Review: Fascinated

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: FascinatedFascinated: The Wicked Woodleys by Jess Michaels
Series: The Wicked Woodleys #6
Published by Passionate Pen on February 7th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 72
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Michaels first m/m romance has sweet characters and enough drama to keep interest. I liked this wrap up book for the series especially because these characters are finally getting their redemption after somewhat negative histories in the series.

THE STORY:  Griffin Merrick (the brother of Letty from SEDUCED) is attracted to men but keeping that information from his family. He is especially attracted to Aaron Condit, a solicitor and man of business.  Aaron is one of Letty’s dearest friends despite their complicated past.  Aaron was the lover of Letty’s deceased husband. He doesn’t want to do anything to hurt Letty again but he is really attracted to Griffin but is determined to keep his distance.  When the two attend Letty’s house party, Griffin decides to take a chance and tell Aaron his feelings.

OPINION:  This was a fine conclusion to the Wicked Woodleys series.  These were characters that I liked tremendously, had great sympathy and interest in their journey and for whom I was glad to root for their happy ending.  My one complaint is that the story was very short and therefore some of the complexities were too quickly resolved…but that is always a risk with novellas.

Griffin has grown and matured since the events of SEDUCED. We meet him as he knows who he is but hasn’t come out to his family.  (Of course, revealing that one was gay at the time risked criminal charges). He has met Aaron while visiting places which cater to their particular interest in men.  The two have a lingering attraction to one another but haven’t taken any steps to move forward.  A house party with family and friends gives Griffin the opportunity to make a move on Aaron.

Aaron is still suffering from his actions in being the lover of Letty’s husband.  Even though he is attracted to Griffin, he is not willing to hurt Letty again.  Because of this, he resists his fascination to Griffin — for a while.  I really liked these two and I worried throughout the book for their safety. The book gives a dark and pretty grim (and realistic) depiction of the challenges the two face. The fact that the two of them can manage to love one another in the face of all the threats against them demonstrated their strength and commitment to one another.

There is a nice twist at the end of the story (which I began to suspect) and which I really loved. Fans of the Wicked Woodleys series, especially SEDUCED get a nice update on the characters as well.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This is a m/m romance and a short novella.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  FASCINATED is the sixth book in the Wicked Woodleys series.  This book can be read as a standalone although reading SEDUCED will give the background of both of the main characters (but that background is summarized here).

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: Deceived

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: DeceivedDeceived (The Wicked Woodleys, #2) by Jess Michaels
Series: The Wicked Woodleys #2
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on October 13th 2015
Genres: Historical
Pages: 236
Goodreads
four-stars

Wallflower Gets Her Happy Ending

“Josie Westfall despises me, you know.”

FINAL DECISION: At times heartbreaking, DECEIVED is the story of a Wallflower who ultimately prevails in getting the man she always wanted. Although the hero is a true jerk at times, he grovels enough in the end to gain my forgiveness.

THE STORY: Josie Westfall had a crush on Lord Even Hartwell as children. He thoughtlessly destroyed her in dismissing her and giving her a nickname which haunted her in society. Sixteen years later, Evan and Josie are thrown together again at his sister’s wedding. Encouraged by his brother, Evan tries to find out what Josie knows about the location of his sister who has been missing. Even as he tries to get information from Josie, Evan begins to realize how badly he has hurt the sweet Josie and is surprised by the attraction between them. Torn between his duty to his family and his attraction to Josie, Evan worries who will he have to betray.

OPINION: I’d like to start by saying that I think that Evan is jerk for most of this book. He’s not a hero that I adore. From the beginning, Josie is too good for him. His repeated and thoughtless action in hurting Josie might be understandable, but they are not easily forgiven. What I did like in this book is that ultimately Evan really does have to grovel to get back into Josie’s good graces. The redemption of the hero is is a jerk depends so much upon the quality of the grovel and Michaels has done a good job of making Evan pay for his thoughtless treatment of Josie. I really liked the character of Josie who is stronger than she believes she is. Although at first she doesn’t believe herself worthy of Evan, she eventually realizes that she deserves to be treated with respect and dignity and that might make her too good for Evan. I am a fan of the Woodley family and am happy to see them again and I am looking forward to the next two books in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: The outlines of the next romance for the Woodleys is beginning to be made clear in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DECEIVED is the second book in the Wicked Woodleys series. It can be read as a standalone although I recommend reading the other books in the series because there is an ongoing story involving the Woodley sister that has an important part in the story in this book.

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.

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four-stars

Review: Forbidden

Review: ForbiddenForbidden (The Wicked Woodleys, #1) by Jess Michaels
Series: The Wicked Woodleys #1
Published by Passionate Pen on August 25th 2015
Genres: Historical
Pages: 251
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“For years he had born a secret. And with each passing day, it weighed more heavily on him.”

THE STORY: Lady Audrey Woodley has been fascinated with Jude Samson for years. The friend and man of business of her older brother, the Marquis of Woodley. Although born of a good family, Jude and his mother were shunned by his father’s family after his death and Jude has had to make his own way in the world. Although Jude has strong feelings for Audrey, he knows that they have no future together. He believes that his status as an employee disqualifies him from having a relationship with Audrey. Even worse, Jude has been keeping secrets that he knows that will make Audrey hate him if she knew. When the two end up unchaperoned at the family’s country estate, Jude and Audrey cannot contain the passion that bursts between them. Jude knows that when his secrets are discovered that Audrey will never forgive him and he risks losing the family he loves.

OPINION: Michaels introduces readers to a fun, intriguing, sexy family that have enough secrets to justify the series that this books kicks off.

The Woodleys siblings are comprised of Edward (the Marquis), Evan, Gabriel, Claire and Audrey. Edward is newly married (A MARQUIS FOR MARY). The older sister has disappeared after running off to marry a man who turned out to be a scoundrel. Claire’s disappearance negatively effects all the members of the family — most especially Audrey who now fears passion as a result. Audrey is supposed to be hunting for a husband, but has lost interest because she worries about allowing her passions to lead her astray.

To give Audrey a break from the Season, her mother and she travel to the family’s country house that is being remodeled. Edward sends an unhappy Jude along to handle the business issues. Their seclusion allows the longtime friendship between Jude and Audrey to blossom into passion and love. Audrey and Jude do not plan on a longtime relationship even though each is attached to the other. Their passionate relationship begins on the excuse of showing Audrey that she doesn’t have to fear passion, but both clearly know that it is only an excuse and the trust is that Jude and Audrey have wanted one another for years.

The characters here are fresh and fun. Like the Flynn series, the Woodleys are not stuffy, staid typical ton. This is a family and they have deep connections to one another and their missing sibling has left a hole in their lives. Each of the siblings experiences that differently and Michael has managed to distinguish each of the Woodley siblings through their response to their loss.

Audrey is the more reasonable daughter. After what happened to Claire, Audrey fears and yet yearns for passion and love. She is not bound by convention and doesn’t allow expectations to interfere with her desire for Jude.

Jude has wanted a family like the Woodleys. Although they consider him a part of the family, Jude has been damaged by the rejection of his own family and cannot help but expect for the Woodleys to ultimately reject him as well. He knows that his affair with Audrey will ultimately separate him from the only family he has ever known but he cannot resist her. He wants the chance to love her and to show her that she doesn’t have to fear her passions. Jude has made poor decisions in the past and believes that Audrey will never forgive him. He is filled with guilt and yet continues to do what he feels best even if it means lying to Audrey.

I love these books where there are conflicts arising over the stations of the characters and Michaels does a great job reversing the usual trope of the woman being of a lower working class. (Michaels has a similar cross-station story in the excellent NO GENTLEMAN FOR GEORGINA). This book doesn’t shy from confronting the inadequacy that Jude feels because he is employed by Audrey’s brother.

What is also wonderful is the strong love that the Woodleys have for one another – and also for Jude even though he insists on not accepting that the Woodleys really do see him as family.

Finally, this book is really hot. Michaels has built on a true emotional relationship to make the sexual relationship between these characters not only hot and sexy, but also emotionally engaging. Michaels does a great job in writing hot sex scenes and her most recent books have also created fully developed engaging characters. Her characters are likeable people and it makes it easier to root for their happy endings.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a fascinating story regarding the missing sister Claire that I look forward to discovering more about in future books. Her story appears to be an ongoing dilemma for the family that will cover several books.

FINAL DECISION: Likeable characters, sexy romance and secrets that threaten to tear them apart, FORBIDDEN is definitely a book I recommend. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series to find out more about these Woodleys.

CONNECTED BOOKS: FORBIDDEN is the first book in the Wicked Woodley’s series. There is a prequel story about the oldest brother called A Marquis for Mary. That novella is not necessary to read to enjoy this book, but I recommend reading it first anyway because it introduces the Woodley family.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley in order to provide an honest review of the book. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own.

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four-half-stars

Review: Seduced

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: SeducedSeduced: The Wicked Woodleys by Jess Michaels
Series: The Wicked Woodleys #5
on May 17, 2016
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
three-half-stars

“I have never been abducted by a lady before,” he drawled, looking at her pale face in the dim carriage.  “This is very exciting.”

FINAL DECISION: An enjoyable conclusion to the Wicked Woodleys series that essentially is an add on to RUINED.  Employing one of my favorite tropes: the lower class hero with a heroine who is his social better, this story lacked the angst of RUINED but still had a lot of action.

THE STORY:  Jack Blackwood is known as Captain Jack, a criminal mastermind who is king of the criminal world that lurks in London. As his brother has married into the titled class, Jack ends up mingling with the aristocracy. There he meets Viscountess Leticia Seagate, a widow who has a secret.  As the two circle around one another, Letty decides to take a lover and can think of no one who fits her better than Jack.  There is danger, however, as Jack has a rival for his business who threatens him and anyone he cares about.

OPINION: Jack and Letty’s story was enjoyable but a little bit of a letdown from the wonderful RUINED. For me, there was a lot of things going on in the story (Letty’s secret, Jack’s enemy, Letty’s brother’s issues) and while I enjoyed the book, I was not enthralled.  I felt that with so much going on, the connection between Letty and Jack was not as strong as I would like.

I still enjoyed the book especially because I am a fan of the lower class hero story.  Michaels has done several of this trope in this series and I seriously love these guys.  Jack is a criminal but he clearly has done well for himself and is in the process of improving himself.  The marriage and happiness of his brother has made him question his own life.  It is at this pivotal time that he begins his relationship with Letty.  The two expect nothing beyond sex from one another and yet, they become intertwined with one another.

I liked the sexy relationship between Jack and Letty and there is always a sense of equality between them personally even if society does not see it.  I also liked how Letty’s personal sense of worth is healed by Jack’s devotion to her.

Overall, I found the story and romance uneven but I liked the characters, loved getting updates on the prior couples and was satisfied with the book as a whole.

WORTH MENTIONING: Michaels also gives a nice update on the other Woodley couples without it being forced.  A nice treat for fans of the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  SEDUCED is the fifth book in the Wicked Woodleys series.  The book gives readers enough information to be read as a standalone although I recommend reading RUINED first because the two stories are closely connected.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-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

Review: Tempted: The Wicked Woodleys

Review: Tempted: The Wicked WoodleysTempted (The Wicked Woodleys, #3) by Jess Michaels
Series: The Wicked Woodleys #3
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on January 11th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 232
Goodreads
four-stars

An Appetizer for Claire’s Story

“In that charged moment, he was flooded with wishes. He wished he had never met her. He wished she weren’t so beautiful. He wished he were more capable of expressing the emotions he normally crushed down deep inside himself. He wished she would ride away and never come back. He wished, very fervently, that she would come up the stairs and kiss him.”

FINAL DECISION: I liked this book but it suffered for me because it made me want Claire’s book more than I was excited about reading this story. There was nothing particularly wrong with this book, but it raised the anticipation for Claire’s book such that I wanted to read that book more than this one.

THE STORY: Gabriel Woodley, the youngest son, has been obsessed with finding his twin sister since she disappeared. He keenly feels the loss of his sister because he considers her the emotional part of himself. Without his sister, Gabriel has difficulties with personal relationships. Indeed, Gabriel doesn’t want anything or anyone to get in the way of his search for his sister. The one person who threatens his single minded devotion is Juliet Gray. Juliet is a healer who helped save his mother’s life. In gratitude, the Dowager Marchioness of Woodley wants to take Juliet to London to help her find a husband. Juliet agrees only because of the budding romance between her father and the Dowager. For herself, she knows that she cannot hope for marriage because she is already ruined. She cannot help her attraction to Gabriel even as she knows that there is no future in it.

OPINION: Gabriel is a difficult hero to like. He keeps himself emotionally apart from others and his obsession with finding his sister has made him a jerk in other books. Through this book, however, readers get to see that Gabriel loves his sister tremendously and while it makes him disregard others, he has good intensions. As Gabriel falls for Juliet, he finds a new outlet for all that passionate caring. His journey in this book is to turn from his obsession to find meaning in his own life.

Juliet is sweet and independent and too willing to sacrifice herself for others. For a great portion of the book Gabriel doesn’t treat her very well and frankly, I would have smacked him silly. Juliet’s compassion and intelligence makes her a great pair for Gabriel. She moves him in a different direction even as she understands and accepts his obsession.

This book doesn’t feel as grounded in an actual historical period. Because the Woodleys are nontraditional people and so are their friends, the standards and morals of the time don’t really apply to them. I don’t mind these types of historical books – where the historical part is more flavor than accuracy, but I know that some people are particularly disturbed by these types of books.

I was also pleased to see a cameo by characters from the Notorious Flynns series. I have a particular fondness for seeing old characters again. Readers who are not familiar with that series will not be confused.

My only problem with this book is that I would much rather be reading Gabriel’s sister Claire’s book. Her story has been an incredible mystery since the beginning of the series. Her book is next in the series and this book brings forward more questions about what is going on with her. I suspect that I will like this book better after Claire’s mystery is solved and I can concentrate on something other than my questions about Claire.

WORTH MENTIONING: Virgin hero catnip.

CONNECTED BOOKS: Tempted is book 3 of the Wicked Woodleys series. There is an ongoing story in the series regarding Gabriel’s missing twin sister, but enough is recapped here that readers could start with this book.

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.

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four-stars