Review: Last Night with the Duke

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

Review: Last Night with the DukeLast Night with the Duke (The Rakes of St. James, #1) by Amelia Grey
Series: The Rakes of St. James #1
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on March 7th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 304
Goodreads

FINAL DECISION:  The highlight of this book is the interaction between the hero and heroine which is sexy at times and full of banter. The book was adequate as a story but it just didn’t grab me.  Three stars for me is a book I don’t mind paying for, but will probably be one I only read once.  I did like it enough to want to read more of the series.

THE STORY:  Benedict Mercer, Duke of Griffin, needs a chaperone for his twin sisters.  This is especially important because Griffin’s past misdeeds threaten his sisters as someone might be seeking to ruin their season as revenge for Griffin and his friends youthful adventures.  Griffin comes to Miss Mamie Fortescue’s Employment Agency seeking to hire a chaperone and finds Miss Esmeralda Swift.  Esmeralda is the daughter of a viscount but her mother’s scandalous second marriage has left Esmeralda with a younger sister to raise and herself outside of society.  She doesn’t want to accept the duke’s offer, but she needs the money.  The close proximity the two end up in draws them closer together and asks them both to take some risks.

OPINION:  The hero and heroine quickly have an attraction to one another but are limited by their circumstances. Both are honorable people who don’t want to overstep the bounds of the chaperone/employer relationship. Griffin is very conscious of his power status and unwilling to compromise Esmeralda while she is his employee.  Esmeralda takes her chaperone position seriously and doesn’t want to risk Griffin’s sisters by having their chaperone become a scandal.  This creates tension and conflict between the characters.  And through their conflict, the two engage in intellectual foreplay and force a partnership to help Griffin’s sisters.

For me, the relationship between the two characters was the best part of this story.  I did find the word craft of the story a bit tedious at times and I was tempted to turn pages too quickly to get on with the story.  Nothing in this book was bad, but I was not excited by the story enough to want to jump to read it again.  Rather, I digested the book and went on.  That being said, I enjoyed the story enough to want to read the next book in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING:  One duke down, two more to go!

CONNECTED BOOKS:  LAST NIGHT WITH THE DUKE is the first book in the Rakes of St. James series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3 stars.

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

Review: How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days

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: How to Tame a Beast in Seven DaysHow to Tame a Beast in Seven Days (The Embraced, #1) by Kerrelyn Sparks
Series: The Embraced #1
Published by St. Martin's Press on March 7th 2017
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 416
Goodreads
four-stars

“Never touch the Beast.

“Never let the Beast touch you.”

FINAL DECISION:  Very enjoyable first book in a news series, and I can’t wait to read more. The story of two people whose supernatural gifts haunt them both. They manage to find love in an arranged marriage where danger and death surround them.

THE STORY:  Raised on the Isle of Moon and believing herself an orphan, Luciana was aware that she is one of the Embraced (those born on a night of eclipsing moons who have supernatural powers) but did not know her true lineage.  When her father appears in her life, she discovers that if she doesn’t marry the Beast of Benwick, her father will be killed. However, if it is discovered that Luciana is actually impersonating her dead sister, both she and her father will be killed. Lord Leofric, aka the Beast, is also Embraced.  He has the power to use lightning, but that gift comes with the cost that he can kill people with his touch.  Ordered to marry by his uncle the king (who also happens to want Leo dead), Leo expects a loveless marriage of circumstances, until he meets Luciana who is far more than he expected.

OPINION:  A new series kicks off with a bang with the introduction of a world in conflict. A man who hasn’t been touched since he was a child because of his “gift” and a woman who is forced to impersonate her dead twin and hide every facet of herself.  When the two marry, their gifts complicate their lives.

A new series, especially in the paranormal/fantasy romance arena can involve a lot of explanations and worldbuilding which impedes the progression of the plot.  While this book is the first book in the new series, it largely avoids the extended explanations which can slow down the story.

Instead, the story has a most intriguing hero.  A man who is tormented by his own gift.  Leo is a man who cares enough about the people of his uncle’s realm that he wants to protect them even as they fear him.  A warrior, Leo has sacrificed much and his fits has separated him from others.  Immediately he sees something in Luciana and as the two navigate their marriage, there is humor along with the political intrigue and danger.

Luciana is sweet and being convent raised, she is a bit naive.  This leads to some amusing situations with her new husband. One thing is that Luciana is almost too sweet, but she is never annoying.  Her generosity and genuine caring for other people gives her depth and while innocent in many ways, she is not ignorant of the world.

I loved the humor and sweetness between Luciana and Leo even as the story dips into political intrigue and death. The story has a nice balance to it and I really look forward to reading more about this world as the series unfolds.

WORTH MENTIONING:  There are all types of supernatural powers in this world.  Elves and shifters, witches, those who harness the elements, and those who see the dead.  Because being one of the Embraced is such a danger, there is much still to discover about these people.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  HOW TO TAME A BEAST IN SEVEN DAYS is the first book of The Embraced series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

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

four-stars

Review: Lady’s Code of Misconduct

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: Lady’s Code of MisconductA Lady's Code of Misconduct (Rules for the Reckless, #5) by Meredith Duran
Series: Rules for the Reckless #5
Published by Pocket Books on February 28th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 400
Goodreads
five-stars

“Who are you? How do you know me?” The color drained from her face. “I…” Her lips opened and closed. “I’m Jane,” she said unsteadily. “And you…” Her indrawn breath sounded ragged. “You, Crispin, are my husband.”

FINAL DECISION: Oh, how I loved this one!  A man who might otherwise be the villain of the story completely — ok, not so completely — redeemed by love.  Complex and twisty and so enjoyable.  This series just keeps getting better!

THE STORY:  Jane Mason is trapped by her uncle who intends to marry her to his son in order to control her fortune. Condemned to suppress all her personality behind a meek exterior, Jane desperately wants to evade her uncle’s plots.  Mr. Crispin Burke is a ruthless man who intends to be prime minister.  He will do anything to protect his alliance with Jane’s uncle — even if that means destroying Jane’s own chances.  A blackmailed bargain and a murder attempt ends up with the two being married, but when she gains control of her fortune, will Jane be able to leave the man she hated…but for whom she has begun to care?

OPINION:  This book is so wonderful but so difficult to describe without giving away the twists and turns which make the book sing.

The book begins with a hero who seems completely irredeemable.  He is ambitious to the exclusion of all else and exceedingly immoral.  He will bribe, blackmail, and deal in all types of corruption in order to succeed.  He will be Prime Minister and he will do anything to accomplish that feat.  Crispin threatens the heroine and blackmails her into doing his bidding.  Even when he knows that Jane is desperately mistreated and willing to do almost anything to free herself…he ignores her plight except to the extent that it can benefit himself.  Jane has known Crispin for years and she knows that he is a ruthless and immoral man.

“Power made a fine panacea for any number of old aches. It would be revenge and pleasure and comfort rolled up into one.”

While Crispin appears a lost cause as the book begins, a twist of fate strips him of his invulnerability and leaves him open to change.  An attempt on his life leaves him with no memory of the evils he has done or the reasons for them.  Jane, now married to Crispin, knows the man he was, but finds herself falling in love with the man he is now.  The fear and drama of the story is that neither knows what will happen to them if Crispin remembers the man he was.

Jane is a woman who is struggling for independence. A beloved daughter who was valued for her intellect and opinions, she has begun to lose herself under the oppression of her uncle. Yet she is determined to free herself. Her stubborn and powerful will for freedom allows her to make a decision which will change her life and Crispin’s as well.

The tension in this book is tightly drawn because as the two attempt to discover who attempted to kill Crispin, they must explore who Crispin was and what he was up to.  The danger of every revelation is that is might trigger Crispin’s memories and the return of the man that Jane knows she cannot help but hate.  Something else happens as the two make their discoveries…the reasons for Crispin’s heartless pursuit of power become clear and perhaps provides a more sympathetic portrait of the villain at the beginning of the book.

What I loved most about this book is that its core message becomes one of understanding and acceptance that love requires. Crispin is not all bad and we learn that Jane is not all that good.  People have flaws and weaknesses.  Those flaws can make us the heroes of the story as we overcome their influence on our lives and protect against the damage they may do, or they can make us hard and indeed the villain of our own story. Both Crispin and Jane are more complex than they appeared at the beginning of the book.  By the end, they both see one another clearly and as a whole fallible person.

That brings me to the chemistry between Jane and Crispin which is blistering hot. The two seem to relish the intellectual battle of wills as enemies which leads to sexy encounters even as their antipathy diminishes. I loved these two together, couldn’t put the book down and really didn’t want the book to end. In fact, as the book ended, I couldn’t help but hope we might see more of them in future books.

This might be my favorite book in the series and I really, really liked the last one.  Now I have to read both again to compare!

WORTH MENTIONING:  Oh, I hope we get to read more about Lockwood!

CONNECTED BOOKS:  LADY’S CODE OF MISCONDUCT is the fifth book in the Rules for the Reckless series.  This book does not rely on any other book in the series and can be read as a complete standalone.

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: Windswept

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: WindsweptWindswept by Deborah Martin, Sabrina Jeffries
Series: Welsh #2
Published by Pocket Books on February 28th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“If any woman of thy lineage doth not drink of the cup at her wedding, her husband shall die within three years of her wedding.”

FINAL DECISION:  The book has an elegance and a more serious tone than other books by Jeffries.  I really enjoyed these characters and the journey they took because while there are many secrets and deceptions between them, there is a joy and lightness that surrounds this couple.

THE STORY:  Catrin Price is a Welsh widow with a family death curse.  If she does not drink from a druid cup at her wedding, her husband will die within three years.  That has already happened to Catrin and she knows that if she wants to fulfill her desire for a husband and family, she must recover the cup.  She manages to track it down but when she gets it, the man from whom she purchased it is murdered.  Evan Newcome is a scholar who is looking for the woman last seen with his friend. He believes that she might have something to do with his death and is determined to find out the truth.

OPINION:  This book has two elements that I really liked: the characters connection to one another and the ending which pushes the characters into an uneasy situation where love must overcome fear.

These two characters have a difficult road.  Catrin and Evan come to one another with lies and deceptions.  Both are lying and concealing information.  As they begin to build their relationship, these lies threaten the possibility of any true connection between them.  Catrin is a woman determined to overcome the notorious legacy of her family. She takes risks which stretch her understanding of who she is. She makes choices which take her close to the line of doing wrong. Evan is also on a mission. He is determined to avenge his friend’s death. He is willing to do whatever it takes — lies are just the beginning.  But he doesn’t count on falling for Catrin. Just when it seems that the two might have untangled their lives, the external threats arise.

I found this story very exciting and liked that it operated to push the two main characters into revealing more about themselves and to grow closer to one another. In the best twist of the book, the plot devise strips the main characters of the expected resolution to the story. As the final chapter closes, the characters have to put their faith in love and one another and trust that life will be good to them.  There are no guarantees for these characters, but don’t worry my friends, things work out very well for them in the end.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This is a revised and reissued version of the book by the same name originally written by this author under the name of Deborah Martin.  Make sure you don’t already have it in your collection before buying it!

CONNECTED BOOKS:  WINDSWEPT is the second book in the Welsh series.  It is not necessary to read the other book first (I didn’t!).  This book can operate as 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: Renegade’s Pride

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: Renegade’s PrideRenegade's Pride (Cahill Ranch #1) by B.J. Daniels
Series: Cahill Ranch #1
Published by Harlequin Books on February 28th 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION:  A perfectly adequate book that fails to be completely engrossing because of the number of characters and storylines introduced.

THE STORY:  For nine years Lillian Cahill has thought about the man who left her.  Trask Beaumont ran out on Lillian under suspicion of murder.  He’s now returned to clear his name and get back the only woman he has ever loved.  But strange things are now happening in town with women disappearing and the question is whether these things are connected with Trask’s reappearance or Trask himself.

OPINION:  The story of a couple who gets a second chance at love, RENEGADE’S PRIDE introduces readers to a town where there are many secrets.  During the book, we are introduced to many characters — especially the Cahill’s — who have secrets which will be revealed in the series.

For me, this book spent a lot of time on introducing all the characters.  As a result, the relationship of the main couple failed to be compelling.  My first problem was that I just couldn’t get over the nine year gap in their relationship.  Because the building of the relationship of Trask and Lillian took place years ago, it is considered established as the book begins while I didn’t really get the connection between them.  While the relationship progresses as the book goes on, it takes a long time for these two to truly feel like they belong together.

The focus here in the mystery of what happened nine years ago.  But with so much going on, the relationship got a little lost.  That being said, the story as a whole was good enough to keep me interested and make me want to read more about the people in this town.

WORTH MENTIONING:  There are many unfinished storylines as typical of Daniels series.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  Renegade’s Pride is the first book in the Cahill Ranch series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3 stars.

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

three-stars

Review: Royally Matched

Review: Royally MatchedRoyally Matched (Royally, #2) by Emma Chase
Series: Royally #2
on February 21st 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 276
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“I have an hour before I need to leave, so it’ll be tea and …Sense and Sensibility for a bit. It’s the perfect read. Just enough drama and angst to be interesting, but mostly light and entertaining, with the happiest ending. Colonel Brandon is my favorite–the ultimate book husband. He made good and upstanding look sexy as all get-out. Someday, I’ll meet a man just like him–romantic, steady, and reliable–and I don’t give a damn how silly that sounds. How immature or fanciful.

“Because I have a theory.

“If nightmares can come true, and sometimes they do…then so can our happiest dreams.”

FINAL DECISION:  Intensely romantic, this book feels a little more like a fairy tale than real life, but that’s one reason it is so good.  A shy librarian who falls in love with the future king of her country and tames the wild rake.

THE STORY:  Prince Henry is having trouble adjusting to being the heir apparent after his brother abdicated his position as next in line for the throne of their country.  Now, after a lifetime of fun and games, Henry is feeling the constant pressure to be perfect.  Temporarily banished to a distant estate, Henry agrees to participate in a matchmaker reality show to find a wife (think The Bachelor).  While beautiful women are all around him seeking fame and perhaps him, Henry is drawn to the sister of one of the contestants — Sarah Von Titebottum, a shy librarian who has agreed to accompany her sister to avoid having to give a presentation.  Despite his participation in the show, Henry has no intension of finding the love of his life — but Sarah changes all that.  But how can a man who has always been considered a shallow party animal and womanizer convince a woman looking for serious and responsible that he is man for her?

OPINION:  Funny, romantic and sweet was not what I expected when I read the description of this book, but that is what I got.  Henry is simply adorable. He’s a man who has placed in a position that he never expected to inhabit.  Now he is struggling to figure out how to be himself as heir when everyone else seems to be trying to tell him who he should be.  While his grandmother, the Queen, wants and expects Henry to be circumspect and proper, he instead decides to agree to a matchmaking reality show to find a bride. He doesn’t actually expect to find a bride — just relief from his boredom and internal fears of not measuring up.  He doesn’t expect to find Sarah.

While the two had met before, this is the first time that he has spent any significant time with her.  And he finds that she gives him the opportunity to be himself — a man — rather than a prince.  Their interactions are funny and sweet and while Henry is challenging Sarah to come out of her shell, she is allowing him to be responsible and serious in his own unique way.

Sarah was a particularly interesting character.  She has an air of innocence worthy of any potential bride of a prince, but she also has spunk and quirks that make her fun and modern.  I genuinely liked her and I loved how she is willing to see the man and not the prince.

This story is willing to be blatantly romantic.  There is a gauze of fairy tale over the entire story, but I thought that worked well for this story (which is different from the reality in the first book in the series).  I loved the book and if I had one complaint it is that I would like to see more of this couple together and happy because they have work to do in the world.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book is told in alternating first person point of view.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ROYALLY MATCHED is the second book in the Royally series.  While the romance is independent in this book, I think it is better to read the first book to understand more about Henry.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Wildfire

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: WildfireWildfire (Fire, #3) by Anne Stuart
Series: Fire #3
Published by Amazon Digital Services on February 14th 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 290
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  I really enjoyed this story because there is serious drama and suspense as Sophie and Malcolm are trapped on the island with Sophie’s insane husband. The pacing and characters makes this a very enjoyable book.

THE STORY: Sophie Jordan was an operative with the Committee until she fell in love and married a target of her investigation.  He turned out to be a psychopath and an arms dealer.  Once her husband found out that she had lied to him, he tried to have her killed.  Instead, Sophie was left parallelized and at the mercy of her husband.  Malcolm Gunnison, undercover as an arms dealer, comes to the island in order to finish the job that Sophie botched.  He’s going to discover Sophie’s husband’s new biological weapon and then kill him.  Mal will also kill Sophie if necessary or if she gets in his way.

OPINION: I am a huge fan of Stuart’s Ice series.  Several of those books are on my all time favorites list.  Until this book, the Fire books have been okay but don’t begin to approach the amazing Ice books.  I’m happy to report, however, that WILDFIRE, while not as superlative as the best Ice books, is definitely worthy of being in the same universe.

I really liked Sophie in this story because as the book begins she has been in a deadly battle of wills with her evil husband. I prefer this damaged and dangerous heroine over the sweet innocent.  Sophie made mistakes in her past and has paid for it for years.  Now she is ready to win her freedom and kill her husband, if possible.  She also is immune from handsome dangerous men — or so she believes.  Of course, she find herself reluctantly attracted to the dangerous Mal. The combination of innocence, cynicism, ability to survive and desire to be free makes Sophie’s character one that I desired to follow her journey.

Mal is a nicer Stuart hero than most in these series.  While he begins the book entirely willing to kill Sophie if necessary — or even if she is somewhat inconvenient to him — he quickly begins to fall for her as well.  And although he does some bad things in this book, he is not as dark as some of Stuart’s heroes.  I liked his competence, his determination to do what is necessary and his total commitment to his mission — until, of course, Sophie begins to upset this world.

The story is tense and filled with danger and drama.  There is always the question of the motives of the various characters. I liked that there is almost constant danger with the characters.  From the first page, the characters are in precarious positions and that made the story go quickly.  By having all the action of the book take place on a private island with limited characters and danger all around, the constant sense of peril is preserved.  I liked the story and the development of the characters as they progress.

While not reaching the heights of the best Ice books, this book is the best of the Fire series so far.

WORTH MENTIONING:  The Fire series is about the American branch of the Committee, an anti-terrorism group that uses whatever means necessary, including murder, to stop terrorists.  The series this spins off from, the ICE series, has characters which are mentioned or make appearances in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  WILDFIRE is the third book in the Fire series.  This book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

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

four-half-stars

Review: The Scoundrel’s Honor

Review: The Scoundrel’s HonorThe Scoundrel's Honor (Sinful Brides, #2) by Christi Caldwell
Series: Sinful Brides #2
Published by Amazon Digital Services on February 14th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 354
Goodreads
four-stars

“Somewhere between Ryker Black’s rise from guttersnipe to ruthless owner of the Hell and Sin Club, the world had learned — one did not cross him, interrupt him, or interfere with his dealings.  Ever.”

FINAL DECISION:  A story that has a lot of drama, this book stays on the surface of the emotions of the characters.  That makes what might otherwise be a dark book interesting but not compelling.  I enjoyed the book because of the characters especially the heroine.

THE STORY:  Lady Penelope Tidemore is having her debut and she intends on being proper in a family full of scandals.  Unfortunately, at the first opportunity, Penny ends up in a bigger scandal than anyone else.  She is caught in a compromising situation with Ryker Black, the bastard son of a duke and the owner of a gaming hell.  There is little choice but for Penelope to marry Ryker but is there any hope for this marriage between strangers from such different worlds?

OPINION:  This book takes what might be a dark subject and keeps the pacing and story on a less dramatic level.  The book lacks the depths of a dark, angsty novel with the same subject matter, but it has a sweetness and gentleness to the story that will appeal to readers who want a little bite to their stories without delving into darkness.

In many romance novels, it is the hero whose characters I tend to like more.  Here, I liked Penelope the most in the book.  Here is a woman who is raised among a loving and privileged family.  The worst thing she has to worry about is gossip and scandal about her family. When she is thrust into Ryker’s world, she makes attempts to bring some of her lightness and gentleness into his world.  While he continues to reject her, she is determined to make this new world a better place and bring some of her hominess and family to bear on the new family she gains.

Ryker is a self-made man who struggles with what he had to do to survive. He is guilt ridden and at his core afraid.  He hides all the seething emotions inside himself with order and rules and coldness.  Penelope comes into his life with her constant chatting and her innocent belief that she can make things work out. She is a dreamer who won’t allow the reality of life to sap her of her optimism.  Ryker just doesn’t know how to deal with that.  I liked watching his world as he has constructed it crumble under Penelope’s gentle ruthlessness.

For me the characters were the highlight of this book.  The romance in this book happens incredibly fast and there is so much animosity between these characters at times, it is hard to believe that they so quickly fall for one another.  My second complaint is that this book uses almost exactly the same sequence of events as the first book in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Penelope’s younger sister HAS to get a book someday!

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE SCOUNDREL’S HONOR is the second book in the Sinful Brides series.  The hero in this book is the brother of the heroine in the first book.  The story is self contained and can be read on its own although I recommend reading the first book in order to better understand the 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 Rogue’s Wager

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 Rogue’s WagerThe Rogue's Wager (Sinful Brides, #1) by Christi Caldwell
Series: Sinful Brides #1
Published by Amazon Digital Services on October 25th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 338
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  The book started out slow, but as it progressed and the characters revealed more about themselves, I loved how the two of them were similar in unexpected ways.

THE STORY:  Robert Dennington, Marquess of Westfield, has spent years in aimless pursuits after having been betrayed. The heir to a dukedom, Robert allows himself to wallow in drunkenness and vice one night.  On that night, he ends up at the Hell and Sin Club and in the rooms of Helena Banbury, who lives at the gaming hell and is the bookkeeper for the enterprise. That night ends up changing Helena’s night as she is sent to live with her father, a duke. It is difficult for an illegitimate daughter in the aristocratic world but Helena ends up meeting Robert again and making a deal for his pretend courtship of her so that she can discourage other men.

OPINION: This book has a quick opening gambit as Helena and Robert end up in a compromising position, but then the book slows way down when Helena goes to live with her father.  I found much of the first part of the book disjointed and the pacing slow.  There are just too many things going on and the story didn’t really focus on the couple.

Eventually, however, the story began to concentrate on Helena and Robert and that is when I became more engaged with the book.  I did like these characters, especially Helena.  She is a woman who is determined to control her own life despite the efforts of the men in it.  She is intelligent and has made a place for herself in her brother’s gaming hell.

Robert is a hidden sweetheart.  A man who is a romantic at heart but has been burned and thus chosen to cut himself off from his hopes of love. He quickly sees worth in Helena even though she is scarred and illegitimate. His courtship of Helena was my favorite part in the book (from their waltz lessons to his final romantic gesture to win her).

Despite the uneven nature of this book, the characters really pulled out the story in the end. It was their personality, their relationship and their triumph that I cheered.

WORTH MENTIONING:  I love a heroine who is talented in math — and Helena is even better than the men in her life.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE ROGUE’S WAGER is the first book in the Sinful Brides series.  The characters here are connected to prior Caldwell series, but this book is a standalone.  I have not read the prior series but didn’t need to in order to get the full impact of this book.  This book did, however, raise my interest in reading the prior series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: Echoes in Death

Review: Echoes in DeathEchoes in Death (In Death, #44) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #44
Published by St. Martin's Press on February 7th 2017
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 400
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  A good mystery story, this book has some nice twists.  I miss the intensity and drama of Eve’s personal life.  She’s so settled now that it is a nice respite, but there is no doubt that the earlier books in the series were more compelling.

THE STORY:  NY Police Lieutenant Eve Dallas is driving home with her billionaire husband Roarke when a naked, disoriented and abused woman runs out.  Daphne Strazza has been held hostage in her home, abused and raped.  When Eve goes to investigate, she finds that Daphne’s husband has been murdered.  As Eve and her family and friends investigate, they find that someone is targeting couples.

OPINION: I first want to explain that I have been reading this series since the beginning — over 20 years.  I early await every new installment of the series.  I will also confess that I prefer the earlier books in the series where there was more conflict in Eve’s life.  That being said, after 40 plus books, I don’t expect the characters or their situation to remain the same.  Now Eve is more balanced, more centered and more peaceful.  As a result, there is less personal drama in the recent books in this series.

Without the personal drama, the story rests far more on the actual mystery/crime being solved.  This one is pretty good on that account.  Eve is investigating a serial rapist who always involves a couple. I thought the way the story evolved and revealed itself created a sense of tension and drama.  Longtime readers will know that sex crimes take a toll on Eve because of her past and her handling of this one demonstrates how strong and open she has become.  There is definite pleasure in seeing that development while readers who haven’t followed the entire journey can enjoy the mystery.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Usually I don’t find the mysteries in these books compelling (with a few exceptions).  This time I thought the mystery was well constructed and worth trying to figure out.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ECHOES IN DEATH is the forty-fourth book in the In Death (Eve Dallas) series.  The book has a self contained mystery and there is not much continuing storyline although a new reader would have to pick up on the world and the characters without much explanation.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars