Review: The Most Dangerous Duke in London

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 Most Dangerous Duke in LondonThe Most Dangerous Duke in London (Decadent Dukes Society, #1) by Madeline Hunter
Series: Decadent Dukes Society #1
Published by Zebra on May 30th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 304
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Fabulous start to a new series.  Didn’t go in the direction I expected and I ended up loving Adam. Motives are mysterious until all is revealed which built suspense and interest.  Loved these two together.

THE STORY:  Adam Penrose, Duke of Stratton, has returned to England after years in France following his father’s death.  Adam has returned for revenge and to find out who set the events in motion which led to his father’s death.  He is also in pursuit of a wife.  He discovers Lady Clara Cheswick, the daughter of his family’s longtime enemy.  Lady Clara has no intention of agreeing to Adam’s determined pursuit of her as she is independent and spending her time managing her own property and interests.  Then there is the also the question of what Adam’s true motives are.

OPINION: This book was more intimate and personal than I expected from the description.  Really focusing on the developing relationship between Adam and Clara, the reader is left questioning what Adam’s motives are.

Clara is a woman who desire for independence even if that means upsetting conventional behavior and roles for women.  Having inherited property of her own, Clara plans never to marry but instead publish a paper for women — written by women.  She is independent but isn’t willing to toss away all convention.  That creates tension as she tries to exist both in and outside of society’s expectations.  She also struggles with her relationship with her family.  While she doesn’t always feel close to them, her loyalty to her father makes her suspicious of Adam’s motives — perhaps rightfully.

Adam is mysterious through much of the book.  By the end of the book, however, I loved Adam. In the book, people wonder what Adam’s motives are for returning to England…and the reader is left to wonder as well.  By not cluing readers in to Adam’s thoughts on the matter, the story has more tension and mystery.  And the story needs that mystery because this book is truly driven by Adam’s reasons for returning to England and what his plans are.

This book feels more intimate and personal because the focus of the book is truly the relationship between Adam and Clara.  Can Clara trust Adam? Why is he pursuing a relationship with her? Does he truly intend to marry her? Why?  What I ended up loving about this book is that the answers are more complex than a simple narrative.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Oh, I can’t wait for the other two upcoming heroes. There are some good stories to be told there.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE MOST DANGEROUS DUKE IN LONDON is the first book in the Decadent Dukes Society.

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 positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-half-stars

Review: The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband

Review: The Girl with the Make-Believe HusbandThe Girl with the Make-Believe Husband (Rokesbys, #2) by Julia Quinn
Series: Rokesbys #2
Published by Avon on May 30th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“Husband? They were calling him her husband? Was he married? He couldn’t be married. How could he be married and not remember it? Who was this woman?”

FINAL DECISION:  Behind the British lines in the American Revolutionary War, this intense and emotional story of a husband and wife learning one another is a winner.  The twist? They aren’t actually married but only she knows it.

THE STORY:  Edward Rokesby awakes in a military hospital in the American colonies, he has a hole in his memory of what he was doing on an assignment in Connecticut.  Months are missing during which he apparently also acquired a wife he does not remember — Cecilia Harcourt.  The sister of Edward’s best friend, she has come from England in search of her brother who is missing.  There is a good reason that Edward doesn’t remember marrying Cecilia — they are actually not married.

OPINION:  An usual Julia Quinn book with less humor and more seriously emotional content.  Quinn’s books always have an underlayer of seriousness but usually there is more amusing events.  This book is quickly more serious than I expected.  With a different setting (the colonies during the American Revolution) and much of the action taking place in confined settings (so much happens in the four walls of a room) and a different emotional temperature, this book feels more fresh and different than other Quinn books while retaining the wonderful and likeable characters.

One of the best parts of this book is that both Edward and Cecilia are such nice people. Yet, circumstances twist them up and make them do things that they don’t anticipate.  This story is how two people who seem like they should have an easy road to happiness together become so mixed up that it seems like their happily ever after will pass them by.  The story goes deep into these characters as these semi-strangers begin to get to know one another.

I would say that this is a slowly developing story, but I don’t want to give the impression that the story is boring.  No, this is the story of two people who are discovering one another.  The deception that lies between them and the search for Cecilia’s brother has enough drama to keep the story interesting even as these two talk and laugh and cry and know one another.

I also especially enjoyed the change in venue to the colonies — especially because we get a glimpse of the British side of the war (which is not the usual side in this time period). Moving away from the expected place gives energy to the story as these new details suffuse the story was new relationships and details.  (Plus, I’m glad that we finally get a glimpse of a significant event that is often missing from historical romance books of the period).

I liked this book much better than the first in the series primarily because I really liked these characters who feel like nice people trapped in a situation that they cannot control which challenges their essential goodness.

WORTH MENTIONING:  It is pretty obvious who the next book in the series will be about.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE GIRL WITH THE MAKE-BELIEVE HUSBAND is the second book in the Rokesby series.  It is not necessary to have read the first book in the series since this book is only loosely connected and the other characters of the series only make a very brief appearance.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book via Edelweiss 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: An Affair with a Notorious Heiress

Review: An Affair with a Notorious HeiressAn Affair with a Notorious Heiress (Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James, #4) by Lorraine Heath
Series: Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James #4
Published by Avon on May 30th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Lyrical and emotional story of a woman who is a scandal and the man who wants to avoid scandal and yet ends up not wanting to avoid her.  I loved the unexpected sweetness and romance of this story.

THE STORY:  Alistair Mabry, Marquess of Rexton and future duke, has no plans to marry soon, but when he does he will choose a bride with a perfect reputation.  His own childhood showed him the consequences of being the child of a scandalous union.  While he loves his parents, he has no desire to repeat their story.  When he is asked to court a young sweet woman in order to help her marriage prospects, he agrees, but finds himself spending more time thinking about her older and scandalous sister, Tillie, Lady Lansdowne.  Divorced after her affair with a footman became known, the American heiress lives separate from society but is determined to see her sister happily married.  She doesn’t think that Rexton is the man for her sister, but can’t stop thinking about him herself.

OPINION:  This book follows two books that are among my all time favorites.  The stories of Rexton’s parents and that of his sister are so heartbreakingly beautiful.  As I began this book, I was honestly a bit disappointed because I thought Rexton’s attitude toward his mother’s past was not worthy of the oldest son of his parents.  As the book progressed, however, I fell in love with Rexton and understood his position (even if thought it misguided).

Heath has a marvelous way of making the romance between Rexton and Tillie seem completely hopeless. There seems to be no future for these characters, but all that is needed is complete and utter surrender to love.  I am always done in by Heath’s way of ripping into my emotions.  This romance is quieter and sweeter than I expected — perhaps because their outward challenges are so large and overwhelming.

I love watching these two fall in love.

The man who thinks that he wants perfection, but discovers that all he really wants is love — even if it is messy and imperfect — and perhaps because it is. The woman who has been so thoroughly disappointed by love that she fears risking any part of herself again. And perhaps she has internalized her lack of worth because no one has ever put her first.

The story slowly built until reaching a wonderful crescendo.  This book wasn’t as gut wrenching as my other favorites in this world, but the intense sweetness was worth the journey.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Fans of the series will be pleased to see quite a bit of Rexton’s family.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  AN AFFAIR WITH A NOTORIOUS HEIRESS is the fourth book in the Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James series.  The book can be read as standalone, but honestly is much better after reading both the Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James series and the connected series about the parents generation, the Scoundrels of St. James series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book via Edelweiss 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

Review: Just One Touch

Review: Just One TouchJust One Touch (Slow Burn, #5) by Maya Banks
Series: Slow Burn #5
Published by Avon on May 23rd 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 352
Goodreads
three-half-stars

“But the simple truth was that he needed her every bit as much as she needed him, and he couldn’t come up with a reason that made any sense to him.”

FINAL DECISION:  A good romantic suspense with a paranormal bent.  The weakest part of the story is the instant love between the main characters.  That being said, the two are a good match and the story is well paced and filled with twists.

THE STORY: Isaac Washington comes out to his car after getting coffee and bagels to find someone attempting to steal his vehicle.  Instead of the thief he expected, Isaac finds Jenna — a young abused woman who is fleeing for her life.  When Isaac is shot by her pursuers, he finds out why.  Jenna saves Isaac’s life when she heals his mortal wound.  Once he meets her, Isaac, who works for Devereaux Security is determined to use his skills to protect this vulnerable woman.

OPINION:  This was a good suspense story with a paranormal twist as is true of the other book in the Slow Burn series.

The main weakness of the story from my view is the instant love aspect.  Before the two even know anything about one another, there is something between them.  (That works in many books where there is a paranormal or supernatural aspect, but here there is no “mate” or explanation for the instant connection).  But this book is anxious to get into the suspense story and deep into the potential of the relationship.  I can put aside my initial disbelief in the instant love if the rest of the story is good…and this one worked for me.

Isaac is a strong alpha protector and is determined to protect Jenna and make those who have harmed her pay.  While he is possessive, he is also completely devoted to Jenna from almost the moment that they meet.  He throws over everything in his life to help her.  While the devotion appears unrealistic at times, it also jacks up the tension and suspense in the story because the immediate devotion he has for Jenna makes the story move.

Jenna begins the story abused and weak.  But she does not stop there.  Much of the story is about Jenna discovering herself and obtaining autonomy over herself.  There are quite a few twists and turns in the story and I don’t want to give any of the plot away because the suspense is an essential part of the story.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Readers should be willing to accept Banks version of the Alpha male who is possessive with a lot of talk about the heroine belonging to him.  Some might find it a little too aggressive and controlling.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  JUST ONE TOUCH is the fifth book in the Slow Burn series.  While there are overlapping characters, this story is independent of others in the series and can be read alone.  There are plenty of appearances by the characters from the other books and readers of those books will be happy for the updates.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3.5 stars.

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

three-half-stars

Review: The Girl Who Knew Too Much

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 Girl Who Knew Too MuchThe Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick
Published by Berkley Books on May 9th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 352
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“You must not trust anyone — not the police, not the F.B.I.  Above all, never trust a lover.”

FINAL DECISION:  My favorite Amanda Quick book in a long time.  The move to 1930s California has given new energy and freshness to what is often a familiar romantic suspense storyline.  I hope we will be reading more in this time period.

THE STORY:  1930s California is a place where people can reinvent themselves.  Irene Glasson has come here on the run from the murder of her prior employer.  Irene (and that is also a new name) is now a reporter for a small gossip paper when she becomes involved in yet another murder.  The murder of an actress takes place at the hotel of Oliver Ward.  Oliver is also starting his life over again.  Previously a famous magician whose career ended in blood during a performance, Oliver is determined to protect his hotel from scandal when he discovers that Irene didn’t seem to exist prior to four months ago.

OPINION:  I’ve been reading Amanda Quick books since the first ones in the 1990s.  In the intervening years there have been books I have absolutely loved (RAVISHED and THE PERFECT POISON) and ones that I found completely forgettable. The most recent books have been adequate but have lacked the energy and vibrancy of the best books.

THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH moves to a new time period.  I was wary of the change because the 1930s is not a time period often used in romance novels and I did not know how the Quick books would translate into that time period.  I’m happy to report that I loved the time period move to the 20th century.  In taking place in an era that has not been done ad nauseum, the book is allowed to investigate different morals, complications and motivations than the Regency or Victorian eras.

These characters feel fresh and new and the entire book has a vibrancy and drew my interest in an entirely new manner.

Irene is a career woman who is caring for herself.  She arrives in California at a time when she can completely reinvent herself (without pesky complications such as social security numbers and needing government identification). She’s tough and clever and determined. I love smart heroines and Irene is no exception.  She just keeps picking herself up after her disappointments.  She is independent and thus her willingness to trust Oliver is a major point in their relationship.

Oliver is adorable.  Sexy and wounded and oh so willing to engage in witty verbal combat with Irene.  He’s a man who cares for his own. Like Irene, he is also a man who has reinvented himself (for different reasons).  Being a survivor and adapting is a strong theme in this book with these two characters.  They live in a time and place of reinvention and they both are living out that possibility.

Along with a romance there is a peppy suspense story that keeps the pace humming along. The suspense works very well with the romance here and doesn’t overpower the relationship between Oliver and Irene.  Instead, the two work together hand in hand to undercover who is killing the women the Irene keeps discovering. I found the mystery and the solution satisfying and the adventure served to bring the characters closer.

This book was a real winner for me and I hope that there are more books in this time period (and I think there is possibility right in this book).

WORTH MENTIONING:  This is the first Amanda Quick novel to take place outside of the 19th century.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH is a standalone.

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 positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-half-stars

Review: Never Trust a Pirate

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: Never Trust a PirateNever Trust a Pirate (Playful Brides, #7) by Valerie Bowman
Series: Playful Brides #7
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on May 2nd 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 288
Goodreads
five-stars

“The Black Fox Strikes Again”

FINAL DECISION:  Twisty with lots of secrets and strong independent characters but not too dark, I loved this one!  The story didn’t go where I expected it to from the title.  The characters were slowly revealed both to the reader and to one another.  The story was so fun but with some depth and purpose.

THE STORY:  Danielle LaCross seeking work as a lady’s maid for a viscountess.  She mistakes Cade Cavendish for his twin brother the viscount.  Cade is a known rogue and the black sheep of the family.  Rumored to be a rake and perhaps a pirate, Cade has a lot of secrets that he is keeping.  Danielle has secrets as well.  Once she realizes that Cade is not who she thought he was, she still cannot seem to resist the intriguing man.  Soon they realize that they have a common purpose and join forces to resolve the shadows that still haunt them.

OPINION:  This one hit all the right notes with me.  The book jumps immediately into the action and a lot is happening here.  The characters have secrets and these was plenty to keep me intellectually interested in the plot even as I emotionally fell for these characters.

A great part of this story is the twists along the way, so I recommend staying away from spoilers to maintain the suspense in the story.

Cade’s role as the black sheep of the family is important to him.  A twin, he has made a role for himself as the irresponsible rake…but there is much more going on with him.  I loved his personality which keeps a lightness even as the drama is ratcheted up in the story.  Because although readers might not know what Cade is doing, there is never any question that he is on the right side.

Danielle is strong and independent (and perhaps a little too assertive for a true lady’s maid). Normally the lack of class distinctions between them would seem false in the story, but Cade did not grow up part of the aristocracy and (along with some secrets to be revealed) thus the ultimate reason for how these two interact with one another works.

Fans of witty banter between the characters will like this one.  Cade and Danielle circle around one another as each is trying to figure out the other without giving away their own secrets.

One of my favorite parts of this book is that I actually was surprised by the resolution of the mystery and yet it made perfect sense.  The mystery has a real purpose here and is well integrated into the romance. The suspense and mystery of the story worked really well here and felt totally natural for the times. Yet the story never veers into angst and darkness.  There is a brightness to the story that I really enjoyed (even though I’m generally a bigger fan of the dark romances).

WORTH MENTIONING:  Fans of the series will get some glimpses of favorite characters.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  NEVER TRUST A PIRATE is the seventh book in the Playful Brides series.  While it is certainly possible to read this book as a standalone, it is so much better having the backstory of the characters.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 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 positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

five-stars

Review: Blame It on the Duke

Review: Blame It on the DukeBlame It on the Duke (The Disgraceful Dukes, #3) by Lenora Bell
Series: The Disgraceful Dukes #3
Published by Avon on April 18th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
five-stars

“She’s insulted him, lied to him, and done everything in her power to repel him…and somehow ended up completely charming him.”

FINAL DECISION:  Loved, loved, loved this one.  Quirky and funny with incredibly serious and heartbreaking turns, this book ended up being my favorite of the series.

THE STORY:  Nicholas, the future of Duke of Barrington intended to never marry but rather enjoy his debauched life until the madness that runs in his family claimed him as well.  When his father gambles him away in marriage to the daughter of a rich merchant, Nicholas eventually ends up making a deal with his “fiance” Miss Alice Tombs. Alice doesn’t want to marry either…she has spent three years avoiding that outcome by scaring off suitors.  But Nicholas’s proposal tempts her.  The two will marry and spend one month together and then she will be free to pursue her interests in travel and scholarly pursuits and Nicholas will be free to pursue his scandalous life.

OPINION:  I absolutely loved this book — and not how I expected to.  From the first book in the series, I fell in love with Alice — a woman willing to use her intelligence to avoid an unwanted marriage.  She was incredibly funny with her incessant chattering about strange subjects that manage to repel unwanted suitors.  From the moment she discovers that her father has won her a fiance, Alice goes to work to try the same tactics on Nicholas.  But he sees her in a way that she never expected.

And what can be more attractive than a hero who actually wants to know the heroine’s dreams?  Nicholas is a man who knows that he has no future and so he is only living for today.  With a family history of madness, Nicholas plans never to marry, never to have children, but rather lead as big and scandalous life he can until the family madness claims him as well.  I adored Nick. In the same way that Alice begins to learn more about Nick, the readers also discover that there is far more to him than she or we expect when we meet the man putting on scandalous shows.  Despite his despair about his own life, Nick is determined to launch Alice into a wonderful future.  And the truth is that Nick’s life hides a great deal of pain and fear and desperation.

The book deals in a wonderfully thoughtful and realistic way the pain of mental illness.  Nick suffers both as a son and because of his own fear of descending into mental illness.  Mental illness is not usually a topic in romance books — especially not when it might effect the main characters.  Here, Nick is living with it every day.  The isolation, the fears, the anger, the pain are all depicted here.  I don’t want to give away more of the book but I loved how the events played out in this book. It was beautifully constructed and is immediately on my keeper shelf.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Yes, there is an Alice in Wonderland theme going in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  BLAME IT ON THE DUKE is the third book in The Disgraceful Dukes series.  While the characters appear in other books in the series, this book can be read on its own.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: The Thing About Love

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 Thing About LoveThe Thing About Love by Julie James
Series: FBI/US Attorneys #7
Published by Berkley on April 18th 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 400
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“Nearly fifteen thousand special agents in the FBI, spread throughout the United States in fifty-six field offices, and she had to show up in Chicago for what was quite possibly his last undercover assignment.”

FINAL DECISION:  An enemies to friends to lovers story, THE THINGS ABOUT LOVE feels real and dives deep into the complexities of a modern professional and romantic relationship.  I loved the characters and their journey to one another.

THE STORY:  FBI Agent John Shepherd is just about ready to join the elite Hostage Rescue Team if he gets accepted, but has one last undercover assignment to get through.  Just his luck that he happens to be paired with Jessica Harlow.  John and Jessica know each other.  Six years ago they were in the same class at Quantico and walked away from the experience happy to be across the country from one another.  Now, the two have to learn to work together.  Both are beginning a new chapter of their lives as they recover from bad relationships.  John is planning on leaving Chicago and joining the HRT after catching his girlfriend having sex with one of his friends.  Jessica is returning to Chicago after her divorce.

OPINION:  This is a beautifully constructed, modern office romance.  The story isn’t over the top fantasy, but rather real and complicated with no easy answers to the issues John and Jessica face.

The story is properly centered around the characters of John and Jessica and while there is a satisfying and complete plotline, it doesn’t overwhelm the romance.

John and Jessica have a history.  The two met six years ago during FBI training.  While there was an attraction even then, the two rubbed one another the wrong way because they really didn’t get to know one another.  Both are competitive and their attraction turned to ruthless competition between them.  When they are forced to work together, they find out that they actually have much in common.

I loved the portrayal of Jessica who is a woman competing in a world dominated by men.  She knows that she has to be more careful than them in how her co-workers see her.  That is one reason that John rubbed her wrong six years ago because he made her feel less proficient.  In her personal life, Jessica is a woman who has just received her final divorce decree and has been urged by her friends and family to start dating again.  Jessica, however, doesn’t have interest in the modern dating realities. A suggestion that she find a temporary guy to have hot post-divorce sex seems like a real possibility when the attraction between her and John explodes.

John, too, has had his world turned around recently.  When he discovered his girlfriend and friend in bed together, he lost not only his relationship but also some long terms friends.  Jessica coming back into his life seems like a miserable topper to his recent misfortunes.  The only thing that seems to be going well is his potential transfer to the HRT. But one of the great things about John is that his is challenged and in serious competition with Jessica and her arrival makes him up his game.  John is a good man because he treats Jessica with respect and acknowledges her competency as an agent. I really liked how he treats her with complete professionalism even when he is attracted to her.

I really enjoyed how the relationship between these two developed…there are funny moments and intense sweetness and good sexy parts, but the entire story is tied together by the deep respect these two have for one another.  Even when they were “enemies” and competitors, there was the recognition of a worthy opponent. I thought that the development of their relationship felt natural and real and I thought the romanticism of the story flowed so nicely from their mutual respect for one another as professionals.

Julie James always navigates the realities of modern office romances so well.  This book is no exception!

WORTH MENTIONING:  I’d like to read a book about John’s brother Nate who deserves to fall really hard for someone!

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE THING ABOUT LOVE is the seventh book in the FBI/US Attorneys series.  These books, however, are only loosely connected and are standalones can be read independently.

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 positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-half-stars

Review: Tangled in Sin

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: Tangled in SinTangled in Sin (Bound and Determined, #5) by Lavinia Kent
Series: Bound and Determined #5
Published by Loveswept on April 18th 2017
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  As the series takes off in new directions with new characters, I miss the madam Ruby but am very intrigued by the secrets the new characters have.  Sin and James are an intriguing couple who might be one of the most conventional in this series — although the sex is still pretty hot!

THE STORY:  Lady Cynthia Westhope finds out that her childhood friend, the daughter of a duke, has become the madam at the most notorious brothel in London.  When Cynthia travels to the brothel in order to try and help her friend, she is kidnapped.  She ends up spending several days with her friend’s brother, James Winters.  With Cynthia compromised, James offers to marry her, but Cynthia doesn’t trust James and is not sure what she wants to do about marriage — but she knows that she wants to explore the sexual attraction between her and James.

OPINION:  By the end of this book, it totally felt like a Bound and Determined novel — very sexy where the characters push their limits.  The story began a little slower than others in the series — perhaps because it was setting up a new stable of characters.

Cynthia (aka Sin) is more innocent than most of the women in this series.  The daughter of an earl, she has been sheltered…but she is also not willing to do exactly what society expects.  She is willing to toss over society in order to meet with her childhood friend — even if that takes her to a brothel.  (Readers of the series will know that the characters in this series are more adventurous than one generally expects in historical romance since this book edges toward historical erotica). She had a crush on James when they were children and her fascination with him has not diminished even though they have not seen one another for years.  She begins as a more conventional character but by the time the book ends she has embraced her own sexuality and her own identity.

James is a character that begins the book needing to be in control.  He is willing and expecting to make all the decisions. A second son, he desires to assert control where he can.  And he expects to make the decisions regarding marriage especially when convention is on his side.  What he doesn’t expect is the willfulness that Cynthia begins to show.  As the book proceeds, James has to learn to surrender — to his feelings and his trust in Cynthia.

Cynthia and James are more conventional than most of the characters in this series and yet are willing to be more unconventional as the book proceeds.  I liked their relationship especially because Cynthia makes James pay for his high handed behavior in the beginning.

While I began the book sad that we had moved on to a new phase of the series, my interest in the intrigue surrounding Madam Blanche and her family increased throughout the book and by the end, I was looking forward to the next book in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING:  As the series has moved on to a new set of characters, this book sets up a whole stable of characters that could get their own stories.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  TANGLED IN SIN is the fifth book in the Bound and Determined series.  This book is really the start of a new phase in the series and can be read as a standalone as the series focuses on new 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 positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-stars

Review: The Chosen

Review: The ChosenThe Chosen (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #15) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #15
Published by Ballantine Books on April 4th 2017
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 544
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“And herein was the conundrum, Xcor thought behind his closed lids. The only possible way out of this deadly scenario was to reveal the love he’d found for a female that was not his, never had been, and was not e’er going to be. But he would not sacrifice the Chosen Layla for anyone or anything. Not even to save himself.”

FINAL DECISION:  Layla and Xcor’s romance brings to light a lot of discord and fractures in the Black Dagger Brotherhood world.  Things are changing and this book demonstrates and brings to light those changes along with a surprisingly sweet romance.  Loved it.

THE STORY:  Xcor is the enemy of the Black Dagger Brotherhood having attempted to assassinate the King.  Captured by the BDB, Xcor is only awaiting death.  He is a vampire who has lived a cruelty and harshness and the first softness he has found are his feelings for Layla.  The Chosen Layla is the mother of twins and has been meeting Xcor secretly because he fascinates her. The only way to stop Xcor’s death sentence is the reveal information she has about him which would threaten her position with her “family” and perhaps her own relationship with her children.

OPINION:  I loved this book.  First, I will confess that I’ve always liked the Xcor and Layla pairing because it really seems like a beauty and the beast scenario (my favorite trope).  I thought they had a difficult journey to find their happiness and it did not always seem like it would be possible.  The story of Xcor and Layla also gave characters that otherwise seemed pretty one-dimensional some needed depth.

Layla has always been in a difficult position as to Xcor.  He is the enemy of everything she loves — and yet she has not been able to resist him.  This book ups the ante and places her own relationship with her children at risk.  I saw in this book her strength in a way that she hasn’t revealed herself before. The heroines in this series have often had to risk things and people that are important to them — the only difference here is that the very characters we have come to know and love are in opposition to the romance.

One thing I really enjoyed is that many of the characters recognize that love is not always controllable and cut Layla some slack.  I thought the majority of the characters reacted in ways that I expected them to — with anger and concern and distrust, but that struggled with their own care for Layla.

Xcor has been changing for a long time in this series.  The long term nature of his story has made his transformation feel natural and real.  I wasn’t surprised by his actions here because it has become evident over time that he will do anything for Layla — even become a better person.

But this book is about more than Xcor and Layla. If it seemed like all the characters were settling into a normalized world — this book rips all that apart.  There are plenty of fractures and changes that this book reveals or causes.  Things are a changin’ in Caldwell and it’s about time.

There are secondary and related stories or glimpses about Qhuinn and Blay, V and Jane, Trez (who has a shock coming after the death of Serena), Throe, Tohr, Assail, and Lassiter.  There are plenty of appearances by other BDB characters and plenty of new stories (including drama and angst) are apparently brewing.

WORTH MENTIONING:  I actively disliked Qhuinn in this book.  His behavior was completely unacceptable and I don’t know that he redeemed himself at all in the end.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE CHOSEN is the fifteenth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series.  This book should be read as part of the series to truly understand the long simmering romance and the dynamics of all the relationships here.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars