Review: Encounters with a Rogue

Review: Encounters with a RogueEncounters With a Rogue by Deb Marlowe
Series: Half Moon House #1.5, #1.8
Published by Deb Marlowe on March 7th 2017
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-half-stars

This book is a compilation of two separate novellas from the Half Moon House series.  These are my first foray into this series and I did not feel that I needed to read the other books before appreciating these books.  These novellas were so good that I purchased the other books in the series to enjoy.

The novellas have been published previously, so check before purchasing.

These books are a nice complement to one another as the hero of the second novella appears as a secondary character in the first.  Readers get to see his growth and redemption by reading both novellas.

AN UNEXPECTED ENCOUNTER:  Miss Elizabeth Moreton has run off to London to avoid her step-father’s plan to marry her off to a local squire in exchange for breeding stock for his cattle.  Unfortunately, she is abandoned by the person she expected to help her.  Instead, she ends up pretending to be a governess for a young orphaned girl.  The girl is the ward of Lord Edmund Cotwell, a gruff man who has cut himself off from society.  Lisbeth finds herself mending the hearts of both Edmund and his ward and finding a purpose of her own.

Novellas are difficult creatures.  Compared to full length novels, they often feel incomplete and shallow.  On the other hand, they give authors a chance to tell stories of beloved characters who might not otherwise have their tale told.  I very much enjoyed this novella because I thought the characters were well drawn, their story was tightly told and engaging and I left the story satisfied with the whole. I really thought the characters were sweet and I admit I am a sucker for the historical guy who is interested in things other than drinking, whoring and socializing.  Edmund’s scientific interests made him sexier and far more intriguing than he would have otherwise been.  I liked that all the characters here: Edmund, Lizabeth and the ward are out of step with what would be expected in society.  They are so clearly meant for one another.  Rating: 4 stars.

A WALTZ IN THE PARK: Two people holding themselves out to society with a mask for their own purposes.  James Vickers wants to be as scandalous as possible in order to frustrate his despised father.  Even though he has reformed himself from his wild and rakish days, he doesn’t want his father to know.  James knows his father is an abominable man and wants to find out what he is hiding.  This season, James meets Miss Adelaide Stockton who knows she must act with utmost propriety in order to live down her mother’s scandal and find a husband of her own.  The two should have nothing to do with one another and yet cannot help but be attracted.

This was my favorite of the two stories because it had a a beautiful and unexpected arc to the story ending up with the title-tease waltz in the park. From the beginning, there was such a unique connection between the two main characters.  James is a man who struggles with his demons and needs to find out who he can be apart from his desire to frustrate his father’s ends. Addy doesn’t know what she wants from life and slides into her family’s expectations. The relationship between Addy and James manages to free them both to be who they want to be. The story has humor and drama and even some well placed angst.  But what I loved most was the blatant romantic climax of the story. This was a story that I wished were longer, but I’d rather have the story than not.  Rating: 4.5 stars.

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

four-half-stars

Review: The Daring 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: The Daring DukeThe Daring Duke (The 1797 Club 1) by Jess Michaels
Series: The 1797 Club #1
Published by The Passionate Pen on March 14th 2017
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  A pretty straight forward historical romance, the story of these characters is complicated by miserable families which have hurt them and made them question the institution of marriage.  A good beginning of a new series premised on the improbable coincidence of a number of eligible dukes available for marriage at the same time.

THE STORY:  James, Duke of Abernathe, is a founding member of the 1797 Club — a group of young dukes who work together and help one another navigate their positions.  A central part of being a duke is marrying to carry on the family, but James intends never to marry even though no one knows why.  Miss Emma Liston is a bluestocking and wallflower and in four seasons has not found a spouse.  She asks James to help her by pretending to be interested in her in order to increase her popularity among the other men of the ton.

OPINION:  This is a book with immensely likeable main characters.  Both Emma and James have been hurt by their dysfunctional families which has made both wary of marriage.  Yet they quickly find in one another passion and friendship and eventually love.

Emma is a bluestocking and wallflower who wants love and marriage but has a father who threatens all her possible happiness.  The book manages to keep the exact nature of her father’s threat secret and gently moves toward the crisis in the book.

James is a man who is determined never to marry in revenge on the father who abused him as a child.  James is a kind man who wants the best for his family but cannot forget the neglect and active abuse of his father who never wanted James as his heir.  James wants Emma and uses the excuse of “helping” her find another man as an excuse to get closer to her — even though James himself doesn’t recognize that fact.

The book is highly focused on the couple in this book and the plot is really designed to bring these two together and thus doesn’t have much impact other than that purpose.

My one complaint about the story is that Emma quickly agrees to engage in sexual acts with James without any intention of marriage. While the intense sexuality is expected in a Jess Michaels book, I thought that the innocent Emma too quickly agrees to allow James to debauch her as long as she remains technically a virgin.

This one complaint doesn’t impair my overall enjoyment of the story primarily because the characters are so likeable.

WORTH MENTIONING:  I can’t wait to read James’s sister’s story.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE DARING DUKE is the first book in the 1797 Club series which tells the story of ten dukes.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE:  I received and 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: The Deed

Review: The DeedThe Deed (Deed, #1) by Lynsay Sands
Series: Deed #1
Published by Avon on August 30th 2011
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
two-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  The story is uneven and while it has some very funny parts, I ultimately found it pretty average.  It was okay as a one time read but I don’t think I would read it again and I’m not excited about reading further in the series.

THE STORY:  Emmaline Eberhart has to petition the King to get her husband to consummate their marriage.  When her husband dies on his way home to do his duty, Emmaline is widowed and now in a vulnerable position.  The King sends Lord Amaury de Aneford to marry her.  He doesn’t want to, but agrees to in order to gain the estate.

OPINION:  This book had great promise based on its blurb.  The book has some great humorous moments surrounding Emmaline’s innocence regarding sex.  I liked how she tries to grieve her dead husband by dying every single piece of cloth in the castle black.  She doesn’t even really understand that her prior marriage was not fully consummated and that leads to some humorous moments.  But at times, her innocence and naive nature got annoying to me.  It is a one joke story that never really gained any depth to the story after the punchline was told.  I did like the story one time going in but those little issues are what I remember about this story rather than the romance.  I really like medieval stories so I wanted to like this one, but I just found it average.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book was originally published in 1997 and has been republished with a new cover.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE DEED is the first book in the Deed series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 2.5 stars.

two-half-stars

Review: Last Night with 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: Last Night with the DukeLast Night with the Duke (The Rakes of St. James, #1) by Amelia Grey
Series: The Rakes of St. James #1
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on March 7th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 304
Goodreads

FINAL DECISION:  The highlight of this book is the interaction between the hero and heroine which is sexy at times and full of banter. The book was adequate as a story but it just didn’t grab me.  Three stars for me is a book I don’t mind paying for, but will probably be one I only read once.  I did like it enough to want to read more of the series.

THE STORY:  Benedict Mercer, Duke of Griffin, needs a chaperone for his twin sisters.  This is especially important because Griffin’s past misdeeds threaten his sisters as someone might be seeking to ruin their season as revenge for Griffin and his friends youthful adventures.  Griffin comes to Miss Mamie Fortescue’s Employment Agency seeking to hire a chaperone and finds Miss Esmeralda Swift.  Esmeralda is the daughter of a viscount but her mother’s scandalous second marriage has left Esmeralda with a younger sister to raise and herself outside of society.  She doesn’t want to accept the duke’s offer, but she needs the money.  The close proximity the two end up in draws them closer together and asks them both to take some risks.

OPINION:  The hero and heroine quickly have an attraction to one another but are limited by their circumstances. Both are honorable people who don’t want to overstep the bounds of the chaperone/employer relationship. Griffin is very conscious of his power status and unwilling to compromise Esmeralda while she is his employee.  Esmeralda takes her chaperone position seriously and doesn’t want to risk Griffin’s sisters by having their chaperone become a scandal.  This creates tension and conflict between the characters.  And through their conflict, the two engage in intellectual foreplay and force a partnership to help Griffin’s sisters.

For me, the relationship between the two characters was the best part of this story.  I did find the word craft of the story a bit tedious at times and I was tempted to turn pages too quickly to get on with the story.  Nothing in this book was bad, but I was not excited by the story enough to want to jump to read it again.  Rather, I digested the book and went on.  That being said, I enjoyed the story enough to want to read the next book in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING:  One duke down, two more to go!

CONNECTED BOOKS:  LAST NIGHT WITH THE DUKE is the first book in the Rakes of St. James series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3 stars.

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

A Lady’s Code of Misconduct Blog Tour

by Meredith Duran
Genres: Historical

Top 10 Romance Books is honored to be hosting a release day stop on the Blog Tour for LADY’S CODE OF MISCONDUCT.  This is a fabulous book that I couldn’t put down even into the wee hours of the morning!  I give the book 5 enthusiastic stars and you can read my full review here.

BONUS Reckless Reward Giveaway!!  — ENTER BY LEAVING A COMMENT ON THIS POST

We also are giving away one set (Reckless Reward!) of three autographed copies in the Rules for the Reckless series: Fool Me Twice, Lady Be Good, and Luck Be A Lady. Twenty blogs participating in the blog tour will be also be participating in the giveaway (each giving away a set).  You can enter on all participating sites, but you can only win once. See the full list of participating blogs below.  U.S. only.

To win, leave a comment below. The giveaway ends tonight (2/28) at 11:59pm.

 

FROM THE USA today bestselling author of FOOL ME TWICE, the 2015 RITA AWARD Winner for Historical Romance

AND LUCK BE A LADY, AN RT BOOK REVIEWS NOMINEE FOR BEST BOOK OF 2015 HISTORICAL NOVEL

A LADY’S CODE OF MISCONDUCT

Fifth in the Rules for the Reckless Series

By Meredith Duran
Pocket Books
Publication Date: February 28, 2017
ISBN: 9781501139024
Price: $7.99

Praise for A Lady’s Code of Misconduct:

“Political intrigue and conspiracies abound in Duran’s engrossing fifth Rules for the Reckless Victorian romance (after Luck Be a Lady), which boasts plot twists galore…Duran is at the pinnacle of her craft as she weaves together humor, forgiveness, and love in a flawlessly executed plot. Jane, Crispin, and the rest of the characters are all well drawn, and the love scenes strike the perfect balance of steamy and sweet. Each layer in the story is suspenseful and delightful, making this the best installment so far.”

Publishers Weekly STARRED REVIEW

“A sham marriage, political intrigue, and a case of amnesia provide a backdrop for this absorbing Victorian romance. Although Duran (Luck Be a Lady, 2015, etc.) has written a novel as layered as an onion, the characters are well-drawn and the plot flawlessly executed. Add in some very steamy sex, and the fifth installment of Duran’s Rules for the Reckless series can’t help but delight. This book weaves its spell so thoroughly that the most fortunate reader will be the one who has time to read the entire thing in one sitting. A masterful tale of suspense, forgiveness, and love.”

Kirkus STARRED REVIEW

“Political intrigue drives a captivating historical romance…This Regency romance, part of the Rules for the Reckless series, is a smart love story, peopled with complex and absorbing characters.”

BookPage, TOP PICK IN ROMANCE

“A riveting story.”

—Heroes and Heartbreakers

“A masterful author of historical romances…A Lady’s Code of Misconduct takes worn threads of old tropes, like amnesia and the tortured hero, and weaves them into a lush tapestry with sophisticated, beautiful writing. Crispin seems power-mad and Jane seems saintly, but as Duran slowly unravels their characters amidst a plot of intrigue, betrayal, and dark secrets, we discover they’re more alike than they (or we) realize. The hero is swoonworthy, and I couldn’t help but fall in love with Jane as his flaws shine a light on her own. The tale and characters so captivated me, that I literally couldn’t put it down.”

—Omnivoracious Amazon Book Review by Sabrina Jeffries

“Thoughtfully written and the story creates not just a simple story of two people but an entire world for them to inhabit. If you like your historicals to have some meat to them, I highly recommend this one.”

—All About Romance

“Extremely relevant to our current political state…I could have easily sat and devoured this in one evening as each of the chapters seemed to end on a cliffhanger that just won’t let you put the book down. Quill says: A Lady’s Code of Misconduct is the perfect book to sit in your favorite chair with and let the world pass by for a little while you get lost in the past.”

—Feathered Quill

“I absolutely love this series… Meredith writes intelligent characters with a fast paced plot.  Her writing is sensual, witty and totally captivating.  This book has everything you would want in a Historical Romance.   It is witty, sensual with a mystery that will keep you guessing to the very end. Crispin and Jane are extraordinary characters in a riveting story that will leave you wanting more.  The journey of Crispin and Jane to their HAE is fabulous.  I will read anything that Meredith writes.”

—The Reading Wench

“A fun read. I enjoyed Duran’s characters and plot…there’s a villain who made me think of a Regency era James Bond villain.”

—Bookfan

About the book:

USA TODAY  bestselling author Meredith Duran’s A LADY’S CODE OF MISCONDUCT is the fifth sizzling novel in the Rules for the Reckless series—a sexy and evocative Regency romance between a famous heiress and an infamous crime lord.

A DEAL WITH the DEVIL…
Trapped in the countryside, facing an unwanted marriage and the theft of her fortune, Jane Mason is done behaving nicely. To win her freedom, she’ll strike a deal with the most dangerous man she knows—a rising star in politics, whose dark good looks mask an even darker heart.

…NEVER GOES TO PLAN.
The bitter past has taught Crispin Burke to trust no one. He’ll gladly help a lovely young heiress, provided she pays a price. Yet when a single mistake shatters his life, it is Jane who holds the key to his salvation. And in a world that no longer makes sense, Crispin slowly realizes that she may be the only thing worth fighting for…

About the author:

Meredith Duran is the author of ten previous novels, including The Duke of Shadows (winner of the Gather.com First Chapters Romance Writing Competition); Wicked Becomes You (included on the Woman’s World List of Best Beach Reads for Summer 2010), and the USA TODAY bestseller and RITA Award Winner Fool Me Twice. She blames Anne Boleyn for sparking her lifelong obsession with British history, and for convincing her that princely love is no prize if it doesn’t come with a happily-ever-after. She enjoys collecting old etiquette manuals, guidebooks to nineteenth-century London, and travelogues by intrepid Victorian women. Visit her at MeredithDuran.com, on Twitter @meredithduran and Facebook AuthorMeredithDuran.

Reckless Reward:

The twenty starred blogs (*) below will giveaway one set (Reckless Reward!) of three autographed copies in the Rules for the Reckless series: Fool Me Twice, Lady Be Good, and Luck Be A Lady. You can enter on all participating sites, but you can only win once. To celebrate the fifth in the series, there will be five Reckless Reward giveaways per day beginning publication day, Tuesday, February 28th – Friday, March 3rd. U.S. only.

Blog Tour:

Bookaholics Romance Book Club INTERVIEW WITH MEREDITH DURAN and  GIVEAWAY

Sunday, February 26th
Nikbooklovers Blog
 Monday, February 27th
Books for Her
Tuesday, February 28th
*The Romance Dish
*Canadian Book Addict
*Just Another New Blog
*Top 10 Romance Books
*Unabridged Chick
Buried Under Romance
Dear Author
Toot’s Book Reviews – Feature
Il Profumo delle Pergamene
Marvelous Things
My Book Addiction and More
Wednesday, March 1st
*Book Nerd
*Reviews by Crystal
*All About Romance
*Booktalk with Eileen
*We So Nerdy
Roses Are Blue
In the Hammock
Feeding My Addiction Book Reviews – Spotlight
Romance Book Reviews for You
Thursday, March 2nd
*I am, Indeed
*A Midlife Wife
*Literary Gossip
*Undeniably Book Nerdy
*Dew On The Kudzu
Books and Beauty Are My Bag
Ebook Obsessed
Abigail Books Addiction
Dirty Girl Romance – Spotlight
Bookhounds – Q&A
Friday, March 3rd
*Black ‘N Gold Girl’s Book Spot
*JoJo the Bookaholic
*Sportochick’s Musings
*The Reading Wench
*Got Fiction Book Blog
Cup of Tea and Book
The Reading Addict
Nicely Phrased
Ladeetda Reads
Silvatrend8553 Book Blog
Night Owl Reviews – Author Guest Post
Bookbitch
Saturday, March 4th
Passionate Encounters
Sunday, March 5th
My Little Book Corner
Monday, March 6th
Reading Frenzy – Spotlight
Bookish – Giveaway
Foreign Circus Library
Poof Books
Tuesday, March 7th
I Love Romance
Bookworm2bookworm – Spotlight, Excerpt, and Review
Dirty and Thirty
Wild Wordy Women
Polished Bookworm
Sammi’s Bookish Reality
Passionate Reads
Books, Movies, Reviews! Oh my!
Celtic Lady’s Reviews – Spotlight
Wednesday, March 8th
Moonlight Rendezvous
One More Chapter
Fresh Fiction – Spotlight
Thursday, March 9th
Happy Ever After Romance Book Reviews
The Book Junkie Reads
Three Boys and an Old Lady blog
 Friday, March 10th
Smitten by Books
Celtic Guardian

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Review: Lady’s Code of Misconduct

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: Lady’s Code of MisconductA Lady's Code of Misconduct (Rules for the Reckless, #5) by Meredith Duran
Series: Rules for the Reckless #5
Published by Pocket Books on February 28th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 400
Goodreads
five-stars

“Who are you? How do you know me?” The color drained from her face. “I…” Her lips opened and closed. “I’m Jane,” she said unsteadily. “And you…” Her indrawn breath sounded ragged. “You, Crispin, are my husband.”

FINAL DECISION: Oh, how I loved this one!  A man who might otherwise be the villain of the story completely — ok, not so completely — redeemed by love.  Complex and twisty and so enjoyable.  This series just keeps getting better!

THE STORY:  Jane Mason is trapped by her uncle who intends to marry her to his son in order to control her fortune. Condemned to suppress all her personality behind a meek exterior, Jane desperately wants to evade her uncle’s plots.  Mr. Crispin Burke is a ruthless man who intends to be prime minister.  He will do anything to protect his alliance with Jane’s uncle — even if that means destroying Jane’s own chances.  A blackmailed bargain and a murder attempt ends up with the two being married, but when she gains control of her fortune, will Jane be able to leave the man she hated…but for whom she has begun to care?

OPINION:  This book is so wonderful but so difficult to describe without giving away the twists and turns which make the book sing.

The book begins with a hero who seems completely irredeemable.  He is ambitious to the exclusion of all else and exceedingly immoral.  He will bribe, blackmail, and deal in all types of corruption in order to succeed.  He will be Prime Minister and he will do anything to accomplish that feat.  Crispin threatens the heroine and blackmails her into doing his bidding.  Even when he knows that Jane is desperately mistreated and willing to do almost anything to free herself…he ignores her plight except to the extent that it can benefit himself.  Jane has known Crispin for years and she knows that he is a ruthless and immoral man.

“Power made a fine panacea for any number of old aches. It would be revenge and pleasure and comfort rolled up into one.”

While Crispin appears a lost cause as the book begins, a twist of fate strips him of his invulnerability and leaves him open to change.  An attempt on his life leaves him with no memory of the evils he has done or the reasons for them.  Jane, now married to Crispin, knows the man he was, but finds herself falling in love with the man he is now.  The fear and drama of the story is that neither knows what will happen to them if Crispin remembers the man he was.

Jane is a woman who is struggling for independence. A beloved daughter who was valued for her intellect and opinions, she has begun to lose herself under the oppression of her uncle. Yet she is determined to free herself. Her stubborn and powerful will for freedom allows her to make a decision which will change her life and Crispin’s as well.

The tension in this book is tightly drawn because as the two attempt to discover who attempted to kill Crispin, they must explore who Crispin was and what he was up to.  The danger of every revelation is that is might trigger Crispin’s memories and the return of the man that Jane knows she cannot help but hate.  Something else happens as the two make their discoveries…the reasons for Crispin’s heartless pursuit of power become clear and perhaps provides a more sympathetic portrait of the villain at the beginning of the book.

What I loved most about this book is that its core message becomes one of understanding and acceptance that love requires. Crispin is not all bad and we learn that Jane is not all that good.  People have flaws and weaknesses.  Those flaws can make us the heroes of the story as we overcome their influence on our lives and protect against the damage they may do, or they can make us hard and indeed the villain of our own story. Both Crispin and Jane are more complex than they appeared at the beginning of the book.  By the end, they both see one another clearly and as a whole fallible person.

That brings me to the chemistry between Jane and Crispin which is blistering hot. The two seem to relish the intellectual battle of wills as enemies which leads to sexy encounters even as their antipathy diminishes. I loved these two together, couldn’t put the book down and really didn’t want the book to end. In fact, as the book ended, I couldn’t help but hope we might see more of them in future books.

This might be my favorite book in the series and I really, really liked the last one.  Now I have to read both again to compare!

WORTH MENTIONING:  Oh, I hope we get to read more about Lockwood!

CONNECTED BOOKS:  LADY’S CODE OF MISCONDUCT is the fifth book in the Rules for the Reckless series.  This book does not rely on any other book in the series and can be read as a complete standalone.

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

five-stars

Review: Windswept

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: WindsweptWindswept by Deborah Martin, Sabrina Jeffries
Series: Welsh #2
Published by Pocket Books on February 28th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“If any woman of thy lineage doth not drink of the cup at her wedding, her husband shall die within three years of her wedding.”

FINAL DECISION:  The book has an elegance and a more serious tone than other books by Jeffries.  I really enjoyed these characters and the journey they took because while there are many secrets and deceptions between them, there is a joy and lightness that surrounds this couple.

THE STORY:  Catrin Price is a Welsh widow with a family death curse.  If she does not drink from a druid cup at her wedding, her husband will die within three years.  That has already happened to Catrin and she knows that if she wants to fulfill her desire for a husband and family, she must recover the cup.  She manages to track it down but when she gets it, the man from whom she purchased it is murdered.  Evan Newcome is a scholar who is looking for the woman last seen with his friend. He believes that she might have something to do with his death and is determined to find out the truth.

OPINION:  This book has two elements that I really liked: the characters connection to one another and the ending which pushes the characters into an uneasy situation where love must overcome fear.

These two characters have a difficult road.  Catrin and Evan come to one another with lies and deceptions.  Both are lying and concealing information.  As they begin to build their relationship, these lies threaten the possibility of any true connection between them.  Catrin is a woman determined to overcome the notorious legacy of her family. She takes risks which stretch her understanding of who she is. She makes choices which take her close to the line of doing wrong. Evan is also on a mission. He is determined to avenge his friend’s death. He is willing to do whatever it takes — lies are just the beginning.  But he doesn’t count on falling for Catrin. Just when it seems that the two might have untangled their lives, the external threats arise.

I found this story very exciting and liked that it operated to push the two main characters into revealing more about themselves and to grow closer to one another. In the best twist of the book, the plot devise strips the main characters of the expected resolution to the story. As the final chapter closes, the characters have to put their faith in love and one another and trust that life will be good to them.  There are no guarantees for these characters, but don’t worry my friends, things work out very well for them in the end.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This is a revised and reissued version of the book by the same name originally written by this author under the name of Deborah Martin.  Make sure you don’t already have it in your collection before buying it!

CONNECTED BOOKS:  WINDSWEPT is the second book in the Welsh series.  It is not necessary to read the other book first (I didn’t!).  This book can operate as a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

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

four-half-stars

Review: The Scoundrel’s Honor

Review: The Scoundrel’s HonorThe Scoundrel's Honor (Sinful Brides, #2) by Christi Caldwell
Series: Sinful Brides #2
Published by Amazon Digital Services on February 14th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 354
Goodreads
four-stars

“Somewhere between Ryker Black’s rise from guttersnipe to ruthless owner of the Hell and Sin Club, the world had learned — one did not cross him, interrupt him, or interfere with his dealings.  Ever.”

FINAL DECISION:  A story that has a lot of drama, this book stays on the surface of the emotions of the characters.  That makes what might otherwise be a dark book interesting but not compelling.  I enjoyed the book because of the characters especially the heroine.

THE STORY:  Lady Penelope Tidemore is having her debut and she intends on being proper in a family full of scandals.  Unfortunately, at the first opportunity, Penny ends up in a bigger scandal than anyone else.  She is caught in a compromising situation with Ryker Black, the bastard son of a duke and the owner of a gaming hell.  There is little choice but for Penelope to marry Ryker but is there any hope for this marriage between strangers from such different worlds?

OPINION:  This book takes what might be a dark subject and keeps the pacing and story on a less dramatic level.  The book lacks the depths of a dark, angsty novel with the same subject matter, but it has a sweetness and gentleness to the story that will appeal to readers who want a little bite to their stories without delving into darkness.

In many romance novels, it is the hero whose characters I tend to like more.  Here, I liked Penelope the most in the book.  Here is a woman who is raised among a loving and privileged family.  The worst thing she has to worry about is gossip and scandal about her family. When she is thrust into Ryker’s world, she makes attempts to bring some of her lightness and gentleness into his world.  While he continues to reject her, she is determined to make this new world a better place and bring some of her hominess and family to bear on the new family she gains.

