Review: Shadow Keeper

Review: Shadow KeeperShadow Keeper (Shadow, #3) by Christine Feehan
Series: Shadow #3
Published by Berkley on May 29, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Paranormal
Pages: 432
Goodreads
two-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I’ve enjoyed the other books in the series, but this one was only average for me. I was more interested in the plot than the romance because I didn’t feel a connection between the characters, and I wasn’t particularly interested in their personal stories.

THE STORY: Giovanni Ferraro doesn’t enjoy playing the playboy for the family while recovering from an injury that prevents him from riding the shadows in the family business. At the club one nights a new waitress catches his eye. Sasha Provis is working two jobs to support the medical care for her brother. But every moment once Giovanni and Sasha meet is filled with drama as Sasha finds herself the focus of a stalker. Giovanni is determined to protect Sasha and Sasha is determined to be her own independent woman.

OPINION: Just didn’t find this book compelling. It wasn’t terrible but merely forgettable. I wasn’t particularly interested in this couple who didn’t really have a strong presence. In fact, I spent much of the book looking for tidbits about other couples whose stories are yet to be told.

Both Sasha and Giovanni felt generic in their character. Their romance happened so quickly that there was no tension in the relationship. Instead, there was the external plot of the Sasha’s stalker and while I found that story interesting, I didn’t find the romance intriguing.

This is the weakest of the series so far, but I have high hopes for the others in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: I have to admit that I find two other couples more interesting and I want their stories rather than this one.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SHADOW KEEPER is the third book in the Shadow series. The romance here is self-contained but there are overlapping characters and the premise of the series isn’t explained as much here as in the earlier books. I recommend reading this series in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2.5 stars.

two-half-stars

Review: The Confounding Case of the Carisbrook Emeralds

Review: The Confounding Case of the Carisbrook EmeraldsThe Confounding Case of the Carisbrook Emeralds by Stephanie Laurens
Series: Casebook of Barnaby Adair #6
Published by Savdek Management Pty Ltd on June 14, 2018
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: This is really a mystery with only a dash of secondary romance — not between the main characters — this is really the continuing stories of Barnaby and his wife Penelope and their friends who have joined together to work through mysteries of the aristocracy. I enjoyed this mystery and getting to see the characters again.

THE STORY: Miss Cara Di Abaccio is accused by her aunt of stealing the family jewels. This begins an investigation into the theft conducted by Inspector Stokes along with Barnaby and Penelope Adair, Stoke’s wife Griselda, and their friends Violet and Montague. Barnaby’s own cousin, Hugo, has taken a romantic interest in Cara and knows she is innocent. The investigation takes a serious turn when one of the maids is found dead.

OPINION: I enjoyed this book which is really a mystery and the romance is really minimal unlike the others in the series. I believe that because of the recurring characters, I didn’t mind that the “romance” that is new here isn’t particularly interesting to me. Instead, I really liked the updates about the characters that I already loved.

The story was one that kept me turning the pages until the end because I liked that there were various stories going on which all had to be resolved in order for the mystery to be “solved”.

The mystery was a good one with a well-developed group of suspects. Each character has a purpose for being in the story and felt like a developed personality. Each character has secrets that are revealed in the course of the story. This is a mystery really based on the characters and thus having a cast of interesting suspects is vital. I enjoyed these characters and their motivations kept the story moving.

WORTH MENTIONING: Very clean story with no sex except implied.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE CONFOUNDING CASE OF THE CARISBROOK EMERALDS is the sixth book in the Casebook of Barnaby Adair series. The mystery in this book is completely self-contained. The characters who do the investigation continue through the series and we get some personal moments and information, but this book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: The Family Gathering

Review: The Family GatheringThe Family Gathering (Sullivan's Crossing, #3) by Robyn Carr
Series: Sullivan's Crossing #3
Published by Mira Books on April 17, 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 352
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: An enjoyable and complex family drama combined with a man and a woman reinventing themselves as part of a community. This is a slow burn romance that gives the characters time to get to know one another and fall in love.

