Review: The Lady’s Guard

Review: The Lady’s GuardThe Lady's Guard (Sinful Brides, #3) by Christi Caldwell
Series: Sinful Brides #3
Published by Montlake on July 25th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 322
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  This story of a duke’s daughter and a man of the streets of St. Giles was sweet and a good story and I liked it very much.

THE STORY:  Lady Diana Verney’s life has turned upside down with her duchess mother committed to Bedlam for trying to murder Diana’s half siblings and Diana’s own social ruin. When Diana feels that someone is stalking her, her father does not take her seriously so instead, Diana turns to her half-brother who owns the Hell and Sin Club in St. Giles.  In response, Niall Marksman is asked by Diana’s brother to help protect her.  Niall feels he belongs in the darkness of St. Giles and resents having to protect a pampered Duke’s daughter.

OPINION:  This was a very enjoyable cross-class story.  The woman who has been rejected by her own peers because of her mother matches up with the low born gutter born thief and murderer.

While the topic here is dark, the actual story is taken at a much lighter level.  (Myself I prefer the darker, seedier tales, but this story is pretty good as well.)

Diana is a strong young woman who is trying to make her own way after finding out her mother has committed horrible crimes.  Diana’s estrangement from society and her fears of following in her mother’s madness have propelled Diana into creating a new future for herself. I like Diana as a character because she is woman who does the right thing even when society frowns upon her actions. I also had a great deal of sadness for how isolated Diana is.  The connection that builds between her and Niall was especially sweet in that context.

Niall is a man who is haunted by his past, but the story doesn’t really dwell on those details.  He is man who feels the corruption from the streets and doesn’t want to open himself up to any possibility of happiness because he has not truly dealt with his guilt of his past.  Although Niall has more depth than some of the previous characters in this series, I still think the story could have gone deeper into the characters and the situation.

At times I found the story heartbreaking and lovely, but there was something about it that kept me from being transparently in love with the characters.  I always felt like there was a distance between myself and the characters.  Some quality about them that was too separate and unknowable.

Therefore, this was a book that I really enjoyed as a story, but it lacked the transcendence of the best romance novels.

WORTH MENTIONING:  There are significant appearances by characters from the other books in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE LADY’S GUARD is the third book in the Sinful Brides series.  While this couple is a standalone story, there is an overarching story that continues from book to book and this series is better read in order.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: The Scoundrel’s Honor

Review: The Scoundrel’s HonorThe Scoundrel's Honor (Sinful Brides, #2) by Christi Caldwell
Series: Sinful Brides #2
Published by Amazon Digital Services on February 14th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 354
Goodreads
four-stars

“Somewhere between Ryker Black’s rise from guttersnipe to ruthless owner of the Hell and Sin Club, the world had learned — one did not cross him, interrupt him, or interfere with his dealings.  Ever.”

FINAL DECISION:  A story that has a lot of drama, this book stays on the surface of the emotions of the characters.  That makes what might otherwise be a dark book interesting but not compelling.  I enjoyed the book because of the characters especially the heroine.

THE STORY:  Lady Penelope Tidemore is having her debut and she intends on being proper in a family full of scandals.  Unfortunately, at the first opportunity, Penny ends up in a bigger scandal than anyone else.  She is caught in a compromising situation with Ryker Black, the bastard son of a duke and the owner of a gaming hell.  There is little choice but for Penelope to marry Ryker but is there any hope for this marriage between strangers from such different worlds?

OPINION:  This book takes what might be a dark subject and keeps the pacing and story on a less dramatic level.  The book lacks the depths of a dark, angsty novel with the same subject matter, but it has a sweetness and gentleness to the story that will appeal to readers who want a little bite to their stories without delving into darkness.

In many romance novels, it is the hero whose characters I tend to like more.  Here, I liked Penelope the most in the book.  Here is a woman who is raised among a loving and privileged family.  The worst thing she has to worry about is gossip and scandal about her family. When she is thrust into Ryker’s world, she makes attempts to bring some of her lightness and gentleness into his world.  While he continues to reject her, she is determined to make this new world a better place and bring some of her hominess and family to bear on the new family she gains.

Ryker is a self-made man who struggles with what he had to do to survive. He is guilt ridden and at his core afraid.  He hides all the seething emotions inside himself with order and rules and coldness.  Penelope comes into his life with her constant chatting and her innocent belief that she can make things work out. She is a dreamer who won’t allow the reality of life to sap her of her optimism.  Ryker just doesn’t know how to deal with that.  I liked watching his world as he has constructed it crumble under Penelope’s gentle ruthlessness.

For me the characters were the highlight of this book.  The romance in this book happens incredibly fast and there is so much animosity between these characters at times, it is hard to believe that they so quickly fall for one another.  My second complaint is that this book uses almost exactly the same sequence of events as the first book in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Penelope’s younger sister HAS to get a book someday!

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE SCOUNDREL’S HONOR is the second book in the Sinful Brides series.  The hero in this book is the brother of the heroine in the first book.  The story is self contained and can be read on its own although I recommend reading the first book in order to better understand the 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

Review: The Rogue’s Wager

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 Rogue’s WagerThe Rogue's Wager (Sinful Brides, #1) by Christi Caldwell
Series: Sinful Brides #1
Published by Amazon Digital Services on October 25th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 338
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  The book started out slow, but as it progressed and the characters revealed more about themselves, I loved how the two of them were similar in unexpected ways.

THE STORY:  Robert Dennington, Marquess of Westfield, has spent years in aimless pursuits after having been betrayed. The heir to a dukedom, Robert allows himself to wallow in drunkenness and vice one night.  On that night, he ends up at the Hell and Sin Club and in the rooms of Helena Banbury, who lives at the gaming hell and is the bookkeeper for the enterprise. That night ends up changing Helena’s night as she is sent to live with her father, a duke. It is difficult for an illegitimate daughter in the aristocratic world but Helena ends up meeting Robert again and making a deal for his pretend courtship of her so that she can discourage other men.

OPINION: This book has a quick opening gambit as Helena and Robert end up in a compromising position, but then the book slows way down when Helena goes to live with her father.  I found much of the first part of the book disjointed and the pacing slow.  There are just too many things going on and the story didn’t really focus on the couple.

Eventually, however, the story began to concentrate on Helena and Robert and that is when I became more engaged with the book.  I did like these characters, especially Helena.  She is a woman who is determined to control her own life despite the efforts of the men in it.  She is intelligent and has made a place for herself in her brother’s gaming hell.

Robert is a hidden sweetheart.  A man who is a romantic at heart but has been burned and thus chosen to cut himself off from his hopes of love. He quickly sees worth in Helena even though she is scarred and illegitimate. His courtship of Helena was my favorite part in the book (from their waltz lessons to his final romantic gesture to win her).

Despite the uneven nature of this book, the characters really pulled out the story in the end. It was their personality, their relationship and their triumph that I cheered.

WORTH MENTIONING:  I love a heroine who is talented in math — and Helena is even better than the men in her life.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE ROGUE’S WAGER is the first book in the Sinful Brides series.  The characters here are connected to prior Caldwell series, but this book is a standalone.  I have not read the prior series but didn’t need to in order to get the full impact of this book.  This book did, however, raise my interest in reading the prior series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars