Review: Enter the Duke

Review: Enter the DukeEnter the Duke (Game of Dukes, #2) by Grace Callaway
Series: Game of Dukes #2
Published by Grace Callaway Books on December 6, 2018
Genres: Historical

FINAL DECISION: I loved Rhys as the redeemed rake. A man of mistakes and flaws and hidden pain who comes to see his own worth through the love of a kind and generous woman. Plus, this book has a treasure hunt.

THE STORY: Rhys Cavendish, Duke of Ranelagh and Somerville, known as Ransom, is running from moneylenders. The death of his uncle gives him an opportunity to pay off his creditors, but he requires help to navigate the treasure hunt his uncle set up. Rhys turns to a local fossil hunter to help with his search. But the woman he wants to hire ends up being the woman he knew as Maggie Goode, who he had a passionate one night encounter years ago. Now a respectable widow with a child, Maggie desperately needs money to save her family business, but she wants to keep her distance from her ex-lover, especially because she has a secret about her daughter to keep.

OPINION: I really loved the couple in this one. Rhys, is a favorite because he truly changes in the course of this book. He begins as a man who keeps everyone at a distance because of his own past, his feelings of inadequacy, and his shame. He is man who has made big mistakes in his life and this book is partly about him coming to terms with his mistakes and learning from them. He also begins to see clearly things that are not his mistakes to claim and realize that he can move beyond his past. I really liked that Rhys has made serious mistakes and this book doesn’t wash those away. Rhys has to accept and move beyond those mistakes. As an example, Rhys inherited a dukedom in trouble, but he made it much worse. Often heroes are seen as beyond such mistakes, but not Rhys. He was selfish and stupid, immature and self destructive for much of his adult life. This book is him truly growing up, and I really enjoyed his flaws.

Maggie is such a cheerful and devoted person that I also really liked her character. Her optimism and devoted nature helps heal Rhys. I also liked that Rhys’s protective nature helps Maggie with those who would take advantage of her. But Maggie definitely is resourceful on her own. She is integral to the treasure hunt and her intelligence and cleverness allow the two to pursue the treasure and navigate the people and adventures needed.

The relationship between Maggie and Rhys doesn’t follow what is normal for romance novels. Much of their connection is resolved earlier than I expected, but there are still challenges to their HEA. The treasure hunt and threats to the couple makes this book a combination of a romance and a mystery/adventure. I really liked the combination.

WORTH MENTIONING: Readers of the prior book in the series, THE DUKE IDENTITY, will remember Ransom as somewhat an antagonist in that story. This book redeems him nicely.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ENTER THE DUKE is the second book in the Game of Dukes series. It can be read as a standalone although there are overlapping characters from prior books by this author.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: The Duke Identity

Review: The Duke IdentityThe Duke Identity (Game of Dukes, #1) by Grace Callaway
Series: Game of Dukes #1
on April 19, 2018
Genres: Historical

FINAL DECISION: Hot and sexy romance between a scientist turned policeman and the young woman who would rather rule in the underworld than marry a duke. Lots of secrets in this one, but I loved the chemistry between Tessa and Harry.

THE STORY: Harry Kent has been forced to leave his dreams of science and the Royal Academy behind when he was betrayed by a woman. Taking on the family business of being a policeman, Harry is tasked with helping to take down Black, the king of the underworld. When a chance encounter has him meeting, Tessa Todd, who is Black’s granddaughter, Harry takes on the job of her bodyguard in order to spy on the family. What Harry doesn’t expect, however, is the intense attraction between him and Tessa which once again threatens the life he has built for himself.

OPINION: This is an enjoyable tale. Harry and Tessa are adventurous and I liked their interactions and while the story depends a lot upon Harry keeping his identity from Tessa, the hotness between the two keeps any possible annoyance factor low.

Harry is a man trying to rebuild and reshape his life after all he worked for was destroyed. Harry loved and was betrayed and now has to find out what his purpose is. He also doesn’t want to make himself vulnerable to a woman again.  He has honor even as he continues to lie to Tessa because he has conflicting loyalties. The book goes on his journey where he has to decide what is most important to him. I like that Harry is vulnerable and a little nerdy and on the razor’s edge for most of the story.

Tessa is a spunky and independent woman. Her grandfather wants her to marry into the ton, but Tessa wants nothing more than to stand by her grandfather’s side.  Her unconventional upbringing makes her innocent but not ignorant. She can fit anywhere she wants to, but she feels at home with the whores and thieves of St. Giles. She doesn’t fit into any box of what a woman of the period should be. I liked that she is willing to do what she has to in order to make her own dreams a reality.  The interesting mixture of her traits and interests intrigue Harry the scientist.

I really liked how the book mixes the heat that the two generate and the curiosity and sweetness of their intellectual relationship. The plot also was interesting as it combined both the people of the streets and also the ton. The mixture allows the hero and heroine to be their own people rather than having to fit in perfectly into expected roles and social classes. I also really ended up liking the ultimate resolution.

The only negative is that Harry keeps his secrets for far too long. That ends up being the primary obstacle between Tessa and Harry. After a while, I tired of him lying to Tessa and justifying it because it seemed to become clear that his reasons were not as strong as in the beginning.

Despite that, I really enjoyed this book and I look forward to the next one in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: Two words: pet ferret.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE DUKE IDENTITY is the first book in the Game of Dukes series. This book is, however, connected with the Heart of Enquiry series through the hero. It is not necessary to read that series, however, to enjoy this one.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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



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

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.


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

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.


Review: The Viscount Always Knocks Twice

The Viscount Always Knocks Twice (Heart of Enquiry Book 4) by Grace Callaway
Series: Heart of Enquiry #4

Fun Feisty Romance with a Good Mystery and Lots of Sexy Scenes

“He had no doubt that Miss Violet Kent was responsible for the state of his mind and body.”

FINAL DECISION:  This is a fun romp of a historical romance with plenty of sexy scenes, a enemies to lovers story, and a little mystery tossed in.

THE STORY:  Violet Kent is an unconventional woman. She likes sports and wearing trousers. She is always getting into trouble because of her curious nature. Her best friend is a man and his brother wants to keep her away because he believes her to be an untrustworthy flirty. Richard Murray, Viscount Carlisle is determined to protect his brother from Violet. When they end up at a house party together, Violet and Richard reluctantly have to join forces to solve a murder for which Richard’s brother might be the prime suspect.

OPINION: I’m a fan of Callaway’s books and this one is in the middle for me.  I enjoyed the characters and their interactions — the two seem to have no hope of getting together in the beginning.  Violet is definitely not a stereotypical historical miss with her tomboy tendencies and her desire to help investigate crimes.  She is outspoken, gets in trouble that would destroy reputations of the women in most historical novels, and doesn’t blink at engaging in pre-marital sexual exploration with Richard.  The blatant sexuality of this book is typical of Callaway’s books, but I have enjoyed other books more.

For me, the tension between Violet and Richard is resolved too soon and the story relies more on the mystery to move the action forward.  While the story is perfectly fine and I enjoyed it, I missed the sizzling sexual tension in Callaway’s other books.

The book is a quick read and there is plenty here for followup in future books. I also enjoyed Richard’s character as he has to grovel for his poor treatment of Violet in the beginning of the books — and I always enjoy the hero having to grovel.

WORTH MENTIONING: Callaway’s books are always filled with very sexy scenes and this book is no different although most of it stops short of intercourse.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE VISCOUNT ALWAYS KNOCKS TWICE is the fourth book in the Heart of Enquiry series.  Although characters from the other books appear, this book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3.5 stars.