About Sheila

I am an attorney and a lifelong reader. I voraciously consumed Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and Judy Blume as a child. By the time I was 11 years old I had moved on to Agatha Christie and Rex Stout. When I was thirteen I read Gone with the Wind for the first time and I became a lover of romances. For over twenty-five years, I have been reading all kinds of romances -- many of them multiple times. In college, I majored in Political Science minored in American literature and covered all types of political histories and political theory books, the classics of literature and the modern touchstones of literature, but for pleasure I still gravitate to romances. I read every day and usually finish a book in a day or two. My favorite book is the Great Gatsby but a close second is Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey.

Review: The Crown Prince’s Bride

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

Review: The Crown Prince’s BrideThe Crown Prince's Bride (Royal Duology #2) by Donna Alward
Series: Princes of Marazur #2
Published by Swerve on January 9th 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 250
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: Lovely, lovely story of two adults working through their relationship. I loved how these two talked and addressed the difficulties of their relationship as adults. Sweet and sexy read.

THE STORY: Stephani loves her job as the assistant to the Crown Prince of Marazur. But she also has a secret — she has been in love with Raoul for years. Stephani was able to live with her unrequited love when Raoul was married to Stephani’s cousin. Now that Raoul is a widower, however, Stephani realizes that she cannot spend the rest of her life pining for Raoul. Raoul doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life alone, but falling in love again seems impossible. But a chance kiss with his assistant is something that he cannot stop thinking about.

OPINION: I loved this book which is a friends to lovers story and the story of how someone can learn to love again after loss. The story is about mature people making mature decisions and (apart from one dramatic plot twist) is mostly about these two talking through their problems.

In a characterization that gives one relief about who is running the governments of the world, Raoul is a mature, serious heir and father. Indeed, his problem is that he is too responsible and too concerned about things being figured out and right. Although he is attracted to Stephani, he worries a lot about every move they make in their relationship.

Stephani is also a mature adult who has a career that she is good at (her job as Raoul’s assistant isn’t just an excuse for these two to be in close contact). The book takes seriously both of these characters concerns about getting involved in a relationship.

I liked these characters and their exploration of their relationship. My one complaint is that I wish we had gotten more with Stephani and Raoul’s children. Most of the story is getting the kids of out of the way in order to progress their relationship, but I wish we could have seen more of them together rather than being told how good Stephani’s relationship is with his kids.

Enjoyable without getting too dark and serious, this book also satisfies a romantic heart.

WORTH MENTIONING: The romance is on the sweeter side as most of the sex scenes occur behind closed doors (and between chapters).

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE CROWN PRINCE’S BRIDE is the second book in the Princes of Marazur series. The books operates as a standalone but because of the overlapping characters it reads better after the first book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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

four-stars

Review: A Perilous Undertaking

Review: A Perilous UndertakingA Perilous Undertaking (Veronica Speedwell, #2) by Deanna Raybourn
Series: Veronica Speedwell #2
Published by Berkley Books on January 10th 2017
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 338
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Very strong followup to the first book in the series. The integration of the personal relationship and the mystery is better done here and the emotional intensity of the characters’ story is a highlight.

THE STORY: Veronica is asked to prove the innocence of an art patron who is set to hang for the murder of his mistress. But there are a lot of secrets involved in this case. From the identity of the person asking for Veronica’s help to hidden reasons why the condemned won’t defend himself, Veronica and her partner Stoker are steeped in secrets as they race to find the real killer.

OPINION: After the first book in the series, this one feels like it has hit a groove. The combination of the mystery and the relationship between Veronica and Stoker is well balanced and compelling all the way through.

Readers of the first book will recall that Veronica is an independent woman ahead of her time. She is opinionated, has made a career for herself, unapologetically takes foreign lovers, and is sarcastic and at times caustic in her tone. She is also clever and observant and a scientist. Even as Veronica remains true to her character, there is clearly a connection between her and Stoker. And I love the relationship between her and Stoker. There is simmering passion, but also real respect and annoyance with one another that is not based on passion at all.

Here, more is revealed about Stoker’s relationship with his family and Veronica continues to deal with the fallout of her family connection revealed in A CURIOUS BEGINNING. I liked that the mystery was developed throughout the book and at the same time the characters remain the focus of the book.

This book reminds me of the some of the best slow simmering man/woman mystery couples. There is an attraction but also verbal jousting and respect and at times bubbling resentment. These two are not going to quickly indulge in some quick passion because what is between them is too dangerous to treat lightly.

This book is funny and quite enjoyable. I can’t wait for the next in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: Opium indulgence results in some interesting advancements.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A PERILOUS UNDERTAKING is the second book in the Veronica Speedwell series. The mystery in this book is completely self-contained and thus the book can be read as a standalone. However, I recommend reading the series in order for the continuing personal storylines.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Glory in Death

Review: Glory in DeathGlory in Death (In Death, #2) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #2
Published by Berkley on December 28th 1995
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 296
Goodreads
five-stars

“Their fates had intertwined, personally, professionally. It was murder that had brought them together, and murder that would continue to poke fingers into their lives. The woman beside him defended the dead.”

FINAL DECISION: Wonderful followup to the amazing NAKED IN DEATH. In this book, Eve has another murder to solve that becomes connected to her personally as her relationship with the mysterious Roarke deepens.

THE STORY: Months after the events of NAKED IN DEATH, Eve has become more visible as a murder cop. When a well-known prosecutor is murdered by having her throat slashed, Eve is asked by her commander to take the case. When the next murder of a high profile woman occurs, Eve can’t find a connection between these two highly visible women — except that both has a connection to her lover Roarke. While Eve doesn’t believe that Roarke is involved, she is feeling stress because their relationship is getting too intense and close and this case only puts more pressure on Eve.

OPINION: I loved this book and even knowing the answer to the mystery, I can read it again and again with enjoyment. The combination of a mystery that matter to Eve along with the drama of the developing relationship between Eve and Roarke makes this a book worth reading.

In this series, the best books have three elements (1) a mystery that is personal to Eve in some manner; (2) Eve’s personal demons; and (3) some wonderful relationship moments with Eve and Roarke.

This book is one of the templates of that formula that works for dozens of these books. Eve is investigating the murder of someone she knows and whose murder touches on those around Eve. Even more, there is some parallel with Eve herself as she is feeling out her relationship with Roarke in the murder victim’s relationship with her lover. In this book, Eve’s personal demons are beginning to reveal themselves in stronger and more serious ways. Finally, this book sets up a conflict between Roarke and Eve as she has to deal with how serious the relationship has become and whether she is willing to take that next step of vulnerability.

While the first book in the series is a classic, this one feels more like the others in the series. Eve’s character is more defined and her relationship with Roarke is more important.

This one also has a good mystery that actually has some possibility of being figured out rather than the solution just being sprung on the reader. Enjoyable the whole way through.

WORTH MENTIONING: The introduction of Peabody.

CONNECTED BOOKS: GLORY IN DEATH is the second book in the In Death series. While the mysteries in each book are standalones, there are continuing and overarching storylines (these early book are mostly about Eve’s background and her relationship with Roarke) that continue book to book. I recommend reading the series in order although it is not strictly necessary.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: A Curious Beginning

Review: A Curious BeginningA Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell, #1) by Deanna Raybourn
Series: Veronica Speedwell #1
Published by Berkley Books on July 12th 2016
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 368
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: A mystery where most of the book it taken up with the developing relationship between Veronica and Stoker. There is no overt romance at this point, but it seems likely that these two who develop a investigative partnership might have some slow burn romance in the future.

THE STORY: Veronica Speedwell is on her own after the death of her aunt. She is now free to pursue her interests out of the country. Veronica is a butterfly hunter and a woman with the taste for foreign affairs (with men). Just at that moment, a man breaks into her cottage and she ends up traveling to London with a German baron who claims that he is going to protect her by delivering her into the hands of his friend Stoker. Stoker is also a natural historian and has many secrets. When the German baron is killed Veronica and Stoker are forced to solve the murder before Stoker is arrested as the prime suspect.

OPINION: The highlight of this book is without a doubt the characters of Veronica and Stoker and their burgeoning relationship. The two are both misfits in the world and thus have a commonality that is interesting.

Veronica is an independent and forward thinking woman in a time where women’s roles are beginning to change but still constrained by convention. Veronica is opinionated and outspoken. She believes in free love. She believes in women’s education and self determination. She isn’t ashamed by any of her oddities.

Stoker is a haunted man. We learn some of his history here and despite his attempts, he is fascinated and frustrated by Veronica. He is a grumpy scientist and adventurer who has been broken and this adventure begins a sort of healing for him.

The tension and sexual interest between these two is high in this book, but the story is satisfied with the slow burn and getting to know one another. For these characters, that is perfect and demonstrates that this relationship (whether it is sexual or not) is going to be important to both of them. Neither fits in the box that they expect.

For me, the mystery was satisfying, but secondary to the introduction of these characters and the development of their partnership. I did expect some of the mystery surprises, but I thought that the entire book was well done. I don’t want to give away spoilers so I will leave the mystery at that.

WORTH MENTIONING: Interested in running away to the circus?

CONNECTED BOOKS: A CURIOUS BEGINNING is the first book in the Veronica Speedwell series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Death Below Stairs

Review: Death Below StairsDeath Below Stairs (Kat Holloway Mysteries, #1) by Jennifer Ashley
Series: Kat Holloway Murders #1
Published by Berkley Books on January 2nd 2018
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 336
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: A lively main character combined with a far reaching mystery and the presence of a man with many secrets makes this Victorian historical mystery an enjoyable read.

THE STORY: Cook Kat Holloway has found herself a new position which almost immediately embroils her in the murder of one of the servants. Determined to discover who has murdered the young girl, Kat asks for help from her friend/acquaintance Daniel McAdams, a man with a lot of secrets. Kat and Daniel’s search takes them far from the murder of an Irish servant to the possibility of treason.

OPINION: I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I began reading mysteries and I always liked the ones with relationships between the “detectives” and this book fits right in that tradition. While the mystery is interesting and keeps the pace of the story lively, what I really love about this book is the strength and independence of Kat and her relationship with the mysterious Daniel.

Kat is strong and lively and I loved reading about her struggles. Unlike most women in historical novels, Kat works hard every day and has a career that she has created for herself. It is interesting to read about her daily life and the status differences “below stairs”. The struggles and limitations on women of all status is emphasized here.

Daniel’s character is also intriguing as he has plenty of secrets that are slowly revealed — although not all of them are uncovered in this book. He is a good match for Kat and his obvious caring and concern for her even while they are friends makes their romance a slow burn but an interesting one.

The cast of characters, which includes the offspring of both Kat and Daniel, are tossed into a high stakes mystery. Like all good murder suspense stories, this one begins with what seems to be an insignificant death and eventually turns into quite a big deal through a series of twisty plot turns.

I enjoyed the mystery as well as the romance in this one. Everything meshed so well so that all the interesting characters were given something important to do in the unfolding plot, but no one seemed out of place. I enjoyed this one and would read it again to see all the little turns that I missed.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a continuing series where the romance between Kat and Daniel is slow moving and part of the continuing storylines of the series with a book emphasis on a particular mystery.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DEATH BELOW STAIRS is the first novel in the Kat Holloway Murders series. There is a prequel book that introduces the characters. While it is not necessary to read that novella first, it certainly provides some background to the characters here.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via First to Read by applying points that I earned. 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: Heart on Fire

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

Review: Heart on FireHeart on Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles, #3) by Amanda Bouchet
Series: Kingmaker Chronicles #3
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on January 2nd 2018
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 448
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A good ending to the trilogy. Although it didn’t quite hit the highs of the first two books as it wrapped up the story, I thought it was a worthy end.

THE STORY: Picking up after the events of BREATH OF FIRE, Cat and Griffin now take on their greatest challenge in unifying the three realms. Now Cat must go home and confront her murderous mother.

OPINION: I have loved the world building and complex relationships in this series. This book brings everything (at least regarding Cat and Griffin) to a close as Cat confronts her biggest fear — her mother.

