Review: Beauty of the Beast

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: Beauty of the BeastBeauty of the Beast (Fairy Tale Retellings #1) by Rachel L. Demeter
Series: Fairy Tale Retellings #1
on March 15th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 342
Goodreads
one-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  I really wanted to like this one, but I just didn’t.  I found the story too wordy, the characters not interesting enough and I just had to force myself to even finish the book.

THE STORY:  A retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Prince Adam Delacroix has remained secluded since the death of his family.  Scarred both emotionally and physically, Adam rules his castle until a beauty, Isabelle Rose, comes to his castle and offers herself in exchange for her father.  Together the two must overcome the past and the dangers of the present.

OPINION:  A am a huge lover of Beauty and the Beast type stories.  I expected this book to be much better than it was.  I got bored almost immediately and it took far too long for things to happen and too many words to describe just about everything.  As a result, I felt very disconnected from the characters and the story.  If I had gotten this book in another manner (purchase or gift) I would have DNF’d it and moved on.  Because I got it for review purposes, I felt necessary to write a review indicating that I just was not impressed by the book.

The characters did not feel real to me nor did they feel part of a dreamy fairy tale style book.  Instead, the characters felt distant and not particularly intriguing.

The book promises a more sexual, dark telling, I think I expected too much.  In fact, this book wasn’t particularly dark compared to other available romance books and certainly did not have sexual content as explicit as many books these days.  I think that the warning is only in comparison to the Disney fairy tale.

WORTH MENTIONING:  The book contains a sexual assault by the villain.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  This book is the first book in the Fairy Tale Retellings series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 1.5 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.

one-half-stars

Review: Enticing Ian

Review: Enticing IanEnticing Ian (Knight Security 5) by Carole Mortimer
Series: Knight Security #5
Published by Carole Mortimer on March 31st 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  I enjoyed this book a great deal.  There was a lot of mystery about what happened between Eve and Ian three years ago.  This was matched with a good plot about Eve wanting to help her brother.  This is more novella length, but felt complete and well paced.

THE STORY:  Three years ago, Ian Knight met, had a relationship with and left a woman he has never forgotten.  When Eve Bishop walks into the casino nightclub where he is acting head of security, he knows that the librarian should not be there.  Eve has come looking for Gregori Markovic, the head of the Russian mafia in London, in order to help her twin brother who has gotten deep into debt with Markovic.  Ian is determined to keep Eve from venturing into dangerous territory while looking for her brother, even if it means confronting what send him running from her three years ago.

OPINION:  I really enjoyed this one.  I thought the pacing of the book was wonderful.  Even with the shorter length, the story did not feel rushed and I felt there was a good balance between the romance and the plot.

The characters in this book were better developed than I expect in a shorter story.  The characters already had a history which helped tremendously with the quick turnaround until these characters got serious.  It was much easier to believe that these characters could be so comfortable with one another immediately.

This story just hit the right spot with me.  It was very sexy and had some drama over the end of the couple’s relationship three years ago.  The way that answer is slowly revealed to the readers worked really well to build tension in the story.  I especially liked that the real focus of this story was the couple — even though the brother’s fate gives some motivation for the characters to interact with one another.

I also really liked Ian and Eve as characters and as a couple.  They were just the right balance between really attracted to one another and fighting that attraction.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Some significant appearances from characters from the ALPHA series were a nice addition.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ENTICING IAN is the fifth book in the Knight Security series but can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: The Truth About Love and Dukes

Review: The Truth About Love and DukesThe Truth About Love and Dukes (Dear Lady Truelove, #1) by Laura Lee Guhrke
Series: Dear Lady Truelove #1
Published by Avon on March 28th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“We love who we love, Henry. Love can’t bend to one’s will.”

FINAL DECISION:  A cold, old-fashioned man and a woman who works publishing a newspaper.  These two should be complete opposites, but instead is an unveiling of the true nature of the selves.

THE STORY:  Henry, Duke of Torquil is determined to make “Lady Truelove” pay for advising his mother to go with her heart and marry a penniless artist.  When he goes to confront the writer at the paper, he meets Irene Deverill, the publisher (and secretly Lady Truelove herself).  When he demands that Irene fix the problem that she caused, the two are put into close contact.  An attraction turns into an affair that threatens the lives each is seeking to lead.

OPINION:  Can I be honest?  Henry starts out the book being pretty much an arse about everything.  Determined that his life go smoothly, he is arrogant, self-absorbed and a definite snob.  Jerk is another name for him.  But isn’t it good when he gets his comeuppance?  Just you wait till the end of the book.

I am always impressed when an author can draw readers into a character such that an unsympathetic character can be understood and ultimately become a hero.  Gurhke does such a good job here.  Henry hides a sensitive soul under old-fashioned, rigid behavior.

Just what he needs is the unconventional vibrant Irene.  A woman who has expanded her horizons (somewhat from necessity until she decided she liked it), Irene is a suffragist and a businesswoman.  She is unconventional and believes deeply in love.

The romance between these two starts out slowly and it appears that they are doomed to be a mismatched.  But as we get to know these two, we find out that they both are the caretakers of their families.  As the superficial layers of the two are peeled away, it becomes clear that the two have more in common than they expected.  That combined with an intense passion leaves them both with the question — what will they give up for love?

Another part of this book that I really like is that it sits on the edge between traditional and modern society.  Taking place in the age of indoor plumbing and telephones, there is a real tension between the old ways and the new ones.  The characters have to confront this reality again and again.  It is a refreshing spot for a romance and I really enjoyed it.

WORTH MENTIONING:  I wish we had learned more about Henry’s mother and her lover.  Their story fascinated me as well.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE TRUTH ABOUT DUKES is the first book in the Dear Lady Truelove series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Shadow’s Seduction

Review: Shadow’s SeductionShadow's Seduction (Immortals After Dark, #17; The Dacians, #2) by Kresley Cole
Series: Immortals After Dark #17, Dacians #2
Published by Valkyrie Press on February 28th 2017
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 248
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  I loved this book which is funny, angsty in the Immortals After Dark fashion, and so intensely focused on the couple that I could forget that this is part of a series.  Loved these two and their path to their HEA.

THE STORY:  Prince Mirceo Daciano, a vampire from the semi-mythical Dacia, meets Caspion the Tracker, a demon.  Mirceo wants to be more than friends with the demon, but instead settles for friendship until the two are dared to kiss by the three nymphs they had brought to their bed.  The kiss opens up a whole new problem for the two.  Caspion is determined to deny their attraction — especially because he knows what a fickle creature Mirceo is.  The possibility that the two are fated mates thrills Mirceo but he has to convince Caspion to give him a chance.

OPINION:  The romance between Caspion and Mirceo takes so many twists and turns and has as much drama as I expect from an Immortals After Dark book.

Mirceo starts the book looking to score with Caspion. He is charming and funny and irreverent.  He drives Caspion crazy with his determination, his humor and his willingness to do anything to prove the two belong together.  Mirceo, however, has his own troubles that he hides under his charming facade.

Caspion is darker and more troubled on the surface than Mirceo.  As he begins the book, he is entirely resistant to the possibility of having a sexual relationship with Mirceo insisting that he is only interested in females — even though he is attracted to Mirceo from the beginning.

These two begin with friendship that bonds them (even though Mirceo wants more) and the two begin with very sexy encounters that draw them both into more emotional and deeper connections than either expects.  This is the story of confounding expectations.  The two are truly more together — both as friends and partners — than either expects.

I especially liked the intense focus on the relationship between these two.  There is a nice dynamic of Mirceo being so open and insistent and Caspion being so resistant.  When the two finally reach and accord, it really feels that the two have journeyed together, arguing and debating and considering.

I would have given this book 5 stars, but I thought the resolution of the story was a little rushed at the end.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This is a m/m romance.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  SHADOW’S SEDUCTION is the seventeenth book in the Immortals After Dark series and the second book in the sub-series The Dacians.  This book is closest to a standalone as you will find in this series.  It is completely possible to enjoy this book without reading other books or you can read the first in the Dacians SHADOW’S CLAIM.  Of course, readers of the Immortals After Dark series

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: The Highland 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: The Highland DukeThe Highland Duke (Lords of the Highlands #1) by Amy Jarecki
Series: Lords of the Highlands #1
Published by Forever on March 28th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  An action packed adventure combined with a romance where the hero is a jerk for most of the story, but redeems himself by the end. I especially loved the heroine who is strong but sweet and genuine.

THE STORY:  Akira Ayes, a healer from a Gypsy family finds an injured Scot after a battle with English troops during the Jacobite Rebellion.  Akira can’t bear to leave the Highlander to fend for himself and ends up embroiled in his danger.  Geordie aka George Gordon aka Duke of Gordon keeps his identity a secret from Akira.  He needs to make his way home to hide his participation in the battle because otherwise his life and lands would be forfeit.  As the two travel together fleeing the English, Geordie finds he likes how Akira treats him as a man — not as a duke.

OPINION:  I found this book to be a rousing adventure story as Akira and Geordie race across Scotland evading the English.  That portion of the book was excellent. Geordie and Akira argue, work together, find commonality and care for one another as they race through the countryside.  The book had an exciting beginning and didn’t leave off until the two reached Georgie’s home.

For me, the book slowed down a bit when that happened and I think the book lost a bit of focus.  As the two fall in love but have to confront the impossibility of them marrying, I thought the book meandered a bit and I was not as interested in the ending of the book as I was in the beginning.  Ultimately, however, I thought that the story overall was a success.

Akira is a wonderful character.  She has been treated poorly by many people because of her Gypsy heritage.  (In the book Gypsies are called Tinkers and are thought of as mere thieves and beggars, reflecting the prejudices of the time).  Despite the discrimination and intense poverty she has faced, Akira is a healer.  A kind and generous woman. A woman willing to risk herself to save a stranger’s life.  She has a progression in this book.  Akira begins with fixed ideas of sexual morality, but finds herself having to think about what is important in her life as she and Geordie fall in love but are unable to marry.  She is also a woman who can make a duke appreciate being a man.

Geordie is a man who has two sides…the distant duke and the man he finds himself being with Akira.  Akira challenges Geordie’s assumptions about his world and about his obligations in it.  Akira demands that Geordie consider the common folk and he realizes that she is right and he is ashamed of his prior self-absorption.  In order to be with Akira, Geordie must change himself and prove himself worthy of her.  I like that he is willing to acknowledge his mistakes.

This is a good start to the new series and I look forward to the next book.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Some parts of this book had vague echoes to OUTLANDER but perhaps that is only because I have been reading those book recently.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE HIGHLAND DUKE is the first book in the Lords of the Highlands 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: The Lady by his Side

Review: The Lady by his SideThe Lady By His Side by Stephanie Laurens
Published by Savdek Management Pty Ltd on March 9th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 350
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Good story, good romance, but I wish there was more on the romance and less on the mystery.  These were highly anticipated characters and I wish there was more about their journey.  That being said, I understand it is more difficult to write stories about well-adjusted happy characters so I appreciate that their story needed more.

THE STORY:  Sebastian Cynster knows that it is time for him to find a wife because the women in his family are never patient about helping the men along if they need it.  Just when Sebastian comes to that realization, he is asked by one of his friends, the heir to the Duke of Wolverstone, to help make contact with a peer who might have information about a plot against the country.  Sebastian, however, needs a cover for attending the house party where he is to make contact.  For that, he approaches another family friend, Antonia Rawlings to help provide a cover.  Although the two grew up together, Sebastian has not had much contact with Antonia for years.  He finds himself unexpectedly attracted to her.  As to two work together to investigate the plot, they find themselves drawing closer.

OPINION:  I enjoyed this one but the mystery story was predominate here and by necessity there was a lot of backstory to set up in order to begin the trilogy.  As a result, I didn’t see much conflict in the relationship between Sebastian and Antonia. Everything was nice between them (as might be expected between two family friends where the relationships are so intertwined) and I liked them as a couple, but there wasn’t much tension between them.

There was also less hot sexiness between them — probably because Sebastian wasn’t going to act the rake with Antonia. I did like the book however, and I thought the mystery was filled with interest and tension. I thought this one is working out better than many of the other series with the same overarching mystery format.  Plus, what is not to love about having two characters infused with so much history find love together.  My only real negative is that I wish we had seen Devil and Honoria in the book.  Missed them greatly.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book has a plot that is not resolved in this book. Although the romance is completed, there is an ongoing storyline that will be pursued by the next couple in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE LADY BY HIS SIDE is the first book in the Devil’s Brood Trilogy.  It is also intimately connected with the long running Cynsters series.  This book however, can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: American Queen

Review: American QueenAmerican Queen (American Queen Trilogy, #1) by Sierra Simone
Series: American Queen Trilogy #1
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on October 25th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica
Pages: 392
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: Blistering hot, crazy as can be, I absolutely was obsessed with this book.  Don’t look for reality here, but intense fantasy, oh, oh, yes.

THE STORY:  Greer Galloway, born into a political family, met and fell for a war hero at the age of sixteen.  Their relationship was highly charged and completely inappropriate.  The ten years since haven’t diminished her feelings for Ash, but they have been complicated by betrayal and life and her deepening and darkening desires.  Five years ago, Greer met Embry, Ash’s best friend. Now as Ash, now President of the United States, has sent Embry to bring Greer to Ash’s side, Greer has complicated feelings for both men.

OPINION:  This book is sexy bonkers at times.  The President, Vice-President and the First Lady all together. Crazy stuff and yet completely appealing because the emotions between these characters are so well expressed and so raw.  The book acknowledges everything: lust, love, pain, jealous, anger, desire, caring.  I loved how these three interact with one another and the struggle between them to find a way forward.  This is one of those books that I read and kept thinking about. The story of these three has just begun as each book appears to focus on one particular character in the trio.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book contains are complex menage.  The menage is definitely emotional as well as sexual as each of them has to deal with a range of emotions for and about one another.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  AMERICAN QUEEN is the first book in the American Queen Trilogy.  This series is meant to be read together and this book ends on a cliffhanger.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Devil in Spring

Review: Devil in SpringDevil in Spring (The Ravenels, #3) by Lisa Kleypas
Published by Avon on February 21st 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 370
Goodreads
five-stars

“You do not want to marry me, my lord. I would be the worst wife imaginable. I’m forgetful and stubborn, and I can never sit still for more than five minutes. I’m always doing things I shouldn’t. I eavesdrop on other people, I should and run in public, and I’m a clumsy dancer. And I’ve lowered my character with a great deal of unwholesome reading material.”  Pausing to draw breath, she notice that Lord St. Vincent didn’t appear properly impressed by her list of faults. “Also, my legs are skinny. Like a stork’s.”

FINAL DECISION:  So rarely does a highly anticipated sequel live up to expectations.  While not as good as DEVIL IN WINTER, this book is a worthy successor.  Will take a place on my favorites’ shelf.

THE STORY: Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent has accidentally compromised an unusual young lady, Lady Pandora Ravenel.  Neither, however, wants to marry — Gabriel because he sees that Pandora is completely unsuitable to be the type of dignified wife he needs; Pandora because she has no intention of allowing any man to control her fate and life.  Gabriel is fascinated with Pandora and finds himself drawn to her.  Pandora finds in Gabriel a man who listens to her and respects her opinions, but the risk of becoming essentially his to control is something she doesn’t want to risk even as she falls for him.

OPINION:

“No matter how she had tried to make herself want what she should want, she knew she would never be happy in a conventional life.”

Pandora is an amazing creation.  She is neurotic, opinionated, intelligent, oh so clever and yet sweet in a unique way.  I loved just about everything about her.  She is a different kind of wallflower.  A woman who is so brilliant that she has difficulties with the social niceties that society demands. Always the odd person in the group, she has managed to forge a future for herself as a game designer. (I absolutely loved her devotion to her budding career).  Everything about her character felt fresh and new and oh so lovely, especially for all of us who feel out of step with what people expect from us.

Gabriel is a hero who is so different from his father and yet has the best qualities of both his parents. He manages to be so incredibly caring and supportive of Pandora.  She is a special person and Gabriel knows exactly how to care for her. He is kind and so so dreamy.  Sexy and definitely a man in charge, he also has the gentleness of his mother and the benefit of having grown up in a loving family. He is a man who doesn’t need to be reformed to be a wonderful man — he just is.

“Your problem,” his sister continued, “is that you’re too good at maintaining that facade of godlike perfection. You’ve always hated for anyone to see that you’re a mere mortal. But you won’t win this girl that way.” She began to dust the sand from her hands. “Show her a few of your redeeming vices, dear. She’ll like you all the better for it.”

I rarely love a book as much as I loved this one primarily because Gabriel was such a warm loving man and he made it his mission to balance out all the jagged edges of Pandora’s life. His giving nature and willingness to put his own needs and desires aside to help fulfill Pandora was so wonderful to read about.  He finds Pandora incredibly charming and she brings something to him that makes him want to protect her.  And yet, he cannot crush her by forcing her to conform and be “safe”.

“It was insane to let a creature so perfectly beautiful and artlessly spirited and vulnerable as his wife venture out into the world that could crush her with casual unconcern, and he had no choice to but allow it. For the rest of his life, he would feel a stab of dread every time she walked out the door, leaving him there with his heart wide open.”

