Review: The First Time at Firelight Falls

Review: The First Time at Firelight FallsThe First Time at Firelight Falls (Hellcat Canyon, #4) by Julie Anne Long
Series: Hellcat Canyon #4
Published by Avon on May 29th 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Goodreads
five-stars

“Days like these made being a Navy SEAL seem definitely easier than being an elementary school principal.”

FINAL DECISION: Passionate, romantic, funny, fabulous and so incredibly normal. This is my favorite book of the year so far…and I’m not sure another book is going to be able to top it.

THE STORY: Eden Harwood was the good girl who ended up pregnant. She adores and dedicates her life to her ten year old daughter and her life is busy and seems full until something starts with the elementary school principal Gabe Caldera. Gabe destroys any stereotypes of what a school principal should look like. When the two begin a lot of flirtation, Eden realizes that she might be missing something that she needs. In that moment, the secret of her daughter’s paternity that Eden has kept for ten years may not be secret much longer and might just destroy the relationship that Gabe and Eden are building.

OPINION: This might be the most beautiful book about love that I have ever read, but at the very least it is the best book I have read this year so far and I can’t really imagine another book topping it.

So much is written about love and romance but this book has something really important to say — love is not only about the rush of excitement and lust but also about constancy and stability and being there.

I read this book without stopping from the first to last page — not because of the suspense or the drama — but because of the quietness of the romance. How it fills all the spaces in the lives of these characters. How it exists in the reality of real lives. How often do I turn to romance as escapism? — read about a duke or a billionaire or a famous actor. This is the story of a single mother florist who falls for a school principal during the car pickup and community meetings.

Now I know that I’ve turned off some people who might say “I don’t need to read about my own boring normal life” but I urge you to give this book a chance. Because this book beautifully gives everyone hope: the single mother who doesn’t have a moment to herself, the serious man who has a life filled with responsibilities, those who have made mistakes that effect the rest of their lives, those who have suffered loss.

This book filled me up with joy and wonder and such a sense of peace by its end. Sometimes, often times, when I finish a book I enjoy, I have a difficult time writing the review. The book just takes all the space and I have trouble expressing what about the book captivated me. This sometimes causes a problem because I am quickly off to the next book and I hate having reviews backed up.

This book was different. I felt filled to the brim and overflowing and all I wanted to do was write this review. And I had no immediate interest to fill the space with another book.

Gabe and Eden are so normal that I couldn’t imagine that Julie Anne Long would be able to keep up the interest and tension. But by using the absolutely ordinary events as a flirty and significant interchange between the two, the book manages to fill all the regular moments in their lives with meaning and passionate tension, but always with a humor and an joy in the small things.  Never has a normal life been so sexy.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is even a tiny Pennyroyal Green reference for fans of Long’s prior historical series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE FIRST TIME AT FIRELIGHT FALLS is the fourth book in the Hellcat Canyon series. The book can be read as a standalone although there are characters from the other books who appear here.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 amazing stars.

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

five-stars

Review: Too Wilde to Wed

Review: Too Wilde to WedToo Wilde to Wed (The Wildes of Lindow Castle, #2) by Eloisa James
Series: The Wildes of Lindow Castle #2
Published by Avon on May 29, 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: Simply amazing. I loved that a book that could of been filled with drama and angst instead tempered all that with humor and lightness. North and Diana were complex and interesting characters and the humor felt sophisticated and lovely. Another great book by Eloisa James.

THE STORY: North Wilde, the future duke, was jilted by his fiancee two years ago. He went to America to fight for the British in the American Revolutionary War. He has returned to find that his reputation has been savaged. His former fiancee, Diana Belgrave, is living in his family’s home acting as governess to North’s youngest sister. Diana has a child that everyone assumes is North’s illegitimate son. Gossip is that North ravaged and deserted her, leaving Diana no choice but to be a servant in North’s home. Despite his best efforts, North finds that he still loves Diana and intends on convincing her to be his. And that is something that Diana will never allow to happen.

OPINION: I so desperately wanted to read this book from the moment I met North and Diana in WILDE IN LOVE. Their story seriously kicked off with the ending of that book. Anticipation can work against me when I want to read a book because I am disappointed often. Happily, I loved this book.

