Review: American Prince

Review: American PrinceAmerican Prince (New Camelot Trilogy, #2) by Sierra Simone
Series: New Camelot Trilogy #2
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on March 7th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica
Pages: 330
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: Still super crazy and compelling, I thought this one suffered from the “middle book” syndrome where too much is being set up for the ending and thus while really good, it’s wasn’t quite as compelling as the first book.

THE STORY: This book begins where AMERICAN QUEEN ended. After the marriage of the President Ash to his wife Greer and the formalization of their menage relationship with Vice President Embry, Greer has been kidnapped. The remainder of the book is about the continuing threats the three face both from external factors, but also from the jealousies, fears, and history which threatens to tear them apart.

OPINION: This book is filled with drama and angst and so many unfinished issues that it was painful to read at parts. The book is clearly setting up the final book in the series and as such, it doesn’t read as well as a separate story. There is a real sense that this is one of the low points in the relationship as this book ends. That is expected and I suspect that once the final book is out this book will blend in perfectly. But it certainly leaves things in a bad spot that is hard to enjoy.

This story is so big and crazy and I am just compelled to read it. The relationship between these three characters is not restrained by any means. There are deep jealousies and anger and lust and love. Despite the love between these three characters, their relationship is not easy. There are past pains and deceit and fears between these characters. They are struggling not only against those issues but those who want to destroy them.

This book, as one might guess from the title, focuses primarily on Embry’s point of view (although not exclusively) and his past with Ash. We learn more about the love and pain that is part of the history of their relationship.

One of the best parts of this book is how seriously it takes the relationship between Ash, Greer and Embry. One might expect that if two people in a relationship is complicated, those issues are multiplied with the addition of one person. This book doesn’t shy away from those issues which makes this book compelling as to their interactions.

Now I just need to read what is going to happen with Ash’s book.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book ends on a cliffhanger.

CONNECTED BOOKS: AMERICAN PRINCE is the second book in the New Camelot Trilogy. This book continues from the cliffhanger in the first book and the books should be read together in order. The series follows the menage relationship between The President, Vice-President and the President’s wife.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-stars

Review: Duke of Desire

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: Duke of DesireDuke of Desire (Maiden Lane, #12) by Elizabeth Hoyt
Series: Maiden Lane #12
Published by Grand Central Publishing on October 17th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 364
Goodreads
five-stars

“Considering how extremely dull her life had been up until this point, Iris Daniels, Lady Jordan had discovered a quite colorful way to die.”

FINAL DECISION: Haunting, filled with angst and drama and, of course, intense, deeply emotional passion and love, DUKE OF DESIRE is a worthy final novel in a superlative series.

THE STORY: Lady Iris Jordan wants nothing more than a happy marriage and children after enduring a polite but unhappy marriage. Instead, she has found herself captured by the Lords of Chaos (a group of men who engage in sexual assaults on women and children). When one of the masked participants carries her away in his carriage, Iris shoots him only to discover that the man is the Duke of Dyemore, Raphael de Chartres, who claims to be rescuing her. Raphael says that he is attempting to infiltrate the Lords of Chaos in order to destroy them. In order to protect Iris, Raphael insists they must marry. The challenge is that Iris insists on taking their marriage seriously no matter how it starts. But the possibility of happiness is challenged not only by the Lords of Chaos but also by Raphael’s own dark past.

OPINION: Is there anything better or worse than the final book in a beloved series? I’d like to begin by admitting that the Maiden Lane series has been one of my all time favorite series. I have been immensely impressed with how consistently fantastic the books have been. For me, there hasn’t been one book in the series that I would skip in a re-read, and I’ve re-read all of the books numerous times. But there is always the possibility of the last book failing to live up to expectations.

I’m happy to report that this book exceeded my expectations in every category except one. Intense and dark, the book managed to leave me with an overwhelming feeling of joy and hope by its end. There is a real sense that the darkness may not have been completely defeated, but that love is triumphant and will always manage to beat down the tendrils of darkness that might pop up.

DUKE OF DESIRE is the final novel in the series and the final book in the “trilogy” concerning the Lords of Chaos. (Although book number nine, SWEETEST SCOUNDREL, also has a connection to the group). The Lords of Chaos have wrecked destruction and pain upon many of the heroes and heroines of the Maiden Lane series and this book brings that story to a final conclusion.

Iris Jordan is a widow who readers were introduced to in DUKE OF PLEASURE. What I liked best about Iris is that she is a strong, grounded woman. After enduring a marriage that failed her as a person, Iris realized in DUKE OF PLEASURE that she deserves something more. And if things don’t present themselves like a fairytale love story (like being forced into marriage to save herself from the Lords of Chaos), Iris is determined to make her voice heard and demand a life she wants.

Raphael has been attracted to Iris from the moment he saw her and when circumstances force their marriage, he thinks he will be able to control Iris and control his feelings for her. But Iris will not be placed in a protective box by Raphael. Instead she challenges him at every turn, breaks down his walls and barriers. Iris will not allow herself to be controlled, but it is clear that her pushing of Raphael comes from a place of caring and a desire for relationship.

Raphael is a survivor and a man who, like Val (DUKE OF SIN) and Eve (SWEETEST SCOUNDREL), has been formed by the actions of a hideous father (readers of the series will recognize that Raphael’s father was for a time the leader of the Lords of Chaos). All three of these characters have to deal not only with the abuse they suffered, but also from the pain of betrayal of the paternal relationship.

This book is the story of the end of the Lords of Chaos, but also the story of how Raphael is brought from the darkness of his past by the determined and steadfast love of Iris.

The book also has a touch of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST which is to be expected in a series that borrows so beautifully from fairy tales both explicitly and implicitly.

This book is, at times, difficult to read as the pain and dangerous situations of the characters involve deep emotional pain caused by abuse. (Although it is difficult to top the animal abuse depicted in DUKE OF SIN). Yet, there is an innocence and a beauty that is depicted in the relationship between Iris and Raphael that balanced the deep darkness that readers have to travel along with the characters. Like the sun rising after a terrible storm during the night, the ending of the story was so refreshingly normal and hopeful that it managed to banish so much of the darkness that came before.

I did have one disappointment with the story. If this novel was truly the end of the Maiden Lane series, I would have been intensely missing so many of the characters that have made the series memorable. DUKE OF DESIRE is intensely focused on Iris and Raphael and even when I thought other characters from the series might make an appearance, they didn’t. But thankfully, although this is the final novel of the series, there is still more Maiden Lane on the way. There are two novellas ONCE UPON A MAIDEN LANE and ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS EVE to come in this series which will tackle the romances of some of the secondary characters from earlier in the series. I have great hopes that these two novellas will give fans of the series one last glimpse of the world and the beloved characters which inhabit it.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book deals with sexual abuse and rape of children and women. While not graphically depicted, it is a central issue to the plot.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DUKE OF DESIRE is the twelfth and final novel in the Maiden Lane series. This book could be read as a standalone, but I think that reading the prior book which introduces the hero and heroine will make this book more enjoyable.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book from the author in order to provide 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: Christmas in Kilts

Review: Christmas in KiltsChristmas in Kilts by Bronwen Evans, Lavinia Kent, Lecia Cornwall, May McGoldrick, Terri Brisbin
Series: MacKendimen #2.5, Pennington Family #0.5
Published by Swerve on October 3rd 2017
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-stars

This is a collection of five novellas with a Scottish theme.

A HIGHLANDER’S HOPE by Terri Brisbin — Iain MacKillop is a widower who yearns for marriage and children, but intends on making his own choices this time. The one woman he can’t stop thinking about is completely inappropriate. Robena MacKendimen is the village whore and while she too thinks about Iain, she knows that her status makes anything else between them impossible. This was a lot of story packed into a short novel. I really enjoyed the fact that this book doesn’t flinch from the difficulties of a man falling in love with a whore. The story has a sweet aspect but also a serious one and there is no magic wand that resolves these issues which I really like. There are compromises and a will to make happiness happen. This is a novalla in the MacKendimen series. Rating: 3.5 stars.

A HIGHLAND CHRISTMAS WAGER by Lecia Cornwall — Meggie MacLeod is forced to take refuge at a castle where there are three lairds. One of the lairds is the man that Meggie fell in love with at the age of eighteen before he broke her heart by marrying another. A wager between the men as to who will be able to gain her kisses ignites a competition between the men. Hugh MacAuley needs an heiress in order to satisfy the elders of his clan. He has come to ask the sister of his host, but Meggie tempts him with her fire and her sweetness. I enjoyed this story as Hugh is a shyer hero than I expected and this book really deals with Meggie having lost her virtue and yet Hugh choosing her despite all the cultural reasons he shouldn’t. The story is really sweet between Meggie and Hugh. Rating: 3.5 stars.

A SCOT FOR CHRISTMAS by Bronwen Evans — Dougray knows he must marry again to have an heir, but his love for his deceased wife means that he never intends to love a woman again. Instead, he will marry for companionship and children. Emma has loved Dougray since she was a child. At a houseparty, she challenges him to teach her about passion before she accepts her spinster existence. He is tempted to succumb to passion before choosing a life without deep emotions. I really enjoyed this story. Dougray and Emma are such nice people. Life and love has treated each of them with some difficulties. I liked how Dougray allows himself to be “convinced” by Emma but quickly realizes that there is more at work here than merely a spinster who wants to learn about physical love. This is one of the highlights of the set and a story I would read again. Rating: 4.5 stars.

LEFTOVER MISTLETOE by Lavinia Kent — English Emma Spencer finds herself in a coach with James Barran. James is on his way to stop a wedding, but machinations leave him and Emma stranded at Christmas time at a cabin. I enjoyed this story which is focused intensely on the couple. The two being stranded allows them time to get to know one another even though the actual time period covered by the story. I liked the characters who are decent people who are trying their best to do the right thing. The story has a hot little element which I also enjoyed. Rating: 4 stars.

SWEET HOME HIGHLANDS by May McGoldrick — Captain Gregory Pennington encounters a precocious child and her desperate aunt while waiting for travelers he is to accompany home. Freya Sutherland needs to marry someone immediately in order to keep her niece. I loved this story primarily because of the depiction of Freya’s niece. She is adorable and really tied the story together. Penn and Freya are such nice, well meaning people that the niece is necessary to put some spice into the story. I was surprised at how much development was able to be done considering how few pages the authors had to work with. Penn is a gentleman who is looking for his purpose in life and finds it in a gentle woman and her strong willed, determined niece. Rating: 4.5 stars.

four-stars

Review: Misadventures of a Backup 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: Misadventures of a Backup BrideMisadventures of a Backup Bride (Misadventures, #4) by Shayla Black
Series: Misadventures #4
Published by Waterhouse Press on October 17th 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: This story had an interesting premise and I enjoyed the intrigue of the characters competing against the “villain” dad. A reader who can accept insta-love stories can enjoy this one.

THE STORY: Carson Frost inherits a company from his biological father that is in financial trouble. In seeking a loan, he turns in desperation to the company’s rival. The rival agrees to a loan on the condition that Carson marry his daughter.  Two weeks before the wedding, Carson recognizes that this is going to be a disaster and tries to get out of the wedding by making up another woman who he is love with. The father calls his bluff and demands that Carson produce the woman. Carson can only think of one possible woman to call — Ella Hope, and actress who he met six months ago when she dated one of his friends. Ella agrees to take the job, but the passion explodes between the two when they meet again in person. When the father meets Ella, he agrees that Carson doesn’t have to marry his daughter — but only if Carson and Ella marry in two weeks.

OPINION: This short novel sets up an interesting conflict. What happens when the woman hired to pretend to be the love of a man’s life becomes the love of his life? I enjoyed this story and the characters. This is my favorite of the series because the characters are well drawn even in the short space allowed for them in this story. Plus, there is a tremendous amount of conflict. It’s also really interesting that there are no terrible “evil” characters in the end. Plus, the story is really sexy. What I didn’t expect was the turn towards a more traditional and emotional romance story towards the end. I thought the twist on the events of a romance story worked really well here.

WORTH MENTIONING: Much of the relationship development between Carson and Ella takes place around of during sexual escapades because of the nature of the book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MISADVENTURES OF A BACKUP BRIDE is the fourth book in the Misadventures series. The books in the series are all standalone stories without any connections or overlapping characters.

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 review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-stars

Review: Misadventures with a Super Hero

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: Misadventures with a Super HeroMisadventures with a Super Hero (Misadventures, #3) by Angel Payne
Series: Misadventures #3
Published by Waterhouse Press on October 10th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica, Paranormal
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION: Great premise. uneven execution. Parts of this story I really enjoyed, but parts were a bit confusing and uneven. Overall, I enjoyed the story because it was a fun ride.

THE STORY: Emmalina Crist needs her job working at a hotel because she is trying to make something of herself. Her new boss, Reece Richards, is a longtime playboy, and Emma knows that he is bad news, but can’t resist him anyway. But Emma is also intrigued by Bolt, LA’s newest superhero. Of course, Reece is actually Bolt and he has issues because he was given “super powers” against his will. The two have to navigate Reece finding out who and what he is.

OPINION: I really liked the premise of this story and it is really hot with Emma and Reece circling around one another in various locations in his hotel. I liked the characters and I really believed Reece’s improving his life because of his “changes”. I thought parts of the story were really funny and really sweet. This story is really an erotic journey as for the relationship between Emma and Reece (lots of insta-love/lust) with some superhero danger tossed in.

I did think that the writing was a bit uneven at times and the alternating points of view meant some confusion in the voice of the story. (There were not enough differences in the voices of the two characters to justify the different points of view).

This was a fun story and I would love to read more about these characters, but I think that a reader has to make a commitment to the story to really enjoy it.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a novella that is told in alternating points of view.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  MISADVENTURES WITH A SUPER HERO is the third book in the Misadventures series. This series, however, are completely separate standalone books with no connections at all.

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 review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

three-stars

Review: The Greatest Challenge of Them All

Review: The Greatest Challenge of Them AllThe Greatest Challenge Of Them All (Cynster #26; Cynster Next Generation #6) by Stephanie Laurens
Series: Devil's Brood Trilogy #3, ,
Published by Savdek Management Pty Ltd on July 7th 2017
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 400
Goodreads
four-stars

“She’d had enough of playing by his rules.”

FINAL DECISION: This was the best of the three book trilogy as Drake and Louisa have a battle of wills over her involvement in Drake’s investigation. The focus in this series is the mystery and that is true here as well, but the romance was satisfying.

THE STORY: Drake Varisey, Marquess of Winchelsea and heir to the Duke of Wolverstone has taken up the reins of trying to unravel the plot to blow something in London up. The one woman he doesn’t want to help is Lady Louisa Cynster. For years, there has been something between these two and Louisa is determined to find out if there is any possibility of a future between them and he doesn’t intend to allow Drake to avoid her anymore. Recognizing that he needs Louisa’s vast social knowledge and connections, Drake allows Louisa to worm her way into his investigation, but he risks the emotional entanglement that he has been avoiding for years.

OPINION: This book pulls together the threads from the first two books of the series in both the mystery and the romances (as all three couples make appearances here). In fact, if I have a real complaint it is that it appears that all the real significant action was kept until this book which makes the first two books a little unnecessary.

Much of the book is about the mystery of what is going on with the gunpower that the characters have been searching for in the trilogy. There are differing points of view, including the villains in the story. That makes for a weighty story that has many moving parts.

Louisa is a woman who might be the strongest willed heroine that I’ve ever read by Laurens. She is already a mature woman who knows what her roll in life will be. She is giving Drake an audition so to speak. From the beginning she admits that there is no love between them because they haven’t been able to interact enough. (Honestly, I thought their beginning a little cold which has been an unfortunate repeated refrain in Laurens more recent books.  Too much intellectual evaluation, too little emotional upheaval). I like how she just does what she wants and doesn’t flinch at all from Mr. All powerful Spymaster extraordinaire.

Drake is a man who keeps control by avoiding those things that could challenge his control — namely Louisa. But as he cannot avoid her any longer, Drake is drawn closer and closer to the wonderfully competent and intelligent Louisa. And the closer he gets to her, the closer he wants to be.

I thought that these two had the best clashes as Drake is determined to avoid Louisa’s charms (but he doesn’t hold out well). I thought that this book best interwove the mystery and the romance. I also thought that the mystery was particularly good at the end as the unexpected target and motivations of the villains too center stage at the end of this book.

But what I loved most about this book was the extended epilogue which tied all the romances together in a beautiful fashion. That is what made this into a Cynster book for me.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a bit with Devil and Honoria which is my favorite part — because they remain my favorite Laurens’ couple.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE GREATEST CHALLENGE OF THEM ALL is the third book in the Devil’s Brood Trilogy. While the trilogy books work together as one mystery is solved, I think a reader could read just this book and not miss any of the mystery since there is a recap in the beginning.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: An Irresistible Alliance

Review: An Irresistible AllianceAn Irresistible Alliance by Stephanie Laurens
Series: Devil's Brood Trilogy #2, Cynsters #25, Cynsters Next Generation #5
Published by Savdek Management Pty Ltd on May 11th 2017
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-stars

“You men always want to keep all the fun for yourselves.”

FINAL DECISION: A well rounded, if a little intellectual and mechanical, romance that mixes mystery with two people working a partnership to solve a mystery into a life partnership.

THE STORY: Lord Michael Cynster has been freed from his obligation to carry on the family line by the betrothal of his older brother, but now Michael feels at loose ends. When his brother and fiancee cannot continue the investigations they began, Michael takes up the reins to discover the barrels of gunpower now in London. His search takes him to Hendron Shipping for help where he meets Miss Cleome Hendon who has been running the family shipping offices. Cleo’s efficiency is her enemy as she longs for something new and exciting. Michael’s appearance offers that as Cleo bargains with information in order to become part of the investigation.

OPINION: This book brings together two of the children from Laurens’ Cynster and Bastion Club series. I enjoyed this book, but have to admit that I miss the parents who seem like a lingering and missing presence in the book.

This book has a political mystery drama (similar to the Bastion Club series) that continues from the first book. Cleo is definitely her mother’s daughter and demands her equal role from the start. The mystery of the book is the method by which these two work out their relationship. In that fashion, it is a historical romantic suspense. The mystery is the central story here with the romance a constant presence, but only worked out as the two engage in their investigations.

While I enjoyed the interactions between these characters and I especially like that Michael quickly reconciles himself to wanting all of Cleo (including the adventurous part). His father gives him some good advice and I did enjoy seeing Devil in his fatherly role. The romance between the two seemed too pat and organized and reasonable. I have to admit that I kind of like romances where the match needs to be worked out more. This one was like pulling on a pair of favorite socks. Comfortable but not particularly exciting. Perhaps that it what is likely to happen with well known characters children (who don’t have misfortunes in their background).

I thought the story was well constructed and I enjoyed it, but it doesn’t reach the level of the early Cynster books which were superlative.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is really a next generation book so fans wanting glimpses of the original Cynsters might be disappointed. There are small glimpses of Devil and Honoria but only small ones.

CONNECTED BOOKS: AN IRRESISTIBLE ALLIANCE is the second book in the Devil’s Brood Trilogy which is a spin-off of the Cynsters Next Generation series (Book #5) which is itself a spin-off of the Cynsters series (Book #25). This book should be read as part of the Devil’s Brood Trilogy because there is an overarching storyline that is divided between the books even if the romance is self-contained.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Beauty Like the Night

Review: Beauty Like the NightBeauty Like the Night (Spymasters, #6) by Joanna Bourne
Series: Spymasters #6
Published by Berkley Books on August 1st 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 293
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: The most traditional romance of the Spymasters series, Severine and Raoul’s story is filled with intrigue, danger, violence and great romanticism. If this is the last of the Spymasters, it allows readers one long lingering goodbye.

THE STORY: Severine de Cabrillac, an orphan of Revolutionary France and previously a member of British Intelligence spends her post war years solving crimes around London. Late one night, a man breaks into her home seeking information about his murdered wife and her missing twelve year old daughter. Raoul Deverney has come to Severine because she is one of the few clues he has. When he seeks Severine’s help in discovering the truth about his wife’s murder, the two engage in a dance of secrets and unwanted passions.

OPINION: This book felt more like a traditional romance that the more recent books in this series which sometimes felt like historical fiction because of the depth of the historical context and the darkness in the book. This book feels more traditional because the focus of the book is on London and while there is political intrigue, the focus really feels personal as the story revolves around Raoul’s murdered wife and missing daughter.

Without being obvious or maudlin, this book serves as a wonderful conclusion to the series as we are treated to a great deal of time with the most recent heroes in the series. We get to see the whole gang working together one more time.

Severine is a woman who is strong and has made her own path. The younger sister of Juntine (BLACK HAWK) and the adopted daughter of William Doyle (THE FORBIDDEN ROSE), she has grown up among the spies and intrigues of Meek Street. Determined to avoid being protected by those same men, she ran off to Spain during the War in order to work with British Military Intelligence. That experience left the expected scars on her both physically and emotionally. Now that the war has ended, she has made a life for herself solving crimes in London — especially those where people are falsely accused.  (But she still has a hand in with her family’s business).

Raoul is a man searching for the murderer of his estranged wife and her missing daughter. He also has a great many secrets (which I won’t reveal because that is part of the story). He is sophisticate and incredibly dangerous as Severine recognizes from the start. He is also an incredibly romantic character which I really liked because he is so different from the other heroes in this series.

The story in this book maintains the grittiness of the series, but isn’t quite as dark. In fact, there is some sweetness to the romance that I wasn’t expecting but really enjoyed.

Bourne has stated that this is the last of the Spymasters series. I believe this series was incredibly unique and I will miss the characters. If this is the end, I think that it was a wonderful opportunity to visit old friends again and wrap up things.

WORTH MENTIONING: Lots of appearances here by the men of the series, but not the women.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BEAUTY LIKE THE NIGHT is the sixth book in the Spymasters series. This story stands on its own, but the characters from prior books make significant appearances.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: A Conspiracy in Belgravia

Review: A Conspiracy in BelgraviaA Conspiracy in Belgravia (Lady Sherlock, #2) by Sherry Thomas
Series: Lady Sherlock #2
Published by Penguin Group (USA) LLC on September 5th 2017
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 336
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: Twisty, complicated, multi-layered with multiple stories and a unique heroine, this story demands a lot from its readers, but delivers a shocking resolution that moves the overarching storylines of this series forward.

THE STORY: Continuing her work and deception as “Sherlock Holmes”, Charlotte Holmes has a new complication. Lady Ingram, the wife of Charlotte’s dear friend and benefactor wants Sherlock to locate her first love who failed to show up for their annual meeting. It turns out that man that Mrs. Ingram is seeking is none other than Charlotte’s illegitimate half brother. Charlotte is also struggling with an unexpected proposal from Lord Ingram’s brother. Mysteries, deceptions, divided loyalties, and false identities abound in this story.

OPINION: Continuing this complex gender flip on the Sherlock Holmes series, this book moves the series past the “origin” phase and shows Charlotte in her complete agency. The book begins right after the ending of the first book and assumes knowledge of those events (so readers with fading memories might want a refresher). Having discovered that she did not actually escape her desperate circumstances under her own power, but rather because of her longtime friend Lord Ingram, Charlotte contemplates what that means.

Right into this conflict walks Lady Ingram. Charlotte now has another dilemma to sort out — what are her obligations to Lord Ingram now that she knows that his wife has a tender for another man. Charlotte, of course, considers this from her intellectual factual perspective, but the other characters around her help illuminate the emotional aspects as well. The plot of this story is complex with several different investigations involving different parties (and even different investigators). There are also numerous characters with their own issues and motives (I especially like the Scotland Yard Inspector who is having difficulties dealing with independent and intelligent women — even his own wife). I was completely satisfied by these various stories but a reader who is looking for a straightforward mystery might be frustrated because nothing is straight here. Some things are significant even when they don’t appear so and vice versa. Some things are connected. Some things completely random. And some things are probably merely planting seeds for the future.

I believe that Charlotte’s character’s complexity takes a big leap in this book. Readers already introduced to her, know that she is poor at the emotional resonance of actions and really, really good at the intellectual calculations involved in decisions (think Sheldon from Big Bang Theory).  We get to see that she has her own method of understanding the world and relationships that are not at all cold. She does, after all, care very much for her two younger sisters. As she contemplates the marriage proposal of Ingram’s brother, we get to see her thought processes which gives tremendous insights into her feelings not only for Ingram’s brother, but for Ingram himself. As a character, Charlotte is not an easy one to understand — or perhaps for everyone to like — but I enjoy the way her mind works and her essential decency. Even when that means that she must impart hard information.

