Review: Christmas in Kilts

Review: Christmas in KiltsChristmas in Kilts by Bronwen Evans, Lavinia Kent, Lecia Cornwall, May McGoldrick, Terri Brisbin
Series: MacKendimen #2.5, Pennington Family #0.5
Published by Swerve on October 3rd 2017
Genres: Historical

This is a collection of five novellas with a Scottish theme.

A HIGHLANDER’S HOPE by Terri Brisbin — Iain MacKillop is a widower who yearns for marriage and children, but intends on making his own choices this time. The one woman he can’t stop thinking about is completely inappropriate. Robena MacKendimen is the village whore and while she too thinks about Iain, she knows that her status makes anything else between them impossible. This was a lot of story packed into a short novel. I really enjoyed the fact that this book doesn’t flinch from the difficulties of a man falling in love with a whore. The story has a sweet aspect but also a serious one and there is no magic wand that resolves these issues which I really like. There are compromises and a will to make happiness happen. This is a novalla in the MacKendimen series. Rating: 3.5 stars.

A HIGHLAND CHRISTMAS WAGER by Lecia Cornwall — Meggie MacLeod is forced to take refuge at a castle where there are three lairds. One of the lairds is the man that Meggie fell in love with at the age of eighteen before he broke her heart by marrying another. A wager between the men as to who will be able to gain her kisses ignites a competition between the men. Hugh MacAuley needs an heiress in order to satisfy the elders of his clan. He has come to ask the sister of his host, but Meggie tempts him with her fire and her sweetness. I enjoyed this story as Hugh is a shyer hero than I expected and this book really deals with Meggie having lost her virtue and yet Hugh choosing her despite all the cultural reasons he shouldn’t. The story is really sweet between Meggie and Hugh. Rating: 3.5 stars.

A SCOT FOR CHRISTMAS by Bronwen Evans — Dougray knows he must marry again to have an heir, but his love for his deceased wife means that he never intends to love a woman again. Instead, he will marry for companionship and children. Emma has loved Dougray since she was a child. At a houseparty, she challenges him to teach her about passion before she accepts her spinster existence. He is tempted to succumb to passion before choosing a life without deep emotions. I really enjoyed this story. Dougray and Emma are such nice people. Life and love has treated each of them with some difficulties. I liked how Dougray allows himself to be “convinced” by Emma but quickly realizes that there is more at work here than merely a spinster who wants to learn about physical love. This is one of the highlights of the set and a story I would read again. Rating: 4.5 stars.

LEFTOVER MISTLETOE by Lavinia Kent — English Emma Spencer finds herself in a coach with James Barran. James is on his way to stop a wedding, but machinations leave him and Emma stranded at Christmas time at a cabin. I enjoyed this story which is focused intensely on the couple. The two being stranded allows them time to get to know one another even though the actual time period covered by the story. I liked the characters who are decent people who are trying their best to do the right thing. The story has a hot little element which I also enjoyed. Rating: 4 stars.

SWEET HOME HIGHLANDS by May McGoldrick — Captain Gregory Pennington encounters a precocious child and her desperate aunt while waiting for travelers he is to accompany home. Freya Sutherland needs to marry someone immediately in order to keep her niece. I loved this story primarily because of the depiction of Freya’s niece. She is adorable and really tied the story together. Penn and Freya are such nice, well meaning people that the niece is necessary to put some spice into the story. I was surprised at how much development was able to be done considering how few pages the authors had to work with. Penn is a gentleman who is looking for his purpose in life and finds it in a gentle woman and her strong willed, determined niece. Rating: 4.5 stars.


Review: Tangled in Sin

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: 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

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.


Review: A Very Ruby Christmas

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: A Very Ruby ChristmasA Very Ruby Christmas by Lavinia Kent
Series: Bound and Determined #4.5
Published by Loveswept on October 25th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 96

FINAL DECISION:  Especially for fans of the series, this novella wraps up Ruby and Derek’s story, gives some hot and spicy moments with beloved characters from the Bound and Determined series and also pushes the series forward into a new era.

THE STORY:  This novella takes place before the epilogue of RAVISHING RUBY.  In this book, Ruby (who is the owner of a brothel) is trying to organize her life to be able to leave London with Derek, the man she loves.  The story takes place at Christmas time and is a bit of a last hurrah to Ruby’s reign as madam.

Ruby’s inability to sell her brothel is causing some problems for her and Derek.  Into this difficult time, Ruby’s half sister arrives on her doorstep.  Her sister in in desperate straits and Ruby feels that something else may come between her and Derek.

OPINION:  I adore Ruby.  I’ve followed her story through the entire Bound and Determined series (where she has been a matchmaker for the couples) and especially enjoyed the story of her and Derek.  This novella adds some information to their story but doesn’t disturb their happy ending (which occurred in RAVISHING RUBY).

This novella add something significant to Ruby and Derek’s story.  Ruby is a woman who has made her own way in the world.  Although she loves Derek, she still has not surrendered to their happy ending.  She continues to make contingencies after being disappointed by men in her past.  She seeks to protect herself when reality insists that she take a chance and rely on the man she loves.

Ruby is such a complicated character.  This novella shows many facets of her.  She is a woman who has successfully run a brothel.  She cares about the women who work for her.  She manages difficult men.  She is separated from her legitimate half-siblings, but desperately wants family connection.

This novella serves to wrap up Ruby’s story and launch a new story for Ruby’s brothel.  Anyone who enjoyed the Bound and Determined series should read this novella.  It’s like a Christmas present (if Christmas presents were sweet and hot and sexy and definitely spicy).

WORTH MENTIONING:  A foresee a story about Madame Blanche in the future.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  A VERY RUBY CHRISTMAS is book 4.5 in the Bound and Determined series.  It can should be read after at least RAVISHING RUBY which tells the story of Ruby and her captain’s love story.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.


Review: Angel in Scarlet

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: Angel in ScarletAngel in Scarlet (Bound and Determined, #4) by Lavinia Kent
Series: Bound and Determined #4
Published by Loveswept on June 28th 2016
Genres: Historical

“I want to trap a man.”

FINAL DECISION:  Kent once again has a great balance between erotic sexual encounters and the building of an emotional connection between the hero and heroine.  I enjoyed the trip and think this book a great addition to the series.

THE STORY:  Angela Ripon wants revenge on the man who she thought intended to ask for her hand in marriage but instead rejected her.  For this purpose, Angela goes to Madame Rouge (Ruby) a brothel owner to find out how to make this man desperate for her so that she can reject him.  Ruby tells Angela that she must shed all her inhibitions.  Matthew Harkness, Earl of Colton never intended to hurt Angela, but his tastes don’t run to sweet vapid innocents.  Then Angela approaches him and he begins to wonder if she might indeed be the woman he needs.

OPINION:  Romance books that slip towards the erotica category sometimes substitute hot sex for emotional connection between the characters.  Kent’s Bound and Determined series has done a great job of using the hot sex to explore and heighten the emotional connection between the hero and heroine.

As Angela and Matthew discuss the limits and desires that each of them have, they learn to communicate with one another.  Their relationship begins before the novel starts and ends because of lack of communication and assumptions.  As Angela claims to want revenge on Matthew, the truth is that she cannot let go of the connection she felt with him.

Adventurous and a bit wicked, Angela felt her joy suppressed by Matthew’s perceived betrayal.  While she tells herself that she wants revenge, her willingness to participate in Matthew’s proclivities demands trust.  Although the two begin without much trust between them, their sexual exploration develops and then deepens the trust between them.  As their sexual relationship becomes more intense, their emotional connection blossoms and flowers. I especially liked how Matthew curbs his own desires in order to synchronize his desires with Angela’s willingness. Ultimately, the sexual relationship between Matthew and Angela is about trust and caring and the unity of desire.

WORTH MENTIONING:  There is a minor MMF scene.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ANGEL IN SCARLET is the fourth book in the Bound and Determined series.  This book can be read as a standalone although other characters from the series make cameo appearances.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Ravishing Ruby

Ravishing Ruby
Ravishing Ruby by Lavinia Kent
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

My Favorite Bound and Determined Novel

“It would have been better if he had never returned from Manchester, having him here made her want things she should not, dream things she should not. And it made her careless.”

FINAL DECISION: Emotional, sexy, hot, RAVISHING RUBY is the story of a “fallen” woman who lives her own life without many regrets and the man she cannot forget. I love how these two fulfill a need in one another.

THE STORY: Ruby is Madame Rouge, a notorious brothel owner. Several months ago, she had an enounter with Captain Derek Price which was emotional and where she revealed her true self — Emma, bastard daughter of a duke and granddaughter of a merchant. The two spent one night together and then Derek left on the way to his marriage. Now he has returned to London with his soon to be fiancee in tow and finds himself unable to forget about Ruby or to stay away from her.

OPINION: This was my favorite of this series. Emotional with characters that I cared about, this book — while sexy and hot — was definitely more about the characters and their relationship than about the sex. In many ways, because the sex was so easy for these characters, they had to struggle with the other parts of their relationship.

I loved Ruby because she accepts who she is and is unrepentant about her sexual past. As she remarks to herself — Derek has had more lovers that she has. While society might judge her differently, she refuses to allow herself to be defined by others. What Ruby does struggle with is her love for others. She fears that she will have to submit to her grandfather’s vision of her future in order to keep them in her life.

In that way, Ruby and Derek’s struggle in this book is similar. They both want to gain the love and affection of their family and thus feel somewhat compelled to force themselves into a role they are not completely comfortable with. Neither likes to be controlled and for that reason they find a kindred spirit in the other and the freedom that their relationship provides.

These two spend a lot of time roleplaying with one another. It allows them to disclose different aspects of themselves that may be hard for them to easy show to another. The scenes are pretty sexy as well.

Because they are so well attuned to one another, the scene when it appears that they are doomed to be parted made me cry (even as I knew there would be a happy ending). Definitely my favorite of the series. In fact, the ending of this book makes me hope that we will learn more about Derek and Ruby in the future.

WORTH MENTIONING: Ruby is a brothel owner and has herself had varied sexual experiences. This book is not for the reader looking for the reluctant prostitute, virgin brothel owner or missish heroine.

CONNECTED BOOKS: RAVISHING RUBY is the third novel in the Bound and Determined series. It can be read as a standalone although I recommend that readers read the novella REVEALING RUBY which is about the same couple and takes place prior to this book.

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.