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

Review: Addicted to the 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: Addicted to the DukeAddicted to the Duke (Imperfect Lords, #1) by Bronwen Evans
Series: Imperfect Lords #1
Published by Loveswept on June 13th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 260
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  A good kickoff to a new series about men who are definitely not your perfect men.  Alex is a man struggling with an addiction and the consequences of his capture and imprisonment and his belief that he is not good enough for Hestia.  I love damaged heroes and Alex is definitely an imperfect one.

THE STORY:  Alexander Sylvester Bracken, Duke of Bedford agrees to help Lady Hestia Cary find her missing father. Alex feels a debt to Hestia’s father for helping in Alex’s rescue from his captivity with a pirate.  When he is forced to take Hestia with him in order to ensure her safety.  Four years ago, Hestia was rescued by Alex from the same pirate who had captured Alex years before.  At sixteen, Hestia fell in love with Alex and doesn’t understand why he has spent years avoiding her.  Alex is determined not to taint the sweet Hestia with his tainted presence but their voyage together allows Hestia to batter down the walls that Alex is using to separate them.

OPINION:  I greatly appreciate books that stretch the genre — and this book does.  Alex is a hero who struggles with his addiction and there is no easy and simple resolution.  He also has done terrible things under the influence of his drug of choice. This book is about how he forgives himself and reaches for happiness rather than dwelling on a past he cannot change.

The story was filled with adventure which I didn’t expect.  There are multiple levels of villains that Alex and Hestia have to defeat on the way to their happy ending. Some of their challenges are external, some are internal.  Some want to threaten their lives and some want to threaten their relationship.

At first, I wasn’t sure about the matchup with Hestia because she seemed too sweet and innocent for the damaged Alex…but she has a hidden strength that I didn’t expect.  Alex doesn’t expect it either.

This book pushes the envelope on Alex’s addiction because there are no easy answers for him.  During this time period, addiction is not understood and is seen as character flaw rather than an illness. My one serious complaint about the book is that I would have liked an explicit update in the epilogue about Alex’s addiction since it was such an important part of the story (maybe in the next book in the series).

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book deals with the issue of addiction in a time period long before there was an real understanding of addiction.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ADDICTED TO THE DUKE is the first book in the Imperfect Lords series.

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: The Most Dangerous Duke in London

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 Most Dangerous Duke in LondonThe Most Dangerous Duke in London (Decadent Dukes Society, #1) by Madeline Hunter
Series: Decadent Dukes Society #1
Published by Zebra on May 30th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 304
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Fabulous start to a new series.  Didn’t go in the direction I expected and I ended up loving Adam. Motives are mysterious until all is revealed which built suspense and interest.  Loved these two together.

THE STORY:  Adam Penrose, Duke of Stratton, has returned to England after years in France following his father’s death.  Adam has returned for revenge and to find out who set the events in motion which led to his father’s death.  He is also in pursuit of a wife.  He discovers Lady Clara Cheswick, the daughter of his family’s longtime enemy.  Lady Clara has no intention of agreeing to Adam’s determined pursuit of her as she is independent and spending her time managing her own property and interests.  Then there is the also the question of what Adam’s true motives are.

OPINION: This book was more intimate and personal than I expected from the description.  Really focusing on the developing relationship between Adam and Clara, the reader is left questioning what Adam’s motives are.

Clara is a woman who desire for independence even if that means upsetting conventional behavior and roles for women.  Having inherited property of her own, Clara plans never to marry but instead publish a paper for women — written by women.  She is independent but isn’t willing to toss away all convention.  That creates tension as she tries to exist both in and outside of society’s expectations.  She also struggles with her relationship with her family.  While she doesn’t always feel close to them, her loyalty to her father makes her suspicious of Adam’s motives — perhaps rightfully.

Adam is mysterious through much of the book.  By the end of the book, however, I loved Adam. In the book, people wonder what Adam’s motives are for returning to England…and the reader is left to wonder as well.  By not cluing readers in to Adam’s thoughts on the matter, the story has more tension and mystery.  And the story needs that mystery because this book is truly driven by Adam’s reasons for returning to England and what his plans are.

