Review: The Gentleman Who Loved Me

Review: The Gentleman Who Loved MeThe Gentleman Who Loved Me by Grace Callaway
Series: Heart of Enquiry #6
Published by Colchester & Page on June 15th 2017
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: Not a book for everyone. Rosie is a hard heroine to have empathy for and Andrew’s past is not fully confronted. Despite this, I enjoyed how these two interacted and grew together through the book.

THE STORY: Primrose Kent has been disappointed with her prospects. Although supported by influential people, she is a bastard and society will not let her forget it. Determined to marry a title, Rosie creates a whole new set of problems for herself. Andrew Corbett is the owner of a prominent brothel in London. A former prostitute himself, Andrew has built his own business. He is also determined to protect Rosie. The two share a past that she is not aware of. Andrew, however, finds that the girl he once thought of as a sister has grown up — and he is unwillingly aware of it.

OPINION: This book begins with several strikes against it, but despite that ended up being a story with depth and I liked it quite a bit.

Rosie is a difficult heroine to like. She is spoiled and self-destructive and sometimes quite annoying…but she does grow and change as the story progresses. I was happy that I gave her a chance. Her background and past warped some of her views, but as she experiences the world more, she begins to recognize her own failings.

Andrew is a complicated hero. Having become a prostitute by necessity, he both fully claims and is ashamed by his past. I thought that his history and his current circumstances were nuanced and complicated and his rags to riches story is certainly hero worthy. My complaint, however, is that his past and occupation was just too quickly dismissed as important by Rosie’s family. That just bothered me throughout the story. It felt contrived and I thought that there needed to be more drama or angst surrounding it.

The plot includes a mystery (expected in the Heart of Enquiry series) that keeps the story moving while Rosie and Andrew explore their passions together.

This is a dark and complicated story in parts and while I enjoy such stories, I know that not every reader is willing to take a darker journey.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book contains voyeurism (not the hero and heroine) and a certain event that some may consider cheating after the hero and heroine have become involved.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE GENTLEMAN WHO LOVED ME is the sixth and final book in the Heart of Enquiry series. Although the romance is self-contained and thus can be read as a standalone, the relationships between the all the characters in the book make this a book better read as part of the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Never Say Never to an Earl

Review: Never Say Never to an EarlNever Say Never to an Earl by Grace Callaway
Series: Heart of Enquiry #5
Published by Colchester & Page on December 21st 2016
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: I really admire this book for giving us a hero with a mental disorder. I loved the mystery and relationship between these characters and I thought the journey these two take gave this story more depth. And it’s really hot!

THE STORY: Miss Polly Kent, a wallflower, has a special talent that has convinced her that she cannot hope for love. Polly can see the aura of people which gives her a sense of their emotions. A chance encounter has her meeting up with the ton’s biggest rake, Sinjin Pelham, Earl of Revelstoke, the last man she wants to see. Sinjin is in a jam as he apparently attacked a prostitute (although he has no memory of the encounter). Soon Polly and her family are helping Sinjin find out the truth. He also has a dark personal secret that keeps him painfully separate from people. The personal encounters between Polly and Sinjin crackle with intensity and threaten ruin.

OPINION: I enjoyed this book. I especially liked the complexity of Sinjin’s character and the willingness of the author to take the chance to give her hero a flaw that is definitely not common among heroes or heroine’s in romance. The reality of the situation and the decision to not have a magic solution to solve the lifelong problems that this couple will have was a refreshing take that I did not expect.

What I did expect from this romance was lots of heat and mystery. Both were just as I expected in the story. The story has a small paranormal twist with Polly’s talent (but standard historical readers shouldn’t turn away from this book for that reason because it is not a big part of the story).

Sinjin is one of my favorite Callaway heroes. He is deeply flawed and has struggled with his problems without much support. Like all good rakes, he finds something lasting and stabilizing about Polly — a man who has any vice he wants sees something necessary in a decent and honorable woman.

Fans of the Heart of Enquiry series will also get some significant appearances by characters from prior books.

WORTH MENTIONING: The book also has appearances from the hero and heroine of the next book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: NEVER SAY NEVER TO AN EARL is the fifth book in the Heart of Enquiry series. While this book is a self-contained romance that can be read as a standalone, there are overlapping characters from previous books in the series that means that a reader gets more if they have read those books.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Someone to Wed

Review: Someone to WedSomeone to Wed (Westcott #3) by Mary Balogh
Series: Westcott #3
Published by Berkley on November 7th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
five-stars

“I am twenty-nine years old, very nearly thirty, and I would like . . . someone to wed. In my own person I am not marriageable, but I do have money. And you do not.”

FINAL DECISION: Absolutely lovely story. This is my favorite of the series so far as the heroine and hero have such a wonderfully adult relationship. Wren is a woman who has been damaged by her past and Alex recognizes and eventually comes to embrace and finally help her free herself.

THE STORY: Alexander Westcott unexpectedly becomes the Earl of Riverdale when his cousins are found to be illegitimate, but while he gets the title and the entailed estates, he doesn’t inherit any money needed to maintain the properties. As such, he finds himself needing to marry an heiress. Wren Heyden has been a recluse for most of her life, but upon the death of her aunt and uncle wants marriage and children no matter how unlikely. Knowing that she can never hope to obtain a husband in the usual manner, she decides the buy a husband. Propositioning Alex, Wren is surprised that Alex will not agree unless there is something more than money between them. Getting to know and build at least respect and care between them challenges them both.

OPINION: Sometimes there are books that I just fall into. As I read, everything just acts to pull me into the story and I am surprised when the book ends. This was one of those books. There was nothing particularly dramatic, but word by word, page by page, I became absorbed in Alex and Wren’s story.

The story asks for a commitment from the reader as the romance between these two isn’t love at first site, but rather a slow building of the connections and emotions and eventually great love between these two. This book is the example of how two strangers fall deeply in love.

Alex is a wonderful hero. While surprise inheritance of the title is something that most people would be rejoicing, Alex keenly feels the family pain which caused his inheritance but also the new responsibilities that he has acquired. He is a man who cares and while he knows that his marital choices are limited because he must marry a a fortune, he is unwilling to be mercenary and just be concerned about money. I also greatly admire that he is unwilling to lie to Wren. He is compassionate but also he it truthful about her issues.

Wren is a heroine that I loved. Despite the great pain in her past and her conviction that her appearance makes her unworthy of having a “normal” life, she has managed to be successful and build a life for herself. Her interactions with Alex begin to break her out of her protective shell. Alex recognizes almost immediately that she is walled off in pain when they first meet and that repels him. But her willingness to take chances both brings her closer to Alex and also her dreams.

One other thing I really liked about this story is the “deep secret” from Wren’s childhood is not what is commonly used in romance novels. Both more heartbreaking and also something different.

There was nothing I didn’t like about this book except that it ended. I feel more and more in love with this story as it developed. This is a book I look forward to reading again.

WORTH MENTIONING: I can’t wait until the next book because Balogh is fabulous at mature adult romances.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SOMEONE TO WED is the third book in the Westcott series. This book has overlapping characters, but this book can be read on its own. I think it is better to read the other books first, but this story is really self-contained.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Misadventures on the Night Shift

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: Misadventures on the Night ShiftMisadventures on the Night Shift (Misadventures, #6) by Lauren Rowe
Series: Misadventures #6
Published by Waterhouse Press on November 7th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica
Pages: 280
Goodreads
two-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: This book was a disappointment. I really loved this book until we got to the conclusion. I just didn’t buy the resolution at all. Too fast, too much left unresolved and there needed to be something more for the book to work for me.

THE STORY: Abby Medford is working as a night clerk in a hotel when she thinks her teenage fantasies have come true. Rock star Lucas Ford checks into the penthouse and notices her. After a rough start, the two find erotic playtime together combined with an emotional connection for two people searching for meaning in their lives.

OPINION: I liked so much of this book that I was really let down by the ending. Abby and Lucas are a hot lusty pair and their interactions range from intense fighting to emotional connection. I thought the connection between them was strong and I really enjoyed the heat in this book.

Abby is a woman who likes the bad boys but is trying to be good and build a life — even if it isn’t the one she actually wants. She works hard and goes to school but can’t get excited by a future that might be outwardly successful but doesn’t call to her.

Lucas is a rockstar who just doesn’t have the passion for what he does any more.

When the two meet, they bring something exciting and hopeful to one another. I loved that part of the story.

Ultimately, however, this book just didn’t work for me as a romance. I didn’t buy the resolution of the story between the hero and heroine. Too fast, too many complications, too much time apart and too many people involved. The resolution seemed more like an accident that might change in time rather than a happy ending.

