Review: The Reluctant Countess

Review: The Reluctant CountessThe Reluctant Countess (Would-Be Wallflowers, #2) by Eloisa James
Series: Would-Be Wallflowers #2
Published by Avon on November 29, 2022
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384

FINAL DECISION: I enjoyed this book because Yasmin is so resilient, and I loved how she stands up for herself despite the approbation of society and even Giles at times. I loved how Giles’s love for Yasmin transforms him and how he struggles with his societal expectations. This book manages to be sweet and hot at the same time.

THE STORY: Giles Renwick, Earl of Lilford, is undone by Lady Yasmin Régnier. Yasmin is everything he could want in a wife, except that her dress and her behavior, and her history are not what he sees as proper. That makes her ineligible for consideration as his countess, but he can’t stop wanting to spend time with her. Yasmin has a past and is determined to be strong in the face of the disapproval of British society and Giles. Giles is too stuffy and judgemental, yet Yasmin finds that Giles constantly exceeds her expectations.

OPINION: This book is so much more serious than the initial setup appeared to portend. Yasmin and Giles have to learn to speak to one another about their fears and dreams. There was so much I loved about this book, but I really couldn’t stand Gile’s sister, who just drove me crazy for the entire book. I understand that she is hurting as well, but being hurt doesn’t give one the privilege of hurting others.

Despite this, however, I really did love the characters as they worked out their relationship with one another. There was something incredibly romantic about how Giles is completely undone by Yasmin and realizes that he has to change to have what he wants. He begins so judgmental but realizes that he is wrong. So rarely does a hero contemplate his own actions and realize that he was wrong without having an extremely dramatic situation. I ended up loving Giles because he is willing to change to be worthy of Yasmin. Those changes are about mindset and attitude and about his judgments rather than something external to himself. While the reader understands why Giles is the way he is, it is understanding rather than justification.

I really loved Yasmin, who has taken the roughest part of life and made something sparkling and joyful for herself. That is why Giles falls for her and why I like her as well. So much in life could have struck her down and destroyed her, and yet she remains positive about so much.

I think I really have a thing for the grumpy hero and the ray of sunshine. This book has some of that and yet upends all expectations of that trope. Giles is not as grumpy and reserved as he appears, and Yasmin has depth and real pain in her life.

WORTH MENTIONING: I can’t wait to read Silvester’s book. He is adorable in this one.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE RELUCTANT COUNTESS is the second book in the Would-Be Wallflowers series. The romance here is self-contained, and there is no overarching storyline, so that this book can be read as a standalone. There are appearances, however, by characters from the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Unmasked by the Marquess

Review: Unmasked by the MarquessUnmasked by the Marquess (Regency Imposters #1) by Cat Sebastian
Series: Regency Imposters #1
on April 17, 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 320

FINAL DECISION: I found this book dull and uninteresting. The characters were not compelling, and I didn’t have any interest in their story. They really didn’t have a romance, as their relationship was pretty boring. Unfortunately for me, this book didn’t really work beyond the representation on page of the bisexual Marquess and nonbinary second main character.

THE STORY:  Robert Selby is determined to see his sister happily married. When Selby seeks the assistance of the Marquess of Pembroke, Selby appeals to his sister being the godchild of Pembroke’s father. Selby is lying. Selby is also lying about his identity because he is actually a former housemaid named Charity Church who has been masquerading as Robert Selby for years. Alistair, Marquess of Pembroke, has been committed to the duty to the title, spending his time restoring the fortunes of the estate after his father’s mismanagement. Alistair is intrigued by Selby, who makes him happier than he has for years. When Charity’s ruse is revealed, Alistair is angered by the deception and by Charity’s unwillingness to conform to Alistair and society’s expectations.

OPINION: I barely made it through this one. The story idea was great, but the author managed to make a great story pretty boring. The characters were not compelling and their conflicts did not seem high stakes because the characters did not treat it that way. Instead, this seemed like a modern story placed in a historical without any real danger for these characters to make these choices in their lives.

I wish we had seen more of these characters together on the page. There is too much time they are apart, and thus the chemistry between them suffered. I liked Robin/Robert/Charity, but the resolution of Robin’s deception was too simple (which also reduced the stakes for me). I would have liked more consequences for Robin because everything was settled too easily and quickly.

I didn’t really like Alistair and didn’t find his conversion on his lifetime views very convincing. I don’t think the characters were well-developed for the story this book was trying to tell.

As a result, there really doesn’t seem like a reason these characters should not be together, and thus, it was dull and boring. I think there was possibility here, but not well executed.

I thought the best part of this book was when Alistair believed that Robin was a man because he was so in love but worried about approaching him. There was something really passionate about this part of the book. The rest, not so much.

WORTH MENTIONING: I did like the twist of how Robin began to use the name Robert Selby because it was unexpected.

CONNECTED BOOKS: UNMASKED BY THE MARQUESS is the first book in the Regency Imposters series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2.5 stars.


Review: Just What I Needed

Review: Just What I NeededJust What I Needed (Stage Dive, #4.9) by Kylie Scott
Published by 1001 Dark Nights Press on 2022
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 88

FINAL DECISION: This story was okay. I liked Jude and Dean, but there really wasn’t any content to their relationship. I liked seeing the characters from the series, but I didn’t really get any sense of what brought Dean and Jude together other than attraction.

THE STORY: Jude is the nanny for David Ferris and his wife. When music producer Dean Jennings arrives to work with the band, Jude senses something between them. The Stage Dive women decide to help her catch Dean.

OPINION: I really wanted to love this novella, but I only liked it — and that was mostly from seeing my favorite characters from the series rather than the romance here. I liked both Jude and Dean, but there really isn’t much to their relationship. Perhaps they are both too nice.

The story nicely gives Dean his happy ending after being cast off in LEAD. I wanted to know more about him, but what I learned didn’t really go to his personality. Instead, I still wondered about what attracted him to his ex and what was the nature of their relationship.

I think this story needed more time because the two main characters are too nice on the surface. Perhaps learning more about what makes them who they are and what conflicts could arise in their relationship.

The story feels really abbreviated, but what is here is a nice little story.

WORTH MENTIONING: I loved seeing the Stage Dive group. The best part of these novellas is seeing them as the people around them get together.

CONNECTED BOOKS: JUST WHAT I NEEDED is book 4.9 in the Stage Dive series. This book can be read as a standalone, although there are a lot of characters from the series that you might need to know more about to enjoy here. The hero and heroine from this book have appeared in other books in the series, but you find out everything you need to know about there here.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.


Review: The Rhythm Method

Review: The Rhythm MethodThe Rhythm Method (Stage Dive, #4.8) by Kylie Scott
Series: Stage Dive #4.8
Published by 1001 Dark Nights Press on November 9, 2021
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 82

FINAL DECISION: Very enjoyable story. It is really an epilogue to David and Evelyn’s story, and I really loved how the two of them approached their conflict and worked it out. The presence of the other band members made this a comforting story.

THE STORY:  David and Evelyn have been happily married for seven years. They have been a stabilizing force as the first couple in the Stage Dive band. When an unexpected pregnancy occurs, everything seems to be turned upside down. Now Evelyn and David need to redefine their relationship and build a family together.

OPINION: I don’t want to spoil the story, but in short, an unexpected pregnancy causes problems for Evelyn and David’s marriage. I thought that this was a great little story with such an adult resolution to the conflict. There is some romance and some sexy time, and I enjoyed seeing David and Ev’s relationship change and grow. The premise of the story is a little crazy, but I totally was willing to just go with it.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book ends with a suggestion about the next short novella in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE RHYTHM METHOD is book 4.8 of the Stage Dive series. This book should be read at least after LICK, as it is a type of epilogue to that couple’s book. I think this book is better for fans of the series because knowledge of all the personalities of the characters and their backstories is assumed.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Love Song

Review: Love SongLove Song (Stage Dive, #4.7) by Kylie Scott
Series: Stage Dive 4.7
Published by Dark Nights on October 20, 2020
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 79

FINAL DECISION: Enjoyable story, but it lacks the depth of other books in the series because we don’t get a real reason why these two broke up and now can be together.

THE STORY: Adam Dillon is the new hot rock star who has been singing rage songs about his ex. Then his ex, Jill, comes back into his life, intending to give him a piece of her mind and return the large check he sent her. The two discover that perhaps they never got over one another and more love was involved in their relationship than they thought.

OPINION: The story was nice, but if this weren’t a Stage Dive story with appearances from characters from the series, I probably would forget it as soon as I read it. Adam and Jill are sweet together, but for a couple that broke up, there wasn’t enough drama or working through their issues for me to believe that they had a great happy ending in store. That being said, I really liked Adam and Jill. It seemed like the two just didn’t communicate with one another or share their feelings until things fell apart. I liked the characters and thought that they seemed young and working things out. The book suffered from the length. I needed more from their story. With the addition of the Stage Dive crew, however, I really enjoyed the story.

WORTH MENTIONING: Loved seeing the Stage Dive band and their wives!

CONNECTED BOOKS: LOVE SONG is book 4.7 in the Stage Dive series. Characters from the series make appearances here, but the couple is new so a new reader won’t miss anything.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.


Review: Wilde Child

Review: Wilde ChildWilde Child (The Wildes of Lindow Castle, #7) by Eloisa James
Series: The Wildes of Lindow Castle #7
Published by Avon on March 30, 2021
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384

FINAL DECISION: The Wildes of Lindow has been an amazing series. This book fits right in. The romance is complex, with the relationship building so beautifully between the characters. Both Joan and Thaddeus feel real. There is a lot of adult talking between them, which I love more than unnecessary drama. There is plenty of drama here, but it is not made up of dramatics but deep conflicts that must be worked through.

THE STORY: Lady Joan is scandalous just for existing. Her golden hair reveals that her mother was unfaithful to the Duke of Lindow. Joan is not willing to be quiet and hope people forget about her. Instead, she is always running into scandals of her own. This time Joan is going to act as Hamlet in breeches. Her model for the aristocratic Hamlet is Vicount Greywick, Thaddeus. Greywick spends much of his time saving Joan from herself. Although he has no intention of falling under her spell, he can’t stop spending time with her and is determined to protect her. The two enter into a bargain, Thaddeus will facilitate one real performance by Joan as Hamlet, and she will agree to finally marry. While Thaddeus doesn’t plan on being the groom, he also is attracted to Joan despite his best intentions.

OPINION: This book subverted my expectations. Every time that I thought that I knew in what direction the story would go, it swerved and became deeper and more complex. The story could have been about a free spirit (Joan) and a rigid stick-in-the-mud (Thaddeus), but it wasn’t. The characters have mixed motives and grow and change through this book.

Joan initially seems flighty to me, but her maturity and reasonableness are demonstrated as the story progresses. At the same time, she remains herself. Both the reader and Thaddeus begin to see things in Joan that were unclear as the book began. The same is true for Thaddeus, who is exposed as the book continues.

What I love best about this book is that it never forgets that it is a romance between two people. It’s not the story of Joan finding herself or being independent. Rather it is about how two people fall in love. I’ve greatly tired of recent books which seem only interested in the heroine’s story, and the hero is merely a toy to be manipulated or played off against the heroine. What I find most satisfying in this case is how Joan and Thaddeus grow, change, and become a couple.

This book is funny, romantic, and quite enjoyable (and even has a small secondary romance). I will miss the Wildes greatly.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book has a nice wrap-up of the series at the end.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WILDE CHILD is the sixth book in the Wildes of Lindow Castle series. The romance here is self-contained, so it can be read as a standalone. The entire family appears in this book, however, so it is better to read in order to get the entire dynamic.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.


Review: Tangled Lies

Review: Tangled LiesTangled Lies by Anne Stuart
Published by Harlequin Books Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 255

FINAL DECISION: I enjoyed this book as an early Anne Stuart hero. I understand that some people might be offended by the heroine having feelings for her “brother” but as it was obvious that he wasn’t, I wasn’t bothered. I like the ambiguity of whether the hero is good or bad. The negative is that the heroine is not as well developed as later Stuart books.

THE STORY: Rachel Chandler comes to Hawaii to find her brother she hasn’t seen for fifteen years. Her brother, however, is a haunted man to whom Rachel feels an unnatural attraction. (Of course, the man is not her brother, which one might expect from this being a mainstream romance). Dangerous events threaten Rachel, and she needs to figure out who to trust.

OPINION: This is Stuart experimenting with another hero who has ambiguous motivations. She perfected this in the Ice series, but here the story is not as well developed, and neither are the characters. At the time this book was published in 1984, it would have been so different from other category romances. Stuart is an author who broke boundaries, and this book is attempted to go into the darker parts of romance.

Many of the taboo books now are from the Anne Stuart tree of writers. But here, she is interested in messing with the expected narrative of category romances. For much of the book, neither the heroine nor the reader knows the hero’s motives and who he is in the story. In subverting the trustworthiness of the hero, the book allows the reader to question whether it is a good idea for the heroine to get involved with him.

I liked how Stuart upends the expected story, but I didn’t think the heroine was strong enough here. She was a bit meek for my interest. Later Stuart books had stronger heroines. This book can have benefitted from Rachel being more assertive earlier in the story. The book is a bit bonkers, but I liked the twists in the story.

WORTH MENTIONING: TANGLED LIES is one of Anne Stuart’s early books. She perfected the hero who has ambiguous motives and might be the villain as sh


STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.