Review: My Lady’s Choosing

Review: My Lady’s ChoosingMy Lady's Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel by Kitty Curran, Larissa Zageris
on April 3rd 2018
Genres: Historical, Paranormal
Goodreads
four-stars

MY LADY’S CHOOSING is a novelty book where the reader gets to make choices as the story goes on changing the outcomes of the story depending on the choices.

In the early 1980s, Choose Your Own Adventure stories were a popular series with children. This book updates that concept for today’s romance books. The book is a novelty so a reader should not approach the book expecting amazing stories. Instead, the stories are funny and a loving parody of the romance genre. The book takes a series of romance book tropes and characters (the brooding aristocrat, the sexy Scotsman, the governess, supernatural characters, sexy garden times, exotic locations) and gives the reader a choice of what to do at critical and not so critical times.

I found the book amusing and tried several variations by coming back to a juncture and trying different options. The stories were lovingly amusing. They didn’t mock the romance genre, but rather made the reader part of an inside joke.

I really enjoyed this book, but a reader must approach it with a sense of humor and a willingness to participate in the fun.

I want to note that I thought it was especially nice that the heroine (the reader) is active in the story and one of the options includes a ff romance which was and unexpected and welcome option.

Rating: 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: The Hellion

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 HellionThe Hellion (Wicked Wallflowers, #1) by Christi Caldwell
Series: Wicked Wallflowers #1
Published by Montlake on April 3rd 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 295
Goodreads
three-half-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: This story was serviceable and solid, but I wanted more from the romance. There could have been more angst or more sexy romance. Instead, I just ended up wanting more from a decent book.

THE STORY: Cleopatra Killoran has agreed to sacrifice herself to a marriage to a man of the ton in order to protect her family. She has even agreed to be sponsored by her family’s enemies in order to find a husband who is willing to accept a woman of questionable background who can bring only a fortune. Adair Thorne doesn’t trust this woman who is one of his family’s enemies. He intends to watch her closely while she is embedded with his family. But soon her finds himself watching this complicated woman for other reasons, but a reason for which might bring betrayal down on his family.

OPINION: This was an enjoyable read, but lacked something in its drama and intensity based on the way the story developed. I liked the book, but wanted more.

Adair is a hero that I wanted to know more about. Although we get his story recited, I never felt connected with him on a emotional basis. His inner life remains a mystery in this story and thus I felt the story lacked some of the intense connection between him and Cleo that the story really wanted.

I loved the setup. I loved that Cleo is a woman who was raised on the streets and has become strong and a dangerous character in her own right. Too much of the book, however, explains rather than engaging the reader in the deep emotions between these characters. This might have been an extraordinary book rather than just a good read.

What is here, however, is good. I enjoyed the story and the potential of this story was immense. The characters are interesting in concept and the story has some great possibilities from the beginning.

It is a compliment to the potential of this book that I wanted more intensity and emotion from the story than I got. I enjoyed the book and it is an essential part of the Sinful Brides world.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book sets up the series which now focuses on the Killoran family.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE HELLION is the first book in the Wicked Wallflowers series. This series is, however, connected with the Sinful Brides series. There are overlapping characters, especially in this book which operates as a bridge between the two series as both these characters appeared in the Sinful Brides series. I think this book fits better as part of the prior series in order that all the relationships can be understood.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

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

 

three-half-stars

Review: Chesapeake Blue

Review: Chesapeake BlueChesapeake Blue (Chesapeake Bay Saga, #4) by Nora Roberts
Published by Berkley on January 1st 2002
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 357
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Enjoyable read if somewhat forgettable in the end. The story works fine as I was reading it, but there is nothing lasting or intense in the story to make it a keeper.

THE STORY: Eighteen years since Seth Quinn came was rescued from his negligent and abusive mother to come live with the Quinns, Seth has returned home after a stint in Europe where he honed his skills as an artist. When he returns, he meets Dru Whitcomb Banks, who has shed her rich family to open a florist shop. As Dru and Seth get to know one another, Seth’s past won’t stay hidden as he has to deal with problems that arise while coaxing a woman who has been betrayed and finds it hard to trust and make connections.

OPINION: This book was difficult for me to rate. I enjoyed it while I was reading it, I really liked seeing the Quinn siblings and their families. I even liked Seth and Dru as a couple as they discussed their issues. But ultimately while I enjoyed this book, I don’t think it stands up against other books that I have read. The storyline works, but isn’t compelling enough and the characters aren’t interesting enough for this to be a book that calls for me to re-read it.

Seth is a little too good, perhaps. (Except for his blind spot for which he is rather wrongheaded). I thought he and Dru were a nice match and I really liked her character. But nothing in this case really goes deep. The characters drama and hurts just don’t feel intense. I did think their sexy encounters when Seth was painting Dru were the best part of the book. That felt emotional and intense.

I also really enjoyed the relationships between the brothers. That was a highlight of the entire series and repeated here with even more emotional resonance.

I think readers of the series should definitely read this one as it adds to the series in a nice way. I just walked away wanting more emotional connection and intensity.

WORTH MENTIONING: I’ve always wished that this book either resolved Aubrey’s story as well or that Roberts had written her story. She ended up being a really interesting character.

CONNECTED BOOKS: CHESAPEAKE BLUE is the fourth and final book in the Chesapeake Bay Saga. This book was a coda to the original trilogy and thus really depends upon the knowledge in the first three books in the series. I don’t think the plot works well without knowledge of those books.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon

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: Eight Simple Rules for Dating a DragonEight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon (The Embraced, #3) by Kerrelyn Sparks
Series: The Embraced #3
Published by St Martins Pr on March 27th 2018
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 448
Goodreads
four-stars

Rule Number One: When a dragon takes you for a ride, hold on tight and never let go.

FINAL DECISION: Romance, political intrigue and a big dose of humor make this book particularly enjoyable to read. The focus here is more on the mystery of what is going on, but I really enjoyed the humor combined with the romance with Silas and Gwen.

THE STORY: As one of the Embraced (those born with magical powers), Gwenmore becomes enmeshed in political intrigue and curses when she is abducted by a dragon when protecting a young girl. An elf, Gwen has the curious ability to hear the dragons. That talent, plus another one, makes her valuable to General Silas Dravenko, who is trying to prove that misdeeds and not curses are what threaten his people. He intends to use Gwen to find the danger, but he is slowly seduced by the elf — who should be an enemy but shatters all his walls.

OPINION: I really enjoyed the tone of this book. The book isn’t a comedy, but it has a lighthearted and fun tone and made me smile.

A great portion of the book is about the mystery and political intrigue going on. i thought that story was really strong. Readers of the series will see that the stakes are rising and what is going on in the shadows is becoming more dangerous and blatant. But the end game still remains a mystery.

While I ultimately enjoyed the romance, I did think the beginning was too instant love, but thankfully the relationship is given some time to develop. Still things happen quickly. But the humor between Silas and Gwen make it all worth it. I loved their interactions which were sexy and funny at the same time.

There is a refreshing vulnerability for each of these characters. Silas has a tender heart even with his strength and cleverness. I also liked how Gwen grows during the story as she gains confidence and takes on a more active role in her own life.

The book has a similar basic storyline as the others in the series, but the individual flourishes mean that this book is not repetitive.  Also — dragons.

Even three books into the series, I still want to see more of these characters. There are  still a bunch of mysteries left to be revealed.

WORTH MENTIONING: The ongoing story about the Chameleon is picked up and continued in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: EIGHT SIMPLE RULES FOR DATING A DRAGON is the third book in the Embraced series. While the romance in this book is self contained, there are overarching relationships that make this book better read as part of the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to prepare 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 Secret to Flirting

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 Secret to FlirtingThe Secret of Flirting (Sinful Suitors, #5) by Sabrina Jeffries
Series: Sinful Suitors #5
Published by Pocket Books on March 27th 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 416
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I really enjoyed this one. Jumping off from real historical events, this book is improbable at times, but the relationship between Fulkham and Monique is testy and witty and quite lovely.

THE STORY: Spymaster Gregory Vyse, Baron Fulkham, is at a pivotal moment of his career when he is to participate in the choosing of the first royalty of Belgium. One of the contenders, Princess Aurore of Chanay, is the favorite. But Fulkham also believes her an imposter as he thinks he met her three years before when she was Monique Servais, an accomplished actress. Fulkham is entangled with trying to figure out what she is up to when an attempted assassination and Fulkham’s own attraction to the purported princess threaten his career.

OPINION: The one was very enjoyable because of the relationship between the characters. I especially enjoyed the witty banter and verbal combat between the hero and heroine. These two are working on outsmarting one another from the moment they meet.

The strength of the story in this book is clearly that it is based on real events. Although, as acknowledged in the author’s note, liberties are taken with the storyline, by giving this book true historical events gives it a grounding in its historical times. The book always feels time relevant with the issues and concerns of the times.

Monique is a woman who is accomplished, but her desire to care for her grandmother leads her into intrigue and Fulkham’s world. I really enjoyed the combination of her worldliness and her naivety at the machinations of others. Her dignity and cleverness was a good match for Fulkham. And while some of the events in the story seem unbelievable, her innate believable actions as a character allow the events that seem improbable to work in the story. I liked Monique.

Fulkham is a man with many secrets — some his country’s and some his own. He becomes entwined with Monique as he tries to figure out what she is doing. He is a man who acts carefully and deliberately — except when it comes to Monique. I loved that she gets under his skin and makes him act in all the ways he never expects. Fulkham’s ultimate willingness to do whatever it takes to be with Monique is romantic and a fine comeuppance for the spymaster.

I really enjoyed this book. The pacing and development of the plot and the romance just worked so well for me. It never felt rushed or lagging. The series is coming to a conclusion on a definite high note.

WORTH MENTIONING: For fans of the series, there are small updates about the other couples and the setup for the final novella of the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE SECRET TO FLIRTING is the fifth book in the Sinful Suitors series. While there are overlapping characters, this book can be read on its own as it provides all the information about the characters that you need to enjoy it.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

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

 

four-half-stars

Review: The Choice

Review: The ChoiceThe Choice (Doms of Her Life: Heavenly Rising 1) by Isabella LaPearl, Jenna Jacob, Shayla Black
Published by Dream Words, LLC on March 27th 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica
Goodreads
five-stars

“It’s going to get messy, emotional, and complicated. I hope you’re ready for that.”

FINAL DECISION: Hot, hot, hot. Just the beginning of the story between Beck, Seth and Heavenly, but definitely a great start. (Readers should be aware that this book ends on the cliffhanger, and there will be more books about this threesome).

THE STORY: Heavenly Young has a complicated life. She is a new nursing student, she is caring for her ill father and she is taking any job she can to make ends meet. Things become even more complicated when she catches the eyes of two dominate alpha men — both of whom want her but cannot stand one another. Dr. Ken Beckman is a surgeon who also happens to be a sadist. Having a relationship with an innocent and sweet woman is against all his rules, but Beck can’t stop himself from obsessing over Heavenly. Seth Cooper, private eye, takes one look at the sweet Heavenly and wants her in bed. But Seth finds himself drawn in by the woman he begins to know. Torn between two men who want her to make a choice between them, Heavenly cannot bring herself to choose.

OPINION: I really enjoyed this one. After reading the first trio romance by these authors, I knew to expect the cliffhanger and thus I wasn’t disappointed by the ending and the loose ends. And I think I love this couple more than Raine, Liam and Macen (DOMS OF HER LIFE) because the two men here are so funny in their competition with one another. This book feels lighter and more amusing and while there is clearly drama to come, I’m hoping that some of the humor remains.

Heavenly was slightly annoying to me as this book began. Too naive, too willing to lie to hide things that aren’t particularly worth hiding, but as the book continues I begin to see the woman who will be emerging as the series continues. (I also have to admit that her naivete made for some amusing situations). I think at some point, she is going to pull her two men by the ears (or another unmentionable part) and force them to her will.

Beck and Sean are similar men in many ways. They both clearly have some darkness in their pasts that are going to arise as the series continues, but here I found the guys funny and sweetly baffled by Heavenly. These guys are also intensely competitive and nowhere set up for the idea of a long term menage relationship. In many ways, this first book is about “the choice” that these men have to make.

I appreciated that this book allows the relationships to build in a slow fashion. Everyone is introduced and we really get the chance to see what Heavenly sees in each of these guys and also see these men begin to build a friendship with one another.

The book is hot, but I didn’t find the sex to be the focus here. It really was about relationship. The highlight was the heat and the humor. Even the cliffhanger was a gentle one so I can look forward to the next book instead of cursing the ending.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a mmf menage with the focus on the woman in the story. The two men are not involved with one another.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE CHOICE is the first book in the Doms of Her Life: Heavenly Rising series. This series is, however, connected with the Doms of Her Life series and partially takes place concurrent with that series. You can read this one without having read that series, but there are overlapping characters. And this menage is even introduced in that series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

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

 

five-stars

Review: The Undercover Duke

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 Undercover DukeThe Undercover Duke (The 1797 Club Book 6) by Jess Michaels
Series: The 1797 Club #6
Published by Passionate Pen on March 27th 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 247
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: I enjoyed this book because of the relationship between Lucas and Diana. Some of the historical reality was lacking, but the cautious and slow unfolding of these characters made this book an enjoyable journey.

THE STORY: Lucas Vincent, Duke of Willowby, has been a spy for the crown for years. Grievously injured in his last assignment, Lucas is sent to Diana Oakford to recover. Diana is the daughter of one of the men killed in the mission where Lucas was injured. Having been burned by the spies who surrounded her father before, Diana knows better than to give her heart to such a man. The attraction between her and Lucas, however, burns from the beginning. And as they agree to an affair, each believes that they can keep the relationship on a physical level, but things get complicated (on many levels) as they work together to find the traitor who almost killed Lucas.

OPINION: I have really been enjoying this series. The stories, while serious in tone, are not particularly deep or disturbing. They are a nice read that I can finish in a day and which don’t haunt me for days after. The books emphasize the relationship between the characters and the plot really works in service of that relationship.

Diana and Lucas are similar characters. Pain in their lives has taught them to keep their distance. As they start their relationship, there is plenty of sex but little relationship. Usually I dislike these instant sex books, but it really works here. The sex begins to allow these characters to open up to one another. Then there are small moments of revelation and caring that draw them out of their self-protective shells.

Because much of the book takes place solely between these two characters, the relationship really worked for me. There are hot encounters but also moments of tenderness.

Then there is the spy plot. Some of the resolution seemed obvious, but there were some interesting surprises. There isn’t a lot of “story” in the plot, but I also enjoyed that because while I certainly like deep plot filled books, I really prefer books where the relationship is the focus and gets the primary focus in the story.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is front loaded with the sexual encounters which lessen as the plot picks up.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE UNDERCOVER DUKE is the sixth book in the 1797 Club series. There are overlapping characters, but this book can be read completely as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to prepare 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: What a Difference a Duke Makes

Review: What a Difference a Duke MakesWhat a Difference a Duke Makes (School for Dukes, #1) by Lenora Bell
Series: School for Dukes #1
Published by Avon on March 27th 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
two-stars

“It was a desperate gamble. It was also her best hope at the moment.”

FINAL DECISION: I was disappointed in this one as the hero didn’t seem heroic to me but rather a milquetoast who was dominated and dictated to by the heroine.

THE STORY: Mari Perkins is desperate when she arrives in London, has her baggage stolen and is late for an appointment with her agency. Rather than getting the governess position she was promised, she is turned away. Mari, however, is never going back to the orphanage where she was raised and worked. Instead, she overhears the resignation of the governess of a duke and decides to appear as the replacement. Edgar Rochester, Duke of Banksford, is not the typical duke. To the despair of his mother, he is engaged in trade in order to save the family fortunes. He has also just been presented with two illegitimate children who keep scaring off the governesses he hires for them. What he needs is a strong, scary governess, and the sweet, innocent optimistic Mari is definitely not what is required.

OPINION: This book disappointed me. I was interested in the premise and I have really enjoyed the authors previous books. And while I liked the strength and independence of the heroine, the hero was weak and uninteresting.  The book suffers from too much modern concerns and sensibilities for a historical novel.

Mari is a woman looking for her past and trying to build a future for herself.  She is clever and kind. While I understand trying to make unique characters, Mari feel entirely too modern a character to me. If her character had been transported into a modern book, she would be entirely comfortable in a contemporary novel as a nanny.  Her sexual aggression for an innocent period woman raised in an orphanage just feels completely out of place. While I am not a reader who looks for historical accuracy in her books, this book just felt too modern for the time period and the characters did not fit and nothing else about the story was good enough to distract me from those facts.

The biggest problem with this book for me was the hero. First, he doesn’t feel possible as a historical character. He is given a tragic background, but it felt forced and not really impacting his life except to give him two illegitimate children which we are supposed to believe that everyone around him accept as reasonable that he would be raising in his own home. Nothing about Edgar works together or feels organic. Perhaps there are too many issues for him: a duke who rejected his rank, a man betrayed by the older woman he loved but who might have used him, a scientist, a tradesman, a new father trying to have a relationship with his children. Just too many parts that don’t mesh well together. Then there is all the moralizing over his concerns about abusing his relationship with Mari who is his employee. This feels like it is taken from a modern manual of how to deal with subordinates. Mari ends up making all the moves in their relationship. Having the woman take control can be sexy but just feels forced here. The combination of all these things makes Edgar a weak character that I would bet is totally controlled by his wife in the future. There is nothing of his “hero” that feels like a man that deserves to be a hero. And nothing about his character that interested me.

There is just too much going on with not enough interest on my part. There is also the story of Mari’s parentage which feels like a predictable afterthought designed to at least make her relationship with Edgar reasonable in the end.

WORTH MENTIONING: Now the story of India and Ravenwood sounds really intriguing and is probably the best part of this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DUKE MAKES is the first book in the School for Dukes series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2 stars.

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

 

two-stars

Review: The Quinn’s Christmas

Genres: Contemporary

This is a short vignette that follows the events in INNER HARBOR. It is about the first Christmas that Sean spends with the family. It is cute and a nice coda to the original trilogy of books. We get to see more of the developing relationship between Sean and his brothers. One thing I missed in the ending of INNER HARBOR was a wrap up of what happened with everyone. This is a nice epilogue type story and also operates as a transition to the final book in the series.

Review: Inner Harbor

Review: Inner HarborInner Harbor (Chesapeake Bay Saga, #3) by Nora Roberts
Series: Chesapeake Bay Saga #3
Published by Berkley Books on January 1st 1999
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 324
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Enjoyable read although the drama in the story isn’t as deep as might be expected from the description. I enjoyed watching these characters fall in love, but I felt there was more that could have been explored below the surface.

THE STORY: Phillip Quinn began life as a thief until he was taken in by the Quinns. Now he wears a veneer of sophistication. When he meets Dr. Sybill Griffin, he finds her reserve attractive. But Sybill has a secret reason for being in town. Sybill finds Phillip intriguing, but she is used to a life kept apart and observing, but although Phillip appears the cool sophisticate, there is something hot and wild under his exterior.

OPINION: This was an enjoyable read, but the story stays on the surface between these characters and thus is not as memorable as it could have been.

Phillip is a sly man. Sophisticated and polished, he also retains the fiery and untamed street rat he was. I liked the combination here, but there really isn’t much drama with his background as I might have expected. I thought the book missed that a bit instead focusing on Sybill. I still felt that Phillip was a little distant as a character because I never got deeper into his character.

Sybill is a good pair for Phillip because they both hide their pain under the sophistication and a type of coldness and distance. That was the interesting part of the story between these characters as they see something alike in one another. She is a harder to get to know, but I thought the book explored her character better than Phillip.

I did really like how the relationship between these two developed, I just wanted more.

The book also wraps up Sean’s story. That part was a bit underwhelming for me. A little too neat and easy for the setup in the first book. The series decides to focus on the relationships which works for me, but the first book set up some expectations that really didn’t come to fruition in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: This series was originally created as a trilogy but several years later Roberts added Seth’s book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: INNER HARBOR is the third book in the Chesapeake Bay Saga. This book should be read as part of the series even though the romance is self-contained because the developing relationships are good portion of the plot of this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

 

three-half-stars