Review: A Treacherous Curse

Review: A Treacherous CurseA Treacherous Curse (Veronica Speedwell, #3) by Deanna Raybourn
Series: Veronica Speedwell #3
Published by Berkley on January 16th 2018
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 352
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Very enjoyable entry into the series. The highlights were the Egyptology aspects and the reveal about Stoker’s past. The characters are further developed and their relationship moves forward in small but significant ways.

THE STORY: The utterly unique Veronica Speedwell and Stoker, her partner in museum organization and crime solving, become entwined in the disappearance of Stoker’s former expedition partner and ex-friend. He also happens to be the man who married Stoker’s ex-wife. The man disappeared under suspicious circumstances along with a priceless artifact from an Egyptian expedition but Stoker is a prime suspect. Ancient curses and appearances of the Egyptian god Anubis abound as Veronica and Stoker attempt to locate his ex-partner and clear Stoker’s reputation.

OPINION: Historical mystery and romance, this book continues the series of crimes that butterfly collector Veronica and naturalist Stoker get involved in solving. Here there is a personal aspect as Stoker might become the prime suspect if the disappearance is not solved.

Once again the highlight of this book is the interaction between Veronica and Stoker. While the two are not engaged in a romance in the traditional sense, they are certainly involved in a relationship — it’s just the seriously slow burn type. As the two investigate, the truth about Stoker’s relationship with his ex-wife is revealed.

This series is a fun read as Veronica and Stoker make an unusual couple with lots of witty repartee between them. These are unusual people who obviously fit so well together even as they argue and fight and at times hurt one another. While the series is content with the intensely slow burn of their romance, there is no reason to rush along as these two people develop a partnership, a friendship and a even a “romance” unlike any other they have experienced.

The mystery in this book was intriguing as the story exposes the Egyptian craze of the Victorian era. There are plenty of suspects and motivations for the disappearance and the solution (while not one that is “solvable” by the reader) works as a dramatic story.

I enjoyed this book because of its unique characters and voice. What keeps me coming back to this series, however, is the promise of the relationship between Veronica and Stoker.  And on that this book did not disappoint.

WORTH MENTIONING: Veronica and Stoker are such an amusing pair.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A TREACHEROUS CURSE is the third book in the Veronica Speedwell series. The book has a self-contained mystery and could be read on its own for that reason. However, a big part of the attraction of this series to me is the relationship between Veronica and Stoker and for that reason I recommend reading the books in order as their relationship develops.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: The Duke of Nothing

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: 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: A Perilous Undertaking

Review: A Perilous UndertakingA Perilous Undertaking (Veronica Speedwell, #2) by Deanna Raybourn
Series: Veronica Speedwell #2
Published by Berkley Books on January 10th 2017
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 338
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Very strong followup to the first book in the series. The integration of the personal relationship and the mystery is better done here and the emotional intensity of the characters’ story is a highlight.

THE STORY: Veronica is asked to prove the innocence of an art patron who is set to hang for the murder of his mistress. But there are a lot of secrets involved in this case. From the identity of the person asking for Veronica’s help to hidden reasons why the condemned won’t defend himself, Veronica and her partner Stoker are steeped in secrets as they race to find the real killer.

OPINION: After the first book in the series, this one feels like it has hit a groove. The combination of the mystery and the relationship between Veronica and Stoker is well balanced and compelling all the way through.

Readers of the first book will recall that Veronica is an independent woman ahead of her time. She is opinionated, has made a career for herself, unapologetically takes foreign lovers, and is sarcastic and at times caustic in her tone. She is also clever and observant and a scientist. Even as Veronica remains true to her character, there is clearly a connection between her and Stoker. And I love the relationship between her and Stoker. There is simmering passion, but also real respect and annoyance with one another that is not based on passion at all.

Here, more is revealed about Stoker’s relationship with his family and Veronica continues to deal with the fallout of her family connection revealed in A CURIOUS BEGINNING. I liked that the mystery was developed throughout the book and at the same time the characters remain the focus of the book.

This book reminds me of the some of the best slow simmering man/woman mystery couples. There is an attraction but also verbal jousting and respect and at times bubbling resentment. These two are not going to quickly indulge in some quick passion because what is between them is too dangerous to treat lightly.

This book is funny and quite enjoyable. I can’t wait for the next in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: Opium indulgence results in some interesting advancements.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A PERILOUS UNDERTAKING is the second book in the Veronica Speedwell series. The mystery in this book is completely self-contained and thus the book can be read as a standalone. However, I recommend reading the series in order for the continuing personal storylines.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: A Curious Beginning

Review: A Curious BeginningA Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell, #1) by Deanna Raybourn
Series: Veronica Speedwell #1
Published by Berkley Books on July 12th 2016
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 368
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: A mystery where most of the book it taken up with the developing relationship between Veronica and Stoker. There is no overt romance at this point, but it seems likely that these two who develop a investigative partnership might have some slow burn romance in the future.

THE STORY: Veronica Speedwell is on her own after the death of her aunt. She is now free to pursue her interests out of the country. Veronica is a butterfly hunter and a woman with the taste for foreign affairs (with men). Just at that moment, a man breaks into her cottage and she ends up traveling to London with a German baron who claims that he is going to protect her by delivering her into the hands of his friend Stoker. Stoker is also a natural historian and has many secrets. When the German baron is killed Veronica and Stoker are forced to solve the murder before Stoker is arrested as the prime suspect.

OPINION: The highlight of this book is without a doubt the characters of Veronica and Stoker and their burgeoning relationship. The two are both misfits in the world and thus have a commonality that is interesting.

Veronica is an independent and forward thinking woman in a time where women’s roles are beginning to change but still constrained by convention. Veronica is opinionated and outspoken. She believes in free love. She believes in women’s education and self determination. She isn’t ashamed by any of her oddities.

Stoker is a haunted man. We learn some of his history here and despite his attempts, he is fascinated and frustrated by Veronica. He is a grumpy scientist and adventurer who has been broken and this adventure begins a sort of healing for him.

The tension and sexual interest between these two is high in this book, but the story is satisfied with the slow burn and getting to know one another. For these characters, that is perfect and demonstrates that this relationship (whether it is sexual or not) is going to be important to both of them. Neither fits in the box that they expect.

For me, the mystery was satisfying, but secondary to the introduction of these characters and the development of their partnership. I did expect some of the mystery surprises, but I thought that the entire book was well done. I don’t want to give away spoilers so I will leave the mystery at that.

WORTH MENTIONING: Interested in running away to the circus?

CONNECTED BOOKS: A CURIOUS BEGINNING is the first book in the Veronica Speedwell series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Death Below Stairs

Review: Death Below StairsDeath Below Stairs (Kat Holloway Mysteries, #1) by Jennifer Ashley
Series: Kat Holloway Murders #1
Published by Berkley Books on January 2nd 2018
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 336
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: A lively main character combined with a far reaching mystery and the presence of a man with many secrets makes this Victorian historical mystery an enjoyable read.

THE STORY: Cook Kat Holloway has found herself a new position which almost immediately embroils her in the murder of one of the servants. Determined to discover who has murdered the young girl, Kat asks for help from her friend/acquaintance Daniel McAdams, a man with a lot of secrets. Kat and Daniel’s search takes them far from the murder of an Irish servant to the possibility of treason.

OPINION: I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I began reading mysteries and I always liked the ones with relationships between the “detectives” and this book fits right in that tradition. While the mystery is interesting and keeps the pace of the story lively, what I really love about this book is the strength and independence of Kat and her relationship with the mysterious Daniel.

Kat is strong and lively and I loved reading about her struggles. Unlike most women in historical novels, Kat works hard every day and has a career that she has created for herself. It is interesting to read about her daily life and the status differences “below stairs”. The struggles and limitations on women of all status is emphasized here.

Daniel’s character is also intriguing as he has plenty of secrets that are slowly revealed — although not all of them are uncovered in this book. He is a good match for Kat and his obvious caring and concern for her even while they are friends makes their romance a slow burn but an interesting one.

The cast of characters, which includes the offspring of both Kat and Daniel, are tossed into a high stakes mystery. Like all good murder suspense stories, this one begins with what seems to be an insignificant death and eventually turns into quite a big deal through a series of twisty plot turns.

I enjoyed the mystery as well as the romance in this one. Everything meshed so well so that all the interesting characters were given something important to do in the unfolding plot, but no one seemed out of place. I enjoyed this one and would read it again to see all the little turns that I missed.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a continuing series where the romance between Kat and Daniel is slow moving and part of the continuing storylines of the series with a book emphasis on a particular mystery.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DEATH BELOW STAIRS is the first novel in the Kat Holloway Murders series. There is a prequel book that introduces the characters. While it is not necessary to read that novella first, it certainly provides some background to the characters here.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via First to Read by applying points that I earned. 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: Firelight

Review: FirelightFirelight (Darkest London, #1) by Kristen Callihan
Series: Darkest London #1
Published by Forever on January 31st 2012
Genres: Historical, Paranormal
Pages: 372
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A book that starts out as a historical romance with a twist that turns into something more. The book is a bit disjointed in tone because it doesn’t fully commit to its paranormal elements, but the romance is wonderful.

THE STORY: Miranda Ellis is forced by her father to wed the mysterious masked Lord Archer. Miranda’s own guilt about her role in the ruin of her family has kept her tethered to her corrupt father. When she meets Lord Archer, there is something between them that makes her agree to go forward with the marriage. While Miranda gets to know her mysterious husband, someone is haunting London killing people and it appears that Lord Archer is the primary suspect.

OPINION: This book is a cross genre story that combines a typical historical romance with mystery and paranormal elements.

The historical romance is quite wonderful. Archer especially is a sweet man with a lot of secrets. I loved that he doesn’t judge Miranda for her secrets and only wants her. What I didn’t like was that he keeps so many secrets, but I admire Miranda’s agency in being determined to uncover Archer’s secrets. (And because Archer keeps her in the dark, some of these attempts are dangerous).

The mystery elements of this story were pretty interesting and there are plenty of clues throughout the book as to what the big secrets are. But the secrets are unconventional and thus while the book has a mystery vibe, it isn’t a Sherlock Holmes type mystery to be solved.

The paranormal elements of the book are slowly revealed as the book progresses. Indeed, the book has a world building part to it as the rules of the paranormal world are slowly revealed. The weakness of this book is that the elements do not smoothly mix with the historical romance elements. The big reveal of what seems like a historical romance with some small paranormal parts turns into a paranormal book set in historical times and that doesn’t become obvious until the last 50 pages or so. Thus, the combination felt a bit clunky to me even as I enjoyed the story.

I suspect, however, that having made the big reveal of the paranormal world in this book, there will be more fluidity in the other books in the series because there is nothing to hide.

WORTH MENTIONING: FIRELIGHT has a sexy Beauty and the Beast feel to it with suppressed passion and desire.

CONNECTED BOOKS: FIRELIGHT is the first book in the Darkest London series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: When the Marquess Falls

Review: When the Marquess FallsWhen the Marquess Falls (Hellions of Havisham, #3.5) by Lorraine Heath
Series: The Hellions of Havisham #3.5
Published by Avon Impulse on March 14th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 128
Goodreads
four-stars

This review contains a serious spoiler if you haven’t read the other books in the series.

FINAL DECISION: Know the secret of this book, grieve with every word, and read it anyway.

THE STORY: George, the Marquess of Marsden has been friends with the baker’s daughter, Linnie Connor, since they were children. Although he knows he loves her, George knows that there cannot be any future between them because of the difference in their stations. With their friendship on a deadline (Linnie plans to move to London to open her own shop and George knows he must marry) the two cannot stop the deep and forbidden passion that flares between them.

OPINION: I have had this book for months and just couldn’t bring myself to read it. This book has a horrible middle that readers of the series will know about — the heroine dies young in childbirth. Yet, it is a beautiful romance even if it doesn’t fit the standard confines of the genre.

The story between George and Linnie is more beautiful knowing that it is both such a short story and a long romance. While this won’t be a book that I will pick up again and again to read, I greatly admire Heath for writing this book. Most writers would have left readers with — the romance is not a HEA and thus there is nothing more to write. Heath instead rises to the challenge and gives readers a book that has a happy ever even if it is not in this life.

WORTH MENTIONING: I cried and cried and cried.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WHEN THE MARQUESS FALLS is book 3.5 in the Hellions of Havisham series. In some ways it is both a prequel and a sequel for the series. I think this book is better read after the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: The Heiress’s Deception

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: The Heiress’s DeceptionThe Heiress's Deception (Sinful Brides, #4) by Christi Caldwell
Series: Sinful Brides #4
Published by Montlake on December 12th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 284
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: The story of two kids (a duke’s daughter and a pickpocket) who find one another as adults. The characters sometimes prickly relationship is a highlight here.

THE STORY: Eve Pruitt is on the run from her older brother who has squandered his fortune and wants to force her to marry in order to control her dowry. She manages to get a position as the bookkeeper for the Hell and Sin Club. There she encounters Calum Dabney who is running the club. Eve realizes that Calum is the boy that she met and cared for years ago. Eve believed that Calum has been hanged and Calum believes that Eve betrayed him. Calum does not recognize Eve (who was herself but a child when they last met) but there is something about the desperate but stubborn woman that attracts him.

OPINION: I liked the characters in this one (perhaps my favorite ones of the series) because they are both good people just trying their best. There is less anger and darkness in these characters.

Calum, although he has a tragic history as well on the streets, knows what being part of a family is like and has a tremendous amount of compassion for others. I liked knowing his background and seeing how he managed to make himself. I also loved what he is willing to risk for love. This book clearly shows the difference that knowing about love allows one to see in others. He also doesn’t ask completely as a jerk as some heroes who are in his shoes might.

Eve is a woman who was raised with every material advantage and yet experienced her own type of hellish childhood. She has managed to make a life for herself in small ways, and she has also managed to help people.

The story is intensely focused on a few weeks when these two encounter one another again. I liked the childhood friends who become adult loves and also the cross-class story. (Although why everyone in this series has to get associated with dukes is beyond me).

WORTH MENTIONING: Although this is the last book in the series, readers need not fear that the last “brother” of the Hell and Sin Club will not get his story. His book starts out the next series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE HEIRESS’S DECEPTION is the fourth book in the Sinful Brides series. While there are overlapping characters, this book is complete unto itself and can be read as a standalone.

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: Once Upon a Christmas Eve

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: Once Upon a Christmas EveOnce Upon a Christmas Eve (Maiden Lane, #12.6) by Elizabeth Hoyt
Series: Maiden Lane #12.6
Published by Forever Yours on December 5th 2017
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“Sarah St. John should have been utterly forgettable. He’d met the lady only once, and that fleetingly.

Yet he remembered her for two reasons.

The first was that Miss St. John had made it plain she hated him on sight — an occurrence unique in Adam’s experience.

The second was that on that occasion he’d found himself immediately and overwhelmingly attracted to Miss St. John.”

FINAL DECISION: A much anticipated story since the two met in LORD OF DARKNESS, I loved finally reading their tale. The novella is short, but the action works so well between these two that the story left me smiling.

THE STORY: Adam Rutledge, Viscount d’Arque doesn’t like Christmas but he does love his grandmother so he does his duty escorting her to the holiday festivities. An accident strands them at the St. John house where he meets Sarah St. John again. Sarah hates rakes and she is not afraid to let Adam know it. As the two are forced into close proximity, the simmering attraction between them combusts.

OPINION: Readers of the series may recall that Adam and Sarah had a confrontation in LORD OF DARKNESS. Ever since, many fans of the series have wanted these two together. In a final gift to fans, Hoyt gives these two secondary characters their own happy ending.

Adam is such a sweetheart. Although he is a rake, he is always seen as having a heart because of his love for his grandmother. We get to see more of his history here in this novella and it doesn’t disappoint. He is sexy and rakish, but he is also a good person who respects women. (Thankfully all his behavior and history fits nicely with his character as he has appeared through the series).

Sarah is smart and witty and certainly can compete with Adam on all levels. She also hides some hurt in her past that challenges the relationship between her and Adam. This Christmas is set up as an opportunity for her to find a husband, but the only man she had eyes for is Adam.

I love that these two exchange so many cutting snarky comments. There is something entirely comforting about how these two interact on an intellectual level. I loved how their talk contrasts with their essential goodness. These two are both nice people on the fundamental level and their interactions allow them the opportunity to see that in one another and find a way to trust one another.

This is a sexy story, but limited by its length. I loved all the glimpses of other characters and also how the promise of these two that appeared in LORD OF DARKNESS is fulfilled here.

While I was a little sad that there weren’t more appearances by characters in the series, I was so happy that this well done little story was written. A warm little Christmas story that left me with a warm feeling in my heart and a smile.

WORTH MENTIONING: Readers get to see the St. John family.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ONCE UPON A MAIDEN LANE is the 12.6 and final installment of the Maiden Lane series. This novella has the romance of two secondary characters from the series. It is not necessary to read the other books to enjoy this one, but this novella is a treat for those who followed the series and wondered about these two.

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

four-half-stars

Review: A Matter of Class

Review: A Matter of ClassA Matter of Class by Mary Balogh
Published by Carroll & Graf on December 7th 2010
Genres: Historical
Pages: 186
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: Don’t read spoilers for this book. Yes, there is a gimmick to it, but it is a successful one and I enjoyed the stories of this arranged marriage very much.

THE STORY: Raised and educated to be a gentleman by his rich coal mining father, Reginald Mason has become accustomed to gambling and overspending as many of the ton do. His father decides to settle him with a marriage. When the opportunity arises for social advancement by contracting a marriage with a ruined aristocratic daughter, Reggie concedes to his father’s demands. Annabelle Ashton ran off with a servant and now must marry. When her father arranges the marriage with the son of his longtime enemy, Annabelle has no choice but agree.

OPINION: This is a book where the less said about its content the better. The story is unique and very unexpected. There are lots of surprises and secrets in this book. A reader who is willing to take an adventure of a well constructed story will appreciate this book.

Reading the spoilers will diminish the power of this book. The book isn’t long and doesn’t ask for a big commitment, but it is certainly memorable.

I enjoyed the interaction between Reggie and Annabelle. The banter and interaction between them makes this book a wonderful reading experience.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a shorter novel which works well with the story.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A MATTER OF CLASS is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars