Review: A Sinister Revenge

Review: A Sinister RevengeA Sinister Revenge (Veronica Speedwell, #8) by Deanna Raybourn
Series: Veronica Speedwell #8
Published by Berkley on March 7, 2023
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 320

FINAL DECISION: I tore through this book. Launching from the conclusion of the prior book, this book brings together so many elements of what I love about this series: the relationship between Veronica and Stoker, a good mystery, and plenty of supporting characters that have their own stories. Loved this one.

THE STORY: After being apart from her partner/lover Stoker for several months, Veronica arrives in Bavaria with Stoker’s brother Tiberius to seek Stoker’s help. Tiberius has received death threats over something that happened years ago amongst the “Seven Sinners,” his group of friends. Now two of his friends have been killed, and the message sender suggests that Tiberius might be next. Not knowing why he and his friends have been targeted, Tiberius intends to assemble a reunion and include Veronica and Stoker to help reveal the killer. The only task is to find Stoker (who has been out on his own since discovering Veronica’s “husband” in AN IMPOSSIBLE IMPOSTER) and convince him to join the hunt.

OPINION: I enjoyed this book so much after the tension of the prior book. Where that book was so hard on Veronica, this one felt flirty and fun even though Veronica and Stoker were dealing with their relationship for most of the book. That’s what I loved about this book. I knew that things would work out, so I just enjoyed the ride.

Another enjoyable portion of this book is learning more about Tiberius and seeing the relationship between him and Stoker develop. We also get to see more of the youngest brother Merryweather. I love the dynamic that is developing where Veronica is bringing this broken set of brothers together.

The mystery here is fun with lots of suspects. It reminded me somewhat of some of my favorite Agatha Christie mysteries — lots of suspects involving social events and plenty of deaths.

This is one of my favorites already, and I look forward to more in this series.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book resolves the conflict which ended AN IMPOSSIBLE IMPOSTER.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A SINISTER REVENGE is the eighth book in the Veronica Speedwell series. The mystery here is self-contained, and thus this book can be read as a standalone. However, this book’s overarching relationship plot flows directly from the prior book in the series, and this series is much better to read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.


Review: An Impossible Imposter

Review: An Impossible ImposterAn Impossible Impostor (Veronica Speedwell #7) by Deanna Raybourn
Series: Veronica Speedwell #7
Published by Berkley on February 15, 2022
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 334

FINAL DECISION: This was a challenging book to read because the expectations I had were disturbed. I enjoyed that the author refuses to fall into an expected template of what these books should be. Readers might be disturbed from their comfortable expectations, but that makes the series more exciting to me.

THE STORY: Veronica Speedwell and her lover/partner Stoker are asked by Sir Hugo, head of the Special Branch, to investigate whether a long-lost relative of his goddaughter is a fraud. Jonathan Hathaway was believed dead after the eruption of Krakatoa. Sir Hugo has come to Veronica and Stoker because she knew Jonathan so he hopes that she will know whether the newly reappeared Jonathan is an imposter or not. Complicating the matter is that the man has no memory of his identity and has been injured, but meets the description of Jonathan. Veronica and Stoker go to the family estate to confront the possible imposter, but she also has to confront secrets from her past.

OPINION: This is a difficult book to review without giving spoilers because all the significant parts of the book depend upon the information that is revealed during the book. Because of this, I decided to just write a list of what I loved about this book:

*Veronica is personally challenged in this book as never depicted before.

*A new villain is born.

*This mystery has plenty of drama and twists and turns.

*Stoker and Veronica have some great relationship moments here — not all of them are good.

*I was surprised as my opinions of different characters changed and evolved throughout the book. The complexity of the characters in this book was well done.

*This book bothered me in many ways which I enjoyed as the author is challenging the readers’ expectations.

WORTH MENTIONING: Upon finishing this book, I immediately wanted to read the next. The book doesn’t end on a true cliffhanger, but the overarching storyline is at a significant point.

CONNECTED BOOKS: AN IMPOSSIBLE IMPOSTER is the seventh book in the Veronica Speedwell series. The mystery here is self-contained, and thus the book can be read as a standalone. However, overarching character development depends upon the continuing relationship between Stoker and Veronica, and this book is so much better if read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.


Review: An Unexpected Peril

Review: An Unexpected PerilAn Unexpected Peril (Veronica Speedwell, #6) by Deanna Raybourn
Series: Veronica Speedwell #6
Published by Berkley on March 2, 2021
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 346

FINAL DECISION: A very “drawing room” mystery where most of the drama involves lots of events and talking with people. I enjoyed this one just a bit less than others because Veronica and Stoker feel constrained — something that they recognize themselves. However, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t think this was a great addition to the series. The mystery is good and I always love Veronica and Stoker.

THE STORY: The Curiosity Club, a social club for women who dare, is honoring Alice Baker-Greene, a mountain climber who recently died in an accident. At the exhibit, Veronica Speedwell and her partner and lover, Stoker, discover that Alice’s death might not have been an accident. Veronica attempts to get Princess Gisela of Alpenwald to investigate the death which occurred in her country. The evidence disappears, and so does the princess.

OPINION: This book has a different feel than the others in the series because the events take place where Veronica must be more constrained than normal in her investigations. For that reason, the story ends up being a bit less “big adventure” than others in the series.

The mystery is well-done, and I don’t have any complaints other than some boredom on my part by all the social and political meetings.

So what about what I really read these books for Veronica and Stoker’s relationship? I loved how these two are developing their relationship. There are adjustment issues as they try and feel out how to define their relationship. What the limits are. What the expectations are of one another.

Veronica is very skittish because she fears the loss of her independence. She has never had a real relationship and keeps men at a distance by taking control. But her relationship with Stoker requires a commitment that she is unsure how to make. I loved how their relationship issues are interwoven with the mystery. Things are not completely settled between these two, and I love it!

WORTH MENTIONING: I liked seeing Veronica and Stoker working through their new relationship after the events of the prior books.

CONNECTED BOOKS: AN UNEXPECTED PERIL is the sixth book in the Veronica Speedwell series. The mystery is self-contained and can be read as a standalone, but for me, the relationship between Veronica and Stoker is the main reason I read the series so I recommend reading in order to follow the overarching storylines.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.


Review: Passion

Review: PassionPassion (Passion Quartet, #1) by Lisa Valdez
Series: Passion Quartet #1
Published by Berkley on July 5, 2005
Genres: Historical
Pages: 332

FINAL DECISION: This book was a roller coaster for me. At times I almost laughed at the sex scenes, but by the end of the book, I loved this story. When written, this book was groundbreaking in the erotic historical arena.

THE STORY: in London’s Crystal Palace, Passion Elizabeth Dare meets a stranger, and the two engage in a sexual encounter. A widow, Passion finds her desires awakened after a loveless marriage. She agrees to continue to meet while she is in London, believing that no one will be hurt by these secret and anonymous encounters. Mark Randolph Hawkmore, Earl of Langley, cannot stop thinking about the mysterious woman he meets at Crystal Palace. At the same time, his “real” life is falling apart as he is being blackmailed into marriage. Mark is determined to free himself from those scheming against him. As Passion and Mark get closer emotionally in their secret relationship, their real lives are destined to collide and perhaps destroy everything.

OPINION: By the end of this book, I loved this story. I’m glad I persevered through the story because, at times in the beginning, I almost gave up on the book. But as the emotional connection between the characters grew, I began to love the story more. Mark and Passion first come together purely physically, but an emotional connection quickly grows between them.

As the reader knows more than either of the characters, the collision course they are on is quickly revealed, and thus there is tension in how the characters will become aware of the troubles that they are facing.

Passion is incredibly lovely as a person. I wanted her to be more selfish, but I understood her choices even if I had done something differently. Mark is damaged, and he is completely undone by Passion. By the end of the book, he has changed and is willing to do the right thing even if it would hurt him.

I’m so glad I gave this book a chance because I had heard it was bonkers. Yes, there are things that I had just to accept and move past, but on the whole, this book was emotionally engaging, and I really was surprised by many of the twists of this book in a good way.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is some bananas stuff in the sex scenes that I have questions about anatomically. Readers who are not able to put some implausible things aside to enjoy the story should probably pass on this one.

CONNECTED BOOKS: PASSION is the first book in the Passion Quartet. (Note that the author only wrote the first two books of the promised quartet).

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.


Review: Hana Khan Carries On

Review: Hana Khan Carries OnHana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin
Published by Berkley on April 13, 2021
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 348

FINAL DECISION: I almost DNF’d this book at about 55% because the book seemed more interested in Hana’s family restaurant, her radio career, her visiting relatives, and just about everything except the romance. I continued reading, and it got somewhat better, but too much about her and not enough romance for me. The final quarter of the book was great the characters and story came together well. I might try it again with my expectations in check.

THE STORY: Hana Khan is balancing a lot is things. Her family restaurant is on a decline just as a new competitor is opening in the neighborhood. She has an anonymous podcast about her life and an online friendship/relationship with a follower. She is trying to establish a career in radio broadcasting but worries about the compromises she may be making. And the owner of that new restaurant is a man that she can’t seem to forget.

OPINION: I liked a lot about this book, but I expected a romance and got women’s fiction instead. Perhaps my mistake, but the book’s blurb emphasizes the romance, which is not true in the book itself. Enough about that.

I thought the book depicts well Hana’s life and community. I enjoyed learning about her as a character,  and I thought she and the other characters had integrity and real identity in the story.

Because I wasn’t interested in Hana so much as the romance, I almost gave up on this book about 50 percent in. The romantic interest is introduced by then, but they have almost no page time. The last third of the book is much more focused on the romance which I really enjoyed, but there was too much other stuff to get through to enjoy that part. The final 25 percent of the book was really good. The plot and the characters fell together so well. I wish the setup had been better, but I really enjoyed that final piece. Indeed, I was prepared to give the book three stars (others might enjoy it much more) but pushed it up once the final acts of the book were done.

Hana and Aydin’s relationship was really enjoyable in the last half of the book, as they are the focus, and I loved how respectful they are to one another, how Aydin listens to Hana and how things are resolved between them.

I remain ambivalent about his book. I might try this book again after understanding the balance between Hana’s journey and the romance. The ending was so good that I might like it better next time.

WORTH MENTIONING: For readers who are interested in Hana’s journey rather than romance, this book is well-written and explores many contemporary issues of race, religion, immigration, gender, and a woman establishing herself.


STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Miss Moriarty, I Presume?

Review: Miss Moriarty, I Presume?Miss Moriarty, I Presume? (Lady Sherlock #6) by Sherry Thomas
Series: Lady Sherlock #6
Published by Berkley on November 2, 2021
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 336

FINAL DECISION: I loved this book because it brings a lot of loose threads in the series together. My favorite part is how the relationship between Holmes and Ingram is shown throughout the book. My favorite part of the series is the romance, which is well represented here.

THE STORY: Charlotte Holmes’s new client is none other than Moriarty, who wants Charlotte to find out what has happened to his daughter. Charlotte cannot refuse, but she wonders why Moriarty has come to her and whether she is being set up. Charlotte and Mrs. Watson travel to investigate Moriarty’s daughter’s disappearance. Charlotte’s sister and Lord Ingram investigate the clue left by the man Livia loves (who is controlled by Moriarty).

OPINION: This book ended up being completely enjoyable because the relationship between Charlotte and Lord Ingram has *finally* progressed. I freely admit that while I enjoy a good mystery, I keep coming back to these books because of the relationship between Charlotte and Ingram. Readers of the series know that there have been some will they/won’t they in the previous books, but now we have moved on to see if this relationship can actually work.

At the same time, the threat from Moriarty has become more acute. There is a lot going on in this book as various threads of the investigation are going on. Admittedly, it was hard to keep track of all these different issues, but that is part of the complexity of the story. The book demands attention which I enjoy because I want to be involved in the mystery. Thankfully, the book does explain what happened. And the story continues beyond this book, as is true with the entire series.

The mystery here has a lot of twists and turns, and the story keeps the reader guessing. I thought that once things were revealed, I appreciated the journey more. I read this kind of book again to catch what I missed the first time.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a densely packed story that really relies on the books that precede it. Not that the story directly continues from those books but rather this is a progression on the overarching storyline in the series. As a result, this book sometimes assumes knowledge about people and events from prior books. I did not mind it at all, but some readers might want to brush up on the prior books before diving into this one.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MISS MORIARTY, I PRESUME? is the sixth book in the Lady Sherlock series. Typically, because these books have self-contained mysteries, I say that the books can be read out of order, but are better read in order. This book is different. This book really should be read as part of the series because it is critical to the overarching story of the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.


Review: Sleep No More

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Sleep No MoreSleep No More (Lost Night Files, #1) by Jayne Ann Krentz
Series: Lost Night Files #1
Published by Berkley on January 3, 2023
Genres: Paranormal, Romantic Suspense

FINAL DECISION: The story is much more suspense than romance, although I really enjoyed that Pallas and Ambrose spent most of the book together doing their investigation. I wish there were more relationship development, but I don’t expect as much of that in Krentz’s books now as I used to enjoy. The story was really good and kept me engaged until the end. Warning that this book leaves the big overarching story open for the rest of the series (what happened to the characters during the Lost Night), but the primary plot of the book is resolved.

THE STORY: Pallas Llewellyn’s life was turned upside down when she awoke at a hotel with no memory of what happened. Two other women had the same experience. The three have bonded in trying to determine what happened to them. The three have the “Lost Night Files” podcast where they investigate unusual happenings in hopes of discovering what happened to them. Ambrose Drake has had a similar experience as the three women at the Carnelian Sleep Clinic. His experience was magnified because he believes that he saw a murder during his “lost night”. Ambrose connects with Pallas t get her help in discovering what happened. The two join forces to investigate what happened to them — especially because each had a significant paranormal talent arise after the missing night.

OPINION: This book has a similar theme to Krentz’s last series, Fogg Lake, but I feel that she has improved just about everything in the series. This book has more tension and drama, and suspense. My only complaint is that there really isn’t any drama between Ambrose and Pallas, so their relationship is not compelling at all. Instead, it seems obvious from their first meeting that a relationship is inevitable.

The suspense story here is well crafted as there were plenty of twists, but the twists make sense, and the foundation for them is developed throughout the story.

My favorite part of this book, however, is that Ambrose and Pallas spend almost the entire book together. It feels like a buddy book (with sex and romance, certainly). That might be what bothered me about their relationship. It feels like a book that is part of the series where the main characters already have an ongoing relationship that turns romantic. (Because I am primarily a romance reader, I prefer romance to suspense, but this book definitely leans on the suspense part). There definitely is equality between the characters and their importance in solving the mystery of the book.

Both Pallas and Ambrose are suffering from the events of their lost night and dealing with their enhanced paranormal abilities. Some of my favorite Krentz books are her paranormal ones because they have a different energy, and the book feels more engaging. The paranormal abilities give the characters quirks that they have to deal with so the characters are changing as the story develops. Pallas and Ambrose find acceptance in one another which helps their relationship during the book.

We don’t get much about the other characters who will be the focus of the other books in the series, so I’m looking forward to their stories.

WORTH MENTIONING: I loved the Easter Eggs for fans of Krentz’s universe, including Arcane and Burning Cove.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SLEEP NO MORE is the first book in the Lost Night Files.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC of this book via Netgalley to permit me 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.


Review: Ravishing the Heiress

Review: Ravishing the HeiressRavishing the Heiress (Fitzhugh Trilogy, #2) by Sherry Thomas
Series: Fitzhugh Trilogy #2
Published by Berkley on July 3, 2012
Genres: Historical
Pages: 304

FINAL DECISION: This book is complicated and out of the ordinary. It challenges the reader, and many will reject it. But the right reader will find this book simply beautiful as it explores two people who are married for years before the romance starts. I loved Millie and Fitz and will think about this book for a long time.

THE STORY: Millie is to marry an earl who needs her father’s money. The Earl Fitzhugh never planned on inheriting the earldom, and certainly not in giving up his life’s plan and the woman he loves because of an impoverished earldom. Now he has to marry an heiress. The only problem is that Millie has fallen in love with Fitz at first sight. Fitz and Millie end up agreeing not to consummate their marriage for eight years — and allowing Fitz to live his own life during those years. Now, as the eight years are coming to an end, the love of Fitz’s life is now free, and she and Fitz are brought together again. Before he can be free with the woman he loves, however, Fitz knows he must consummate his marriage and hopefully get his wife with an heir to uphold his agreement with Millie.

OPINION: I wouldn’t have appreciated this book when I was younger. This book is so much about marriage and dealing with disappointment and loss. But it is also about friendship and love and building something together. Millie and Fitz become partners and grow up as individuals. This is an amazing story, but reading it takes the right mindset.

This book is angsty, emotional, and heartbreaking.

There are so many moments when I wanted to dislike the characters, but Thomas does such a good job of making all the characters complex that each has positive and negative qualities.

Millie is simply amazing in this book. She is quiet, but she isn’t a pushover. Indeed, she has a spine of steel. She endures. Everything about her personality shows that she is strong and opinionated. As Fitz recognizes in her something wry and clever and so very strong. She runs her home, she is able to run her family business. She is kind. This book could so easily go wrong with a heroine who Fitz walks over — but Millie is not that person. She makes choices that others disagree with, but they are her choices.

Fitz could have come off as a terrible jerk. But, like Millie, he is incredibly young when their marriage begins. I love this book because we get to see how he grows up and how his relationship with Millie forms an essential part of who he is. He makes mistakes, but he also grows during the book.

The relationship between Fitz and Millie is beautiful. It is messy and complicated, but I also love that the two talk and communicate with one another. That’s what makes the messy parts okay. They are always talking with one another, so the apparent betrayal isn’t really betrayal. Their relationship is really a friendship and partnership that grows throughout the book.

The only negative thing to me was that the introduction of the next romance involving the sister felt intrusive at times. I wanted more Millie and Fitz.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book transgresses one of the rules of romance — infidelity. Some people won’t like this book because of that.

CONNECTED BOOKS: RAVISHING THE HEIRESS is the second book in the Fitzhugh Trilogy. There are overlapping stories, and appearances are made by characters from the other books in the series (because the series is about three siblings). This book can completely be read on its own — as I haven’t read the others in the series and understood what I needed to here.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.


Review: Killers of a Certain Age

Review: Killers of a Certain AgeKillers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn
Published by Berkley on September 6, 2022
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 365

FINAL DECISION: I really wanted to like this book, but it felt muddy, and the pacing was much slower than I wanted. Instead, I got bored just about the time things should have been getting exciting. Ultimately the book was okay but not up to a great premise.

THE STORY: After working for a secret network of assassins for forty years, four women are sent on a vacation to celebrate their retirement. During the trip, they are targeted for assassination themselves. Now Billie, Mary Alice, Helen, and Natalie have to work together to discover who wants them dead and to uncover the plot against them.

OPINION: The premise of this book is amazing, and the beginning had much promise. The problem is that there are just too many characters, too many stories, and not enough depth to any character. Instead, they always remain just out of reach, which made me lose interest about halfway through the book.

I’m glad I pressed through because the ending of the book was better, although I had figured out the twist. Because the book was unique, I think some people will really enjoy the story, but it wasn’t the book for me.

WORTH MENTIONING: The women here are in their sixties, and this is not a romance.


STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.


Review: Archangel’s Resurrection

Review: Archangel’s ResurrectionArchangel's Resurrection (Guild Hunter, #15) by Nalini Singh
Series: Guild Hunter #15
Published by Berkley on October 25, 2022
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 396

FINAL DECISION: Structured differently than other books in this series, ARCHANGEL’S RESURRECTION is a second chance at love story, but also the story of love that lasts through the ages.

THE STORY: A romance that is many thousands of years in the making…Before they were archangels, Alexander and Zanaya fell in love. However, the sharp edges of their relationship caused by the unwillingness of either to bend send them on a cycle of love and separation. When both sleep, only the Cascade and the threat of the Archangel of Death cause them to rise. When Zanaya is attacked and almost killed during the battle, it is uncertain whether she will again arise and, when she does, what changes have been made in her. Does she now pose a threat? Can two Archangels who have loved and hurt one another, find a way to turn away from their past and change their future?

OPINION: Completely different from other books in the series. This is the story of two people who have loved one another forever and just haven’t been able to “seal the deal” between them. The entire story was warm and loving and gave a different view of the entire series.

I loved this book because it felt perfect for these two characters. The problem they have is prioritizing their relationship. It has taken them thousands of years to realize that, and I appreciated that seeing the relationship of other couples from the series shows them the way.

Alexander has been a little pompous in the series, but here we get to see him as a young angel and how he fell in love and became who he is in the timeline of the series. Zanaya is hot-headed, a warrior, and so perfect for Alexander. I really enjoyed how these two extremely powerful archangels navigated their relationship.

Readers of the series know that archangels are naturally repelled by one another. Their power does not allow them to remain together in one place for long. Here, the complexity and subtleness of the couple’s problems integrate with the natural problems that arise from the idea of two archangels being in love.

In many ways, this book feels like a second (or second hundred) chance at love story or a book with older main characters. Yet, there was so much respect and love in this story that it also feels fresh and new for the series. The conflict here is about the hero and heroine committing to one another finally after realizing that life is fragile — even for archangels who live tens of thousands of years.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book fills in a lot of information from throughout the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ARCHANGEL’S RESURRECTION is the fifteenth book in the Guild Hunters series. This series is better read in order, although this book is one that can be read on its own. Although a new reader will miss some of the depth in the appearances of characters from the series, plenty of context is given here to understand everything a reader needs to know.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.