Review: A Treacherous Curse

Review: A Treacherous CurseA Treacherous Curse (Veronica Speedwell, #3) by Deanna Raybourn
Series: Veronica Speedwell #3
Published by Berkley on January 16th 2018
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 352
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Very enjoyable entry into the series. The highlights were the Egyptology aspects and the reveal about Stoker’s past. The characters are further developed and their relationship moves forward in small but significant ways.

THE STORY: The utterly unique Veronica Speedwell and Stoker, her partner in museum organization and crime solving, become entwined in the disappearance of Stoker’s former expedition partner and ex-friend. He also happens to be the man who married Stoker’s ex-wife. The man disappeared under suspicious circumstances along with a priceless artifact from an Egyptian expedition but Stoker is a prime suspect. Ancient curses and appearances of the Egyptian god Anubis abound as Veronica and Stoker attempt to locate his ex-partner and clear Stoker’s reputation.

OPINION: Historical mystery and romance, this book continues the series of crimes that butterfly collector Veronica and naturalist Stoker get involved in solving. Here there is a personal aspect as Stoker might become the prime suspect if the disappearance is not solved.

Once again the highlight of this book is the interaction between Veronica and Stoker. While the two are not engaged in a romance in the traditional sense, they are certainly involved in a relationship — it’s just the seriously slow burn type. As the two investigate, the truth about Stoker’s relationship with his ex-wife is revealed.

This series is a fun read as Veronica and Stoker make an unusual couple with lots of witty repartee between them. These are unusual people who obviously fit so well together even as they argue and fight and at times hurt one another. While the series is content with the intensely slow burn of their romance, there is no reason to rush along as these two people develop a partnership, a friendship and a even a “romance” unlike any other they have experienced.

The mystery in this book was intriguing as the story exposes the Egyptian craze of the Victorian era. There are plenty of suspects and motivations for the disappearance and the solution (while not one that is “solvable” by the reader) works as a dramatic story.

I enjoyed this book because of its unique characters and voice. What keeps me coming back to this series, however, is the promise of the relationship between Veronica and Stoker.  And on that this book did not disappoint.

WORTH MENTIONING: Veronica and Stoker are such an amusing pair.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A TREACHEROUS CURSE is the third book in the Veronica Speedwell series. The book has a self-contained mystery and could be read on its own for that reason. However, a big part of the attraction of this series to me is the relationship between Veronica and Stoker and for that reason I recommend reading the books in order as their relationship develops.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: The Duke of Nothing

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 Duke of NothingThe Duke of Nothing (The 1797 Club, #5) by Jess Michaels
Series: The 1797 Club #5
Published by The Passionate Pen on January 16th 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 211
Goodreads
four-stars

“Here we are, two people who’ll never get what they want because of what someone else did. Because of what we did to ourselves.”

FINAL DECISION: A sweet and sometimes angsty and seemingly doomed love between two people who don’t see a way forward together until they decide that love means more than anything and are willing to do whatever it takes to be together. Baldwin and Helena are a couple who seem perfect for one another and yet do not see a way forward — until there is no other choice.

THE STORY: Baldwin Undercross, Duke of Sheffield has been keeping a secrets from his friends and family — he is bankrupt. His father squandered the family fortune with gambling and Baldwin contributed his own bad decisions to the problem. In fact, Baldwin has only one solution now — marry an heiress. He has his mind on a rich American, but he cannot keep his eyes off her impoverished and scandalous cousin and companion, Helena Monroe.

OPINION: This is a sweeter book that I expected. The drama in the book is the necessity of Baldwin to marry for money and Helena’s lack of the same. It’s a book more about pride and doing what is expected rather than internal problems for the couple.

These are such nice characters that they obviously belong together from the moment that they meet. Everyone seems to recognize that, but Baldwin’s troubles and his pride and shame keep these characters apart. Baldwin has to learn to swallow his pride and rely on the people who are there always willing to stand by him if he just asks.

Helena has her own problems that stem from being betrayed by those who should care for her.  That gives the story some angst.

For me, however, this book is centered around these characters who need only to decide that nothing matters more than one another in order to find their happiness.

A great addition to the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: There are lots of appearances by the other couples and the bachelor dukes.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE DUKE OF NOTHING is the fifth book in the 1797 Club series about a group of dukes who have been friends since they were children. This book is a standalone with the romance but the friends make appearances.

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: Immortal in Death

Review: Immortal in DeathImmortal in Death (In Death, #3) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #3
Published by Berkley Books on July 1st 1996
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 320
Goodreads
five-stars

“Getting married was murder.”

FINAL DECISION: The book is one of the best blend between the personal as Eve tries to exonerate her friend from suspicion of murder and Eve battling her own personal demons. Twisty and personal.

THE STORY: Eve is racing against time as the woman who is her best friend (gosh, that sounds juvenile) is accused of the murder of the ex of her current lover. Eve must find out who killed the famous model.

OPINION: First, to get the mystery out of the way.  This story is compelling because of Eve being driver to solve the crime to save her friend. This is a good one. Plenty of suspects and the ultimate solution worked very well — especially upon re-reading where the clues are obvious. Good pacing and good set up makes this one of the mysteries that I really enjoyed in the series.

But for me, the value of this book is the leap that the relationship between Eve and Roarke takes. As part of Eve’s past is revealed, I loved seeing not only how Eve deals with it, but also the effect it has on Roarke.

“She was, he thought, capable, strong, and resilient. Whatever wounds she had, she would live with. She didn’t need him to heal, but to accept.”

For me, this is what makes this series so effective. Eve is strong and Roarke only helps her be even stronger and more centered. But she is independent and strong on her own. This works so well in the series. This book really begins to delve more deeply into their connection which grows beyond the cop and (former) criminal rich guy trope.

One of the essential books in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: Eve and Roarke are planning their wedding and some of Eve’s hidden past is revealed.

CONNECTED BOOKS: IMMORTAL IN DEATH is the third book in the In Death series. While the mystery in this book is completely self-contained, I think the overarching storyline dealing with Eve and Roarke makes these books so I recommend reading the series in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Blood Fury

Review: Blood FuryBlood Fury (Black Dagger Legacy, #3) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Legacy #3
Published by Ballantine Books on January 9th 2018
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 432
Goodreads
four-stars

“You couldn’t soar it you didn’t leap.”

FINAL DECISION: Two romances that feel like romances rather than an add on to an ongoing story. Although very sexy, both of these romances were sweeter emotionally than I expected with less angst and drama.

THE STORY: This book has two stories.  First, the story of Peyton and Novo. Peyton is an aristocratic vampire who expected to find a worthy female of his class to marry and carry on his family legacy. The female, he wanted, however, rejected him in favor of another male. Instead, he is intrigued by Novo who is definitely not what he expected to want. A fellow trainee, Novo is brash, very sexual and not at all aristocratic. But she has secrets that keep her from opening up. Second, is the story of Saxon and Ruhn. Saxon was rejected by the male he chose for himself. But when Ruhn comes into the Black Dagger household, Saxon finds himself attracted. Ruhn, however, may not want to explore the possible connection between himself and Saxon.

OPINION: This was a book that was evenly split between the two couples and didn’t have any extraneous stories to take away from those two romances. There is also common threads between the two romances: both have one person who has a tragic past and suffers from feelings of lack of worth; and both have some crummy father figures.

I enjoyed these stories because although there are dark aspects of the pasts of these characters, the stories themselves are less dark than many of the Black Dagger Brotherhood books. The stories were lighter in many ways and happier. The couples get together quicker than I expected and have to work through their problems together.

Although I enjoyed the recruits’ romance story, I was most satisfied with Saxon finally getting his happy ending. We get the chance not only to know more about him and see him getting the opportunity to be more than just a plot device. Ruhn is an interesting pairing for him and I enjoyed the sweetness of their interaction (and the hotness). The weakness of that story for me is that there is almost too fast a connection between them (especially because Ruhn has not had a relationship with a male before).

Peyton and Novo have a more traditional romance (well as traditional as could be expected in the Black Dagger universe. Like the other trainee stories, their romance has a bit of a new adult feel to it as opposed to the Black Dagger Brotherhood couples. Their problems seem smaller and more manageable but no less important. I thought they were funny at times, but intense and sweet at others. (And seriously hot).

I enjoyed this book very much, it feels like a relief from the intense drama of the main series and has a more romance feel to it.

WORTH MENTIONING: The book contains a couple of public sex scenes.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BLOOD FURY is the third book in the Black Dagger Legacy series which is a spinoff of Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. I think the Black Dagger Legacy books at least should be read in order because of the developing relationships. With the cross-over with the Black Dagger Brotherhood, however, a reader is better served by reading the entire two series in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Starlight Nights

Review: Starlight NightsStarlight Nights by Stacey Kade
Published by Forge on January 9th 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Goodreads
five-stars

“I’d never understood why people called it ‘falling’ in love. You either love someone or you don’t, like an on/off switch. End of story. But in that second, I get it. Because suddenly it’s not the floor tilting anymore, it’s my whole world. And I’m sliding helplessly toward feelings that are way bigger than I am.”

FINAL DECISION: Choices, mistakes, second chances. Calista and Eric do not have an easy uncomplicated path to one another and I loved it. They are flawed and struggling and they don’t figure everything out by the end of the book and that was perfectly okay with me. I loved this book almost as much as 738 DAYS.

THE STORY: Calista Beckett has lived a lot in her twenty-three years. After a wildly successful stint as a teenager on the show Starlight, she fell into a heroine addiction. Now sober, she is trying to build a new life for herself as a student at a midwestern college. Eric Stone comes back into her life wanting her to star in his new web series based on a book that Calista loves. Eric played Calista’s brother in Starlight but there has been something between them since Eric gave Calista her first kiss at her audition for Starlight. She fell in love with him that day but their relationship has ended up giving her nothing but pain.

OPINION: Sometimes books and characters just capture my attention despite flaws that might otherwise make me dislike them. Eric and Calista are definitely flawed characters. Their romance is rocky and before the epilogue, I was barely convinced that they would be able to overcome the years of mistakes that they had made with one another.

For people so young, history weighs heavily on these two. This book is all about second chances. About how choices and mistakes can overwhelm and how love is not always something positive. Yet by the end of this book, I felt the distance the characters had traveled and the welcome epilogue shows that they finally found a way to deal with one another in a positive affirming manner.

Calista is a young woman who has already made many mistakes and is threatened by an overbearing mother who uses her love to keep her under her thumb. Calista has become the breadwinner for her family and the mother is desperate to keep things together. Torn between wanting to live her own life and her responsibilities to her mother and sisters, Calista has to learn to assert herself even when she will disappoint others.

Eric also has family problems. Abandoned by his mother, dealing with a father who wants to control and crush him, Eric struggles with abandonment issues. These are a pair that seem destined to be at cross purposes: Calista fears control; Eric fears loss.

These characters are flawed and make very human mistakes. They backslide. They succumb to their fears and the easy way out. They are definitely not perfect. Some readers might find this a difficult read because the flaws and failures of these characters are on full display. They struggle and sometimes flail in their relationship with one another and with others. Yet this is the very reason that I ended up loving this book. The journey of these characters gave me a sense of their accomplishment by the end of the book.

As I began this book, I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to like these characters. Eric, especially, seemed at times arrogant and a jerk; Calista seemed weak. But as I got to see these characters change and fail and succeed and determine their path, I found myself liking not only them but the possibilities of their relationship.

This is a book that will be on my keeper shelf and along with 738 DAYS be one that I will revisit again and again.

 

WORTH MENTIONING: For fans of 738 DAYS, the epilogue of this book is definitely worth reading.

CONNECTED BOOKS: STARLIGHT NIGHTS is the sequel to 738 DAYS. It is not necessary to read that book first as this operates as a standalone. However, readers of 738 DAYS will get to see what is going on with Amanda and Chase.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 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.

five-stars

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