Review: The Heiress Effect

Review: The Heiress EffectThe Heiress Effect (Brothers Sinister, #2) by Courtney Milan
Series: Brothers Sinister #2
Published by Courtney Milan on July 15th 2013
Genres: Historical
Pages: 280
Goodreads
four-stars

Beautifully Crafted Story

THE HEIRESS EFFECT is the second novel in the Brothers Sinister series. It is the story of Oliver Marshall, the illegitimate son of the former Duke of Clermont and half brother to the current duke. Oliver was raised in humble circumstances (see the prequel THE GOVERNESS AFFAIR for the story of his parents) but has great ambitions. He meets Jane Fairfield who definitely doesn’t fit into his plans.

I really didn’t expect to like this story. Oliver was too judgemental and too rigid in the beginning of the book. He treats Jane in an abominable fashion by treating her like she is not good enough. When I started reading the book, I skipped around to get an idea of the plot and I really, really did not like Oliver. Thus, why one should read the book. Milan has done a great job of making over complicated characters. Oliver and Jane are not simplistic characters. They are not purely good. They make bad decisions. They contemplate bad things. By the end of the book, I had sympathy for Oliver and as Jane was able to forgive him, so was I.

Although this is the second full novel, it is not necessary to have read the first. It would be good to read the prequel THE GOVERNESS AFFAIR because it really sets up Oliver’s story.

Save

four-stars

Review: Hold Me

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: Hold MeHold Me (Cyclone Book 2) by Courtney Milan
Series: Cyclone #2
on October 25, 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 306
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Maria: “It’s just a part of me.  I learned long ago to avoid the mountaintops of life.  Sure, it’s fun to get to the top. But storms come and lightning strikes, and it’s no fun being exposed on top of the world in those moments. Daydreams are great, but an established salary and health benefits have to come first, thank you.”

Jay: “If we hadn’t managed to hate each other first, Em would have been it for me. I failed to see her on every conceivable level. How do I admit that?”

FINAL DECISION:  I wanted to like this book more.  Parts were brilliant and moving and parts just felt like distant.  Jay started out unlikable and I don’t know that he ever evolved enough for me to truly like him.  But there was enough in it for me to give it another chance.  Maybe a re-read in a year or two will change my mind.

THE STORY:  Jay na Thalang is driven.  A professor at Berkeley, he has focused on his work to the exclusion of all other relationships in his life.  When he meets Maria Lopez, a student, he first insults her, and then knows that she is a distraction but insists that he is not interested.  But he is interested.  The first terrible meeting between Jay and Maria sets the standard for their combative relationship.  Maria is cautious and Jay’s dismissal of her hurts even though she believes him a jerk.  What neither of them knows is that they have been corresponding and flirting for months.  Maria secretly runs a doomsday blog and Jay has been commenting and communicating with Maria.  The two have an online friendship that might be turning into something else and an offline hate relationship that might not be something they can overcome.

OPINION:  There was much that I liked about this book.  Both Jay and Maria are smart, sarcastic and imperfect.  I love those angst filled romances where two damaged people find love.  I loved the online relationship aspect where the two are themselves and open in ways that they can’t be in real life.  I also liked how the two strike bad sparks off one another in real life where they make assumptions and fail to see the truth of the other.  This is especially true for Jay who thinks himself progressive and yet makes assumptions about Maria which hurt her.  I really liked that the relationship between these two is messy and imperfect and so honestly real.

Maria is a woman who is always waiting for those she cares about to reject her.  She writes an apocalyptic blog which is apropos because she is always waiting for disaster to strike.  She fears asking too much of others and herself because life has given her disappointment.  She is trans but while an essential part of who she is, it isn’t the focus of the story except in how the reactions of others (especially her parents have effected her).  I loved the quirks of her nature: she eats soup for her comfort food, demands the reusing of cream cheese containers as tupperware and wears high heels so high they make my ankles hurt just thinking about them.

Jay was harder for me to like and I never am sure that I ever fell in love with him as I like to do with characters.  He treats Maria abominably the first time they meet because he makes assumptions and is more concerned with his own career than the human being in front of him.  While many romantic heroes are jerks at times, Jay just continued to be jerky for too long.  Jay has his reasons for his behavior, but even so it doesn’t excuse his behavior.  For me, things just got fixed too easily: with Jay’s parents, with Maria.  Perhaps he didn’t suffer enough for me or maybe I didn’t see enough of Jay acting good to counteract the bad.  For whatever reason, I couldn’t connect enough with Jay in order to make the romance superlative.

I liked this book and there was some beautiful writing in it.  This is a book that I would read again to see if it was my own expectations that stopped me from really loving it.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book takes place in the college town of Berkeley.  As a Cal grad, I was happy to see the school and town so well depicted.  This book reminds me of what I love about Cal.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  HOLD ME is the second book in the Cyclone series.  It is a standalone which does not require reading the first book in the series although characters from that book appear.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: The Year of the Crocodile

Review: The Year of the CrocodileThe Year of the Crocodile (Cyclone) by Courtney Milan
Series: Cyclone #2.5
on September 12th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 43
Goodreads
five-stars

“You want to do something risky? Invite my dad to join your family this weekend.”

FINAL DECISION: Simply fabulous.  I loved just about everything in this story.  I liked seeing Tina and Blake and I just adore Adam Reynolds!  He’s a difficult person to love but Milan makes it possible.  More please!

THE STORY:  Tina Chen and Blake Reynolds have been together for almost a year but their parents have not met.  This story is about that first meeting between Blake’s father and Tina’s parents.

OPINION:  Absolutely amazing!  Admittedly only for fans (it really requires reading TRADE ME first), this story manages to give an update on Tina and Blake, give some serious hints as to where Adam’s story is going (surprise! surprise!) and still be incredibly entertaining.

Milan has created an incredible character with Adam Reynolds who has a personality which just leaps from the pages.  He’s a jerk (AR would certainly use more colorful language!), is incredibly messed up, and loves his son.

This vignette manages to be funny, personable, informative and fascinating at the same time.  Don’t get me wrong: it’s the story of Adam meeting Tina’s parents but the story did not go in any fashion I expected.  It’s short and relies upon the reader knowing the characters already.  But for what it is, I loved it!

More Adam soon, please!

WORTH MENTIONING:

CONNECTED BOOKS:  This short story should only be read after TRADE ME.  The story assumes knowledge of the characters in that book.

STAR RATING:  I give this short story 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Talk Sweetly to Me

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: Talk Sweetly to MeTalk Sweetly to Me (Brothers Sinister, #4.5) by Courtney Milan
Series: Brothers Sinister #4.5
Published by Courtney Milan on August 18th 2014
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-half-stars

TALK SWEETLY TO ME is billed as a coda to the fabulous Brothers Sinister series. The novella tells the story of Stephen Shaughnessy, who was introduced in THE SUFFRAGETTE SCANDAL. Stephen writes a column for a women’s newspaper. (As an aside, the column is hysterical and THE SUFFRAGETTE SCANDAL is worth reading just to catch up on them.)

In this novella, Shephen meets Rose Sweetly. Rose is a mathematician who helps with calculations regarding astronomical issues. Stephen and Rose live close to one another and Stephen loves to hear Rose talk about mathematics. Rose is intrigued with Stephen, but she is wary of him because he has a reputation as a rake and also because she is of African descent, she fears that he might believe she has loose morals.

This novella is short, but I loved the interaction between Rose and Stephen. Rose is brilliant and Stephen is clearly entranced with her. The story between the two is sweet and caring. The story reminds me somewhat of THE COUNTESS CONSPIRACY, but with much less angst and pain.

The edge in this story comes from the racism and sexism of the society at large. What brings the characters together is that they both represent outsiders in society. Rose is black and is a brilliant female in a predominately male field. Stephen writes for a feminist newspaper and is an Irish Catholic. At one point, Rose points out that any children they would have would be black Irish Catholics and all of their lives would be immensely difficult.

Milan writes original stories. It is difficult that seduction and romance can be expressed through mathematics, but that is exactly what happens here.

This novella doesn’t have the complexity of a full-length novella, but I found it a beautiful addition to THE SUFFRAGETTE SCANDAL. There are no appearances by other characters of the series so fans may be disappointed, but new readers can pick this one up without missing much (although it is best read after THE SUFFRAGETTE SCANDAL because a reader will get to know Stephen better).

NOTE: I received a ARC copy of this book through Netgalley in order to provide a review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Save

four-half-stars

Review: The Goddess of Small Things

The Goddess of Small Things by Courtney Milan
Genres: Historical
three-stars

This is a short story which Milan wrote and entered into a writing contest before she published anything. The story is a historical that takes place at a ball where the wildly popular Countess Fraser encounters Damien Rathbourne, Earl of Coulter who believes her a fraud and intends to expose her as being nothing special. The two engage in a dance. This is a short vignette that only hints at these two characters, but has much of the vibrancy of Milan’s later works. It is early stuff and incomplete, but shows her potential.

Save

three-stars

Review: Premiere: A Romance Writers of America® Collection

Review: Premiere: A Romance Writers of America® CollectionPremiere: A Romance Writers of America® Collection by Allison Brennan, Amber Lin, Cindy Gerard, Courtney Milan, Diane Kelly, Erica Ridley, Harper St. George, Joan Johnston, Katy Regnery, Laura Kaye, Lex Valentine, Lila Bell, Monica Murphy, Regina Scott, Sabrina Jeffries, Sylvia Day, T.L. Costa, Vicki Lewis Thompson
Published by Romance Writers of America, Inc on February 9th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Historical
Pages: 380
Goodreads
five-stars

This is a collection of short stories all based on the idea of a wrong number. This collection is very diverse and demonstrates a great variety of stories and techniques and genres.

RAVISHED BY THE GEEK by Vicki Lewis Thompson: Jamie Smith receives a misaddressed email from Vivian Crowley who is the woman of his dreams. When Jamie reads Vivian’s fantasy scene in her email, he decides to make her dreams come true. This is a sweet story and Jamie is simply adorable. Rating: 4 stars.

UNDER A WICKED MOON by Lila Bell: Stacia Bryne and Liam MacTire were foster children together. They are now enemies as Liam has been sent to kill the half-human, half-sorceress. Liam is a half-human, half wolf shifter. Stacia creates a potion to turn Liam into her protector but when it works, she fears that what they have isn’t real. I really liked this story. There was something compelling about the characters. It certainly made me interested in reading the connected novellas. Rating: 4.25 stars.

A RIGHT HONORABLE GENTLEMAN by Courtney Milan: Miss Catherine Hooks is a servant in the household of Mr. Edward Glennon. In the almost five years that she has been governess to the widower’s son an attraction between the two has arisen, but their stations make acting on it impossible. When Catherine decides it is time for her to leave, Edward realizes that he doesn’t want her to. This is a favorite. Sparkling characters and dialogue despite the short length. I could read a whole novel about these two and yet this story story also is satisfying. Rating: 5 stars.

STATION 12 by Amber Lin: Isobel Monroe goes to the fire station to return some of her ex’s things and ends up at the wrong station. She meets Matthew Gaines who is also a fire fighter. He asks her out on a date, but she refuses. But their story isn’t over. This story is really just the beginning of their relationship, but I thought the characters were interesting and their interaction felt genuine. Rating: 4.25 stars.

WRONG NUMBER, RIGHT GIRL by Monica Murphy: Ty Webster is a player with women and he is bored. When he succumbs to a dare to get the number of a hot young woman, he can’t help but notice her friend who is definitely not his type. Lauren thinks Ty is attractive but knows this guy would never be interested in her. This story is told in alternating first personal narratives. This is a sweet new adult story about a guy changing his life. Rating: 4 stars.

A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS by Regina Scott: Major Sir Percival Nightincourt and Eleanor Grasland knew each other years before but parted when Percy joined the military. Now Percy has given up his commission and when the two encounter one another again, he realizes what he has been missing. This is a sweet inspirational romance. Rating: 3.5 stars.

COMING HOME by Joan Johnston: Savannah Whitelaw is an FBI agent and Luke Winters has just been exonerated after spending 6 years in jail. After being convinced to go on a double date, Savannah can’t help but be attracted to this man who is so wrong for her. I really liked this story because there was definite angst and potential in the story. I wish there was more to the story because this is really just the beginning of a relationship. This story is connected with her Hawke’s Way series. Rating: 3.5 stars.

THE POET by T.L. Costa: Wyatt Hershowitz has had a crush on Hannah Smith since sixth grade. When she asks for the Spanish homework, he accidentally sends her a poem he wrote for his mom’s birthday. What follows is a funny attempt by Wyatt to rectify his mistake. This story is well written and funny and made me smile. Rating: 4 stars.

DEAD WRONG by Cindy Gerard: Erin Livingston has just been acquitted of the murder of her husband and has come home under threat from her father-in-law who blames her for his son’s death. Jed Rafferty and Erin had a thing as teenagers and haven’t seen one another in years. Jed knows, however, that Erin is the woman for him and doesn’t intend to lose the chance with her. This story felt complete and substantial despite its short length. Rating: 4.25 stars.

THE FALLOUT by Harper St. George: Elena Black and Dexter Thomas Herrington married young and within two years were separated. Now four years later, they are getting divorced. When Dex comes back to talk to her, however, they find that there might be something worth saving. This story had much promise, but once the two meet up again, I didn’t feel the emotional connection the story should have had. Rating: 3 stars.

HARD TO BREATHE by Syvia Day: Annalise knows that she needs to get away from her trainer Gareth. Annalise is in love with him although a relationship between angel trainer and student is forbidden. When she tries to get reassigned, Gareth foils her attempt. When she is forced to reveal her reason to him, she feels his rejection but he might be hiding something as well. I loved this story. Well written and executed with interesting characters. I want to read more. Rating: 5 stars.

ALL I WANT by Erica Ridley: Lady Matilda Kingsley and Major Owen Turner were childhood friends but Owen is illegitimate and not the proper match for the daughter of a duke. Years later, they meet again over a game of cards. The story between these characters was sweet and completely unrealistic but enjoyable nonetheless. Rating: 4 stars.

COVERING HER SKIN by Laura Kaye: Emery Morgan has come to Ronan Kane to get rid of one of the biggest mistakes of her life. A year ago, Emery had Ronan, a tattoo artist, give her a tattoo of her fiance’s jersey number and football team right before he dumped her. Now she wants the tattoo transformed. Ronan made one of the biggest mistakes in his life when he agreed to do Emery’s tattoo a year ago and wants to rectify that mistake for the woman he has had a crush on for years and never thought to see again. This story was really good. There is great character development and an interesting idea of transformation. Rating: 4.25 stars.

THE LONG WAY HOME by Katy Regnery: Clarissa Calhoun and Ford McInerney end up sitting next to one another on a bus cross-country traveling to the same wedding. Ford has been in love with Clarissa forever, but she was his older brother’s girlfriend. Now he has a chance to get her to give them a chance. This new adult story was good. The relationship between Clarissa and Ford is complicated and their history makes the story interesting. Rating: 4 stars.

THEIR NIGHT OFF by Allison Brennan: FBI Special Agent Suzanne Madeaux and Detective Joe DeLucca have had a casual relationship for a while complicated by their work and Joe’s ex-wife. Just when Suzanne is thinking that their relationship should be more, the two get involved in one of Suzanne’s cases. This story was just okay for me. It was an interesting story but not enough about the romance between the two. Rating: 3 stars.

FLYING IN THE FACE OF CONVENTION by Lex Valentine: A mis-delivered delivered wedding invitation bring Trey Beaumont and Jordan Smithson together. Trey had been interested in Jordan when they were in college together and now he finds out that they were unknowingly living in the same building. Trey had never told Jordan of his interest in him but now sees a new opportunity. My complaint here is that the character o Jordan is not really developed. It would have been nice to know more about him so that the relationship was more balanced. On the other hand, I really liked the epilogue which gave the story a nice ending. Rating: 3 stars.

AN APRIL FOOL’S FORBIDDEN AFFAIR by Sabrina Jeffries: Mason Brandt, Earl of Westville wants Miss Augusta Hunt, his late wife’s sister but knows that it is impossible since is would be scandalous to marry his sister-in-law. Augusta wants Mason as well but knows only that he has purposely kept away from her. When the two discover a prank by Augusta’s younger brother, they work together to foil it. This story is well written and has characters in an interesting dilemma. I wish there was more to this story because this could be a longer novella or a novel itself. Rating: 4 stars

WRONG ADDRESS, RIGHT GUY by Diane Kelly: Katelyn Harrington is unlucky in love. When her boyfriend is late for their date again, she breaks it off with him. Then her neighbor stands up her date. When that date arrives, Katelyn decides that she will pretend to be his date. I liked this story because the premise was interesting and the romance was sweet. Rating: 3 stars.

Save

five-stars

Review: Unraveled

Review: UnraveledUnraveled (Turner, #3) by Courtney Milan
Series: Turner #3
Published by Courtney Milan on December 9th 2011
Genres: Historical
Pages: 258
Goodreads
five-stars

Satisfying End to Turner Series

UNRAVELED is the final book in the Turner brother series. It is the story of Smite Turner, the middle brother and the one most scarred by his childhood. Smite is a magistrate when one day Miranda Darling comes to his courtroom disguised and intending to give false testimony. So starts this romance between a man who has kept himself together through riding rigid rules and a woman who has spent much of her life bending rules.

I enjoyed this story very much. Milan had done an incredible job in upending the expectations in her story. For example, when Miranda is being blackmailed by the villain, she doesn’t go of to deal with it alone but rather goes to Smite which is a sense of logic that often eludes characters in fiction.

The love story between Smite and Amanda was sweeter than I expected because Smite is as well. Miranda is sharp tongues and clever but also loving and caring and vulnerable. She is also incredible protective which makes her a good match for Smite –even if he would have disagreed with that initially.

This book can be read alone but it wraps up the entire series so well that a reader will best enjoy it by having read the output books.

Save

five-stars

Review: Trial by Desire

Review: Trial by DesireTrial by Desire (Carhart, #2) by Courtney Milan
Series: Carhart #2
Published by HQN Books on September 28th 2010
Genres: Historical
Pages: 360
Goodreads
four-stars

Unique Concept

TRIAL BY DESIRE is the second novel in the Carhart series. It is the sequel to PROOF BY SEDUCTION and fans of that book will be happy to see Ned Carhart get his happy ever after. In PERIOD BY SEDUCTION, Ned gets married after mistakenly compromising Lady Kathleen. This book takes place three years later. Ned, who is bipolar (though it is never called as such in the book) left because of his struggles with depression. He has now returned to a wife he barely knows. Kate has spent the years that Ned has been away helping women flee their abusive husbands.

This story is about two people who have secrets and yet are married. I liked how Milan makes these two characters struggle. There are no magic answers in this book. At the end, Ned still struggles, but has learned to struggle with Kate. I thought that was a wonderful and hopeful message.

The edition I read is an enhanced version that includes some additional material from the author including deleted scenes, commentary, pictures and some small audio clips. While these enhancements are not extensive, they are an interesting addition. For example, I learned how difficult this book was for Milan to write and how many problems she still had with it.

Save

four-stars

Review: Her Every Wish

Review: Her Every WishHer Every Wish by Courtney Milan
Series: The Worth Saga #1.5
Published by Smashwords Edition on March 29th 2016
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-stars

Story of a Woman Finding Her Own Power with a a Little Romance Thrown in

FINAL DECISION: A fascinating story of a woman breaking the mold that society and to a large extent herself. A story of second chances and breaking the mold, this story which is about “regular” people provides a viewpoint often not seen in historical romances. The romance is not the primary focus of the story but rather the heroine’s personal journey.

THE STORY: Daisy Witlaw has dreams of being more than a flower shopgirl and so she decides to enter a competition where the winner will get funds to support a new business. She knows that the judges will never choose her as the winner, but when the man from her recent past offers to help her refine her presentation, she agrees. Crash loved Daisy but when he realized that his unsavory connections were an embarrassment to her their short romance ended. Now the two are working together and perhaps getting to understand themselves and one another better.

OPINION: I found this little story fascinating because of Daisy’s struggle with discrimination and her own mental limitations because of society’s view of her place. Her desire for more, for something different, for her hopes and dreams was a good story. I also liked how Crash supports her and helps her to break that final barrier. Why only four stars then? For me, the romance was lacking. It was more an intellectual romance that a deeply emotional one. I prefer romances that delve into the emotional connection between the characters. In this novella, the story is more Daisy’s personal journey with the romance as a part of that journey but not the focus. I enjoyed the novella and it is a good addition to the Worth series as it ties up these secondary characters’ stories.

WORTH MENTIONING: Velocipedes.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HER EVERY WISH is book 1.5 in The Worth Saga. It can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this novella 4 stars.

Save

four-stars

Review: The Lady Always Wins

Review: The Lady Always WinsThe Lady Always Wins by Courtney Milan
Published by Courtney Milan on February 22nd 2013
Genres: Historical
Pages: 71
Goodreads
four-stars

Story of Love Found,Again

THE LADY ALWAYS WINS is a short novella about Ginny Barrett and Simon Davenant. Simon and Ginny were childhood friends and sweethearts but when Simon wanted to marry her in the face of his father’s disapproval, Ginny refused. Seven years later, Ginny is a widow and Simon intends to marry her. He only has the days to convince her because he will lose everything in the days and she refuses to marry a poor man.

This is a great short story. Milan was able to give these characters life and a long story without rushing or shortchanging the romance. This story has a great plot and I liked the resolution to the romance. I liked the romance and ended up liking both characters even though I didn’t start out liking them. Great job for a short story.
Save

four-stars