Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Book Review: Marrying Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas


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Helen Ravenel isn't the first frail, but strong beauty that Lisa Kleypas has written about: there's Evie from The Devil in Winter, there's Win from Seduce Me at Sunrise, there's Tasia from Midnight Angel -- and Kleypas always pairs them with very strong, very capable men. It's a great pairing that always produces very interesting chemistry, as the couples explore the dichotomy between strong/fragile, virile/ultra-feminine, dark/luminous -- but Kleypas never does a disservice to her heroines by suggesting that they are less than their male counterparts -- she always shows that, hidden beneath that delicacy and innocence are cores of steel that do not bend or break when tested.

Rhys is Welsh and a businessman, which makes him an outsider of Helen's world, and Rhys has always felt that he needed to prove himself to society. Despite his wealth and success, Rhys feels he still doesn't have what he needs to validate himself: society's acceptance and approval. In the early chapters of the book, Rhys remembers how he thought Helen was repulsed by his size, his lack of upbringing, etc, and he resented her for it.

Despite my excitement (and love) for Cold-Hearted Rake, it took me a while to finally buy and then read Marrying Winterborne, the second book in the Ravenel series. Here's why -- I wasn't certain there was a story left to tell here: Rhys and Helen are attracted to each other, and got engaged very quickly in the first book -- yes, there was that kiss and the grand misunderstanding that ensued, leaving Rhys to believe that Helen had broken off their engagement, and for Helen to wonder what she did wrong. This picks up a few weeks after the first book, and Helen and Rhys are trying to negotiate the new terms of their newly-restarted engagement. I wondered what sort of tension and obstacle Kleypas would come up with to test our couple's love and resolve --

I didn't like the bargain Rhys and Helen struck -- exchanging sex for the engagement, and there were times I felt that our couple only "communicated" when they were physically intimate. Outside of the bedroom, their conversation didn't seem to progress beyond Rhys's hatred for Albion Vance (the villain in this story) and also how he feels he isn't gentle enough with Helen. In return, Helen's only role seems to be to placate and assure him that he takes very good care of her. I understand that Helen wanted to delay the wedding, so that she could observe the mourning period for her brother, but, they way they behaved in society (traveling from Eversby Priory to Ravenel House in London, and then back) and then going out to Winterborne's didn't seem characteristic of people in mourning. Yes, it added to the tension of "will they or won't they (get married)" -- but it felt more like a convenient excuse rather than a sincere desire to me.

The obstacle Kleypas placed in the path of our hero and heroine is Albion Vance -- I'm trying to recall if this enmity is something that was established in the previous story, but I could see why Helen was hesitant to talk to Rhys about Albion Vance. A lot of the conflict is really internal: Helen carried the burden and guilt of her secret, which she knew, could potentially destroy her relationship with Rhys.

What I did like is how Helen gradually becomes more and more assertive as she spends more time with Rhys. I love how she ventured out on her own, with the help of Dr. Garret Gibson -- and how, eventually, she realizes that she is her own person, and that she doesn't need her family or Rhys to define who she is. Her one great act of courage came at the end when she had to make a difficult decision between pursuing her own happiness, or to continue as she is -- and be content in making others happy.

The standout characters here are Dr. Gibson and Mrs. Fernby -- both employed at Winterborne's. Mrs. Fernby is the unblinking, and terribly loyal secretary, who handles all of Rhy's affairs. It's amazing she handles everything so capably, and that she doesn't cower to Rhys -- she voices out something that I kept thinking about: that Rhys ought to do the decent thing and protect Helen's reputation. Dr. Gibson is a revelation -- literally and figuratively -- I look forward to reading more about the new doctor Rhys has hired in future books. (There seem to be some sparks between her and Tom Severin.) ^_^

Marrying Winterborne is the second book in the Ravenel Family series. To find out more about Lisa Kleypas and her books, click below:
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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Happy Release Day! To Kiss a Thief by Susanna Craig (ARC Review, debut author)


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To begin, I read this book in one night -- with all the things that are happening in my life, that's a big deal for me, because it usually takes me a week to finish one book.

Sarah Pevensey's father arranged a marriage for her with St. John Sutcliffe, Viscount Fairfax, and heir to the Marquess of Estley -- after two weeks of married life, Sarah still isn't convinced that she and St. John are a good fit. She worries about her future with St. John's coldness and indifference, but her marital problems are small compared to the problems that face her when she was found in a compromising position with another man during the ball to celebrate their marriage, and then being accused of stealing the Sutcliffe Family sapphires.

Believing her family had turned their backs on her, and believing her new mother-in-law, Sarah agrees to Lady Estley's plan to disappear from St. John's life.

It's three years later, and Sarah, as the Widow Fairfax has lived a quiet and comfortable life in the small village of Haverhythe -- she doesn't know that her husband fought a duel for her, and believing he had killed Captain Brice, the man who was with Sarah that fateful evening, quickly left the country and set off for the West Indies.

But St. John is back, and, when he discovers that his wife had not died (as his family had told him), sets out to find her -- intending to conclude the unfinished business between them. He wants to discover what happened to her that night, and what happened to his family's sapphires.

It's a strange reunion for our estranged couple who never wanted to be married to each other, but I have to admire St. John's determination to honor his marriage vows, even when Sarah offers him a way out. It's one of the many questions that the author addresses in her story: how do you convince two married people in an arranged marriage that there is a happily-ever-after for them? Would Sarah's perceived indiscretion matter? Would the missing sapphire necklace matter? Should they?

Their first foray into their marriage didn't start off well, but Sarah and St. John have an opportunity to try again -- but, can they build a new relationship on a foundation of unanswered questions? It doesn't help that Sarah never gives St. John a direct answer, but, instead, constantly challenges his faith in her by letting him arrive to his own conclusions based on what he observes of her.

This is a novel that has a lot of twists and surprises, but none of them are unexpected -- the author does a wonderful job of leaving enough hints and clues, so that we, too, can come to a our own conclusion about who is/are responsible for the tangle that Sarah and St. John find themselves in.

It's truly a compelling read from beginning to end.

To Kiss a Thief is Book 1 in Susanna Craig's Runaway Desires series and her debut novel. To find out more about Susanna Craig and her books, click below:
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Disclosure: I received this ARC via Netgalley. Thank you to Susanna Craig and Lyrical Press for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.














Sunday, August 14, 2016

99-cent historical romances

Hi, all!

Here's this week's featured 99-cent historical romance novels found on Amazon --


Major Lord David by Sherry Lynn Ferguson
$0.99 on Amazon

About the book:

185 pages, 36 reviews (Average customer rating: 4.2 stars)

Decades of war with France are over and Napoleon Bonaparte is safely confined on Elba. Yet Major Lord David Trent finds his homecoming far from peaceful. His father, the Duke of Braughton, is determined to see his son wed, and he has a very specific bride in mind his neighbor's daughter. David cannot recall that the neighbor even has a daughter, much less one he might find appealing! And after years spent fighting on the Peninsula, he is in no mood to be ordered to court anyone. Wilhelmina Caswell has always been in love with Lord David, as her family is well aware. Her preference, and the designs of both their fathers, would seem to make the match inevitable. But as the spring of 1815 advances along with an emboldened Bonaparte, a looming battle threatens thousands of lives and one growing love at Waterloo.



To Lure a Proper Lady by Ashlyn MacNamara (Duke-Defying Daughters Book 1)
$0.99 on Amazon
About the book:

257 pages, 56 reviews (Average customer rating: 4.2 stars)

When Lady Elizabeth Wilde and her sisters are summoned once again to their chronically anxious father’s deathbed, she’s shocked to find that his worries are at last justified. He’s terribly ill, and Lizzie suspects poison. But when she seeks help from the Bow Street Runners, her request is answered by a rough-hewn rogue known only as Dysart. Though his irreverent charm by turns shocks and captivates her, a man of Dysart’s background is an altogether inappropriate choice for a duke’s daughter -- isn’t he?

Although Dysart has his reasons to disdain polite society, the promise of supplemental income from a noble’s coffers is too tempting to deny. But if Dysart means to apprehend the culprit who poisoned the duke, he’ll need to avoid any and all distractions -- like the delicious swish of Lady Elizabeth’s hips. Yet as the investigation begins to unearth secrets he’d rather remain hidden, Dysart must decide at a moment’s notice whether to hold Elizabeth at arm’s length ... or pull her dangerously close.



A Lady's Guide to Kiss a Rake by Tanya Wilde (Misadventures of the Heart)
$0.99 on Amazon

About the book:

219 pages, 36 reviews (Average customer rating: 4.4 stars)

SHE IS PLAYING A DANGEROUS GAME ...

When Lady Josephine accepts a wager to lure a kiss from the most scandalous and depraved rake in England, she thought it an easy enough task. But one glimpse at the man in question and she foresees her reputation going up in glorious flames. It will not stop her from winning the wager, however, not even the vexing Marquis of St. Aldwyn, who is determined to stay firmly planted in her path to victory.

HE IS NOT PLAYING ANY MORE GAMES ...

The Fifth Marquis of St. Aldwyn, Damien Grenville, has come to the conclusion that he has lost his mind. Why else would he be drawn to the reckless Lady Josephine? And when he begins to realize she is up to no good, will he do everything in his power to ensure her reputation remains intact or will he decide to seduce her himself? But danger lurks in the shadows and when Lady Josephine is taken, Damien will stop at nothing to get her back.



How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days by Kate McKinley (What Happens in Scotland Book 1)
$0.99 on Amazon

About the book:

121 pages, 54 reviews (Average customer rating: 4.1 stars)

Lucas Alexander, the ninth Duke of Arlington, is a man who gets what he wants. So when he sees the alluring Miss Pippa Welby from across a crowded ballroom, he vows to make her his. But the bold and spirited Pippa has sworn never to marry into the haute ton. Now Lucas must win her the only way he knows how -- one wicked kiss at a time.

The daughter of a wealthy tradesman, Pippa has been sneered at by the upper echelons her entire life. So when the duke arrives on her doorstep with an invitation to her own engagement ball -- to him -- in ten days, Pippa hatches a daring plan. She must lose the duke before the ball, or risk losing her own heart.



Captured by a Laird by Margaret Mallory (The Douglas Legacy Book 1)
$0.99 on Amazon

About the book:

280 pages, 119 reviews (Average customer rating: 4.5 stars)

THE DOUGLAS LEGACY
The Douglas sisters, beauties all, are valuable pawns in their family’s bitter struggle to control the Scottish Crown. But when powerful enemies threaten, each Douglas lass will find she must face them alone.


CAPTURED BY A LAIRD
Haunted by his father’s violent death, David Hume, the new laird of Wedderburn, sets out to make his name so feared that no one will dare harm his family again. The treacherous ally who played on his father’s weakness is dead and beyond David's vengeance, but his castle and young widow are ripe for the taking. The moment David lays eyes on the dark-haired beauty defending her wee daughters, however, he knows this frail-looking lass is the one person who could bring him to his knees.

Wed at thirteen to a man who tried daily to break her spirit, Lady Alison Douglas is looking forward to a long widowhood. But when the fearsome warrior known as the Beast of Wedderburn storms her gates, she finds herself, once again, forced to wed a stranger. Alison is only a pawn to serve his vengeance, so why does this dark warrior arouse such fiery passion and an unwelcome longing in her heart?

With death and danger looming, these two wounded souls must learn to trust each other ... for only love can save them.
Saturday, August 13, 2016

Book Review: No Place for a Dame by Connie Brockway


Click here to buy the book on Amazon
Click here to buy the paperback at The Book Depository

What drew me to this story is the premise, and the title says it all: Avery Quinn is entering a world that wasn't meant for her, and she is up against very challenging odds. For one, Avery Quinn wasn't born a lady -- she's the daughter of the Dalton Family gamekeeper, who happened to have saved the Marquess of Strand's life. Then, in a moment of sheer inspiration, asked to have his daughter receive an education, as a reward for his service.

So Avery Quinn received the best education any woman (or man) could have -- and, she has used the great gift her father and the Marquess has given her and used it to discover a comet. Now she intends to present her discovery to the Royal Astronomical Society -- a mens-only organization -- and hopes to become their first female member.

Avery is undaunted, because she has a plan -- but she needs the current Marquess of Strand, Giles Dalton, to help her.

Giles has always respected and thought very fondly of Avery -- but he recognized the risk of her most current scheme. If she is discovered, her reputation and her credibility would be destroyed. If she was discovered, his reputation and place in society would be destroyed as well. But Giles agrees -- because, for the first time in a very long time, he is participating in something that is meaningful ... though, admittedly, a bit crazy.

But Giles's agreement isn't purely out of goodwill -- he needs a cover as he investigates the disappearance of his friend Jack Seward.

The story proceeds at a very uneven pace -- the first half of the book establishes Giles's backstory and motivation, then discusses (at length) Avery's plans to masquerade as a male Avery Quinn. The story gets interesting when Giles and Avery admit to the attraction that has long brewed between the two of them -- and London serves as an interesting background for their most unusual courtship. There are no dances in ballrooms or dinners together -- Avery masquerades as a man in and out of Giles's London house, so their relationship develops through conversation.

What's interesting is that both of them seem to have felt this attraction long before the novel started, but neither of them acted on it. It's not an attraction that Giles had ever intended to pursue: he wants to do the honorable thing and leave Avery chaste, and Avery had never dreamed to overstep the social boundaries that separates her and Giles -- a gamekeeper's daughter does not fall in love with the master of the house.

But you could clearly see that they are perfect for each other: Giles's backstory reveals how he's never been able to be his true self, he's always had to play a role -- for his father's sake, for his late brother's sake, etc. -- with Avery, he's really able to say and be exactly who he is. I get the sense that Avery was lonely -- despite living at Killylea (the Strand seat) with an army of servants, Avery didn't really have any confidantes or friends. Giles is the closest thing to a friend that Avery has.

What suffers the most is the investigation into Jack Seward's disappearance -- the blurb for the book hints that this is a major plot point in the story, but it is relegated to a few chapters. It does serve a purpose in resolving the story between Giles and Avery, but I did wish there would be more of Giles searching for his friend, with Avery's help. Avery shows that she has a very clever mind, and she could've been a big help to Giles -- instead, Giles kept that part of himself separate from his endeavors with Avery.

I had expected more based on the blurb, but Connie Brockway does deliver a solid story -- one that resolves quite nicely (and happily), though a bit too neatly in the end.

No Place for a Dame is Book 3 of Connie Brockway's Royal Agents series. To find out more about Connie Brockway and her books, click below:
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Friday, July 29, 2016

Book Review: The Lady Who Lived Again by Thomasine Rappold (Debut Novel)


Click here to buy the book on Amazon
Click here to buy the paperback at The Book Depository

This week, I had started and stopped reading three novels -- making it to 25%, and then giving up on them. I was about to call it a bad week of reading for me, and then I started reading Thomasine Rappold's debut novel, The Lady Who Lived Again, finished it, and loved it.

It's New York in the Gilded Age, but Thomasine Rappold has chosen to set her story in the gray and bleak, and appropriately named town of Misty Lake. I like the idea of "mist" -- that not-quite middke ground between clear and hazy -- not as solid-looking as clouds, but not a shapeless notion as fog -- it's perfect for the world where Madeline lives in: where her gift of healing lives alongside modern science.

Madeline Sutter was, perhaps, the fairest of the Fair Five. The leader of a group of the most beautiful and sought-after girls in Misty Lake. The world was their oyster, and everyone adored them. Life was good, and the future for all four girls was bright. Then the world turned upside down, when a birthday picnic in the mountains of Misty Lake ends in the tragic death of Madeline and her friends, but, strangely, Madeline returns from the dead a day after -- coincidentally on Friday the 13th.

Now Madeline bears the scars of the accident, the hostility of the families of her friends, the directed enmity of the town's pastor, and the suspicion of the rest of the town.

For three years, Madeline has accepted her lot as outcast, but, when her only friend, Amelia, one of the Fair Five (who was on holiday at the time of the accident), decides to return to Misty Lake for her wedding, and asks her the be part of the wedding party, Madeline's first instinct is to refuse, but, then, she realizes that Amelia might be right -- that this might be her chance to regain her place in society.

Jace Merrick is the new town Doctor: young, fresh from the Big City -- armed with skills and modern ideas. Jace is looks my for a fresh start after serving in the emergency rooms of Pittsburgh. He is weary and wary, and he is hoping that Misty Lake might restore a little bit of his faith in the world.

This is Thomasine Rappold's mesmerizing and compelling story of two people seeking for the light at the end of the tunnel. Both of them have handled themselves very well and survived on their own, but they discover that life, and the world becomes more bearable when they are together. What keeps you reading Rappold's debut novel is following Madeline's arduous journey, and how she bears the unbearable burden of being the only survivor of the town's worst tragedy. Her only allies are her grandfather, who is too sick and frail, and is confined to the house, her friend Amelia, whose family moved away from Misty Lake, and Jace Merrick, a new addition to the town.

You can't help but admire Madeline, who possesses a quiet dignity, and an overwhelming grace in the face of open hostility, but she is not perfect. You can see Madeline struggle, stumble, and fall -- but you also see a different Madeline, remnants of the old Madeline, one who charms and teases her way to getting what she wants. And I love that Madeline does not wallow in being a martyr -- she keeps herself active and proactive, despite all opposition.

Jace is a modern man who now lives in a town that hasn't moved forward: they've had the same pastor, they've had the same doctor, the same mercantile store owner, etc. -- it's a town that is alive, and bustling, but not quite at the same pace as the rest of the country. When Jace first meets Madeline, he is intrigued by her beauty -- and when he finds out Madeline's story, the scientist in him is intrigued even more.

Love and logic are at opposing poles for Jace, who struggles to maintain a professional distance from Madeline -- and with good reason: if he is to help Madeline regain the town's good opinion, she must preserve her reputation, and, if Jace is to be Madeline's greatest defender, he must show that he is an unbiased opinion. Madeline knows that her gifts are counter Jace's medical background, and the last thing she wants to do is expose herself to more scrutiny and judgment -- but the temptation to experience desire, to be admired for herself and not for her past -- it is irresistible.

Our hero and heroine represent opposite ends of the spectrum: Madeline relies on her emotions and feelings, and Jace is very analytical -- but, they compliment each other very well. Both are able to provide a unique perspective for the other -- I really love how well they worked together in Jace's clinic. ^_^

The Lady Who Lived Again, is, at it's core, a story of "you and me, against the world" -- and Thomasine Rappold could have easily created flat one-dimensional villains, but, the author does the fair thing, and provides the town with an honest, legitimate reason: someone's daughter, sister, granddaughter, cousin, or friend, died that day -- and they can't help but resent and be angry at Madeline, who survived, despite being the one driving the wagon. The town pastor, and the town doctor, could have, as moral pillars, called for calm, and order, but, they, too -- lost that day, and would stand to lose even more if they had stood by Madeline.

How the author resolves all is just as wonderful, and, for me, seals the deal -- making this a true 5-star read for me.

The Lady Who Lived Again is book 1 in Thomasine Rappold's Sole Survivor series, and her debut novel. To find out more about Thomasine Rappold and her books, click below:
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