Review: The Broken Duke

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

Review: The Broken DukeThe Broken Duke (The 1797 Club Book 3) by Jess Michaels
Series: The 1797 Club #3
Published by Passionate Pen on September 12th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 200
Goodreads
four-stars

“Do not mistake me, Mrs. Ford, I absolutely came back here to seduce you.”

FINAL DECISION: I enjoyed this story of a man who is angry and grief stricken after the betrayal of his friends, but soon finds a woman (or two women) who make him happy for the betrayal.

THE STORY: Graham Everly, Duke of Northfield has been adrift since one of his best friends stole Graham’s fiancee. Graham’s relationship with the 1797 Club members have been strained; Graham didn’t love his fiancee, but he feels betrayed by his best friends. Graham finally accepts an invitation to attend the theater and there he is entranced by an actress Lynda Ford. For the first time in a while, Graham’s passions are inflamed for the vibrant Lynda. What Graham doesn’t know is that Lynda lives a double life. She is actually Lady Adelaide, a society wallflower. When Lynda and Graham begin an affair, things become sticky as Adelaide begins to fall for Graham even as she is lying about herself.

OPINION: For me, this book is really about Graham. He has a complexity of character and is tormented by so many things and yet is such a good man. He feels broken by the betrayal of his friends and doesn’t know how to navigate his emotions and his relationships with his friends. When he meets Lynda, things begin to change for him. By showing Graham that love and desire can be above all, he begins to open himself up to his life again.

Lynda is a woman who has made the best of her life, accepting her mistakes and finding pleasure and joy where she can. She lives a dual life, neither woman being the whole of who Lynda/Adelaide is.

I thought that the relationship between Graham and Adelaide was sweeter than I expected. Graham always feels like a good guy even as he struggles with his demons. And while this book’s title hints at what could be a dark story, I thought that the story, while touching on the darkness, actually was not angst filled or particularly dark.

Did I buy the central premise that Graham became involved with two women and didn’t realize they were the same person? Not really, but I can suspend my disbelief on such things if the story is otherwise good.  And this one was.

WORTH MENTIONING: Apparently the next book is about the male wallflower in the group 🙂

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE BROKEN DUKE is the third book in the 1797 Club series. While the romance in this book is self-contained, I think part of what makes this book is the relationship between the different heroes, as such, I think this book is so much better read as part of the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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

four-stars

Review: Her Favorite Duke

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

Review: Her Favorite DukeHer Favorite Duke (The 1797 Club #2) by Jess Michaels
Series: The 1797 Club #2
Published by Passionate Pen on June 6th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 216
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“He loved her, as he always had. And he would marry her. She would be his. But this beginning, it would hang over them. Perhaps it would not be something they could ever overcome. The very idea that it wasn’t broke his heart.”

FINAL DECISION:  This one was very enjoyable.  Two characters who have loved one another for years and now have to marry would seem to be a simple and boring situation.  However, the complexity of the feelings of love and guilt combined make this a compelling read deftly executed.

THE STORY:  Simon Greene, Duke of Crestwood has loved Margaret Rylon, the sister of one of his best friends for years.  The only problem is that she is engaged to another one of Simon’s best friends.  He has run from his feelings and tried to ignore them.  Now when the wedding date has been set, the two are found in a compromising situation which forces their marriage.  But Simon has a great deal of guilt for destroying his friendships and also struggles with feeling unworthy of Margaret.

OPINION:  I enjoyed this book tremendously.  The romance seemed simple but the complexity of the story unfolded itself and demonstrates why I like series with overarching stories so much.  In the first book in the series, readers were introduced to the 1797 Club — a group of future dukes who bonded together and became the best of friends.  But as this book demonstrates, their friendship is not always easy.

Simon, Graham and James have been friends from almost the beginning.  When James (who also was the hero of the first book in the series) became duke, he wanted to secure the future of his younger sister Margaret aka Meg.  It seemed so natural to betroth her to one of his best friends.  The only problem is that James chose the wrong friend.  Meg and Simon were already having feelings for one another that went beyond friendship although they had not expressed them to one another.  Neither, however, wanted to hurt James or Graham and so they each decided to walk away from their budding feelings.

Ten years later, the date has finally been set on Graham and Meg’s wedding day, but Meg is distraught rather than happy.  What follows is Meg and Simon being caught in a compromising situation that results in the breaking of Meg’s engagement and a hasty marriage between Meg and Simon.  But not all is well because Meg and Simon finally getting together rips apart the 1797 Club.

Simon feels the guilt of his betrayal of his friend the worst. Because this book makes it clear that both men are good and despite the pull toward a happy ending that the reader might want — the feelings that Meg and Simon harbored for one another and failed to admit were a betrayal.  Instead of discussing the issues, the two were willing to hide their feelings…but the feelings did exist.  And the way that they are discovered hurt everyone involved.  And the guilt from that — his happiness coming as result of the humiliation and pain his friend encountered haunts Simon.  As a result, he doesn’t want to feel joy in his relationship with Meg.   I found this conflict compelling and want to see how things are ultimately resolved (some of which will have to wait until later books because Simon and Graham still are broken as this book ends).

This book is all about the costs of happiness.  I found this conflict to be original and I really enjoyed how it played out.  I’ve been reading Jess Michaels for a while now and I think the complexity of her stories have been increasing and the deftness in which she constructs her characters and their conflicts have been making more and more of her books compelling reads for me.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book also introduces the conflict with Graham (Margaret’s former fiance) which drives into the next book of the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  HER FAVORITE DUKE is the second book in the 1797 Club series.  The book can be read as a standalone although there are overlapping characters and there are overlapping storylines apart from the romance.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

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

four-half-stars

Review: Fascinated

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

Review: FascinatedFascinated: The Wicked Woodleys by Jess Michaels
Series: The Wicked Woodleys #6
Published by Passionate Pen on February 7th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 72
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Michaels first m/m romance has sweet characters and enough drama to keep interest. I liked this wrap up book for the series especially because these characters are finally getting their redemption after somewhat negative histories in the series.

THE STORY:  Griffin Merrick (the brother of Letty from SEDUCED) is attracted to men but keeping that information from his family. He is especially attracted to Aaron Condit, a solicitor and man of business.  Aaron is one of Letty’s dearest friends despite their complicated past.  Aaron was the lover of Letty’s deceased husband. He doesn’t want to do anything to hurt Letty again but he is really attracted to Griffin but is determined to keep his distance.  When the two attend Letty’s house party, Griffin decides to take a chance and tell Aaron his feelings.

OPINION:  This was a fine conclusion to the Wicked Woodleys series.  These were characters that I liked tremendously, had great sympathy and interest in their journey and for whom I was glad to root for their happy ending.  My one complaint is that the story was very short and therefore some of the complexities were too quickly resolved…but that is always a risk with novellas.

Griffin has grown and matured since the events of SEDUCED. We meet him as he knows who he is but hasn’t come out to his family.  (Of course, revealing that one was gay at the time risked criminal charges). He has met Aaron while visiting places which cater to their particular interest in men.  The two have a lingering attraction to one another but haven’t taken any steps to move forward.  A house party with family and friends gives Griffin the opportunity to make a move on Aaron.

Aaron is still suffering from his actions in being the lover of Letty’s husband.  Even though he is attracted to Griffin, he is not willing to hurt Letty again.  Because of this, he resists his fascination to Griffin — for a while.  I really liked these two and I worried throughout the book for their safety. The book gives a dark and pretty grim (and realistic) depiction of the challenges the two face. The fact that the two of them can manage to love one another in the face of all the threats against them demonstrated their strength and commitment to one another.

There is a nice twist at the end of the story (which I began to suspect) and which I really loved. Fans of the Wicked Woodleys series, especially SEDUCED get a nice update on the characters as well.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This is a m/m romance and a short novella.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  FASCINATED is the sixth book in the Wicked Woodleys series.  This book can be read as a standalone although reading SEDUCED will give the background of both of the main characters (but that background is summarized here).

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

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

four-stars

Review: Adored in Autumn

Review: Adored in AutumnAdored in Autumn (Seasons Book 4) by Jess Michaels
Series: Seasons #4
Published by Passionate Pen on January 10th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 213
Goodreads
four-stars

“He kissed her because he loved her. And he had never stopped loving her for one moment in all the years they’d been apart. Even when he wanted to. Even when he tried.”

FINAL DECISION: I love the cross-class story where the man is of the lower class. Here, there was a bit of angst, a bit of drama and I really liked that the characters knew the value of characters over title or privilege.

THE STORY:  Felicity, Viscountess Barbridge, killed her abusive husband in self-defense.  Now her secret is in the hands of her family’s enemy.  In order to track down the potential blackmailer, her brothers call in Asher Seyton, solicitor and financial advisor, to help with the financial investigation. Asher is the son of a servant and grew up with Felicity and her brother. Asher broke Felicity’s heart when after a kiss, he left her.  Now Felicity and Asher have to face their long ago feelings and the current threat on Felicity’s future.

OPINION: I love books with cross-class romances — especially ones where the man is of a lower class because it upends the normal trope.  Here, Felicity is an aristocratic woman, the daughter of an earl and Asher is the son of her father’s valet. The two were children together and friends (along with Felicity’s two older brothers). As Felicity grew up, however, an attraction grew between Felicity and Asher.  At her debut six years ago, the two had their first and last kiss as Asher left the next day.  Felicity married the Viscount who beat and abused her.  Now Asher has returned at Felicity brother’s request because Felicity is in danger.

In the prior book in the series, an enemy of the family has found out that Felicity killed her abusive husband in self-defense.  The potential blackmailer must be tracked down before the secret is revealed, ruining Felicity and her family.  This plot moves the story along, but the center of this book is the romance between Felicity and Asher.

Felicity is a woman who has closed herself off after her horrible marriage. Fear, disappointment, lack of trust in herself and others dominate her life now.  When Asher returns, Felicity begins to feel again and wonders if she can at least have a sexual relationship free from fear.

Asher and Felicity are good people who got torn apart by their class differences. Asher feels keenly the class differences.  I thought this book did a really good job of showing that even if Felicity *thinks* that the two of them were always equal, Asher’s reality was something different.

There is something very sweet and gentle about these characters together and yet their is definite heat in their relationship. I liked these characters quite a bit and the story is not dark or angst filled but rather is about two people working their way through past obstacles and finding a future together.

This is an enjoyable read and a fine conclusion to series as it wraps up the ongoing storylines and gives readers a look at all the characters coming together and solving the mysteries that have arisen.

WORTH MENTIONING: Everyone gets what they deserve in the end.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ADORED IN AUTUMN is the fourth and final book in the Seasons series. The romance in this book is self contained by there are continuing storylines that depend upon the prior books in the series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

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

four-stars

Review: Forbidden

Review: ForbiddenForbidden (The Wicked Woodleys, #1) by Jess Michaels
Series: The Wicked Woodleys #1
Published by Passionate Pen on August 25th 2015
Genres: Historical
Pages: 251
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“For years he had born a secret. And with each passing day, it weighed more heavily on him.”

THE STORY: Lady Audrey Woodley has been fascinated with Jude Samson for years. The friend and man of business of her older brother, the Marquis of Woodley. Although born of a good family, Jude and his mother were shunned by his father’s family after his death and Jude has had to make his own way in the world. Although Jude has strong feelings for Audrey, he knows that they have no future together. He believes that his status as an employee disqualifies him from having a relationship with Audrey. Even worse, Jude has been keeping secrets that he knows that will make Audrey hate him if she knew. When the two end up unchaperoned at the family’s country estate, Jude and Audrey cannot contain the passion that bursts between them. Jude knows that when his secrets are discovered that Audrey will never forgive him and he risks losing the family he loves.

OPINION: Michaels introduces readers to a fun, intriguing, sexy family that have enough secrets to justify the series that this books kicks off.

The Woodleys siblings are comprised of Edward (the Marquis), Evan, Gabriel, Claire and Audrey. Edward is newly married (A MARQUIS FOR MARY). The older sister has disappeared after running off to marry a man who turned out to be a scoundrel. Claire’s disappearance negatively effects all the members of the family — most especially Audrey who now fears passion as a result. Audrey is supposed to be hunting for a husband, but has lost interest because she worries about allowing her passions to lead her astray.

To give Audrey a break from the Season, her mother and she travel to the family’s country house that is being remodeled. Edward sends an unhappy Jude along to handle the business issues. Their seclusion allows the longtime friendship between Jude and Audrey to blossom into passion and love. Audrey and Jude do not plan on a longtime relationship even though each is attached to the other. Their passionate relationship begins on the excuse of showing Audrey that she doesn’t have to fear passion, but both clearly know that it is only an excuse and the trust is that Jude and Audrey have wanted one another for years.

The characters here are fresh and fun. Like the Flynn series, the Woodleys are not stuffy, staid typical ton. This is a family and they have deep connections to one another and their missing sibling has left a hole in their lives. Each of the siblings experiences that differently and Michael has managed to distinguish each of the Woodley siblings through their response to their loss.

Audrey is the more reasonable daughter. After what happened to Claire, Audrey fears and yet yearns for passion and love. She is not bound by convention and doesn’t allow expectations to interfere with her desire for Jude.

Jude has wanted a family like the Woodleys. Although they consider him a part of the family, Jude has been damaged by the rejection of his own family and cannot help but expect for the Woodleys to ultimately reject him as well. He knows that his affair with Audrey will ultimately separate him from the only family he has ever known but he cannot resist her. He wants the chance to love her and to show her that she doesn’t have to fear her passions. Jude has made poor decisions in the past and believes that Audrey will never forgive him. He is filled with guilt and yet continues to do what he feels best even if it means lying to Audrey.

I love these books where there are conflicts arising over the stations of the characters and Michaels does a great job reversing the usual trope of the woman being of a lower working class. (Michaels has a similar cross-station story in the excellent NO GENTLEMAN FOR GEORGINA). This book doesn’t shy from confronting the inadequacy that Jude feels because he is employed by Audrey’s brother.

What is also wonderful is the strong love that the Woodleys have for one another – and also for Jude even though he insists on not accepting that the Woodleys really do see him as family.

Finally, this book is really hot. Michaels has built on a true emotional relationship to make the sexual relationship between these characters not only hot and sexy, but also emotionally engaging. Michaels does a great job in writing hot sex scenes and her most recent books have also created fully developed engaging characters. Her characters are likeable people and it makes it easier to root for their happy endings.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a fascinating story regarding the missing sister Claire that I look forward to discovering more about in future books. Her story appears to be an ongoing dilemma for the family that will cover several books.

FINAL DECISION: Likeable characters, sexy romance and secrets that threaten to tear them apart, FORBIDDEN is definitely a book I recommend. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series to find out more about these Woodleys.

CONNECTED BOOKS: FORBIDDEN is the first book in the Wicked Woodley’s series. There is a prequel story about the oldest brother called A Marquis for Mary. That novella is not necessary to read to enjoy this book, but I recommend reading it first anyway because it introduces the Woodley family.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley in order to provide an honest review of the book. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own.

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four-half-stars

Review: An Affair in Winter

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

Review: An Affair in WinterAn Affair in Winter (Seasons Book 1) by Jess Michaels
Series: Seasons #1
Published by Passionate Pen on July 12, 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 215
Goodreads
four-stars

“‘This isn’t going to be quick, Mrs. Wilde,’ he assured her between kisses that tasted her skin. ‘It isn’t going to be perfunctory.’

She shuddered and leaned back against his chest. ‘What will it be then?’

He lifted his fingers to the top button of her gown and unfastened it, letting his fingers slide into the gap he’d created.

‘A night to remember,’ he vowed.  ‘For both of us.'”

FINAL DECISION:  I very much enjoyed this book of these two people who are on opposite sides of their siblings upcoming marriage. I thought the story and connection between the characters was good and I found their story sweet if a bit simplistic in its resolution.

THE STORY:  Mrs. Rosalinde Wilde is a widow traveling on her way to her sister’s wedding when a snowstorm forces her to stop at an inn.  There she meets Grayson Danford.  The two end up having dinner together in the crowded inn and then decide to spend the night together — two people attracted to one another knowing almost nothing about one another.  A night of passion out of time.  How surprised they are to discover one another again as siblings of the couple getting married where Gray is determined to stop the wedding.

OPINION: AN AFFAIR IN WINTER is the start of a new series, and I think this series has great potential.  This book begins with a 19th century one night stand between the hero and heroine.  Although the night is special for both of them, they part in the morning never intending on seeing one another again.  Of course, they end up being siblings to a couple getting married. The two are placed in opposition as Rosalinde supports the marriage, while Gray is opposed.

The one night stand, of course, complicates what would have been a pure adversarial relationship between Rosalinde and Gray.  I loved that these two are so likeable when the events easily could have led either of them into being conniving and betraying any possible relationship between them.  Everything between them ends up being handled in such a reasonable and deft manner, that I never moved from my initial liking of the characters.

Rosalinde is recovering from a bad marriage, but she never loses her optimism and her belief in the joy and love of life.  And despite a love match gone wrong in her own life, Rosalinde wants love and happiness for her sister.  Gray is determined to avoid love after seeing both of his siblings suffer because of bad relationships. He cannot resist Rosalinde despite his resolution.  Both are incredibly loving siblings (even when they are wrong) and this essential characteristic gives these two a foundation that connects them in unexpected ways.

Even when they are at cross-purposes, there is an essential element of caring that keeps them from being torn apart.  I thought that their evolution of their viewpoints of their sibling upcoming marriage was amusing but also represents their intelligence and the complexity of the situation.  The ultimate lesson is that people should be free to make their own choices having all relevant information.

The connection between Gray and Rosalinde is hot and intense — even in proper society dress.  I really only had one complaint and that is that the solution to all the dilemmas seemed too simple and didn’t necessary convince me completely.  Despite that, however, I enjoyed this book and look forward to future books in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Oh, now I really want to read Gray’s brother’s story.  I think that is going to be an angst filled one.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  AN AFFAIR IN WINTER is the first book in the Seasons series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars