Review: Brazen and the Beast

Review: Brazen and the BeastBrazen and the Beast (The Bareknuckle Bastards, #2) by Sarah MacLean
Series: The Bareknuckle Bastards #2
Published by Avon on July 30, 2019
Genres: Historical
Pages: 400

“Is there a good time to find a man bound and unconscious in one’s carriage?”

FINAL DECISION: I loved Whit, the hero, and there were moments in this book that were amazing, but it was prevented from being an amazing overall read by the static nature of the heroine who never made a misstep, never grew, and never felt human but rather a was a collection of “ideal” modern women qualities.

THE STORY: On the eve of her twenty-ninth birthday, Lady Henrietta Sedley has declared that this next year will be the Year of Hattie where she will claim herself and her wishes for herself. First, she will begin by ridding herself of her virginity to make herself unsuitable for marriage so that she can convince her father to finally see her as the worthy successor to the family shipping business. But on the way to her “errand” Hattie finds a tied up man in her carriage. The man is known as Beast, one of the bareknuckle bastards the kings who run the criminal enterprises in Covent Gardens. Whit finds Hattie intriguing especially because she is a lead on the man who threatens those he cares for.

OPINION: I absolutely adored Whit and was neutral on Hattie. Unfortunately, she was a static character who didn’t seem to have any growth in the story. Written as too perfect — she might not consider herself perfect for society, but she certainly didn’t need to change at all during the story. In fact, the essence of her story is that she is just great and everyone else tries to keep her down. I honestly found her story boring. The star here was Whit who was simply adorable and spent the book doing everything for Hattie.

Whit, like his siblings, was subjected to an evil game of torture by their father, a duke, in a competition between the duke’s bastard children to become the heir. Whit, however, is the caretaker of the family. Raised by his mother, Whit suffers from having known love and caring and not being able to protect those he loves. At every turn in this book, it is Whit’s desire to care for Hattie. Now she doesn’t always allow him to and she also demands to be an equal and care for him as well, but even when he does things to subvert Hattie’s goals, it comes from a place of care. I just adored him.

There were things I really liked about Hattie. She is an older heroine at twenty-nine. She is plus-sized and rather plain in appearance. She is also a budding business magnet if she could be allowed to take over her family’s business. My complaint is that she is already at her apex before she even meets Whit and doesn’t need to do any personal growth in the book. I like characters with flaws who have to overcome them and Hattie was just too “perfect” already. She is already at peace with herself. I just wanted to see her flaws — not just her perceived flaws which are not flaws at all. And even her business acumen we only get to hear about and not really see her handling the business.

I did love the relationship between Whit and Hattie. They were funny and sexy together. I loved the arguments and how the two just fit together. I did love so many parts to this book, I just wanted more. MacLean has spoiled me, and this is not amongst her best books.

WORTH MENTIONING: I loved the references to characters from prior MacLean books. Not enough to distract from the story for those who haven’t read other series, but certainly Easter eggs for fans of MacLean’s other books.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BRAZEN AND THE BEAST is the second book in the Bareknuckle Bastards series. While the romance here is self-contained and thus can be read as a standalone, there is an overarching story that is better read as part of the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.



Review: Death in Kew Gardens

Review: Death in Kew GardensDeath in Kew Gardens (Kat Holloway Mysteries, #3) by Jennifer Ashley
Series: Below Stairs Mysteries #3
Published by Berkley on June 4, 2019
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 320

FINAL DECISION: A solid entry in the series. Here the mystery predominates over the character stories.

THE STORY: Cook Kat Holloway finds herself mixed up in murder again when a man with a secret gifts her with a box of teas. When he becomes the prime suspect in the murder of the man next door. Kat becomes embroiled in the investigation which involves issues of colonialism and tea secrets stolen from China.

OPINION: The mystery here was good in that I didn’t figure out the culprit until the end. On the negative side, I was not that interested in the details of the tea trade here. That led my mind to wandering during lengthy explanations regarding motives and such. I wanted the story to be more personal to Kat. Instead, this felt like a standard mystery book, and I really didn’t buy her connection to the story here. Despite this, I enjoyed the book but it is my least favorite in the series so far.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is not much on the romance side here in this book. I wanted more Kat and Daniel.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DEATH IN KEW GARDENS is the third book in the Below Stairs Mysteries (also known as the Kat Holloway Mysteries/Murders). The mystery here is self contained and thus this book can be read as a standalone. There are ongoing storylines for the characters, however, so new readers should be aware that the characters and their personal stories develop from book to book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Surrender

Review: SurrenderSurrender (Regency Lovers 5) by Carole Mortimer
Series: Regency Lovers #5
Published by Carole Mortimer on May 10th 2019
Genres: Historical
Pages: 104

FINAL DECISION: A quick read, this isn’t a brilliant book but it was entertaining for what it is. A quick and easy hot historical with plenty of drama and crazy situations.

THE STORY: Clara Catchpole was rescued from her kidnappers by Lord Ezra Stone. After being rescued, Clara doesn’t want to be separated from Ezra and knows that there is a connection between them despite the big age gap between them. (She is eighteen and he is thirty-eight.) But Ezra insists on keeping a distance between them. However, when another threat on Clara’s life arises, Ezra and Clara get closer and it threatens his insistence on keeping things proper between them.

OPINION: This was an enjoyable little read. Crazy circumstances, crazy hot scenes. Nothing about it felt historically accurate or realistic, but it was a quick read with plenty of dramatic situations. I also enjoyed getting to see characters from the series who have important roles to play in this book. Ezra has plenty of secrets that cause serious problems in this book, and they are totally over the top. Clara is definitely not a shrinking violet. She goes after what she wants and that is Ezra despite all the potential obstacles in their path.

WORTH MENTIONING: At about 100 pages, this book is really a novella.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SURRENDER is the fifth book in the Regency Lovers series. Although there are overlapping characters, this book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.


Review: Shamed

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: ShamedShamed (Kate Burkholder, #11) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #11
Published by Minotaur Books on July 16, 2019
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 304


“You see a lot of things when you’re the chief of police in a small town.”

FINAL DECISION: Loved this one. Pulse pounding exciting mystery/suspense with plenty of Kate and John together. Plus, this one once again gives more complexity to the Amish.

THE STORY: An Amish grandmother is murdered and her young granddaughter is kidnapped. Chief Kate Burkholder is in a race against time to find the girl. The investigation leads Kate to uncomfortable information about the Amish that challenges what she thought she knew about them. She discovers that there are a lot of secrets to be uncovered.

OPINION: I loved this book. I was drawn into the story from the first page and the pacing of the book kept me breathless throughout. This was a fast paced and dramatic book until the very end.

I’m a big fan of this series especially because Kate is such an independent and competent character. She makes mistakes and she thinks too much, but everything she does comes from deep caring. Kate’s emotional connection to cases is always both problematic but also part of her great strength as an investigator. As always, Kate’s connection to the Amish give her an entry to the important people in the investigation, but often the reality conflicts with Kate’s faith in the Amish.

Here, there are serious secrets at work and Kate has to discover the truth in order to save the girl and find the killer.

There was a lot happening in this book which made it a read that I couldn’t put down. Every time I finished a chapter, instead of being able to put the book down, I wanted to know what happened next. I ended up reading the book in one large gulp.

I also really enjoyed that Kate’s love interest John is involved in the case rather than just being on the sideline. Kate and John work so well together that I love them having more “screen time” together. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get more followup from the prior book, but I always enjoy seeing how their relationship is developing.

Fans of the series will find all the elements that make this series worth reading. New readers will also get an exciting read as this book can be a gateway to the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: The format of this book add to the tension of the story. The construction is a bit different than others in the series but it works well here.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SHAMED is the eleventh book in the Kate Burkholder series. This book has a self-contained mystery and thus can be read as a standalone. There are ongoing character developments that will have less impact if the series is not read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

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



Review: In Plain Sight

Review: In Plain SightIn Plain Sight (Kate Burkholder, #10.5) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #10.5
Published by Minotaur Books on May 28, 2019
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 60

FINAL DECISION: A small mystery about a teenage Amish boy who is struck by a car and questions that arise when it looks like it might not have been an accident. This is a small mystery benefiting its length, but I liked it as we get to see all the best parts of the characters in the series.

THE STORY: When a teenage Amish boy is found seriously injured by the side of the road, it initially appears to be an accident. But Chief Kate Burkholder soon finds out that not everyone in town was happy that the Amish boy was dating an English girl.

OPINION: This is a pretty straightforward story, but has some of the hallmark issues raised in the series: the conflict between the Amish and the others in town, emotional and sex relationships, Kate being a strong person who does her job in a kickass fashion, the relationships she has with her staff and John. This short story (it’s too short for me to even consider it a novella) gives a nice taste of what is involved in the series. I thought the plot was well executed.

WORTH MENTIONING: Only small glimpses of Kate and John in this one.

CONNECTED BOOKS: IN PLAIN SIGHT is book 11.5 in the Kate Burkholder series. This short story can be read as a standalone and gives some idea of the stakes in the main books in the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.



Review: A Rogue Meets a Scandalous Lady

Review: A Rogue Meets a Scandalous LadyA Rogue Meets a Scandalous Lady (Mackenzies & McBrides, #11) by Jennifer Ashley
Published by JA / AG Publishing on July 9, 2019
Genres: Historical
Pages: 227

“Sophie was a part of him he hadn’t realized wasn’t there. Her simply being in the world completed him.”

FINAL DECISION: I’ve been waiting for David’s book for a long time. The stalwart friend of the formidable Hart Mackenzie, disappointed suitor of Eleanor, David has been awaiting the woman who will turn his life upside down. Sophie gives David a chance to put all his Machiavellian talents to work for good. I loved these two who find something special together after romantic disappointments. The book is clever machinations and romantic interludes, and I loved it.

Sophie is a woman subjected to the whims of a man who has disappointed and hurt her. Her circumstances are emblematic of the lack of power that women of the time could be subjected to. One of the things I really liked is how the women in this book use what power they have to help Sophie. While David pushes some buttons, it is the women who are necessary to resolve Sophie’s circumstances. Sophie also manages to assert some strength of her own in a twist in the resolution of David’s story.

I loved the gentleness and sweetness of Sophie and David’s romance in light of all the sneaky antics going on in this book. There is something gentle and real about their interactions that I found so romantic. David, especially, believes himself unworthy of Sophie and so even while he wants her, he expected to be rejected at every turn.

I’ve been waiting for this book for a long while. THE DUKE’S PERFECT WIFE remains my favorite in the series and this book operates as such a wonderful second act to that book that I smiled throughout. Anticipated books can sometimes disappoint, but I’m glad to say that I was so happy with this book and this romance.

THE STORY: David Fleming, rogue and devious right-hand to Hart Mackenzie, flees London under criminal threat and finds sanctuary with his old friend and mentor.  Also seeking sanctuary is his friend’s niece, Sophie. Sophie is hiding from a scandal of her own. David and Sophie, both involved in complicated personal situations, are immediately attracted to one another despite all the obstacles in their path. It is uncertain whether there is a way forward for them and how much manipulation must be done to bring about a happy ending.

OPINION: I really loved the story here. David and Sophie are such a cute couple. I’ve been wanting David’s story since he was rejected by Eleanor in her and Hart’s book. David deviousness and his unfailing loyalty make him a great candidate for a redemption story. I loved seeing him unraveled here by meeting Sophie.

WORTH MENTIONING: Significant appearances in the book from Eleanor Mackenzie (THE DUKE’S PERFECT WIFE) and Sinclair McBride (RULES OF A PROPER GOVERNESS), plus lots of other cameos, made me especially happy and gave this book a nice connection with the series as a whole.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A ROGUE MEETS A SCANDALOUS LADY is the eleventh book in the Mackenzies & McBrides series. The romance in this book is self-contained and thus the book can be read as a standalone. I think, however, that a reader will enjoy this book most if it is read at least after THE DUKE’S PERFECT WIFE where much of the backstory of David in the series is given.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC 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.


Review: My Fair Viscount

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: My Fair ViscountMy Fair Viscount (The Scandal Sheet, #4) by Jess Michaels
Series: The Scandal Sheet #4
Published by Passionate Pen on July 9th 2019
Genres: Historical
Pages: 84

FINAL DECISION: A reversed Pygmalion/My Fair Lady, this novella is short but I enjoyed the intensity between these characters. I wanted more but the length is limiting. It is a nice quick summer read with a great premise and interesting and hot interactions between the hero and heroine.

THE STORY: David Shaw was raised in the rookeries, but when his cousin finds out that David is the rightful heir to his father’s title, David needs polishing to take his place in the aristocracy. Miss Rose Higgins is hired to teach David all the polishing and skills he needs. Quickly, however, Rose and David quickly find a lot of heat between them even though David’s place in society means that there is no possible future for them.

OPINION: I enjoyed the story although the abbreviated nature meant that I didn’t feel that this story had the depth that I prefer. That negative, however, was offset by the great premise (although I would have liked to have seen more of David’s progression). These two were so nice together that I found the story in the end satisfying. The book is a quick read, and perfect for an afternoon by the pool.

David grew up in the rookery and made himself a place in the hells of London. When it is discovered that he is the rightful Viscount Shaw, David finds himself in an uncomfortable place. He lacks the manners, understanding and skills needed to navigate in society. The reasons for agreeing to take on the position of Viscount is part of his secrets. David also has things to learn about his own past that chance his life.

Rose is a woman who has taken the mantle of manners and propriety to make a life for herself and to protect herself from her past. When she is unexpectedly asked to teach the new Viscount Shaw what is needed to make his debut, Rose doesn’t expect that David will challenge her entire world.

This was an enjoyable story and my only complaint is that I wanted more of these characters.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is novella length story and thus the characters and the story are not as developed as a full length novel.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MAY FAIR VISCOUNT is the fourth book in the Scandal Sheet series. This book can be read as a standalone as the books are only loosely connected.

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 review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own


Review: Devoted to Love

Review: Devoted to LoveDevoted to Love by Shayla Black
Series: Devoted Lovers #2
Published by Berkley Books on July 2, 2019
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 336

FINAL DECISION: Enjoyable story, sexy, sexy times with a suspense/mystery story that kept me interested throughout. I liked these characters and how they reluctantly fall for one another.

THE STORY: Weddings are a natural place for hookups. When sister of the bride, Magnolia West and friend of the groom Josiah Grant agree to a no-commitments, no regrets one night stand, they don’t anticipate that there is something really strong between them. Two people who have been hurt and closed off end up spending time together as there is danger around them. And the more time they spend together, the more Josiah and Maggie can’t imagine being apart.

OPINION: This book begins with one of my favorite romance book situations — romance at someone else’s wedding. Josiah and Maggie intend to take full advantage of the wedding atmosphere and enjoy some no-commitment sex. But then things happen. There is a mysterious murder of a neighbor and some possible danger for Maggie and her family which requires Josiah to stay on in town to help protect her and find out the truth of what is happening. Of course, this allows Josiah and Maggie to get to know one another better — something neither wanted at first.

Maggie is a woman who keeps herself at a distance from others. She has fear and abandonment issues and is just protecting herself. She also has had really bad luck in the romance department. She is a woman who fears connection and yet is starving to be connected to someone and have a happy ever after. She just fears so much something negative happening that she keeps her distance. I loved that we get to see how quickly she learns to trust Josiah. She opens herself up to the possibility of love and is rewarded.

Josiah is a man who has been burned before and has no intention on getting serious with a woman. But then he meets Maggie and she appeals to him on a deep level. They are physical matches and he finds himself loving the challenge she presents. She is smart and stubborn. Josiah is a deeply protective guy and while he respects Maggie, there is no doubt that he intends to be the alpha protector.

The suspense story here is intriguing as I kept wondering what was going on behind the group threatening Maggie’s family. Information is given at a good pace and I was always interested in what was going on in the story.

WORTH MENTIONING: Can I admit that I really want the story of Brea and One-Mile?

CONNECTED BOOKS: DEVOTED TO LOVE is the second book in the Devoted Lovers series. This book has a self-contained romance so it can be read as a standalone but there are overlapping characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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