Review: Never Trust a Pirate

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: Never Trust a PirateNever Trust a Pirate (Playful Brides, #7) by Valerie Bowman
Series: Playful Brides #7
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on May 2nd 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 288
Goodreads
five-stars

“The Black Fox Strikes Again”

FINAL DECISION:  Twisty with lots of secrets and strong independent characters but not too dark, I loved this one!  The story didn’t go where I expected it to from the title.  The characters were slowly revealed both to the reader and to one another.  The story was so fun but with some depth and purpose.

THE STORY:  Danielle LaCross seeking work as a lady’s maid for a viscountess.  She mistakes Cade Cavendish for his twin brother the viscount.  Cade is a known rogue and the black sheep of the family.  Rumored to be a rake and perhaps a pirate, Cade has a lot of secrets that he is keeping.  Danielle has secrets as well.  Once she realizes that Cade is not who she thought he was, she still cannot seem to resist the intriguing man.  Soon they realize that they have a common purpose and join forces to resolve the shadows that still haunt them.

OPINION:  This one hit all the right notes with me.  The book jumps immediately into the action and a lot is happening here.  The characters have secrets and these was plenty to keep me intellectually interested in the plot even as I emotionally fell for these characters.

A great part of this story is the twists along the way, so I recommend staying away from spoilers to maintain the suspense in the story.

Cade’s role as the black sheep of the family is important to him.  A twin, he has made a role for himself as the irresponsible rake…but there is much more going on with him.  I loved his personality which keeps a lightness even as the drama is ratcheted up in the story.  Because although readers might not know what Cade is doing, there is never any question that he is on the right side.

Danielle is strong and independent (and perhaps a little too assertive for a true lady’s maid). Normally the lack of class distinctions between them would seem false in the story, but Cade did not grow up part of the aristocracy and (along with some secrets to be revealed) thus the ultimate reason for how these two interact with one another works.

Fans of witty banter between the characters will like this one.  Cade and Danielle circle around one another as each is trying to figure out the other without giving away their own secrets.

One of my favorite parts of this book is that I actually was surprised by the resolution of the mystery and yet it made perfect sense.  The mystery has a real purpose here and is well integrated into the romance. The suspense and mystery of the story worked really well here and felt totally natural for the times. Yet the story never veers into angst and darkness.  There is a brightness to the story that I really enjoyed (even though I’m generally a bigger fan of the dark romances).

WORTH MENTIONING:  Fans of the series will get some glimpses of favorite characters.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  NEVER TRUST A PIRATE is the seventh book in the Playful Brides series.  While it is certainly possible to read this book as a standalone, it is so much better having the backstory of the characters.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 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.

five-stars

Review: Somebody’s Baby

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: Somebody’s BabySomebody's Baby (Darling, VT #3) by Donna Alward
Series: Darling VT #3
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on April 4th 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 304
Goodreads
four-stars

“What if you were blindsided by something good? Wouldn’t it be a shame to miss out on it because it wasn’t in your plans?”

FINAL DECISION:  The story of two people who have been burned by love before and are afraid to trust themselves or one another with the possibility of love. Genuine nice characters in a small town setting makes this contemporary a real heart warmer.

THE STORY:  Oaklee Collier is known around Darling as the “Social Butterfly” not so much for her personal life as her job running the town’s social media. She is sunny, upbeat and put together — or at least she presents that front to the world.  Actually, she has a disaster of an apartment, is sick of going to bridal and baby showers, and still hasn’t gotten over being left at the altar by her high school sweetheart.  One night, she ends up hitting a dog in the road. She takes him to see Rory Gallagher, veterinarian.  Rory is a serial dater who gets through the first or second date but hasn’t had a real relationship since school when his heart was broken two times over.  A classic friends to lovers story.

OPINION:  The final Gallagher brother is certainly not ready to settle down — especially because he was devastated by the woman he loved while in school.  Now the junior veterinarian spends his time caring for baby kittens and dating a different woman every night.  One night Oaklee comes to him with an injured dog.  The two grew up together as Rory had been best friends with Oaklee’s older brother.  But just as Rory began noticing the Oaklee when they were teenagers, her brother slapped him down and instead demanded that Rory care for Oaklee as if she were his own sister.  No matter how much he tries, however, Rory cannot think of Oaklee in a sisterly fashion.

Oaklee has never forgotten her teenage crush.  She went on to love another man but he broke her heart as well.  Now Oaklee is covering her sadness with a happy face and filling her life with her work.  When she accidentally hits a dog on the way home, she becomes enmeshed in unwanted connections — both with the dog and Rory.  A reluctant foster parent to the injured dog, Oaklee ends up looking outside herself and opening herself up to caring and loving in a way she hasn’t done since she was stood up on her wedding day.

As Rory and Oaklee struggle with their attraction to one another and their fears of being hurt again, they also find themselves being friends in a way they weren’t as children.  Their romance has fits and starts which feels real and difficult.

I loved that these two have small struggles in making a relationship work. These are real people with emotional fears, work problems, and financial constraints. I loved how the injured dog opens Oaklee up.  The dog made me smile and cry. Pet lovers will certainly feel a connection with how Oaklee falls in love with the dog even as he challenges and annoys her.

I have enjoyed all three books in this series (about the Gallagher brothers) and I hope we see more from Darling, VT in the future.  (There are still the Gallagher sisters!!).

WORTH MENTIONING:  The timeline of this book overlaps with the second book in the series SOMEONE TO LOVE.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  SOMEBODY’S BABY is the third book in the Darling, VT series.  Although there are overlapping characters, this book can be read as a standalone.

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: My One True Highlander

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: My One True HighlanderMy One True Highlander (No Ordinary Hero, #2) by Suzanne Enoch
Series: No Ordinary Hero #2
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on April 4th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 320
Goodreads
four-stars

“My continued well-being would seem to be at your whim, sir,” she returned. “I wouldn’t call that level ground for an argument.”

A slight smile curved his mouth. “Ye do have a point.”

Arrogant man. Smiling at her as if he knew exactly how handsome he was and meant to use that to sway her weak little feminine brain into thinking him charming. Ha. And ha again. “I know I do.”

FINAL DECISION:  My enjoyment of this book grew as the story continued.  By the end, the relationship between Graeme and Ree was so sweet and romantic that I would highly recommend this book especially for lovers of men in kilts!

THE STORY:  Graeme, Viscount Maxton, is in a difficult position.  The Highlander is offered wealth and status if he helps the head of the clan defeat his enemy, the new Duke of Lattimer. Hearing the offer, Graeme’s three young brothers decide the kidnap the sister of the duke, who happens to be passing by.  Now Graeme has to decide what to do with the woman without implicating his brothers.  Lady Marjorie Forrester has recently been raised from a lady’s companion to a lady herself with her brother’s taking of the title.  Ignored in London, she desperately wants respectability but finds herself captivated by the wild land and the Laird of the castle.

OPINION:  This story built page by page until I was entirely enthralled when Graeme finally declares his love to Ree.  One of the best parts of this book is that both characters are so eminently likeable.

Ree is a woman who expected a life of service until the fortunes of her brother changed (he unexpectedly inherited a dukedom) and thus her life changed as well.  Determined to finally gain acceptance from society which had looked down on her despite her having the same education, Ree has lived a lonely life in London in the months since she became Lady Marjorie.  The story really pulls out the tension of Ree wanting to belong and being determined that those who dismissed her will acknowledge her while at the same time making herself miserable.  She isn’t able to accept the idea that she might actually belong in Scotland because it isn’t the future she imagined.

Graeme also has a blindness when it comes to Ree.  He doesn’t see her as a woman he could love — because Graeme is determined never to fall in love.  He has seen a destructive side to love which has made him shy away from that possibility.  Instead, he has been a wonderful brother and substitute father in raising his three younger brothers.  I loved that Graeme is such a responsible and caring man.

The relationship between Graeme and Ree develops with such a wonderful progression.  They start out as combatants as Ree is kidnapped by Graeme’s brothers and she is being held against her will.  The two argue and fight and have all types of their passion raised in the process.  While both have personal reasons for not giving in completely to their passionate attraction, the real issue keeping them apart is external rather than their own demons.  When they both acknowledge their feelings for one another, I really felt the walls coming down between them.  The scenes and language was so romantic and sweet that I could read them again and again.

The resolution satisfied, the characters are truly partners, and there are all kinds of possibilities for future books.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Marjorie’s brother makes a significant appearance for those who have read the first book.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  MY ONE TRUE HIGHLANDER is the second book in the No Ordinary Hero series.  This book can be read as a standalone, but is much better with the background from the first book 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: Hurricane

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: HurricaneHurricane (Cutter Cay #5) by Cherry Adair
Series: Cutter Cay #5
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on April 4th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 320
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  A story that perfectly balanced angst, drama, adventure and good old fashioned sexiness.  Two people who haven’t recovered from the failure of their marriage discover that what they really need is one another.

THE STORY:  Rydell Case’s life fell apart just over a year ago when he lost a big salvage to his business enemies the Cutters, his wife left him and things just kept falling apart as his ship was hijacked.  Now, Rydell is determined to salvage silver from another wreck but he needs the boat his wife got in the divorce to do it.  And he intends to get the boat no matter what he needs to do.  Addison D’Marco can’t believe the nerve of Ry to come and take over her ship when he hasn’t spoken to her in over a year.  She is determined to move on perhaps with the man who has asked her to marry him – but how can she do that when Ry is here and sexier than ever.

OPINION:  This book was an exciting ride from the start with a great deal of heart and angst. I really loved it!  Ry and Addy are so perfect for one another from the start that readers are taken on a journey to discovery what destroyed their marriage.  The story is so sad and emotional that it gives this story depth and drama.

Ry is a man who has almost hit bottom. His entire world is falling apart around him and he is determined to stop the slide and recover.  His taking of Addy’s ship allows him to both search for his underwater treasure and also have the possibility of confronting Addison.  Ry was the villain in the prior book but this book gives his side of the story which is more sympathetic than I expected.  In fact, I found his story so persuasive, that I thought that Addy had the wrong side in this one.

Addy begins the book believing that she was the injured party. My one complaint about this book is that she doesn’t really ever acknowledge her part in the disintegration of her marriage.  Honestly, I thought that she was wrong at least as much as Ry was.  While she is angry at him, she really needed to accept that she was the accessory to everything that happened.

At the same time, this book doesn’t wallow in its emotional drama.  There is good dose of actual adventure drama to keep the story hopping.  Just when it seems that the story between Ry and Addison might be resolved, the plot picks up and there is much going on.  Murders, hijackings, danger, shoot outs.  There is plenty here for anyone who wants either emotional drama and depth or action and adventure.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Content warning SPOILER!!

This book deals with SIDS and the death of a child.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  HURRICANE is the fifth book in the Cutter Cay series.  While there are overlapping characters, this book can be read as a complete standalone.

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: Stormchaser

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: StormchaserStormchaser (Cutter Cay #4) by Cherry Adair
Series: Cutter Cay #4
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on March 7th 2017
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 352
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION:  A story with lots of lies and deceit on the heroine’s part, the connection between the characters really works.  My complaint about the book is that her lies are forgiven way too soon.

THE STORY: Jonah Cutter is the illegitimate brother of the Cutter clan. He has a lot to prove to himself and to make himself feel that he belongs in the family. He believes he has found Atlantis and brings the skeptic Dr. Calista West aboard to prove it. Calista has agreed to come onto the project for only one reason — she is working with the Cutter’s enemy and intends to thwart Jonah’s project.  But that was before she met Jonah and begins to have her loyalties challenged.

OPINION:  This book was a fun read as it twisted in ways that I did not expect when it began.

Calista is a woman who intends to help her only family with his revenge against his enemies, the Cutters. She will help him sweep in and steal Jonah’s find.  She is a widow, but pretends to be married in order to keep herself safe from any advances by Jonah. But she doesn’t expect to find a man who she can admire and a project that might actually be the find of the century.  Nor does she expect to begin to fall in love with the one man she should keep away from.

Jonah can’t keep his eyes off Calista, but he has no intent of making any moves on a married woman.  His own family history protects him from the moral hazard — or so he believes.  Even as he knows that Calista is off-limits, he cannot stop thinking about her.

I enjoyed this book which has a twisty and unexpected plot. What Jonah has discovered and the crew’s attempts to uncover its secrets keeps moving the story forward.  I liked the chemistry between these characters and I especially liked Jonah who was a nicer guy than I expected in the beginning.

And that leads to my complaint about the book.  Calista lies to Jonah throughout the book but when her lies are uncovered, there are no real consequences for her. She is forgiven after only a short time and after no groveling on her part. Although a huge part of the plot of the book, there is no confrontation with the enemy and no serious consequences for Calista.  I just think there needed to be more considering the magnitude of the deception.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book really made me want to read the next book in the series which will be about the Cutter family’s enemy.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  STORMCHASER is the fourth book in the Cutter Cay series.  It not not necessary to read the other books first, however, because I haven’t and I didn’t feel that I missed anything.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3 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.

three-stars

Review: Someone to Love

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: Someone to LoveSomeone to Love (Darling, VT #2) by Donna Alward
Series: Darling, VT #2
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on March 7th 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 320
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  The story of two damaged people who are survivors of some of life’s tragedies, this book dwells not on the sadness of their lives but how they can move forward to find joy in one another.

THE STORY:  Ethan Gallagher is a widower with two young boys.  Having met, married and lost the love of his life, Ethan is dwelling in his grief and has no intention of falling in love again.  When he meets his sister-in-law’s best friend, the two rub each other the wrong way.  Willow Dunaway is too much of free spirit according to Ethan.  From her dyed hair to her tattoo, Willow is not serious according to Ethan.  When his sons take to Willow, however, Ethan finds himself spending more time for Willow and finding out that that former high achieving high schooler has rebuilt herself after her life was shattered.  Willow is herself afraid of falling in love, but this firefighter and his two adorable children call to her heart.

OPINION:  Can I admit to really liking stories where the main characters get each other completely wrong in in the beginning?  And boy do Ethan and Willow see one another in a warped way in the beginning. Assumptions, stereotypes and just plain misunderstandings abound in the beginning.  The two end up fighting and arguing and just purely want to dislike one another.  Because, of course, they are perfect for one another but neither wants that to be true.

Ethan is a good and honest man who loved his deceased wife tremendously.  The two made promises on the infamous kissing bridge (which promises love for life), but the lifetime the two expected ended far too soon.  Buried in grief since her death, Ethan finds himself being pulled, unwillingly, into life again. Willow touches something in Ethan that he believed broken and he finds himself resenting it. He doesn’t want to feel again and he certainly doesn’t want to love.  But despite himself, he begins to fall for Willow.

Willow, herself, is closed off to the possibility of love.  A youthful mistake almost destroyed her and caused her to reinvent herself. Her safe and comfortable self discounts the possibility of truly opening herself up to weakness and love.  It is much easier for her to keep her relationships constrained and herself in control. Quirky and unique, Willow demonstrates the dangers of assuming you know someone’s story based on appearances or superficial knowledge. As Ethan (and we the readers) learn, Willow has deep reasons for being who she appears to be on the outside. Ethan and his sons begin to break down the protective walls that Willow has built and he thus challenges her control.

The romance between Willow and Ethan is so powerful because these two seem to have no chance as the book begins. They learn that they are more similar than they expected and liking one another turns to a powerful sexual attraction and eventually they have to make the leap of faith to trust love.  Even if there are no guarantees.

WORTH MENTIONING:  For fans of the first book SOMEONE LIKE YOU, there is a little special surprise for you too!

CONNECTED BOOKS:  SOMEONE TO LOVE is the second book in the Darling, VT series.  The romance in this book is independent of the other book in the series, but the main characters of this book do appear in the prior book.  This book can be read as a standalone.

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: Last Night with the 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: Last Night with the DukeLast Night with the Duke (The Rakes of St. James, #1) by Amelia Grey
Series: The Rakes of St. James #1
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on March 7th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 304
Goodreads

FINAL DECISION:  The highlight of this book is the interaction between the hero and heroine which is sexy at times and full of banter. The book was adequate as a story but it just didn’t grab me.  Three stars for me is a book I don’t mind paying for, but will probably be one I only read once.  I did like it enough to want to read more of the series.

THE STORY:  Benedict Mercer, Duke of Griffin, needs a chaperone for his twin sisters.  This is especially important because Griffin’s past misdeeds threaten his sisters as someone might be seeking to ruin their season as revenge for Griffin and his friends youthful adventures.  Griffin comes to Miss Mamie Fortescue’s Employment Agency seeking to hire a chaperone and finds Miss Esmeralda Swift.  Esmeralda is the daughter of a viscount but her mother’s scandalous second marriage has left Esmeralda with a younger sister to raise and herself outside of society.  She doesn’t want to accept the duke’s offer, but she needs the money.  The close proximity the two end up in draws them closer together and asks them both to take some risks.

OPINION:  The hero and heroine quickly have an attraction to one another but are limited by their circumstances. Both are honorable people who don’t want to overstep the bounds of the chaperone/employer relationship. Griffin is very conscious of his power status and unwilling to compromise Esmeralda while she is his employee.  Esmeralda takes her chaperone position seriously and doesn’t want to risk Griffin’s sisters by having their chaperone become a scandal.  This creates tension and conflict between the characters.  And through their conflict, the two engage in intellectual foreplay and force a partnership to help Griffin’s sisters.

For me, the relationship between the two characters was the best part of this story.  I did find the word craft of the story a bit tedious at times and I was tempted to turn pages too quickly to get on with the story.  Nothing in this book was bad, but I was not excited by the story enough to want to jump to read it again.  Rather, I digested the book and went on.  That being said, I enjoyed the story enough to want to read the next book in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING:  One duke down, two more to go!

CONNECTED BOOKS:  LAST NIGHT WITH THE DUKE is the first book in the Rakes of St. James series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3 stars.

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

Review: The 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 DukeThe Duke (Victorian Rebels, #4) by Kerrigan Byrne
Series: Victorian Rebels #4
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on February 7th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“Life, with all its perils and torments, still belongs to the living. We have a responsibility to live it. You should not waste it by giving over to bleak despair.”

FINAL DECISION:  Once again a wonderful exploration of the darkness that lies in men’s souls and the possibility of love and hope to heal.  A battle between two strong characters make this a worthy addition to the Victorian Rebels series.

THE STORY:  Three years ago, the life of Collin “Cole” Talmage, Duke of Talmage, seemed charmed until his family was killed and he ended up betrayed by one he trusted and imprisoned for a year in a Ottoman cell. What kept him sane during that year was his memory of his encounter with “Ginny” a sweet prostitute with whom he spent his last night in England.  When he is returned to England, emaciated, recovering from torture, and missing hand, he almost dies until an impertinent nurse Imogen Pritchard risks her position to get him the treatment he needed.  Now two years later, Cole has learned to live with his missing hand but his spirits reside in darkness.  He has been searching unsuccessfully for Ginny. He has also been watching the widow next door, Lady Anstruther, who managed to convince an elderly man to marry her with him dying soon after.  Ironically, Lady Anstruther is the nurse who saved his life. What Cole doesn’t know is that Imogen is also the “Ginny” for whom he has been searching.

OPINION:  Another fabulous entry in the amazing Victorian Rebels series, Byrne continues her exploration of the darkness in the human soul and how that darkness can be softened with the power of love and hope.

“I’ve spent so long searching for her, and yet I fear that I’d pass her in the street and not recognize her.”

As the book opens, Cole has just begun to take the hits to his golden boy status.  He inherits the title because of the death of his family.  When he meets and beds Ginny, he doesn’t recognize her as the frightened and desperate woman she is, but he does find something peaceful and comforting with her.  Enough such that a year of torture and hellish conditions made her his touchstone. He has never forgotten her and is determined to find and rescue her.   Perhaps because the memory of Ginny was what helped Cole keep his sanity.  The year in prison changed Cole.  And he is still suffering from the emotional after effects of his horrendous experiences.

“He didn’t need the help of the devil. Case in point, these fits of wrath and unreasonable terror that made Cole want to do unspeakable things. These moments when what he feared the very most was himself…He was barely keeping himself together. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt peace or pity. No, that wasn’t true. He could remember. It has been precisely three years ago. With Ginny.”

Although people see the physical results of Cole’s time as a prisoner, it is the emotional damage that is the most significant. He has been keeping himself together by way of “regulation, convention, and order.”  It is ironically Imogen who threatens to break Cole’s will.  She challenges him by shaking his control. Cole first attacks her because he believes her a villain for marrying a sick and elderly man. She is a woman who should not be living next door to him at all. She seems to be flaunting the very rules that Cole wants to rely upon. While she shakes his control, she also is giving him purpose and a sense of hope even as they argue and engage in combat.

“But the countess Anstruther met his dark look with a mulish one of her own. God, it had been a long time since he’d felt so frustrated, so infuriated. It was…rather glorious.”

I loved Cole. He is a good man who was drawn far into the darkness. He has struggled to survive and doesn’t know how to begin to live again. Although he has relied upon order to control his anger and pain, he really is an unconventional soul who responds to Imogen’s own unconventional nature.  What he really needs is for Imogen to gather him into her arms and comfort him…he just doesn’t know it.

I usually love the heroes most in a romance, but in this book, I think Imogen was my favorite character. She begins the story by allowing herself to be a victim, but gains strength and purpose as the events of her life spiral out of control. By the time she and Cole meet again, Imogen has found a purpose in her life. She is determined to do all she can to help those who need a hand up — especially vulnerable women and children. Acutely recognizing her own savior in her deceased husband, she will use everything she gained as a result of her marriage to help others.  But, that comes with a cost.  She must keep secret from Cole her beginnings as Ginny because she fears that the revelation of her secret will destroy all her good works. Because she must keep her secrets, there is no chance for her and Cole to have a relationship, no matter how much she wants one.

Imogen has managed to keep hold of her hope and lightness despite the pain and travails of her life. It is her kindness and gentleness that calls to the pain in Cole and it is his pain that calls to her to comfort him. From their first meeting, she feels his pain (which only increases due to his capture and torture). Her spirit is called to him to heal and protect. But I also loved that Imogen is no pushover.  She is determined to do her charity work (even if it costs her Cole). She is stubborn and artistic and fierce. She will do what she must to protect those she loves.

“if she believed in everything, it was that everyone deserved a second chance.”

The journey that Cole and Imogen take involves chance.  The chance to reveal their true damaged selves to one another. The chance to move from darkness into light and hope.  These two need three chances to actually find their happy ending, but by the time it comes, the two have earned their peace and happiness.

This was a beautiful romance and a great addition to a series that I have loved. I was also gratified to see all the couples from the previous books make appearances here. There is a real community of people developing and I hope that this trend continues in future books.

WORTH MENTIONING:  For fans of Inspector Morley, there are indications that his story is turning in new directions.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE DUKE is the fourth book in the Victorian Rebels series.  This romance is self contained although there are overlapping characters.

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: Somebody Like You

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: Somebody Like YouSomebody Like You (Darling, VT #1) by Donna Alward
Series: Darling, VT #1
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on February 7th 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 320
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“Those who stood on the bridge and sealed their love with a kiss would be together forever.”

FINAL DECISION:  A book with a wonderful sense of heart, I absolutely loved this one.  Wholesome and sweet with just enough humor and angst to keep the story exciting, my first Donna Alward novel made me immediately preorder the rest of the series so that I can find out the fates of the other characters.

THE STORY:  Laurel Stone has returned to her hometown after a failed marriage which necessitated a change in careers.  Laurel now owns the Ladybug Garden Center which is reconnecting her with the outdoors that she loved growing up.  Laurel’s return to Darling also ends up reconnecting her to Aiden Gallagher who broke her heart when they were a teenagers.  Aiden is now a police officer in town.  Aiden and Laurel have a long history together and, in fact, they are legends because they are depicted in the most famous picture in town.  As small children, Aiden and Laurel innocently kissed on the Kissing Bridge where legend holds that those who kiss there will be together forever.  Now the town wants to update the photo using Aiden and Laurel again, but Laurel is in no mood to cooperate.

OPINION: A lovely, heart warming small town romance, SOMEBODY LIKE YOU was a book that I read only because it was offered to me to review.  I accepted the chance to review the book intrigued by the Kissing Bridge and the idea that two people who were photographed on it as children get a chance at romance as adults.  Sometimes I just have to take a wild chance and see what happens.

I’m happy to report that this was a wonderful book.  Funny, sweet, and heartwarming.  Once I began reading it, I couldn’t put it down.  The story satisfied something in me that likes the gentle and real relationships.  (I love angsty dramas but this book isn’t that type of book.  Instead, this book feels like sweet and cold ice cream on a summer’s day — recognizable and incredibly satisfying).

Laurel is a woman recovering from the end of a marriage that made her question all her assumptions about her own future and happy endings.  She is generous and willing to help others even to her own detriment.  She is unwilling to purposely hurt others and that had led her to be taken advantage of by some…but it also opens her up to being wonderful in helping those who genuinely need assistance.  I loved that she is a normal woman who is struggling to determine what she wants from life.  She works hard, is charitable and has to work through her mixed emotions for not only Aiden but her ex-husband.

Aiden is so much a normal guy that I never expected him to become one of my favorite romantic heroes.  Like so many of us, he made mistakes as a teenager.  In his case, it resulted in him hurting Laurel which is something he never intended to do. He is considered the goofball of his family, but like so many clowns, his humor hides a sensitive soul. Aiden is a man who wants to make a difference out of the genuine goodwill in his heart. Caring for a homeless man, solving small town disputes and crimes, and being an important part of his family is a normal day for Aiden.  Laurel and her pain and love brings out Aiden’s desire to care for her.

I loved the romance between Aiden and Laurel. Two people who have known one another all their lives, their interactions have been a series of getting to know one another and then moving apart.  Their romance seemed to have possibilities as teenagers, but immaturity sent them spinning out into the world with other relationships.  Meeting again as adults, the two know one anther but don’t truly know the inner self of the other.  But this time, Aiden and Laurel begin to discover the true self under all the superficial.  Aiden sees the generous and hurt woman under Laurel calm facade and Laurel discovers the deep and caring man under Aiden’s humorous surface.

I’m all for large romantic gestures, and Aiden’s final one made me sigh and smile and read again.  When I began the book, I had expectations and I liked how the book played with those expectations, turned them around and then surpassed what I expected from the final scenes.  Bravo!

The town of Darling manages to feel both incredibly normal and real and also quaint and a typical small town.  The characters are quirky and bring a tremendous amount of humor to the book.  I just knew when I finished this book that I had to read the next books in the series.  And so I shall…see my reviews soon.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book doesn’t contain explicit “on screen” sex and is perfect for those who might want a less graphic and yet entirely satisfying romance.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  SOMEBODY LIKE YOU is the first book in the Darling, VT series.

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: Waiting for an Earl Like You

Review: Waiting for an Earl Like YouWaiting For an Earl Like You (Masters of Seduction, #3) by Alexandra Hawkins
Series: Masters of Seduction #3
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on January 3rd 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 352
Goodreads
two-stars

FINAL DECISION:  This book was fine, but I never felt compelled to find out what happened.  The story moved too slowly to build up interest and the premise of twin switching without the heroine knowing the difference seemed too unlikely unless the men dressed identically all the time.

THE STORY: Justin Reeve Netherwood, Earl of Kempthorn nicknamed Thorn has a twin brother Gideon.  The two have been at odds for years. Now that Gideon has returned from his travels, a woman from their childhood has returned to their lives.  Miss Olivia Lydall has been friends with Gideon for years. When she seeks him out asking for advice, Gideon kisses her instead. What Olivia doesn’t know is that it is actually Thorn who is kissing her.  Thorn can’t tell her but intends on nudging her away from any potential interest in Gideon.  Unfortunately for Thorn, he wants her for himself but can’t tell her the truth.

OPINION:  The premise of this book interested me, but the execution left me finishing the book but having little interest in reading more.

The idea of a man impersonating his twin and falling for a woman while he becomes twisted in his own lies seemed intriguing as a premise.  But the execution of the story left me stopping and starting this book and instead of being wrapped up in the story, I started nitpicking it.  I never got past the idea that a grown man could impersonate his own twin brother again and again — while the two men were in the same place.  I kept thinking that either these men strangely dress identically as adults or the heroine must be incredibly unobservant.

I never could care very much about these characters. The idea of the reserved, brooding brother being in love with the woman who has a friendship with the reckless more open brother seemed interesting, but I didn’t like Thorn much for how he was entirely willing to impersonate his brother. He didn’t seem as heroic because it seemed that he had no good reason for doing so other than the fact that he and his brother have switched before.

This was an okay read.  The story itself was well written and there were some very funny moments, but it isn’t a book I would pick up again.

WORTH MENTIONING:  There are appearances by characters from the other books in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  WAITING FOR AN EARL LIKE YOU is the third book in the Masters of Seduction series.  I have not read any of the other books in the series. This book works fine as a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 2 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.

two-stars