Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Review: A Princess in Theory - Alyssa Cole

A Princess in Theory by Alyssa ColeFrom Goodreads:

From acclaimed author Alyssa Cole comes the tale of a city Cinderella and her Prince Charming in disguise . . .

Between grad school and multiple jobs, Naledi Smith doesn’t have time for fairy tales…or patience for the constant e-mails claiming she’s betrothed to an African prince. Sure. Right. Delete! As a former foster kid, she’s learned that the only things she can depend on are herself and the scientific method, and a silly e-mail won’t convince her otherwise.

Prince Thabiso is the sole heir to the throne of Thesolo, shouldering the hopes of his parents and his people. At the top of their list? His marriage. Ever dutiful, he tracks down his missing betrothed. When Naledi mistakes the prince for a pauper, Thabiso can’t resist the chance to experience life—and love—without the burden of his crown.

The chemistry between them is instant and irresistible, and flirty friendship quickly evolves into passionate nights. But when the truth is revealed, can a princess in theory become a princess ever after?

My Thoughts: 

I picked this book as part of the Read Harder reading challenge, and despite a few "quirks" I found a new author and a story that I really enjoyed and I look forward to reading more by Ms. Cole.

This is not a book or a story that is meant to seem grounded in reality.  Instead, it's a modern day fairy tale and if you go into it with that mindset it's a story to enjoy.  If you expect it to seem real, you'll find yourself saying "that could never happen" more than you'd like and probably reduce your enjoyment.  Instead, get lost in the fun and the romance, even if you are someone like me that never really dreamed of being a long-lost princess.

The only "quirk" I found while reading the book was that it is written in a style that is more informal than many books.  Not that most romance use overly formal language, but this is truly written as though the characters (modern 20-somethings) are speaking like they would to each other if they were real people in today's world.  It took a bit for me to get used to, and before long I was enjoying the story enough I didn't notice it as much.

It may defy reality, but the quickly developing relationship between our characters, the challenges they each face (some of their own making), and emotional struggles of trust and love make for an entertaining story. 

A much appreciated review copy received from Edelweiss!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Review: Hurts to Love You - Alisha Rai

Hurts to Love You by Alisha RaiFrom Goodreads: Being bad never felt so good, in the third novel in Alisha Rai’s sexy Forbidden Hearts series!

Well-behaved women don’t lust after men who love to misbehave.

Heiress Evangeline Chandler knows how to keep a secret . . . like her life-long crush on the tattooed hottie who just happens to be her big brother’s friend. She’s a Chandler, after all, and Chandlers don’t hook up with the help. Then again, they also don’t disobey their fathers and quit their respectable jobs, so good-girl rules may no longer apply.

Gabriel Hunter hides the pain of his past behind a smile, but he can’t hide his sudden attraction to his friend’s sheltered little sister. Eve is far too sweet to accept anything less than forever and there’s no chance of a future between the son of a housekeeper and the town’s resident princess.

When a wedding party forces Eve and Gabe into tight quarters, keeping their hands off each other will be as hard as keeping their clothes on. The need that draws them together is stronger than the forces that should shove them apart . . . but their sparks may not survive the explosion when long-buried secrets are finally unearthed.

My Thoughts: I picked up this author as part of a reading challenge that included reading a romance involving a diverse main character or that was written by a diverse author.  I was not familiar with Ms. Rai's work prior to the first in this series, and I had no idea what to expect. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.  Her work is well-written and much more than "just" a romance.  The characters are well developed and she dives into deeper issues that are involved in love, relationships, family, and frankly, life. 

This is the third book in the series but can be read as a stand-alone.  Despite being the third in a series that follows two families, the characters don't get old and the story lines aren't the same throughout the series.  There are some underlying issues that carry through considering the ties between the books and the families, but overall, the underlying concerns, the issues that make up the story are unique throughout. Like the other books, we learn about the imperfections of Gabe and Eve, their insecurities, fears, worries, and we see them work to grow and move forward.  I think unlike many books where there are emotional and personal challenges, these don't get glossed over and working to overcome these fears and insecurities is not portrayed as an easy or perfect process.  All the relationships involve work, and that's real, which I think is important. Don't get me wrong, it is certainly a hot romance, but it was so much more than I expected and I highly recommend the whole series. 

A much appreciated review copy received from Edelweiss! 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Review: His Sinful Touch (Candace Camp)

His Sinful Touch (The Mad Morelands, #5)From Goodreads: A lost identity. A dangerous mystery. And a deep love that can conquer it all.

When a mysterious gentleman arrives on his doorstep, Alexander Moreland is astonished to discover that the stranger is not a gentleman at all, but a beautiful young woman disguised as a man, and in great need of assistance. The woman remembers nothing except her own name, Sabrina, and has only the contents of her pockets as clues to her identity: a handkerchief, a pocket watch, a leather pouch, a torn scrap of paper and a gold ring.

Sabrina is certain that she is on the run from someone, or something—how else to explain the bruises on her face and the pervasive sense of dread she feels? She’s also certain that she trusts Alex to help her, and she can’t deny the sparks that fly between them. As they race through the English countryside, Sabrina and Alex must solve the mystery of Sabrina’s past—before whatever she’s running from catches up to them.


My Thoughts: I've read a number of Ms. Camp's books, but had somehow missed this series (earlier books were released 10+ years ago, this is a new addition to the series).  I REALLY enjoyed this book, so much so that I read it all in one day and could not put it down.  What made the book for me was the characters and this unconventional family for this time period that is the heart of the series.  I picked up the series here with Book 5, and despite that it is easily a standalone read.  (That being said, I'm working on finding the others to get the backstory!)

Sabrina and Alex are the focus of the story, and the book starts with a bang as we get glimpses of Sabrina's story, just enough to intrigue and set the tone for what's to come as she starts the search for herself in more ways than one.  As she finds Alex, we see him step outside his normal "role" and comfort zone to do what needs to be done to protect and help the woman he quickly is coming to love (it's always amazing how quickly that happens).  While the end result is never really in doubt, Ms. Camp makes the getting there interesting and not always predictable.  An enjoyable way to spend the afternoon, I'm anxious not only to read the next in the series, but the previous as well.  The Mad Morelands are wholly entertaining. (Thanks to NetGalley for the chance to review this!)

Review: Wallflower Most Wanted (Manda Collins)

Wallflower Most Wanted (Studies in Scandal, #3)From Goodreads: THE PICTURE OF ROMANCE
A dedicated painter, Miss Sophia Hastings is far more concerned with finding the right slant of light than in finding Mr. Right. But when an overhead conversation hints at danger for another local artist, Sophia is determined to get involved. Even it means accepting help from an impossibly good-looking vicar who insists on joining her investigation—and threatens to capture her heart…

Reverend Lord Benedick Lisle knows that Sophia is no damsel in distress. But he won’t allow her to venture into peril alone, either. . .especially since he finds Sophia’s curious, free-spirited nature so alluring. But protecting her from harm is becoming more difficult than the vicar could have expected as he and Sophia confront their fiery mutual passion. Who could have known that the art of love would prove so irresistible?

My Thoughts:  I had only vague recollections of the first in this series and realized I had not read the second.  Despite that, I found that I thoroughly enjoyed the third book in this series, full of smart (very smart) heroines and of course, the men who love them.  There are elements of mystery in each book in the series, and with each addition we learn a bit more about the benefactress of the four heiresses.  The mystery is always key to the romance within, but I also value reading about the struggles of being a woman in this period that had to justify talents and knowledge and abilities beyond the norm.  While not to the same extreme today, many parallels can be drawn between then and now when it comes to how women and knowledge and expertise are viewed and judged.  A fun, quick read that may also get you thinking about bigger issues, I recommend the series overall (I went back and read book two after this and look forward to the next!). Advance copy obtained through NetGalley - thank you!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Review: The Duke (Katharine Ashe)

The Duke by Katharine AsheFrom Goodreads: Katharine Ashe continues her lush and sensual Devil’s Duke series with a sweeping story of unbreakable love

Six years ago, when Lady Amarantha Vale was an innocent in a foreign land and Gabriel Hume was a young naval officer, they met . . . and played with fire.

Now Gabriel is the dark lord known to society as the Devil’s Duke, a notorious recluse hidden away in a castle in the Highlands. Only Amarantha knows the truth about him, and she won’t be intimidated. He is the one man who can give her the answers she needs.

But Gabriel cannot let her learn his darkest secret. So begins a game of wit and desire that proves seduction is more satisfying—and much more wicked—the second time around…


My Thoughts: I've found this series by Ms. Ashe to be unique and interesting with strong characters and good story lines.  The Devil's Duke, the mysterious person we see in the previous books in the series, get his turn here.  We've gotten the idea going into it that he's not what rumors would have him to be, and here we get the full story.  We see a much different side of our Duke here and learn how and why he became what he is now.  The same is true of our heroine, Amarantha.  More than what she appears to be, you see her internal strength and determination and independence start to shine as they work towards their happy-ever-after.  The interesting cast of characters helps throw a few twists and turns into the story, and in the end we find a story of lovers reunited, looking at people beyond what you see on the surface, sacrifice for others, justice served, and two people finding themselves before they could find another.  

I need to go back and re-read the previous books in the series now, especially with the context this one provides.  I think it's a story one could enjoy independent of the other books, but having the background may help bring out some nuances and a better understanding of the story and the people.

(Advance copy provided by publisher)

Monday, December 4, 2017

Review: The Texan Duke (Karen Ranney)

The Texan Dukespins the tale of a reluctant duke who must choose between his life in America—and the Scottish woman he’s destined to love…From Goodreads: New York Times bestselling author Karen Ranney’s third book in her Duke series

As the ward to the late Duke of Lothian, Elsbeth Carew resides at the ancestral estate of Bealadair. Fiercely attached to the manor, she loves it more than anyone else. When Connor McCraight—the new Duke of Lothian—arrives, Elsbeth does not quite know what to make of the American who has inherited the title but has never even set foot on Scottish soil. The tall, ruggedly handsome Texan sweeps through Bealadair with an air of authority Elsbeth has never encountered.

Connor has no intention of making Scotland his home and hopes to sell the estate as soon as possible. But his plan is jeopardized when he meets Elsbeth. A sweet, gray-eyed beauty, she tempts him in ways no other woman has. As word spreads of Connor’s intention to sell Bealadair, his life is threatened—and the only woman who can save him may be the one he has hopelessly lost his heart to.


My Thoughts: Not too far into this story of the unexpected and unwilling American heir to a title, I started to make assumptions about the future of the story, the characters, and the inevitable resolution of the angst.  I sort of worked my way through the book in a few sittings, and the more I read, the more I realized that I perhaps I DIDN'T in fact know where all this was going and "know" the characters as well as I thought I did.

 Connor, our unwilling Duke from Texas, has no plans to stay in Scotland any longer than it takes to sell the land and settle the estate.  Of course, it's never that simple, and the story follow his path to understanding that there's some positives in his inheritance and new role.  Elsbeth is the former Duke's ward now trying to find her place in a world where she no longer feels part of the family.  There's a lot of family dynamics and drama involved, and in the end the resolution isn't what I expected from this theme.  Some danger, some drama, and some unexpected character development made this a much more enjoyable read in the end than I expected at the start.

(advanced copy obtained from publisher)

Review: It's Hard Out Here For A Duke (Maya Rodale)

It's Hard Out Here for a Duke (Keeping Up with the Cavendishes, #4)From Goodreads: In the fourth novel of Maya Rodale’s tantalizing series, a newly minted duke spends one night with his perfect woman...but can he win her for a lifetime

Some Mistakes…

When American-born James Cavendish arrives in London tomorrow, he’ll become the Duke of Durham. Some might be ecstatic at the opportunity. Not James. He’s a simple man, fond of simple pleasures. And right now, nothing could be more pleasurable than spending his last night of freedom with a beautiful stranger.

Are Far Too Good…

One wild night, Meredith Green, companion to the dowager Duchess of Durham, said yes to a man she thought she’d never see again. Suddenly, they’re living under the same roof, where Meredith is expected to teach James how to be a duke—while trying not to surrender to temptation a second time.

To Be Forgotten

For a duke and a commoner, marriage would be pure scandal. Yet nothing has ever felt as right as having Meredith in his arms…and in his bed. Soon he must choose—between a duty he never desired, and a woman he longs for, body and soul…


My Thoughts: I started this book one night when I couldn't sleep...and that was a huge mistake as it turns out I also could not put the book down.  This has been a fun series, and I've been waiting for this final book to turn to the story of James and Meredith.  You catch glimpses of potential story of these two characters in other books, but the focus on them in this story was much more enjoyable and emotional than I expected.