I loved this book and if I liked it a smidgen less than the book on Gabriel’s parents it is only because the timeless trope of that book — wallflower and rake — is probably my favorite.  But this one is original and fresh and very wonderful.

“Their marriage would be a partnership, just like their waltzing…not perfect, not always graceful, but they would find their way together.”

Just incredibly lovely!

WORTH MENTIONING:  I would buy this book for the Prologue alone where Evangeline and Sebastian from DEVIL IN WINTER are most prominent.  One of my all time favorite books and the prologue shows why.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  DEVIL IN SPRING is the third book in the Ravenels series.  This book is much better if read as part of the series, but a new reader should also include DEVIL IN WINTER which is from Kleypas’s Wallflowers series.  This book is a direct sequel from that book as it tells the story of the son of the DEVIL IN WINTER couple (who make appearances of their own).

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Wait for Dark

Review: Wait for DarkWait for Dark (Bishop/Special Crimes Unit #17) by Kay Hooper
Series: Bishop/Special Crimes Unit #17
Published by Berkley on March 7th 2017
Genres: Paranormal, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 304
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  This is a weird and creepy story (a good thing in this series!) but what I love best is getting more character development from Hollis and more about her relationship with Reese.

THE STORY:  Hollis Templeton has progressed from being a victim to now becoming a team leader for the SCU.  She and her partner Reese DeMarco come to Clarity, North Carolina in order to investigate a series of deaths that appear to be accidents and yet seem like something much more sinister when the sheriff discovers that each victim received a text message stating “Wait for Dark” before their deaths.  Not only is the team investigating strange crimes but Hollis’s paranormal senses are continuing to evolve as she has to confront her own past as a victim.

OPINION:  I really liked this one because while the focus was appropriately on the suspense story and the investigation, there was quite a bit about Hollis’s own struggles.  I have loved reading about Hollis’s development throughout the series and this book takes her development to another level.  Just a warning though — things are not completely resolved and I expect we will get more Hollis books in the future.

What I like best about this book is that there is a real question about what is going on for a good portion of the book.  That builds drama and interest.  This is not a mystery book. You are not going to be able to gather suspects and evidence and find out what is happening.  This story is just creepy and strange and filled with scary images and possibilities.

WORTH MENTIONING:  I was glad to see Bishop and Miranda.  I keep wishing for another book with the two as the focus.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  WAIT FOR DARK is the seventeenth book in the Bishop/Special Crimes Unit series.  This book really needs to be read in context of other books in the series to truly appreciate it.  It is not necessary to read all the books in the series first, but I recommend reading TOUCHING EVIL, SENSE OF EVIL, BLOOD DREAMS, BLOOD SINS, BLOOD TIES, HAVEN, HOSTAGE, and HAUNTED first.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Tamed by the Earl

Review: Tamed by the EarlTamed by the Earl (Regency Unlaced 9) by Carole Mortimer
Series: Regency Unlaced #9
Published by Carole Mortimer on February 24th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 99
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION:  This is a nice story that wraps up the series in a satisfactory fashion, but it is not among the best of the series.  The length of the novella made the relationship too quick and the sexual relationship felt rushed.  Good one time read.

THE STORY:  Lord Daniel Somersby, Earl of Latham survived a miserable marriage.  Since he has an heir, he has no intention of marrying again.  Returning home, Daniel runs into a fight among his stable boys.  The newest boy is causing trouble and something about his intrigues Daniel.  Disguised as a boy, Lady Josephine Kendall is running from her cousin who has tried to sexually abuse her and marry her off to settle his gambling debts.  Temporarily residing as a stablehand, Jo is fascinated by Daniel but trying desperately to maintain her disguise.

OPINION:  This novella fits right into the rest of the series.  The emphasis in the book is on the relationship between the characters and the plot does nothing more than serve that end.  I appreciate books that focus on characters because that is the reason I love romances.  This story is short so the character development is not too deep, but the story plays on some classic tropes that I enjoy.  The woman disguised as a boy is always a fun one.  Here Jo is a thorn to Daniel because he can’t seem to get her out of his mind despite believing her to be a boy.  The story is straightforward and a quick read.

If you have read the others in the series, you should finish out with this one.  There is a small payoff in the end.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book is the last in the series and gives a little peek at the other characters at the end.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  TAMED BY THE EARL is the ninth book in the Regency Unlaced series.  It can be read as a standalone although there is information about other characters.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars