Review: Hello Stranger

Review: Hello StrangerHello Stranger (The Ravenels, #4) by Lisa Kleypas
Published by Avon on February 27th 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 400

FINAL DECISION: Not as good as DEVIL IN SPRING, but the unique heroine makes this book. Both outside of the typical aristocratic world, Garrett and Ethan have a sweeter romance than I expected.

THE STORY: Dr. Garrett Gibson is the only woman doctor in England and has made herself independent and finds herself just a little annoyed that Mr. Ethan Ransom keeps popping up watching over her. Ethan was formally with Scotland Yard but now works in the shadows. Although he knows that he should stay away from the intriguing Dr. Gibson, Ethan cannot. Garrett is determined to have a love affair if nothing else, but Ethan brings with him deadly danger from someone plotting a terrorist event.

OPINION: This book has an unlikely pairing — the first woman doctor in England and a spy. Garrett and Ethan meet periodically as Ethan first comes across her in his work. But even though he knows that there is something special between them, his work does not allow him attachments. He cannot avoid, however, watching over her and the two end up meeting again and again.

A funny way to begin a romance, but Garrett and Ethan bond over strange and practical things. While their meetings are prosaic at times, there is an intense underlying sweetness between them. They are so obviously perfect for one another, but Ethan’s job is dangerous and any attachments are dangerous both to him and to anyone he care about. I loved how the two are with one another and how Kleypas keeps the importance of Garrett’s job at the forefront of the story.

This is the story of equals. Garrett knows that she wants Ethan and is determined that somehow she will make things work. She has agency in this story. Her choices, her decisions are her own. And she will not allow Ethan to make the decisions for both of them.

With the description of this story, I expected more intrigue and drama, but the book wisely keeps centered on Garrett and her choices and this makes this book more personal and intimate and sweeter as a romance.

WORTH MENTIONING: For fans of West, he has a prominent role here.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HELLO STRANGER is the fourth book in the Ravenels series. While this series has a different couple in each book, this is the story of a family and thus the books have overlapping characters and in this case, the romance between Garrett and Ethan actually begins in MARRYING WINTERBORNE and continues in DEVIL IN SPRING. While this book catches the reader up, I think it is better to read the series in order to know all the characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.



Review: The Sins of Lord Lockwood

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Sins of Lord LockwoodThe Sins of Lord Lockwood (Rules for the Reckless, #6) by Meredith Duran
Series: Rules for the Reckless #6
Published by Pocket Books on February 27th 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 368

“A man can learn to live for revenge.”

FINAL DECISION: At times dark and sad, this book is ultimately about the ability of the human spirit to endure and ultimately triumph. A wonderful companion to THE DUKE OF SHADOWS, I loved Liam and Anna’s story.

THE STORY: Liam Devaliant, Earl of Lockwood, was kidnapped on his wedding day and sent as a prisoner to the colonies. He has returned a changed man bent on making the man who betrayed him pay. What he doesn’t expect is the arrival of his bride who believes he deserted her on their wedding day. The four years that have passed have made Anna bitter.  The two talked of a marriage where each would be free, but she did not expect her groom to disappear without a wedding night. Anna, however, does have something she needs from Liam and is determined to get it and then return to her home in Scotland.

OPINION: Powerful, emotional and sometimes dark, this is the story of a man who lost everything and how the love he left behind brings him back.

I loved this story become of the complex emotional heart of it. Anna and Liam lost so much four years ago. The structure of the book makes this especially poignant by intermixing the story of their courtship with their current reality. The switching between these time periods brings emphasis on the pain of their separation.

Liam is an honorable man who is struggling. Seeing the difference between the man he was four years ago and the man he is now is sometimes difficult. The way the book is written puts the reader in the same place as Anna who has to discover who the man she married is. He is a wonderful hero who centers this book.

Anna is strong-willed and independent and yet vulnerable under the face she shows others. That is another theme of this book, the faces that one shows. As Liam and Anna both discover the complexity of one another. That no face is false, but rather an aspect of character. But that there is a face that only can be shown to the one you love.

I alternately found this book sad and triumphant. While these two were torn apart, they manage to find their way to one another and build something different and perhaps stronger than what they would have had four years before.

Some characters are so vivid and fascinating that it is hard to close the book on them. Anna and Liam are those kinds of characters to me.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book deals with what we now call PTSD in a complicated and sober fashion.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE SINS OF LORD LOCKWOOD is the sixth book in the Rules for the Reckless series. While the romance is separate, I recommend reading A LADY’S CODE OF MISCONDUCT and then a related book THE DUKE OF SHADOWS because this book flows nicely from those two books.  The events of this book run somewhat concurrently with THE DUKE OF SHADOWS.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

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



Review: Lord John and the Private Matter

Review: Lord John and the Private MatterLord John and the Private Matter (Lord John Grey, #1) by Diana Gabaldon
Series: Lord John Grey #1
Published by Delta on October 26th 2004
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 334

FINAL DECISION: A dense and intriguing political and social mystery. The tone of this book is different from the Outlander books because it is focused on the mystery, but there is plenty of historical doings. And I love the character of Lord John Grey.

THE STORY: Lord John Grey has got a family matter on his mind (he’s concerned that his cousin might be betrothed to a man with the pox) when he is tasked with investigating the murder of a comrade who might have been a traitor. He can’t turn away from either so he works on finding the truth on both matters.

OPINION: For readers looking for another OUTLANDER, it will not be found here. However, some of the same elements from that series — a sense of historical presence, intriguing tidbits from history and compelling characters.

This book also is simply fun in many ways with Lord John investigating a murder and also investigating his cousins betrothed. I really liked his character here as we are treated to seeing his cleverness, his determination and his essential kindness.

We get to see how Lord John struggles with his homosexuality — not who his is, but how he has to hide himself where society will destroy him because of who he is. We see him dealing with how to live his life when he has to live his truth in the shadows.

But mostly this book is about Lord John’s investigation, the political intrigue and murder. Lord John travels the underbelly of society in order to talk with people. The books feels like the genre of mysteries of Agatha Christie based very much on the talking and personalities of the people with a few physical clues dropped in. I have a fondness for these types of mysteries and liked this one.

WORTH MENTIONING: Jamie doesn’t appear in this book but is mentioned.

CONNECTED BOOKS: LORD JOHN AND THE PRIVATE MATTER is the first novel in the Lord John Grey series. This is a spinoff of the Outlander series. It is not necessary, however, to read the Outlander series to enjoy this one and the genre and tone of this series is very different as the books focus on mysteries/crimes to be solved.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Stranger in My Arms

Review: Stranger in My ArmsStranger in My Arms by Lisa Kleypas
Published by HarperCollins e-books on October 13th 2009
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384

“Lady Hawksworth, your husband is not dead.”

FINAL DECISION: An enjoyable read that had a Gothic feel to it. The story was more intellectual than full of heart, but I enjoyed the experience of Lara’s uneasiness to the man who has returned to her and the two of them falling in love.

THE STORY: After two years of a miserable marriage, Lara was happy to see her husband go off to India. When she learned of his death, she was finally able to live her own life. Now a year later, she is told that her husband has returned. Lara is at first convinced that the man must be an impostor. But he knows things that only her husband could know. He is, however, not the man who left her. Hunter claims that his near death experience has changed him. The question is whether the man who returned to her is her husband or a stranger.

OPINION: This was an interesting book. A story that raises the issue of whether someone can change and whether a woman can begin to dream again.

This book is clearly an exercise in twisting back and forth over whether Hunter is actually Lara’s husband or an impostor. But it also raises the issue of whether it is possible for a person to change and become a “stranger” to his old life.

This book feels more Gothic than I expected. Who is this man? What is his purpose? Or is this actually Lara’s husband and her doubts and lack of trust are just blinding her to his identity. I liked the intellectual and mysterious elements in this story. And this is a book that I really recommend reading without spoilers.

The best part of the book for me is Lara’s indecision and how she realizes who Hunter is — not in the simple sense of a name but rather as a man. By using the uncertainty she has over whether or not he is her husband, a discovery anew is permitted. Lara finds out who her husband was and is.

Because Hunter remains mysterious for most of the book, the story feels more intellectual that emotional and maybe I’d not like all of my books in this model. But here it works for me.

WORTH MENTIONING: Do not read ahead in this book. Enjoy the way the story develops.


STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: A Dream of Redemption

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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



Review: Wicked Captive

Review: Wicked CaptiveWicked Captive (Regency Sinners, #5) by Carole Mortimer
Series: Regency Sinners #5
Published by Carole Mortimer on February 14th 2018
Genres: Historical

FINAL DECISION: Okay but not extraordinary. It added to the storyline in the entire series, but the relationship part didn’t work for me as well. The connection wasn’t as strong.

THE STORY: Jericho Black, Marquis of Wessex, is up for his investigation of a potential traitor. His target is his ward Lady Jocelyn Forbes. Jocey has just returned from France (which is one reason she is a suspect) and is pleased that Jericho is taking more of an interest in her because she had been attracted to him since Jericho took over her guardianship when she was eighteen.  Jericho’s problem is that his first sight of Jocey in months has him staggered to realize what a beautiful woman she has become.

OPINION: I wanted to like this one more than I did. The guardian/ward story had interesting possibilities. I also liked the characters: Jericho with his world weary attitude that is taken by Jocey’s light and joy; Jocey with her determination and caring for others.

The execution of the story, however, had elements that bothered me. The strongest one was that Jericho knew Jocey. If we had picked up the story when Jericho hadn’t spent time with Jocey, his mistrust and anger towards her might have worked. But here it seems clear that he knows her enough that he shouldn’t be so distrustful.

My other complaint is that while the two engage in various sexual activities, I wanted there to be some culmination to their relationship. It appears that happens totally off screen at the end which was disappointing.

WORTH MENTIONING: Now I really want to know about the woman that Stonewall is going to investigate.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WICKED CAPTIVE is the fifth book in the Regency Sinners series. The book is a standalone although there is a continuing story line about a woman who is a traitor and the men trying to find her.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2.5 stars.


Review: Midsummer Delights

Review: Midsummer DelightsMidsummer Delights: A Short Story Collection by Eloisa James
Published by Avon Impulse on February 6th 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 96

This is a collection of three previously published short stories.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DISGRACE is connected with the Essex Sisters series and the story was previously published in the Official Essex Sisters Companion book.  A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DISGRACE tells the story of one of the women who was also branded with a notorious nickname like Josie in PLEASURE FOR PLEASURE.  In A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DISGRACE, Cecilia who was tarred by her brother’s nickname “Silly Billy” because men where afraid that her brother’s mental disability might be hereditary.  In this story, Cecilia gets her happy ending.  She decides to court ruination in order to be able to avoid continuing in society.  When she approaches the musician who caught her attention, she gets more than she expected. While the story is short, it is sweet and I enjoyed the interaction between the hero and heroine.  While only tangentially connected with the series, Josie and Mayne make an appearance. Rating: 3.5 stars.

AT MIDNIGHT: Elias Hempleworth-Gray, Earl of Leyton is in love with his childhood friend, Miss Penelope White. Elias, however, is poor because his father gambled away almost everything. Elias knows that he has to leave England because Penny will be marrying Elias’s friend after he proposes. Elias cannot propose to her himself because he cannot bear the idea that Penny would marry him for any reason other than love. A masquerade gives Elias one last chance to be with Penny before the leaves. A take on Cinderella (with the roles reversed) this is a short story, but cute. The story focuses on the meeting between the two and the revelation of their feelings. It was a nice story. Rating 3 stars.

EVER AFTER: Miss Violet Leighton doesn’t believe in fairy tales and has refused seven proposals on her way to her desire never to marry. Now the man who broke her heart years ago has returned, Rothwell Talcott, Duke of Cambridge. This was a favorite in the book. Even though the story is short, there is drama over the parting of Violet and Rothwell and Violet’s anger to deal with. With only a small glimpse of these characters I wished to read more about them. Rating: 4 stars.


Review: The Duke of Shadows

Review: The Duke of ShadowsThe Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran
Published by Pocket Star on March 25th 2008
Genres: Historical
Pages: 371

FINAL DECISION: Powerful as the characters have to overcome their experiences with death in Colonial India. The romance is sweeter than I might expect but life gets in their way. One of Duran’s best.

THE STORY: Emmaline Martin is an heiress who has come to British Colonial India to marry the man who has been selected for her since her childhood. Emma suffers after the death of her parents on the journey to India. When Emma arrives, her fiance is not the man she thought he was and as India seems to be exploding all around her, Emma turns to Julian Sinclair, Duke of Auburn for help.

OPINION: I’ve had this book on my to-read list for years, but always shied away from reading it because people called it dark and difficult to read. I’m sorry now that I waited although it turns out that I read it at exactly the right time since it falls right before Duran’s new book.

Yes, the subject matter is dark and the journey of this characters, especially Emma is difficult to read at times, but the story is fantastic and the romance balances beautifully the darkness of the plot.

That is what surprised me most about this book. The beauty of the love between Julian and Emma in the face of the darkness that threatens them everywhere. And the darkness is not merely external. Emma especially has trouble dealing with the events of her parents’ deaths and then the horror of the Insurrection. I won’t lie, sometimes these brutal events are difficult to read, but they are not gratuitous or unduly graphic. Emma has PTSD in a time that didn’t have the vocabulary or understanding of what was happening to her.

She is difficult to get close to as a character because her pain keeps her emotions closed off and frozen. And that is one reason that I adored Julian. His determination and dedication to her when she pushes him away is sweet and lovely. I loved him and his strength in not allowing Emma’s pain to push him away.

This is ultimately a hopeful book and I look forward to reading the story of Julian and Emma again and again over the years.

I really enjoyed the different setting for this book. It exposed me to a time period that I did not study in school and the book sparked my interest in reading more.

WORTH MENTIONING: The book takes place in India during the turmoil of attempts to overthrow of British rule in the Indian Rebellion of 1857. The book is sometimes violent and difficult to read but powerful.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE DUKE OF SHADOWS was written as a standalone. However, Duran has written, years later, a book in the Rules for the Reckless series, THE SINS OF LORD LOCKWOOD, which tells the story of Lord Lockwood and his wife who appear in THE DUKE OF SHADOWS.  The timeline of this book and its content now places is right around the same time as THE SINS OF LORD LOCKWOOD in the Rules of the Reckless series and it might even be considered to be part of that series now.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.



Review: A Whisper of Desire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.



Review: A Touch of Passion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.