Review: The Scot Beds His Wife

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 Scot Beds His WifeThe Scot Beds His Wife (Victorian Rebels, #5) by Kerrigan Byrne
Series: Victorian Rebels #5
Published by St. Martin's Press on October 3rd 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 394
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“He was no barbarian. And certainly no gentleman. He had to be a Celtic god.”

FINAL DECISION: Kerrigan Byrne, who is a master at depicting broken and flawed people gives an unflinching story of two people who think themselves too broken for love but who find that the broken jagged parts of each fit together.

THE STORY: The Highlander Gavin St. James, Earl of Thorne, has a plan. He intends to buy the Ross cattle ranch and finally separate himself from the Mackenzies who have never brought anything but pain to him and his mother. The son of the evil and depraved former Laird of the Mackenzies, Gavin will do anything to get control of the Ross property even if it means engaging with the most difficult woman he has ever met. Samantha Masters has come to the Scotland running from her past filled with dangerous secrets. The passionate arguments between Gavin and Samantha turn into another kind of passion and when her past threatens her once again, Sam agrees to marry. But the secrets she is keeping might destroy everything she is building.

OPINION: This book is a good example to me of why I should stay away from spoilers. I happened to read one of the central secrets in this book and really wish I hadn’t. It happens to be one of my least favorite tropes in romance novels and it made me delay reading this book because I love this series so much and I didn’t want to hate this book.

Despite this fact, I ended up loving this book and I think I might have enjoyed it even more if I didn’t create a negative expectation for myself. (As a review style point, that is why I try so hard not to give away secrets in books without really good reasons and certainly not without warnings).

Throughout this series, Kerrigan Bryne has taken characters with painful destructive pasts and given them their happy endings. Characters that in less skillful hands would be irredeemable and unsympathetic become understandable and shown to be worthy of their own redemption through love. The beauty of this book is that the jagged lives of Sam and Gavin manage to make them fit together in a way that completes each of them and soothes their wounded souls.

Gavin is a man who, like his brothers, is haunted by the monstrous actions of his father. Rather than the physical violence which follows his brother Liam (hero of THE HIGHLANDER), Gavin has been been tilted towards the sexual excesses (certainly not the rape and sexual violence of his father). A charming “ladies man” Gavin is known for seducing his own brother’s wife and plenty of other women. Gavin’s charming handsome facade hides the same darkness that follows the other men in his family. (Readers of the series will recall that he is not only Liam’s younger half brother but also the half brother of Dorian). I especially enjoyed how his softer qualities do not negate his darker ones. The balance works here.

Samantha is brash and bold and foul mouthed and insecure. An American from the west, she is a survivor. Used to taking care of herself, she does what is necessary to get through the next crisis on her life on her own terms. Even worse, she has trusted unwisely before and thus is gun shy for trying again. She challenges Gavin and doesn’t back down from him.

The combination of the richly combative exchanges and the sweet understanding between Samantha and Gavin made this a gentler story than I expected in some ways. There are quite a few secrets and deceptions and violence and darkness in this story, but as is true with every book in this series there is also hope and redemption. For readers who have read the prior books in this series, this book is not as dark as the prior book, but for me, the heroine’s actions were more difficult to understand. But understand I did.

There is a lot going on in this book. Various characters and motives are interwoven in the story. Some side romance, some ongoing stories, some appearances by prior characters. This book covers a lot of territory.

One of my favorite things about this book is that it makes me look at and question my own assumptions and prejudices. Irredeemable people and actions might be understandable and capable of being forgiven.

Now that I’ve read it and enjoyed it, I look forward to reading it again without my preconceived fears and prejudices. It will give me something to do until the next book in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: The Rook.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE SCOT BEDS HIS WIFE is the fifth book in the Victorian Rebels series. While the romance in this book is self-contained, there are complicated relationships that only make sense within the context of the whole series. If you want to start here to try out the series, go ahead, but you will want to go back and start from the beginning.

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 review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-half-stars

Review: So I Married a Sorcerer

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: So I Married a SorcererSo I Married a Sorcerer (The Embraced, #2) by Kerrelyn Sparks
Series: The Embraced #2
Published by St. Martin's Press on August 29th 2017
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 496
Goodreads
four-stars

“He would regret kidnapping her, she’s make sure of that. For he would soon discover that she was not a willing captive.”

FINAL DECISION: Filled with fun and adventure, I really enjoyed this second book in the Embraced series. The story of Brigitta and Rupert added to the legend in the world of Aerthlan. A paranormal with a historical feel, the book read like an old fashioned serial — in a good way.

THE STORY:  In the world where those born when the moons eclipse have magical powers but are hunted and in danger, some of these Embraced have found refuge on the Isle of Moon.  Brigitta has spent most of her life hidden in the convent on the Isle of Moon; she is Embraced. On her way to join her sister of the heart, Brigitta finds out that she is a princess whose evil half-brother wants her back to help secure his bloodline to the throne. Just about to be taken by his troops, Brigitta is kidnapped by the pirate Rupert who is Embraced and has the power to harness the winds. Rupert has plans to use her against her half-brother, but has many secrets of his own. Including one which involves Brigitta herself.

OPINION:  This book is one adventure after another as Rupert and Brigitta meet, deal with Rupert’s abduction of Brigitta and then also confront her half-brother. There are sea battles, dangers and, of course, love aplenty. Secret identities, lies, hidden motives, abound along with varying paranormal gifts.

Brigitta, along with her “sisters”, have been awakened by the events of the first book in the series. They are now aware that they may not be orphans but may have some secret unknown pasts. As the series progresses, I expect that we will learn their stories. Here, we learn that Brigitta comes from a family of usurpers of the throne. There is no happy family ending waiting for her. Brigitta is an interesting mix of naivete and practicality. She has an innocent heart, but at the same time, she has strength and a determination to chart her own destiny. Having a hidden past, Brigitta is just finding out who she is. This is her time to create herself after finally reclaiming her true identity.

Rupert has a different journey. He knows too much about the past and it haunts him. His story is not reclaiming the past, but rather his finding freedom from the past that at times overwhelms and smothers him. He also happens to be a sexy, powerful sorcerer who rules the seas. His story here is also a discovery story. Rupert is rediscovering who he should be. In a real way, he is rediscovering himself as well. A man who has kept himself hidden, he might have more knowledge than Brigitta, but he has also been unable to claim his true self.

A swashbuckling adventure, the story barely has time to take a breath before a new dilemma arises. It truly feels like an old time serial where the hero and heroine just solve one problem before a new adventure presents itself. I really enjoyed the pacing of this book which felt exciting and fun. I somewhat expected the ultimate twists and turns of this story, but the frantic pace kept the story moving.

I thought that this book picked up the ball from the first book in the series and moved the story forward. I get some sense that there is a larger narrative at work. Perhaps I am wrong, but I think these individual stories might be building towards a bigger conflict or solution.

Onto the next book of the series — next year, unfortunately.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Special bonus for fans who read the first book — twins!

CONNECTED BOOKS:  SO I MARRIED A SORCERER is the second book in the Embraced series. While this book can be read as a standalone, there are overlapping characters so if that bothers you, read the series in order. The romance in this book starts and is completed in this book.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC 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: How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days

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: How to Tame a Beast in Seven DaysHow to Tame a Beast in Seven Days (The Embraced, #1) by Kerrelyn Sparks
Series: The Embraced #1
Published by St. Martin's Press on March 7th 2017
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 416
Goodreads
four-stars

“Never touch the Beast.

“Never let the Beast touch you.”

FINAL DECISION:  Very enjoyable first book in a news series, and I can’t wait to read more. The story of two people whose supernatural gifts haunt them both. They manage to find love in an arranged marriage where danger and death surround them.

THE STORY:  Raised on the Isle of Moon and believing herself an orphan, Luciana was aware that she is one of the Embraced (those born on a night of eclipsing moons who have supernatural powers) but did not know her true lineage.  When her father appears in her life, she discovers that if she doesn’t marry the Beast of Benwick, her father will be killed. However, if it is discovered that Luciana is actually impersonating her dead sister, both she and her father will be killed. Lord Leofric, aka the Beast, is also Embraced.  He has the power to use lightning, but that gift comes with the cost that he can kill people with his touch.  Ordered to marry by his uncle the king (who also happens to want Leo dead), Leo expects a loveless marriage of circumstances, until he meets Luciana who is far more than he expected.

OPINION:  A new series kicks off with a bang with the introduction of a world in conflict. A man who hasn’t been touched since he was a child because of his “gift” and a woman who is forced to impersonate her dead twin and hide every facet of herself.  When the two marry, their gifts complicate their lives.

A new series, especially in the paranormal/fantasy romance arena can involve a lot of explanations and worldbuilding which impedes the progression of the plot.  While this book is the first book in the new series, it largely avoids the extended explanations which can slow down the story.

Instead, the story has a most intriguing hero.  A man who is tormented by his own gift.  Leo is a man who cares enough about the people of his uncle’s realm that he wants to protect them even as they fear him.  A warrior, Leo has sacrificed much and his fits has separated him from others.  Immediately he sees something in Luciana and as the two navigate their marriage, there is humor along with the political intrigue and danger.

Luciana is sweet and being convent raised, she is a bit naive.  This leads to some amusing situations with her new husband. One thing is that Luciana is almost too sweet, but she is never annoying.  Her generosity and genuine caring for other people gives her depth and while innocent in many ways, she is not ignorant of the world.

I loved the humor and sweetness between Luciana and Leo even as the story dips into political intrigue and death. The story has a nice balance to it and I really look forward to reading more about this world as the series unfolds.

WORTH MENTIONING:  There are all types of supernatural powers in this world.  Elves and shifters, witches, those who harness the elements, and those who see the dead.  Because being one of the Embraced is such a danger, there is much still to discover about these people.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  HOW TO TAME A BEAST IN SEVEN DAYS is the first book of The Embraced 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: Echoes in Death

Review: Echoes in DeathEchoes in Death (In Death, #44) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #44
Published by St. Martin's Press on February 7th 2017
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 400
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  A good mystery story, this book has some nice twists.  I miss the intensity and drama of Eve’s personal life.  She’s so settled now that it is a nice respite, but there is no doubt that the earlier books in the series were more compelling.

THE STORY:  NY Police Lieutenant Eve Dallas is driving home with her billionaire husband Roarke when a naked, disoriented and abused woman runs out.  Daphne Strazza has been held hostage in her home, abused and raped.  When Eve goes to investigate, she finds that Daphne’s husband has been murdered.  As Eve and her family and friends investigate, they find that someone is targeting couples.

OPINION: I first want to explain that I have been reading this series since the beginning — over 20 years.  I early await every new installment of the series.  I will also confess that I prefer the earlier books in the series where there was more conflict in Eve’s life.  That being said, after 40 plus books, I don’t expect the characters or their situation to remain the same.  Now Eve is more balanced, more centered and more peaceful.  As a result, there is less personal drama in the recent books in this series.

Without the personal drama, the story rests far more on the actual mystery/crime being solved.  This one is pretty good on that account.  Eve is investigating a serial rapist who always involves a couple. I thought the way the story evolved and revealed itself created a sense of tension and drama.  Longtime readers will know that sex crimes take a toll on Eve because of her past and her handling of this one demonstrates how strong and open she has become.  There is definite pleasure in seeing that development while readers who haven’t followed the entire journey can enjoy the mystery.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Usually I don’t find the mysteries in these books compelling (with a few exceptions).  This time I thought the mystery was well constructed and worth trying to figure out.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ECHOES IN DEATH is the forty-fourth book in the In Death (Eve Dallas) series.  The book has a self contained mystery and there is not much continuing storyline although a new reader would have to pick up on the world and the characters without much explanation.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Wicked Lies

Review: Wicked LiesWicked Lies (Men of Summer, #2) by Lora Leigh
Series: Men of Summer #2
Published by St. Martin's Press on September 1st 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 352
Goodreads
four-stars

“They knew she was here now. They knew, and they wouldn’t stop until they killed her, just as they had killed her mother and her uncle. And she still hadn’t figured out who it was or why they wanted her dead.”

FINAL DECISION: I enjoyed this book and it is good for readers who want a very hot read. I especially liked the relationship between Jazz and Kenni. Kenni is strong and able to take care of herself. Despite her troubles, she is a survivor and no shrinking violet. The book was emotional because Jazz had loved Kenni for so long and had been grieving for her.

THE STORY: Jazz Lacing had loved Kenni Maddox even when she was too young for him. Then she was gone, killed in a fire with her mother. In the decade since, Jazz has grieved the spunky, determined young woman. He had begun to think about the new Kindergarten teacher, Annie Mayes, however. Jazz knows that something is off about Annie and he is determined to uncover her secrets. What he finds out, however, is that Annie is really Kenni in disguise. She has been on the run for ten years trying to hide from those who are determined to kill her. Jazz knows that he won’t let Kenni go again and he will make her stop running and start trusting.

OPINION: I liked this book much better than the first in the series. The relationship between Jazz and Kenni is very sexy and very emotional. Jazz is an extremely strong and confident man but it is clear from the beginning that he is completely committed to Kenni. Their story when she was sixteen is incredibly sweet, but that sweetness becomes hot and sexy and adult very quickly when the secret of Kenni’s identity comes out.

Kenni’s character is especially strong. She is frightened and uncertain, but she is not helpless. She knows how to take care of herself and she is a perfect match for Jazz. She refuses to succumb to his demands. She insists that she deserves the right to make her own decisions and not to wait to be saved. I liked her spunky personality as it came out as she reclaims her own identity.

There is an interesting plot regarding who is out to kill Kenni. I figured out the culprit early on but that was okay. What I didn’t like was that the resolution was really rushed. I never got an identity from the villain and that made it hard to be satisfied in the ending. I also kept wondering in the beginning what is the Kin? It doesn’t get defined until well in the story and it kept interrupting the flow of the story when the reference appeared.

WORTH MENTIONING: I can guess who the next couple is and I can’t wait.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WICKED LIES is the second book in The Men of Summer series. It has overlapping characters but this book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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

Save

four-stars

Review: The Story of Son

Review: The Story of SonThe Story of Son by J.R. Ward
Published by St. Martin's Press on April 14th 2015
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 80
Goodreads
four-stars

Sweet Sexy Vampire Story

THE STORY: Claire Stroughton is a high powered New York lawyer who ends up being kidnapped in order to provide food for a imprisoned vampire. The vampire she meets has been held prisoner for years and doesn’t even have a name. He is incredibly sweet and Claire finds herself wanting to help him escape.

OPINION: I really liked this story. It was focused and the vampire hero was incredibly sweet and sexy. He certainly shakes Claire’s world to its foundations. The story is sexy and uncomplicated (in contrast with the Black Dagger Brotherhood books) and is focused only on the couple in the story. Anyone looking for sexy vampire should be pleased with this story.

WORTH MENTIONING: This story first appeared in the anthology “Dead After Dark”.

FINAL DECISION: I really liked this story. The intense and sexy focus on the characters romance makes this uncomplicated and compelling.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE STORY OF SON takes place in the same place as the Black Dagger Brotherhood books, Caldwell NY, but doesn’t involve those books at all. Also, the rules of vampires seem similar but not identical to those detailed in the Black Dagger Brotherhood books.

STAR RATING: I give this story 4 stars.

four-stars