Review: Christmas in Kilts

Review: Christmas in KiltsChristmas in Kilts by Bronwen Evans, Lavinia Kent, Lecia Cornwall, May McGoldrick, Terri Brisbin
Series: MacKendimen #2.5, Pennington Family #0.5
Published by Swerve on October 3rd 2017
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-stars

This is a collection of five novellas with a Scottish theme.

A HIGHLANDER’S HOPE by Terri Brisbin — Iain MacKillop is a widower who yearns for marriage and children, but intends on making his own choices this time. The one woman he can’t stop thinking about is completely inappropriate. Robena MacKendimen is the village whore and while she too thinks about Iain, she knows that her status makes anything else between them impossible. This was a lot of story packed into a short novel. I really enjoyed the fact that this book doesn’t flinch from the difficulties of a man falling in love with a whore. The story has a sweet aspect but also a serious one and there is no magic wand that resolves these issues which I really like. There are compromises and a will to make happiness happen. This is a novalla in the MacKendimen series. Rating: 3.5 stars.

A HIGHLAND CHRISTMAS WAGER by Lecia Cornwall — Meggie MacLeod is forced to take refuge at a castle where there are three lairds. One of the lairds is the man that Meggie fell in love with at the age of eighteen before he broke her heart by marrying another. A wager between the men as to who will be able to gain her kisses ignites a competition between the men. Hugh MacAuley needs an heiress in order to satisfy the elders of his clan. He has come to ask the sister of his host, but Meggie tempts him with her fire and her sweetness. I enjoyed this story as Hugh is a shyer hero than I expected and this book really deals with Meggie having lost her virtue and yet Hugh choosing her despite all the cultural reasons he shouldn’t. The story is really sweet between Meggie and Hugh. Rating: 3.5 stars.

A SCOT FOR CHRISTMAS by Bronwen Evans — Dougray knows he must marry again to have an heir, but his love for his deceased wife means that he never intends to love a woman again. Instead, he will marry for companionship and children. Emma has loved Dougray since she was a child. At a houseparty, she challenges him to teach her about passion before she accepts her spinster existence. He is tempted to succumb to passion before choosing a life without deep emotions. I really enjoyed this story. Dougray and Emma are such nice people. Life and love has treated each of them with some difficulties. I liked how Dougray allows himself to be “convinced” by Emma but quickly realizes that there is more at work here than merely a spinster who wants to learn about physical love. This is one of the highlights of the set and a story I would read again. Rating: 4.5 stars.

LEFTOVER MISTLETOE by Lavinia Kent — English Emma Spencer finds herself in a coach with James Barran. James is on his way to stop a wedding, but machinations leave him and Emma stranded at Christmas time at a cabin. I enjoyed this story which is focused intensely on the couple. The two being stranded allows them time to get to know one another even though the actual time period covered by the story. I liked the characters who are decent people who are trying their best to do the right thing. The story has a hot little element which I also enjoyed. Rating: 4 stars.

SWEET HOME HIGHLANDS by May McGoldrick — Captain Gregory Pennington encounters a precocious child and her desperate aunt while waiting for travelers he is to accompany home. Freya Sutherland needs to marry someone immediately in order to keep her niece. I loved this story primarily because of the depiction of Freya’s niece. She is adorable and really tied the story together. Penn and Freya are such nice, well meaning people that the niece is necessary to put some spice into the story. I was surprised at how much development was able to be done considering how few pages the authors had to work with. Penn is a gentleman who is looking for his purpose in life and finds it in a gentle woman and her strong willed, determined niece. Rating: 4.5 stars.

four-stars

Review: A Love to Remember

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: A Love to RememberA Love to Remember (The Disgraced Lords, #7) by Bronwen Evans
Series: The Disgraced Lords #7
Published by Loveswept on August 29th 2017
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: The tale of longtime lovers who have reached a turning point in their relationship, this novella is very sexy. I enjoyed the connection between Rose and Philip but was a bit annoyed with Philip’s motivations.

THE STORY: For Rose Deverill, Duchess of Roxborough, one marriage was more than enough. She never intends on marrying again and indeed she is enjoying her widowhood so much that she is known as the “Wicked Widow”. She is satisfied with her lovers and raising her young son, but her relationship with Philip Flagstaff, Earl of Cumberland, is challenging her intentions. The two have been lovers for several years and recently, Rose’s thoughts have turned toward the possibility of a future with Philip — perhaps even marriage. But Philip is also against the idea of marriage. Having gained the title after his older brother sacrificed his own life for Philip’s, Philip is wracked with guilt and intends on making sure the title eventually goes to someone more worthy than he. So he intends never to marry or have children. When threats arise toward Rose and her son, Philip has to decide what Rose means to him.

OPINION: For me, one of the highlights of this book is how Rose accepts and relishes her own sexual nature. She regrets her past only because she fears that Philips doesn’t want to marry her because of it. But she truly doesn’t regret her lovers or her past. She enjoys sex and recognizes that she is not willing to live a celibate life even if Philip cannot be part of her future. In a genre filled with wide-eyed virgins, this fully realized woman was a definite positive.

Indeed, Philip’s own response to Rose’s past was also welcome. He has some jealous moments, but doesn’t judge Rose for her past lovers. His acceptance of her on all levels is one thing that makes him special. Even if he is annoyingly guilt ridden and thus making stupid irrational decisions.

I liked that Rose and Philip are longtime lovers by the time this book really starts. This isn’t a relationship often depicted in historical romances. What the story shows is that a story can start mid-relationship and still have something to show about how their relationship progresses and changes.

I enjoyed this book even though Philip’s determination to reject happiness annoyed me for quite a while in this book.

WORTH MENTIONING: Which looked to be an ending to the series is not. There are more Disgraced Lords books coming.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A LOVE TO REMEMBER is the seventh book in the Disgraced Lords series. This novella can be read on its own. I have read some, but not all of the previous books in the series, and while this book does have references to other characters, the romance is self-contained (but fans of the series will get some treats).

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 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 to write a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

three-half-stars

Review: Addicted to the Duke

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Addicted to the DukeAddicted to the Duke (Imperfect Lords, #1) by Bronwen Evans
Series: Imperfect Lords #1
Published by Loveswept on June 13th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 260
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  A good kickoff to a new series about men who are definitely not your perfect men.  Alex is a man struggling with an addiction and the consequences of his capture and imprisonment and his belief that he is not good enough for Hestia.  I love damaged heroes and Alex is definitely an imperfect one.

THE STORY:  Alexander Sylvester Bracken, Duke of Bedford agrees to help Lady Hestia Cary find her missing father. Alex feels a debt to Hestia’s father for helping in Alex’s rescue from his captivity with a pirate.  When he is forced to take Hestia with him in order to ensure her safety.  Four years ago, Hestia was rescued by Alex from the same pirate who had captured Alex years before.  At sixteen, Hestia fell in love with Alex and doesn’t understand why he has spent years avoiding her.  Alex is determined not to taint the sweet Hestia with his tainted presence but their voyage together allows Hestia to batter down the walls that Alex is using to separate them.

OPINION:  I greatly appreciate books that stretch the genre — and this book does.  Alex is a hero who struggles with his addiction and there is no easy and simple resolution.  He also has done terrible things under the influence of his drug of choice. This book is about how he forgives himself and reaches for happiness rather than dwelling on a past he cannot change.

The story was filled with adventure which I didn’t expect.  There are multiple levels of villains that Alex and Hestia have to defeat on the way to their happy ending. Some of their challenges are external, some are internal.  Some want to threaten their lives and some want to threaten their relationship.

At first, I wasn’t sure about the matchup with Hestia because she seemed too sweet and innocent for the damaged Alex…but she has a hidden strength that I didn’t expect.  Alex doesn’t expect it either.

This book pushes the envelope on Alex’s addiction because there are no easy answers for him.  During this time period, addiction is not understood and is seen as character flaw rather than an illness. My one serious complaint about the book is that I would have liked an explicit update in the epilogue about Alex’s addiction since it was such an important part of the story (maybe in the next book in the series).

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book deals with the issue of addiction in a time period long before there was an real understanding of addiction.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ADDICTED TO THE DUKE is the first book in the Imperfect Lords series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

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

four-stars

Review: A Night of Forever

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: A Night of ForeverA Night of Forever (The Disgraced Lords, #6) by Bronwen Evans
Series: The Disgraced Lords #6
Published by Loveswept on October 25th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 240
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  An enjoyable end to the drama of the Disgraced Lords series, the romance between Arend and Isobel has much angst and distrust on Arend’s part.  Isobel must get beyond the shields that Arend has erected while an enemy intends to destroy them both.

THE STORY:  Arend Aubury will do anything to protect the only people he trusts, his fellow Libertine Scholars.  After all his friends have suffered from the person who is trying to destroy them all, Arend knows that he is next and he is ready.  He suspects the stepdaughter of their enemy, Lady Isobel Thompson and intends on keeping a close eye on her.  When Isobel approaches him with her own suspicions about her stepmother, Arend agrees to work with Isobel — while secretly suspecting her.  Isobel wants a marriage like her friends, but can’t seem to ignore the dangerous Arend.  A fake betrothal hides their investigation but also ignites a strong passion between Isobel and Arend while they question motives and evade their enemies.

OPINION:  This book brings the series story regarding the Libertine Scholars enemy to a close. This book overlaps the fifth book in the series, A TASTE OF SEDUCTION. I enjoyed this book because Arend and Isobel are an intriguing match with a significant amount of angst.

Arend is a man who thinks himself unworthy.  He has lived in poverty, been abused, betrayed and as a result has a difficult time trusting anyone.  Even his attraction to Isobel is something that he distrusts.  At the same time, Arend is loyal, caring and willing to sacrifice himself for those he cares about.  His guilt and shame and fear prevent him from having an open relationship, but he cannot seem to resist Isobel.

Isobel is a woman who has been tainted by her stepmother’s evil, but still sees the good in people, especially Arend.  Even as Isobel is warned away from him, she finds him irresistible. Isobel is strong willed and willing to go after what she wants.  She can also stand up to Arend which is important.  Most significantly, she believes in Arend’s goodness and is determined to make him see it as well.

I liked the relationship between Arend and Isobel because many times Isobel is the strong one if the relationship which is a reversal from traditional roles.  Arend has the poor self-image and abusive background and it is Isobel who must help him accept himself and believe that he is entitled to a good future.

I enjoyed this book as a closure to the series (even though there will be some spin off books).  I thought that there was enough about the other characters to see where their lives are going without overwhelming the story and the overarching storyline was neatly wrapped up as well.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Although this book completes the continuing story in the Disgraced Lords series, Evans states that there will be some future connected books wrapping up the romances of other characters in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  A NIGHT OF FOREVER is the sixth book in the Disgraced Lords series.  The romance can be read as a standalone although there is an overarching story in the series that finishes in this book.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: A Taste of Seduction

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: A Taste of SeductionA Taste of Seduction (The Disgraced Lords, #5) by Bronwen Evans
Series: The Disgraced Lords #5
Published by Loveswept on August 16th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 283
Goodreads
three-stars

“Your leaving broke my heart, and it’s been broken ever since.”

FINAL DECISION:  This book was a difficult one for me to rate.  While I liked parts of it and was deeply engaged, at times I was frustrated by the repeated dramas and the necessity of knowing what has happened in prior books.

THE STORY: Lord Hadley Fullerton, the second son of a duke, had his heart crushed five years ago when the woman he loved, Evangeline Althorpe abandoned him to marry for a title and money.  Now when Hadley is on the verge of entering his own marriage, Evangeline has returned.  Now a widow, Evangeline insists that she never left Hadley willingly.  Hadley doesn’t know what to believe but he knows that he is in danger from the enemy who has been after him and his friends.  Danger and secrets abound in this story as Hadley and his friends try to unmask their enemy and Hadley tries to determine the truth of what happened five years ago.

OPINION:  This book was a mixed bag for me.  I enjoy angst filled stories and this one has great possibilities.  Hadley and Evangeline have such a sad story.  Even when this story is resolved, there is still some sadness because not everything can be fixed.  I didn’t mind this.

The problem is that this book desperately needs a view in the future where readers can be assured that everything is wonderful in the end.  Otherwise, there is a lingering sadness that makes the happy ending somewhat tainted.  Such an epilogue, however, is impossible with the way this book and series is structured.  There is an ongoing storyline about the enemy of the men. This book ends on a cliffhanger as to that story.  Therefore, none of the stories in this series are truly resolved yet.  My hope is that the final book of the series will resolve all the lingering issues, but that doesn’t help a reader that starts and ends with this book.

I don’t mind a series where there is a continuing storyline that requires the reading of prior books.  In fact, I enjoyed this book enough to want to read the prior books in the series and continue on to the next book.  For a reader, however, who starts here, there will be some things that are missing or don’t make sense immediately.

I enjoyed the relationship between Hadley and Evangeline.  Because there is no real internal conflict between the characters (they loved one another as the book begins and it never ends), there is a lot of external conflict.  In order to keep them apart, problem after problem arises.  There were just too many things for me.  Rather than so many issues, I would prefer that the conflicts be fewer and deeper.  I eventually got tired of Hadley and Evangeline not talking to one another for artificial reasons.  After a misunderstanding pulls them apart, I would expect that these two would highly desire complete openness between them.  Instead, they continue to act independently causing more problems.

So why did I give the book such a good rating?  The book has a fascinating story with strong characters. I liked them and wanted to read more.  The impulse I had to want to start again from the beginning of the series demonstrates that this book is worth reading.  I would just recommend starting the series from the beginning.  Once I have read this book again in context, my opinion overall might change.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book ends on a cliffhanger as to the ongoing storyline and sets up the next book.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  A TASTE OF SEDUCTION is book 5 in the Disgraced Lords series.  I have not read the other books in the series and while I figured most of the ongoing story out, I believe this book would be better after reading the other books in the series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars