Review: The Daring 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 Daring DukeThe Daring Duke (The 1797 Club 1) by Jess Michaels
Series: The 1797 Club #1
Published by The Passionate Pen on March 14th 2017
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  A pretty straight forward historical romance, the story of these characters is complicated by miserable families which have hurt them and made them question the institution of marriage.  A good beginning of a new series premised on the improbable coincidence of a number of eligible dukes available for marriage at the same time.

THE STORY:  James, Duke of Abernathe, is a founding member of the 1797 Club — a group of young dukes who work together and help one another navigate their positions.  A central part of being a duke is marrying to carry on the family, but James intends never to marry even though no one knows why.  Miss Emma Liston is a bluestocking and wallflower and in four seasons has not found a spouse.  She asks James to help her by pretending to be interested in her in order to increase her popularity among the other men of the ton.

OPINION:  This is a book with immensely likeable main characters.  Both Emma and James have been hurt by their dysfunctional families which has made both wary of marriage.  Yet they quickly find in one another passion and friendship and eventually love.

Emma is a bluestocking and wallflower who wants love and marriage but has a father who threatens all her possible happiness.  The book manages to keep the exact nature of her father’s threat secret and gently moves toward the crisis in the book.

James is a man who is determined never to marry in revenge on the father who abused him as a child.  James is a kind man who wants the best for his family but cannot forget the neglect and active abuse of his father who never wanted James as his heir.  James wants Emma and uses the excuse of “helping” her find another man as an excuse to get closer to her — even though James himself doesn’t recognize that fact.

The book is highly focused on the couple in this book and the plot is really designed to bring these two together and thus doesn’t have much impact other than that purpose.

My one complaint about the story is that Emma quickly agrees to engage in sexual acts with James without any intention of marriage. While the intense sexuality is expected in a Jess Michaels book, I thought that the innocent Emma too quickly agrees to allow James to debauch her as long as she remains technically a virgin.

This one complaint doesn’t impair my overall enjoyment of the story primarily because the characters are so likeable.

WORTH MENTIONING:  I can’t wait to read James’s sister’s story.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE DARING DUKE is the first book in the 1797 Club series which tells the story of ten dukes.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE:  I received and 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: One Summer of Surrender

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: One Summer of SurrenderOne Summer of Surrender (Seasons, #3) by Jess Michaels
Series: Seasons #3
Published by The Passionate Pen on November 8th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 212
Goodreads
five-stars

“What she had done to him deserved anger and revenge and a great deal else. She had already served part of her penance in a desperately unhappy marriage. Perhaps this was the rest.”

FINAL DECISION:  Filled with angst, longing, pain and love, this book made me fall in love with Lucien, a man who can’t help but love the woman who broke his heart. The path from his complete brokenness in the prologue to the ending was a fantastic journey.

THE STORY:  Lucien Danford, Earl of Stenfax had his world destroyed when the woman he loved abandoned him to marry a duke instead.  Lucien is determined to stay away from Elise, Duchess of Kirkford, now that she is widowed but he cannot deny thinking about her.  When the two unexpectedly end up in the same place, the anger and passion explodes between them.  The past is an obstacle that Lucien and Elise cannot seem to overcome even as they cannot resist one another.

OPINION:  This book begins with one of the most devastating depictions of a broken heart that I think I have read in a romance book. It immediately made me fall for Stenfax.  A man who could love that deeply is a good man indeed. I was also surprised with the direction that Michael’s took with Lucien’s despair. I thought it very brave to depict his reaction in such a manner because some people would see him as weak. I didn’t but there are still stigmas. Everything about Lucien was wonderful. Even angry and brokenhearted he is such a wonderful human being in how he treats Elise that I just wanted to hug him.

My sympathies were completely in Lucien’s corner and thus I was prepared to dislike Elise, but instead, I felt sympathy for her as well even as her motives remain murky.  She is a desperate woman and her situation is so untenable and it is imperative to remember how few choices women had in the past.  Elise is left with nothing else other than using her body to save herself.

These two are so desperate to be with one another even as they know it is hopeless.  I love the amount of angst and pain in this story because the darker the journey, the more beautiful the happy ending.  Both Lucien and Elise are put through the wringer in this book.  Even as the truth comes out, there is still pain and betrayal for the two to overcome.

In addition to the angst filled romance, I really enjoyed the interaction between all the prior series characters.  They have intriguing interaction among one another.  There is caring and anger and it is clear that Lucien and Elise are the pivot in this book with all these people.  I’ve liked these characters in the prior books and it is nice seeing them again in substantive ways.

Finally, there is a nice plot which motivates the actions of the characters. That story is clearly going to continue in the next book in the series (not the romance but the overarching plot) so be prepared to accept that when reading this book.

WORTH MENTIONING: Felicity is up next.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ONE SUMMER OF SURRENDER is the third book in the Seasons series.  This book can be read as a standalone although it has more power having read the other two books in the series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: A Spring Deception

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: A Spring DeceptionA Spring Deception by Jess Michaels
Series: Seasons #2
Published by The Passionate Pen on September 6th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 239
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“He had set the wheels in motion for the next phase of his investigation. And for her heartbreak, no matter how successfully this case ended.”

FINAL DECISION:  This was a book that slowly built the relationship between the hero and heroine.  By the time the book ended, I adored them as a couple.

THE STORY: Celia Fitzgilbert is recovering socially from a broken engagement when she meets the reclusive Duke of Clairemont.  There is something special between them from the moment they meet.  Celia is thrilled that she might actually find a man she can love.  But the Duke of Clairemont is actually an imposter who is masquerading as the duke to uncover a murderous traitor.

OPINION:  This one quietly crept up on me as a book I really enjoyed.  There was a bit of suspense in determining what happened to the real duke and also the story behind the hero.  What I loved best was that while the two were falling in love under false pretenses, the truth is that both had things to hide.  When the hero’s secret is revealed, Celia is shocked and upset but then realizes that there is much she can forgive.  The sweetness of their story after the big reveal made me love the romance between these two.  Everything seems hopeless and yet there is still a possibility for a happy ending.  Best of all, there is no magic wand at the end.  These two have to live with challenges because of the hero’s past but love makes all of it worthwhile.

I liked Celia as a character.  She is pragmatic and willing to forgive when I expected drama when the deceit is revealed.  To have the man she falls in love with go from a duke to a not-duke might be expected to make a woman despair about all she has lost.  But Celia truly only loves the hero and is willing to sacrifice much to be with him.

An oh, how I loved the hero.  I especially liked that he is truly a nice guy.  His conscience clearly bothers him as his interacts with Celia.  Accomplished and unexpected in what his story turns out to be.  Michaels does a great job of having seemingly unexpected pairs work well together.

There are a lot of secrets at play in this book and I don’t want to give away anything more.

I do want to say that I liked this book even more than the first in the series.  There was just an easiness with the characters and their relationship.  I expected more drama and angst and while there are many secrets to be revealed, the characters themselves have a core commitment to their feelings for one another that gave me a warm feeling.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Oh, I can’t wait to read what is going on with Stenfax.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  A SPRING DECEPTION is the second book in the Seasons series.  It can be read as standalone although there are connecting characters and an overarching story.  This book gives all the information a reader needs.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Ruined

Review: RuinedRuined (The Wicked Woodleys, #4) by Jess Michaels
Series: The Wicked Woodleys #4
Published by The Passionate Pen on March 8th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 248
Goodreads
five-stars

“Since she’s been gone, Claire had obviously developed the ability to hide her emotions. In the kind of world where she had been living, she would have had to do so to survive.  But in that moment after she shouted out her secret, War saw everything she’d been fighting to hide. Her pain was so clear, it might have been tattooed across her face in words like grief, terror, and anguish.”

FINAL DECISION: A satisfying resolution of the mystery regarding Claire that has dominated the Wicked Woodleys series.  I absolutely loved Claire and War who are strong and compelling characters.  My new all time favorite by Jess Michaels.

THE STORY: Claire Woodley made a terrible mistake two years ago.  The aristocratic daughter ran off to marry a man who turned out to be a liar, a thief and extremely dangerous rogue.  Avoiding her family who has been searching for her, Claire has immersed herself in the underworld where her lover lives.  Finally, she has emerged and seeks the help of the Woodley horsemaster Warrick Blackwood to retrieve something that her lover stole from her. War has wanted Claire for years, even though he rejected her attempt to seduce him two years ago.  Claire’s request for help requires him to confront his own past and perhaps sacrifice his future, but he cannot resist her.

OPINION: I absolutely loved this book.  Claire is a woman with a scandalous past, a desperate present, and only a vague future.  Throughout the series, readers have been teased with hints of what motivated Claire, what her current situation is and questions as to why she has not returned to her family.  I’m pleased to say that this book provides a satisfying resolution while still providing a hot, sexy and suspenseful story.  Thankfully, Michaels doesn’t make readers wait long to discover one of her big secrets.  Even better, the hot romance between Claire and the man she wanted but who rejected her, War gets off to a fast and torrid start.

War becomes an intriguing hero because he is a good man who has dark secrets.  This gives him a complexity that makes him interesting and worth reading about.  I especially like how he orchestrates the reunion of the Woodleys.  He truly cares for the family and he is a good man who is willing to risk much to help Claire.  War rejected Claire for her own good once and that ended up in Claire’s running off with a con man.  Now that Claire is not so innocent, War is determined not to let the possibility of being with Claire slip by him again.  War is sexy, earthy and complicated.

War and Claire together are combative, emotional and a perfect pair.  The two work together to solve Claire’s problem and end up discovering that their pasts have ended up making them an ideal match for one another in a way that wouldn’t have been possible before Claire’s downfall.

One of my favorite parts of the Wicked Woodleys series has been the cross-social class romances.  For those who like more historically accurate romances, this may not be the story for you.  This series tends more toward erotic sexual encounters and the morals of the characters feel more modern.  For me, however, I love this type of historical book where the time and setting provide texture and substance to the story but where the actual execution of the story has more of a romanticized fairy tale feel to it.  If I want pure historical accuracy, I read historical fiction not romance.

I enjoyed the plot of the book which was suspenseful and worked to provide an opportunity for the relationship between War and Claire to develop and deepen as te two depend upon one another and discover all the secrets each are hiding.  I read through this book in record time and immediately went back to reread passages.  For me, that is the primary indicator of a book that I will reread again and again in the years ahead.  A book that exceeded my expectations!

WORTH MENTIONING: Oh, I can’t wait until Jack’s book.  That’s how an author builds a great series by having compelling characters that demand their own stories be told.

CONNECTED BOOKS: RUINED is the fourth book in the Wicked Woodleys series.  This book can be read as a standalone, but is so much more fulfilling after reading the stories of Claire’s siblings.

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.

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five-stars