Review: A Scandalous Vow

Review: A Scandalous VowA Scandalous Vow by Ava Stone
Series: Scandalous Series #7
Published by Ava Stone on July 18th 2017
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  I loved this book because these characters were so mature in their relationship which was based on intelligence and genuine liking for one another. While the two have a stormy past, their relationship was an intelligent pairing of people who talk to one another.

THE STORY:  Marcus Gray, Marquess of Haversham, has been in love with Lady Caroline Staveley for years.  For most of those years, however, she was married.  Now a widow, Caroline spends her time raising her children.  When Marcus discovers that Caroline has become the focus of an inquiry by the Home Office to find a code book being deciphered by her deceased husband, Marcus springs into action to find the book and protect Caroline. His search, however, brings Marcus into repeated contact with Caroline as the two discover the passion that is allowed for the first time.  At the same time danger surrounds the couple as various interests search for the code book.

OPINION:  I loved this book because of the heart involved.  The torch that Marcus has carried for Caroline feels like it has been a force for good.  It has made him a better person as he knows that he can never have Caroline but has concentrated on being her friend.  (As an aside, the two have a somewhat rocky history when Marcus kissed her once, but not having read most of the prior books in the series, I only am reviewing what I read in this book).

Caroline is a mature woman who has been married for half her life.  The mother of three, she had a very good marriage (what a relief from the “horrible first husband” stories that are so common).  I loved watching her balance her personal desires and her need to be a good parent to her children.  With four children between them, the kids are not just props but an important part of the relationship between Marcus and Caroline.

Marcus is a man with a dangerous past that costs him his relationships with those he loves. I really felt that Caroline freed Marcus from a past that trapped him from truly being the good man he is.  Always pretending to be worse than he is, having to deny those he loves. My heart hurt for him. His willingness to do anything for Caroline and his insistence to her daughter that he will not lie to Caroline was mature and I ended up liking him so much.

While this book has some action with spies and danger and thieves, what I loved most about this book was its quiet mature heart that is the love shared between Marcus and Caroline.  This book really made me buy the rest of the series.

WORTH MENTIONING:  I’m now waiting impatiently for Rachel and the Covent Guard!

CONNECTED BOOKS:  A SCANDALOUS VOW is the seventh book in the Scandalous Series.  There are many appearances by characters from the series and while this book is understandable without knowing about the prior books, it was difficult for me to sort out everyone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC from the author in order to write a review.  I was not required to write a review or a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-half-stars

Review: Beautiful Tempest

Review: Beautiful TempestBeautiful Tempest (Malory-Anderson Family, #12) by Johanna Lindsey
Series: Malory Family #12
Published by Gallery Books on July 11th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  I completely satisfying book that I approached with trepidation.  I love, love, love the book about Jack’s father and I feared that this book wouldn’t live up to my expectations.  Instead, this book went in a different direction than I expected, but I loved these characters and their adventurous romance.

THE STORY:  Jacqueline Malory is the darling daughter of James Malory.  When Jack returns from escaping her kidnapper, James and his family are determined to take care of their enemy and sail for the West Indies to confront an old enemy.  Jack is angry that her father has left her in London while he confronts the man that kidnapped her. When a mysterious man approaches her at a masquerade ball, she is intrigued but realizes that he might actually be her kidnapper.  Instead of capturing him, Jack once again ends up in his clutches at sea.  But this time, things are different between them.

OPINION:  This is a book that I approached with trepidation.  GENTLE ROGUE (the story of Jack’s parents) is my all time favorite romance book.  Whenever an author extends the story of characters there is always the possibility of a letdown.  My concerns: Will Jack’s book be as compelling as her parents? How will the characters of James and George be presented? Will this book diminish my enjoyment of the original?  I’m glad to report that I was completely satisfied by this book.  As good as James and George’s book? No, but this book is filled with adventure and strong active characters — including Jack who seizes her own destiny.

Johanna has been writing for a long time (and I’ve been reading her for most of that time!).  Her books began in the time of bodice rippers and I found this book to be an interesting flip of many of those books.  Scenario:  heroine kidnapped and taken on the high seas as part of revenge against her father, hero is attracted to her and she is reluctantly attracted to him. The book also contains threats of rape, adventure and exotic locations.  In a prior book, the heroine would be a woman to which the action happens.  But those heroines of the past are not Jack Malory.

Jack is a woman who takes the reigns of her sexuality. She is determined, and takes all the autonomy that her brother does.  While she has a different sensibility, she refuses to be shamed or deterred by her male family members.  Ultimately, she navigates respect and care for her father and brother with her own self-determination. I really liked her own sense of self and her active nature.  Even as the times and protective nature of her male relatives dictate that she should be submissive, she (and the women of her family) are strong and independent.

Lindsey knows these characters so well and it was a joy to get an update on Malory family which contains a very colorful collection of characters that has engaged me since I was a teenager.  These characters are larger than life. While the story doesn’t have emphasis on historical accuracy and detail, I have always enjoyed how Lindsey places her iconic characters in the tapestry of history without becoming overly engaged in that history.  (There are other authors who are masters of weaving their characters into time, but that is clearly not Lindsey’s goal).

The hero Damon is an interesting contrast to Jack.  He has murky motivations but as things become clearer, I loved him more — and so did Jack!  I thought he was an interesting match for Jack. Sweeter in many ways — although he is definitely not a beta hero.  I love these shipboard romances and this one has some twists that kept me reading quickly to find out how things were resolved.

I loved this book and think that anyone who follows the Malory series will be especially pleased with this entry.  Probably my third or fourth favorite in the series overall…which says a lot considering how much I love this series.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book brings up characters that are candidates for future books in the series.  One can hope!

CONNECTED BOOKS:  BEAUTIFUL TEMPEST is the twelfth book in the Malory Family series.  The book is a standalone, but is connected with its immediate predecessor STORMY PERSUASION and, of course, the heroine Jack is the daughter of James Malory from GENTLE ROGUE.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Sight Unseen

Review: Sight UnseenSight Unseen: A Collection of Five Anonymous Novellas by Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran, Erin Satie, Emma Barry, J.A. Rock
Published by Open Ink Press on June 6th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy, Historical
Pages: 386
Goodreads
four-stars

SIGHT UNSEEN is an anthology of five stories written by different authors.  Three months after the publication, the authors will be revealed.

LOST THAT FEELING:  Alma is being held in prison where she is told she is a thief and a murderer.  Having cast a spell on herself, Alma has lost her memories from the last seven  years.  When she is rescued by a man named Driss, he tells her he is a friend and that she is actually a hero helping to overthrow an oppressive leader. Alma, however, doesn’t know who to trust and also who she really is.  This story was a disappointment to me.  I really loved the setup and the relationship between Alma and Driss seemed to have much promise, but instead of focusing on the relationship, the story spends too much time on the reasons that Alma’s spell went wrong. I wish there was more relationship development.  Rating: 2 stars.

CLEAR VIEW OF YOU:  Kate was raised by her mother as a future witch, but Kate was a disappointment to her mother. As she grew, Kate realized that her mother was actually running a cult and that magic is fake.  Fleeing to the “real world” Kate finances her education by acting as a psychic.  When her new client, North, has a special request for Kate, she wonders if this is an offer of a lifetime or one too good to be true.  I really liked this story.  My complaint was that it was too short.  I would love to read more stories in this world with these characters.  For such a short story, there is a lot of development in the story with both discovery of self and also dramatic plot developments.  Fun and intriguing.  Rating: 4.5 stars.

FREE:  Brad White is in love with Wren Masters.  The complication is that Brad works for a criminal motorcycle club and Wren is the club’s president’s daughter.  When Wren discovers the truth about the club, she works with Brad to discover the truth about what is going on with her father’s club.  The truth may, however, threaten any future for Brad and Wren.  This story was uneven and parts of it were unsatisfying, but I loved Brad and his devotion to Wren even when she doesn’t respond to him.  There was something fresh and intriguing about the story even if it didn’t feel polished.  I wanted to know more about the future of these two.  Rating: 4 stars.

CHARIOT OF DESIRE:  CJ Crespo has always been interested in her bandmate Donny Times. After years of self-destructive behavior (it was the 1970s after all), Donny has joined a cultish religion which imposes a morality that threatens to tear the band and Donny and CJ apart.  This is more a vignette than a fully reconciled story.  I was unhappy because while the story tells something about these characters, it felt unfinished and I was left asking what would actually happen between these characters.  Rating: 2.5 stars.

THE HEART IS A UNIVERSE:  On the planet of Pax Cora a young woman is slated to be the sacrifice in order to save her planet.  Vitalis, however, has moved from acceptance of her fate to the decision to flee and save herself.  Her desperation leads her to accept an invitation to a courtship summit where she meets the heroic and handsome prince Eleian of Terra.  Immediately upon their meeting the stranger Eleian proposes marriage. What is unclear is what are Eleian’s motives in wanting to marry a woman who will die in sixteen days if she doesn’t escape.  Absolutely wonderful.  My favorite story in the anthology.  While all the threads didn’t come together for me in the end, I thought the journey and the relationship between these characters was compelling.  I couldn’t put it down and kept turning pages wanting to know what the secrets between these characters were, how the two would resolve the dilemmas facing them and just wanting to know what the end would be.  Rating: 4.5 stars.

four-stars

Review: The Day of the Duchess

Review: The Day of the DuchessThe Day of the Duchess (Scandal & Scoundrel, #3) by Sarah MacLean
Series: Scandal & Scoundrel #3
Published by Avon on June 27th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 400
Goodreads
five-stars

“I am Seraphina Bevingstone, Duchess of Haven. And I require a divorce.”

“The only woman he’d ever loved. The only woman he’d ever hated.”

FINAL DECISION:  Fabulous. The villain of the first book becomes a hero and the woman he wronged becomes a strong, independent woman who makes him pay for being an ass. The book just works on so many levels, but a reader has to be willing to give the jerk a chance.

THE STORY:  Seraphina and Malcolm Bevingstoke, the Duchess and Duke of Haven, have been apart for over three years.  Mal viciously sent Sera away when he discovered that she planned to have them found in a compromising situation in order to force their marriage.  Now Sera has returned demanding a divorce. Mal has promised her the divorce she wants if she helps him find her replacement.  The two are to spend the summer together, but Mal has no intention of finding a new wife when he has finally gotten the one he wants to return to him.

OPINION:  This is a powerful and angst filled book. There is no easy road for these characters who are complex and not always the easiest to cheer on.  This book is not for everyone.  Before this book even begins, readers of the series know that Haven has been unfaithful.  Caught in the act, he was pushed into a fish pond by his sister-in-law (kicking off the events in A ROGUE NOT TAKEN).  I will be honest with you friends.  There is no mistake, no wishy washy out, no hidden secret to take away that truth.  The hero of this book was unfaithful to the heroine after they had met, fallen in love and married. For some readers, that might be a deal breaker which turns them away from this book, but I hope not.  This book deserves a chance because the reality is rich and complex and the journey difficult and worthwhile.

The reality of what happened between Mal and Sera in the past is dark and nuanced and has an explanation.  Not an excuse, not a justification, but an explanation and an understanding.  There is no justification for Mal’s actions and, in truth, he doesn’t seem to want to justify his past actions.  The question this book is interested in is different.  Is there a way forward in a relationship where the foundation was intertwined with lies and deceit and betrayal?

The structure of this book interweaves the past and the present.  Beautifully conceived, the very structure and form serves to tell the entire story of Mal and Sera but also clearly demonstrates how the past haunts these characters.  Their obstacle is the past which is both horrible and beautiful in parts.

I find myself most satisfied by books that delve deeply into the emotional life of the characters and MacLean is a master of this type of story.  Can these characters understand and accept the past and move forward?  Is it even possible for forgive the past which will never be forgotten?  For that is at the heart of the conflict.  Sera and Mal will never be able to forget the past.  They can only accept is and decide if they love one another enough to be willing to build a future together.

This was a difficult book for me.  I finished it a week ago and knew that I would give it a 5 star review, but I didn’t know how to approach the review.  I needed to let the story and the characters settle with me.  I ultimately loved this book because the conflict these characters have is real and genuine and seemingly insurmountable.  But that is also its beauty.  They can move forward, they can love one another again in a better and more honest way. Perhaps that is what I most like about this book.  Flawed and damaged people also can find love and are entitled to their happy endings — even if they have done terrible things, even if they have made mistakes and are not perfect.

Isn’t that hope for all of us?

WORTH MENTIONING:  Spoiler! Spoiler! Content Warning!

There is a miscarriage depicted in this book for those who might be sensitive to the content.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE DAY OF THE DUCHESS is the third book in the Scandal & Scoundrel series.  While this story is independent of the others of the series, Mal and Sera’s story is part of both of the prior books in the series.  This book is just better if you have read the others (especially A ROGUE NOT TAKEN).

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Her Favorite Duke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

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

four-half-stars

Review: Wicked Surrender

Review: Wicked SurrenderWicked Surrender (Regency Sinners 2) by Carole Mortimer
Series: Regency Sinners #2
Published by Carole Mortimer on June 30th 2017
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Enjoyable and quick read. Very sexy historical that is a second chance at love as well.  This one has a lot of drama and tension as two people who have a history try to work through their past while the hero is trying to see if the heroine is a traitor.

THE STORY:  Dante St. Just, Duke of Huntley has the woman assigned for him to investigate…but he doesn’t want to.  Lady Isabella Aston is the step-daughter of his cousin and the two have a history.  When Bella was seventeen, she declared her love for Dante, who rejected her sending her into the arms of and marriage to another man.  Now a widow, Bella doesn’t anything to do with Dante…but he has never forgotten her.

OPINION: Light and enjoyable story…not funny or sweet, but the story is not taxing and can be enjoyed quickly.  This book continues the series about these men who are investigating women who might be a traitor helping Napoleon.

There is more angst in this story because Dante and Bella have a history.  I liked their interaction and the drama and pain between them.  I also really liked that Bella had a happy marriage that Dante now has to compete with.

The two have a very contentious beginning but I really liked how the two battled and debated and ultimately resolved their problems.  The story isn’t particularly deep, but this is not trying to be War and Peace.

My one complaint about this book is that there is a whole side story about the reasons that Dante’s aunt was such a witch. I’m not sure that the resolution was needed and thought that it brought up a plot point that was not really necessary.

WORTH MENTIONING:  We are introduced to Devil in this book…the hero of the next book.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  WICKED SURRENDER is the second book in the Regency Sinners series.  There is an overarching story as each of the book involves a man investigating a woman as possible spy, but each book is independent and can be read on its own as the overarching storyline is thin.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3.5 stars.

 

three-half-stars

Review: Wicked Torment

Review: Wicked TormentWicked Torment (Regency Sinners, #1) by Carole Mortimer
Series: Regency Sinners #1
Published by Carole Mortimer on April 28th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 180
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Very sexy and sex filled novella introduction to a new series.  Although the relationship develops really quickly, I enjoyed the interaction between these two characters.

THE STORY:  Darius Strong, Duke of Wolferton, has come to investigate Lady Beatrix Hanwell as a possible French spy.  He was unhappy to have chosen her from the hat of names because he knows that he will likely have to seduce her and Beatrix is plain and ordinary.  Bea has no illusions about her attributes and that is why she is shocked when Darius invites himself to her house party.  She is even more shocked when he announces his intention to seduce her.  An unhappy marriage left Bea determined to be alone, but Darius tempts the widow.

OPINION:  This series has an intriguing premise.  Eight men matched by drawing names from a hat with eight women — one of whom is a traitor.  Each of the men must do whatever it takes to determine the guilt or innocence of the woman he is charged with investigating.

In this novella, we are introduced to Darius and Bea.  These two have no history and Darius is incredibly dismissive of Bea because of her looks.  Of course, his pretense of being interested in Bea quickly turns to intense desire.  They also end up having past abuse in common.  I really enjoyed their interactions as Bea struggles with her intense attraction to Darius but wants to maintain her independence after her miserable marriage.

Bea is opinionated and unwilling to submit to Darius’s demands.  She meets him as an equal.  This book is packed with sexual exploits but I enjoyed the banter between Bea and Darius the most.  Bea is no shrinking violet and although Darius is a dominant alpha male, Bea makes sure that she meets his as an equal.

I enjoyed this novella and look forward to the rest of the series.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book is hot, hot, hot and edges toward erotica.  It is short novella with many sexual encounters between the hero and heroine.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  WICKED TORMENT is the first book in the Regency Sinners series.  The overarching story is about 8 men investigating 8 women one of whom is a spy for Napoleon.  So the stories are independent of one another with one overarching story.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: The Highland Commander

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 Highland CommanderThe Highland Commander (Lords of the Highlands #2) by Amy Jarecki
Series: Lords of the Highlands #2
Published by Forever on June 27th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  High adventure and yet thoughtful and long term relationship between two characters caught in real historical events.  I loved the intense historical reality of this book and the relationship between these two which is sweet.

THE STORY:  This book takes place in early 1700s with the rise of the intrigue between England and Scotland.  First Lieutenant Aiden Murray is glad to finally be off his navy ship after two years.  When he attends a masquerade, he is enchanted by the kiss of Lady Magdalen Keith. He cannot forget her, but when he discovers that she is illegitimate daughter of a treasonous Scottish earl (he is a Jacobite), he is torn between his duty and the woman he wants.  Magdalen is a quiet woman who would rather spend time helping abused women or playing her harp, but when her father is transported to the Tower of London, Magdalen arrives to save him.  There she meets Aiden again and much action ensues. The story is set between actual historical events with fictional main characters.

OPINION:  Readers who like historical romances which co-exist in real historical events (ala Outlander) will be pleased with this book.  The book focuses on the romance but the entire context of these characters is centered on real plots and people from history.  In the story, there is an intensity surrounding these characters that kept me reading.

The beginning of the story has a lot of set up and these characters take some time (over a year!) before the real action to bring them together starts.  I especially liked it as a contrast to the stories that seem to take place over a couple of days.

Aiden is a hero on the younger side (early 20s). A second son of a duke, he is making his own way in the world and trying to do it on his own merit — even if people think that every accolade he gets is because of his father.  When he meets Magdalen, he is looking for sex not love and marriage, but he cannot seem to forget her.  Over the next year, they run into one another and their relationship progresses.  I especially liked Aiden who is honorable and ultimately willing to do everything for Magdalen and that makes him a pretty great hero in my book.

Magdalen is a woman who comes to rescue her father even though she has been forced aside by his marriage to her step-mother.  Illegitimate, she nonetheless honors her father and faces London and the Queen in order to save him.  She recognizes the reality of her situation and as she falls for Aiden, she is willing to risk a lot for him.

My favorite part of this book is how these younger people develop their relationship. They are curious and experimental in a way that you don’t often get where the characters are clearly adults.  These are more “new adult” if this were a contemporary novel and thus they start their relationship less fully formed.  I really liked that aspect of this book.  Their relationship is different as they discover who they are — with one another and also alone.

The slower pace of this book gives way to tremendous action in the last third of the book.  There is almost non-stop action, drama and quite a bit of angst.  There are a lot of twists and turns even until the very end of the book.  If I have any complaint it is that things are wrapped up so quickly that some of the resolution feels rushed.  Even on the last pages there is a new revelation that felt to me like it needed more time (or an epilogue) to settle.

I really liked this couple and this was a book that I could have read more chapters of and been even happier.  I want to know more about them and how their life develops.  I hope there is a glimpse of them in the third book in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Double virgins.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE HIGHLAND COMMANDER is the second book in the Lords of the Highlands series.  While this book can be read as a standalone, it is connected to both the first book in the series and leaves something ready for the third.

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: A Scandalous Ruse

Review: A Scandalous RuseA Scandalous Ruse by Ava Stone
Series: Scandalous Series #13
Published by Ava Stone on May 28th 2017
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  A sweet and gentle romance that has less angst than one might expect from Greg’s past and focuses on characters that fall for one another almost immediately.  Enjoyable even for those who are new to the series.

THE STORY:  Gregory, Baron Avery and Lady Arabella Winslett end up in a pretend engagement in order to save Bella from being forced by her grandfather to marry her odious cousin.  Greg is trying to make his own restitution for his past mistakes by helping the sweet and beautiful young woman.  As the two engage in their pretense, they get to know one another and find out that what began as pretend might be what they both want and need.

OPINION:  This is the story of strangers who enter into a pretend engagement — her because she is avoiding a horrendous arranged marriage; he because he feels guilt from his past mistakes. The two use their engagement to manage to fall in love.  The story was a nice read but not particularly deep.  It did however, interest me in the other books of the series because I know there is more depth to the stories of both the hero and other characters that are developed in the past.

The highlight for me was the genuine nice characters in this book.  Greg and Bella are so sweet together that his book was an easy read that made my heart smile.  I liked reading about their story and I hope we see more of them in the future.

WORTH MENTIONING:  There are a lot of side stories involved in this book that readers of the series might greatly appreciate.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  A SCANDALOUS RUSE is the thirteenth book in the full Scandalous series (which combines several separately named series).  This book can be read as a standalone although there are a lot of characters with history that make significant appearances.  I wish I had read this book in order, because I think it would feel more complete.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3.5 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book from the author.  I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

three-half-stars

Review: The Pleasures of Passion

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 Pleasures of PassionThe Pleasures of Passion (Sinful Suitors, #4) by Sabrina Jeffries
Series: Sinful Suitors #4
Published by Pocket Books on June 20th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 400
Goodreads
four-stars

“‘Perhaps I don’t want to be reminded,’ she said desperately.”

FINAL DECISION:  A lovely second chance at love story between two people who were torn apart by circumstances, fears, misunderstandings and deception. Niall and Brilliana are good people who must work through the past while maintaining a deception. There was less angst than I thought but that was countered by a genuine desire to recover what they have lost.

THE STORY:  Seven years ago, Niall Lindsey, Earl of Margrave was forced to flee England when he killed a man in a duel.  Niall was shocked when the woman he wanted to marry, Brilliana, refused to come with him.  Niall comes to realize that Brilliana must never have loved him because she married another a mere year later. When a pardon allows Niall to return to England, he finds himself meeting Brilliana, who is now a widow with a young son, again. He intends to avoid the woman who broke his heart, but the man who orchestrated his pardon needs him and Brilliana to fake an engagement in order to ferret out a counterfeiter.  Niall and Brilliana discover that the passion between them is still strong and there is much more to the story of the past than either alone knows.

OPINION:  This is a second chance at love story.  These two were torn apart mostly by circumstances but also by inexperience and their own ability to talk.  Yes, this book’s central conflict is two people who haven’t sat down and had a conversation that might clear up misconceptions that both have over what happened in the past.  But, of course, in the real world misconceptions are common between people and we are not likely to just sit down and have chats with people that we believe have broken our trust and our hearts.  Because while this story might seem to be one about lack of communication, it is really about lack of trust and a willingness to do anything for the one we love.

And the truth is that seven years ago, Niall and Bree did not know how to love one another enough.  This is shows deftly in this book as they unconsciously reverse all the things they did wrong the first time.  Putting one another first.  Believing in one another. Asking questions rather than accepting accusations.

This is not so much the story of the two uncovering what facts kept them apart before, but rather a demonstration of the maturity and growth of two people who missed their chance before.

Niall is a man of honor who fought a duel whose purpose he cannot tell Bree about.  Readers of the series know that Niall killed the man who raped his sister.  While exiled, he has been involved in political intrigued which has hurt his soul.  His return to England has reunited him with his now happily married sister (THE STUDY OF SEDUCTION) but also brought him in contact with the woman he has never forgotten.  Niall is now a more sober, more mature version of himself.

Brilliana, who Niall nicknames Bree, is a woman who has managed to cope with the disappointments life has brought her. Nothing horrible happened to her, but life did not have the joy and pleasure that looked to be promised when she was seventeen.  She has, however, managed to find compensation and joy in other things, especially her art and her young son.  And while she has never loved anyone but Niall, she doesn’t know if she can risk herself again.

This book has wonderful characters and an intensity between these characters.  Love or hate there is — as the other characters in the book observe — something hot and powerful between Niall and Bree.  Something charged remains between them even if they don’t know if they can move beyond the past.

I enjoyed this book very much with the caveat that I knew who the true villain was almost immediately and so the plotline of who is the mastermind behind the counterfeiting was obvious to me and thus less enjoyable.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Baron Fulkham, spymaster, makes a significant appearance here in preparation for his own story coming up in the next book.  There is also the setup of the characters that are in the next novella.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE PLEASURES OF PASSION is the fourth book in the Sinful Suitors series.  This book can be read as a standalone because everything you need to know is revealed here, but I think the book is much better if you know the background of these characters including the secrets that Niall is keeping and the journey to return him to England.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

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

four-stars