WORTH MENTIONING: Warning for those who don’t like their hero and heroine having sex with other people after their supposed life changing “connection.” There is a also a menage scene.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MISADVENTURES ON THE NIGHT SHIFT is the sixth book in the Misadventures series, but each book is a complete standalone with no overlapping storyline, characters or content.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2.5 stars.

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

two-half-stars

Review: American King

Review: American KingAmerican King (New Camelot Trilogy, #3) by Sierra Simone
Series: New Camelot Trilogy #3
Published by Amazon Digital Services on October 31st 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica
Pages: 456
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: I love the characters in this book and the crazy stuff that gets worked out, but honestly, I felt the series went down since the first book in the series. The ending was too contrived and completely without any possibility of reality that I felt a letdown for the entire series.

THE STORY: This book continues the story of Ash, Embry and Greer. As the book begins, Embry has broken from the trio as he has unwillingly impregnated Greer’s evil cousin and has decided that Ash is not doing enough to protect Greer. Embry intends to run against Ash for president. This book, as might be expected, focuses on Ash’s view of the events.

OPINION:  There was so much I loved about this book, but the ending was not among them. There is something really crazy and beautiful about this series just going for the most salacious romance — the President, Vice-President and the First Lady. There are so many mixes and measures that I couldn’t wait to see what incredible plot twist was next. The whole thing just felt so unreal and big. Using the mythology of King Arthur as the basis for the story allows this story to have its own mythic quality. Yes, the story is unreal on almost every page, but I loved that the spirit of the story embraced all the crazy plot twists that felt like a modern erotic soap opera. This book begins to unwind all the plots that were introduced in the first two books. Mostly, I enjoyed the possibilities. I also have always liked how this book uses love and passion and lust and jealousy and guilt in bigger than life ways.

But the ending just disappointed me. Too small, too neat, too implausible.  I expected everything to be blown wide open, but instead, the book ends in secrets and hiding. I just felt disappointed and once that happened, all the veneers of big drama just fell apart. Instead, I just kept asking questions about how things would actually work in reality and the entirety of the relationships just fell apart for me. Perhaps one day I will re-read this crazy adventure and see it differently, but I was sad that today I couldn’t walk away excited about the entire journey.

WORTH MENTIONING: I recommend this series because I think that people’s reaction to the ending will be personal and doesn’t diminish the wonderful crazy series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: AMERICAN KING is the third and final book in the New Camelot Trilogy. These books are meant to be read together in order.

STAR RATING I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Seducing Ethan

Review: Seducing EthanSeducing Ethan (Knight Security, #6) by Carole Mortimer
Series: Knight Security #6
Published by Carole Mortimer on May 26th 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 302
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Enjoyable end to the series, characters that I enjoyed reading about and enough sex and action to keep it interesting.

THE STORY: Ethan is hiding out from a murderous criminal father when a woman steps from the shadows. Talia and Ethan knew one another three years ago when his family’s business was hired to protect Talia. It was revealed, however, that Talia’s father was a corrupt Russian and the two went into hiding. Now Talia has returned seeking Ethan’s help. The two join forces as danger surrounds them.

OPINION: This is a short novella, but I enjoyed the interaction between Ethan and Talia. I was quite surprised how much story was packed into this little novel. The book has more dramatic action than I expected, but the story is hot as well. The book isn’t particularly deep and the relationship between the hero and heroine happens really quickly (picking up on their interactions three years ago). Therefore, reading it like a quick novella worked really well.

WORTH MENTIONING: I loved that there is a character reunion and updates for those of us who have followed the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SEDUCING ETHAN is the sixth and final book in the Knight Security series. This book can be read as a standalone although there are overlapping characters with the other books in the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: Island of Glass

Review: Island of GlassIsland of Glass (The Guardians Trilogy, #3) by Nora Roberts
Series: The Guardians Trilogy #3
Published by Berkley on December 6th 2016
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 352
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: The trilogy ends on a decent but unexceptional book. Focused more on the plot than the romance (which feels like an afterthought), the “big bad” is just not compelling enough to compete with the first book in the trilogy.

THE STORY: This book continues the story of the six guardians who are searching for the three stars that will help them defeat the evil goddess. The final romance is between Doyle, a man cursed with immortality over three hundred years ago, and Riley, an archaeologist who also happens to be a shapeshifting wolf.

OPINION: I waited almost a year to read this book. Unfortunately after book two I didn’t have any real compulsion to finish up the trilogy. This book ended the series better than book 2 left me, but the romance was flat in this story.

The highlight of this series was book one and I still loved seeing Sasha and Bran. They were the best fleshed out couple in the series and they still seem the most interesting. While the pairing of Doyle and Riley was expected, this book didn’t really develop their characters any further. Doyle has some backstory dealing with his past with people dying, but Riley is not developed at all which was disappointing. These two seem to fall together more from being the only ones in the house not having sex rather than any real connection. The romance here felt like an afterthought that the story could have done without.

The strength of this story was the formed family connection between all six characters. Their pursuit of their quest felt purposeful and interesting. Even though the final confrontation with the “big bad” was lacking somewhat, I enjoyed the journey these characters went on.

What I really did not like was the epilogue which magically solved all the problems. As a spoiler, I can say that Sasha and Bran didn’t need anything — which just goes to demonstrate what a great couple they are.

I liked this book more than book 2 (although the “fixing” of the problems in book 2 done here mitigates many of my complaints), but this trilogy isn’t one that I’m putting on my keeper shelf.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book fixes the serious problem with the ending for the couple in book 2.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ISLAND OF GLASS is the third and final book in the Guardians Trilogy. The series has a continuing storyline and characters with relationships which overlap. A reader should start with book one and read the series in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: The Right Kind of Rogue

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 Right Kind of RogueThe Right Kind of Rogue (Playful Brides, #8) by Valerie Bowman
Series: Playful Brides #8
Published by St. Martin's Press on October 31st 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 320
Goodreads
four-stars

“He’s a rogue, an unrepentant charmer.”

FINAL DECISION: A Romeo and Juliet type romance between two warring families (with humor and less death). A wallflower finally being noticed by the man she has loved for years, this is a story where I liked the characters quite a bit.

THE STORY: Viscount Hart Highgate is searching for a wife who is well-connected socially and brings her own funds with her. Meg Timmons has loved the raking Hart for years but as a wallflower not only doesn’t she fit the requirements that Hart has set down, but she comes from a family that is involved in a feud with Hart’s family. Meg is taken under the wing of a matchmaker who transforms her into the belle of the ball who knows she desperately needs to marry someone to save her family from ruin — even as she only wants the one man she knows she cannot have.

OPINION: I like the combination of humor and drama that is part of this book. There is also a fairy tale aspect (Cinderella) combined with a bit of Romeo and Juliet (without the teenage death).

There is a sweetness to this story as Hart and Meg get to know one another as he is supposed to be helping her find a husband. After first noticing that she is a beautiful woman, he actually gets to know her as a person. At the same time, Meg had a crush on Hart that becomes love as the two dance and laugh and get to know one another.

I really liked Meg who is a genuinely nice person who cares about those around her. But she also makes mistakes as the story demonstrates. Hart is described as a rogue and a rake, but we actually don’t get to see much of that but rather he shows a very nice and gentle side for most of the story.

In other hands this might have been a light and fluffy romance, but the darkness and dysfunctional parents of the hero and heroine and Hart’s own history brings some hard moments into this story, but things stay on the lighter side. This story is not dark so those that prefer their historical romance a bit lighter will enjoy this one. There were scenes where I laughed out loud at the interactions.

My only complaint about the book is that I thought that the resolution of the story demanded a little more than what we got. The conflict was so acute at that point that I expected a more dramatic resolution — or perhaps the break seemed to demand something more. Despite this, I enjoyed this book and I especially liked seeing characters from the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: Hiccups.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE RIGHT KIND OF ROGUE is the eighth book in the Playful Brides series. This book can be read on its own, but there are a number of cross-over characters (especially from THE LEGENDARY LORD) so I think the book is more enjoyable 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 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: Wyoming Winter

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: Wyoming WinterWyoming Winter (Wyoming Men, #7) by Diana Palmer
Series: Wyoming Men #7
Published by Harlequin Books on October 31st 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 416
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A more complex version of Palmer’s standard formula which I enjoyed with the exception of the too quick resolution of the problems between the hero and heroine.

THE STORY: Colie Jackson falls hard for her brother’s friend J.C. Calhoun. Colie ignores, however, J.C.’s differing values and his distrust of women. While the two get close, J.C.’s past keeps him waiting to be betrayed. When he is told that Colie has been cheating on him and is pregnant, J.C. rejects Colie. Years later, Colie returns to town and again sees J.C. The two have to work through their past while Colie is in danger from a criminal gang because of secrets only she knows.

OPINION: This book has Palmer’s standard formula: innocent woman misjudged by man angry and mistrusting because of lies and a past woman’s actions; he breaks her heart and then realizes he was wrong and they reconcile. One thing I really liked about his book was the time it took in J.C. in reforming himself. That was different than what I have seen in Palmer’s books in the past.

Longtime readers of Palmer will recognize one of her enduring formulas. These characters are what you might expect except that Colie has more determination and self-reliance than I expected.  J.C. is the expected jerk as the book begins, but he also goes through a three year struggle to change himself.

I am also a big fan of how the story works out through both J.C. and Colie working through their own faith struggles. (Readers who don’t want to read about characters who have religious backgrounds and struggle through life and try and connect it to their faith and God should probably skip this one).

The problem that kept this book from being rated higher was that, for me, the resolution between J.C. and Colie was too quick. There needed to be more time or more discussion or more groveling. Everything between them seemed to be fixed within only a few pages and I needed more to resolve the years that these two spent apart and the magnitude of what occurred.

Despite this, I enjoyed this book as a whole.

WORTH MENTIONING: I enjoyed seeing characters from prior books.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WYOMING WINTER is the seventh book in the Wyoming Men series but can be read as a standalone. The book is also connected with the Long, Tall Texans series if you have read the series otherwise the connection is slight.

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: A Daring Arrangement

Review: A Daring ArrangementA Daring Arrangement (The Four Hundred, #1) by Joanna Shupe
Series: The Four Hundred #1
Published by Avon on October 31st 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“Do we have a deal?”

FINAL DECISION: Big and brash and exciting, A DARING ARRANGEMENT is a great start to a new series set in America’s Guilded Age with characters who are navigating a new world with new rules and fall in love despite all their good intentions.

THE STORY: Lady Nora Parker, the daughter of an earl is sent in disgrace to America to find a husband, but Nora has no intention of conceding to her father’s wishes. Instead, Nora intends to find a thoroughly scandalous fiance that will make her father bring her back to London where she will be reunited with the man she loves. Nora finds the “perfect” candidate for fiance in Julius Hatcher, a rich self-made financial wizard who gets a lot of press for his notorious actions. Julius finds himself agreeing to Nora’s scheme because she can gain him entry into the social elite in New York, where Julius intends to discover the identity of the men who ruined his father. But instead of being the scandal that Nora wanted, she finds that Julius transforms himself into the perfect fiance and perhaps a man that Nora herself finds irresistible.

OPINION: I have become a great fan of Shupe’s Guilded Age books. In an era not often explored in historical romance, these books and characters feel fresh and innovative rather than relying on the same scenarios. The Guilded Age is a time of great change and disruption which is something that Shupe explores to great effect in A DARING ARRANGEMENT.

The collision in this book of the self-made man and the aristocratic woman brings a lot of energy to this story. Nora especially is asking herself who she is. She is a new woman in a time where the roles of women and especially aristocratic women are changing. She has strength and determination and wants to control her own life beyond expectations and social norms. Sexuality, social mores, gender roles and self-determination are all deftly explored here are Nora begins to remake herself in America. She finds support for her organized, bold and even wicked personality. She is brighter and stronger and different.

In the same way, the relationship between Julius and Nora also is involved in remaking norms. Their relationship feels more contemporary in many ways as the Guilded Age begins to move towards the modern world. Julius is just adorable in this story as he struggles with his feelings towards Nora while being determined to avoid marriage and entanglements. He is protective and caring and really sexy.

I found this story very compelling because it feels different. The stakes are murkier and so are the standards. The rules are being remade and worked out and it makes the relationship between Nora and Julius more unpredictable. These two have to work to figure out what their relationship will be as rules are being subverted all around them.

I really enjoyed this one and can’t wait for the next in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: Even though this series takes place in the same world as Shupe’s Knickerbocker series, there is no overlap since she moved to a new publisher.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A DARING ARRANGEMENT is the first book in the Four Hundred 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 to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-half-stars