Saturday, October 31, 2015

Review: The Thames River Murders

The Thames River Murders The Thames River Murders by Ashley Gardner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Intriguing, Great Combination of Characters and Mystery

"I was unfortunately drawn to intrigue, especially when it involved a poor individual who couldn't fight back, or who had lost against a stronger opponent."

FINAL DECISION: One of the better books in the series, this book deftly combines the elements of mystery and romance along with characters that are well-drawn and intriguing. The new overarching story that begins here is especially good. Can't wait until the next book.

THE STORY: Captain Lacey, settling into his happy marriage with his combined family, is asked to investigate a cold case. A young woman's body was found in the river ten years ago and her identity and murder were never solved. Lacey also has to deal with his daughter's debut which is rattling him and with a blackmailer who is threatening him.

OPINION: This is one of the best integrated Lacey books. The mystery is neatly balanced with Lacey's relationship with his wife, his concerns about this daughter's debut, his budding relationship with his stepson and a new overarching mystery concerning attempted blackmail. The best part of these books to me is learning more about Lacey and his friends and family and seeing how his life progresses. This book is rich regarding those stories. Any fears that a happy home life might make Lacey dull can be dismissed. It is quite amusing to see Lacey be a grumpy father trying to scare off his daughter's suitors.
The mystery of the book is also a good one that brings Lacey in contact with both old favorite characters and some intriguing new ones. Lacey also steps into a new world -- that of the Jews living in London and both Lacey and the reader learn about that group of people living in London. One of Lacey's best qualities is his ability to cross social, cultural, and ethnic boundaries in his investigations and this book continues that tradition.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book ends on a high note with a new very intriguing mystery concerning who is trying to blackmail Lacey.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE THAMES RIVER MURDERS is the tenth book in the Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries series. This book, like each in the series, has a self contained mystery and thus can be read as a standalone. For me, however, the best part in the series is the continuing story of Lacey and his friends and family. These stories continue from book to book. Indeed, this book starts are new overarching mystery concerning Lacey and the blackmailer.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Review: Cold-Hearted Rake

Cold-Hearted Rake Cold-Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Welcome Return by Lisa Kleypas to Historical Romance

"You are the vilest man I have ever met."

FINAL DECISION: The return by Kleypas to historical romance typifies the heartwarming, character driven, deeply romantic books that made her a favorite among readers. COLD-HEARTED RAKE has one one my favorite storylines -- a man who is changed for the better by a good woman.

THE STORY: Devon Ravenel unexpectedly inherits an earldom upon the death of his hated cousin. Devon has devoted his life to pleasure and lack of responsibility and the last thing he wants are floundering estates and caring for tenants and relatives of his cousin. He goes to the estate intending on sending the widow and sisters packing and selling the entirety of the estate. Kathleen was made a widow after only three days of marriage. She knows that the appearance of the new earl means that she must make her own plans for her future and is disgusted by Devon's lack of caring about the history of the estate and the lives of the people who depend upon it. Open warfare emerges between Devon and Kathleen but the surprising result is that Devon wants to spend more time with Kathleen and begins to try and save the estate in order to spend more time with her.

OPINION: Devon and Kathleen are both strong willed and they have a passionate relationship. The relationship begins with passionate arguments and then turns to sexual passion. Kathleen is a woman who cares deeply although she constrains herself with rules and propriety. Her life has been filled with pain but she has reached out to others in response. Devon also has a painful past, but he has retreated to a life of excess in order to hide his pain. His interactions with Kathleen begin to change him. Determined never to marry or have children because of his own childhood, Devon slowly begins to change as his attraction to Kathleen compels him to reconsider his notions about responsibility. Kleypas writes wonderful rake stories. She realistically demonstrates how a woman can begin to change a man. Devon doesn't even acknowledge that he is changing throughout the novel. He just knows that he is compelled to continuously make changes in his life in order to spend more time with Kathleen. Even better, Kathleen doesn't become the catalyst for change by being a loving, she changes him by challenging him to be a better person. It is only after he has changed that he becomes the kind of man who can love Kathleen.

This book is also filled with compelling secondary characters. I look forward to reading more about them as the series continues.

Kleypas fans rejoice. She has returned to historicals and hasn't lost a step.

WORTH MENTIONING: I really liked this book but I am looking forward to the next book MARRYING MR. WINTERBORNE even more. The couple is introduced in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: COLD-HEARTED RAKE is the first book in a a new series about the Ravenel family and friends.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Review: Harlot

Harlot Harlot by Victoria Dahl
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sad,Painful But Ultimately About the Power of Love and Acceptance

"Caleb might come back and what if he did? He wouldn't return to apologize or make amends. He wouldn't come back to court her. She was a whore. There was only one reason he might return, and he'd thrown it to her in scorn. I can pay."

FINAL DECISION: Sad, thoughtful but with a message of acceptance and forgiveness, HARLOT is emotional but also sexy. Loved these characters who are survivors.

THE STORY: Caleb Hightower left town two years ago to make money working in California with the intent to return to his childhood sweetheart and marry her. He returns to find out she has become a harlot. Jessica Willoughby was left penniless after the death of her father. She ended up making a deal in which she agreed to sell herself. Now that Caleb has returned, she agrees to allow him to use her body in order to purge the anger Caleb feels toward her.

OPINION: I found this book compelling and heartbreaking. What I loved best about it was how the central theme is about forgiveness. But the important forgiveness is not Caleb forgiving Jessica, but Jessica forgiving herself and learning to live again rather than just exist. She learns to accept that she did the best she could even if her decisions were difficult ones.

The connection between Caleb and Jessica is so strong from the beginning that there are no doubts that they love one another. The question is whether they can forgive and move forward. As the book begins, Caleb wants to hurt Jessica and Jessica wants to be hurt because of her decision to sell herself. Through their sexual relationship, however, they find out that there is something deep and true between them.

As the secrets in this story are revealed, I especially liked that Caleb and Jessica are able to reconnect apart from Caleb finding out what actually happened. He loves and accepts her before the truth comes out.

This is not a light read, but it is a beautiful love story.

WORTH MENTIONING: I appreciated that this book took a hard, realistic look at prostitution rather than romanticizing it.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HARLOT is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

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

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Review: What Happens Under the Mistletoe

What Happens Under the Mistletoe What Happens Under the Mistletoe by Sabrina Jeffries
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cute Christmas Collection of Novellas

This is a collection of four short novellas connected by the theme of Christmas and an encounter under the mistletoe.

THE HEIRESS AND THE HOTHEAD by Sabrina Jeffries -- Lord Stephen Cory, the younger brother of a marquess writes radical articles about the plight of mill workers and child laborers. He wants to meet Miss Amanda Keane, an American who owns mills, in order to prove that mill owners everywhere are atrocious. When he meets Amanda, he finds that she is more than he expected. This story is book 1.5 of the Sinful Suitors series. I have not read the other books in the series so it is not necessary to do so. I liked this story. Both Stephen and Amanda are headstrong people who have strong opinions. I liked that Stephen moves tremendously in his opinions. The two are cute together and the characters are well developed for such a short story. I liked this one. Rating: 4 stars.

TWELVE KISSES TO MIDNIGHT by Karen Hawkins -- Marcus Sutherland, Duke of Rothesay, encounters Kenna, Lady Montrose after ten years. The two were once engaged to be married. After their betrothal was broken, Marcus left England and Kenna married an Earl. Now a widow, Kenna wonders if there is anything left between them. I didn't get the connection between these characters. Perhaps this would have been a better story in a longer format. I thought that the two fought for too long and their reconciliation was too short. In addition, I never really understood what broke them up 10 years ago. There was an explanation, but it didn't feel convincing. Rating: 2 stars.

BY ANY OTHER NAME by Candace Camp -- Rylla Campbell, determined to find her missing brother, dresses as a man to search for him in clubs, taverns and gaming hells. On her first adventure, she meets Gregory Rose who is intrigued by the daring woman. He ends up helping her and struggles between wanting to protect her and just wanting her. I liked this story because of the adventures between Gregory and Rylla and their sweet romance. I like stories where women masquerade as men. Rating: 4 stars.

SWEETEST REGRET by Meredith Duran -- Georgiana "Georgie" Trent is left by her diplomat father to entertain his guests for Christmas and to search for a letter that one of the guests has stolen. To assist her, her father sends Lucas Godwin. Lucas broke Georgie's heart two years ago when he left without a word to her. The two fight one another while searching for the letter and end up discovering what actually happened two years ago. This was my favorite novella in the book. Georgie and Lucas have a tremendous amount of sadness and pain behind them. Even when they discover the truth, Georgie doesn't believe that they have a future. The twists of this story were intriguing and the characters were well developed. Rating: 4.25 stars.

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

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Friday, October 9, 2015

Review: Dragos Goes to Washington

Dragos Goes to Washington Dragos Goes to Washington by Thea Harrison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dragos and Pia Return to the Spotlight

“He basked in the sparkle that lit her eyes as if it were sunlight. Her happiness warmed and sustained him. Her feminine scent fed a ferocity of hunger that never faded or mellowed, no matter how he tried to sate himself on her.”

FINAL DECISION: A novella primarily about Dragos and Pia from the Elder Races series, this story gives readers an update on the Wyr couple, tosses in some significant events in their lives and sets the stage for more political intrigue in the Elder Races world. For fans of the series, this is great reading, funny and sexy.

THE STORY: Dragos and Pia and their amazing son Liam are continuing their lives. After the recent problems with the Elder Races that have been obvious to humans, tensions have arisen. Thus, there is a planned summit between leaders of the elder races and human government leaders in Washington, D.C. Dragos and Pia are to attend. Dragos, who is not good at being diplomatic, intends to rely on Pia to help him not eat people who make him angry. The relationship between Dragos and Pia is also touchy as the mating instinct between them is high.

OPINION: Although the description of this book discusses primarily the plot of this novella as being about the political summit in D.C., I was pleasantly surprised that this book is really an update on and an extension of the relationship between Dragos and Pia (with a little Liam thrown in). As a big fan of the Elder Races series and especially Dragos and Pia, I love seeing these two continue to develop their relationship. I don’t want to spoil the plot but there is a significant event that occurs in this novella that clearly will have implications in the future. Harrison has done a good job here of allowing Dragos and Pia to grow without fundamentally changing their characters. Dragos is still the ancient dragon and I love how he views the petty human political world. Because the focus here is on Dragos and Pia’s relationship, this novella is kinda sexy as well. Can’t wait to read the next novella in this trilogy.

WORTH MENTIONING: Niniane and Tiago make significant appearances here. Love them.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DRAGOS GOES TO WASHINGTON is a novella of the Elder Races series. It can be read as a standalone but really should be read after DRAGON BOUND AND LORD’S FALL which are about Dragos and Pia. DRAGOS GOES TO WASHINGTON is the first of a three part novella mini-series.

STAR RATING: I give this novella 4.25 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this novella via Netgalley in order to provide a review. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

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Monday, October 5, 2015

Review: Christian Seaton: Duke of Danger

Christian Seaton: Duke of Danger Christian Seaton: Duke of Danger by Carole Mortimer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Final Book in the Dangerous Dukes series

FINAL DECISION: Almost a really good book, I really enjoyed the interaction between Christian and Lisette. Unfortunately, the romance aspect sputters out and what could have been a sexy amazing book was just an average one.

THE STORY: Christian Seaton, the Duke of Sutherland, is in France investigating French agents who are working in England against the British crown. He comes to a tavern to investigate its owner and encounters, Lisette Dupree, a frenchwoman who apparently is the daughter of one of the conspirators. Christian knows that he needs to take Lisette back with him to England to have her questioned. His course is complicated by the fact that he is deeply attracted to the young frenchwoman and begins to believe that she is really an innocent bystander.

OPINION: I wanted to like this book so much. Christian and Lisette are a great couple from the start. I especially liked Lisette who is gentle and yet has the intelligence and natural leadership ability that make her a good candidate for a duchess. I thought that their story began on a promising note. Lies and secrets and danger seemed a great combination. The book went very well until the two are back in England. Then the sexy story fades away, there is a brief resolution of the ongoing story and then a tame banal ending. Their sexual encounter is interrupted on their journey to London and that is a great metaphor for this book. Their relationship ends up feeling unfulfilled and incomplete.

I found this a shame because this series began with such a sexy story that I hate to see this book end on such a note. For men supposedly known for their exploits with women, Christian's relationship with Lisette ends up very tame.

WORTH MENTIONING: Mortimer gives readers an update on the other Dukes and their Duchesses.

CONNECTED BOOKS: CHRISTIAN SEATON: DUKE OF DANGER is book number 6 in the Dangerous Dukes series. It can be read as a standalone. It is the final book in the series and wraps up the ongoing story.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

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Review: Ms. Manwhore

Ms. Manwhore Ms. Manwhore by Katy Evans
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great Conclusion to the Manwhore Series

"I love single-Rachel. But she was never as happy as I am now."

FINAL DECISION: This novella is really an extended epilogue to the series. I greatly appreciated the time to see Malcolm and Rachel happy. It gave me a better appreciation for the other two books in the series because I got to see this couple truly happy.

THE STORY: Rachel and Malcolm have weathered their storms together and now are moving toward marriage. Dealing with the announcements, the bachelor party, the wedding dress and all the other things that accompanying merging together two lives are things the two now have to deal with. Will Rachel have the wedding of her dreams with the man she loves?

OPINION: I greatly appreciate that the author wrote this novella. I love seeing the happy ending for couples and this novella allows the entire happy ending to play out in a satisfying way. In many ways, I liked these characters better here than in the two previous novels because in this novella they are genuinely happy and the only drama is from the normal wedding issues. After the drama and stress of the previous two novels, it was nice to see these two characters be happy. This novella is really for fans of the series since there is no storyline that needs resolving other than the marriage itself. For fans of the series, however, this is mandatory reading.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a new romance in the air.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MS. MANWHORE is the third book in the Manwhore series. It concludes the story of Malcolm and Rachel. The romance is already concluded by the time this novella opens. This is a nice long epilogue to the series so readers should start with the first book.

STAR RATING: I give this novella 4.25 stars.

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Review: Deceived: The Wicked Woodleys

Deceived: The Wicked Woodleys Deceived: The Wicked Woodleys by Jess Michaels
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wallflower Gets Her Happy Ending

"Josie Westfall despises me, you know."

FINAL DECISION: At times heartbreaking, DECEIVED is the story of a Wallflower who ultimately prevails in getting the man she always wanted. Although the hero is a true jerk at times, he grovels enough in the end to gain my forgiveness.

THE STORY: Josie Westfall had a crush on Lord Even Hartwell as children. He thoughtlessly destroyed her in dismissing her and giving her a nickname which haunted her in society. Sixteen years later, Evan and Josie are thrown together again at his sister's wedding. Encouraged by his brother, Evan tries to find out what Josie knows about the location of his sister who has been missing. Even as he tries to get information from Josie, Evan begins to realize how badly he has hurt the sweet Josie and is surprised by the attraction between them. Torn between his duty to his family and his attraction to Josie, Evan worries who will he have to betray.

OPINION: I'd like to start by saying that I think that Evan is jerk for most of this book. He's not a hero that I adore. From the beginning, Josie is too good for him. His repeated and thoughtless action in hurting Josie might be understandable, but they are not easily forgiven. What I did like in this book is that ultimately Evan really does have to grovel to get back into Josie's good graces. The redemption of the hero is is a jerk depends so much upon the quality of the grovel and Michaels has done a good job of making Evan pay for his thoughtless treatment of Josie. I really liked the character of Josie who is stronger than she believes she is. Although at first she doesn't believe herself worthy of Evan, she eventually realizes that she deserves to be treated with respect and dignity and that might make her too good for Evan. I am a fan of the Woodley family and am happy to see them again and I am looking forward to the next two books in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: The outlines of the next romance for the Woodleys is beginning to be made clear in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DECEIVED is the second book in the Wicked Woodleys series. It can be read as a standalone although I recommend reading the other books in the series because there is an ongoing story involving the Woodley sister that has an important part in the story in this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.25 stars.

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

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