Review: The Viscount and the Vixen

Review: The Viscount and the VixenThe Viscount and the Vixen (Hellions of Havisham, #3) by Lorraine Heath
Published by Avon on November 29th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 389
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: With a heroine who is unusual in historical romances, this book shatters traditional romance tropes. Deeply emotional and difficult, I ended up liking it quite a bit, but had to struggle with it a bit.

THE STORY: Viscount Locksley intends to save his mad father from a mercenary woman who has shown up to marry him. Instead Locke marries her himself because he knows that while he wants her, she is the type of woman he could never love. Portia Gadstone is desperate for security and is forced to agree to marry Locke in his father’s place. Two people who plan never to love find that getting to know one another changes everything — until secrets from the past threaten everything.

OPINION: It’s taken me nearly a year to actually read this book because I made a mistake that I’ve done before and likely will do again — I read reviews that gave away the big secret in the story and I hated it. And then I couldn’t read the book because every word I tried to read was infused with my dislike for the ending.

I know better — especially with Lorraine Heath books. Heath often challenges the assumptions and expected stories. Her characters are imperfect and are put in terrible situations. Yet I love her books for exactly that reason.

While this book never fell into the intense love that I have for some of Heath’s books, I managed to enjoy this book quite a bit in spite of the revelation I knew was coming.

The characters here are complex, especially Portia who is a woman who has been burned by love and has no intention of being vulnerable again. She is different from other heroines and I think that a reader is supposed to learn about her before her secret is revealed.

Locke is wonderful. A dear and caring man who has learned the wrong lesson from his father’s intense sense of loss of his wife. He is so ready to fall in love despite his protestations that he will not. He is kinder and more forgiving than I expected. His character was what made the book for me because through him I could understand how I should respond to Portia.

This is a worthy book to read because of how it challenges the standard historical romance, but I do recommend that a reader approach the story with an open mind, an open heart and without reading spoilers.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a novella about Locke’s father which overlaps this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE VISCOUNT AND THE VIXEN is the third book in the Hellions of Havisham series. This book can be read as a standalone although there are character crossovers.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: The Lady’s Legacy

Review: The Lady’s LegacyThe Lady's Legacy (Half Moon House, #3) by Deb Marlowe
Series: Half Moon House #3
Published by Deb Marlowe on November 27th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 283
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION: A sweet romance with a whole bunch of drama and intrigue surrounding the couple.

THE STORY: Miss Francis Headley has come to Edinburgh to search out the long-lost son of her employer. Rhys Caradec is an artist who keeps himself apart from all connections because of his past. When Francis comes into his life, Rhys has no intent of getting involved with his “mother” but he definitely is intrigued with Francis who switches between boy dress and a beautiful young woman. Francis believes that she can change Rhys view and Rhys believes that Francis has agreed to his view. But there are still dangers from the battle between Rhys’ parents to contend with.

OPINION: This is a sweet romance between Francis and Rhys. The two meet and have a philosophical difference about a person’s place in the world and involving oneself in others’ lives.  That is the center of the drama between them (along with Rhys wanting nothing to do with his parents). But most of the book is these two getting to know one another and seeing the world from the other’s viewpoint.

I liked both characters and I smiled at Rhys’ artistic temperament and his devotion to his art. I smiled at Francis’s abilities to masquerade as a boy. The book has an interesting storyline with the exception that the drama between Rhys’ parents is not fully set out. I suspect that more is explained in the other books but while I could figure out what was going on, I didn’t feel as much drama as I expect I was supposed to.

WORTH MENTIONING: I think the end of this book gives hints of an upcoming book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE LADY’S LEGACY is the third novel in the Half Moon House series. It is not necessary to read the other books in the series to enjoy this one. I’ve read a couple of novellas from this series, but have not read any of the prior books. I do note, however, that there are some references to prior events and other characters from the series so it might be more enjoyable to read the books in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

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

three-stars

Review: A Discovery of Witches

Review: A Discovery of WitchesA Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1) by Deborah Harkness
Series: All Souls Trilogy
Published by Viking Penguin on February 1, 2011
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 579
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Romance, supernatural, science and history combined in an adventure story that makes the 600 pages just race by. I loved the relationship between Diana and Matthew and look forward to what happens next.