The Wilde men are something else. Passionate and willing to sacrifice everything for love. North seemed so different in the first book, but that is part of the story in this book — how two people get to know the “real” person under the social mask. But gosh, I fell for North. He is so willing to forgive Diana even as he hurts from her betrayal. He is protective and a good man all around. Yet, this book shows him with a bit of naivety about the machinations of women. The combination of intense practicality and romanticism makes North one of my favorite of James’ heroes.

Now Diana is a bit of a mess. But that makes her incredibly brave. She is willing to toss herself into things that she fails at. As someone who is careful and deliberate, Diana’s joyful living of life is something that I found greatly enjoyable. She feels shame and pain for what she did to North, but she knows herself. A woman who has no desire to be a duchess.

I found the story between North and Diana pulled me into a bunch of emotional directions. I laughed, I cried, the story made my heart heavy and lifted my spirits. This story could have been dark and angst filled. I’ve read similar situations with books like that and I loved them — but that is not this book.

This book is light and funny in parts but it is firmly grounded in emotion and relationship. While there are certainly farcical elements including overturned chamber pots, an elderly peacock, and more of the hysterical prints about the Wildes, this book never allows itself to stray from the emotional connection between North and Diana. And their story seems impossible at every turn to have a happy ending — until it does.

This book moved immediately into one of my favorite Eloisa James’s book and I really want to read more about this family and their friends.

WORTH MENTIONING: Who knew that peacocks were so territorial?

CONNECTED BOOKS: TOO WILDE TO WED is the second book in the Wildes of Lindow Castle series. The story can be read as a standalone although I think it works much better after being introduced to the family of characters in book one.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

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

five-stars

Review: A Scandalous Deal

Review: A Scandalous DealA Scandalous Deal (The Four Hundred, #2) by Joanna Shupe
Series: The Four Hundred #2
Published by Avon on April 24, 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
two-stars

FINAL DECISION: Felt more like historical women’s fiction than romance. I enjoyed the story of Eva’s fight to be recognized for her architectural talents, but I really didn’t think the romance was exciting or interesting.

THE STORY: Lady Eva Hyde has three dead fiances and a father who no longer can do his work. When Eva gets the opportunity to pretend to be her father in order to be an architect on a project in New York, Eva leaps on the opportunity. On the trip across the Atlantic, Eva succumbs to passion with a stranger and then flees. She is horrified when he arrives in New York and realizes that her stranger is Phillip Mansfield, who happens to be her employer. Eva continues to pretend that her father is in charge of the project and she is there to execute his will. The antagonism from others about her working on the project, threaten Eva’s desire to establish herself as a professional.

OPINION: I’ve really enjoyed Shupes Guilded Age books, but this one was a big miss for me. While I was really interested in Eva’s professional journey, I didn’t like the romance at all. In fact, I sympathized with Phillip through the entire book and really thought he should dump Eva to find a better woman.

This book felt like a historical woman’s fiction book focused on Eva remaking her life. But she felt selfish and self-centered to me. She lies about who is the architect and then has the nerve to be annoyed at Phillip when he is almost destroyed by her deception. While there is a pro forma “making up” on her part, I never felt that she put her relationship with Phillip over her own ambitions. She lies to him, keeps him at a distance, and basically treats him as beneath her dreams.

I didn’t like her treatment of him, couldn’t understand his willingness to deal with her unless he has no self-respect himself. I want my romances to be about the relationship over all and this book doesn’t come close to meeting that standard.

The book is well written for what it is and I am sure that readers looking for a woman’s journey to fight prejudice to be a trailblazer will find something good in this story, but I prefer my romances to be about romance.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book takes place during the Gilded Age.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A SCANDALOUS DEAL is the second book in the Four Hundred series. While there are small appearances by characters from the prior book, this book is a complete standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2 stars.

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

 

two-stars

Review: What a Difference a Duke Makes

Review: What a Difference a Duke MakesWhat a Difference a Duke Makes (School for Dukes, #1) by Lenora Bell
Series: School for Dukes #1
Published by Avon on March 27th 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
two-stars

“It was a desperate gamble. It was also her best hope at the moment.”

FINAL DECISION: I was disappointed in this one as the hero didn’t seem heroic to me but rather a milquetoast who was dominated and dictated to by the heroine.

THE STORY: Mari Perkins is desperate when she arrives in London, has her baggage stolen and is late for an appointment with her agency. Rather than getting the governess position she was promised, she is turned away. Mari, however, is never going back to the orphanage where she was raised and worked. Instead, she overhears the resignation of the governess of a duke and decides to appear as the replacement. Edgar Rochester, Duke of Banksford, is not the typical duke. To the despair of his mother, he is engaged in trade in order to save the family fortunes. He has also just been presented with two illegitimate children who keep scaring off the governesses he hires for them. What he needs is a strong, scary governess, and the sweet, innocent optimistic Mari is definitely not what is required.

OPINION: This book disappointed me. I was interested in the premise and I have really enjoyed the authors previous books. And while I liked the strength and independence of the heroine, the hero was weak and uninteresting.  The book suffers from too much modern concerns and sensibilities for a historical novel.

Mari is a woman looking for her past and trying to build a future for herself.  She is clever and kind. While I understand trying to make unique characters, Mari feel entirely too modern a character to me. If her character had been transported into a modern book, she would be entirely comfortable in a contemporary novel as a nanny.  Her sexual aggression for an innocent period woman raised in an orphanage just feels completely out of place. While I am not a reader who looks for historical accuracy in her books, this book just felt too modern for the time period and the characters did not fit and nothing else about the story was good enough to distract me from those facts.

The biggest problem with this book for me was the hero. First, he doesn’t feel possible as a historical character. He is given a tragic background, but it felt forced and not really impacting his life except to give him two illegitimate children which we are supposed to believe that everyone around him accept as reasonable that he would be raising in his own home. Nothing about Edgar works together or feels organic. Perhaps there are too many issues for him: a duke who rejected his rank, a man betrayed by the older woman he loved but who might have used him, a scientist, a tradesman, a new father trying to have a relationship with his children. Just too many parts that don’t mesh well together. Then there is all the moralizing over his concerns about abusing his relationship with Mari who is his employee. This feels like it is taken from a modern manual of how to deal with subordinates. Mari ends up making all the moves in their relationship. Having the woman take control can be sexy but just feels forced here. The combination of all these things makes Edgar a weak character that I would bet is totally controlled by his wife in the future. There is nothing of his “hero” that feels like a man that deserves to be a hero. And nothing about his character that interested me.

There is just too much going on with not enough interest on my part. There is also the story of Mari’s parentage which feels like a predictable afterthought designed to at least make her relationship with Edgar reasonable in the end.

WORTH MENTIONING: Now the story of India and Ravenwood sounds really intriguing and is probably the best part of this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DUKE MAKES is the first book in the School for Dukes series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Edelweiss 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.

 

two-stars

Review: Hello Stranger

Review: Hello StrangerHello Stranger (The Ravenels, #4) by Lisa Kleypas
Published by Avon on February 27th 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 400
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Not as good as DEVIL IN SPRING, but the unique heroine makes this book. Both outside of the typical aristocratic world, Garrett and Ethan have a sweeter romance than I expected.

THE STORY: Dr. Garrett Gibson is the only woman doctor in England and has made herself independent and finds herself just a little annoyed that Mr. Ethan Ransom keeps popping up watching over her. Ethan was formally with Scotland Yard but now works in the shadows. Although he knows that he should stay away from the intriguing Dr. Gibson, Ethan cannot. Garrett is determined to have a love affair if nothing else, but Ethan brings with him deadly danger from someone plotting a terrorist event.

OPINION: This book has an unlikely pairing — the first woman doctor in England and a spy. Garrett and Ethan meet periodically as Ethan first comes across her in his work. But even though he knows that there is something special between them, his work does not allow him attachments. He cannot avoid, however, watching over her and the two end up meeting again and again.

A funny way to begin a romance, but Garrett and Ethan bond over strange and practical things. While their meetings are prosaic at times, there is an intense underlying sweetness between them. They are so obviously perfect for one another, but Ethan’s job is dangerous and any attachments are dangerous both to him and to anyone he care about. I loved how the two are with one another and how Kleypas keeps the importance of Garrett’s job at the forefront of the story.

This is the story of equals. Garrett knows that she wants Ethan and is determined that somehow she will make things work. She has agency in this story. Her choices, her decisions are her own. And she will not allow Ethan to make the decisions for both of them.

With the description of this story, I expected more intrigue and drama, but the book wisely keeps centered on Garrett and her choices and this makes this book more personal and intimate and sweeter as a romance.

WORTH MENTIONING: For fans of West, he has a prominent role here.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HELLO STRANGER is the fourth book in the Ravenels series. While this series has a different couple in each book, this is the story of a family and thus the books have overlapping characters and in this case, the romance between Garrett and Ethan actually begins in MARRYING WINTERBORNE and continues in DEVIL IN SPRING. While this book catches the reader up, I think it is better to read the series in order to know all the characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

 

four-half-stars

Review: A Princess in Theory

Review: A Princess in TheoryA Princess in Theory (Reluctant Royals, #1) by Alyssa Cole
Series: Reluctant Royals #1
Published by Avon on February 27th 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Goodreads
two-stars

FINAL DECISION: I wanted to love this book, unfortunately, I didn’t even end up liking it very much. A woman in a STEM field taking care of herself and finding herself the missing fiance of a Prince who comes to find her. Great concept, but I ended up finding the book too stilted and sterile. I wanted more emotional drama or more humor, but ended up with just plot.

THE STORY: Naledi Smith is working hard towards her career goals and doesn’t have time for spam emails claiming that she is betrothed to a prince. When Prince Thabiso arrives in person to claim the woman who is supposed to be his bride, Naledi mistakes him for the new help. Intrigued by the idea of living a “normal” life, Thabiso gets to know the woman who is supposed to be his bride, but is definitely the woman with whom he shares an incredible attraction.

OPINION: I was incredibly disappointed in this book because it seemed exactly like a book I would love. Just about everything in the setup is fantastic. A woman working in science struggling to make her own life for herself and finding herself in a “Cinderella style” story of being betrothed to a prince.

Unfortunately, there was too much exposition and plot in this book for me. I wanted more passion and more character. I never connected emotionally with these characters and their relationship. There was lots of explanation and story, but it didn’t grab me like I expected or wanted. I kept losing the threads of the story which drained my interest and I also kept seeing holes in the story. Now I will often forgive those in character driven stories, but here the focus on the plot made me focus on the questions I had.

I really did like that Naledi is incredibly strong and independent and there is quite a bit of humor in the story. There are also some interesting secondary characters who might be getting their own books. I will give this series another chance.

WORTH MENTIONING: Having Naledi working to make a career in epidemiology and struggling with multiple jobs to reach her goals was the best setup part in this book. I would like to see more women heroines in STEM careers.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A PRINCESS IN THEORY is the first book in the Reluctant Royals series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2 stars.

two-stars

Review: Beyond Scandal and Desire

Review: Beyond Scandal and DesireBeyond Scandal and Desire (Sins for All Seasons, #1) by Lorraine Heath
Series: Sins for All Seasons #1
Published by Avon on January 30th 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-stars

“Is there not some part of you, some deep dark part of you, that longs for scandal?”

FINAL DECISION: A bit slow in developing, the romance between Mick and Aslyn builds up to a wonderful finish especially as the two spend quiet time together getting to know one another. In setting up the premise of the series and introducing all the characters, some of the emphasis on the couple is lost for the first third of the book, but the ending was unexpected and made me interested in the next in the series.

THE STORY: Mick Trewlove is the illegitimate son of a duke and a self-made businessman. Determined to get revenge for his father abandoning him to a baby farmer (where he might have ended up dead), Mick intends on ruining the Duke’s legitimate son and seduce the son’s betrothed. Lady Aslyn Hastings has been raised in all comfort and in expectation of marrying the Duke’s heir. But now that her betrothal is at hand, Aslyn feels something missing and is tempted to the scandalous Mick.

OPINION: For me, the highlight of this book are the clandestine meetings between Mick and Aslyn which show growth and companionship and a true relationship. There is great beauty in how these two people find something special together.

Aslyn is a sheltered woman whose future has been planned out since childhood. It was always expected that she would marry her guardians’ son and eventually become a duchess. As this book begins, Aslyn begins to find out that having one’s future planned out means that she has missed so much of her interactions with others (especially men). Because she has never been courted or even flirted with other men because of the expectation in everyone’s minds that she is settled.

When she meets Mick, she is tempted towards the scandalous, but rather than relying on the typical scandal plot line, this book instead focuses on the wrongness of the social rules that brand an illegitimate child with the sins of his parents. This book is deeply interested in the rules and the fates of those illegitimate children and the injustice of the social ostracism.

Mick is up to no good as this book begins, but finds himself challenged by his meeting with Aslyn. As the book begins, he is also trapped by the rules about illegitimacy. He seems to believe that all will be well if he can cause his father to acknowledge him (because being an acknowledged bastard is better). In many ways, his relationship with Aslyn turns his own notions around as well. He is a self-made man who cares about others despite his own perception of himself.

I loved the relationship between Mick and Aslyn as he shows her respect and treats her as a person — not just a beautiful woman. The times that they spent together were gentle and moving. I found their discussions to be a wonderful and quiet way of developing their relationship.

I also really liked the twist in this book which was unexpected and interesting (reading the author’s note at the end gave a insight as well).

The only problem I had with this book was the first third which was slow as it introduced quite a number of characters (which will be the subject of future books). The setup slowed the book down for me, but once the story truly began, I was caught up in the developing relationship between Mick and Aslyn.

WORTH MENTIONING: I love the potential stories of Mick’s siblings.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BEYOND SCANDAL AND DESIRE is the first book in the Sins for All Seasons Series about six illegitimate children raised as siblings. I have hopes that the series will include stories for each sibling.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Edelweiss 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.

four-stars

Review: The Trouble with True Love

Review: The Trouble with True LoveThe Trouble with True Love (Dear Lady Truelove, #2) by Laura Lee Guhrke
Series: Dear Lady Truelove #2
Published by Avon on January 30th 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“A woman who was shy and plain, who stammered when she was nervous and had never caught a man’s eye in her life, could hardly be splendid at advising people about love and romance.”

FINAL DECISION: A wonderful emotional story about two people who have a mature and adult relationship thankfully free of misunderstanding and drama. The slow burn of this relationship made me so happy.

THE STORY: During the absence of her recently married sister, Clara Deverill has taken the reins of her family newspaper and the Dear Lady Truelove advice column. The problem is that Clara doesn’t know what advice to give to people having problems with love — until she overhears a conversation between two men which convinces Clara to write a column directed toward the poor woman they are discussing. When Rex Galbraith finds out about the column (which is obviously about the conversation with his friend) he comes in search of Lady Truelove. Clara and Rex soon reach an unexpected agreement involving the Lady Truelove column and an orchestrated “courting” between them in order to satisfy Rex’s family.

OPINION: I loved this book because it was focused almost entirely on the couple and their developing relationship to the exclusion of everything else. No dramatic external storyline, no external barriers to their relationship. This is purely a story of two people developing a love for one another despite their initial belief that they could never be compatible.

Clara first sees Rex when he is giving advice to his friend (which involves lying to her about his intentions) and Clara sees that Rex is a rake who cannot be trusted. Clara has always wanted what is a traditional role — marriage and children, but her sister’s absence has placed her in charge of the newspaper and she begins to find her footing and the self-satisfaction of having a job. While Clara wants to marry, she is determined that she will marry for nothing less than love.

Rex is a man who has seen nothing but bad things come from “love”. He is determined never to marry, but he finds himself enthralled by an innocent and respectable Clara even as he knows that he must keep his distance from her. Although Rex has been a rake, he is an honorable man at heart. (And I think somewhat of a romantic despite his cynical musings about love and marriage).

I absolutely loved the slow burn of this book. The gentle way that these two draw together and eventually find a happy ending. The story of the shy wallflower who tames the rake is often done in romance, but this book is different. The wallflower finds her own footing and refuses to settle for less than what she wants. She is willing not only to sacrifice but also to forge ahead with her own altered plans.

My favorite books are emotional and focused on the couple. This story is about the growth and change in these characters on their journey and I enjoyed every step.

WORTH MENTIONING: I like this historical era (Victorian) where class distinctions are blurring and womens’ roles are expanding.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE TROUBLE WITH TRUE LOVE is the second book in the Dear Lady Truelove series. It is not necessary to read the first book in the series although there are some overlapping characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Edelweiss 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.

four-half-stars

Review: Where Dreams Begin

Review: Where Dreams BeginWhere Dreams Begin by Lisa Kleypas
Published by Avon on November 26th 2013
Genres: Historical
Pages: 373
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION: This was an enjoyable book, with parts that I really enjoyed, especially the hero, but it felt uneven and the plot didn’t flow as well as I would expect. I was annoyed by the heroine’s reasons for rejecting the hero and that was the entire reason for them being apart so it made a difference to my enjoyment of the story.

THE STORY: Lady Holly Taylor is a widow with a young daughter. Entirely proper in every day, Holly is shocked when she encounters a man in a darkened room who, mistaking her for someone else, kisses her passionately. Even more shocking is when she realizes that the man is Zachary Bronson. Bronson is a commoner and a self-made man who is extremely influential but barely tolerated by society. Captivated by Holly, Bronson is determined to spent as much time with her as possible. When he makes her a scandalous offer of employment, Holly is tempted.

OPINION: There was a lot I really enjoyed about this story. The cross-class romance was quite wonderful as Holly begins to see something different that how she was raised and expected to live. She begins to question things about her own life.

I also loved, loved Zachary who is so sweet in how he falls for Holly. He is so taken with her almost immediately but treats her with such respect. His interactions with Holly’s daughter are also adorable. I also liked how he treats Holly as a flesh and blood woman and not as a status symbol. So often this story might be him deciding that he wants to improve himself by marrying into society and trying to coerce her, but that is not how this story works.

The drama is about Holly’s own reticence and that is where I had the problem. Holly is too concerned about what her husband would want and expect from her. I certainly understand that she might be concerned about how she was raised or society’s view, but I don’t get turning over your life to a dead man. There was just too much of that for me.

My second problem is with the secondary crisis in the book towards the end. It seemed manufactured because everything is really resolved and then we have chapters left to finish so we need a new drama — but since the two have already declared themselves to one another, it just didn’t feel that it moved the story forward in any real way.

Despite this, I really liked Holly and Zachary together. They had a sweet romance.

WORTH MENTIONING: A minor character, Dr. Linley, has his own romance in the novella “Against the Odds”.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WHERE DREAMS BEGIN is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars

Review: A Duke in Shining Armor

Review: A Duke in Shining ArmorA Duke in Shining Armor (Difficult Dukes, #1) by Loretta Chase
Series: Difficult Dukes #1
Published by Avon on November 28th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 400
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“She pushed open the window. ‘Adieu,’ she said. And climbed through, in a flutter of satin and lace.”

FINAL DECISION: I loved this book and the characters. Focused intensely on the hero and heroine, this book is about moments which change their lives, fate and chance, and making and living with their choices.

THE STORY: Hugh Philemon Ancaster, Duke of Ripley, has arrived in London for one of his best friend’s wedding. He is one of the trio of dukes known as Their Dis-Graces for their rakish and reckless behavior that had society hiding their innocent misses from them. Tasked with making sure the wedding goes off without a hitch, Ripley has a challenge when the brides slips out a window and disappears. Lady Olympia Hightower is in a position that women envy. Seven years the Most Boring Girl of the Season until she became engaged to one of the Dis-Graces. On the eve of her wedding, she has second thoughts and fueled by too much alcohol she makes a run for it.  Ripley is determined to protect Olympia on her run and intends on returning her to his friend — until he realizes he can’t.

OPINION: I have to admit that while I read all kinds of books and certainly all kinds of romance books, what I read for is relationship and characters. The external drama in this book is small — a woman engaged to one man falls for his best friend. What makes this book extra special is the exploration of how these two characters fall in love and deal with their love and their guilt.

The relationship and dialogue between Ripley and Olympia sparkles with humor and great emotion. The exploration of fate and missed chances and grabbing onto what one wants gave this story depth. It is would incredibly easy to formulate the story of the fiance who is unworthy or a liar or who doesn’t really care. Chase doesn’t take the easy route. These two feel intense guilt and really wonder if they had missed their chance.  Choices are not always easy or clear. There is a real call to action — what will you regret now, what will you regret forever?

There is such a connection between Ripley and Olympia — humor, exasperation, understanding, lust, anger. They days they spend together and the intensity of their experience brings them to love. Usually romances that only last days are difficult to understand. This book works beautifully in that sense. This is not insta-love but a mutual recognition of something more that is built upon years of awareness combined with an intense period of interaction.

There are some laugh out funny scenes in this book — including an indoor race that might be my favorite I’ve read this year. The intensity, humor and deep emotion of this book will stay with me for a long time.

WORTH MENTIONING: Introduced in this book, there are two other couples and the cast off Duke of Ashmont whose stories should be explored in this series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A DUKE IN SHINING ARMOR is the first book in the Difficult Dukes series.

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

four-half-stars