As the story progresses, the relationship to the Greek Gods that has been present throughout the series becomes explicit as Cat’s destiny is fully revealed.  There is less tension and drama in this story as between Griffin and Cat and I think the book suffers somewhat from this. While the action and fantasy is good, I was not as interested in Cat and Griffin’s journey.

This book was necessary to finish everything up, but I missed the personal tension that made the first two books so good. Don’t get me wrong, this book was not disappointing but rather suffered just a tiny bit in comparison to the other books in the series.

That being said, I really enjoyed the revelations here and seeing Cat and Griffin’s relationship become more centered. Griffin is a wonderful partner for Cat and looking back on the series, all the qualities that make him so were obvious. They end up being such a grounded and complementary pair — and part of the reason is revealed in this book.

WORTH MENTIONING: I hope there are more books set in this world because there seem to be more stories to tell.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HEART OF FIRE is the third book in the Kingmaker Chronicles. This book is intended to be read as part of the trilogy as it follows one couple and their quest.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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

four-stars

Review: Promise Not to Tell

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

Review: Promise Not to TellPromise Not to Tell by Jayne Ann Krentz
Series: ,
Published by Berkley on January 2nd 2018
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 304
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A solid suspense story but I enjoyed most the relationship between these two damaged and vulnerable people.

THE STORY: Virginia Troy has struggled with the after effects of her childhood in a cult where the members deaths were orchestrated by the cult leader (who is presumed dead, but might not be). When a former cult member ends up dead under mysterious circumstances, Virginia turns to a private investigator to help learn the truth. Cabot Sutter also was a child in the cult and he also is still haunted by the events. When the investigation draws them closer together, Virginia and Cabot need to figure out who is murdering people and also whether they can overcome their pasts to build a relationship together.

OPINION: I liked this book because there was a renewed focus on the characters over the suspense plot. Not that there isn’t an interesting plot, but I read these books for the relationship and so I enjoyed seeing these characters maneuver around one another.

Cabot and Virginia are both haunted by their past and in one another they find acceptance and understanding. I liked that their relationship is based upon their mutual problems that have separated them from other lovers in the past. However, that is really the only tension between them. Besides the suspense story, there is little drama in the relationship.

I liked the focus on the created family and how these survivors have dealt with a past that could have destroyed them all.

The suspense story has many twists and turns and just when it seems that the story is resolved, things go off in a different direction. Things fit together but there are many layers which was enjoyable.

I was especially excited by the ending of the book which previews the drama that is going to be present in the next book.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book also sets up the scenario for the next book in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: PROMISE NOT TO TELL is the second book in an apparent trilogy about three brothers. I say apparent because the publisher has chosen to not promote the fact that these books are connected (probably to not turn off casual readers who don’t want to start with book 2). Goodreads has indicated these books as being the Cutler, Sutter and Salinas series so I will go with that. This book can be read as a standalone, but there are definite continuing storylines and overlapping characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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

four-stars

Review: Firelight

Review: FirelightFirelight (Darkest London, #1) by Kristen Callihan
Series: Darkest London #1
Published by Forever on January 31st 2012
Genres: Historical, Paranormal
Pages: 372
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A book that starts out as a historical romance with a twist that turns into something more. The book is a bit disjointed in tone because it doesn’t fully commit to its paranormal elements, but the romance is wonderful.

THE STORY: Miranda Ellis is forced by her father to wed the mysterious masked Lord Archer. Miranda’s own guilt about her role in the ruin of her family has kept her tethered to her corrupt father. When she meets Lord Archer, there is something between them that makes her agree to go forward with the marriage. While Miranda gets to know her mysterious husband, someone is haunting London killing people and it appears that Lord Archer is the primary suspect.

OPINION: This book is a cross genre story that combines a typical historical romance with mystery and paranormal elements.

The historical romance is quite wonderful. Archer especially is a sweet man with a lot of secrets. I loved that he doesn’t judge Miranda for her secrets and only wants her. What I didn’t like was that he keeps so many secrets, but I admire Miranda’s agency in being determined to uncover Archer’s secrets. (And because Archer keeps her in the dark, some of these attempts are dangerous).

The mystery elements of this story were pretty interesting and there are plenty of clues throughout the book as to what the big secrets are. But the secrets are unconventional and thus while the book has a mystery vibe, it isn’t a Sherlock Holmes type mystery to be solved.

The paranormal elements of the book are slowly revealed as the book progresses. Indeed, the book has a world building part to it as the rules of the paranormal world are slowly revealed. The weakness of this book is that the elements do not smoothly mix with the historical romance elements. The big reveal of what seems like a historical romance with some small paranormal parts turns into a paranormal book set in historical times and that doesn’t become obvious until the last 50 pages or so. Thus, the combination felt a bit clunky to me even as I enjoyed the story.

I suspect, however, that having made the big reveal of the paranormal world in this book, there will be more fluidity in the other books in the series because there is nothing to hide.

WORTH MENTIONING: FIRELIGHT has a sexy Beauty and the Beast feel to it with suppressed passion and desire.

CONNECTED BOOKS: FIRELIGHT is the first book in the Darkest London series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: More Than Need You

Review: More Than Need YouMore Than Need You (More Than Words Book 2) by Shayla Black
Series: More Than Words #2
Published by Shelley Bradley, LLC on June 13th 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 477
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A second chance at love with an messed up jerk of a hero who has to reveal everything about himself to reclaim the woman that he loves and hurt.

THE STORY: Griffin Reed has just learned that he has a son. Three years ago, he made a mistake in thinking that his brother had betrayed him and that Griffin’s girlfriend was complicit. He tossed her away. Now he wants a second chance but Britta Stone has moved on and just gotten engaged to a reliable man. Griffin has only a few short weeks to convince Britta that he is a changed man who loves her and wants her and their son to be a family.

OPINION: I overall enjoyed this book and I really like the trope of the jerk hero who has to chance everything to win back the woman he loves. I just felt, however, that the book went on too long without much changing in Britta and Griffin’s relationship. In the first half of the book, I got tired of pages and pages of him desperately wanting her and her not responding. I think I would have liked the book better if I got Britta’s point of view as well (We do get a glimpse at the end).

Once the two move in together, however, and they really started to develop their relationship, the book got much better for me. I liked that Griffin has to accept responsibility for his behavior. By the end of the book, I was totally on their side.

As the two begin to communicate, the book gets much better because Britta’s feeling are more transparent. I also really liked how Griffin is determined to make grand gestures for Britta to show his love.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book’s timeline overlaps slightly with the first book in the series MORE THAN WANT YOU.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MORE THAN NEED YOU is the second book in the More Than Words series. These books are connected by overlapping characters but can be read as standalones.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: The Book of Life

Review: The Book of LifeThe Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy, #3) by Deborah Harkness
Series: All Souls Trilogy #3
Published by Viking Adult on July 15th 2014
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 561
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: Satisfying end to the trilogy which wraps up all the storylines (some more satisfyingly than others) and gives a happy ending.

THE STORY: Having returned from the past, witch and historian Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont have to face both new and old dangers as they try to discover the importance of the Book of Life. Their lives and the lives of their unborn children are at stake as Diana and Matthew have to face old enemies and rely on old friends.

OPINION: I enjoyed this ending to the trilogy and Diana and Matthew’s story even when I didn’t necessarily like all the answers. The book suffers somewhat from expectations which were built over two very long and detailed books. Perhaps the answers could never truly satisfy the expectations, but I loved seeing how these two characters grew and changed and made a family for themselves.

THE BOOK OF LIFE finally answers the question that began in the first book: what is the Book of Life and its connection to Diana. In this book, the entirety of what Diana and Matthew have been building in the prior two book finally come to fruition. This story is is one about tolerance and building a family and being open to change.

I enjoyed the progression of the relationship between Diana and Matthew and how both of them accept and love all the parts of one another. There are few easy answers in this book which was good.

I certainly enjoyed seeing many of the characters in the series come together in the solution. The book ends with peace and joy and hope in the future.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book returns to the interesting combination of magic and science that was the hallmark of the first book in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE BOOK OF LIFE is the final book in the All Souls Trilogy. This book is meant to be read as part of the trilogy.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars