Review: When the Marquess Falls

Review: When the Marquess FallsWhen the Marquess Falls (Hellions of Havisham, #3.5) by Lorraine Heath
Series: The Hellions of Havisham #3.5
Published by Avon Impulse on March 14th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 128
Goodreads
four-stars

This review contains a serious spoiler if you haven’t read the other books in the series.

FINAL DECISION: Know the secret of this book, grieve with every word, and read it anyway.

THE STORY: George, the Marquess of Marsden has been friends with the baker’s daughter, Linnie Connor, since they were children. Although he knows he loves her, George knows that there cannot be any future between them because of the difference in their stations. With their friendship on a deadline (Linnie plans to move to London to open her own shop and George knows he must marry) the two cannot stop the deep and forbidden passion that flares between them.

OPINION: I have had this book for months and just couldn’t bring myself to read it. This book has a horrible middle that readers of the series will know about — the heroine dies young in childbirth. Yet, it is a beautiful romance even if it doesn’t fit the standard confines of the genre.

The story between George and Linnie is more beautiful knowing that it is both such a short story and a long romance. While this won’t be a book that I will pick up again and again to read, I greatly admire Heath for writing this book. Most writers would have left readers with — the romance is not a HEA and thus there is nothing more to write. Heath instead rises to the challenge and gives readers a book that has a happy ever even if it is not in this life.

WORTH MENTIONING: I cried and cried and cried.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WHEN THE MARQUESS FALLS is book 3.5 in the Hellions of Havisham series. In some ways it is both a prequel and a sequel for the series. I think this book is better read after the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: The Duchess Deal

Review: The Duchess DealThe Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke, #1) by Tessa Dare
Series: Girl Meets Duke #1
Published by Avon Impulse on August 22nd 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Enjoyable and very, very funny historical.  A book that rifts on Beauty and the Beast with a heroine who doesn’t take any gruff from the hero but instead challenges him out of his moody self-absorption.

THE STORY:  Emma Gladstone, a vicar’s daughter ruined and come to London as a seamstress comes to the home of the Duke of Ashbury to get payment for a wedding dress she created for his cancelled betrothal.  Ash returned from war horribly scarred, but he decides that Emma meets all his requirements for a wife.  Ash has some requirements for their marriage of convenience.  He will bed her every night until she conceives, with no kissing, and then she will leave and raise their child in the country.  Emma, however, is determined to bring Ash back into the world and has her own demands — which begin with nightly dinner and conversation.

OPINION:  I enjoyed this book because Emma refused to allow Ash to wallow in his pity party. From the beginning, she sees herself as an equal and pulls him into relationship.  While having her own fears and past pain, she almost immediately sees Ash as someone of worth. I admire a woman who has her own internal scars but lives her life with purpose and without complaint.  And she is an optimist with hope who teases her husband with silly nicknames and her refusal to just leave him alone.

Ash is a man with horrible scars, but his deepest scars are emotional.  Born and raised in his privileged position as rich and handsome, he doesn’t quite know how to function in a world where people look at his face and are horrified.  Instead of trying to change people’s minds, he has instead embraced the worst of his fears to cope.  Better that he call himself a monster, be a monster, act like a monster.  That way he can avoid the pain of rejection.

I thought the story was well done.  Many would rate this book higher. The reason I gave it a very good 4 is that I think that the humor at times deflected the serious notes in the story.  I think I just prefer a darker more serious story.  I like humorous stories and I really liked this one, but I sometimes felt that the story could have gone deeper than it really wanted to.  That being said, I thought this book was very enjoyable and recommend it especially for those who like humorous historicals.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Emma meets three “original” women who might just be the heroines of future stories.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE DUCHESS DEAL is the first book in the Girl Meets Duke series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Gentlemen Prefer Heiresses

Review: Gentlemen Prefer HeiressesGentlemen Prefer Heiresses (Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James, #4.5) by Lorraine Heath
Series: Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James #4.5
Published by Avon Impulse on August 22nd 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 112
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  A lovely gem of a coda to the amazing Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James series.  Gina and Andrew are such a fun and sweet couple that I smiled and sighed through the whole story.

THE STORY:  Miss Virginia “Gina” Hammersley was supposed to be the sister making an advantageous marriage this season.  But her scandalous older sister and the Marquess of Rexton fell in love.  Now with her sister making a proper marriage, Gina knows that her own options have expanded as well.  Lord Andrew Mabry, the younger brother of Rexton, intends never to marry.  As the “spare”, Andrew knows that he doesn’t have the title that Gina wants. Yet neither his determination to remain a bachelor nor Gina’s expectations can keep Andrew from wanting to be with the woman he cannot take his eyes off.

OPINION:  This story was so well done that I truly forgot that it was a novella.  By focusing intensely on the characters and their relationship, the novella felt complete and satisfying.

Andrew is the second son who hasn’t found a purpose in his life. It is always a challenge for an author to write the story of a child born of a happy marriage (which is one reason we don’t see as many books about the children of prior characters).  The best characters are often found in torment from their lives.  Andrew had a happy childhood, but Heath does a good job of giving him his own pain that has made him more convinced to stay unmarried.  A man who has an example of the wonderful marriage of his parents can only be determined to stay unmarried if he fears inside that he will never be able to duplicate that effort.  I loved his character which is fun and sweet (even though he sees himself as rakish).  He is immensely likeable and this book shows him finding who he really can be.

Gina is a woman who has an American’s brashness and desires to be her own person.  When she recognizes that she wants Andrew, she is determined to take every opportunity open to her for adventure and happiness.  I love that she is unconventional and yet has her limits. I also really admire a woman who is willing to suffer for love, is willing to put happiness over reputation and I liked her strength and joy in life.

I just loved the relationship between Gina and Andrew.  Sweet and sexy and fun.

I’m a big sucker for these types of stories where we get to see more of characters from prior books.  I love having a few moments more with characters that I already fell in love with and I admit that I have a hard time letting go of their stories.  There are glimpses throughout this story which just made me happy.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a novella.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  GENTLEMEN PREFER HEIRESSES is book 4.5 of the Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James series (which itself is a spin-off of the Scoundrels of St. James series).  This book is a closer for book 4 of that series, AN AFFAIR WITH A NOTORIOUS HEIRESS.  I recommend reading that book first because this one flows directly from that book — although the story itself is separate.  It is not necessary to read any of the prior books in the series to read this one, but with all the connecting characters, this book just works better as part of the series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

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

four-half-stars

Review: I Will

Review: I WillI Will: A Christmas Novella by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Capital Theatre #2.5
Published by Avon Impulse on December 13th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 144
Goodreads
three-half-stars

“She was pure. He was tarnished. She was honest. He tailored the truth to fit his own purposes. She was self-disciplined. He had never restrained himself in any regard. She was calm and serene. He had never known a moment’s peace in his life. Andrew envied her, and so he had mocked her mercilessly on the few previous occasions when they had met.

“Now Caroline hated him, and he had come to ask for a favor — a favor he desperately needed.”

FINAL DECISION:  Enjoyable followup to BECAUSE YOU’RE MINE about the younger disreputable brother.  A reformed rake story, this is sweet but a little rushed as a novella.

THE STORY: Andrew, Lord Drake, dissolute rake, has been disinherited by his dying father.  In order to regain his inheritance, Andrew devises a plan to court a thoroughly respectable woman in order to demonstrate to his father that he is reforming his life.  The only woman he can imagine helping him is his friend’s older sister, the proper Miss Caroline Hargreaves.

OPINION:  This was a very enjoyable read, but I think it is better as an add on to the previous book in the series. To truly understand Andrew’s journey, I felt I needed to know what he was like in the previous book.

I did like the relationship between Andrew and Caroline (although I wish we had seen more of their developing relationship which occurs mostly offstage).  There is a long distance for Andrew to travel to be a good man.  This novella has some quite funny moments, including Caroline’s Christmas wish which might be one of my favorite moments I’ve read in a while.  Funny and a sense of justice.

I’m glad that Andrew got his redemption and it is even better that it is as a result of his own attempts at outsmarting his father.  Instead he managed to get his own comeuppance.  This book had a little flavor of DEVIL IN WINTER (a superlative book).  This novella doesn’t reach the heights of that book, but the rake who finds his schemes with an innocent woman resulting in him wanting to turn his own life around to be worthy of her is very similar here.

I enjoyed this story especially for readers who enjoyed BECAUSE YOU’RE MINE.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This novella was previously published in the anthology WISH LIST.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  I WILL is book 2.5 of the Capital Theatre series.  It can be read as a standalone, but is better after reading book two of the series.

STAR RATING:  I give this novella 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: A Gentleman Never Tells

Review: A Gentleman Never TellsA Gentleman Never Tells (Essex Sisters, #4.5) by Eloisa James
Series: Essex Sisters #4.5
Published by Avon Impulse on June 28, 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 160
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  A sweet repentant hero and a woman who no longer finds joy in life find the gentle possibility of love together.  This novella is abbreviated but has sweetness and humor.

THE STORY: Lizzie Troutt has been left a virgin widow with a poor sense of her own worth as a woman after being subjected to a marriage where her husband preferred his mistress to her.  Despite her older sister’s wishes, Lizzie just wants to be left alone to read. Oliver Berwick has come to Lizzie sister’s house party to apologize for his boorish behavior which helped brand Lizzie’s sister as the Wooly Breeder.  Ashamed of himself, Oliver agrees to Lizzie’s sister request that he do two things: make Lizzie laugh and get her back on a horse. At the first look at Lizzie, however, Oliver wants so much more.

OPINION:  This is a novella and as such is not as developed as a full novel would be.  Despite that, I simply adored Oliver.  He has developed tremendously from the young man who found himself repeating insulting remarks about others.  While it is easy to sympathize with the victim of bullying, this story is about what effect bullying can have on a bully.  While Oliver certainly was not the worst of his group of friends, he certainly sustained and participated in the bullying.  For years, he has been ashamed of that behavior.  While his shame caused him to avoid his victims, he finally finds the opportunity and the courage to apologize for his behavior.  That apology and the forgiveness that flows from his victim finally allows him to forgive himself.  Oliver’s recognition of his mistakes is what makes him so wonderful as a hero.  He now devotes himself to caring for others.  First his niece and then Lizzie.  I absolutely adored how he makes sure that she eats when he sees that she is too thin and only barely picking at her food.  His gentle concern and determination to seeing to her well being begins to break through the shell that Lizzie has created for herself.

The romance between Oliver and Lizzie is short but these two are sweet together.

My negatives are this: I hate the virgin widow trope and this story is no different.  Also, because of the length of this novella, the romance between Oliver and Lizzie felt rushed towards the end.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Indoor croquet.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  A GENTLEMAN NEVER TELLS is book 4.5 of the Essex Sisters series.  It can be read as a standalone as it is only tangentially related to the series. It is a spin-off of PLEASURE FOR PLEASURE, so for background reading that book is more than sufficient.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: The Official Essex Sisters Companion Guide

Review: The Official Essex Sisters Companion GuideThe Official Essex Sisters Companion Guide by Eloisa James, Jody Gayle
Series: Essex Sisters #4.4
Published by Avon Impulse on May 24th 2016
Genres: Commentary, Historical
Pages: 592
Goodreads
four-stars

The OFFICIAL ESSEX SISTER COMPANION GUIDE contains information about the creation of the books in the Essex Sisters series.  There are small, easily read essays regarding the background to the books, historical information surrounding various aspects of the books including clothing and publications, and some thoughts on the themes of the books.

Even readers who are not interested in the academic writings here should at least read the new material for the series.  There is the final 10 years later epilogue to the series which gives readers the updates on the characters including children. There is also a short story entitled A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DISGRACE which tells the story of one of the women who was also branded with a notorious nickname like Josie in PLEASURE FOR PLEASURE.  In A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DISGRACE, Cecilia who was tarred by her brother’s nickname “Silly Billy” because men where afraid that her brother’s mental disability might be hereditary.  In this story, Cecilia gets her happy ending.  She decides to court ruination in order to be able to avoid continuing in society.  When she approaches the musician who caught her attention, she gets more than she expected. While the story is short, it is sweet and I enjoyed the interaction between the hero and heroine.  While only tangentially connected with the series, Josie and Mayne make an appearance.

Finally, there is an alternate ending for KISS ME, ANNABEL. This definitely should not be read until after the novel itself.  Apparently, the entire second half of that novel was re-written and the original draft is included in this guide.  It was interesting to see the differences between the original and final book.  I prefer the final story, but I did like that in the original version, a portion of Rafe and Imogen’s story from THE TAMING OF THE DUKE.  One of my complaints of that book was the Rafe’s kicking of his addiction to alcohol happened too close to the romance for me.  In the original version of KISS ME, ANNABEL, Rafe begins his sobriety in that book which is exactly what I wanted emotionally for Rafe and Imogen’s story.  It was a fascinating exercise to see how that story might have been different.

For readers of the Essex Sisters series, this Companion Guide is worth reading even if you just read the extra material for the series itself.

four-stars