THE STORY: Dakota Jones has come to Sullivan’s Crossing after leaving the military. His brother and sister have settled there and Dakota is, for the first time (after years of keeping his distance), feeling the need to be with his family for a while. But a short visit becomes a job and a sense of place and a woman who interests Dakota from the moment that they meet. Sid is the bartender of her brother’s place and she has some serious baggage of her own. A divorce and a breakdown brought Sid to Sullivan’s Crossing and she has made a new life for herself. She’s definitely not interested in a relationship — but Dakota is not a man who gives up easily.

OPINION: What I loved most about this book was the sense of community that the story creates. The stories of the characters intertwine, the book doesn’t shy away from the hard parts of life such as abuse, betrayal, mental illness, substance abuse, divorce, death and adultery. Yet, this book isn’t a downer. Rather, it is about how characters rise above the problems in their lives and truly connect with the other people in their community.

Dakota comes to Sullivan’s Crossing to reunite with his brother and sister who have settled down in the small town. So this story is not just about Dakota finding a romance but also about family dynamics and siblings building adult relationships with one another. We get to see Dakota building a life for himself in a way that includes the possibility of true connection with one another.

Sid is a woman who has already built a new life for herself, but she is also in a limbo. She doesn’t want to risk love, but she ends up finding Dakota’s persistence and kindness irresistible.

The romance between Dakota and Sid is a gentle and slow building thing. I liked that these two really get to know one another as the book progresses. There is a sweetness and a maturity in their romance along with a deep sense of respect and commitment. This is a grown up story and I really liked that.

There are some dramatic moments dealing with family and some outside agitation, but I never felt that it overshadowed the connection and Dakota and Sid are building. It just felt like a part of life.

I really enjoyed seeing the prior couples from the series and also getting an update on Tom and Lola’s romance.

This is truly a community story and we get to see how people fit together. The story is multi-faceted and has lots of layers and complexity. I really enjoyed returning to Sullivan’s Crossing.

WORTH MENTIONING: For fans of the series, if you read ANY DAY NOW, this book gives a continuation of the story of Sierra and Connie.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE FAMILY GATHERING is the third book in the Sullivan’s Crossing series. While the main romance here is self-contained, this book has various storylines running through it which connect with prior books. I think the book is better read as part of the series although all the information needed is in this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: The Vixen

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

Review: The VixenThe Vixen (Wicked Wallflowers, #2) by Christi Caldwell
Series: Wicked Wallflowers #2
Published by Montlake Romance on August 7, 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 366
Goodreads
four-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: Enjoyable historical romance with interesting characters. This story has been done before but the characters make this a lively story. I wish there was more emotional connection between the characters early on because the last twenty-five percent of the book was wonderful.

THE STORY: Investigator Connor Steele is hunting for a child who might have been kidnapped. His work takes him back to St. Giles from from which Connor escaped. But St. Giles cannot be rubbed off so easily and his investigation reunites him with Ophelia Killoran. As children, each had saved one another. Now Ophelia has taken onto herself the job of protecting the children, but Connor’s investigation brings into question exactly what Ophelia is doing and where are the children coming from. The two share a past and are suspicious of one another in the present.

OPINION: I liked this book, but I never got emotionally engaged enough to love it. The story is well constructed and the characters are interesting.

Both Connor and Ophelia struggle with the line between the criminal and poor elements and the aristocracy. Ophelia’s brother wants to marry her off to an aristocrat to help drag their family from the lower classes. Connor was adopted by an aristocrat but still has the muck of his past with him.

The characters have a good journey, but — for me – there was something missing. Intensity or emotional connection. Something that would pull me through the pages, pull at my heart and make me love the book.

Fans of Caldwell will find much to love here. The class conflicts are better developed here than in the last book. I enjoyed these characters together. The reading was easy and not particularly deep until the last quarter of the book.

The last quarter of the book was amazing. The intensity, the connection, the passion was wonderful. The rest of the book felt like a setup for the end, but the end definitely paid off.

WORTH MENTIONING: Trigger warning: sexual assault.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE VIXEN is the second book in the Wicked Wallflowers series. The book can be read as a standalone although the characters are overlapping between the books.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to assist with preparing this 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: Heartless

Review: HeartlessHeartless (The House of Rohan) (Volume 5) by Anne Stuart
Series: The House of Rohan #5
Published by Impeccably Demure Press on May 14, 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 316
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION: Loved the couple was completely lukewarm about the plot of the book which seemed to have some pointless complications. Struggled through the first half and enjoyed the second.

THE STORY: Emma Cadbury is having a second life as a surgeon after years of being the youngest madam in London and a prostitute before that. What she doesn’t need is the complication of Brandon Rohan. Emma met Brandon when he was recovering from serious war injuries and she urged him to live. Several years have passed and Brandon’s memories of those times have been clouded by his prior addiction to opium. When someone tries to murder Emma, Brandon is determined to protect Emma even if she wants to stay away from the man she knows is not for her.

OPINION: This book was okay but a disappointment to my expectations. I read the prior book years ago and I had anticipated Emma and Brandon’s book so much. While I still loved Emma and Brandon together, I was greatly disappointed by the story in this book.

The entire first half of the book was a slog to get through. There was not enough of Emma and Brandon’s relationship and a lot of stuff that was intended to complicate their relationship and ended up being annoying and abandoned by the end. There is the “other woman” story that went absolutely nowhere but was the primary reason that Emma and Brandon couldn’t get together quickly.

The murder attempts didn’t work as well in the beginning as the setup.

The second half of the book was much better. When the focus turns to just Emma and Brandon, the pace picked up, the intensity of the character’s relationship increased and I enjoyed reading the second half very much.

So this is a book that ultimately ended up okay for me, but I didn’t enjoy the first half of the journey which seemed mostly pointless.

WORTH MENTIONING: I liked the epilogue, but can’t help but wish that we actually got to see the events.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HEARTLESS is the fifth book in the House of Rohan series.  While each book in this series is about a different couple, there are overlapping characters. Indeed, the story of this book began in the prior book in the series, SHAMELESS, and I think this book is better read after that book (even though the events are summarized here).

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars

Review: Chaser

Review: ChaserChaser (Dive Bar, #3) by Kylie Scott
Series: Dive Bar #3
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on April 17, 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 270
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: An enjoyable story about a man who meets the right woman and it changes his whole life. I enjoyed the story which is told in the first person from Eric’s point of view and how his whole world changes warmed my heart.

THE STORY: Something is just not right with Eric Collins. He’s feeling unsettled and when he meets newcomer Jean, his no commitment, single swinging lifestyle doesn’t call to him as much as spending time with the very pregnant single mom who ends up being his neighbor. But the friendship that develops between the two is constantly challenged by Eric’s attraction to Jean.

OPINION: This book’s slow and steady romance was wonderful. We get to see Eric actually changing as the book progresses. The events occur over months and Eric finds himself becoming the man that Jean needs. Getting to see exclusively Eric’s point of view allowed me to have sympathy for a guy who seemed shallow and immature in the prior books of the series. The book is sweet and made me smile as Jean and Eric got to know one another.

I was most impressed that this book made me really like Eric by the end. I truly believed that he had changed as the book progressed and a guy who I worried would be a lousy hero ends up being a man willing to love a woman and her child.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a special appearance and update that will please fans of Kylie Scott’s other books.

CONNECTED BOOKS: CHASER is the third book in the Dive Bar series. The romance here is self-contained and can be read as a standalone, but there are overlapping characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Born to be Wilde

Review: Born to be WildeBorn to Be Wilde (The Wildes of Lindow Castle, #3) by Eloisa James
Series: The Wildes of Lindow Castle #3
Published by Avon on July 31, 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Slow burn story of two people who have known each other and yet don’t know one another at all. I loved the intense emotional aspects of the story and how these two discover one another.

THE STORY: Lavinia Gray is desperate after discovering that her mother is an addict, spent all their money and stolen from family and friends. She needs to marry immediately before the scandal is discovered so she approaches Parth Sterling to propose marry. But he turns her down. The fashion obsessed and shallow Lavinia is not the type of woman Parth intends to marry and, in fact, he has a much more suitable candidate in mind. Parth, however, promises Lavinia to help her find a groom. Parth’s efforts only seem to make Lavinia more attractive to him as he discovers the real woman that he dismissed so easily.

OPINION: I ended up loving this book. It took a while to grow on me because Lavinia and Parth seemed so mismatched in the beginning. But as the two really began to know one another and as the book concentrated on the emotional lives of these characters, I began to fall with them as they fell for one another.

For a book that feels light and funny, this book has a a deep undertone — like Lavinia herself. I enjoyed that the book begins with Lavinia at her most desperate and then becomes how Lavinia finds a way to save herself. As she does, she shows Parth who she really is and Parth begins to fall for her.

The romance between Parth and Lavinia takes the time it needs to develop. It allows for the emotional depth of the characters and the relationship to be emphasized. I loved that the book really rests on these two characters and their relationship rather than all the external story.

One of the characteristics of the series has been that the hero really has to take the leap into the fire for the heroine emotionally. The Wilde men are emotional and passionate when they recognize the woman for them. I love that about them and Parth shows that he is a true Wilde even if he wasn’t born with the name.

WORTH MENTIONING: I loved, loved, loved being able to see more of North and Diana and there are some beautiful moments with them. This is a must read book for fans of these two.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BORN TO BE WILDE is the third book in the Wildes of Lindow Castle series. The romance in this book is self-contained and can be read as a standalone. I think, however, that the characters in this book are better understood when the series is read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Shameless

Review: ShamelessShameless (The House of Rohan, #4) by Anne Stuart
Series: The House of Rohan #4
Published by Mira Books on June 21, 2011
Genres: Historical
Pages: 411
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I loved the romance between Benedick and Melisande which is more traditional than the other books in this series (Benedick is not as rakish or as close to irredeemable as the other heroes in the series). The two are so perfect for one another from the start but are determined to resist the possibility.

THE STORY: Viscount Benedick Rohan has been exceedingly unlucky with women. He’s buried two wives and had a fiancee commit suicide. He needs an heir and this time he intends to find a woman that he can marry and then ignore while he finds his pleasure elsewhere. His attempts to find that pleasure are interrupted by Lady Melisande Carstairs who is a social reformer who has taken on protecting prostitutes as her cause. She’s called “Charity Carstairs” and she and Benedick can’t do anything but fight and bicker, but when Melisande needs Benedick’s help in foiling the Heavenly Host, the two end up striking all kinds of sparks off of one another.

OPINION: The most traditional of the series, Benedick is a man who doesn’t want to be hurt again so he’s determined to keep away from the woman who threatens his peace. I found Benedick’s desire to protect himself the most poignant part of this book. He comes from a place of hurt and that makes him strike out to protect himself. He hurts Melisande, but hurts himself during the process. He’s not the nicest or kindest hero, but compared to his sister’s husband (Lucien from BREATHLESS) he’s pretty much a choirboy.

Melisande is a woman who is incredibly strong and determined. After a marriage to an old and ill man, she has tossed convention aside in her desire to help prostitutes. It has scandalized the aristocracy and left her reputation in tatters, but she does not allow the opinions of others to keep her from doing what she believes is right. Eschewing marriage and family, Melisande insists she is content with her life.

Both Benedick and Melisande, however, hide an inner desire for love and family. And they are immediately attracted to one another. They hide and protect themselves with arguments and anger towards one another.

I loved their romance and Benedick in particular because he so desperately wants to love Melisande and is so afraid of doing so.

I also really enjoyed getting to see Miranda and Lucien again. Although we get to see their happy ending in BREATHLESS, I liked seeing how their relationship has grown and changed after several years.

Benedick is not the typical Stuart anti-hero. He’s much more traditional even if he is a jerk to the heroine for a lot of the book.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book also begins the story of Brandon and Emma. It took 7 years but Stuart finally has written their story which was painfully incomplete in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SHAMELESS is the fourth book in the House of Rohan series. There are overlapping characters in this series, but the romance here is self-contained and can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

 

four-half-stars

Review: As You Wish

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

Review: As You WishAs You Wish by Jude Deveraux
Series: The Summerhouse
Published by Mira Books on March 6, 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 416
Goodreads
two-stars

FINAL DECISION: This book isn’t really for me. The intertwined stories of three women combined with time travel/alternate realities was just too odd women’s fiction. Not a bad book, but not one I would pick up again.

THE STORY:  Sixty year old Oliva is a newlywed with regrets. Not over her marriage, but over the years she wasted away from the man she loves. Forty year old Kathy is married to man who is in love with someone else. Elise is married to a man who seems to want to get rid of her — in any way possible. The three end up at Summerhouse with the opportunity to change everything in their lives and make things right.

OPINION: I’m not the audience for this book because something really bothers me about the entire premise of the story. I don’t like the “let’s have a redo” on stories in general. It’s tricky because it feels to me like a cop-out on having to accept the choices one makes. I am often willing to suspend disbelief, but this premise always bothers me.

The multiple storylines also kept me disconnected from all of them. I prefer my books more emotion and this book just felt like a gimmick based on the plot. The story wasn’t bad and neither were the characters, but the resolution just didn’t work for me. I think someone who was willing to look past the plot twist might enjoy this one better.

On the positive side, I like seeing the Montgomerys.

WORTH MENTIONING: I’m not sure I like the impact of this story on THE GIRL FROM SUMMER HILL.

CONNECTED BOOKS: AS YOU WISH is the third book in the Summerhouse series, but I haven’t read those books. For me, the book is a sequel of sorts to THE GIRL FROM SUMMER HILL.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2 stars.

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

two-stars

Review: Breathless

Review: BreathlessBreathless (The House of Rohan, #3) by Anne Stuart
Series: The House of Rohan #3
Published by MIRA on October 1, 2010
Genres: Historical
Pages: 379
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: This book is definitely not for everyone. The hero is one of Stuart’s dark antiheroes who teeters on the edge of being completely unredeemable — and some readers might find his action unforgivable. But for someone who likes Stuart’s antiheroes, Lucien is one of my favorites.

THE STORY:  Lucien de Malheur, Earl of Rochdale aka The Scorpion is out for revenge against the Rohans. Blaming them for the death of his only sister, Lucien arranges for the ruin of the Rohan daughter Lady Miranda Rohan. When things don’t go as planned, Lucien sets out to arrange a friendship with Miranda which he intends to lead to marriage as part of his revenge.

OPINION: The romance between Lucien and Miranda is dark and combative and there is something that I just love about them together. I have truly loved many of Stuart’s dark antiheroes, and Lucien is certainly one of those.

Lucien is almost unredeemable. He orchestrates the heroine’s loss of virginity at the hands of a truly awful man. He threatens her throughout the book. But he is totally not in control of the relationship. In the battle of wills, I believe that Miranda is the ultimate victor because she pulls Lucien from his plans and revenge and evil deeds. Miranda is the center and the strength of what is going on between them. She finds her strength and her passion with Lucien.

This book is definitely not for everyone. Readers who are sensitive about rape and threats of coercion probably should skip this book. While the hero does not rape the heroine, he certainly orchestrated what many will see as rape — even if the heroine will not name it as rape.

There is something compelling about these two. Most of the story occurs with them playing games with one another. The romance happens in what is not said between these two. In the moments that bring them together even if their words are a battle.

This ended up being one of my favorite Stuart books even as I dislike Lucien intensely as the book begins every time I read it.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a secondary romance that is almost a novella in itself and is wonderful itself.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BREATHLESS is the third book in the House of Rohan series.  The romance is completely a standalone although the heroine here is the daughter of the hero from the second book and the granddaughter of the hero from the first book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

 

five-stars