Review: Somewhere I’ll Find You

Review: Somewhere I’ll Find YouSomewhere I'll Find You (Capital Theatre, #1) by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Capital Theatre #1
Published by Avon on October 1st 1996
Genres: Historical
Pages: 377
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A different type of story about child marriages, a marchioness turned actress and two people who have to learn to compromise.  Don’t read this if you are going to nitpick the story.

THE STORY:  Julia is an actress who has finally gotten a position in a respectable theater.  She is living her dream of independence. Her heart stays her own, and she has a big secret. Damon, Marquess of Savage is searching for the bride his father married him to as a child.  The heiress has fled her family. Damon is shocked to find out that the woman he has been married to for years is none other than the actress he wanted for his mistress.

OPINION: I really enjoyed this book.  Is it unrealistic? perhaps, but if you regularly read my reviews you should know that I will forgive a lot of historical inaccuracies, plot holes, grammatical errors, etc for a good story with characters that I fall in love with.  Does it seem reasonable that a aristocratic woman would abandon her family, become an actress and eventually become a duchess.  Maybe not, but this is one great story anyway.

Julia is a woman who wants to make her own independent decisions. If she was born in modern times, she would fit right in, but in her times, she is disinherited by her father and on the run from her “husband”. Is she too obsessed with her independence? Perhaps it seems so to our modern sensibilities, but in her time, when men owned their wives, is it unreasonable to be worried about losing your independence when your husband could control everything that you could do? Or when your father could marry you off when you are a little child.  I loved how Kleypas brings the opposing forces of Julia and Damon each wanting control. After both were stripped of control by their parents each wants to be in total control of their lives.

Damon has made himself into a completely responsible predictable gentleman because his father was irresponsible — resulting in Damon being offered in marriage to Julia (when both were small children) in order to save the family coffers.  The lesson Damon learned from that was that he needed to control his circumstances.  He struggles with Julia who will not submit to his control. Even worse, he ultimately realizes that she would not be the Julia he falls in love with if she did.

The story of how Julia and Damon navigate their desire for control and their trust issues was what kept me turning pages. The characters sparkled off the pages, their pain and struggle and intense attraction to one another kept me interested until the very end.

The secondary characters also were full of life. The best story is one where I could imagine all the relationships and intrigues involved and this one does a great job at that.

I only took of a star because I have read better books by Kleypas, so I know that she has pushed these boundaries even further with even better characters.  I can’t wait for the next book about Logan Scott.  He’s got some story.

WORTH MENTIONING:  I loved the epilogue which was necessary for this book to show how these two adapted to one another and continued to evolve their relationship.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  SOMEWHERE I’LL FIND YOU is the first book in the Capital Theatre series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Wild at Whiskey Creek

Review: Wild at Whiskey CreekWild at Whiskey Creek (Hellcat Canyon, #2) by Julie Anne Long
Series: Hellcat Canyon #2
Published by Avon on November 29th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Goodreads
five-stars

“That was the paradox of his life. To be stretched out on a sort of Catherine wheel, pulled between equal and utterly opposing desires. And if you believed the legend of the Eternity Oak, he has only himself to blame.”

FINAL DECISION: No one does the slow burn romance better than Julie Anne Long. Destiny and fate, decision and mistake, the pushing and pulling of characters live.  Glory and Eli are characters that feel fated and yet fate can be fickle.  Loved this one.

THE STORY:  Glory Greenleaf and Eli Barlow have been moving toward and away from one another almost all their lives. They grew up together in their small hometown and their lives have always been connected because Eli was Glory’s older brother’s best friend.  At seventeen Eli carved their initials on the Eternity Tree which by local legend sealed his fate. He has loved Glory in the decade since but they have not gotten together. A year ago it seemed like things were finally moving toward them being together when Eli had to arrest Glory’s brother. Since that day, Glory has refused to talk to Eli.

OPINION:  A story about fate and freewill about a love that is destined to be and life which gets in the way.  Glory and Eli are a couple that I haven’t stopped thinking about since I finished reading this book over a week ago. I held off writing this review because it is hard for me to put into words why I find this book so appealing.

This is a second – third – fourth chance at love story.  Eli and Glory have been so close so many times to having a relationship but decisions, situations and life keep getting in their way.  As this book progresses it seems like once again Eli and Glory might pass one another by.

Eli is completely devoted to Glory. He is the man who is willing to stand beside and behind Glory — who Eli knows is an amazing woman. He has been satisfied with the idea of being Sir Walter Raleigh to Glory’s Queen Elizabeth. Honest, dedicated and a genuinely good person, Eli has finally come to the decision that he needs to build a life for himself apart from Glory.

Glory is a woman who comes from a family from the “wrong side of the tracks”. Everyone knows that she is an amazing singer who is destined for more. A year ago it seemed likely that she was on her way.  But when her brother was arrested for drug dealing by Eli, not only did it destroy the budding romance between Eli and Glory, but it also left Glory with a series of dead-end jobs rather than her flight to stardom.

This is a book of small moments, little decisions, close calls, missed opportunities and choices. I loved in this book how Eli and Glory are so obviously fated to be together and yet fate is not enough. They both have choices. Choices that can bring them together or drive them apart. The combination of fate and choices makes the story of Eli and Glory powerful and left me thinking.

One of the other wonderful things about this book is how completely Long has captured the small town world. Her secondary characters are memorable and fun and they create a sense of community and interest. Hellcat Canyon has a true sense of place, of identity. I feel like I could drive up the California coast and right into this story.

And perhaps that is why I can’t stop thinking about this story. Everything about this story feels so real to me.  Glory’s ambition and dreams and hopes. The pain and sorrow that keeps Eli and Glory apart. The strange, snarky California vibe that combines celebrity with quirky places.

This is a book I will read again and again. (I already have a playlist of the songs mentioned in this book on my phone).  Bravo!

WORTH MENTIONING: Pornographic garden gnomes. (Do you need any other information to try this book?)

CONNECTED BOOKS:  WILD AT WHISKEY CREEK is the second book in the Hellcat Canyon series. This book can be read as a standalone although there are overlapping characters.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: No Mistress of Mine

Review: No Mistress of MineNo Mistress of Mine (An American Heiress in London, #4) by Laura Lee Guhrke
Series: An American Heiress in London #4
Published by Avon on August 30, 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
five-stars

‘He’d been ready to sacrifice everything dear to him, to turn his back on everyone else he loved, in order to keep her.  And then, she had left him.”

FINAL DECISION:  This is my favorite book of the series.  I loved just about everything about this book.  The characters were good people, intelligent and demonstrated growth in the story.  The romance was difficult and there was no magic solution for these two but rather a mature acceptance of the painful things that can go with love.

THE STORY:  Lord Denys Somerton has finally regained the respect of his family after a wild period where he fell for a cancan dancer and thought to make her his future countess until she abandoned him for another man.  Now Denys is considering marrying his childhood friend while managing his family businesses.  Then Lola Valentine walks back into his life.  Having inherited half a theater from the man she left Denys for, Lola has returned to London to fulfill her dream of being an actress.  Denys finds himself an unwilling business partner of Lola.  Denys knows that Lola is bad for him but he has never been able to resist her.

OPINION: I don’t if I can express how much I loved this book.  A fallen woman.  Class differences.  Hero is a genuine nice guy.  Heroine is smart.  Setting someplace other than the ton balls. Second chance at love.  Accepting love requires sacrifice.  This hit so many of the points that make my heart soft and gooey.

I loved Lola.  This woman is a survivor.  Intelligent and self made.  She has taken risks and brought herself so far.  And yet she is haunted by the choices she has made to get where she needs to be.  Being with Denys challenges her because she feels unworthy because of her past and because of their class differences.  She let Denys before in order to protect him from the sting of their relationship, but she also wanted to save herself.  She has returned, older and stronger and perhaps willing to try harder.

Denys is adorable.  I love that he acknowledges his mistakes and tries to remedies them.  He is also completely devoted to Lola.  Even when he is hurt from her actions, he still treats her with more respect than other people.  I like that he attempts to understand her.  When he realizes that he did not know Lola as well as he assumed, he takes actions to remedy that.  It takes a brave man to toss everything he loves away for a woman and an even stronger one to try and convince those he loves to support her.

The romance between Denys and Lola begins in this book with them being equals in a way that they were not in their prior relationship.  Lola, especially, feels the inequality between them so it means something for the two of them to be equal business partners.  Their equality in business which Denys accepts become a proxy or a more equal personal relationship.  Their equality also refreshingly comes into their acceptance of their sexual history.  Denys realizes that he cannot condemn Lola for her sexual experience in light of his own. He cannot judge Lola and that allows him to see her in way that is personal and meaningful.

I adored that this book is about two people recognizing their mistakes, learning to trust and talk to one another and then just jumping into love with all it’s complications and pitfalls.  At the end of this book, Denys and Lola know that not everyone will accept their love but the important ones will.

WORTH MENTIONING:  I hope Pongo eventually gets his own story.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  NO MISTRESS OF MINE is the fourth book in the An American Heiress in London series.  While characters from the other books make appearances, it is not necessary to have read those books to enjoy this one.  This book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: If I Only Had a Duke

Review: If I Only Had a DukeIf I Only Had a Duke by Lenora Bell
Series: The Disgraceful Dukes #2
Published by Avon on August 30, 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“Thea had made an error of epic proportions.

A tall, broad-shouldered, duke-sized error.”

FINAL DECISION:  Rollicking road trip with a man haunted by his brother’s death and the woman whose plans he ruins by making her a social success.  Filled with humor and great emotion, I greatly enjoyed this book.

THE STORY:  After three disastrous seasons and an infamous jilting at the altar by the duke who ended up marrying her illegitimate half-sister, Lady Dorothea Beaumont intends to get through one last season and then retire to her aunt’s estate in Ireland and freedom.  Then, the Duke of Osborne decides to single her out and make her popular by waltzing with her.  Dalton believed that he was avoiding Thea’s desire to trap him into marriage, but his actions incense Thea who insists that he help her escape.  But Dalton has secrets including his search for the man who destroyed his family.

OPINION:  For me, the highlight of this book was the witty relationship between Dalton and Thea that deepens as they two travel together and learn one another’s secrets.  The two begin by exchanging letters (one of my favorite devices).  Amusing and revealing, the letters jump start their relationship.  By the time they encounter one another in London, they each already have plans on how to deal with the other.  Both Thea and Dalton have hidden scars that are not obvious in their society roles.

Thea has been raised her whole life to make the perfect match.  When her debut was a failure, Thea knew that her lack of perfection reduced her importance to her family.  Feeling as if her only value is her marriage prospects, unable to form real relationships with others and lonely beyond belief, Thea has allowed life to happen to her.  When her plans for her future are upset by the duke’s actions, she begins to find out who she really is.  I loved the amusing personas that Thea tries on during her journey with Dalton which are truly all facets of her becoming the woman she wants to be.

Dalton is a man who appears to be an aimless rake about town but is actually a man with a secret identity hunting for the man who murdered his younger brother.  He, too, has been emotionally abandoned by his family.  He has a hard protective shell around himself, but inside he cares deeply about people.

The story of who murdered Dalton’s brother had a surprising ending, which I enjoyed.  I thought the story was in good proportion with the romance.  Enough to keep the book interesting, but not so much as to overwhelm the romance.

I enjoyed this book even more than the first in the series.  I thought that the characters had a more interesting emotional journey and their romance was more complex.  While humor is key component to both books, this one felt more complete and emotional (a quality I especially like in my romances).

Bell is a new author and I’m glad I took a chance on reading her books.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This hero has a bit of the Robin Hood/Batman flavor without being a duplicate of those stories.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  IF I ONLY HAD A DUKE is the second book in the Disgraceful Dukes series. It can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: A Scot in the Dark

Review: A Scot in the DarkA Scot in the Dark (Scandal & Scoundrel #2) by Sarah MacLean
Series: Scandal & Scoundrel #2
Published by Avon on August 30, 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 400
Goodreads
five-stars

Raw, Powerful Story of the Scot Who Rides to Rescue of the Scandalous Woman Who Can Save Herself

“Of course, she was the instrument of her own saving.

She was magnificent enough to save herself and the world in the balance.

If only she could save him, as well.”

FINAL DECISION:  Simply awesome.  A book I will read again and again, I loved this story of a man who comes to save a damsel in distress and finds a woman who ends up saving him.  A story about embracing the human mistakes that we make and being worthy of love.

THE STORY:  Lillian Hargrove was reputed to be the most beautiful, perfect woman in England.  Perhaps for that reason, society is thrilled when it is revealed that Lillian has scandalously ruined herself by posing for a nude painting that will be exhibited in public.  At this moment, Alec Stuart, who had inherited the dukedom of Warnick, unexpectedly and unwanted.  Alec learned that he also had inherited a ward, Miss Hargrove.  Alec comes to London to save Lillian from her own foolishness.

OPINION:  I can’t speak highly enough of the beauty and power of these characters Lillian and Alec.  They both are highly damaged people as the book begins. Unwanted, ignored, rejected, they both make bad decisions in their lives that cause them shame even as both Lillian and Alec assert their independence.

“Flaws saw flaws.”

Like sees like and Alec and Lillian recognize in one another in their pain and flaws.  Alec recognizes Lillian first and his response to her “transgression” is more understanding than she expects.  I fell in love with Alec because he doesn’t judge Lillian in the way the world does.  Despite what one might expect from the storyline of this book the conflict between the characters is not about Lillian’s mistake in posing for the portrait or her sexuality.

As the story begins, Lillian seems like the stereotypical damsel in distress who is waiting for a man to come rescue her.  Appearances are not truth, however.  Although Alec comes to rescue Lillian in the ways of men, she neither wants nor needs to be redeemed by him.

“I am in the market for neither guardian nor savior.  Indeed, if the last few years have taught me anything, it is that I would do well to save myself.  Play my own guardian.”

Lillian is the heroine of her own story.  But she is not immune to needing Alec.  Lillian doesn’t need Alec to rescue her, but she does need him to believe in her, support her, show her an example of a decent and caring man.

Both Alec and Lillian desperately want love.  It leads them into their “scandalous” activities.  Alec and Lillian’s relationship allows them to accept their own failings and recognize that mistakes allow them the ability to recognize true love and the unfailing decency in one another.

What I loved about this book is that there is no magic wand, no pretending that the scandal did not happen.  These characters look beyond scandal, accept the mistakes themselves and each other have made, and find decency and love.

This book is deeply emotional and completely engaged in the relationship between these characters.  MacLean has a way of writing angst and pain that breaks my heart, engages my mind and makes my spirit soar when the happy ending arrives.

This book will end up on my favorite books of the year list.

WORTH MENTIONING: Fans of Sarah MacLean’s other books get some glimpses of some familiar (and perhaps unfamiliar) characters.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  A SCOT IN THE DARK is the second book in the Scandal & Scoundrel series.  Although there are some appearances by characters from other books, this book operates as a standalone.  No prior information is necessary.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: How the Duke was Won

Review: How the Duke was WonHow the Duke Was Won (The Disgraceful Dukes #1) by Lenora Bell
Series: The Disgraceful Dukes #1
Published by Avon on April 26th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 370
Goodreads
four-stars

“Four ladies.  Three days.  How bad can it be?”

FINAL DECISION: Funny and with unconventional characters, HOW THE DUKE WAS WON is a light and amusing Regency romance.  The unexpected characters and hysterical situations made this a winner.

THE STORY:  James, Duke of Harland requires a bride.  Having unexpectedly inherited the dukedom, he wants a bride who has a spotless reputation and is the epitome of what a duchess should be so that he can leave her in England to manage the dukedom’s affairs while he returns to his international interests.  To efficiently choose his bride, James invites four eligible women and their mothers to spend some time at hi estate so that he can choose among them.  One of the women is Lady Dorothea who is supposed to be a paragon but who quickly appears unconventional and attracts James despite his reluctance.  But Lady Dorothea has secrets.  The biggest one is that she is not Lady Dorothea at all but rather her illegitimate half-sister Charlene Beckett. Charlene has agreed to impersonate Lady Dorothea in order to secure a proposal from the duke. If Charlene does this she will gain a fortune which will allow her to care for those she loves.  The problem is that Charlene begins to care for the duke herself.

OPINION:  At points in this book I laughed hysterically.  This is definitely not your proper restrained Regency novel.  No, indeed, it is irreverent and tosses some tried and true Regency tropes on their head.

The hero is a duke, but he is neither stuffy nor conventional. At the same time, his view of what he needs in a wife is completely conventional and conservative.  He defaults to this view in order to keep his distance from any potential mate.  As Charlene tell him, James has become an expert at running away from love and connection.

Charlene may be impersonating her half sister, but despite her great accomplishments she has internalized the rejection that her father and society have given her.  Through her competition with the other ladies, she finds that she is not inferior in any way.  In fact, she wins the duke’s heart as well as the proposal.

I like that both James and Charlene are unconventional people and thus complement one another perfectly.  I loved how Charlene steals James’ heart despite his wish for a conventional wife.  The twist at the end as all is revealed endeared me further to him.

The only reason this isn’t a five star romance for me is that I generally prefer more drama and angst in my stories.  For a lighter, funny romance this one sparkles.

WORTH MENTIONING:  I suspect that we will see many of these characters again in future book in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  HOW THE DUKE WAS WON is the first book in The Disgraceful Dukes series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Marrying Winterborne

Review: Marrying WinterborneMarrying Winterborne (The Ravenels, #2) by Lisa Kleypas
Published by Avon on May 31st 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 416
Goodreads
four-stars

“I can’t be a gentleman,” he said hoarsely. “Not even for you.”

“You don’t have to be a gentleman. Only gentle.”

FINAL DECISION: Absolutely and completely adored Rhys, who might be one of my all time favorite Kleypas heroes.   I knocked down the rating a bit because I didn’t like Helen as much and became somewhat annoyed by her keeping secrets from Rhys.  Regardless, I overall enjoyed the book very much and look forward to the next in the series.

THE STORY: Rhys Winterborne is a Welsh commoner who has managed to create an business empire for himself. To complete his triumph he only needs an aristocratic wife to give him an entry into society.  Everything is going well with his engagement to Lady Helen Ravenel until their brief engagement is called off by Helen after their first kiss.  Then Rhys is surprised when Helen comes to him to plead with him to continue their engagement.  The gentle and quiet Lady Helen Ravenel seems a mismatch for the brash Rhys but something about him attracts her. She knows that she does not want to end their engagement although he overwhelms her. Helen scandalously comes to Rhys alone and is willing to do scandalous things in order to ensure their marriage.  As she falls for Rhys, however, Helen realizes that she has a secret that might destroy any chance they have together.

OPINION:  I would read this book again for no other reason that Rhys is so wonderful.  A self-made man who has the arrogance and determination required to be so, Rhys is also forwarding thinking, willing to adapt and change and take risks.  Incredibly supportive, understanding and really willing to do anything for Helen, I simply adored him.  What surprised me and endeared him to me most was his reaction once he discovered Helen’s secret.  Who could resist a man like that?

For me, the weakness of this book is Helen. She begins as a product of tradition and the stuffy aristocracy, but seems willing to break the chains in order to be with Rhys. Then he proceeds to keep secrets from him (which obviously will not be able to be kept secret) and fails to trust in him.  My annoyance with her grew as she takes bigger and bigger risks but won’t tell Rhys the truth.  (In comparison, Rhys is a saint).  It felt to me that she only revealed the truth when there was no other option rather than trusting in Rhys’ love for her.

I very much enjoyed this book and would read it again, but my reaction to Helen keeps this from being an instant classic for me.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Oh, oh I can’t wait for the next book of the series.  The preview for the next book gets 5 stars.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MARRYING WINTERBORNE is the second book of the Ravenels series.  Because the relationship between Rhys and Helen begins in the first book of the series, it is better to read that book first.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Hot in Hellcat Canyon

Review: Hot in Hellcat CanyonHot in Hellcat Canyon by Julie Anne Long
Series: Hellcat Canyon #1
Published by Avon on May 31st 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Goodreads
five-stars

“Somehow he’d forgotten the sort of pleasure that could be had in making someone happy for no reason at all.

“He frankly couldn’t think of the last time anyone else had tried to make him happy for no reason at all.”

FINAL DECISION:  Full of the emotional complexity, beautiful enthralling descriptions of love and stuggle and pain that readers have come to expect from Julie Anne Long, HOT IN HELLCAT CANYON is Long’s first contemporary.  Thankfully, the answer to the question of whether Long’s style could work in contemporary romance is an enthusiastic yes!

THE STORY:  Britt Langley is a waitress in Hellcat Canyon who has rebuilt her life in the protective womb of the small town.  Then a man walks into the diner where she works and threatens to blow her safe little world apart.  John Tennessee McCord, a small town boy, who grew up to be a Hollywood star, recognizes Hellcat Canyon’s small town atmosphere and finds himself pulled towards something there that he knows he has lost.  With a faltering career and an infamous breakup, J.T. seems to be guided to Hellcat Canyon by his broken down truck.  Two people who want no commitments begin an affair but find that what they find together is not what they expected.

OPINION:  I became a huge fan of Julie Anne Long through her Pennyroyal Green series. I found her books in that series to have a deeply emotional, lyrical quality with characters who are complex, clever and who always managed to capture my attention.  When I read that after her triumphant book THE LEGEND OF LYON REDMOND, Long was turning to contemporary books, I mourned a bit.  You see, I’ve been on this road before with authors who turn away from the very things that I loved about them to attempt a more popular genre.  So it was with not just a little trepidation that I began this book.

I’m happy to report that Long’s style has transferred beautifully to the contemporary genre.

HOT IN HELLCAT CANYON is not a modern version of Pennyroyal Green and yet there are similarities that I loved.  Long has a great ability to construct small towns with souls.  Hellcat Canyon feels like a place I might not have been but could imagine going with characters and relationships that feel classic and yet not stereotypical.  I laughed out loud at the owner of the local “inn” who collects cherub angels the quantity of which begins to drive J.T. crazy.  Yet Long does not leave this woman as a joke.  Her obsession is explained with sympathy which gives complexity to those quirky qualities which we all have.  I have a great fondness for books grounded in a strong sense of place and time. Hellcat Canyon is a place I feel I could visit and the reality of that place gives the book an automatic depth from which to build the relationship between Britt and J.T.

Britt and J.T. are both afraid of commitment. For different reasons, neither wants more than a short term affair when they first meet.  Painful pasts, fears and uncertainties plague both of them.  It becomes obvious, however, that despite their overt intentions, in their hearts, both are starving for love, protection, and acceptance.  The romance between them is beautifully constructed.  It is a story of small everyday moments, peaceful acceptance, and the intense joy of finding someone who cares for and about you.  Towards the end of the book J.T. gives a magnificent exegesis on love that captures for me the beauty of the relationship in this book: “But in real life, it’s the little things.  Maybe it’s peanut butter in the house because she knows you like it…And it’s in the silences.  In how you enjoy everyday things more, like reading, because she’s reading next to you.”

Not that there isn’t drama and angst in this book.  There are ex-girlfriends, and painful pasts and seemingly incompatible presents to be worked through for these two to find a HEA.  But the real essence of the book is the human experience of love and home.

I loved this book and I can’t wait to read about the couple in the next book in the series.  There seems to be some history there that ups the possibility for angst and drama.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Two words: billboard graffiti.  Read the book, you’ll understand.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HOT IN HELLCAT CANYON is the first book in the Hellcat Canyon series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 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.

five-stars

Review: This Heart of Mine

Review: This Heart of MineThis Heart of Mine (Chicago Stars, #5) by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Series: Chicago Stars #5
Published by Avon on February 5th 2002
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 432
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Witty Story of Two Kindred Souls

THIS HEART OF MINE is the fifth novel in Phillips Chicago Stars series. Molly Somerville is the younger sister of the owner of the Chicago Stars. She has always been so perfect except for times when she has changed her hair — and then a reckless, self-destructive person has emerged. Kevin Tucker is the quarterback for the Chicago Stars and Molly has had a long-time crush on him. The two end up together and Molly takes advantage of Kevin while he is asleep. She ends up pregnant and they end up married. That is where the romance actually begins.

This book is not for everyone. Molly, in essence, rapes Kevin while he is sleeping. This premise will probably turn off some readers. Having lived through the bodice ripper romances, however, this did not prevent me from enjoying the romance. There is also a miscarriage and its emotional aftermath that I thought was dealt with in a realistic manner. Ultimately, I enjoyed this story of two people who want love so much but are afraid of being hurt. Phillips has a way of making a story funny and yet serious. The characters in her story make serious mistakes on their way to happiness, but I liked the journey. A Story that can make me smile ans sigh at the same time is special indeed.

I’d rate this a 4.5.

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four-half-stars

Review: The Earl Takes All

Review: The Earl Takes AllThe Earl Takes All (The Hellions of Havisham, #2) by Lorraine Heath
Series: The Hellions of Havisham #2
Published by Avon on April 26th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-stars

“Don’t let her figure out that it’s me, the sneaky bastard who takes what isn’t his. Don’t let her realize that I’m not her husband.”

FINAL DECISION: I love how Heath creates situations between characters that seem impossible and then goes deep into the emotions of the characters to make a situation work out.  I thought this story would never work and yet Heath made it a lovely romance.

THE STORY: Edward Alcott returns from a safari with his dead twin but is himself masquerading as his twin.  It was his brother’s dying wish that Edward care for his wife who is pregnant. Edward intends on pretending to be his twin until his sister in law gives birth.  Pretending to be his brother is more difficult than he expected since Edward has been enamored of his sister in law for years.  Julia is surprised by the changes in her husband on his return.  He seems more wicked and bolder than the man she married.  As she falls even more in love, she can’t help but wonder what has changed her husband so much.

OPINION:  I often start a Lorraine Heath book thinking “there is no way she can make this work” sometimes I even hate the premise.  This book was difficult to imagine from the blurb of the book.  I couldn’t imagine that a relationship that begins with the hero impersonating his dead twin to his sister-in-law was going to work.  For the most part, the book did work. There were a couple of rough parts that called for more acceptance than analysis on my part, but I got wrapped up in the emotional journey of these characters that by the end, I was totally bound up with wanting their happy ending.

This book does demand some patience from its readers as (1) you have to accept that Julia would not recognize Edward’s impersonation of her husband and (2) you have to accept that she will ultimately forgive him for his deception.  Some readers might not be able to get past these hurdles, but accepting these premises allowed me to become absorbed by the emotional conflict in the story which is filled with love, guilt, pain and joy.

In the story, Edward begins as the typical rake, but we soon find out that he is hiding a love for Julia which he always believed was hopeless.  His masquerade of a thoughtless rake allowed him to mask his feelings.  By pretending to be his brother, Edward begins to lose control of those feelings and falls deeply in love with Julia.

I liked these characters and especially appreciated how Heath walks the line of Julia falling in love with both brothers without diminishing either of them.  This is a difficult task and is largely successful — even if I admit that I like Edward better.

The central conflict of the story becomes that even if Julia and Edward fall in love, the deception will have to continue because English law forbids a man from marrying his brother’s widow.  The resolution of this story might seem like a cheat to some, but I really liked that the solution, like the conflict itself, is based on historical fact.  Heath explains some of the real legal issues involved in her afterword.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Fans of Heath’s other series might see some familiar faces.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE EARL TAKES ALL is the second book in the Hellions of Havisham series.  It can be read as a standalone although the first book of the series gives some further background on the characters and their connection to significant secondary characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars