Review: Wicked and the Wallflower

Review: Wicked and the WallflowerWicked and the Wallflower (The Bareknuckle Bastards, #1) by Sarah MacLean
Series: The Bareknuckle Bastards #1
Published by Avon on June 19, 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 396
Goodreads
four-stars

“Felicity Faircloth,” he said, “in the few days I’ve known you, I’ve learned one, unimpeachable truth. You are no kind of ordinary.”

FINAL DECISION: Enjoyable book with an emotional center, but suffers from introducing all the conflicts and thus loses a bit with the couple in this book. There is clearly an overarching storyline so this book misses a complete resolution.

THE STORY: Lady Felicity Faircloth keenly feels the loss of her social position. Impulsively, she claims to be engaged to the catch of the season — a reclusive duke. A mysterious and dangerous man, Devil, comes to Felicity and promises that he will make all her dreams come true — for a price. A bastard and the king of the dangerous streets of London, Devil intends to use Felicity for his own purposes to destroy his enemy, but Felicity might be Devil’s own downfall.

OPINION: MacLean has a deeply emotional and dramatic style of writing that I always enjoy. Her characters have complex emotional lives and the emotion is strong and deep in the relationship. I enjoyed this book, but because it feels like the first book in the series which is setting up relationships and because there is much unresolved at this book, it doesn’t feel complete.

On the positive side, I really connected with the world that MacLean has chosen to explore. The seedy side of London and the aristocratic world are combined in interesting ways. I believe the set up of the overarching story has definite possibilities. In fact, I think what is probably the big set up in the story is a drag on this story because I was more interested in the secrets yet to be revealed than the romance here.

Felicity is an interesting character. She is growing beyond the bounds of the aristocratic world while yearning to be part of it. When she meets the hero, she finds the place where she actually can be her truest self. But part of that growth is shedding the protective cocoon of what her entire life has been directed to prepare her for. One thing I especially liked was the realism of Felicity’s feelings towards her family. It felt good to have her examine the complexity of her feelings rather than being docile and accepting. One thing her character lacked, however, was that her willingness to toss away what she claimed to want felt too quick for me.

I really loved Devil, but the fact that secrets are still being kept about the past means that we still don’t know everything about his character. I never felt his conflict as well as I wanted to. We are being kept in the dark towards some future revelation and I don’t think that worked to the advantage of Devil’s story. The exploration of the BKB’s business gave the story some historical interest and I loved the relationship between the siblings.

This is a book that might improve once the series is done but I’ve been especially disappointed with some overarching stories lately so I’m reserving some judgment until I see how things play out.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book introduces and sets up some of the conflicts with the bastard siblings which clearly will play out through the series. This book does not resolve those conflicts so there are unresolved issues as this book ends.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WICKED AND THE WALLFLOWER is the first book in the Bareknuckle Bastards series. The heroine, however, appeared in THE DAY OF THE DUCHESS. It is not necessary to read that book to understand everything in this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: A Duke in the Night

Review: A Duke in the NightA Duke in the Night (The Devils of Dover, #1) by Kelly Bowen
Series: The Devils of Dover #1
Published by Forever on February 20, 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 368
Goodreads
two-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: A disappointment for me after the book came highly recommended. There is just too much slammed in this book that hides the fact that there is little connection between the hero and heroine. The characters felt out of place in the historical setting and I’m frankly becoming annoyed with writers sticking modern sentiments into the historical settings.

THE STORY: Ten years ago, August Faulkner danced with Clara Hayward on a dare. But he has never forgotten her nor has she forgotten him. Now the headmistress of a school for young ladies, Clara comes into the orbit of August again when he (now a duke) wants to acquire her family’s struggling business.

OPINION: The first chapter of this book is the best part. Unfortunately, I don’t think the relationship between the characters ever progresses beyond that moment in time. The book attempts to attribute too much emotion to that moment and nothing between them really develops beyond that moment.

This book feels more like women’s fiction concerned more about feminist issues of women’s empowerment than the romance. August really suffers in this book because he is merely a foil for Clara to assert her opinions about women’s rights. This book is clumsy in its attempts to make all these issues work together. Both Courtney Milan and Lisa Kleypas have written much better integrated books that address feminism in historical context.

I got bored because it seemed to be a story about a woman asserting her independence more than it is a romance and I couldn’t really feel any connection between the hero and the heroine.

WORTH MENTIONING: I only finished this book because it came so highly recommended to me and I kept hoping that something would end up working for me in the book. Some readers who are looking for modern issues to be explored in historical contexts might like this book, but it wasn’t for me.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A DUKE IN THE NIGHT is the first book in the Devils of Dover series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2 stars.

two-half-stars

Review: Too Wilde to Wed

Review: Too Wilde to WedToo Wilde to Wed (The Wildes of Lindow Castle, #2) by Eloisa James
Series: The Wildes of Lindow Castle #2
Published by Avon on May 29, 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: Simply amazing. I loved that a book that could of been filled with drama and angst instead tempered all that with humor and lightness. North and Diana were complex and interesting characters and the humor felt sophisticated and lovely. Another great book by Eloisa James.

THE STORY: North Wilde, the future duke, was jilted by his fiancee two years ago. He went to America to fight for the British in the American Revolutionary War. He has returned to find that his reputation has been savaged. His former fiancee, Diana Belgrave, is living in his family’s home acting as governess to North’s youngest sister. Diana has a child that everyone assumes is North’s illegitimate son. Gossip is that North ravaged and deserted her, leaving Diana no choice but to be a servant in North’s home. Despite his best efforts, North finds that he still loves Diana and intends on convincing her to be his. And that is something that Diana will never allow to happen.

OPINION: I so desperately wanted to read this book from the moment I met North and Diana in WILDE IN LOVE. Their story seriously kicked off with the ending of that book. Anticipation can work against me when I want to read a book because I am disappointed often. Happily, I loved this book.

The Wilde men are something else. Passionate and willing to sacrifice everything for love. North seemed so different in the first book, but that is part of the story in this book — how two people get to know the “real” person under the social mask. But gosh, I fell for North. He is so willing to forgive Diana even as he hurts from her betrayal. He is protective and a good man all around. Yet, this book shows him with a bit of naivety about the machinations of women. The combination of intense practicality and romanticism makes North one of my favorite of James’ heroes.

Now Diana is a bit of a mess. But that makes her incredibly brave. She is willing to toss herself into things that she fails at. As someone who is careful and deliberate, Diana’s joyful living of life is something that I found greatly enjoyable. She feels shame and pain for what she did to North, but she knows herself. A woman who has no desire to be a duchess.

I found the story between North and Diana pulled me into a bunch of emotional directions. I laughed, I cried, the story made my heart heavy and lifted my spirits. This story could have been dark and angst filled. I’ve read similar situations with books like that and I loved them — but that is not this book.

This book is light and funny in parts but it is firmly grounded in emotion and relationship. While there are certainly farcical elements including overturned chamber pots, an elderly peacock, and more of the hysterical prints about the Wildes, this book never allows itself to stray from the emotional connection between North and Diana. And their story seems impossible at every turn to have a happy ending — until it does.

This book moved immediately into one of my favorite Eloisa James’s book and I really want to read more about this family and their friends.

WORTH MENTIONING: Who knew that peacocks were so territorial?

CONNECTED BOOKS: TOO WILDE TO WED is the second book in the Wildes of Lindow Castle series. The story can be read as a standalone although I think it works much better after being introduced to the family of characters in book one.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ebook ARC of this book from Edelweiss 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.

five-stars

Review: Duke of Hearts

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: Duke of HeartsThe Duke of Hearts (The 1797 Club) by Jess Michaels
Series: The 1797 Club #7
Published by Passionate Pen on May 22nd 2018
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-half-stars

 

“Everyone knows my story, don’t they? It is all they talk about. The Duke of Tyndale and His Tragedy. It is practically folklore.”

FINAL DECISION: These characters end up being just so nice and I liked them tremendously. The contrast being their so good character and how they meet gives what might otherwise be a too nice story some dash.

THE STORY: Matthew Cornwallis, Duke of Tyndale, is urged by his friends to put aside his grief at the death of his fiancee three years ago and attend the Donville Masquerade, a sinful gathering where masked guests meet for sexual encounters. There Tyndale meets a masked stranger who he ends up spending the night with. Isabel Hayes is a widow whose elderly husband was chosen by her parents in an arranged marriage. Curious about what she missed in her marriage, Isabel comes to the Donville Masquerade to watch. But then she meets a masked stranger who tempts her to find the passion she missed. Eventually, however, Isabel realizes that her lover was the man engaged to her cousin and who her uncle blames for her death.

OPINION: I really, really liked the characters in this book. Both Matthew and Isabel are good and even gentle characters who find one another despite pasts which make them wary because the guards and shields are let down when they meet in a sinful and wicked way.

This book is hot and it manages to do that with very likable and nice characters. Although both have some pain in their lives, their inherent positivism contrasts with some of the other characters in the book who dwell in their unhappiness. I really liked that about these characters. The willingness to make the best of things, to look forward, to try and be happy.

Most of the conflict here ends up being external because these two hit it off almost from the start. In fact, they seemed so perfect for one another that I wondered how the dramatic tension in the story could be maintained — and yet it was. All of the parts work here.

WORTH MENTIONING: I especially loved that we get to see so many of the members of the 1797 Club and their wives.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE DUKE OF HEARTS is the seventh book in the 1797 Club series. The series tells the stories of a group of men destined to become dukes. Each book tells the story of one couple but the characters appear throughout the series. This book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an 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.

 

four-half-stars

Review: Reckless

Review: RecklessReckless (The House of Rohan, #2) by Anne Stuart
Series: The House of Rohan #2
Published by Mira Books on September 1, 2010
Genres: Historical
Pages: 408
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I really loved this book because Adrian is never as bad as he thinks (and certainly not as dark and dangerous as his father). Charlotte and he make a great match with some suspense and drama tossed in.

THE STORY: Miss Charlotte Spenser is firmly on the shelf so she convinces her cousin to allow her to attend a meeting of the Heavenly Host to see vice and sin first hand. She also happens to want to see Viscount Adrian Rohan who Charlotte has been fascinated with for years. Adrian has been engaged in sinful activities for years and while he has kept his distance from the innocent Miss Spenser, he can’t resist her when he appears at his revelries.

OPINION: This book wanders closer to the typical rake hero. Adrian is not as dark as many of Stuart’s heroes and the romance while focusing a great deal on the sexual experiences between the hero and heroine does follow a more typical storyline.

Charlotte immediately breaks down Adrian’s walls. He struggles for a while, but he doesn’t have a strong reason to avoid her. In fact, the real drama in this story ends up being mostly external.

I really liked the heat between these two. Adrian is a little bit of a jerk, but Charlotte is strong and willing to put him in his place. I loved watching her gain strength and determination as the story progresses.

The funny thing is that these two end up being pretty sweet as a couple.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a secondary romance in this book that I enjoyed but wish we had gotten a whole book about because they are that interesting.

CONNECTED BOOKS: RECKLESS is the second book in the House of Rohan series. This book is about the son of the couple from book 1 so this book can be read as a standalone but also has some overlapping characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Ruthless

Review: RuthlessRuthless (The House of Rohan, #1) by Anne Stuart
Series: The House of Rohan #1
Published by MIRA on July 20, 2010
Genres: Historical
Pages: 409
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Dark and not always likable hero but I really enjoy that he is a real jaded rake and not just a happy go lucky guy. The story is dark and angsty and very hot.

THE STORY: Elinor Harriman’s family is sliding into poverty as her mother has the pox and she has a lovely younger sister to care for. When her mother takes what little the family has left and runs off to gamble at a gathering of the Heavenly Host (a group of people dedicated to sin and vice), Elinor has no choice but to follow and bring her mother home. Searching for her mother, Elinor meets Viscount Francis Rohan, a jaded and depraved man with dark desires. Rohan finds Elinor intriguing and the two begin a relationship that sits on the razor edge between caring and using.

OPINION: I loved this book. The hero is dark and until the end it is never clear whether he will turn out to be the villain or the hero. He acts in a despicable manner for much of the book and yet Stuart has a way of making me root for him. Because while he seems to have fallen far into the dark and evil, he still has a soul worth saving by the end.

Elinor operates as his salvation. She is a difficult character to read and her actions are not always reasonable — until we discover her secret.

This is not a story for the faint of heart or those looking for the typical romance story. These characters travel into dark areas of sin and vice and their own tortured souls.

WORTH MENTIONING: Anne Stuart write anti-heroes. These are alpha men who ride the edge between being so unlikable as to be the villains of the story and being the redemptive heroes. Her book are not for everyone. These are not modern nice guy heroes.

CONNECTED BOOKS: RUTHLESS is the first book in the House of Rohan series. There is a prequel book, but this book is a standalone from that story.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: The Wicked House of Rohan

Review: The Wicked House of RohanThe Wicked House of Rohan (The House of Rohan, #0.5) by Anne Stuart
Series: The House of Rohan #0.5
Published by MIRA on July 1, 2010
Genres: Historical
Pages: 39
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A hot little story that introduces the premise of the series. The story is very short, but I enjoyed the interaction between the characters.

THE STORY: Kathleen Strong is desperate. Tossed from her position as a governess for immortality, Kathleen is homeless and starving when she is brought to a group of aristocrats for a job. But what she doesn’t know is that they want her innocence for one of their “games”. Alistair Rohan is intrigued by Miss Stong and despite her wanting nothing to do with him, he wants her.

OPINION: This is a short story and thus is not as developed as a novel or even a novella. Despite this, I really got a sense of the characters and I enjoyed their interaction. Taking place before the novels in the series, this book introduces the Heavenly Host society that is featured in the other books in the series.

This was a sexy and fun little story. I really loved Alistair who is a man who has seen and done everything and just is entranced by Kathleen.

WORTH MENTIONING: This story takes place in the mid 18th century.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE WICKED HOUSE OF ROHAN is the prequel to the House of Rohan series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: The Other Lady Vanishes

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 Other Lady VanishesThe Other Lady Vanishes by Amanda Quick, Jayne Ann Krentz
Series: Burning Cove #2
Published by Berkley on May 8, 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 368
Goodreads
three-half-stars

“He knew that Adelaide was not telling him everything but he also sensed that she was not lying to him. Fair enough. She had a right to her secrets. He was keeping a few from her.”

FINAL DECISION: More mystery than romance, I liked the story but I really wish we got to know the characters more than on a surface level.

THE STORY: In 1930s California, Adelaide Blake escapes from a private sanitarium and arrives in Burning Cove with a new identity. Burning Cove is the trendy escape for the rich and famous of Hollywood and Los Angeles. Working as a waitress in a tea shop, Adelaide meet Jake Truett, a widowed businessman who has come to Burning Cove to recover after his wife’s untimely death. The two end up mixed up with a murder and must work together while the secrets each is keeping threaten them.

OPINION: This is a book focused more on plot than the characters. We know some about Adelaide and Jake, but I finished the book still not feeling like I know the internal life of these characters. The characters felt just too generic and lacked personality and interest to me. I certainly understood their attraction, but I didn’t get the mad passion which would make these two declare love for one another after such a short period of time. The book ended up feeling like the beginning of a story rather than sustaining the entire resolution. I thought the characters were okay, but I wish that there was more depth and interest to the characters.

The story was good and I really like the time period and setting. The story might have been better with a couple less twists and more character development of the villains. This was a good, but not great read and was not as interesting as last year’s entry in this series.

That being said, there were some period moments that I really liked. I really enjoyed the interaction between Adelaide and Jake as they navigated people’s assumptions about their relationship. The episode in the auto court was like a period movie and I really enjoyed the time focused on their relationship. I just wish there was more.

WORTH MENTIONING: I miss the old Amanda Quick books which were primarily romances with some suspense and mystery tossed in. The newer books focus almost exclusively on the mystery and suspense elements and add the romance as an after thought. The books are okay, but not memorable or ones that demand to be re-read by me.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE OTHER LADY VANISHES is the second book in the Burning Cove series. This book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of the 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.

three-half-stars

Review: Wicked Temptation

Wicked Temptation (Regency Sinners 6) by Carole Mortimer
Series: Regency Sinners #6
Published by Carole Mortimer on April 27, 2018
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
two-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Completely unrealistic but hot romance. I wanted more character development rather than sexual escapades.

THE STORY: Lord Titus Covington, Viscount Romney and his friend were assigned the job of investigating the Germaine twins to determine if one of them is the traitor that the “Sinners” are seeking. When the traitor orchestrates a carriage accident killing Titus’s friend and Lady Prudence Germaine’s twin sister, Prudence blames Titus. But Titus needs to clear Lady Prudence so he is insistent on getting closer to her — of course, he also is attracted to her as well.

OPINION: This book follows the formulas of the prior books in the series. This book, however, didn’t have a strong couple at its center. I never really got the connection between Titus and Prudence since their beginning happens before this book begins. The pace of their relationship is really quick as they fall into serious sexual escapades without any prelude. I also didn’t buy that this innocent would be traipsing around London alone allowing her to meet with Titus.

For me, there was too much sex and not enough character development. The book is hot but I think that was a substitute for the characters having any real depth.

The overarching story also doesn’t move very much here as this book is really just setting up the final book in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: I am totally on board for the final book in the series. I didn’t see the setup coming.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WICKED TEMPTATION is the sixth book in the Regency Sinners series. This book can be read as a standalone as it summarizes everything a reader needs to know. Readers should be aware, however, that there is an overarching storyline this is not resolved in this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2.5 stars.

two-half-stars

Review: A Duke Like No Other

Review: A Duke Like No OtherA Duke Like No Other (Playful Brides, #9) by Valerie Bowman
Series: Playful Brides #9
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on May 1, 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 352
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“I need you to return to England with me for a few months and pretend to be my loving wife.”

FINAL DECISION: I loved this second chance at love story uses the heat and pride of the two main characters to weave a story about two people who loved one another but were too stubborn to fix things between them.

THE STORY: General Mark Grimaldi has devoted and sacrificed most of his life to protecting England as a spymaster. Now that the wars have ended, he’s about ready to achieve his greatest professional goal — to be named Home Secretary. There is only one problem for Mark. The job is basically his, but those making the decision prefer having a married man in the position and suggest that he find a wife. The problem is that Mark already has a wife, but one he has been estranged from for 10 years. Nicole has spent the last decade in France when he husband returns to ask her assistance in pretending to be a devoted wife. Nicole, however, has a demand of her own that threatens the emotional distance that the two have kept between them.

OPINION: I loved this book because Mark and Nicole are such a compelling couple. They are both too stubborn and prideful to admit to one another that they are in love. Instead, they have allowed the distance between them to fester and keep them apart for years. Yet, each yearns to be with the other.

The story is written such that the past is interwoven with the present and this allows readers to understand what divided these two. As with most real life relationships, mistakes, keeping secrets, pride and stubborness dooms these two. These two want to be together and Mark’s promotion gives them the opportunity to breach the gulf between them.

Mark is a man who’s love for his parents and being placed in their dramas with their own families has led him to stubbornly cling to the promises he made to his father. This despite the problems it created in his marriage. His job has also kept him apart and made it difficult to connect to other people who might have questioned his choices. The solitary nature has allowed him to cling to pride rather than recognizing it as his fault.

Nicole was young when she married and her uncertainty allowed her to accept her husband’s anger rather than fight for her marriage. She is capable and unconventional, but she is waiting for Mark to show that he values her above everything else.

Just when I thought that the book was going to have to go deeply in a dark emotional journey, a mystery arises which allows Mark and Nicole to work together. The two do respect one another and just need to make themselves vulnerable to one another.

I really liked this couple and enjoyed their journey.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is another possible couple introduced and I hope we get their story before the series ends.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A DUKE LIKE NO OTHER is the ninth book in the Playful Brides series. This book can certainly be read as a standalone with the caveat that there are some small appearances by characters from other books. This romance is self-contained.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an 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.

four-half-stars