This book feels more intimate and personal because the focus of the book is truly the relationship between Adam and Clara.  Can Clara trust Adam? Why is he pursuing a relationship with her? Does he truly intend to marry her? Why?  What I ended up loving about this book is that the answers are more complex than a simple narrative.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Oh, I can’t wait for the other two upcoming heroes. There are some good stories to be told there.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE MOST DANGEROUS DUKE IN LONDON is the first book in the Decadent Dukes Society.

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: The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband

Review: The Girl with the Make-Believe HusbandThe Girl with the Make-Believe Husband (Rokesbys, #2) by Julia Quinn
Series: Rokesbys #2
Published by Avon on May 30th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“Husband? They were calling him her husband? Was he married? He couldn’t be married. How could he be married and not remember it? Who was this woman?”

FINAL DECISION:  Behind the British lines in the American Revolutionary War, this intense and emotional story of a husband and wife learning one another is a winner.  The twist? They aren’t actually married but only she knows it.

THE STORY:  Edward Rokesby awakes in a military hospital in the American colonies, he has a hole in his memory of what he was doing on an assignment in Connecticut.  Months are missing during which he apparently also acquired a wife he does not remember — Cecilia Harcourt.  The sister of Edward’s best friend, she has come from England in search of her brother who is missing.  There is a good reason that Edward doesn’t remember marrying Cecilia — they are actually not married.

OPINION:  An usual Julia Quinn book with less humor and more seriously emotional content.  Quinn’s books always have an underlayer of seriousness but usually there is more amusing events.  This book is quickly more serious than I expected.  With a different setting (the colonies during the American Revolution) and much of the action taking place in confined settings (so much happens in the four walls of a room) and a different emotional temperature, this book feels more fresh and different than other Quinn books while retaining the wonderful and likeable characters.

One of the best parts of this book is that both Edward and Cecilia are such nice people. Yet, circumstances twist them up and make them do things that they don’t anticipate.  This story is how two people who seem like they should have an easy road to happiness together become so mixed up that it seems like their happily ever after will pass them by.  The story goes deep into these characters as these semi-strangers begin to get to know one another.

I would say that this is a slowly developing story, but I don’t want to give the impression that the story is boring.  No, this is the story of two people who are discovering one another.  The deception that lies between them and the search for Cecilia’s brother has enough drama to keep the story interesting even as these two talk and laugh and cry and know one another.

I also especially enjoyed the change in venue to the colonies — especially because we get a glimpse of the British side of the war (which is not the usual side in this time period). Moving away from the expected place gives energy to the story as these new details suffuse the story was new relationships and details.  (Plus, I’m glad that we finally get a glimpse of a significant event that is often missing from historical romance books of the period).

I liked this book much better than the first in the series primarily because I really liked these characters who feel like nice people trapped in a situation that they cannot control which challenges their essential goodness.

WORTH MENTIONING:  It is pretty obvious who the next book in the series will be about.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE GIRL WITH THE MAKE-BELIEVE HUSBAND is the second book in the Rokesby series.  It is not necessary to have read the first book in the series since this book is only loosely connected and the other characters of the series only make a very brief appearance.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book via Edelweiss 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: An Affair with a Notorious Heiress

Review: An Affair with a Notorious HeiressAn Affair with a Notorious Heiress (Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James, #4) by Lorraine Heath
Series: Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James #4
Published by Avon on May 30th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Lyrical and emotional story of a woman who is a scandal and the man who wants to avoid scandal and yet ends up not wanting to avoid her.  I loved the unexpected sweetness and romance of this story.

THE STORY:  Alistair Mabry, Marquess of Rexton and future duke, has no plans to marry soon, but when he does he will choose a bride with a perfect reputation.  His own childhood showed him the consequences of being the child of a scandalous union.  While he loves his parents, he has no desire to repeat their story.  When he is asked to court a young sweet woman in order to help her marriage prospects, he agrees, but finds himself spending more time thinking about her older and scandalous sister, Tillie, Lady Lansdowne.  Divorced after her affair with a footman became known, the American heiress lives separate from society but is determined to see her sister happily married.  She doesn’t think that Rexton is the man for her sister, but can’t stop thinking about him herself.

OPINION:  This book follows two books that are among my all time favorites.  The stories of Rexton’s parents and that of his sister are so heartbreakingly beautiful.  As I began this book, I was honestly a bit disappointed because I thought Rexton’s attitude toward his mother’s past was not worthy of the oldest son of his parents.  As the book progressed, however, I fell in love with Rexton and understood his position (even if thought it misguided).

Heath has a marvelous way of making the romance between Rexton and Tillie seem completely hopeless. There seems to be no future for these characters, but all that is needed is complete and utter surrender to love.  I am always done in by Heath’s way of ripping into my emotions.  This romance is quieter and sweeter than I expected — perhaps because their outward challenges are so large and overwhelming.

I love watching these two fall in love.

The man who thinks that he wants perfection, but discovers that all he really wants is love — even if it is messy and imperfect — and perhaps because it is. The woman who has been so thoroughly disappointed by love that she fears risking any part of herself again. And perhaps she has internalized her lack of worth because no one has ever put her first.

The story slowly built until reaching a wonderful crescendo.  This book wasn’t as gut wrenching as my other favorites in this world, but the intense sweetness was worth the journey.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Fans of the series will be pleased to see quite a bit of Rexton’s family.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  AN AFFAIR WITH A NOTORIOUS HEIRESS is the fourth book in the Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James series.  The book can be read as standalone, but honestly is much better after reading both the Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James series and the connected series about the parents generation, the Scoundrels of St. James series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book via Edelweiss 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: The Girl Who Knew Too Much

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 Girl Who Knew Too MuchThe Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick
Published by Berkley Books on May 9th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 352
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“You must not trust anyone — not the police, not the F.B.I.  Above all, never trust a lover.”

FINAL DECISION:  My favorite Amanda Quick book in a long time.  The move to 1930s California has given new energy and freshness to what is often a familiar romantic suspense storyline.  I hope we will be reading more in this time period.

THE STORY:  1930s California is a place where people can reinvent themselves.  Irene Glasson has come here on the run from the murder of her prior employer.  Irene (and that is also a new name) is now a reporter for a small gossip paper when she becomes involved in yet another murder.  The murder of an actress takes place at the hotel of Oliver Ward.  Oliver is also starting his life over again.  Previously a famous magician whose career ended in blood during a performance, Oliver is determined to protect his hotel from scandal when he discovers that Irene didn’t seem to exist prior to four months ago.

OPINION:  I’ve been reading Amanda Quick books since the first ones in the 1990s.  In the intervening years there have been books I have absolutely loved (RAVISHED and THE PERFECT POISON) and ones that I found completely forgettable. The most recent books have been adequate but have lacked the energy and vibrancy of the best books.

THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH moves to a new time period.  I was wary of the change because the 1930s is not a time period often used in romance novels and I did not know how the Quick books would translate into that time period.  I’m happy to report that I loved the time period move to the 20th century.  In taking place in an era that has not been done ad nauseum, the book is allowed to investigate different morals, complications and motivations than the Regency or Victorian eras.

These characters feel fresh and new and the entire book has a vibrancy and drew my interest in an entirely new manner.

Irene is a career woman who is caring for herself.  She arrives in California at a time when she can completely reinvent herself (without pesky complications such as social security numbers and needing government identification). She’s tough and clever and determined. I love smart heroines and Irene is no exception.  She just keeps picking herself up after her disappointments.  She is independent and thus her willingness to trust Oliver is a major point in their relationship.

Oliver is adorable.  Sexy and wounded and oh so willing to engage in witty verbal combat with Irene.  He’s a man who cares for his own. Like Irene, he is also a man who has reinvented himself (for different reasons).  Being a survivor and adapting is a strong theme in this book with these two characters.  They live in a time and place of reinvention and they both are living out that possibility.

Along with a romance there is a peppy suspense story that keeps the pace humming along. The suspense works very well with the romance here and doesn’t overpower the relationship between Oliver and Irene.  Instead, the two work together hand in hand to undercover who is killing the women the Irene keeps discovering. I found the mystery and the solution satisfying and the adventure served to bring the characters closer.

This book was a real winner for me and I hope that there are more books in this time period (and I think there is possibility right in this book).

WORTH MENTIONING:  This is the first Amanda Quick novel to take place outside of the 19th century.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH is a standalone.

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: Never Trust a Pirate

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: Never Trust a PirateNever Trust a Pirate (Playful Brides, #7) by Valerie Bowman
Series: Playful Brides #7
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on May 2nd 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 288
Goodreads
five-stars

“The Black Fox Strikes Again”

FINAL DECISION:  Twisty with lots of secrets and strong independent characters but not too dark, I loved this one!  The story didn’t go where I expected it to from the title.  The characters were slowly revealed both to the reader and to one another.  The story was so fun but with some depth and purpose.

THE STORY:  Danielle LaCross seeking work as a lady’s maid for a viscountess.  She mistakes Cade Cavendish for his twin brother the viscount.  Cade is a known rogue and the black sheep of the family.  Rumored to be a rake and perhaps a pirate, Cade has a lot of secrets that he is keeping.  Danielle has secrets as well.  Once she realizes that Cade is not who she thought he was, she still cannot seem to resist the intriguing man.  Soon they realize that they have a common purpose and join forces to resolve the shadows that still haunt them.

OPINION:  This one hit all the right notes with me.  The book jumps immediately into the action and a lot is happening here.  The characters have secrets and these was plenty to keep me intellectually interested in the plot even as I emotionally fell for these characters.

A great part of this story is the twists along the way, so I recommend staying away from spoilers to maintain the suspense in the story.

Cade’s role as the black sheep of the family is important to him.  A twin, he has made a role for himself as the irresponsible rake…but there is much more going on with him.  I loved his personality which keeps a lightness even as the drama is ratcheted up in the story.  Because although readers might not know what Cade is doing, there is never any question that he is on the right side.

Danielle is strong and independent (and perhaps a little too assertive for a true lady’s maid). Normally the lack of class distinctions between them would seem false in the story, but Cade did not grow up part of the aristocracy and (along with some secrets to be revealed) thus the ultimate reason for how these two interact with one another works.

Fans of witty banter between the characters will like this one.  Cade and Danielle circle around one another as each is trying to figure out the other without giving away their own secrets.

One of my favorite parts of this book is that I actually was surprised by the resolution of the mystery and yet it made perfect sense.  The mystery has a real purpose here and is well integrated into the romance. The suspense and mystery of the story worked really well here and felt totally natural for the times. Yet the story never veers into angst and darkness.  There is a brightness to the story that I really enjoyed (even though I’m generally a bigger fan of the dark romances).

WORTH MENTIONING:  Fans of the series will get some glimpses of favorite characters.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  NEVER TRUST A PIRATE is the seventh book in the Playful Brides series.  While it is certainly possible to read this book as a standalone, it is so much better having the backstory of the characters.

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.

five-stars

Review: Blame It on the Duke

Review: Blame It on the DukeBlame It on the Duke (The Disgraceful Dukes, #3) by Lenora Bell
Series: The Disgraceful Dukes #3
Published by Avon on April 18th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
five-stars

“She’s insulted him, lied to him, and done everything in her power to repel him…and somehow ended up completely charming him.”

FINAL DECISION:  Loved, loved, loved this one.  Quirky and funny with incredibly serious and heartbreaking turns, this book ended up being my favorite of the series.

THE STORY:  Nicholas, the future of Duke of Barrington intended to never marry but rather enjoy his debauched life until the madness that runs in his family claimed him as well.  When his father gambles him away in marriage to the daughter of a rich merchant, Nicholas eventually ends up making a deal with his “fiance” Miss Alice Tombs. Alice doesn’t want to marry either…she has spent three years avoiding that outcome by scaring off suitors.  But Nicholas’s proposal tempts her.  The two will marry and spend one month together and then she will be free to pursue her interests in travel and scholarly pursuits and Nicholas will be free to pursue his scandalous life.

OPINION:  I absolutely loved this book — and not how I expected to.  From the first book in the series, I fell in love with Alice — a woman willing to use her intelligence to avoid an unwanted marriage.  She was incredibly funny with her incessant chattering about strange subjects that manage to repel unwanted suitors.  From the moment she discovers that her father has won her a fiance, Alice goes to work to try the same tactics on Nicholas.  But he sees her in a way that she never expected.

And what can be more attractive than a hero who actually wants to know the heroine’s dreams?  Nicholas is a man who knows that he has no future and so he is only living for today.  With a family history of madness, Nicholas plans never to marry, never to have children, but rather lead as big and scandalous life he can until the family madness claims him as well.  I adored Nick. In the same way that Alice begins to learn more about Nick, the readers also discover that there is far more to him than she or we expect when we meet the man putting on scandalous shows.  Despite his despair about his own life, Nick is determined to launch Alice into a wonderful future.  And the truth is that Nick’s life hides a great deal of pain and fear and desperation.

The book deals in a wonderfully thoughtful and realistic way the pain of mental illness.  Nick suffers both as a son and because of his own fear of descending into mental illness.  Mental illness is not usually a topic in romance books — especially not when it might effect the main characters.  Here, Nick is living with it every day.  The isolation, the fears, the anger, the pain are all depicted here.  I don’t want to give away more of the book but I loved how the events played out in this book. It was beautifully constructed and is immediately on my keeper shelf.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Yes, there is an Alice in Wonderland theme going in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  BLAME IT ON THE DUKE is the third book in The Disgraceful Dukes series.  While the characters appear in other books in the series, this book can be read on its own.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Tangled in Sin

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: Tangled in SinTangled in Sin (Bound and Determined, #5) by Lavinia Kent
Series: Bound and Determined #5
Published by Loveswept on April 18th 2017
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  As the series takes off in new directions with new characters, I miss the madam Ruby but am very intrigued by the secrets the new characters have.  Sin and James are an intriguing couple who might be one of the most conventional in this series — although the sex is still pretty hot!

THE STORY:  Lady Cynthia Westhope finds out that her childhood friend, the daughter of a duke, has become the madam at the most notorious brothel in London.  When Cynthia travels to the brothel in order to try and help her friend, she is kidnapped.  She ends up spending several days with her friend’s brother, James Winters.  With Cynthia compromised, James offers to marry her, but Cynthia doesn’t trust James and is not sure what she wants to do about marriage — but she knows that she wants to explore the sexual attraction between her and James.

OPINION:  By the end of this book, it totally felt like a Bound and Determined novel — very sexy where the characters push their limits.  The story began a little slower than others in the series — perhaps because it was setting up a new stable of characters.

Cynthia (aka Sin) is more innocent than most of the women in this series.  The daughter of an earl, she has been sheltered…but she is also not willing to do exactly what society expects.  She is willing to toss over society in order to meet with her childhood friend — even if that takes her to a brothel.  (Readers of the series will know that the characters in this series are more adventurous than one generally expects in historical romance since this book edges toward historical erotica). She had a crush on James when they were children and her fascination with him has not diminished even though they have not seen one another for years.  She begins as a more conventional character but by the time the book ends she has embraced her own sexuality and her own identity.

James is a character that begins the book needing to be in control.  He is willing and expecting to make all the decisions. A second son, he desires to assert control where he can.  And he expects to make the decisions regarding marriage especially when convention is on his side.  What he doesn’t expect is the willfulness that Cynthia begins to show.  As the book proceeds, James has to learn to surrender — to his feelings and his trust in Cynthia.

Cynthia and James are more conventional than most of the characters in this series and yet are willing to be more unconventional as the book proceeds.  I liked their relationship especially because Cynthia makes James pay for his high handed behavior in the beginning.

While I began the book sad that we had moved on to a new phase of the series, my interest in the intrigue surrounding Madam Blanche and her family increased throughout the book and by the end, I was looking forward to the next book in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING:  As the series has moved on to a new set of characters, this book sets up a whole stable of characters that could get their own stories.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  TANGLED IN SIN is the fifth book in the Bound and Determined series.  This book is really the start of a new phase in the series and can be read as a standalone as the series focuses on new characters.

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