjoyable story.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a short novella of about 90 pages.

CONNECTED BOOKS: KNOCKING HER UP is the seventh book in the Temperance Falls series. The books take place in the same town but are only loosely connected so this book works as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.