Review: The Highland Duke

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 Highland DukeThe Highland Duke (Lords of the Highlands #1) by Amy Jarecki
Series: Lords of the Highlands #1
Published by Forever on March 28th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  An action packed adventure combined with a romance where the hero is a jerk for most of the story, but redeems himself by the end. I especially loved the heroine who is strong but sweet and genuine.

THE STORY:  Akira Ayes, a healer from a Gypsy family finds an injured Scot after a battle with English troops during the Jacobite Rebellion.  Akira can’t bear to leave the Highlander to fend for himself and ends up embroiled in his danger.  Geordie aka George Gordon aka Duke of Gordon keeps his identity a secret from Akira.  He needs to make his way home to hide his participation in the battle because otherwise his life and lands would be forfeit.  As the two travel together fleeing the English, Geordie finds he likes how Akira treats him as a man — not as a duke.

OPINION:  I found this book to be a rousing adventure story as Akira and Geordie race across Scotland evading the English.  That portion of the book was excellent. Geordie and Akira argue, work together, find commonality and care for one another as they race through the countryside.  The book had an exciting beginning and didn’t leave off until the two reached Georgie’s home.

For me, the book slowed down a bit when that happened and I think the book lost a bit of focus.  As the two fall in love but have to confront the impossibility of them marrying, I thought the book meandered a bit and I was not as interested in the ending of the book as I was in the beginning.  Ultimately, however, I thought that the story overall was a success.

Akira is a wonderful character.  She has been treated poorly by many people because of her Gypsy heritage.  (In the book Gypsies are called Tinkers and are thought of as mere thieves and beggars, reflecting the prejudices of the time).  Despite the discrimination and intense poverty she has faced, Akira is a healer.  A kind and generous woman. A woman willing to risk herself to save a stranger’s life.  She has a progression in this book.  Akira begins with fixed ideas of sexual morality, but finds herself having to think about what is important in her life as she and Geordie fall in love but are unable to marry.  She is also a woman who can make a duke appreciate being a man.

Geordie is a man who has two sides…the distant duke and the man he finds himself being with Akira.  Akira challenges Geordie’s assumptions about his world and about his obligations in it.  Akira demands that Geordie consider the common folk and he realizes that she is right and he is ashamed of his prior self-absorption.  In order to be with Akira, Geordie must change himself and prove himself worthy of her.  I like that he is willing to acknowledge his mistakes.

This is a good start to the new series and I look forward to the next book.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Some parts of this book had vague echoes to OUTLANDER but perhaps that is only because I have been reading those book recently.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE HIGHLAND DUKE is the first book in the Lords of the Highlands series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

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

four-stars

Review: The Lady by his Side

Review: The Lady by his SideThe Lady By His Side by Stephanie Laurens
Published by Savdek Management Pty Ltd on March 9th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 350
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Good story, good romance, but I wish there was more on the romance and less on the mystery.  These were highly anticipated characters and I wish there was more about their journey.  That being said, I understand it is more difficult to write stories about well-adjusted happy characters so I appreciate that their story needed more.

THE STORY:  Sebastian Cynster knows that it is time for him to find a wife because the women in his family are never patient about helping the men along if they need it.  Just when Sebastian comes to that realization, he is asked by one of his friends, the heir to the Duke of Wolverstone, to help make contact with a peer who might have information about a plot against the country.  Sebastian, however, needs a cover for attending the house party where he is to make contact.  For that, he approaches another family friend, Antonia Rawlings to help provide a cover.  Although the two grew up together, Sebastian has not had much contact with Antonia for years.  He finds himself unexpectedly attracted to her.  As to two work together to investigate the plot, they find themselves drawing closer.

OPINION:  I enjoyed this one but the mystery story was predominate here and by necessity there was a lot of backstory to set up in order to begin the trilogy.  As a result, I didn’t see much conflict in the relationship between Sebastian and Antonia. Everything was nice between them (as might be expected between two family friends where the relationships are so intertwined) and I liked them as a couple, but there wasn’t much tension between them.

There was also less hot sexiness between them — probably because Sebastian wasn’t going to act the rake with Antonia. I did like the book however, and I thought the mystery was filled with interest and tension. I thought this one is working out better than many of the other series with the same overarching mystery format.  Plus, what is not to love about having two characters infused with so much history find love together.  My only real negative is that I wish we had seen Devil and Honoria in the book.  Missed them greatly.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book has a plot that is not resolved in this book. Although the romance is completed, there is an ongoing storyline that will be pursued by the next couple in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE LADY BY HIS SIDE is the first book in the Devil’s Brood Trilogy.  It is also intimately connected with the long running Cynsters series.  This book however, can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: American Queen

Review: American QueenAmerican Queen (American Queen Trilogy, #1) by Sierra Simone
Series: American Queen Trilogy #1
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on October 25th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica
Pages: 392
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: Blistering hot, crazy as can be, I absolutely was obsessed with this book.  Don’t look for reality here, but intense fantasy, oh, oh, yes.

THE STORY:  Greer Galloway, born into a political family, met and fell for a war hero at the age of sixteen.  Their relationship was highly charged and completely inappropriate.  The ten years since haven’t diminished her feelings for Ash, but they have been complicated by betrayal and life and her deepening and darkening desires.  Five years ago, Greer met Embry, Ash’s best friend. Now as Ash, now President of the United States, has sent Embry to bring Greer to Ash’s side, Greer has complicated feelings for both men.

OPINION:  This book is sexy bonkers at times.  The President, Vice-President and the First Lady all together. Crazy stuff and yet completely appealing because the emotions between these characters are so well expressed and so raw.  The book acknowledges everything: lust, love, pain, jealous, anger, desire, caring.  I loved how these three interact with one another and the struggle between them to find a way forward.  This is one of those books that I read and kept thinking about. The story of these three has just begun as each book appears to focus on one particular character in the trio.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book contains are complex menage.  The menage is definitely emotional as well as sexual as each of them has to deal with a range of emotions for and about one another.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  AMERICAN QUEEN is the first book in the American Queen Trilogy.  This series is meant to be read together and this book ends on a cliffhanger.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Devil in Spring

Review: Devil in SpringDevil in Spring (The Ravenels, #3) by Lisa Kleypas
Published by Avon on February 21st 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 370
Goodreads
five-stars

“You do not want to marry me, my lord. I would be the worst wife imaginable. I’m forgetful and stubborn, and I can never sit still for more than five minutes. I’m always doing things I shouldn’t. I eavesdrop on other people, I should and run in public, and I’m a clumsy dancer. And I’ve lowered my character with a great deal of unwholesome reading material.”  Pausing to draw breath, she notice that Lord St. Vincent didn’t appear properly impressed by her list of faults. “Also, my legs are skinny. Like a stork’s.”

FINAL DECISION:  So rarely does a highly anticipated sequel live up to expectations.  While not as good as DEVIL IN WINTER, this book is a worthy successor.  Will take a place on my favorites’ shelf.

THE STORY: Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent has accidentally compromised an unusual young lady, Lady Pandora Ravenel.  Neither, however, wants to marry — Gabriel because he sees that Pandora is completely unsuitable to be the type of dignified wife he needs; Pandora because she has no intention of allowing any man to control her fate and life.  Gabriel is fascinated with Pandora and finds himself drawn to her.  Pandora finds in Gabriel a man who listens to her and respects her opinions, but the risk of becoming essentially his to control is something she doesn’t want to risk even as she falls for him.

OPINION:

“No matter how she had tried to make herself want what she should want, she knew she would never be happy in a conventional life.”

Pandora is an amazing creation.  She is neurotic, opinionated, intelligent, oh so clever and yet sweet in a unique way.  I loved just about everything about her.  She is a different kind of wallflower.  A woman who is so brilliant that she has difficulties with the social niceties that society demands. Always the odd person in the group, she has managed to forge a future for herself as a game designer. (I absolutely loved her devotion to her budding career).  Everything about her character felt fresh and new and oh so lovely, especially for all of us who feel out of step with what people expect from us.

Gabriel is a hero who is so different from his father and yet has the best qualities of both his parents. He manages to be so incredibly caring and supportive of Pandora.  She is a special person and Gabriel knows exactly how to care for her. He is kind and so so dreamy.  Sexy and definitely a man in charge, he also has the gentleness of his mother and the benefit of having grown up in a loving family. He is a man who doesn’t need to be reformed to be a wonderful man — he just is.

“Your problem,” his sister continued, “is that you’re too good at maintaining that facade of godlike perfection. You’ve always hated for anyone to see that you’re a mere mortal. But you won’t win this girl that way.” She began to dust the sand from her hands. “Show her a few of your redeeming vices, dear. She’ll like you all the better for it.”

I rarely love a book as much as I loved this one primarily because Gabriel was such a warm loving man and he made it his mission to balance out all the jagged edges of Pandora’s life. His giving nature and willingness to put his own needs and desires aside to help fulfill Pandora was so wonderful to read about.  He finds Pandora incredibly charming and she brings something to him that makes him want to protect her.  And yet, he cannot crush her by forcing her to conform and be “safe”.

“It was insane to let a creature so perfectly beautiful and artlessly spirited and vulnerable as his wife venture out into the world that could crush her with casual unconcern, and he had no choice to but allow it. For the rest of his life, he would feel a stab of dread every time she walked out the door, leaving him there with his heart wide open.”

I loved this book and if I liked it a smidgen less than the book on Gabriel’s parents it is only because the timeless trope of that book — wallflower and rake — is probably my favorite.  But this one is original and fresh and very wonderful.

“Their marriage would be a partnership, just like their waltzing…not perfect, not always graceful, but they would find their way together.”

Just incredibly lovely!

WORTH MENTIONING:  I would buy this book for the Prologue alone where Evangeline and Sebastian from DEVIL IN WINTER are most prominent.  One of my all time favorite books and the prologue shows why.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  DEVIL IN SPRING is the third 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.  This book is a direct sequel from that book as it tells the story of the son of the DEVIL IN WINTER couple (who make appearances of their own).

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Wait for Dark

Review: Wait for DarkWait for Dark (Bishop/Special Crimes Unit #17) by Kay Hooper
Series: Bishop/Special Crimes Unit #17
Published by Berkley on March 7th 2017
Genres: Paranormal, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 304
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  This is a weird and creepy story (a good thing in this series!) but what I love best is getting more character development from Hollis and more about her relationship with Reese.

THE STORY:  Hollis Templeton has progressed from being a victim to now becoming a team leader for the SCU.  She and her partner Reese DeMarco come to Clarity, North Carolina in order to investigate a series of deaths that appear to be accidents and yet seem like something much more sinister when the sheriff discovers that each victim received a text message stating “Wait for Dark” before their deaths.  Not only is the team investigating strange crimes but Hollis’s paranormal senses are continuing to evolve as she has to confront her own past as a victim.

OPINION:  I really liked this one because while the focus was appropriately on the suspense story and the investigation, there was quite a bit about Hollis’s own struggles.  I have loved reading about Hollis’s development throughout the series and this book takes her development to another level.  Just a warning though — things are not completely resolved and I expect we will get more Hollis books in the future.

What I like best about this book is that there is a real question about what is going on for a good portion of the book.  That builds drama and interest.  This is not a mystery book. You are not going to be able to gather suspects and evidence and find out what is happening.  This story is just creepy and strange and filled with scary images and possibilities.

WORTH MENTIONING:  I was glad to see Bishop and Miranda.  I keep wishing for another book with the two as the focus.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  WAIT FOR DARK is the seventeenth book in the Bishop/Special Crimes Unit series.  This book really needs to be read in context of other books in the series to truly appreciate it.  It is not necessary to read all the books in the series first, but I recommend reading TOUCHING EVIL, SENSE OF EVIL, BLOOD DREAMS, BLOOD SINS, BLOOD TIES, HAVEN, HOSTAGE, and HAUNTED first.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Tamed by the Earl

Review: Tamed by the EarlTamed by the Earl (Regency Unlaced 9) by Carole Mortimer
Series: Regency Unlaced #9
Published by Carole Mortimer on February 24th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 99
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION:  This is a nice story that wraps up the series in a satisfactory fashion, but it is not among the best of the series.  The length of the novella made the relationship too quick and the sexual relationship felt rushed.  Good one time read.

THE STORY:  Lord Daniel Somersby, Earl of Latham survived a miserable marriage.  Since he has an heir, he has no intention of marrying again.  Returning home, Daniel runs into a fight among his stable boys.  The newest boy is causing trouble and something about his intrigues Daniel.  Disguised as a boy, Lady Josephine Kendall is running from her cousin who has tried to sexually abuse her and marry her off to settle his gambling debts.  Temporarily residing as a stablehand, Jo is fascinated by Daniel but trying desperately to maintain her disguise.

OPINION:  This novella fits right into the rest of the series.  The emphasis in the book is on the relationship between the characters and the plot does nothing more than serve that end.  I appreciate books that focus on characters because that is the reason I love romances.  This story is short so the character development is not too deep, but the story plays on some classic tropes that I enjoy.  The woman disguised as a boy is always a fun one.  Here Jo is a thorn to Daniel because he can’t seem to get her out of his mind despite believing her to be a boy.  The story is straightforward and a quick read.

If you have read the others in the series, you should finish out with this one.  There is a small payoff in the end.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book is the last in the series and gives a little peek at the other characters at the end.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  TAMED BY THE EARL is the ninth book in the Regency Unlaced series.  It can be read as a standalone although there is information about other characters.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars

Review: Encounters with a Rogue

Review: Encounters with a RogueEncounters With a Rogue by Deb Marlowe
Series: Half Moon House #1.5, #1.8
Published by Deb Marlowe on March 7th 2017
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-half-stars

This book is a compilation of two separate novellas from the Half Moon House series.  These are my first foray into this series and I did not feel that I needed to read the other books before appreciating these books.  These novellas were so good that I purchased the other books in the series to enjoy.

The novellas have been published previously, so check before purchasing.

These books are a nice complement to one another as the hero of the second novella appears as a secondary character in the first.  Readers get to see his growth and redemption by reading both novellas.

AN UNEXPECTED ENCOUNTER:  Miss Elizabeth Moreton has run off to London to avoid her step-father’s plan to marry her off to a local squire in exchange for breeding stock for his cattle.  Unfortunately, she is abandoned by the person she expected to help her.  Instead, she ends up pretending to be a governess for a young orphaned girl.  The girl is the ward of Lord Edmund Cotwell, a gruff man who has cut himself off from society.  Lisbeth finds herself mending the hearts of both Edmund and his ward and finding a purpose of her own.

Novellas are difficult creatures.  Compared to full length novels, they often feel incomplete and shallow.  On the other hand, they give authors a chance to tell stories of beloved characters who might not otherwise have their tale told.  I very much enjoyed this novella because I thought the characters were well drawn, their story was tightly told and engaging and I left the story satisfied with the whole. I really thought the characters were sweet and I admit I am a sucker for the historical guy who is interested in things other than drinking, whoring and socializing.  Edmund’s scientific interests made him sexier and far more intriguing than he would have otherwise been.  I liked that all the characters here: Edmund, Lizabeth and the ward are out of step with what would be expected in society.  They are so clearly meant for one another.  Rating: 4 stars.

A WALTZ IN THE PARK: Two people holding themselves out to society with a mask for their own purposes.  James Vickers wants to be as scandalous as possible in order to frustrate his despised father.  Even though he has reformed himself from his wild and rakish days, he doesn’t want his father to know.  James knows his father is an abominable man and wants to find out what he is hiding.  This season, James meets Miss Adelaide Stockton who knows she must act with utmost propriety in order to live down her mother’s scandal and find a husband of her own.  The two should have nothing to do with one another and yet cannot help but be attracted.

This was my favorite of the two stories because it had a a beautiful and unexpected arc to the story ending up with the title-tease waltz in the park. From the beginning, there was such a unique connection between the two main characters.  James is a man who struggles with his demons and needs to find out who he can be apart from his desire to frustrate his father’s ends. Addy doesn’t know what she wants from life and slides into her family’s expectations. The relationship between Addy and James manages to free them both to be who they want to be. The story has humor and drama and even some well placed angst.  But what I loved most was the blatant romantic climax of the story. This was a story that I wished were longer, but I’d rather have the story than not.  Rating: 4.5 stars.

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

four-half-stars

Review: The Daring Duke

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 Daring DukeThe Daring Duke (The 1797 Club 1) by Jess Michaels
Series: The 1797 Club #1
Published by The Passionate Pen on March 14th 2017
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  A pretty straight forward historical romance, the story of these characters is complicated by miserable families which have hurt them and made them question the institution of marriage.  A good beginning of a new series premised on the improbable coincidence of a number of eligible dukes available for marriage at the same time.

THE STORY:  James, Duke of Abernathe, is a founding member of the 1797 Club — a group of young dukes who work together and help one another navigate their positions.  A central part of being a duke is marrying to carry on the family, but James intends never to marry even though no one knows why.  Miss Emma Liston is a bluestocking and wallflower and in four seasons has not found a spouse.  She asks James to help her by pretending to be interested in her in order to increase her popularity among the other men of the ton.

OPINION:  This is a book with immensely likeable main characters.  Both Emma and James have been hurt by their dysfunctional families which has made both wary of marriage.  Yet they quickly find in one another passion and friendship and eventually love.

Emma is a bluestocking and wallflower who wants love and marriage but has a father who threatens all her possible happiness.  The book manages to keep the exact nature of her father’s threat secret and gently moves toward the crisis in the book.

James is a man who is determined never to marry in revenge on the father who abused him as a child.  James is a kind man who wants the best for his family but cannot forget the neglect and active abuse of his father who never wanted James as his heir.  James wants Emma and uses the excuse of “helping” her find another man as an excuse to get closer to her — even though James himself doesn’t recognize that fact.

The book is highly focused on the couple in this book and the plot is really designed to bring these two together and thus doesn’t have much impact other than that purpose.

My one complaint about the story is that Emma quickly agrees to engage in sexual acts with James without any intention of marriage. While the intense sexuality is expected in a Jess Michaels book, I thought that the innocent Emma too quickly agrees to allow James to debauch her as long as she remains technically a virgin.

This one complaint doesn’t impair my overall enjoyment of the story primarily because the characters are so likeable.

WORTH MENTIONING:  I can’t wait to read James’s sister’s story.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE DARING DUKE is the first book in the 1797 Club series which tells the story of ten dukes.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

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

four-stars

Review: The Deed

Review: The DeedThe Deed (Deed, #1) by Lynsay Sands
Series: Deed #1
Published by Avon on August 30th 2011
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
two-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  The story is uneven and while it has some very funny parts, I ultimately found it pretty average.  It was okay as a one time read but I don’t think I would read it again and I’m not excited about reading further in the series.

THE STORY:  Emmaline Eberhart has to petition the King to get her husband to consummate their marriage.  When her husband dies on his way home to do his duty, Emmaline is widowed and now in a vulnerable position.  The King sends Lord Amaury de Aneford to marry her.  He doesn’t want to, but agrees to in order to gain the estate.

OPINION:  This book had great promise based on its blurb.  The book has some great humorous moments surrounding Emmaline’s innocence regarding sex.  I liked how she tries to grieve her dead husband by dying every single piece of cloth in the castle black.  She doesn’t even really understand that her prior marriage was not fully consummated and that leads to some humorous moments.  But at times, her innocence and naive nature got annoying to me.  It is a one joke story that never really gained any depth to the story after the punchline was told.  I did like the story one time going in but those little issues are what I remember about this story rather than the romance.  I really like medieval stories so I wanted to like this one, but I just found it average.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book was originally published in 1997 and has been republished with a new cover.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE DEED is the first book in the Deed series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 2.5 stars.

two-half-stars

Review: Stormchaser

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: StormchaserStormchaser (Cutter Cay #4) by Cherry Adair
Series: Cutter Cay #4
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on March 7th 2017
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 352
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION:  A story with lots of lies and deceit on the heroine’s part, the connection between the characters really works.  My complaint about the book is that her lies are forgiven way too soon.

THE STORY: Jonah Cutter is the illegitimate brother of the Cutter clan. He has a lot to prove to himself and to make himself feel that he belongs in the family. He believes he has found Atlantis and brings the skeptic Dr. Calista West aboard to prove it. Calista has agreed to come onto the project for only one reason — she is working with the Cutter’s enemy and intends to thwart Jonah’s project.  But that was before she met Jonah and begins to have her loyalties challenged.

OPINION:  This book was a fun read as it twisted in ways that I did not expect when it began.

Calista is a woman who intends to help her only family with his revenge against his enemies, the Cutters. She will help him sweep in and steal Jonah’s find.  She is a widow, but pretends to be married in order to keep herself safe from any advances by Jonah. But she doesn’t expect to find a man who she can admire and a project that might actually be the find of the century.  Nor does she expect to begin to fall in love with the one man she should keep away from.

Jonah can’t keep his eyes off Calista, but he has no intent of making any moves on a married woman.  His own family history protects him from the moral hazard — or so he believes.  Even as he knows that Calista is off-limits, he cannot stop thinking about her.

I enjoyed this book which has a twisty and unexpected plot. What Jonah has discovered and the crew’s attempts to uncover its secrets keeps moving the story forward.  I liked the chemistry between these characters and I especially liked Jonah who was a nicer guy than I expected in the beginning.

And that leads to my complaint about the book.  Calista lies to Jonah throughout the book but when her lies are uncovered, there are no real consequences for her. She is forgiven after only a short time and after no groveling on her part. Although a huge part of the plot of the book, there is no confrontation with the enemy and no serious consequences for Calista.  I just think there needed to be more considering the magnitude of the deception.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book really made me want to read the next book in the series which will be about the Cutter family’s enemy.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  STORMCHASER is the fourth book in the Cutter Cay series.  It not not necessary to read the other books first, however, because I haven’t and I didn’t feel that I missed anything.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3 stars.

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

three-stars