THE STORY: Dr. Diana Bishop has come to Oxford. When a request for a manuscript from the library brings her in contact with a magical manuscript, she finds herself surrounded by witches, vampires and demons. For years Diana has tried to ignore her magical roots but her abilities as a witch seem to be demanding their due. An encounter with Professor Matthew Clairmont (who happens to be a vampire) changes something. Witches and vampires should repel one another, but Diana and Matthew seem to be drawn to one another. When Diana’s connection to the manuscript brings danger from all sides, she turns to Matthew. But the question is what is his agenda.

OPINION: This is a long and nicely paced book with a romance at the center (although the main story is Diana’s abilities and the magical manuscript). I began this book with a question to myself of whether I wanted to commit to this almost 600 page book and two more, but by chapter 3, I was completely engrossed.

The book is not a traditional romance but rather feels like a cross between an adult Harry Potter and Twilight (without all the annoying and whiny internal monologues). The story marries the supernatural and scientific as the story is based on Matthew’s investigation of the scientific origins and perhaps extinction of the supernatural “species”. All the scientific investigations are combined with Diana’s interest in the historical so this is really a thinking person’s book — and there is a lot of adventure as well. I explained this book to my mom as a more sophisticated “Mummy” story.

Diana is a woman discovering herself. Having been cut off from her powers and the supernatural world, she is the reader’s window into the world that this trilogy introduces. She is smart and active with a nimble mind and a tragic past. Scholarly and athletic and determined to make her own way. But she is no fool. Eventually she realizes that she cannot hide from her inherent talents. I especially liked her strength and her insistence on her autonomy.

Matthew is a vampire with secrets. But he is also a scientist with an old fashioned manner. The combination of the modern with the ancient makes him an interesting character. Of course, he is also frustrating (both to Diana and the reader) because he knows much that he won’t reveal. The complexity of his character make him a good foil for Diana.

As this book sets up the series, there is plenty going on in this book. Danger and mystery and discovery.  This book sets the table for the series. Nothing is resolved and there are still plenty of mysteries to be revealed. That is one weakness of this book. It requires that the reader continue with the series to have a complete story.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is the first in a continuing trilogy so readers should know that things are not resolved in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES is the first book in the All Souls Trilogy.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Wicked Deception

Review: Wicked DeceptionWicked Deception (Regency Sinners, #4) by Carole Mortimer
Series: Regency Sinners #4
Published by Carole Mortimer on November 22nd 2017
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: I didn’t think much of the story as it started, but the relationship between the hero and heroine as the story progressed made me enjoy the story quite a bit. This is a simple easy story and certainly not a complex drama, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.

THE STORY: Maximillian Smythe, Earl of Carlton is taking his turn searching for the traitor that the eight Sinners are searching for. The woman he is to investigate is his own stepmother Heather. The young and beautiful second wife to his father. Six years ago Maxim and Heather had a whirlwind romance before Maxim left to spy for the Crown and returned to find Heather married to his father. Now Maxim must determine what Heather is hiding.

OPINION: The story line here is not surprising and almost everything is quickly disclosed to the reader (if not to the characters). A second chance at love for these two characters complicated by deceptions and lies and misunderstandings.

The story and the characters are not particularly deep, but sometimes an uncomplicated story makes a nice easy read. The characters were not stupid despite their misunderstandings and I liked that they quickly were able to unravel the secrets between them.

I liked Maxim as a character and thought that his darkness was actually what made the story interesting. This book reminds me of the category romances in the past (although more erotic and explicit) because of the simplicity of the story.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a novella.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WICKED DECEPTION is the fourth book in the Regency Sinners series. This is a series of books with the overarching storyline of the search for a woman traitor. While there is some connection between the books, this book can certainly be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Shadow Reaper

Review: Shadow ReaperShadow Reaper (Shadow, #2) by Christine Feehan
Series: Shadow, #2
Published by Jove on May 30th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Paranormal
Pages: 480
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: This was really enjoyable — perhaps more for the suspense and action part of the story than the romance. Nevertheless, I think this is a fun (not funny) action story with an intense “fated” romance.

THE STORY: Ricco Ferraro is a shadow rider. The shadow riders are assassins who do justice by using their ability to travel via shadows to do their work. Ricco has been becoming more reckless and that worries his family. When he meets Mariko Majo, Ricco instantly knows that she is a woman who is special because she is one of the few women who can mate with a shadow rider and produce children. Mariko’s mysterious background intrigues Ricco, but the question is why has Mariko come to Ricco and what danger has she brought to the Ferraro family?

OPINION: This was an adventurous story as the Ferraro family is under attack and the question is why and who is behind it. I thought the pacing and depictions of the family was a highlight of the story. The story is suspenseful and also a bit graphic at times because this family is not sitting around doing knitting. The story is gritty and dark at times with a lot of violence.

Ricco is a playboy who has gotten bored with his own life: fast women and fast cars. When he meet Mariko, things begin to change for him. I do like that Ricco is certainly a family man who loves and cares for his family. That quality is important especially because the family verges on being an organized crime family (or at least that is the way they are viewed by outsiders).

Mariko is a woman who has been ground down by everyone around her for most of her life. Yet she is a woman of integrity. Like many of Feehan’s heroines, she is sexually inexperienced and sometimes quite a bit naive about her sexuality. There is quite a bit of dominant alpha male and submissive woman in this book although the book acknowledges a sense where the roles are reversed — even though Ricco is ostensibly in charge, he is only responding to Mariko’s wishes. This is most clearly expressed in the Japanese rope bondage that the two engage in. This was a kink that I haven’t read about before in romance books and I thought it was well explained and used through the book especially because it is clear that there is an artistic side and a sexual side and the book explores the characters moving from one vision to another.

WORTH MENTIONING: I’m still waiting for the Romeo and Juliet story that has to be coming later in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SHADOW REAPER is the second book in the Shadow series. This book can be read as a standalone although the world building descriptions are in the first book so a reader would have to figure that part out.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Misadventures of a Virgin

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 of a VirginMisadventures of a Virgin (Misadventures, #14) by Meredith Wild
Series: Misadventures #14
Published by Waterhouse Press, LLC on November 21st 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: I really enjoyed this second chance at love story. The story is sweet and its depth reflects its short length, but I liked the characters and found the story interesting.

THE STORY: June Bell has spent her life helping her father in his hotel. His plans to expand in the small town have been stymied by the McCasker family with whom June’s father has had a feud with for years. Now Kase McCasker has returned to town. Four years ago he left after a scorching kiss between June and Kase and the revelation of a secret that sent Kase’s world spinning. Kase has returned and June might be the only reason that Kase is willing to consider her father’s deal.

OPINION: This was an enjoyable and easy to read story. I thought that the connection between these two was good and there was some drama as to what Kase’s motives are. I liked the progress of the story and there was enough plot twists to keep the story interesting. The connection between Kase and June pre-exists the beginning of this story so this is really about these two rediscovering one another.  There is a sweetness to the story combined with some real heat in the sexual encounters. That combination makes a good story. This book is one of my favorites in the series so far.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a short novella.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MISADVENTURES OF A VIRGIN is the fourteenth book in the Misadventures series. The series books are complete standalones with no overlapping characters or places.

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: Misadventures of a Valedictorian

Review: Misadventures of a ValedictorianMisadventures of a Valedictorian by M.F. Wild, Mia Michelle
Series: Misadventures #7
Published by Waterhouse Press on November 14th 2017
Genres: Erotica
Pages: 300
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: This story is just crazy erotica with a simple, fun college experimentation storyline. I enjoyed this book so much because it isn’t trying to be a deep romance but just a fun set of erotic pieces.

THE STORY: Clare Winston spent years dreaming of the high school quarterback Eric Hayward. At the end of high school, the two finally have a connection but as the two go on to college, they both have growing and experimenting to do. Can the two keep their connection amidst all the adventures they are seeking to explore?

