Review: Death at Brighton Pavilion

Review: Death at Brighton PavilionDeath at Brighton Pavilion (Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries Book 14) by Ashley Gardner, Jennifer Ashley
Series: Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries #14
Published by JA / AG Publishing on 17th December 2019
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 269
Goodreads
five-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: I loved this one. The mystery strikes right into the heart of Captain Lacey — his past, his wife, his view of himself. The detective investigating whether he himself is a murderer is a grand plot and this one kept me turning page after page.

THE STORY: Captain Lacey awakens with a sword in his hand, a dead body, and no memory of what happened. As Lacey tries to figure out what has happened, he has to contend with his past with the dead man and the possibility that he might have committed the murder.

OPINION: This was one of my favorite of the series. The close connection between the mystery and Lacey’s past made this one compelling. I also love the twist of Lacey not being sure whether or not he committed the murder especially with a definite motive that he possesses.

Captain Lacey must seek the assistance of all of his friends to help him find out what happened. Once again, I loved seeing all the supporting characters who have their own developing stories in the series.

This book nicely works on the relationship between Lacey and his wife. There are complications which stretch the characters and give them more depth.

The connection between the mystery and the personal always makes the story more compelling for me. This one kept me guessing throughout and Lacey’s dealing with his own past and his own impetuous personality that gets him into trouble made this compelling.

WORTH MENTIONING: There are loose ends here that are left open nicely leaving possibilities for future books.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DEATH AT BRIGHTON PAVILION is the fourteenth book in the Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries series. Each book, including this one, is a self-contained mystery. It is not necessary to read the other books to jump into this one. There are continuing character storylines that go through the entire series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC from the author which was used in the 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.

five-stars

Review: A Mackenzie Yuletide

Review: A Mackenzie YuletideA Mackenzie Yuletide (Mackenzies & McBrides, #11.5) by Jennifer Ashley
Published by InterMix on October 29, 2019
Genres: Historical
Pages: 125
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: For fans of the Mackenzie series, it was lovely to see all the characters that we have known and loved with the kids grown up a bit.

THE STORY: It’s the holiday season for the Mackenzie family when Ian Mackenzie is trying to track down a necklace for his wife Beth, and a ghost seems to have invaded the Mackenzie household.

OPINION: This was an enjoyable book that is really for fans of the series because there are no real explanation of the characters or their histories. That is fine for me because I love these characters and am happy to spend more time with them especially because we are introduced to the next generation of Mackenzies (who we might have seen as small children but here we get to see their personalities). There is a plot, but I didn’t particularly care about the resolution of the mystery. I just luxuriated in getting to see who these characters are now.

WORTH MENTIONING: After this novella, I’m hoping that we are going to get books about the younger Mackenzie generation.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A MACKENZIE YULETIDE is book 11.5 in the Mackenzie & McBrides series (or the Mackenzie series). It should be read after the Victorian era books in the series because its really an update about those characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

 

four-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
Goodreads
four-stars

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.

four-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
Goodreads
five-stars

“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.

five-stars

Review: Kyle

Review: KyleKyle (Riding Hard #6) by Jennifer Ashley
Series: Riding Hard #6
Published by JA/AG on May 9, 2019
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: This is a nice romance about two people getting to know one another while living in a small town. I liked both of these characters and their romance felt normal and more real than I expected.

THE STORY: Kyle Malory is recovering from an bull riding injury when a bet with veterinarian Anna Lawler ends up with the two going on a date. As the two spend time together, two people who have known one another for a long time get to know one another for the first time romantically.

OPINION: This is a sweet small town contemporary romance. There is less drama than some of the other books in the series, but I liked how Kyle and Anna get to know one another. There is a great comfort here in the setting and the characters as Kyle and Anna circle around one another in a real way. No serious misunderstandings, no outside forces keeping them apart. Just two people getting to know one another and finding out whether there is something more than sexual attraction between them.

I really liked Anna who is sassy and no pushover. A woman who is constantly underestimated, she is strong and yet not harsh. I liked that she has her values and is willing to assert them but doesn’t demand that other people adhere to her beliefs.

I thought that Kyle was a sucker for her as soon as the two begin to interact. He is kind to her and certainly respects her. In an older fashioned romance, I would say that he is sweet on her from the start.

There is certainly some hot moments, but I really liked the little things between them — like Kyle trying a new food, getting himself dirty to help her, wanting to protect her reputation, Anna’s attack cat.

The book made me smile.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is overlap in the timeline for this book and the next in the series, RAY, so we get to see some of Ray and the woman who catches his interest.

CONNECTED BOOKS: KYLE is the sixth book in the Riding Hard series. The romance here is self-contained and thus the book can be read as a standalone. Characters, however, appear from other books and reading the series gives a reader a better sense of the relationships between all these characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC 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.

 

four-stars

Review: The Devilish Lord Will

Review: The Devilish Lord WillThe Devilish Lord Will (MacKenzies & McBrides, #10) by Jennifer Ashley
Series: Mackenzies and McBrides #10
Published by JA / AG Publishing on January 15, 2019
Genres: Historical
Pages: 315
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: I absolutely loved this book. I’m a sucker for a couple who have new chance at love. This book has a deep romance and a lot of action and adventure. Loved these characters and their story.

THE STORY: Josette Oswald needs help finding a legendary gold treasure and she knows there is no one more suited for such a hunt than Will Mackenzie. Josie and Will have worked together in the past in Will’s spying endeavors sometimes pretending to be husband and wife. But Josie has a daughter to raise and Will’s adventures were a danger to her family and her heart so she sent him away. Now she needs his help but she also has a secret that might destroy the long friendship the two former lovers share and Will’s willingness to help Josie on her quest.

OPINION: This book was my favorite of the 1700s Mackenzies. I loved the relationship between Will and Josie. Things weren’t right for them in the past for a multitude of reasons and I highly respected Josie for turning Will away in order to raise her daughter. Even though Will knows he is not one to settle down, he still is an honorable man who did everything he could to care for Josie and her daughter.

I loved just about everything in this book. Will cares deeply under his devil may care attitude. His immediate acceptance of Josie’s daughter and his love and caring for a child not his own is admirable. And I really liked that Josie’s daughter is not merely a plot device. She is a real character here and I’m glad that we get some resolution to her story as well.

The romance in this book is so different from the usual — we meet and in a week are madly in love and want to spend our lives together — story. There is a real sense that Will and Josie had something special a decade ago, but the time wasn’t right for them. Now the two have a new chance and are in a different phase of their lives. While both have to clear up things from their pasts, this book has a strong sense that the two can finally have a chance for the future together.

There are a lot of moving pieces in this story, but the focus is always on Will and Josie. This is a story of two people who have a decade to realize that what they have together is special and are finally willing to give in to love.

WORTH MENTIONING: For fans of the series, this book gives an update on everyone (from the 1700s).

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE DEVILISH LORD WILL is the tenth book in the Mackenzies & McBrides series and the third book about the 1700s Mackenzies. This book can be read as a standalone although I recommend that readers consider reading the two prior 1700s books because they all are connected.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: A Shifter Christmas Carol

Review: A Shifter Christmas CarolA Shifter Christmas Carol (Shifters Unbound, #11.75) by Jennifer Ashley
Series: Shifters Unbound #11.75
Published by JA / AG Publishing on December 11th 2018
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 62
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A reworking of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, this novella takes the familiar story into new directions to good effect. I especially enjoyed seeing so many of the beloved characters from the series, getting background and updates.D

THE STORY: Dylan Morrissey forgoes the traditional and family oriented Shifter Yule celebrations to continue his work to eventually free the Shifters. When Dylan comes to New Orleans and the haunted house, he is treated to a vision of the past, present and future which challenges his priorities.

OPINION: I really enjoyed the twist on the Christmas Carol story. Instead of being a scrooge who needs love and compassion in his heart, this Christmas Carol is about Dylan moving on from the past to see that he cannot do everything alone. The guides on his journey, Ben, Zander and Tiger, are all funny and perfect for their roles. I especially liked that Dylan is compensating for his own feelings of being a failure and trying to “fix” his mistakes. But, of course, Dylan ends up making so many more mistakes.

The best part of this novella is getting to see so many of the characters from the series and getting updates on what is going on in their lives. This is a very nice Christmas novella that works especially well for fans of the series who will enjoy seeing what is going on with the characters.

WORTH MENTIONING: I always appreciate that the novellas move the overarching story forward and are not just asides. Here, there will clearly be long term consequences of Dylan’s recognition that he cannot save the Shifters himself.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A SHIFTER CHRISTMAS CAROL is book 11.75 in the Shifters Unbound series. The story here is self-contained, but it much more rich if a reader is familiar with all the characters from the Shifters Unbound series who make appearances throughout the story.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: ‘Tis the Season

Review: ‘Tis the Season'Tis the Season: Regency Yuletide Short Stories by Christi Caldwell, Eva Devon, Grace Burrowes, Janna MacGregor, Jennifer Ashley, Jess Michaels, Louisa Cornell
Series: Rogues to Riches #0.5, The Brethren #3.5, The Many Brides of Lord Creighton #3.5, The Duke's Secret #1.5, Cavensham Heiresses #4.5,
on October 23, 2018
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-stars

This is a collection of short stories which are unconnected to one another (although most are connected to a series the author writes).

A FIRST-FOOTER FOR LADY JANE by Jennifer Ashley:  When her grandfather predicts that Jane will merry this year’s First-Footer, Jane is disbelieving. She intends to marry the man she has known since childhood. But at midnight, Captain Spencer Ingram walks through the door and turns her expectations upside down. This was a sweet story. There wasn’t much to the romance between Jane and Spencer, but Spencer’s sincerely made up for that along with the meddling Grandfather. A sweet holiday treat. Rating: 4 stars.

A KNIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS by Grace Burrowes: Chloe Thatcher is in danger of losing her grandfather’s bookshop after his death. Aidan Ferris has the job of gaining ownership of the property for the man who saved him from the streets. This is a prequel to the Rogues to Riches series. I really enjoyed the tone and characters in this book although the romance is merely sweet. I liked this one well enough to want to read the next book in the series. Rating: 4 stars.

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS by Christi Caldwell: Martha and Graham Whitworth (from THE ROGUE WHO RESCUED HER) are getting ready to celebrate their first holiday together after their marriage when they receive a summons from Graham’s parents (who tried to separate them) asking for a reconciliation. This book operates an an epilogue to THE ROGUE WHO RESCUED HER. However, I haven’t read that book and this story was still perfectly understandable and I immediately got the issues with the parties and the connection between Martha and Graham. I really enjoyed this story and it made me want to read Martha and Graham’s story. Rating: 4.5 stars.

STEALING CHRISTMAS by Louisa Cornell: Sebastian and Minerva Brightworth are going to be spending their first Christmas together but their happiness is interrupted when Minerva insists on inviting Sebastian’s brother to the festivities and Sebastian doesn’t want him there. This story didn’t work as well for me. I haven’t read the book that this couple is introduced in and I didn’t feel that the story seemlessly introduced these characters to me so that I would care about them despite not knowing their story. The story got better as it progressed, but I think this might be better for those familiar with the couple. Rating: 2.5 stars.

JOY TO THE DUKE by Eva Devon:  Robert Deverall and his wife Harriet aka Harry, the Duke and Duchess of Blackstone, celebrate Christmas but there are shadows of the past. This one didn’t work for me. There were too many characters that I was not familiar with not having read the other books in the series. I didn’t feel connected to the characters because there were obviously stories here between the characters of which I was not aware. Rating: 2 stars.

THE EARL’S CHRISTMAS BRIDE by Janna MacGregor: Cameron Dunmore, the Earl of Queensgrace, wants to win the woman he loves, Julia Lawson. Julia, however, even as she loves Cam has been hurt by his withdrawal from her life. But even if she can forgive him, she is not willing to leave her family to be with him. I liked this story although I had trouble getting into the story because I was not familiar with the characters and it took me a while to orient myself in the characters and the story.  I did, however, end up really liking the story once I was able to sort everything out. Rating: 3.5 stars.

SILENT NIGHT by Jess Michaels: Ewan and Charlotte, the Duke and Duchess of Donburrow, are planning Christmas with their friends and family. Charlotte, however, has a secret that causes Ewan to reexamine where he is in his life. This story is really an epilogue to THE SILENT DUKE from the 1797 Club series. This was my favorite in this collection because I already knew the characters and liked seeing their story advance. Ewan and Charlotte are wonderful together and this story brings something new to their romance. Rating: 4.5 stars.

four-stars

Review: Ross

Review: RossRoss (Riding Hard Book 5) by Jennifer Ashley
Series: Riding Hard #5
Published by JA / AG Publishing on August 21, 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Sweet and gentle, I loved this story. After a bunch of angst and drama filled installments, I loved that this is just two people getting to know one another. Yes, there is a dramatic closing set regarding the drug dealers in town, but the heart of of the story is two people discovering one another apart from their town reputations.

THE STORY: Ross Campbell is the “rebel” in the family, turning away from the family stunt business to work in law enforcement. He rescues a damsel in distress when her car goes off the road during a rainstorm. She’s on the way to her wedding and she happens to be Callie Jones, the girl Ross had a crush on in high school. When the wedding doesn’t happen, Callie turns to Ross as a calm in her crazy day.

OPINION: I loved this story. Ross is such a sweetheart. There is a bunch of external drama, but Ross and Callie are pretty stable people. These two are perfect for one another from the start and there isn’t a lot keeping them apart except for them getting to know one another and understand what each wants from the relationship.

The story felt like a sweet spring breeze — refreshing and cleansing with a joy. I loved these characters and how normal most of their relationship is. Yes, there is some external drama, but the two of them are centered and have such normal problems.

In fact, my only disappointment was that I would have liked to see how these two worked out some of their issues that were raised (Ross’ career, Callie’s horse rehab project) since those were important parts of the story.

This was a character centered story where the relationship was far more developed than the plot and I prefer a book with these tendencies. Of all the Campbell brothers, Ross is my favorite.

WORTH MENTIONING: Next up are the Malorys and we get a little preview in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ROSS is the fifth book in the Riding Hard series. The romance here is a standalone although the series deals with characters in a small town so there is a lot of overlap of characters. Readers also get an update on the prior couples in the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC from the author. 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: Scandal Above Stairs

Review: Scandal Above StairsScandal Above Stairs (Kat Holloway Mysteries, #2) by Jennifer Ashley
Published by Berkley Books on July 3, 2018
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 320
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I enjoyed this one more than the first in the series. I really enjoyed learning more about the characters and developing the backstories of the cast of characters.

THE STORY: Kat is called to help investigate the theft of artwork from a friend of her employer. Kat is soon drawn into a series of thefts including ones being investigated by her friend, the mysterious Daniel McAdam. Open doors in the home she is working in and breaking in a new assistant are some additional challenges for Kat while also preparing meals for the household. Kat’s investigations lead her into the uncomfortable position of moving in the world of the upper household.

OPINION: This book allows times to delve into the relationships between the characters and also presents a whole series of mystery situations. I liked that we got to move through various stories at once. Things overlap and it is not clear what is relevant and what isn’t. In other words, it is a good mystery set up.

I really enjoyed how the mystery is both evidence and personality. And we get to know a lot about the characters surrounding Kat. Some of the information and facts are misdirection but all are interesting. The emphasis in this book is relationship and I especially enjoyed that we get a lot more of Kat and Daniel. They make a cute couple and I like seeing them reveal more to one another.

The book is interesting and I wasn’t sure where the story was going until the end which is enjoyable in a mystery.

I look forward to more from this series.

WORTH MENTIONING: Who knew how much work was involved in Victorian kitchen work?

CONNECTED BOOKS: SCANDAL ABOVE STAIRS is the second book in the Below Stairs aka the Kat Holloway Mysteries series. This is a self contained mystery that can be read as a standalone, but there are ongoing character developments that continue through the series and for that the books should be read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

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

four-half-stars