Review: Heiress for Hire

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

Review: Heiress for HireHeiress for Hire (A Duke's Heiress #1) by Madeline Hunter
Published by Zebra on April 28, 2020
Genres: Historical

FINAL DECISION: Lovely, slow burn story. I loved the hero and heroine’s competing investigations. Both damaged by the past, these two learn to trust one another in a sweet and sexy murder mystery romance.

THE STORY: Minerva Hepplewhite whacks an intruder on the head but finds out that he has been searching for her to tell her that his uncle, a recently deceased duke, has left her a small fortune and she is now an heiress. Chase Radnor also considers Minerva a suspect in the duke’s suspicious death. Both Minerva and Chase end up conducting competing investigations into the duke’s death. This brings them into competition and cooperation with one another.

OPINION: I found the relationship between Minerva and Chase to be comforting and incredibly loving. The two are competitors but also find themselves partnering in the investigation into the duke’s death. The two have a relationship that is adult and based upon discussion and care. Minerva is an incredibly strong woman and yet has a fragile part of her hidden. Chase is able to see that in Minerva and care for her. While the two are physically attracted to one another, their relationship is also based on their attraction to the cleverness of the other and the genuine good person the other is. The book is a bit of a slow burn, but in a lovely way.

Both Chase and Minerva have been burned by their pasts which lead them to question their own judgment. Seeing them find a reason to trust the other was heartwarming. I loved how gentle this book is with their emotions.

While the romance in this book is complete, there are overarching questions regarding the mystery that are left open at the end of this book which is part of a series.

WORTH MENTIONING: The heroine was subject to an abusive marriage and while the book is not graphic as to that abuse, it is a significant aspect of the book for those who are sensitive to the topic.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HEIRESS FOR HIRE is the first book in the Duke’s Heiress series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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


Review: Never Deny a Duke

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

Review: Never Deny a DukeNever Deny a Duke (Decadent Dukes Society, #3) by Madeline Hunter
Series: Decadent Dukes Society #3
Published by Zebra on April 30, 2019
Genres: Historical


FINAL DECISION: I loved the restrained hero who hides some secrets and the independent woman who fascinates him. I especially enjoyed that these two become friends and there is great respect between them before passion wins out.

THE STORY: Eric Marshall, the Duke of Brentworth is incensed when he learns that a Scottish woman, Davina MacCallum, seeks to gain control of one of his family’s properties claiming that her family are the rightful heirs and it should not have been added to the ducal estate. Brentworth is determined to turn away the fraud, but his anger is in direct proportion to his intense attraction to Miss MacCallum. Davina wants to reclaim her family legacy in order to build a life for herself and establish a medical facility on the property — honoring her father’s work and her own interests in the medical field. But first she has to wrest the property from the duke.

OPINION: While I admittedly tend to enjoy the outwardly passionate stories, I really did like this book even with its restraint. In the beginning of this book the hero is really buttoned up (but fear not, we learn some of his secrets later). The relationship between the hero and heroine begin in polite (and not so polite) arguments. Some might not be interested in the details of the land inheritance, but I found the investigation quite interesting.

Eric is such a restrained man but he has an essential kindness and respect of Davina that I really liked. He is a man living with his mistakes but he is a good person. Davina is an independent a woman who is unconventional for her time. Yet, what is especially enjoyable in this book is that it feels like this book stays within the constraints of its time. So often these days, historicals have characters who sound like they fell from the streets of modern America into a time machine. These characters are progressive for their time, but the way they interact with one another and even in the constraints of their time felt more realistic.

This romance is quieter and the relationship takes time to progress, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. It reminded me of the type of book that Mary Balogh — a restrained slow burn.

I especially liked seeing the other couples from the series who have important supporting roles here as well.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a nice little epilogue to reward readers of the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: NEVER DENY A DUKE is the third book in the Decadent Dukes Society series. While the romance here is self-contained and thus the story can be read as a standalone, the overlapping characters makes this book richer by being familiar with their stories.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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


Review: Once a Rebel

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

Review: Once a RebelOnce a Rebel (Rogues Redeemed #2) by Mary Jo Putney
Series: Rogues Redeemed #2
Published by Zebra on August 29th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 368

FINAL DECISION:  Childhood friends who become lovers, this story takes place in an under-represented time period which makes the events interesting. The story is a slow burn and the romance develops more slowly than I would like.

THE STORY: Callista Brooke is in the middle of the burning of Washington in the War of 1812. Widowed from the man her father forced her to marry, Callista is now raising her husband’s illegitimate children. In danger, a man rides up to save her. Lord George Gordon Audley has taken the job of bringing Callista back to England. What Gordon didn’t know is that Callista is his childhood friend. Callista is shocked by the appearance of her friend Richard who she believed died after being transported for “kidnapping” her. What had actually happened was the Richard had attempted to rescue Callista from her forced marriage, but the two had been caught by their fathers. Now Richard and Callista must make their way to safety during a war.

OPINION:  I enjoyed the relationship between the hero and heroine here, but the actual ending seemed a bit wanting for me. This is a story of two people who are friends, are apart for almost half their lives and then find one another again. For Richard and Callista, there isn’t a “wow, my friend is now a hottie that I want and love” moment. That was not only okay for me but felt natural. The two begin a relationship based on respect and friendship as they navigate the dangers that surround them both from the war and also the personal problems. But I really wanted something to click with them sooner than it did and something more passionate and exciting to happen between them personally.  Instead, this is a “we gradually realize that we must be in love” story.

I was a bit disappointed by this, because I liked there characters. They both have had difficult lives since they parted, but have made themselves survivors. This is an opportunity for them to finally find something joyous with one another.

I especially liked the time and place of this book as it begins because not many romances are set in America during the War of 1812. This book gives a glimpse into a different time period. The characters also manage to move back to more familiar England and a whole new set of issues arise.

Although the action in the last portion of the book happens really quickly, I ended up loving the relationship between Richard and Callista at that point. The two have found some joy and peace with one another and the drama is the catalyst that brings them finally to the realization that they truly love one another. (But the relationship never seems like a deeply passionate one).

WORTH MENTIONING: One thing that bothered me about this story is how Callista’s step-children are so important to her but they characters are jettisoned part way through the book. I felt the story should have committed to them or excised them completely.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ONCE A REBEL is the second book in the Rogues Redeemed series. While there are overlapping characters, this book can be read as a standalone without missing anything at all.

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


Review: The Most Dangerous Duke in London

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

Review: The Most Dangerous Duke in LondonThe Most Dangerous Duke in London (Decadent Dukes Society, #1) by Madeline Hunter
Series: Decadent Dukes Society #1
Published by Zebra on May 30th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 304

FINAL DECISION: Fabulous start to a new series.  Didn’t go in the direction I expected and I ended up loving Adam. Motives are mysterious until all is revealed which built suspense and interest.  Loved these two together.

THE STORY:  Adam Penrose, Duke of Stratton, has returned to England after years in France following his father’s death.  Adam has returned for revenge and to find out who set the events in motion which led to his father’s death.  He is also in pursuit of a wife.  He discovers Lady Clara Cheswick, the daughter of his family’s longtime enemy.  Lady Clara has no intention of agreeing to Adam’s determined pursuit of her as she is independent and spending her time managing her own property and interests.  Then there is the also the question of what Adam’s true motives are.

OPINION: This book was more intimate and personal than I expected from the description.  Really focusing on the developing relationship between Adam and Clara, the reader is left questioning what Adam’s motives are.

Clara is a woman who desire for independence even if that means upsetting conventional behavior and roles for women.  Having inherited property of her own, Clara plans never to marry but instead publish a paper for women — written by women.  She is independent but isn’t willing to toss away all convention.  That creates tension as she tries to exist both in and outside of society’s expectations.  She also struggles with her relationship with her family.  While she doesn’t always feel close to them, her loyalty to her father makes her suspicious of Adam’s motives — perhaps rightfully.

Adam is mysterious through much of the book.  By the end of the book, however, I loved Adam. In the book, people wonder what Adam’s motives are for returning to England…and the reader is left to wonder as well.  By not cluing readers in to Adam’s thoughts on the matter, the story has more tension and mystery.  And the story needs that mystery because this book is truly driven by Adam’s reasons for returning to England and what his plans are.

This book feels more intimate and personal because the focus of the book is truly the relationship between Adam and Clara.  Can Clara trust Adam? Why is he pursuing a relationship with her? Does he truly intend to marry her? Why?  What I ended up loving about this book is that the answers are more complex than a simple narrative.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Oh, I can’t wait for the other two upcoming heroes. There are some good stories to be told there.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE MOST DANGEROUS DUKE IN LONDON is the first book in the Decadent Dukes Society.

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.


Review: Mogul

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

Review: MogulMogul (The Knickerbocker Club, #3) by Joanna Shupe
Series: The Knickerbocker Club #3
Published by Zebra on January 31st 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 352

FINAL DECISION:  The weakest of the series, this book is about two people getting a second chance at love.  I liked the story overall, but I didn’t enjoy the romance as much because the characters seemed to have too many convoluted reasons to be apart.

THE STORY: Calvin Cabot has risen from a reporter to owning a number of large newspapers.  His only regret is the woman he had to leave behind.  Lillian Davies is the daughter of a self-made man but her father has greater aspirations for her. Calvin and Lillian had married in a whirlwind courtship until Lillian’s father stepped in.  After an annulment, the two have been apart.  Now Lily needs Calvin’s help when her brother disappears and the two find that their attraction to one another has not diminished with time.

OPINION:  I liked so much of this book, but the romance was a weak point.  So while I loved the time period, loved the motivating story about Lily’s brother’s disappearance. There was a little too much drama with Lily and Calvin and too many things working to keep them apart that the drama exhausted me and my patience in the book. So while I liked the book, it’s not one I would return to again.

Lily is a woman who has taken the reins of her family’s business, Lily is strong and independent but still hurts from what she believes was Calvin’s betrayal years ago. I liked her and liked her journey, but I couldn’t help but think that she was annoyingly naive for believing the explanation for the annulment in the beginning.

Calvin was a character that I had expected to like a great deal, but once again, I got too annoyed and caught up in his continued lies and half-truths to Lily. I understand his loyalty and his feeling that he could not reveal the truth, but it got tiring that he kept being placed in the position to self-destruct his relationship with Lily. I was inclined to like him, but I got tired of his drama by the end.

It might sound that I didn’t like this book.  Actually, I liked it well enough, but it didn’t live up to the promise of the other books in the series. I suppose I was more disappointed because while I loved the premise of the book and I found the history explored in it fascinating, I just got too annoyed by the misunderstandings between the characters to want a re-read.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book explores the history of discrimination against the Chinese in the United States and the consequences of the exclusionary policies of the government.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  Mogul is the third book in the Knickerbocker Club series. It is not necessary to have read any of the previous book in the series although there are overlapping characters.

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 positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.


Review: Baron

Review: BaronBaron (The Knickerbocker Club, #2) by Joanna Shupe
Series: The Knickerbocker Club #2
Published by Zebra on October 25th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 311

FINAL DECISION:  I liked the quirky heroine who is strong willed-independent and a survivor. She completely upends the ordered life of the hero who is a bit of a difficult character to like at first. Ultimately, I liked their romance but it was a bit of a trial for me to get there.

THE STORY:  The heir to old money William Sloane is a railroad baron who has decided to run for state government.  In order to protect his running mate, however, he has to cut the tie his running mate has with a medium Madam Zolikoff who William knows is a fraud. When William approaches Madam Zolikoff, he finds Ava Jones (who works under the pseudonym).  Ava is working as a medium in order to support her orphaned siblings. William is reluctantly intrigued by the spirited Ava even as he knows that he has to marry a woman of his own class; Ava is wary of William after having been burned by a man before.

OPINION:  I thought this novel had a new story to tell because of its setting and time.  The characters and situation felt fresh even as the cross-class story of a rich aristocratic man and lower class woman is familiar.  These characters and their situation was new.

Ava was my favorite in the book.  She is so strong and determined.  A woman who has carried a heavy burden of caring for her family, she has done well for herself. She knows she is skirting the edge of wrongdoing with her medium act, but she tries to be the most honest she can. I loved her relationship with her siblings and her fears and desperation when it comes for being responsible for them. I felt for her after her abandonment by her lover and understood her stances as she tries to balance her desires with her fears and her responsibilities.

Will was a more difficult character for me to like.  He was a jerk in the last book and he doesn’t start out much better here (actually, he might be worse).  Self-righteous, entitled, self-indulgent, he looks down on Ava from the start. As the story continues, I began to have, if not sympathy, then understanding of his actions.  By the end of the book, I felt he had changed enough to be worthy of Ava, but the time it took to get there diminished my interest in the book somewhat.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book has some fascinating history about the prevalence of spiritual mediums at the time and takes place amidst the corruption of Tammany Hall.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  BARON is the second book in the Knickerbocker Club series.  It can be read as a standalone although I recommend reading book 1 first just to learn more about the characters.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3.5 stars.


Review: Magnate

Review: MagnateMagnate (The Knickerbocker Club, #1) by Joanna Shupe
Series: The Knickerbocker Club #1
Published by Zebra on April 26th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 325

FINAL DECISION:  A romance between the birth rich heroine and a self-made man, this story is animated by the heroine’s own ambitions.  The characters are rich and interesting and I loved how these two slowly overcome their own inclinations.

THE STORY:  Emmett Cavanaugh is a self-made man who comes from the slums and has brought himself to the heights of wealth and influence. The one thing he has kept away from is useless society women until he is approached by Elizabeth Sloane.  Elizabeth knows that Emmett and her brother meet together and are friends.  She has taught herself to play the stock market and wants to back her in opening an investing company hoping to fix her family’s finances. Emmett, however, is not friends with Elizabeth’s brother at all.  Indeed, he decides to use Elizabeth to go after her brother and his company.

OPINION:  A book that has life because of its unique setting and characters.  The novelty of a book taking place in this era with characters of a more modern bent make all the situations interesting and new. A woman desiring to open her own business playing the stock market is not an everyday historical.

Elizabeth is a woman struggling against the expectations of history and her own status. Her brother wants her to have “expected” dreams — marriage, family and society events. Elizabeth desperately dreams for independence and self-determination. That desire makes her reckless in approaching Emmett and continuing to meet with him.

Emmett is a man who has made his fortune but resents those with inherited wealth. It leads him to misjudge Elizabeth and continue with his ill-conceived idea of ruining her brother. Yet, he is incredibly forward thinking in his view of what Elizabeth should be allowed to do.

I liked the interaction between these two and I totally fell for their romance.  The only negative for me was that the motivations of the characters became rather convoluted as Emmett and Elizabeth do some assuming about the other’s actions.

WORTH MENTIONING:  MAGNATE takes place during the Gilded Age in New York City.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  MAGNATE is the first full book in the Knickerbocker Club series.  There is a prequel novella, but this book can be read without it.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Tycoon

Review: TycoonTycoon (The Knickerbocker Club, #0.5) by Joanna Shupe
Series: The Knickerbocker Club #0.5
Published by Zebra on February 23rd 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 102

“Ted Harper never saw it coming. One minute, he was alone on the platform, and the next he’d acquired a wife.”

FINAL DECISION:  Enjoyable historical set in a period not often written about (America’s Guilded Age), this story kept my interest from the first word to the last.  These are places, people and times I haven’t read about before.

THE STORY:  Ted Harper is a self made man who has risen to own a major bank in New York City.  While on a train platform, he is approached and kissed by a woman who declares herself his wife.  Intrigued, Ted allows the woman to join him on the train. Clara Dobson is a shop girl who is on the run from men who are after during. Danger and mistrust hangs over these two who get to know one another on a train to Missouri.

OPINION:  This novella was an easy and incredibly interesting read. Taking place in a time and place not often depicted in romance novels.  The historical detail is interesting and informative without overwhelming the romance in the story.  Indeed, the characters themselves are truly products of their times, living their lives in the Guilded Age with concerns and problems different from the normal aristocrats.

Ted is a man who worked himself up from a farm to becoming a wealthy bank owner in New York.  He is a good, decent man who knows nothing but work because that is how he managed to change his life. His wealth makes him a target of swindler and cheat and thus trust comes hard to Ted.

Clara is a challenge to Ted’s worldview.  He is immediately suspicious of her and because she refuses to tell him what is threatening her, he doubts again and again her sincerity and yet he is attracted to her joy and fresh attitude toward life.  Clara is a shop girl (she works at the perfume counter at a department store).  A girl from a small town herself, she loves the big town of New York, but her life is now threatened so she is on the run.  Two days — and nights — spent in a private train car with Ted shows her his decency.

Yes, these two travel far in two days (emotionally) but it is a novella.  I thought the story was very well done especially in such a short format.

I loved how these two manage their difficulties and the plot is enough to keep the characters’ story moving.  I definitely will continue to read the other books in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: This novella is a breath of fresh air in a genre often too saturated with Regency misses.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  TYCOON is prequel novella to the Knickerbocker Club series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Once a Soldier

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

Review: Once a SoldierOnce a Soldier (Rogues Redeemed, #1) by Mary Jo Putney
Series: Rogues Redeemed #1
Published by Zebra on June 28th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 368

FINAL DECISION: This was an enjoyable read but not particularly compelling a re-read.  I enjoyed the characters and the story and was glad that I read it.  I thought that the hero was really sweet.

THE STORY:  Will Masterson went to war despite being heir to a title.  He was running from his past but years of war have made him yearn for home in England.  Now that the Peninsular Wars have ended, Will has one last mission to complete before he can return home.  Will escorts a group of soldiers back to their home in San Gabriel in order to see how the kingdom fares.  In San Gabriel, Will meets an Englishwoman Athena Markham.  There are sparks between Will and Athena from the beginning, but Athena’s past makes her distrust men especially titled gentlemen.

OPINION:  This story is heavy on the action as Will and Athena work to save San Gabriel.  The romance between them is slow and steady and wrapped in their duties toward the kingdom.  I didn’t feel that the romance was intense and sparkling but rather of two people who have the same values and loyalties finding one another.

While I enjoyed the story overall, I didn’t feel that there was a deeply compelling romance between Will and Athena.  I thought they were a match, but their story didn’t have the intense interest for me that I consider a requirement for a 5 star book.  On the other hand, I did believe that the book had a good overarching story (including a secondary romance) and likeable characters that I cared about.

Because the characters met in unusual circumstances, their behavior did not rely on convention which made their characters more interesting.  Because the action of the book takes place far from the ballrooms of London, the characters are not as restrained and seem more free and real. I liked how modern Athena feels (not improper for the times, just strong and independent) and how Will is drawn to Athena because of those attributes.

I think this book is a good kick off to the new series and I hope we see more of Will and Athena in the future.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This new series follows a group of men who met by chance when they were sentenced to die as spies and then escaped together.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ONCE A SOLDIER is the first book in the Rogues Redeemed series.  The hero in this book also appears as a secondary character in the Lost Lords series.  One doesn’t have to read that series, however, to enjoy this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.