OPINION: This is just a fun erotic read. It’s not deep or thought provoking, but I enjoyed every page. This is the story of two young adults who get together at the end of high school and spend the first half of their freshman year in college experimenting sexually.

Clare starts out this book as a virgin but quickly starts getting experience. In fact, the book’s premise is that the hero is allowing her to have the freedom to experiment in college in the same way he did in high school.

I just enjoyed the fun encounters which seem like a series of vignettes of hot little sexual encounters. There is also a nice thread of caring between the hero and heroine. It takes the experimentation seriously and both characters experience jealousy and doubts. But this book never goes dark. Almost everything is kept light and in a easy.

This book takes the moniker misadventures seriously and I enjoyed it as a guilty pleasure.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a lot of sex in this one — and the majority is not between the hero and heroine. There is mmf, mmmf, mff and various sexual encounters between the hero or heroine with other people.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MISADVENTURES OF A VALEDICTORIAN is the seventh book in the Misadventures series. This series consists of complete standalone books that have no overlapping characters or settings.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Cowboy’s Reckoning

Review: Cowboy’s ReckoningCowboy's Reckoning (Cahill Ranch, #2.5) by B.J. Daniels
Series: Cahill Ranch #2.5
Published by Harlequin Books on October 1st 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery
Pages: 70
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I liked these characters and their interaction. I just wish the story was longer because I found these characters very interesting.

THE STORY: Billie Dee Rhodes has come to Montana from Texas running from her past and looking for a new start (and maybe a cowboy). Taking the job as the cook for the Stagecoach Saloon, Billie Dee has enjoyed her daily talks with Henry Larson, a retired rancher. When danger from Billie Dee’s past comes to town, it is a question whether they will have time to have anything else develop between them.

OPINION: I loved these characters. It is rare for there to be a good romance with more mature characters. My biggest disappointment with this story is that it is too short. I could have read an entire full length book with these two. They are sweet and funny together.

Henry is a widower with three grown children and the scene where he is getting ready for his first date with Billie Dee was so funny. I loved seeing them get to know one another and also begin to reveal their secrets.

There is a short suspense plot incorporated in this story which worked very well. I really liked how Billie Dee and Henry start out their romance. I only wish we had some heat in the story and for things to go further than it did in this book.

I would definitely read another “part two” novella about these two and I wish there had been more pages to read.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a short novella.

CONNECTED BOOKS: COWBOY’S RECKONING is book 2.5 in the Cahill Ranch series.  While there are small appearances by characters from the series, this novella can be read on its own.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: Born in Shame

Review: Born in ShameBorn in Shame (Born In trilogy #3) by Nora Roberts
Series: Born in Trilogy #3
Published by Paw Prints on April 9th 2009
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 368
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I’m split on this book. I loved so much of it because I loved the first two books of the series, but I thought the romance here wasn’t nearly as developed or as good as the others in the series.

THE STORY: New York graphic artist Shannon Bodine has her life turned upside down when her mother reveals that Shannon is the result of an affair with a married man. Losing both parents in a year and discovering that her entire history was a lie, Shannon feels adrift in her life. When her half sisters in Ireland reach out to her, Shannon decides to travel to Ireland to meet them and see if she can recover her sense of balance in her life. In Ireland, Shannon meets Murphy Muldoon, a man wedded to the land his family has farmed for generations. The attraction between them is immediate although Shannon does not want to get involved in a temporary relationship that she knows will end when she returns to New York.

OPINION: This book frustrates me in many ways. I loved so much about it. As a continuation of the series, I would give the book a very high rating. I loved seeing the couples from the previous books and I enjoyed the resolution of the three sisters’ story. That familial part of the book was incredibly satisfying as their relationship developed in this book.

But in many ways the time spent on the developing relationship between Maggie, Brianna and Shannon was robbed from the romance between Shannon and Murphy. Indeed, I think that is why there is an “insta-love” destined element to their romance — the book couldn’t both develop their relationship in a deep fashion and also the sisters’ relationship.

The relationships between the couples in the first two books took place over months and thus the sacrifices they agreed to make felt reasonable and natural. Here, Shannon is in Ireland for just over a month but is willing to toss everything away — it just didn’t feel as natural as the other books. Instead, I think the book relied on its paranormal crutch too much to explain the intensity of the relationship.

I loved Murphy — who is just adorable. A gentle and talented and completely centered man. He knows who he is and is satisfied with his life. He also knows exactly what he wants when he sees Shannon.  Shannon was more prickly and more difficult to like (she is similar to Maggie in that sense), but by the end of the book I understood her and even liked her. I especially liked seeing her relationships develop in this book.

The best part of this book is the relationships between the six main characters in the series. Whether it is the women bonding or the men drinking themselves silly or the caring “sister”-“brother” relationships between the men and the women, I loved seeing this family be created. That is the highlight of this series as a whole. This is the creation of the next generation.

But I still find the relationship between Murphy and Shannon to be more shallowly explored than the other two books.

WORTH MENTIONING: Small spoiler that this book has some paranormal elements although it is not the main part of the story.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BORN IN SHAME is the third and final book in the Born in Trilogy. This book should only be read after the first two in the series because it resolves the overarching story in the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: Born in Ice

Review: Born in IceBorn in Ice (Born In Trilogy, #2) by Nora Roberts
Series: Born in Trilogy #2
Published by Berkley on November 1st 1996
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: My favorite book of the trilogy, BORN IN ICE has two characters whose past has kept them from moving forward with their lives. I loved how Brianna wins over the wandering Gray with a quiet simplicity.

THE STORY: Brianna Concannon has made a life for herself after converting her family home into a bed and breakfast inn. The younger sister, the dutiful daughter and the one always seeking to make peace in her family, Brianna is looking forward to a quieter winter with only one scheduled guest. Grayson Thane is a famous mystery writer who has come to Ireland seeking peace and quiet and inspiration for his next novel. Gray enjoys his gypsy life traveling from place to place working on his writing. Attracted to Brianna, he wants her but knows that things will end and he will move on.

OPINION: This is my favorite book in the series because I loved both the hero and the heroine in this book from the start.

Brianna is the peacemaker in the family. She has always tried to smooth over the difficulties in her family and yet this book shows how she has been effected by the discord between her parents and the resulting familial difficulties. Despite or perhaps because of this, Brianna has sought to make a peaceful domestic atmosphere that she has translated into her small business of her inn. I loved how Brianna uses the domestic arts to make a “home” for travelers. She is the “ice” in the story because of her place in her family and also because of her quiet personality. This book reveals secrets in her past which result her re-evaluating her life. Into that disruption comes Gray who pushes Brianna from her safe space.

Gray is a man who is so scarred by his past that he has built a great life, but one of a nomad with few personal connections. He sees this as a kind of freedom, but he is challenged by Brianna and the town where she lives. A man who insists that he will not stay when he starts an affair might seem callous, but Gray is so open and honest and caring that I understood him as a character rather than thinking he was a jerk. This book also delves deep into the writing process (something the author certainly understands) and I loved the depictions of how Gray works as an artist.

When I think of this series, I always think about the characters sense of place in Ireland and also how they all connect to the artistic process. There is such an expansive understanding of artistry in this book. Gray is the obvious artist because of his writing, but Brianna is an artist in her own right as she cooks and knits and gardens. The appreciation for these arts is something that I appreciate in this book because such great talent is something that is often overlooked.

This book has a small subplot of mystery which fits the story because of Gray’s profession, but this book is really focused on the relationship between Brianna and Gray. The subplots only serve the purpose of the romance which is exactly how I like my romance books.

WORTH MENTIONING: Readers of the first book in the series will get a nice update on Maggie and Rogan.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BORN IN ICE is the second book in the Born in Trilogy. While the romance here is self-contained and thus can be read as a standalone, this series is meant to be read together as there are overlaps in characters and an overarching storyline.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars