Review: Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLean

Reviewed by Jen

Man, I really enjoyed this book. To be fair, Sarah McLean is an auto by author for me at this point. But that isn’t what made me love it… The story featured some of my favorite tropes, done to perfection, along with two main characters who I simply adored, both together and apart.

Felicity is a 27-year-old wallflower, who actually used to be a darling of the ton. I liked her in The Day of the Duchess, as one of the ladies who was “trying out” to be that hero’s new wife. Obviously, she was not meant to be the heroine of that tale. Still, her family is pushing hard for her to have a good match because they are in dire financial straits and they need a rich husband for her to solve their problems. Unfortunately, since she has fallen out of favor with those who were once her friends, it is a task that is growing increasingly difficult.

Those “friends” have actually grown quite cool. As the story begins they are teasing and pushing her too far, so far in fact that she declares that she is engaged to the duke who threw the ball they were attending. With that pronouncement, she unknowingly threw herself into a battle between two brothers with a deep grudge against each other. [Read more…]

Review: Breathless by Celeste Bradley and Susan Donovan

Reviewed by Sara

In Breathless, Celeste Bradley and Susan Donovan have taken two stories and woven them together into an epic love story that crosses centuries and continents.

The historical portion of the book centers on The Swan, London’s premiere courtesan. The Swan has worked her way up from the bowels of Newgate Prison to the height of the London ton. She is independently wealthy, dictates fashion, and can have any man she wants. A man, however, is how she finds herself shipwrecked with amnesia on the coast of Catalonia. Here, she is taken in by The Artist, an immensely private, British deserter of the Napoleonic Wars. As The Swan finds herself in The Artist’s humble, coastal cottage, as well as on The Artist’s canvas she also finds the greatest love of her life.

In the Contemporary portion of Breathless, we meet Brenna Anderson, an Art History professor who, like many in the art community, is obsessed with a series of painting of a woman known as The Siren. When she discovers that The Siren may in fact be The Swan, a courtesan of renown who disappeared out of history she believes she may have the key to a centuries old mystery. However, to prove her theory correct she’ll have to except the help of her rival, Fitch Wilder, a treasure hunter with no formal training who seems to always be two steps ahead of her professionally. Brenna knows men like Fitch and refuses to be swayed by his charm, but the closer they get to uncovering the mystery of The Siren, the harder it is for her to deny her feelings for the handsome adventurer. [Read more…]

Review: The Duchess Diaries by Jillian Hunter

Reviewed by Debz

It’s a graduation ball in 1819 London and Lady Charlotte Boscastle, the headmistress of Scarfield Academy for young ladies has just spotted the man of her dreams. Of course, when he asks her to dance she has to say no. It’s one thing to fantasize about the Duke of Wynfield, it is another to know that he has been forced, eh…encouraged to dance with her by her cousin.

Gideon, Duke of Wynfield, accepts his friend’s manipulation into dancing with his cousin Lady Charlotte, but alas the cold schoolmarm refuses to engage in conversation or even accept his dance proposal. Her loss; he has better things to do anyway. She is out of sight and out of mind until he comes across her diary on the floor of his coach.

You see, Lady Charlotte doesn’t write about the mundane happenings at her school but her erotic exaggeration of events witnessed by her and her scandalous family. Not only is she explicit in her writing, in her musings, she and the Duke of Wynfield have been carrying out an illicit affair for a year. Gideon is amused, a little aroused and a lot pissed that Lady Charlotte has done this without even changing the names of the characters in her diary. [Read more…]

Review: Too Wilde to Wed by Eloisa James

Reviewed by Jen

Though I enjoyed the romance in the first book of this series, it was almost overshadowed by my interest in the secondary couple, the hero’s brother and his betrothed. So I was more than excited to start this book and read their full story.

North, heir to the Dukedom, and Diana were engaged in book one, but it seemed that she was far less enamored of the match than he was. In fact, she ran away and jilted him before that book was done. It ended with him finding her hidden away in a cottage with a crying baby. All signs pointed to her having given birth, but we learn quickly that the child actually was a bastard born of her deceased sister. Diana refuses to let the baby grow up in an orphanage, so she has taken responsibility for him.

Anyway, North disappears for a while and goes off to fight in the American revolution. When he returns, he discovers that she is now living in his family home, raising the baby and acting as a governess to his niece. Society believes the child she brought with her is his. But rather than lashing out, he is surprisingly magnanimous. It’s sets the stage for us to see his true character. [Read more…]

Review: How to Forget a Duke by Vivienne Lorret

Reviewed by Jen

I have read a few different books from Vivienne Lorret now, and I have enjoyed them enough that I did not hesitate to pick this one up. It follows the story of a professional matchmaker who inadvertently falls in love with the man who has hired her.

That premise could’ve made it very trite. So too could the second major trope thrown in. The heroine gets amnesia. Though that is an eye-roller for some folks, it did not bother me here. I did have a few issues, but that wasn’t one of them.

I guess, for me, my biggest complaint is that I was slow to warm up to these characters. Jacinda, our matchmaker, is hell-bent on proving Rydsrom, the titular Duke, is hiding something. She dresses up like a maid to invade his private space and she tries to sneak in to his country home as well. She comes across as immature and, well, like a bit of a wrecking ball. It was kind of a blessing when she forgot who she was. [Read more…]

Review: The Highlander’s Crusader Bride by Cathy & DD MacRae

Reviewed by Ronelle

Half-Armenian, half-Scot Arbela MacLean is a true daughter of the desert, a princess born in the Holy Land only a few years after the Third Crusade. Determined not to be as helpless as her mother was, she’s forsaken the gentler, feminine pursuits of women her age for Turkish bow and arrow, a sword, and throwing darts. She is a warrior who fears nothing—except perhaps the day a husband is chosen for her. That day becomes much too close for comfort when her father is recalled to Scotland to take up leadership of clan MacLean.

Caelen MacKern, known as the Bull of the Highlands, has no use for a wife. His first marriage formed an alliance, and he did not grieve when his spoiled, immature bride passed away not long after giving birth to their only son, Bram. But after a devastating pestilence nearly wiped them out, clan MacKern is in desperate need of help. Against his better judgement, Caelen agrees to an offer he can’t in good conscience refuse; convince Arbela to marry him and receive the men, means, and coin he needs to rebuild. Considering the tone of their initial encounter, it doesn’t entirely surprise him when the exotic, outspoken lass has some terms of her own. [Read more…]

Review: After the Wedding by Courtney Milan

Reviewed by Jen

Let me be honest. When I started this book I had absolutely no recollection of the first installment in the series. I wasn’t even sure if I had read it until I went back and looked on Goodreads. No wonder I had forgotten. It’s been three years since Courtney Milan wrote the beginning of this series. But don’t worry, you don’t need to remember of have even read that book in order to jump right into this one.

This is an interracial historical romance, which is a bit of a rarity. But one of the things I like best about it was how low key the race element was. Yes, the hero and heroine are of different ethnicities, but this love story isn’t about their race. It was about love and acceptance. About choosing someone to love and who chooses to love you in return. [Read more…]

Review: The Luck of the Bride by Janna MacGregor

Reviewed by Jen

This is my first read from Janna MacGregor. It’s the third in her Cavensham Heiresses series but it holds up easily as a standalone. It has an engaging premise and the writing is good. Despite a few–ok, one–thing that bothered me, I enjoyed it overall.

March’s parents died when she was just 17, leaving her to care for her three younger siblings. Her parents were of the nobility and there was plenty of money to keep them comfortable, but the man responsible for dispersing that money failed at the job. For years, she had to scrape and scratch to make ends meet. By the time she hit her 25th birthday, she was due her inheritance. But the latest trustee for the funds has been essentially ignoring her. In desperation, she begins forging his name to disburse funds from her own account to pay for necessities. [Read more…]

Review: A Duke Like No Other by Valerie Bowman

Reviewed by Jen

When I first picked this book up, I did it on the blurb alone. If I had any idea it was book nine in the Playful Brides series, I would have probably taken a pass– A) because Playful Brides do not sound like my cup of tea and B) I haven’t read the previous eight installments in the series. I’m happy to report that neither point became an issue. There were no playful brides to be found and this book holds up completely as a standalone.

This is a second-chance-at-love story involving a married couple that has been separated for the past ten years. There was a Big Secret/Big Misunderstanding that drove them apart after just a few months together. Now, though, the husband, Mark, is in line for a job he wants desperately–a job he can only win if he proves he is a family man. So her tracks down Nicole to come back and play the part. She agrees, but only if he promises to give her something she wants in return: a child. [Read more…]

Review: Someone to Care by Mary Balogh

Reviewed by Jen

40-year-olds exist as more than just the roles they play in life. They are more than just moms, grandmas, daughters, aunts, or even wives. It’s a point not often made in romance novels, especially historical ones. Let’s be real, a woman such as Viola is not generally heroine age material. She is 42. Her children are grown. She has three grandchildren. But she is first and foremost her own person. She just needs to figure out who that is. And she wants to be loved for it.

This is book four in Mary Balogh’s Wescotts series. You could probably read this as a standalone, but there are a lot of characters that may be hard to keep up with if you have not read the previous books. Suffice it to say, the premise of the series is that after the death of Viola’s first husband, she and her three children learn he had never been her husband in the first place. He was still married to his first wife and the daughter he had with her was the true heir to his fortune. The discovery made Viola a tainted woman and her children, bastards. At the start of this book, a couple of years have passed, but she is just starting to really deal with what happened to her. [Read more…]