James is the unplanned Duke, and the previous books focused on his sisters and their trials and tribulations meshing with British society.  This book in particular though really brought out the emotions of this situation...the love and frustration between the family members, their struggles, sense of duty to each other and the situation, and just a well done story of the pain that love sometimes puts a person through.

It's a romance novel and you now there isn't really any option other than a HEA in the end.  This one though, I found myself wondering if the happy ever after I envisioned was going to be the end result.  I found myself actually crying at points in this book, not a normal situation for when I read this genre. 

All in all, I'd say Ms. Rodale is quickly moving up the list of authors I will seek out.  From start to finish I was hooked in the story, in the emotions and the characters.

Review: The Trouble With the Twelfth Grave (Darynda Jones)

The Trouble with Twelfth Grave by Darynda JonesFrom Goodreads: Grim Reaper Charley Davidson is back in the twelfth installment of Darynda Jones’ New York Times bestselling paranormal series.

Ever since Reyes escaped from a hell dimension in which Charley accidently trapped him, the son of Satan has been brimstone-bent on destroying the world his heavenly Brother created. His volatile tendencies have put Charley in a bit of a pickle. But that’s not the only briny vegetable on her plate. While trying to domesticate the feral being that used to be her husband, she also has to deal with her everyday life of annoying all manner of beings—some corporeal, some not so much—as she struggles to right the wrongs of society. Only this time she’s not uncovering a murder. This time she’s covering one up.

Add to that her new occupation of keeping a startup PI venture—the indomitable mystery-solving team of Amber Kowalski and Quentin Rutherford—out of trouble and dealing with the Vatican’s inquiries into her beloved daughter, and Charley is on the brink of throwing in the towel and becoming a professional shopper. Or possibly a live mannequin. But when someone starts attacking humans who are sensitive to the supernatural world, Charley knows it’s time to let loose her razor sharp claws. Then again, her number one suspect is the dark entity she’s loved for centuries. So the question becomes, can she tame the unruly beast before it destroys everything she’s worked so hard to protect?


My Thoughts: To be honest, I'm probably going to read everything that comes out in this series because our heroine makes me laugh.  She's snarky, she's a coffee addict, and she'd do anything for her best friend...what's not to like?!  That being said, while I've enjoyed the series, I wasn't sure where it was going and thought maybe it was losing a bit of its punch after 11 books.  I was hitting the dreaded series fatigue, and while I was still a fan, I wasn't sure the eagerness to dive into the next book was quite the same.  I take all those thoughts back after reading book 12. Wow. Hit me in the emotions in ways I didn't expect, and definitely sets the series up for some new and interesting directions.  I don't think there's ever a true doubt about where Reyes falls in terms of good vs evil in this book, but the story itself, the buildup, it all comes together to keep you wondering and eventually in tears and then angry that you have to wait for the next book to come out to find out what the heck happens next.  Well worth picking up, even if you found yourself in a bit of series fatigue up to this point.  

(advanced copy obtained through Edelweiss)

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Review: Blackthorne's Bride (Joan Johnston)

Blackthorne's Bride (Mail-Order Brides #4)Blackthorne's Bride by Joan Johnston

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: A rogue nobleman, a rescued lady, and revenge undone by romance all play a part in New York Times bestselling author Joan Johnston’s irresistible novel of best-laid plots, delicious deception, and unexpected passion.

Two years have passed since Josie Wentworth was bought from the Sioux for a gold watch and whisked back to England by Marcus Wharton, the Duke of Blackthorne. When Marcus breaks his promise to return Josie to America, she ends up as a maid in the home of his charming but neglected nephews. Once Josie’s long-lost family finds her, however, the suddenly wealthy heiress sets out to save the two boys from their indifferent uncle—and teach the duke a lesson in honor.

Learning that Marcus is seeking a rich American bride to save his estate, Josie plots to catch his eye—certain he’ll never recognize the beauty she’s become as the ragged captive he rescued. But Josie doesn’t wager on her marital charade taking a tender turn, as the nobleman she’s despised for years proves to be a very different man than she’s imagined. And there’s no denying his passionate caresses, as she falls deeper under the spell of a husband determined to claim her heart.


My Thoughts: This was an author I have not had much exposure to in the past, primarily because her main focus has been historical westerns, a genre that for whatever reason just doesn't typically enthuse me. When I saw the opportunity to review one of her books through NetGalley that was set in England, I thought I'd give it a try.

Overall, I just couldn't work up much excitement as the book progressed. I think that was in large part between it read like a western to me, and a lot of the book referenced the previous books in the series (with chapters actually involving the heroine's siblings over in the U.S.). The initial premise had hope for me...the rescue of a young woman who was then taken to England to heal, and then our hero loses track of her (but never forgets her) as we returns to his planned life and marriage. The story picks up a couple of years later after the death of Blackthorne's first wife. He's in desperate financial straits and has advertised for a bride...with the plan of marrying an American heiress.

We then meet our heroine again, who has fully recovered but has spent the past years toiling as a maid in one of our hero's remote properties (without his realization), living a meager life and doing her best to protect the Duke's two young nephews who also life at this property under the care of a feuding governess and housekeeper. To say she has negative feelings for the Duke, whom she believes abandoned her and his nephews, is an understatement. Long story short, turns out she's an American heiress and that her siblings who live in America have been searching for her for years.

From there it becomes a story of enemies to lovers, with Josie hiding her identity from the Duke, marrying him instead of immediately returning home as a way to protect his nephews and get some sort of revenge. The scars on Josie's back eventually give her away, and the miscommunication and misunderstandings continue.

The premise had potential, but I think because of not having read the previous books in the series and the feel of reading a western set in England (I have no idea why I'm so biased against westerns!), it just never worked for me. I didn't feel much sympathy for our hero or heroine overall, although from time to time they seemed to pull it together. If you like Johnston's previous books, I think you will no doubt enjoy this one as well. I do definitely recommend reading the first three books in the series though to more fully understand the backstory and various siblings that are in some ways central to this particular story.

From Goodreads: A rogue nobleman, a rescued lady, and revenge undone by romance all play a part in New York Times bestselling author Joan Johnston’s irresistible novel of best-laid plots, delicious deception, and unexpected passion.

Two years have passed since Josie Wentworth was bought from the Sioux for a gold watch and whisked back to England by Marcus Wharton, the Duke of Blackthorne. When Marcus breaks his promise to return Josie to America, she ends up as a maid in the home of his charming but neglected nephews. Once Josie’s long-lost family finds her, however, the suddenly wealthy heiress sets out to save the two boys from their indifferent uncle—and teach the duke a lesson in honor.

Learning that Marcus is seeking a rich American bride to save his estate, Josie plots to catch his eye—certain he’ll never recognize the beauty she’s become as the ragged captive he rescued. But Josie doesn’t wager on her marital charade taking a tender turn, as the nobleman she’s despised for years proves to be a very different man than she’s imagined. And there’s no denying his passionate caresses, as she falls deeper under the spell of a husband determined to claim her heart.

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Review: The Bad Luck Bride (Janna MacGregor)

The Bad Luck Bride (The Cavensham Heiresses #1)The Bad Luck Bride by Janna MacGregor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A man of honor, Alexander Hallworth, Marquess of Pembrooke, will not rest until he exacts revenge on the man who destroyed his family. Just one more piece must fall into place for him to succeed he needs to convince his enemy s fiancee, the tragically beautiful Lady Claire Cavensham, to marry him instead.

Lady Claire s curse has always left her one misstep away from social ruin her past three engagements have gone awry, and now her fourth is headed in the same direction. . .until Alex, a man she barely even knows, shocks the ton and Claire by announcing their engagement. What begins as a sham turns into something deeper, and more passionate, than either Claire or Alex could have imagined. But when their secrets are revealed, will the truth behind their union scandalize them both or is their love strong enough to break the curse and lead them toward their happily ever after?


My Thoughts: The author had me wondering at first with this hero, who schemed and plotted and was so arrogant it was hard to sympathize...yet in the end he managed to redeem himself and we were left with an interesting story of finally learning that perhaps one isn't the center of the world and responsible for everyone in it. You couldn't help but feel for our heroine, and she was easy to cheer for and champion. Overall a well done story of redemption and self discovery.

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