Review: Gentlemen Prefer Heiresses

Review: Gentlemen Prefer HeiressesGentlemen Prefer Heiresses (Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James, #4.5) by Lorraine Heath
Series: Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James #4.5
Published by Avon Impulse on August 22nd 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 112
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  A lovely gem of a coda to the amazing Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James series.  Gina and Andrew are such a fun and sweet couple that I smiled and sighed through the whole story.

THE STORY:  Miss Virginia “Gina” Hammersley was supposed to be the sister making an advantageous marriage this season.  But her scandalous older sister and the Marquess of Rexton fell in love.  Now with her sister making a proper marriage, Gina knows that her own options have expanded as well.  Lord Andrew Mabry, the younger brother of Rexton, intends never to marry.  As the “spare”, Andrew knows that he doesn’t have the title that Gina wants. Yet neither his determination to remain a bachelor nor Gina’s expectations can keep Andrew from wanting to be with the woman he cannot take his eyes off.

OPINION:  This story was so well done that I truly forgot that it was a novella.  By focusing intensely on the characters and their relationship, the novella felt complete and satisfying.

Andrew is the second son who hasn’t found a purpose in his life. It is always a challenge for an author to write the story of a child born of a happy marriage (which is one reason we don’t see as many books about the children of prior characters).  The best characters are often found in torment from their lives.  Andrew had a happy childhood, but Heath does a good job of giving him his own pain that has made him more convinced to stay unmarried.  A man who has an example of the wonderful marriage of his parents can only be determined to stay unmarried if he fears inside that he will never be able to duplicate that effort.  I loved his character which is fun and sweet (even though he sees himself as rakish).  He is immensely likeable and this book shows him finding who he really can be.

Gina is a woman who has an American’s brashness and desires to be her own person.  When she recognizes that she wants Andrew, she is determined to take every opportunity open to her for adventure and happiness.  I love that she is unconventional and yet has her limits. I also really admire a woman who is willing to suffer for love, is willing to put happiness over reputation and I liked her strength and joy in life.

I just loved the relationship between Gina and Andrew.  Sweet and sexy and fun.

I’m a big sucker for these types of stories where we get to see more of characters from prior books.  I love having a few moments more with characters that I already fell in love with and I admit that I have a hard time letting go of their stories.  There are glimpses throughout this story which just made me happy.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a novella.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  GENTLEMEN PREFER HEIRESSES is book 4.5 of the Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James series (which itself is a spin-off of the Scoundrels of St. James series).  This book is a closer for book 4 of that series, AN AFFAIR WITH A NOTORIOUS HEIRESS.  I recommend reading that book first because this one flows directly from that book — although the story itself is separate.  It is not necessary to read any of the prior books in the series to read this one, but with all the connecting characters, this book just works better as part of the 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 write a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-half-stars

Review: Forget Me Not

Review: Forget Me NotForget Me Not (Blackbird Series Novella) by Em Shotwell
Series: Blackbird Series #.5
Published by City Owl Press on August 8th 2017
Genres: Historical, Paranormal
Pages: 203
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Sweet and sad and ultimately bringing a happy ending.  This is a small town, Vietnam era historical with a touch of magic.  I thought it was well done and apart from any series, this is a sweet read.

THE STORY:  Evelyn Cadeau is being set up by her family matchmaker with Rex Somersby. Evelyn has no interest in her match and already has someone picked out for herself — against her family’s wishes.  Their arranged date, however, goes differently than Evelyn expected and moves her in a different direction.  Set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War this novel has magic and young adult love and small town romance along with historical drama.

OPINION:  Oh, how incredibly sweet and sad (but ultimately happy) this story is.  I loved Rex from the moment he appeared in the story.  Young and unsure and such a sweet gentleman.  Evelyn is determined to not like him from the start, but Rex wins her over.  He is a young man who is taken with Evelyn from the moment he sees her and the story goes in a different way than Evelyn expects when they go on their date.

Evelyn is stubborn and her youth shows in her determination that she is right.  I was the most frustrated with her in the beginning, but she comes to her senses eventually (smile).  I also really liked how the magic in the story was quietly woven into the story.

Their story felt sweet and organic and I enjoyed it very much.  The story does take a serious turn and uses the sweetness in the beginning of the story to good effect.  Although there is some magic involved in this story, it still says a lot about the era.  The painful middle of the story pays off in a wonderful way by the end.

WORTH MENTIONING:  The Blackbird series takes place among people who are Gifted.  Evelyn, for example, brings life and vitality and Rex never forgets what he sees.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  FORGET ME NOT is a prequel novella to BLACKBIRD SUMMER.  It is about the grandmother of the heroine in BLACKBIRD SUMMER.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

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

four-stars

For 100 Reasons

For 100 ReasonsFor 100 Reasons (100 Series, #3) by Lara Adrian
Series: 100 Series #3
Published by Lara Adrian, LLC on July 31st 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION:  I really wanted to love this book, but I found too many things that just bothered me about this couple and the story.  I’m willing to give it another chance by reading the trilogy as a whole, but the construction of the series with its multiple dramatic cliffhangers, just felt like too much running in place even as I enjoyed the overall arch of the story.

THE STORY:  In this third book in the trilogy about Nick and Avery, the two are apart after Avery finds out about Nick’s deceptions.  Yet these two damaged people are drawn back together just as Avery is beginning to rebuild her life. Now there are even more secrets from the past that come back.  All must be resolved if these two have any possibility of moving forward.

OPINION:  This was a good ending to the series, but honestly, by the time these two get back together, I think I had had enough of their drama.  After all the drama and “betrayal” and anger that keeps the two apart for a year, they seem to get back together without much having been done.

I’m wondering if this series would feel better for me if I re-read it all at once.  Knowing that the cliffhangers between the books will happen, knowing that Nick and Avery will have a angsty, drama-filled, off and on, hot and cold relationship, I might like the entirety of the drama better.  I think the wait between the segments tired me somewhat of the drama (although I’m usually a great fan of angst filled, over the top stories).  For some reason, little things bugged me in this story.  “Enough already” I said a couple of times.  I don’t believe you are really going to stay away and I don’t really understand why a year had to pass before the action picks up here.

I liked so much of this story overall, but those little things just kept itching me, until I found that it was good, but not great.  I think the last half of this book is better than the first half, but one thing that kept bothering me is that it seemed that Avery becomes demanding that everything be done her way.  In some ways, it felt like Nick wasn’t so much changed as neutered in parts of this book as he desperately tries to do what he can to hang onto Avery.  I do like men who have done wrong to grovel, but I still want them to be the strong, dominate men they are.  Just something about the formulation here bothered me.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book has discussions of sexual abuse.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  For 100 Reasons is the third and final book in the 100 Reasons Trilogy.  This book should only be read as part of the trilogy since the books follow the relationship of one couple and thus depend upon the information in the prior books.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars

Review: Devil’s Cut

Review: Devil’s CutDevil's Cut (The Bourbon Kings, #3) by J.R. Ward
Series: The Bourbon Kings #3
Published by Ballantine on August 1st 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 418
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Loved, loved, loved this conclusion to the Bourbon Kings trilogy.  A very soap-ish over the top story, this one finished in grand style. I’m pleased with the scope of the story and an only sorry that the whole series was so short.

THE STORY:  As we resume our story…The patriarch of the family has been murdered and the eldest son, Edward, has been arrested and confessed to his murder. Edward sits in jail mourning the loss of the woman he loves Sutton.  The middle son, Lane has taken over the family bourbon business which is deeply in debt due to his father’s embezzlement.  While Lane has reunited with the love of his life, Lizzie, their happiness is threatened by the lies and deceit in the family.  Finally, the sister, Gin has married a man her father picked out for her who is already abusing her. Gin is determined to take everything she can from her marriage especially to finally be a mother to her teenage daughter (who is the daughter of her longtime lover, friend and enemy Samuel unbeknownst to both daughter and Samuel).  And thus the story begins its conclusion…

OPINION:  I’ve been a fan of the Bourbon King series since the first book.  I loved the big, overly dramatic tales of the rich that reminded me fondly of the 1980s nighttime soap operas and Danielle Steele novels that where unofficially the mandatory reading for girls in my high school.  Together the three books in this trilogy make a wonderful, decadent mini-series reminiscent of the best of that genre.

As the mystery surrounding the murder of the family patriarch deepens, dark secrets of the family continue to be revealed.  There are far more twists and turns left to be explored in this book — and thankfully, the resolution path is not obvious or expected.

These characters are complex and not always nice or good.  Although there is much sudsy drama, the characters remain the central part of the book.  This book travels into the darkest and most dangerous territory of the story as all the characters face serious danger — both physical and emotional.  I liked the characters in this book from the beginning — not because they are nice people (many are not, but because there is the possibility for redemption for many of them).  This book reveals who might end up with a happy ending and who won’t.

There isn’t much I can give for the plot because that would give away the fun of the twists in the plot.  I can say that if you started this series, this book will provide the closure one would have hoped for.  It is a fun, over the top book, but enjoyable especially as a summer beach read.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book resolves neatly (sometimes it felt too neatly) all the storylines in the trilogy.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  DEVIL’S CUT is the third and final book in the Bourbon Kings series.  The book really does complete the continuing story and should be read as part of the trilogy.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Royally Endowed

Review: Royally EndowedRoyally Endowed (Royally, #3) by Emma Chase
Series: Royally #3
Published by Emma Chase, LLC on August 14th 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 275
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Sweet and enjoyable, this is the story of two people who have known one another for years until the time for their passion to be brought out into the open.  I found the characters likeable and I found the book a fun read.

THE STORY:  Logan St. James and Ellie Hammond met when her sister became involved with one of the royals that Logan is sworn to protect.  Set as part of a security detail to protect Ellie, Logan takes his job seriously, but over the years he has taken to liking Ellie — perhaps too much.  Now that Ellie has graduated college, she is looking to find someone and wonders if it is time to put aside her crush on her bodyguard.  Although Logan feels something for Ellie, he knows that the sister of a member of the royal family is not right for a boy from the wrong side of the tracks — especially a woman he is supposed to work to protect.

OPINION: For me, the highlight of this book were the episodes between Logan and Ellie which occurred over the years.  There was such a gentleness and sweetness that existed between the two from the first.  Unlike other books where the entire sequence of events occur within days, I completely fell into the relationship between these two which happens over the course of years.  For me, that made their eventual passionate relationship both more realistic and more satisfying.

I loved Ellie as a character.  Spunky and determined, I knew that Logan was doomed once she decided to make her move. Their relationship always felt destined — but like they were always waiting for Ellie to make her move.  I liked that both characters were good people who just trying to do the right thing.

Chase has a wonderful ability to present the male point of view. Logan’s narrative felt different than Ellie’s and I appreciated how their alternating points of view still felt cohesive and drove the story forward without feeling duplicative or conflicting.

This book also rewards fans of the series since there are lots of updates on the couples from the previous two books of the series.  I finished this book was a heartwarming feeling about the entire series.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This story is told in alternating first person points of view.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ROYALLY ENDOWED is the third book in the Royally series.  This romance is independent of those books, but characters are overlapping and this story might be better if you have read the other books first just to be familiar with them.  In fact, the beginning of this story happens in the gaps of the first story in the series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Royally Raised

Review: Royally RaisedRoyally Raised (Royally, #2.5) by Emma Chase
Series: Royally #2.5
Published by Emma Chase, LLC on June 2nd 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 36
Goodreads
four-stars

This is a short, short story that takes place 20 years after the events of ROYALLY MATCHED and gives an update on what is going on with Henry and Sarah and their family.  There is a little bit of a plot involving their eldest, but that isn’t particularly resolved (perhaps there might be a book in the future about their child!)  It is really nice to see how Henry has matured and grown into his role.  I really enjoy these stories which are just a glimpse in the lives of these characters after the pages of the book are done.  The story was free to download so I think it is perfectly appropriate as a gift to fans.

Rating: 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: The Playboy Prince and the Nanny

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 Playboy Prince and the NannyThe Playboy Prince and the Nanny (Royal Duology #1) by Donna Alward
Published by Swerve on August 1st 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  A sweet romance that harkens back to my days devouring category romances.  The story is pretty clean and focused on the couple. Sweet read that I enjoyed because of the characters.  This was a book I finished with a warm heart.

THE STORY:  Rose Walters comes to Marazur to take over being nanny for the two royal children whose mother just died.  While there, she ends up spending time with “the spare” Prince Diego.  Diego has been known as a playboy who flits around the world, but the family tragedy brings him back home and gives him a purpose to help his family including his brother and niece and nephew heal.  Of course, it also brings him in constant contact with the new nanny.  A woman he can’t get off his mind.

OPINION:  I found this an enjoyable read. The characters and the story was uncomplicated and really focuses on these nice people navigating external events that threaten their potential relationship.

Years before I became obsessed with dark and angst filled dramatic romances, I read just about every Silhouette, Loveswept, Harlequin, Second Chance at Love, and numerous other category romances.  The stories were mostly simple and focused on the couple overcoming plot devices that threatened their relationship.  I read hundreds, maybe thousands, of those stories and was happy with those stories.

This book is a slightly more sophisticated version of those stories.  The characters are nice and the romance is sweet.  I enjoyed the connection between the characters and the fairy tale quality of the nanny falling for the prince.  (And the playboy prince falling head over heels for the slightly wallflower nanny!!) Rose and Diego are such nice people and the real complication is their relative positions (prince versus nanny) and some external threats that I don’t want to give away.

While the story is definitely on the sweet side, I so much enjoyed the interaction between Diego and Rose which was romantic and gentle and warmed my heart.

I look forward to the companion book in this series about Diego’s brother because this book left me with good feelings.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This is a pretty clean romance with some kisses and one act of premarital sex off screen.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE PLAYBOY PRINCE AND THE NANNY is the first book in the Princes of Marazur 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 review or write a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-stars

Review: Dark Horse

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: Dark HorseDark Horse (Whitehorse, Montana: The McGraw Kidnapping, #1) by B.J. Daniels
Series: , , The McGraw Kidnapping #1
Published by Harlequin Intrigue on August 1st 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 256
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Much more mystery/romantic suspense than romance, I enjoyed this book for what it is — an introduction to the mystery of the disappearance of the McGraw twins.  The romance was a nice addition, but certainly did not carry the story.

THE STORY: True crime writer Nikki St. James to write about (and intending to solve) the kidnapping of the McGraw twins.  It has been twenty-five years since they disappeared and although some believe that the twins are dead and that the mother and her lover committed the crime, Nikki wants to prove there is another explanation.  Nikki has gotten the father to agree to talk, but his eldest son, Cull McGraw, doesn’t trust Nikki and wants to protect his family.  Sparks fly and old secrets present new dangers.

OPINION:  This book is really a mystery book with a side of romance.  I thought the mystery is well set out and very intriguing.  In fact, the mystery is my favorite of the B.J. Daniels books I have read so far.  I thought the entire set up was creepy and definitely a well constructed and interesting conflict.  I felt like I was in the middle of an Agatha Christie book with all the suspicious characters and secrets.

The book really is focused on Nikki as the “detective” of the story.  She has her own secrets which have sent her into the investigation of the twins’ disappearance.  Cull is the dutiful eldest son who falls for Nikki.  There really isn’t much else about their characters, but there was enough to keep me in the game as I was far more intrigued by the mystery than the romance.

This is a short category romance so things happen quickly and I was impressed that the mystery itself was so well set out.

I look forward to the next book in the series with another romance (but knowing Daniels’ style, there will be more about the mystery than the romance and that’s okay).

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book does NOT resolve the mystery of the kidnapping of the twins in its entirety.  There are some answers, but clearly there is much more to learn.  That is the overarching story so you will have to read the rest of the series for that to be resolved.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  DARK HORSE is the first book in the Whitehouse, Montana: The McGraw Kidnapping series.  I haven’t read the other Whitehouse, Montana books so I don’t know how closely related the series are.  I didn’t feel that I missed anything, however, in starting with this book.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

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

four-stars

Review: The Rancher’s Runaway Princess

Review: The Rancher’s Runaway PrincessThe Rancher's Runaway Princess (Larch Valley #1) by Donna Alward
Series: Larch Valley #1, Princes of Marazur #0.5
Published by Harlequin Enterprises LTD on April 1st 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 187
Goodreads
two-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Nice story, but it was uneven.  I liked the second half much more than the first half.

THE STORY: Lucy Farnsworth has come to Canada to check out a horse farm for the royal family of Marazur.  She becomes attracted to rancher Brody Hamilton, but Lucy is keeping a secret.  She is actually Princess Luciana, the daughter of the King of Marazur.  Lucy discovered this only as her mother was dying and Lucy has had her world turned upside down.  Her father has offered her the opportunity to perform this task in order to give herself some space from her new life.  But as she falls for Brody, her deception becomes more of a problem.

OPINION:  The story here was nice and for those who are looking for a sweet read, this is a nice one.  For me, however, I want more passion between the characters.  Both Brody and Lucy are too nice.  Their conflicts didn’t feel like they were something that could not be overcome.

Brody is a brooding and hurt man.  He has been burned before so as he becomes more and more attracted to Lucy, he acts out in response.  Lucy is confused about her own life and she is keeping the secret of her true identity as a princess.  (Thus, it is perfectly reasonable that Brody doesn’t trust her).

I’m not against sweet books without sex, but I didn’t think there was enough emotional passion to keep the story going.  Rather, the story is premised primarily on the secrets that both Brody and Lucy are keeping.

The story picked up in the second half and if the entire book was as compelling as the first half, I would have given it a better rating.  I thought in the second half as the two get closer, there was a more interesting and personal story.

I liked this story but there was not enough meat here to make this a book that I will think about in a month.  Rather, this is a sweet one time read.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is definitely a book in the sweet category.  There is nothing more than kissing between the characters.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE RANCHER’S RUNAWAY PRINCESS is the first book in the Larch Valley series.  It is also the prequel to the Princes of Marazur series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 2.5 stars.

two-half-stars

Review: The Lady’s Guard

Review: The Lady’s GuardThe Lady's Guard (Sinful Brides, #3) by Christi Caldwell
Series: Sinful Brides #3
Published by Montlake on July 25th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 322
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  This story of a duke’s daughter and a man of the streets of St. Giles was sweet and a good story and I liked it very much.

THE STORY:  Lady Diana Verney’s life has turned upside down with her duchess mother committed to Bedlam for trying to murder Diana’s half siblings and Diana’s own social ruin. When Diana feels that someone is stalking her, her father does not take her seriously so instead, Diana turns to her half-brother who owns the Hell and Sin Club in St. Giles.  In response, Niall Marksman is asked by Diana’s brother to help protect her.  Niall feels he belongs in the darkness of St. Giles and resents having to protect a pampered Duke’s daughter.

OPINION:  This was a very enjoyable cross-class story.  The woman who has been rejected by her own peers because of her mother matches up with the low born gutter born thief and murderer.

While the topic here is dark, the actual story is taken at a much lighter level.  (Myself I prefer the darker, seedier tales, but this story is pretty good as well.)

Diana is a strong young woman who is trying to make her own way after finding out her mother has committed horrible crimes.  Diana’s estrangement from society and her fears of following in her mother’s madness have propelled Diana into creating a new future for herself. I like Diana as a character because she is woman who does the right thing even when society frowns upon her actions. I also had a great deal of sadness for how isolated Diana is.  The connection that builds between her and Niall was especially sweet in that context.

Niall is a man who is haunted by his past, but the story doesn’t really dwell on those details.  He is man who feels the corruption from the streets and doesn’t want to open himself up to any possibility of happiness because he has not truly dealt with his guilt of his past.  Although Niall has more depth than some of the previous characters in this series, I still think the story could have gone deeper into the characters and the situation.

At times I found the story heartbreaking and lovely, but there was something about it that kept me from being transparently in love with the characters.  I always felt like there was a distance between myself and the characters.  Some quality about them that was too separate and unknowable.

Therefore, this was a book that I really enjoyed as a story, but it lacked the transcendence of the best romance novels.

WORTH MENTIONING:  There are significant appearances by characters from the other books in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE LADY’S GUARD is the third book in the Sinful Brides series.  While this couple is a standalone story, there is an overarching story that continues from book to book and this series is better read in order.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars