Review: The Duke Who Lied

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 Duke Who LiedThe Duke Who Lied (The 1797 Club Book 8) by Jess Michaels
Series: The 1797 Club #8
Published by Passionate Pen on Jul 24, 2018
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
three-stars

 

“So Amelia would come to Hugh with hate and desperation. With heartbreak and resistance.”

FINAL DECISION: A solid addition to the series. I enjoyed the characters but the lie that sets their relationship in motion and the secret Hugh is keeping didn’t work well enough to support the plot of the story for me.

THE STORY: Hugh Margolis, Duke of Brighthollow, has been suffering with his own sense of honor. His sister was seduced by a wicked man and Hugh found himself keeping silent and paying the man off rather than seeking revenge. This lack of action has been eating at Hugh for a year. Now Hugh discovers that the villain is after his next victim. Hugh cannot allow him to ruin another woman’s life. Amelia Quinton thinks she has found the man of her dreams, when her father tells her she must marry the Duke of Brighthollow to settle his debts. Amelia and Hugh begin a marriage with lies and deception between them. What will happen when the two strangers begin to have feelings for one another with the lies Hugh told to force the marriage between them?

OPINION: The characters in this book were really nice. I liked them both and I thought that they had a nice rapport with one another. I book is as sexy as I would expect from this series and overall I enjoyed this entry in the series.

The part of this book that really bothered me was how quickly Amelia turned to trying to make her marriage to Hugh a good one. I just wasn’t convinced. She was too quick to think Hugh a good person and too quick to want and participate in a passionate marriage. A woman is forced to wed a complete stranger and only days later is taking the initiative in their sexual relationship. Nope, just didn’t work for me. I did enjoy the characters and only wish that the initial part of their relationship had been dealt with differently.

I also really didn’t understand why Hugh kept the secret after he and Amelia were married and continued to lie. He clearly could have told her the truth and it would have made their relationship better. Without the buy in to the storyline, everything else felt okay but a little bland.

WORTH MENTIONING: I want the story of Hugh’s sister as well.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE DUKE WHO LIED is the eighth book in the 1797 Club series. This book can be read as a standalone although there are overlapping characters and relationships between secondary characters that are developed over the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

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

 

three-stars

Review: Duke of Hearts

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: Duke of HeartsThe Duke of Hearts (The 1797 Club) by Jess Michaels
Series: The 1797 Club #7
Published by Passionate Pen on May 22nd 2018
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-half-stars

 

“Everyone knows my story, don’t they? It is all they talk about. The Duke of Tyndale and His Tragedy. It is practically folklore.”

FINAL DECISION: These characters end up being just so nice and I liked them tremendously. The contrast being their so good character and how they meet gives what might otherwise be a too nice story some dash.

THE STORY: Matthew Cornwallis, Duke of Tyndale, is urged by his friends to put aside his grief at the death of his fiancee three years ago and attend the Donville Masquerade, a sinful gathering where masked guests meet for sexual encounters. There Tyndale meets a masked stranger who he ends up spending the night with. Isabel Hayes is a widow whose elderly husband was chosen by her parents in an arranged marriage. Curious about what she missed in her marriage, Isabel comes to the Donville Masquerade to watch. But then she meets a masked stranger who tempts her to find the passion she missed. Eventually, however, Isabel realizes that her lover was the man engaged to her cousin and who her uncle blames for her death.

OPINION: I really, really liked the characters in this book. Both Matthew and Isabel are good and even gentle characters who find one another despite pasts which make them wary because the guards and shields are let down when they meet in a sinful and wicked way.

This book is hot and it manages to do that with very likable and nice characters. Although both have some pain in their lives, their inherent positivism contrasts with some of the other characters in the book who dwell in their unhappiness. I really liked that about these characters. The willingness to make the best of things, to look forward, to try and be happy.

Most of the conflict here ends up being external because these two hit it off almost from the start. In fact, they seemed so perfect for one another that I wondered how the dramatic tension in the story could be maintained — and yet it was. All of the parts work here.

WORTH MENTIONING: I especially loved that we get to see so many of the members of the 1797 Club and their wives.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE DUKE OF HEARTS is the seventh book in the 1797 Club series. The series tells the stories of a group of men destined to become dukes. Each book tells the story of one couple but the characters appear throughout the series. This book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to prepare this 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: The Undercover 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: The Undercover DukeThe Undercover Duke (The 1797 Club Book 6) by Jess Michaels
Series: The 1797 Club #6
Published by Passionate Pen on March 27th 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 247
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: I enjoyed this book because of the relationship between Lucas and Diana. Some of the historical reality was lacking, but the cautious and slow unfolding of these characters made this book an enjoyable journey.

THE STORY: Lucas Vincent, Duke of Willowby, has been a spy for the crown for years. Grievously injured in his last assignment, Lucas is sent to Diana Oakford to recover. Diana is the daughter of one of the men killed in the mission where Lucas was injured. Having been burned by the spies who surrounded her father before, Diana knows better than to give her heart to such a man. The attraction between her and Lucas, however, burns from the beginning. And as they agree to an affair, each believes that they can keep the relationship on a physical level, but things get complicated (on many levels) as they work together to find the traitor who almost killed Lucas.

OPINION: I have really been enjoying this series. The stories, while serious in tone, are not particularly deep or disturbing. They are a nice read that I can finish in a day and which don’t haunt me for days after. The books emphasize the relationship between the characters and the plot really works in service of that relationship.

Diana and Lucas are similar characters. Pain in their lives has taught them to keep their distance. As they start their relationship, there is plenty of sex but little relationship. Usually I dislike these instant sex books, but it really works here. The sex begins to allow these characters to open up to one another. Then there are small moments of revelation and caring that draw them out of their self-protective shells.

Because much of the book takes place solely between these two characters, the relationship really worked for me. There are hot encounters but also moments of tenderness.

Then there is the spy plot. Some of the resolution seemed obvious, but there were some interesting surprises. There isn’t a lot of “story” in the plot, but I also enjoyed that because while I certainly like deep plot filled books, I really prefer books where the relationship is the focus and gets the primary focus in the story.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is front loaded with the sexual encounters which lessen as the plot picks up.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE UNDERCOVER DUKE is the sixth book in the 1797 Club series. There are overlapping characters, but this book can be read completely as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to prepare 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: The Duke of Nothing

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 Duke of NothingThe Duke of Nothing (The 1797 Club, #5) by Jess Michaels
Series: The 1797 Club #5
Published by The Passionate Pen on January 16th 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 211
Goodreads
four-stars

“Here we are, two people who’ll never get what they want because of what someone else did. Because of what we did to ourselves.”

FINAL DECISION: A sweet and sometimes angsty and seemingly doomed love between two people who don’t see a way forward together until they decide that love means more than anything and are willing to do whatever it takes to be together. Baldwin and Helena are a couple who seem perfect for one another and yet do not see a way forward — until there is no other choice.

THE STORY: Baldwin Undercross, Duke of Sheffield has been keeping a secrets from his friends and family — he is bankrupt. His father squandered the family fortune with gambling and Baldwin contributed his own bad decisions to the problem. In fact, Baldwin has only one solution now — marry an heiress. He has his mind on a rich American, but he cannot keep his eyes off her impoverished and scandalous cousin and companion, Helena Monroe.

OPINION: This is a sweeter book that I expected. The drama in the book is the necessity of Baldwin to marry for money and Helena’s lack of the same. It’s a book more about pride and doing what is expected rather than internal problems for the couple.

These are such nice characters that they obviously belong together from the moment that they meet. Everyone seems to recognize that, but Baldwin’s troubles and his pride and shame keep these characters apart. Baldwin has to learn to swallow his pride and rely on the people who are there always willing to stand by him if he just asks.

Helena has her own problems that stem from being betrayed by those who should care for her.  That gives the story some angst.

For me, however, this book is centered around these characters who need only to decide that nothing matters more than one another in order to find their happiness.

A great addition to the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: There are lots of appearances by the other couples and the bachelor dukes.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE DUKE OF NOTHING is the fifth book in the 1797 Club series about a group of dukes who have been friends since they were children. This book is a standalone with the romance but the friends make appearances.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to prepare 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: The Silent 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: The Silent DukeThe Silent Duke (The 1797 Club, #4) by Jess Michaels
Series: The 1797 Club #4
Published by Passionate Pen on November 14th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 200
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: This is a sweet little story as two friends navigate the hero’s insecurities and fears and find their way to a happy ending. The conflict here is the hero’s, but I enjoyed the interaction between these two.

THE STORY: Ewan, Duke of Donburrow was born mute and abused by his father who wanted to commit him to an asylum so that one of his “normal” sons could inherit. The wounds inflicted by Ewan’s father have scored deep. Charlotte, Countess of Portsmith, has loved Ewan forever. When he rejected her years ago, she rebounded into a loveless, but not horrible, marriage. Now widowed, Charlotte is determined to try again with Ewan.

OPINION: This story was sweeter than I expected. These two love one another from the start and just have to work through the pain of Ewan’s childhood to find one another.

Ewan is a good man. Abused as a child, he has managed to become a worthy gentleman. Charlotte is a woman who is determined to try and get what she wants finally. She comes to Ewan’s house for Christmas determined to try and seduce him finally. There is no doubt that these two are meant to be together. The intimacy of their friendship and the closeness they feel is obvious from the start.

The emphasis in this story is Ewan’s own growth. He has to make the change to be with Charlotte. I found that while this story isn’t particularly long, its length works here where there isn’t a tremendous amount of conflict to be resolved. There is one external drama that happens towards the end of the story, but by then most of the drama between the characters has been resolved.

The sweetness of the characters and the story made me really enjoy this book.

WORTH MENTIONING: Virgin hero.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE SILENT DUKE is the fourth book in the 1797 Club series. While the book can be read as a standalone as the romance is self-contained, there are overlapping characters that are discussed.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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

four-stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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

four-stars

Review: Her Favorite Duke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

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

four-half-stars

Review: The Daring 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: 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