Review: A Dream of Redemption

Review: A Dream of RedemptionA Dream of Redemption (The Disgraced Lords, #8) by Bronwen Evans
Series: The Disgraced Lords #8
Published by Loveswept on February 20th 2018
Genres: Historical

FINAL DECISION: An enjoyable cross-class romance with a hero with a dark past and a heroine who is determined to have him. I especially enjoyed seeing the characters from the series five years later.

THE STORY: Lady Helen Hawkestone has decided to stop searching for a man to marry at balls and soirees. She realizes that every person she knows who married for love found their spouse in an unconventional fashion and also she has been intrigued by her sister’s employee Clary Homeward. Clary, however, is no gentleman and no match for the innocent and aristocratic Helen. When the two work together on her sister’s new orphanage project, Clary and Helen face danger from those engaged in the seedy underbelly of child trafficking and also the attraction between them that society would be scandalized by.

OPINION: I enjoyed this entry in the series. While there is a storyline involving the orphanage, the real focus in this book is on Helen and Clary and their romance. I liked how the two interacted and how Helen becomes stronger throughout the book.

Clary is a man who has overcome a horrible past and this book forces further growth in his character. He must overcome his shame in his past. I did think that his past was glossed over a bit. While it was important to the story, we don’t really delve into his past. It is difficult to believe that Helen would be so blase once she found out because she truly doesn’t have the experience to understand the exploitation. I did like seeing how Clary and his brother have reinvented their lives and it was nice seeing a happy ending for them.

Helen is also a character that grows through the book. She falls for Clary and begins to see the world as more complicated and more dark than she imagined. While this progression would not work for a typical aristocratic woman, her own sister’s life and her sister-in-law’s determination to not hide the darker parts of the world from her. Helen is no fool and she begins to recognize that her relationship with Clary will be complicated and perhaps make her a pariah, but she is willing to do everything for love.

I liked the complexity that Helen and Clary’s relationship brings to the characters from the series. This is a complicated situation and I liked that the story reflected that complication.

This was an enjoyable read especially for those who have followed the series because it provides a nice wrap up along with giving some characters a well-deserved happy ending.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book left me feeling good about the entire series because the five years later update shows how happy everyone is.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A DREAM OF REDEMPTION is the eighth book in the Disgraced Lords series. This book can be read as a standalone, but the book might be more enjoyable if one reads A WHISPER OF DESIRE first because it introduces all the relevant characters.

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.



Review: A Whisper of Desire

Review: A Whisper of DesireA Whisper of Desire (The Disgraced Lords, #4) by Bronwen Evans
Series: The Disgraced Lords #4
Published by Loveswept on December 1st 2015
Genres: Historical
Pages: 300

FINAL DECISION: Darker than the other books in the series, this book made me cry at the injustices done to this couple. The most complex and layered book, this is the best book of the series for me.

THE STORY: Lady Marisa Hawkstone is planning her marriage to the man she loves when everything goes wrong. She wakes up naked in the arms of her brother’s friend Maitland Spencer, Duke of Lyttleton. Maitland has a reputation of being cold and controlled, but secretly he fears the seething amount of passion and emotion he feels. Compelled to marry as Marisa is ruined, Maitland is challenged at every turn by the passionate Marisa. At the same time, it becomes clear that the secret enemy that is stalking Maitland and his friends has turned her attention to him.

OPINION: This is my favorite book in the series even though it tears my heart out. The story definitely isn’t “fair” as Maitland has one of the darkest backstories from among his friends and also there is a very dark moment in this book.

Maitland is a man who, like the other Libertine Scholars, had a miserable excuse for a father. Maitland saw his father ruthlessly indulge himself in his passions and Maitland has imposed deep controls on himself as a result. He intends never to feel enough passion to challenge those controls — because he is scared. And that is one reason that I really enjoyed this book because Maitland is a fallible and complex character who struggles through this book.

Marisa is another character that I liked. She is thoughtful and strong and determined to make her husband talk and listen to her. In fact, one of the best parts of this book is how the characters actually have discussions and work out their problems.

One small dislike in this book is how quickly Marisa declares her love for Maitland. As he observes, just a few days ago she claimed to be in love with someone else. That bothered me a little as well.

The sadness and darkness in this book is its strength. It demands more complexity and nuance in how these characters lives deal with their adversities and while I cried through much of the last quarter of the book, I think this book is the best of the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: One of the minor characters in this book gets his own happy ending in A DREAM OF REDEMPTION.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A WHISPER OF DESIRE is the fourth book in the Disgraced Lords series. While the romance can be read as standalone, there is an ongoing storyline involving the villain out to destroy the heroes in the series. This makes the series better read in order. I began the series by reading book 5 and while I quickly understood what was going on, it is better reading from the beginning.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.



Review: A Touch of Passion

Review: A Touch of PassionA Touch of Passion (The Disgraced Lords, #3) by Bronwen Evans
Series: The Disgraced Lords #3
Published by Loveswept on March 24th 2015
Genres: Historical

FINAL DECISION: This book had a great premise, but I thought that it eliminated what would have been the most adventurous and exciting parts for a more pedestrian story. It was okay, but I wish we got to see more of the adventure.

THE STORY: Lady Portia Flagstaff is kidnapped and sent to a harem by the enemy of her brother and the man she has loved for years, Grayson Devlin, Viscount Blackwood. Grayson comes to rescue her. But Portia is ruined and Grayson is determined to keep his promise to Portia’s deceased brother by protecting her and thus marrying her. Portia, on the other hand, has no intention on being married to a man who doesn’t love her — even if he is her dream.

OPINION: The description of this book was more exciting than the actual book itself. I read the preview and it was amazing. The scene in the book where Grayson comes to save Portia from the harem is tense and filled with emotion.

Unfortunately, the book itself was not as well developed. Most of the book turns into one endless argument — Grayson is falling for Portia but fears love and loss. After the two talk this same thing out a dozen times, I just wanted to start skipping to where something new happens in the book.

While the story was perfectly good, I think my disappointment that the book didn’t live up to the description colored my experience. I just didn’t get the sex and tension between the couple that I wanted.

On the positive side, I enjoyed the continuing mystery in the series and Portia is certainly a heroine who isn’t going to be pushed around. I also enjoyed the interaction between the characters in the series. Their relationships are definitely a highlight of the book.

Finally, I really did enjoy the relationship between Portia and Grayson once he stopped being stupid.

WORTH MENTIONING: I liked that Portia is physical and strong and willing to be independent.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A TOUCH OF PASSION is the third book in the Disgraced Lords series. While this book has a self-contained romance, there is an overarching storyline regarding a villain who is trying to destroy the heroes of the series. I recommend reading the books in order to better experience the overarching mystery.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.



Review: A Promise of More

Review: A Promise of MoreA Promise of More (The Disgraced Lords, #2) by Bronwen Evans
Series: The Disgraced Lords #2
Published by Loveswept on April 15th 2014
Genres: Historical

FINAL DECISION: My favorite of the series. I loved the couple and how the story played out. It was a good combination of the personal drama between the Beatrice and Sebastian and the overarching storyline.

THE STORY: After a duel where Sebastian Hawkestone, Marquis Coldhurst, kills her brother, Beatrice Hennessey and her family are in desperate straights. She comes to the docks to meet his ship with a proposition but instead she ends up being rescued from the Thames. She is rescued by Sebastian both from the Thames and from impending poverty. The two marry but Sebastian is determined that Beatrice will be perfect for the marriage of convenience he has planned after seeing his parents destroyed by the obsessive love for one another. At the same time, Sebastian is the focus of the enemy of the Libertine Scholars who is out to ruin and perhaps kill the men.

OPINION: This book is my favorite of the series. I enjoyed the interaction between Beatrice and Sebastian which begins as a spinster and rake story but has some interesting twists.

I liked the characters and this book is better developed than the first in the series (perhaps because everyone is introduced now). Beatrice is a woman who decides to sacrifice herself for the good of her family. (One negative is that we really don’t see her family so it is hard to put her sacrifice into context). She has been the responsible one in her family which has destroyed her marriage prospects because she has been given the nickname Henpeck Hennessey because she tried to turn her brother away from the vices in order to help their financial situation. Now Beatrice is stuck with the nickname, seasons without a match and no dowry. She is willing to do the only thing reasonable to her…convince her brother’s killer to marry her and save her family and sacrifice her dreams of love. I really liked how Beatrice is determined to make the best of her life and ultimately won’t sacrifice her dreams of more than a marriage of convenience with Sebastian.

Sebastian is a worthy hero. Although he is a rake and determined to live a life without the love that destroyed his parents, Sebastian is a good man. He cares for his sisters and is determined to right the damage done to Beatrice’s family — even if that means marrying her.

Watching Sebastian fall under Beatrice’s determined spell was fun to watch. As he finds the truth that love is not something that hurts, he and Beatrice build a relationship with one another.

I enjoyed the plot and drama in this one very much. A negative of the story is that, for me, Beatrice too quickly turns to her project of making Sebastian love her. Happened a little too quickly for my tastes.

WORTH MENTIONING: Spoiler but warning:  Some readers might be offended by Sebastian contemplating adultery and even engaging in some sexual situations with other women (although he ultimately rejects the women). I didn’t think it was serious but I know some readers don’t like sexual situations after the couple are together.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A PROMISE OF MORE is the second book in the Disgraced Lords series. This book has a continuing storyline that weaves the books together although each couple has its own book. While this book summarizes the events in the first book, I think this series is better read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: A Kiss of Lies

Review: A Kiss of LiesA Kiss of Lies (The Disgraced Lords, #1) by Bronwen Evans
Series: The Disgraced Lords #1
Published by Loveswept on January 14th 2014
Genres: Historical
Pages: 320

FINAL DECISION: Intriguing premise and I liked the characters, but I thought the execution of the story was uneven. Parts of the story did not hold my interest and the romance was resolved too quickly with only external things keeping them apart.

THE STORY: Christian Trent, Earl of Markham, is determined to return to England after having been shanghaied to Canada by a duke who accused Christian of raping his daughter. Christian will return to England and repair his name. While in Canada he acquired a ward after the death of the family that took him in. So Christian needs a governess to accompany them back to England. Sarah Cooper, a widow, is desperate to get the job as she runs from the darkness of her past. She once saw Christian when she was a young girl and had a crush on him. But Christian doesn’t know who she is, which is good because she is disguising herself — she is actually the daughter of a duke.

OPINION: I liked this book, but it has its weaknesses.

The positives: I liked Christian and Sarah as a couple. The story is very sexy and hot. I also enjoyed the premise of the story and the beginnings of the overarching storyline of the series. The other characters also make appearances here and I liked seeing how everything began.

The weaknesses: Too much needs to be explained in the beginning as everything is set up for the series. Too many new characters and stories mean that the momentum of the main storyline is stopped quite a bit. I also didn’t always enjoy the resolution of the problems that Sarah and Christian have. Sometimes things were too neat and quickly fixed for what should be extended and dramatic.

Overall, I liked this book knowing that there are other stories coming that I liked better. This book acts as a setup.

WORTH MENTIONING: This series has a continuing overarching storyline even as each book follows a different couple. The series is really meant to be read together in order. (I actually read the last books first and I think it would have been better to read in order).

CONNECTED BOOKS: A KISS OF LIES is the first book in the Disgraced Lords series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.


Review: A Love to Remember

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: A Love to RememberA Love to Remember (The Disgraced Lords, #7) by Bronwen Evans
Series: The Disgraced Lords #7
Published by Loveswept on August 29th 2017
Genres: Historical

FINAL DECISION: The tale of longtime lovers who have reached a turning point in their relationship, this novella is very sexy. I enjoyed the connection between Rose and Philip but was a bit annoyed with Philip’s motivations.

THE STORY: For Rose Deverill, Duchess of Roxborough, one marriage was more than enough. She never intends on marrying again and indeed she is enjoying her widowhood so much that she is known as the “Wicked Widow”. She is satisfied with her lovers and raising her young son, but her relationship with Philip Flagstaff, Earl of Cumberland, is challenging her intentions. The two have been lovers for several years and recently, Rose’s thoughts have turned toward the possibility of a future with Philip — perhaps even marriage. But Philip is also against the idea of marriage. Having gained the title after his older brother sacrificed his own life for Philip’s, Philip is wracked with guilt and intends on making sure the title eventually goes to someone more worthy than he. So he intends never to marry or have children. When threats arise toward Rose and her son, Philip has to decide what Rose means to him.

OPINION: For me, one of the highlights of this book is how Rose accepts and relishes her own sexual nature. She regrets her past only because she fears that Philips doesn’t want to marry her because of it. But she truly doesn’t regret her lovers or her past. She enjoys sex and recognizes that she is not willing to live a celibate life even if Philip cannot be part of her future. In a genre filled with wide-eyed virgins, this fully realized woman was a definite positive.

Indeed, Philip’s own response to Rose’s past was also welcome. He has some jealous moments, but doesn’t judge Rose for her past lovers. His acceptance of her on all levels is one thing that makes him special. Even if he is annoyingly guilt ridden and thus making stupid irrational decisions.

I liked that Rose and Philip are longtime lovers by the time this book really starts. This isn’t a relationship often depicted in historical romances. What the story shows is that a story can start mid-relationship and still have something to show about how their relationship progresses and changes.

I enjoyed this book even though Philip’s determination to reject happiness annoyed me for quite a while in this book.

WORTH MENTIONING: Which looked to be an ending to the series is not. There are more Disgraced Lords books coming.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A LOVE TO REMEMBER is the seventh book in the Disgraced Lords series. This novella can be read on its own. I have read some, but not all of the previous books in the series, and while this book does have references to other characters, the romance is self-contained (but fans of the series will get some treats).

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

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


Review: A Night of Forever

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: A Night of ForeverA Night of Forever (The Disgraced Lords, #6) by Bronwen Evans
Series: The Disgraced Lords #6
Published by Loveswept on October 25th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 240

FINAL DECISION:  An enjoyable end to the drama of the Disgraced Lords series, the romance between Arend and Isobel has much angst and distrust on Arend’s part.  Isobel must get beyond the shields that Arend has erected while an enemy intends to destroy them both.

THE STORY:  Arend Aubury will do anything to protect the only people he trusts, his fellow Libertine Scholars.  After all his friends have suffered from the person who is trying to destroy them all, Arend knows that he is next and he is ready.  He suspects the stepdaughter of their enemy, Lady Isobel Thompson and intends on keeping a close eye on her.  When Isobel approaches him with her own suspicions about her stepmother, Arend agrees to work with Isobel — while secretly suspecting her.  Isobel wants a marriage like her friends, but can’t seem to ignore the dangerous Arend.  A fake betrothal hides their investigation but also ignites a strong passion between Isobel and Arend while they question motives and evade their enemies.

OPINION:  This book brings the series story regarding the Libertine Scholars enemy to a close. This book overlaps the fifth book in the series, A TASTE OF SEDUCTION. I enjoyed this book because Arend and Isobel are an intriguing match with a significant amount of angst.

Arend is a man who thinks himself unworthy.  He has lived in poverty, been abused, betrayed and as a result has a difficult time trusting anyone.  Even his attraction to Isobel is something that he distrusts.  At the same time, Arend is loyal, caring and willing to sacrifice himself for those he cares about.  His guilt and shame and fear prevent him from having an open relationship, but he cannot seem to resist Isobel.

Isobel is a woman who has been tainted by her stepmother’s evil, but still sees the good in people, especially Arend.  Even as Isobel is warned away from him, she finds him irresistible. Isobel is strong willed and willing to go after what she wants.  She can also stand up to Arend which is important.  Most significantly, she believes in Arend’s goodness and is determined to make him see it as well.

I liked the relationship between Arend and Isobel because many times Isobel is the strong one if the relationship which is a reversal from traditional roles.  Arend has the poor self-image and abusive background and it is Isobel who must help him accept himself and believe that he is entitled to a good future.

I enjoyed this book as a closure to the series (even though there will be some spin off books).  I thought that there was enough about the other characters to see where their lives are going without overwhelming the story and the overarching storyline was neatly wrapped up as well.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Although this book completes the continuing story in the Disgraced Lords series, Evans states that there will be some future connected books wrapping up the romances of other characters in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  A NIGHT OF FOREVER is the sixth book in the Disgraced Lords series.  The romance can be read as a standalone although there is an overarching story in the series that finishes in this book.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.


Review: A Taste of Seduction

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: A Taste of SeductionA Taste of Seduction (The Disgraced Lords, #5) by Bronwen Evans
Series: The Disgraced Lords #5
Published by Loveswept on August 16th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 283

“Your leaving broke my heart, and it’s been broken ever since.”

FINAL DECISION:  This book was a difficult one for me to rate.  While I liked parts of it and was deeply engaged, at times I was frustrated by the repeated dramas and the necessity of knowing what has happened in prior books.

THE STORY: Lord Hadley Fullerton, the second son of a duke, had his heart crushed five years ago when the woman he loved, Evangeline Althorpe abandoned him to marry for a title and money.  Now when Hadley is on the verge of entering his own marriage, Evangeline has returned.  Now a widow, Evangeline insists that she never left Hadley willingly.  Hadley doesn’t know what to believe but he knows that he is in danger from the enemy who has been after him and his friends.  Danger and secrets abound in this story as Hadley and his friends try to unmask their enemy and Hadley tries to determine the truth of what happened five years ago.

OPINION:  This book was a mixed bag for me.  I enjoy angst filled stories and this one has great possibilities.  Hadley and Evangeline have such a sad story.  Even when this story is resolved, there is still some sadness because not everything can be fixed.  I didn’t mind this.

The problem is that this book desperately needs a view in the future where readers can be assured that everything is wonderful in the end.  Otherwise, there is a lingering sadness that makes the happy ending somewhat tainted.  Such an epilogue, however, is impossible with the way this book and series is structured.  There is an ongoing storyline about the enemy of the men. This book ends on a cliffhanger as to that story.  Therefore, none of the stories in this series are truly resolved yet.  My hope is that the final book of the series will resolve all the lingering issues, but that doesn’t help a reader that starts and ends with this book.

I don’t mind a series where there is a continuing storyline that requires the reading of prior books.  In fact, I enjoyed this book enough to want to read the prior books in the series and continue on to the next book.  For a reader, however, who starts here, there will be some things that are missing or don’t make sense immediately.

I enjoyed the relationship between Hadley and Evangeline.  Because there is no real internal conflict between the characters (they loved one another as the book begins and it never ends), there is a lot of external conflict.  In order to keep them apart, problem after problem arises.  There were just too many things for me.  Rather than so many issues, I would prefer that the conflicts be fewer and deeper.  I eventually got tired of Hadley and Evangeline not talking to one another for artificial reasons.  After a misunderstanding pulls them apart, I would expect that these two would highly desire complete openness between them.  Instead, they continue to act independently causing more problems.

So why did I give the book such a good rating?  The book has a fascinating story with strong characters. I liked them and wanted to read more.  The impulse I had to want to start again from the beginning of the series demonstrates that this book is worth reading.  I would just recommend starting the series from the beginning.  Once I have read this book again in context, my opinion overall might change.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book ends on a cliffhanger as to the ongoing storyline and sets up the next book.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  A TASTE OF SEDUCTION is book 5 in the Disgraced Lords series.  I have not read the other books in the series and while I figured most of the ongoing story out, I believe this book would be better after reading the other books in the series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3 stars.