Ryker is a self-made man who struggles with what he had to do to survive. He is guilt ridden and at his core afraid.  He hides all the seething emotions inside himself with order and rules and coldness.  Penelope comes into his life with her constant chatting and her innocent belief that she can make things work out. She is a dreamer who won’t allow the reality of life to sap her of her optimism.  Ryker just doesn’t know how to deal with that.  I liked watching his world as he has constructed it crumble under Penelope’s gentle ruthlessness.

For me the characters were the highlight of this book.  The romance in this book happens incredibly fast and there is so much animosity between these characters at times, it is hard to believe that they so quickly fall for one another.  My second complaint is that this book uses almost exactly the same sequence of events as the first book in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Penelope’s younger sister HAS to get a book someday!

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE SCOUNDREL’S HONOR is the second book in the Sinful Brides series.  The hero in this book is the brother of the heroine in the first book.  The story is self contained and can be read on its own although I recommend reading the first book in order to better understand the characters.

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: The Rogue’s Wager

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: The Rogue’s WagerThe Rogue's Wager (Sinful Brides, #1) by Christi Caldwell
Series: Sinful Brides #1
Published by Amazon Digital Services on October 25th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 338
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  The book started out slow, but as it progressed and the characters revealed more about themselves, I loved how the two of them were similar in unexpected ways.

THE STORY:  Robert Dennington, Marquess of Westfield, has spent years in aimless pursuits after having been betrayed. The heir to a dukedom, Robert allows himself to wallow in drunkenness and vice one night.  On that night, he ends up at the Hell and Sin Club and in the rooms of Helena Banbury, who lives at the gaming hell and is the bookkeeper for the enterprise. That night ends up changing Helena’s night as she is sent to live with her father, a duke. It is difficult for an illegitimate daughter in the aristocratic world but Helena ends up meeting Robert again and making a deal for his pretend courtship of her so that she can discourage other men.

OPINION: This book has a quick opening gambit as Helena and Robert end up in a compromising position, but then the book slows way down when Helena goes to live with her father.  I found much of the first part of the book disjointed and the pacing slow.  There are just too many things going on and the story didn’t really focus on the couple.

Eventually, however, the story began to concentrate on Helena and Robert and that is when I became more engaged with the book.  I did like these characters, especially Helena.  She is a woman who is determined to control her own life despite the efforts of the men in it.  She is intelligent and has made a place for herself in her brother’s gaming hell.

Robert is a hidden sweetheart.  A man who is a romantic at heart but has been burned and thus chosen to cut himself off from his hopes of love. He quickly sees worth in Helena even though she is scarred and illegitimate. His courtship of Helena was my favorite part in the book (from their waltz lessons to his final romantic gesture to win her).

Despite the uneven nature of this book, the characters really pulled out the story in the end. It was their personality, their relationship and their triumph that I cheered.

WORTH MENTIONING:  I love a heroine who is talented in math — and Helena is even better than the men in her life.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE ROGUE’S WAGER is the first book in the Sinful Brides series.  The characters here are connected to prior Caldwell series, but this book is a standalone.  I have not read the prior series but didn’t need to in order to get the full impact of this book.  This book did, however, raise my interest in reading the prior series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: 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: The DukeThe Duke (Victorian Rebels, #4) by Kerrigan Byrne
Series: Victorian Rebels #4
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on February 7th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“Life, with all its perils and torments, still belongs to the living. We have a responsibility to live it. You should not waste it by giving over to bleak despair.”

FINAL DECISION:  Once again a wonderful exploration of the darkness that lies in men’s souls and the possibility of love and hope to heal.  A battle between two strong characters make this a worthy addition to the Victorian Rebels series.

THE STORY:  Three years ago, the life of Collin “Cole” Talmage, Duke of Talmage, seemed charmed until his family was killed and he ended up betrayed by one he trusted and imprisoned for a year in a Ottoman cell. What kept him sane during that year was his memory of his encounter with “Ginny” a sweet prostitute with whom he spent his last night in England.  When he is returned to England, emaciated, recovering from torture, and missing hand, he almost dies until an impertinent nurse Imogen Pritchard risks her position to get him the treatment he needed.  Now two years later, Cole has learned to live with his missing hand but his spirits reside in darkness.  He has been searching unsuccessfully for Ginny. He has also been watching the widow next door, Lady Anstruther, who managed to convince an elderly man to marry her with him dying soon after.  Ironically, Lady Anstruther is the nurse who saved his life. What Cole doesn’t know is that Imogen is also the “Ginny” for whom he has been searching.

OPINION:  Another fabulous entry in the amazing Victorian Rebels series, Byrne continues her exploration of the darkness in the human soul and how that darkness can be softened with the power of love and hope.

“I’ve spent so long searching for her, and yet I fear that I’d pass her in the street and not recognize her.”

As the book opens, Cole has just begun to take the hits to his golden boy status.  He inherits the title because of the death of his family.  When he meets and beds Ginny, he doesn’t recognize her as the frightened and desperate woman she is, but he does find something peaceful and comforting with her.  Enough such that a year of torture and hellish conditions made her his touchstone. He has never forgotten her and is determined to find and rescue her.   Perhaps because the memory of Ginny was what helped Cole keep his sanity.  The year in prison changed Cole.  And he is still suffering from the emotional after effects of his horrendous experiences.

“He didn’t need the help of the devil. Case in point, these fits of wrath and unreasonable terror that made Cole want to do unspeakable things. These moments when what he feared the very most was himself…He was barely keeping himself together. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt peace or pity. No, that wasn’t true. He could remember. It has been precisely three years ago. With Ginny.”

Although people see the physical results of Cole’s time as a prisoner, it is the emotional damage that is the most significant. He has been keeping himself together by way of “regulation, convention, and order.”  It is ironically Imogen who threatens to break Cole’s will.  She challenges him by shaking his control. Cole first attacks her because he believes her a villain for marrying a sick and elderly man. She is a woman who should not be living next door to him at all. She seems to be flaunting the very rules that Cole wants to rely upon. While she shakes his control, she also is giving him purpose and a sense of hope even as they argue and engage in combat.

“But the countess Anstruther met his dark look with a mulish one of her own. God, it had been a long time since he’d felt so frustrated, so infuriated. It was…rather glorious.”

I loved Cole. He is a good man who was drawn far into the darkness. He has struggled to survive and doesn’t know how to begin to live again. Although he has relied upon order to control his anger and pain, he really is an unconventional soul who responds to Imogen’s own unconventional nature.  What he really needs is for Imogen to gather him into her arms and comfort him…he just doesn’t know it.

I usually love the heroes most in a romance, but in this book, I think Imogen was my favorite character. She begins the story by allowing herself to be a victim, but gains strength and purpose as the events of her life spiral out of control. By the time she and Cole meet again, Imogen has found a purpose in her life. She is determined to do all she can to help those who need a hand up — especially vulnerable women and children. Acutely recognizing her own savior in her deceased husband, she will use everything she gained as a result of her marriage to help others.  But, that comes with a cost.  She must keep secret from Cole her beginnings as Ginny because she fears that the revelation of her secret will destroy all her good works. Because she must keep her secrets, there is no chance for her and Cole to have a relationship, no matter how much she wants one.

Imogen has managed to keep hold of her hope and lightness despite the pain and travails of her life. It is her kindness and gentleness that calls to the pain in Cole and it is his pain that calls to her to comfort him. From their first meeting, she feels his pain (which only increases due to his capture and torture). Her spirit is called to him to heal and protect. But I also loved that Imogen is no pushover.  She is determined to do her charity work (even if it costs her Cole). She is stubborn and artistic and fierce. She will do what she must to protect those she loves.

“if she believed in everything, it was that everyone deserved a second chance.”

The journey that Cole and Imogen take involves chance.  The chance to reveal their true damaged selves to one another. The chance to move from darkness into light and hope.  These two need three chances to actually find their happy ending, but by the time it comes, the two have earned their peace and happiness.

This was a beautiful romance and a great addition to a series that I have loved. I was also gratified to see all the couples from the previous books make appearances here. There is a real community of people developing and I hope that this trend continues in future books.

WORTH MENTIONING:  For fans of Inspector Morley, there are indications that his story is turning in new directions.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE DUKE is the fourth book in the Victorian Rebels series.  This romance is self contained although there are overlapping characters.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

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

four-half-stars