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: 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