I look forward to the next book in the series, but there is much still left to discover.

WORTH MENTIONING: Moriarty.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A CONSPIRACY IN BELGRAVIA is the second book in the Lady Sherlock series. I think this book needs to be read as part of the series and not on its own.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: The Scot Beds His Wife

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 Scot Beds His WifeThe Scot Beds His Wife (Victorian Rebels, #5) by Kerrigan Byrne
Series: Victorian Rebels #5
Published by St. Martin's Press on October 3rd 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 394
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“He was no barbarian. And certainly no gentleman. He had to be a Celtic god.”

FINAL DECISION: Kerrigan Byrne, who is a master at depicting broken and flawed people gives an unflinching story of two people who think themselves too broken for love but who find that the broken jagged parts of each fit together.

THE STORY: The Highlander Gavin St. James, Earl of Thorne, has a plan. He intends to buy the Ross cattle ranch and finally separate himself from the Mackenzies who have never brought anything but pain to him and his mother. The son of the evil and depraved former Laird of the Mackenzies, Gavin will do anything to get control of the Ross property even if it means engaging with the most difficult woman he has ever met. Samantha Masters has come to the Scotland running from her past filled with dangerous secrets. The passionate arguments between Gavin and Samantha turn into another kind of passion and when her past threatens her once again, Sam agrees to marry. But the secrets she is keeping might destroy everything she is building.

OPINION: This book is a good example to me of why I should stay away from spoilers. I happened to read one of the central secrets in this book and really wish I hadn’t. It happens to be one of my least favorite tropes in romance novels and it made me delay reading this book because I love this series so much and I didn’t want to hate this book.

Despite this fact, I ended up loving this book and I think I might have enjoyed it even more if I didn’t create a negative expectation for myself. (As a review style point, that is why I try so hard not to give away secrets in books without really good reasons and certainly not without warnings).

Throughout this series, Kerrigan Bryne has taken characters with painful destructive pasts and given them their happy endings. Characters that in less skillful hands would be irredeemable and unsympathetic become understandable and shown to be worthy of their own redemption through love. The beauty of this book is that the jagged lives of Sam and Gavin manage to make them fit together in a way that completes each of them and soothes their wounded souls.

Gavin is a man who, like his brothers, is haunted by the monstrous actions of his father. Rather than the physical violence which follows his brother Liam (hero of THE HIGHLANDER), Gavin has been been tilted towards the sexual excesses (certainly not the rape and sexual violence of his father). A charming “ladies man” Gavin is known for seducing his own brother’s wife and plenty of other women. Gavin’s charming handsome facade hides the same darkness that follows the other men in his family. (Readers of the series will recall that he is not only Liam’s younger half brother but also the half brother of Dorian). I especially enjoyed how his softer qualities do not negate his darker ones. The balance works here.

Samantha is brash and bold and foul mouthed and insecure. An American from the west, she is a survivor. Used to taking care of herself, she does what is necessary to get through the next crisis on her life on her own terms. Even worse, she has trusted unwisely before and thus is gun shy for trying again. She challenges Gavin and doesn’t back down from him.

The combination of the richly combative exchanges and the sweet understanding between Samantha and Gavin made this a gentler story than I expected in some ways. There are quite a few secrets and deceptions and violence and darkness in this story, but as is true with every book in this series there is also hope and redemption. For readers who have read the prior books in this series, this book is not as dark as the prior book, but for me, the heroine’s actions were more difficult to understand. But understand I did.

There is a lot going on in this book. Various characters and motives are interwoven in the story. Some side romance, some ongoing stories, some appearances by prior characters. This book covers a lot of territory.

One of my favorite things about this book is that it makes me look at and question my own assumptions and prejudices. Irredeemable people and actions might be understandable and capable of being forgiven.

Now that I’ve read it and enjoyed it, I look forward to reading it again without my preconceived fears and prejudices. It will give me something to do until the next book in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: The Rook.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE SCOT BEDS HIS WIFE is the fifth book in the Victorian Rebels series. While the romance in this book is self-contained, there are complicated relationships that only make sense within the context of the whole series. If you want to start here to try out the series, go ahead, but you will want to go back and start from the beginning.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

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

four-half-stars