Review: Dressed to Kiss

Review: Dressed to KissDressed to Kiss by Madeline Hunter, Caroline Linden, Megan Frampton, Myretta Robens
on September 12th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 370
Goodreads
four-stars

This is a collection of four novellas tied together by characters connection to a dressmaker’s shop.  Madame Follette’s dressmaking shop has been declining for years due to changing fashions and the stubbornness of its owner.  Her children convince her to turn over operations to her daughter who struggles to revitalize the business in the shadow of the king’s coronation.

THE DUKE’S DRESSMAKER by Madeline Hunter:  Selina Fontaine is working at Madame Follette’s when Randall, Duke of Barrowmore comes back into her life.  Four years ago, Randall’s brother seduced and left her at Randall’s urging.  Selina knows that the Duke disapproves of her.  She now fears that he will expose her true identity and ruin her again.  By the description of this story, I expected more drama and angst.  Things are neatly explained in this story which was sweeter than I expected.  These two quickly manage to find out the truth about the past.  I liked the characters which is important in a short novella.  Rating: 4 stars.

THREADS OF LOVE by Myretta Robens:  Delyth Owen is a new dressmaker in the shop.  She loves vibrant and sometimes unfortunate color choices.  Simon Merrithew is the author of a fashion column.  He comes to ruin Delyth after she creates a too colorful dress for a friend that Simon believes was intentional.  When he meets her, however, Simon realizes that the bright colors are just a reflection of the joyful woman Delyth is.  This story was good, but I really didn’t feel drawn to Delyth at all.  She remained too insubstantial for me to root for her. I did enjoy the story and having a man interested in fashion was a novel experience. Rating: 3 stars.

NO ACCOUNTING FOR LOVE by Megan Frampton:  This is the story of the son of Madame Follette, Mr. Henry Dawkins.  Henry is the bookkeeper for the shop.  When Miss Katherine Grant walks into the shop, Henry can’t keep his eyes from her.  Katherine is a lady’s companion.  Unfortunately, her charge is drawn to the inappropriate Mr. Dawkins.  Henry is big and gentle and a bit shy and he desperately wants Katherine even if they are a social mismatch.  I really loved Henry’s character.  On this one, the story didn’t work as well for me, but I liked the characters.  Henry is definitely not your alpha male, but he is adorable.  Rating: 3.5 stars.

A FASHIONABLE AFFAIR by Caroline Linden:  This is the story of Miss Felicity Dawkins, daughter of the owner.  Felicity is struggling to reinvent the shop and return it to prominence. Evan Hewes, Earl of Carmarthen, wants to buy the shop to tear it down as part of his revitalization of the street.  This story could have been fascinating as a full novel.  In its shortened form, the personalities of the characters were not as well developed.  I liked the story, but it seemed like there was much more to find out.  Rating: 3.5 stars.

What would have made this collection amazing would have been an epilogue.  All these characters contracted such difficult marriage pairings that I would like to know what happened a year later.

four-stars

Review: The Wicked Duke

Review: The Wicked DukeThe Wicked Duke (Wicked Trilogy, #3) by Madeline Hunter
Series: Wicked Trilogy #3
Published by Jove on May 31st 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 400
Goodreads
five-stars

“He was not really a wicked duke.  Well, not with the daughters of country neighbors. Not normally, at least.”

FINAL DECISION: A book about connections with people and the pain and joy they bring, THE WICKED DUKE has a sexy and moody Duke and the woman who brings lht and joy into his life.  Loved it and found it a fitting end to a wonderful series.

THE STORY:  Lancelot Hemingford, Duke of Aylesbury, is suspected of having poisoned his older brother in order to inherit the title.  Forced to give up his hellraising ways in London to “behave” in the country, Lance meets Marianne Radley who breaks through his ennui.  Blackmailed into pursuing the intriguing woman, Lance ends up finding out that pursuing Marianne is not onerous at all.  Marianne believes the wicked man might be responsible for the seduction of her young cousin, but finds herself accepting his proposal of marriage to protect her family but also because she is tempted by this bad man.

OPINION:  The third book in the Wicked Trilogy lives up to the promise of the previous books.  Lance and Marianne dance lightly around one another and find an acceptance and happiness that neither expects as their marriage begins.  I’m a big fan of romances where the couple marries and then has to go deeper into the relationship to find their ultimate happiness.

Lance is moody and feeling constrained and depressed through most of the book.  His dead brother haunts and diminishes his life. The second son who always was considered less than the heir — even if the heir was mean, petty and destructive.  The complexity of the reality is that Lance, even knowing how his brother was, still has some ambivalent feelings toward his brother.  He cannot shake that minimal familial connection until all has been revealed at the end.

The sense of connection with family even when they are wrong, evil, and destructive is explored in intriguing ways in this book.  It is not always easy to cut people out of our lives even when we know that they are destructive and not nice.  Shared history, family ties and even futile hope keeps pulling us towards people who we might “know” are not worth our efforts.

At the same time, as this novel explores, these people can cause tremendous damage.

Lance and Marianne both suffer because of relatives and yet, they are brought together by those same people. Marianne is a perfect complement to Lance.  She is open and caring and loving.  She is willing to sacrifice herself for others and that is what leads her into marriage with Lance.  This is the opposite of Lance, who has shut himself off from others except for his younger brothers.  And that is where both Lance and Marianne have similarities. They both deeply love those close to them and will do everything to protect them.

One thing I have loved in this series is the sibling relationship between the three brothers.  Affection, annoyance, caring and bossiness.  These men demonstrate a relationship that kept me interested in knowing them and their stories.

Marianne brings lightness into Lance’s life.  He clearly teeters on depression but Marianne opens him up.  The sexy flirting — and perhaps the hottest hand kissing scene ever — show Lance to be dangerous to Marianne’s virtue and yet these two end up with the most conventional courtship of any of the wicked brothers. That itself is amusing for a man who proudly proclaims himself wicked.  As they fall deeper into the emotional connection with one another, the two find a satisfaction and joy that they didn’t expect.

The two have hurdles to overcome as they both have secrets to be revealed and the possible murder of Lance’s brother to solve.  Yet, even as the mystery begins to be unraveled, the book never loses sight of the centrality of the connection between Lance and Marianne.

For me, a five star book is one I immediately want to read again.  After completing this book, I can’t wait to start the entire series over again.

The three books of this series are the first I have ever read by Madeline Hunter.  I enjoyed them tremendously and look forward to reading more.

WORTH MENTIONING: I don’t think the blurb of this book accurately depicts the plot. I seems to suggest that Marianne marries Lance in order to trap and expose him.  That is not what occurs at all.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE WICKED DUKE is the third book in the Wicked Trilogy.  This book is self contained and can be read as a standalone although the characters from the first two books are important here and also this book resolves the questions regarding the mysterious death of the oldest brother.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

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

five-stars

Review: Tall, Dark, and Wicked

Review: Tall, Dark, and WickedTall, Dark and Wicked (Wicked Trilogy, #2) by Madeline Hunter
Series: Wicked Trilogy #2
Published by Jove on October 6th 2015
Genres: Historical
Pages: 400
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Loved This Intricate Historical Story of a Lawyer and the Daughter of a Defendant

“This lawyer was not merely handsome, but handsome in a way that made fools of women when they saw him.”

FINAL DECISION: I loved the story of Ives and Padua. There is a twisty mystery along with an intense romance between Ives and Padua. I love the romances where everything seems hopeless but then things work out in the end.

THE STORY: Lord Ywain “Ives” Hemingford is the younger brother of a duke and is a barrister who often works as a prosecutor for the English Crown. Padua Belvoir comes to Ives to ask him to represent her father who has been arrested and thrown in Newgate. Ives must say no because he has been engaged as the prosecutor against her father. Although Ives knows that he cannot risk having anything to do with a defendant’s daughter, he cannot resist the prickly and intelligent teacher Padua.

OPINION: I loved this story. Ives is a man who engages his romantic liasons logically and with much planning. Padua blows apart his ordered life and makes him take risks that he never would have expected himself to take. Her influence on his life is demonstrated by his brothers’ surprise at his actions. Padua is a woman who doesn’t fit into the social constraints of the day. She is a radical in her own small way and refuses to be shoved into a category or to be protected. She insists on making her own way even when it gets her into trouble. But she owns her mistakes and does not blame others. She challenges Ives but she also fits right into his desire for justice and doing right. Their romance is hot and also seems doomed even as Ives begins to realize that he wants more for Padua than he has ever wanted from a woman before.

WORTH MENTIONING: As with the first book in the series, I especially liked the relationship between the three brothers which is funny and caring and feels like a brotherly relationship with all the squabbling and affection one might expect.

CONNECTED BOOKS: TALL, DARK, AND WICKED is the second book in the Wicked Trilogy. It can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: His Wicked Reputation

Review: His Wicked ReputationHis Wicked Reputation (Wicked Trilogy, #1) by Madeline Hunter
Series: Wicked Trilogy #1
Published by Jove on March 3rd 2015
Genres: Historical
Pages: 401
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Intriguing Mystery with a Sensual Romance

“His air and manner, the very way he sat on that horse, announced he would be nothing but trouble for a woman.”

FINAL DECISION: I absolutely loved this book. The relationship feels natural and well written. The mystery was intriguing and integral to the story without overwhelming the romance. The characters are fun and survivors and very wicked.

THE STORY: Gareth Fitzallen is the bastard son of a duke. He has a good relationship with two of his half brothers and upon the death of the heir, the remaining brothers are allowed to resume their relationship and draw closer to one another. Gareth’s lawyer brother Ives asks for his assistance in uncovering some missing artwork. Traveling to the house that he inherited, Gareth encounters a local spinster, Eva Russell, who intrigues him. As Gareth is drawn deeper into a relationship with Eva, what he doesn’t know is that she may hold the clue to uncovering the missing artwork.

OPINION: I loved the humor and sexiness of this book. Often books with wicked in the title fail to live up to that designation. Gareth is shown from the beginning to have wicked tendencies (along with his brothers) and thus the name is well placed. He is also a very good man. His relationship with Eva always comes from a position of equality. The two become involved with one another, but they are adults about their relationship. I loved how Gareth is confused by his reaction to Eva as he is unable to place her into a neat category in his life. There is great sensuality and humor in this book even as the mystery works its way out. This book is incredibly well paced and the pages turn effortlessly. I look forward to reading about the other brothers because they are intriguing characters themselves.

WORTH MENTIONING: I absolutely loved the relationship between the three brothers who are the heroes in the three books in this trilogy. Funny and loving and very masculine, these brothers have a special relationship with one another that was enjoyable to read.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HIS WICKED REPUTATION is the first book in the Wicked Trilogy.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars