Gareth Fitzallen is the illegitimate son of a Duke and. Unlike most noblemen of this period, Gareth’s father not only maintained an amicable relationship with him but also encouraged a relationship between him and his legitimate sons. When the oldest son (and current Duke) dies under mysterious circumstances, Gareth is summoned home at the bequest of his other brothers. A broker of sorts for the autocracy, Gareth’s connections are needed when he is charged with finding some missing artwork that disappeared during the French war. On his arrival to the family estate, Gareth inadvertently runs a young woman into a water filled ditch when his attention wanders to the scenery around him. He is intrigued when his normally winsome charm and good looks don’t produce the reaction he is used to.
“Won’t you allow me to help you carry that? Or better yet, give you a ride to where you are going? It looks like a heavy package, and those shoes must be uncomfortable now.”
“No thank you, I will manage.”
“You dont have to be afraid. I promise to behave myself. I am utterly harmless.”
“I would not accept a ride with you even if I had five miles to walk. Please, be on your way and I will be on mine.”
Eva Russell definitely doesn’t want Gareth’s help as the package she is carrying is a painting she has stolen from his newly inherited home. A poverty stricken spinster, she supports herself and her younger sister by painting copies of famous paintings. Made desolate by her father and brother’s lack of financial know how, Eva loses her fiance and essentially her freedom when she is forced to become the head of the household. A free spirit with a poetic heart, Eva’s goals are more straight forward now-make the money they need to secure her sister’s future. Though her tone and manner are slightly acidic towards Gareth at first, she is not as immune to him as she pretends to be.
She smiled all the way home. How bad can a poor spinster’s day be when the most beautiful man she has ever seen in her life flirts with her?
His Wicked Reputation is the first in Madeline Hunter’s newest trilogy that follows a trio of brothers on their journey to true love. Set up like a traditional historical romance, the infectious balance of humor, wit, decadent love scenes, and hints of suspense and intrigue makes this a unique read in a tried and true genre. Steady pacing, engaging dialogue, and a strong initial storyline setup gives readers pertinent information without overburdening with unnecessary filler. A humorous meet cute sets the stage for the beginning of a friendship that swiftly leads to a glorious romance for the first brother-Gareth Fitzallen.
Gareth manages to insulate himself into Eva’s life rather quickly, using the excuse “I’m new to town and you’re my neighbor” to appeal to her inbred good manners. She introduces him around town while giving the residents a warning that everything that disappeared from his abandoned estate over the years needs to make its way back there pronto. The sharp chemistry that was ignited at their first meeting burns brighter with each new meeting until they are unable to ignore it anymore. Eva begins to find him as irresistible as every other woman.
“Do you always enter homes when their owners are gone?”
Such an unfortunate question. “I am sorry. I should never have entered.”
“Do not apologise. I am glad you came.” His hand fell from her shoulder. Finally. “Come inside. I will show you the improvements.” A slow smile formed, but he looked no friendlier. “Several chambers still require new fabrics and such. You can advice me.”
“I…really cannot…That is, it would not be…appropriate for me to…” Her words died in her throat. He stepped closer. That put her nose at most six inches from his chest.
“Come now, Eva. if it was appropriate for you to enter the house, and appropriate for you to watch me wash-”
“I did not watch you wash!”
“Correction, watch me dress. Even after that you can hardly quibble about your setting foot inside to advise on the drapery.”
Gareth and Eva entertained me from first meeting. Both are strong, intelligent, feisty, and good natured despite their less than stellar upbringings. Neither use their backgrounds as excuses to mope or act the put upon fool. Humorous banter and lush sexual tension keeps the storyline and their relationship flowing smoothly forward.
Neither Gareth nor Eva believe in true love or the all the trappings that come with it. Gareth’s reputation as a hedonistic lover leaves him in much demand but his parent’s own illicit romance showed him that love is a fleeting emotion that causes more pain than pleasure. While Eva does believe in romance, she believes security is more important as she was taught that love can be easily cast aside when circumstances change. Unable to stay away from each other, they begin to engage in a sex only affair, giving each other the passion they crave without the commitment they both seek to avoid. Two wounded souls finding one another is a trope I love and Hunter masters it, developing not only a decadent love affair but a friendship that builds into a true soul match. I enjoyed that the sex isn’t off scene nor inundated with an abundance of flowing purple prose. Though Eva seeks to keep Gareth at arms length, he is a confident, experienced lover who uses his body and mind to trap Eva in her own desires.
She knew, even as she succumbed, that his goal was to master her will. She did not care.
As their assignations heat up, so does the mystery of the stolen paintings. Gareth’s investigations show him that Eva is involved though the depth of her involvement is yet to be determined. Slow and steady, Hunter intertwines the romance and mystery, allowing them to play off one another and develop at their own pace. Though the mystery is the weaker of the two story lines- it was pretty easy to figure out exactly what was happening- the intrigue lays in the various individuals involved and the ramifications.
Delightful secondary characters add to the depth of the story. I loved the frank speech between everyone involved. Hunter does a fantastic job of creating characters we can relate to. Gareth and his mother are close, as are he and his brothers. I enjoyed their scenes together. All three are an adventurous lot and look forward to their stories. Rebecca, Eva’s sister, provides much entertainment as those around her discover her exceptional beauty hides a razor-sharp mind and tongue. I do hope this ambitious crusader gets her own story.
The main conflict resolves itself admirably (as I stated earlier, it was all very easy to figure out) and the story ends in a delightful and quite unorthodox manner. Ms. Hunter certainly proves her reputation with her latest historical offering and I look forward to reading more about these wicked brothers.
Lady Thalia Lennox, once the reigning darling of the London social set, now lives an outcast’s existence, the object of scandalous rumors and lascivious innuendos. Betrayed by those around her, the lies have left her heartbroken, alone, and completely over men. That is until a younger man sets his sights upon her.
Lord Leopold Byron, a mischievous rake whose status as a younger son leaves him free to pursue his amusements without censure, finds his interest pricked for the first time in ages when he catches a glimpse of the beautiful divorcee. Determined to make her his mistress, Leo plies her with titillating suggestions and intimate advances only to find himself rebuffed by her on multiple occasions.
Refusing to take no for an answer, Leo takes the different approach and soon a beautiful friendship blossoms. But there are those out there who don’t want Thalia happy and will do whatever it takes to keep her under their thumb. As Leo and Thalia’s relationship begins to evolve into something more, Leo will do whatever it takes to keep Thalia in his bed and life forever.
This is my first time reading Ms. Warren but not my last. The Bedding Proposal is the first installment in Ms. Warren’s The Rakes of Cavendish series which revolves around the Byron family. Fans of Tessa Dare and Julia Quinn are sure to enjoy this lively adventure that brings two intelligent and witty protagonists together for a deliciously swoon worthy romance. Set in the Regency era, Warren’s builds the sexual tension between our protagonists with delicious exploratory scenes, witty banter, and sensual play. Intrigue and scandal only further enhances the experience and elevates this story above the average historical romance.
Lady Thalia Lennox was married at a young age to a man of her family’s choosing. Going into the marriage with optimism and hope, she is shocked to find herself the victim of abuse. When her husband goes too far, leaving Thalia unable to give him an heir, he sets up in order to divorce her. Lies and accusations leave Thalia dissolute and a social pariah. With a few loyal friends and staff members, Thalia is able to secure housing and money to survive but she has taken her lessons to heart and regardless of the rumors her husband started, she lives a solitary life with her staff and cat.
“Animals are wonderful company and they are never cruel or deceitful. Be kind to them and they will be kind back. If only people were so admirable in their dealings, just think how much better the world would be.”
Lord Leo Byron is a younger son of a Duke and lives his life as one of privilege. A hedonistic rake, he doesn’t always consider the consequences of his actions. He sees Lady Thalia and instantly decides she will be his next mistress, never considering that she may not be interested.
“Now, why don’t we go somewhere more private so we can get better acquainted. I have my coach right outside. And please, call me Leo. As I said before, all my intimates do.”
All his bedmates, he meant, his meaning clear.
Without knowing what she intended, she flung the contents of her glass up into his face, champagne splashing everywhere.
He blinked wine out of his eyes, a stunned expression on his wet face..
“You and I shall never be intimates. Good night, Lord Leopold.”
Having never been denied anything since a young child, he thinks Lady Thalia is playing hard to get and strives to change her mind. He oversteps many boundaries in the beginning with his ham-fisted pursuit, not seeing that his double-sided innuendos are insulting to Thalia. He views her as a prize to be won. After she seeks to humiliate him, hoping he will finally take the hint, Leo uses her guilt to secure her companion ship for two weeks. It’s during this time that Leo begins to see the real Thalia.
Every day he came to know her a little better. Every day he wanted to know more, be with her more.
Leo and Thalia are a delight both as individuals and as a couple. Both strong, witty, and intelligent with a wonderful chemistry that is apparent from their first meeting. Though an unlikely match, their relationship flourishes and deepens as they become further acquainted with one another. While Thalia’s beauty and reputation is what initially attracts Leo, it’s her charm and intelligence that soon captivates him. He gradually realizes that the face she presents to society only serves to hide a complex woman who’s still waters run deep. Leo is also not what Thalia initially thought him to be. There is strong substance behind ‘his devil may care attitude’ that only strengthens her attraction as she uncovers his many facets. As she spends more time with him, she realizes that he may be exactly what she needs. Their witty banter, dry humor, and undeniable sexual attraction keeps the storyline and their relationship flowing smoothly forward.
“Have you not realized, dear Lady Thalia, how vastly improper I am? Just say the word and we can be improper together.”
Naughty, fun, and explicit loves scenes are used to tantalize the reader and show the passion and love that is slowly building between them. I do adore a couple who can have fun in and out of bad and Leo does everything he can to make sure Thalia enjoys every minute they spend together. They have a delightful romantic sensual way about them that reassures you that they could very well have a very happy future together.
“Keep your eyes open.” He stroked faster, pausing to scissor his fingers inside her with every deep inner touch. “See how beautiful you are as you take your pleasure.”
The main conflict is deeply plotted and intertwines around our villain with flair. It does take a while to get the full story behind Thalia’s downfall and her ex husband’s role in it. I did enjoyed that Leo, unlike some historical romantic heroes, doesn’t automatically blame our heroine for the problems they encounter or engage in sexual double standards. Thalia and Leo get some help in being ostracized from some unexpected allies-Leo’s family. I am especially eager to see Leo’s twin brother Lawrence find his happily ever after. I was pleased Warren didn’t go the expected route and use the fact Leo and Lawrence were twins to add additional conflict to the relationship. I was disconcerted though by the manner in which Warren chooses to give our couple resolution. It was a plot device that required no real effort in producing.
The Bedding Proposal is a joyful heartwarming love story filled with humor, steamy romance, and just enough conflict to leave you cheering at the end for our delightful couple.
Return to Clan Sinclair is a short steamy novella that introduces us to Ceana Mead Sinclair. Ceana has returned to her brother’s home in Scotland i3.5
Return to Clan Sinclair is a short steamy novella that introduces us to Ceana Mead Sinclair. Ceana has returned to her brother’s home in Scotland in an attempt to find herself after her husband passed away. A chance meeting of a sexy incorrigible American detective opens the doorway to a second chance at love and happiness; that is if her in laws don’t ruin it for her. Lively banter and intriguing sexual tension between the protagonist makes for an enjoyable read. Ranney also ties off a few loose threads from The Devil of Clan Sinclair. I only wish we would have heard the real reasons behind Ceana’s in laws need to keep her under lock and key.
Favorite Quote: “Did you really think she was going to smile and say, ‘As you wish, Sir?’ “
Sir Richard Kenworthy needs to marry quickly and doesn’t have the time nor inclination to go through the usual hoops in order to find a bride. He asks a friend to help him find a young woman who may not be as cautious or ask too many questions and he is led to Smythe-Smiths and Iris. Richard sees a young woman whose looks wouldn’t garner her a first, second, or even third look but there is something about her that calls to him. He knows she is the one for him but circumstances may force him to lose her before their life together can even begin.
Iris Smythe-Smith isn’t your usual debutante. With somewhat bland looks and affordable personality, she fades into the background quite often and is content with that. When an attractive stranger demands an introduction to her, she is hesitant. When he begins to flirt and charm, she becomes suspicious. The more time they spend together, the more Iris suspects something is afoot. When a surprise marriage proposal is bungled and circumstances force Iris to marry Richard, she is determined to discover all his secrets. But when she does, how will she ever forgive him?
I fell in love with Julia Quinn and her stories when I was introduced to her Bridgerton series. From there I became a fan and have read almost everything she has written. Her stories are energetic, humorous, romantic, and very family orientated. Meddling parents, obstinate heroes and heroines, exasperating siblings, and a menage of eccentric circumstances always blend together to give romance readers a romance that beats the odds while hitting all the high notes.
The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy starts out pleasant. A meet cute with the atrocious Smythe-Smith family musicians provides the perfect opening for our hero to engage the heroine and set his plan in motion. Plenty of humorous banter and tongue in cheek situations set the stage of what promises to be quite a journey between two people for whom fate (and some dubious circumstances) have brought together. I enjoyed getting to know Iris and Richard. Even knowing Richard was being duplicitous, I found him charming.
As the story progresses, Quinn gives us hints towards the dark secret that Kenworthy is carrying. We are privie to his thoughts and we are warned that once Iris learns of this secret, all will not be well. It’s well written and flows smoothly but there was a part of me that wasn’t enamoured as of yet. Both Iris and Richard are amicable people. Intelligent, steady, witty, and strong for whom family means the world and they will sacrifice for them. The passion and chemistry I’m used to seeing from Ms. Quinn wasn’t quite as effervescent. The entire ‘courtship’ was all very subdued. It’s only after Richard marries Iris and she learns the real reason why he married her do I feel the artifice in the first half of the story is stripped away and we see the real Iris and Richard. The pain, the sorrow, the confusion, the humiliation, and the anger is there and they are magnificent when their emotions are laid bare for all to see.
“I know why you married me, you needed someone who would need you even more. Someone who could overlook a suspiciously hasty proposal and be desperate enough to thank you for it.”
“…he could not see anything beyond the shattered look on Iris’s face, and he had an awful sense that he’d broken something within her, something he could never repair.”
It’s at this moment that the story becomes so much more than I had anticipated and I was firmly hooked. Quinn reintroduces our couple to one another and the sparks I had missed in the beginning erupts in a fiery blaze. Iris is not the amicable woman she seemed before and Richard is both confused and enchanted by what he sees. This is the woman he felt was peeking out from beneath her placid and uninspiring looks. This woman who is both fire and ice. This is the woman he had fallen in love with… and then betrayed.
“She was such a contradiction. So ethereal in looks and so pragmatic in mind. […] Had he thought her innate personality would allow her to get over the fundamental insult of their marriage? That she would just shrug and say, ‘Quite right, that makes sense.”
The conflict is painstakingly laid out as Iris learns more about the situation and realizes exactly why Richard did what he did. She is sympathetic to his problem but remains true to herself and seeks to find another way out of this mess. Richard also sees beyond his own expectations and begins to look at the situation from Iris’s point of view. He realizes that the consequences of his actions will cost him much, much more than he had originally anticipated.
“He did not see how she could ever love him not after what he’d done. But he had to try. And maybe it would be enough that he loved her.”
Quinn writes a seemingly lightweight frivolous romance that divulges into deeper emotions and temperaments, creating a love story that will confound and delight fans everywhere.
Stephanie Laurens’ newest installment, The Tempting of Thomas Carrick, is the next generation of Cynsters and the twenty-second book in the series. For those familiar with the series, Lucilla Cynster is the daughter to Catriona and Richard (Scandal’s Bride, #3). We are now focusing on the happily ever afters of the children.
Lucilla Cynster, like her mother, and her mother before her, are all healers bound to the Lady of the Vale. A deity of sorts to whom this branch of the family worships. Lucilla met her one true love, Thomas Carrick, years ago but he has yet to accept their fated destiny. When he arrives at her estate, begging her help for a family of crofters who has succumbed to a mysterious illness on his family’s estate, Lucilla views this as the perfect opportunity to cement her bond with her future husband.
Thomas Carrick may have been born to the Clan Carrick but he has made a life in Glasgow and is determined to remain there. When he is summoned back to the Clan over some changes in management, he finds things unsettled. Seeing Lucilla Cynster again further unsettles him as he has run from the connection they have shared since first meeting her. He doesn’t believe in fate or destiny and when the problems at home are solved, he plans on running again.
A fan of Ms. Laurens’ since she penned and published her first romance, her Cynster series has always held a special place on my bookshelf. A family that excels with deliciously dominant men whose demands and arrogance only serves to make their fall more entertaining and the intelligent, graceful women whose wit and resources allows them to graciously let the men think the chase was all their idea. Consummate humor, intrigue, passion, and heartache have kept me coming back for years. With twenty-two books in all, there have been a few that weren’t quite as engaging as others. The Tempting of Thomas Carrick unfortunately falls onto that list.
This book failed for me on all levels. Lauren pens a weak mystery involving Clan Carrick that is almost completely obliterated by the romance. Laurens blends the two together, using the mystery to help push the hero and heroine’s relationship in the direction she wishes them to take. The problem is the mystery and secondary characters surrounding it can’t compete against the hero and hero. Thomas and Lucilla are the focal point and their romance takes precedence. We get strong clues and informative scenes only to be dragged back into the romance and the connection readers need is lost. It’s all tell and not show. Also, seeing this develop only from Lucilla and Thomas eyes hinders some of the subplots.
The romance also fails for me. I couldn’t connect with our hero and heroine at all. They are almost puppet like in their actions and feelings. No real emotion could be felt from them. It’s all revealed very methodically. The chemistry between them is flat except in bed, and that is mainly due to the overly flowery prose and descriptive phrasing that Laurens suffers from occasionally. Everything Lucilla does, every plan she makes to bring Thomas to heel, is because her goddess has told her he is the one for her. She never convinced me she really cared anything for him on a personal level. And how could she? She doesn’t really know him. While she does occasionally make an off-hand comment on his “wide shoulders and strong thighs”, there are no convincing internal dialogue waxing poetic to his looks, his personality, or even his work ethic. In fact, I’m not even sure she knows what he does for a living. Everything Lucilla feels or wants circles back to the Lady and her “prediction.” Bland almost analytical dialogue between them only serves to reinforce the lack of emotion. Thomas isn’t anymore forth coming. He makes the obligatory remarks to her hair, eyes, and figure but we don’t hear anything complimentary about her in regards to her personality or healing skills.
Laurens tries to use their burgeoning relationship to define Lucilla and Thomas, giving them the depth and emotional maturity they both seem to be missing on a personal level. However, the plan backfires in my opinion. The entire book is unbelievably tepid. No true emotion is seen anywhere. These are the most dispassionate characters I’ve ever seen. Even in thought they are calm, cool, and collected. What I missed most was the impetuous nature of the past that has always been a huge part of this series. The Cynsters live and love hard with lots of shouting, raging, loving, and laughter but in here, non of that was seen.
We are left to continue along in the vein of Lucilla plotting and weaving her web and Thomas constantly denies their attraction while tidbits of the conflict leak through, giving readers a vague indication of what and who are causing the troubles concerning Thomas’s family. A single event pushes Thomas into Lucilla’s arms, creating a domino effect that solves the mystery and surrounding subplots.
Though I will always remain a fan of Lauren’s earlier works, The Tempting of Thomas Carrick for me was anything but tempting or even interesting.
Adam, King of the GIMs, was cursed by the Queen of the Fairies, Mab, and given 700 years to find his soul mate to break the curse or his soul would be hers for eternity. When Adam meets Eliza May, he knows she is the other half of his soul but in his haste to break the curse, he alienates her and any hope of help she may have given him. When Eliza is rescued from Adam, Adam’s time runs out and he is taken prisoner by Mab.
Eliza May is half human and half fae. Discovered to be a niece of Mab’s, she finds refuge in with her Aunt when she is freed from Adam only to discover that she has escaped one cage for another. Finding Adam in the basement, a victim of torture and abuse, only reinforces Eliza’s feelings that she is once again being used as a pawn in someone else’s end game. Eliza helps Adam escape and soon they are running for their lives, looking for a legendary weapon that Mab is willing to kill them all to possess.
Tempers flare as do passions when Adam sets his mind to courting Eliza and proving to her that they are meant for one another. Eliza isn’t sure if Adam truly loves for her or if it’s the fact she is the only one who can free him from Mab’s clutches forever, but when the end draws near, love may not be enough to save any of them.
Soulbound is the sixth book in Callihan’s Darkest London series and brings a long and convoluted storyline to an end while opening the door to new adventures. I wouldn’t recommend starting the series here as each book is a building block, referencing previous scenes and characters, using them to further expand the world and the long standing arc. Taut suspense, delicious deception, and dangerous antagonists continue to create fascinating reads that capture me from page one. Strong complicated characters drive this series, each installment using the exploration of one couples’ romantic and dramatic journey to love as the key element on which this series is built.
Callihan expands on the subplot that was introduced in Evernight. Similar in the set up in Shadowdance, Callihan used Evernight to introduce an antagonistic relationship then proceeds to examine the reasons why, setting the stage for a reconciliation. Callihan does a fine job of intertwining the conflict with the romance, using the protagonists’ individual stories to further the arc and tie up loosely threaded storylines.
Fans will remember that Eliza May came to London find her cousins, the Evernights, and was the victim of a fatal mugging. She was found by Mary and Daisy and given the choice to die free or live under Adam’s rule. She choose life and found herself bound by chains to Adam’s side. Literally. Soon her independent nature chafed at her bonds and her gratitude turned to hate. Given the chance to escape leaves her free but within the sights of someone far more dangerous. Eliza is forced to reconnect with Adam and this is where the story truly begins.
“He felt her pain. He felt everything. Finally. Freedom. Finally, it was in his grasp. All he had to do was keep Miss Eliza May by his side. Forever.”
Adam has a lot to atone for to Eliza. He ruthlessly chained her to his side with no explanations when he discovered she was the key to his freedom. Determined to use her break his curse, he tricked her of her free will and was left with an angry, uncooperative woman who uses her wits and stubbornness to thwart him at every turn. When Adam’s backstory is revealed, you understand his impetuous reasoning but, like Eliza, are not very forgiving. Weak and brutally hobbled by Mab, Adam gets a nasty taste of what Eliza felt. Adam is genuinely remorseful for what he did and wants to begin anew.
“I want my peace, Eliza. To feel whole, happy, and free. That is all I’ve ever wanted. Seven hundred years, I’ve searched for it. And if there is even the slightest possibility that you can give it to me, then I am willing to risk everything to get it.”
Eliza is not one to forgive and forget. Already having been taken advantage of by others and by Adam himself, all Eliza wants is to be free to live her own life without being forced to depend or answer to anyone. She doesn’t believe in soulmates or everlasting love which causes even more of a riff between her and Adam. Yet she is intelligent enough to know that without Adam’s help, she will never be free of her Aunt and her machinations. Though it takes awhile, Eliza is able to eventually open her mind and heart to the possibilities of what could be.
“A heated dizziness threatened to send her crashing down. He claimed to be her other half. She, who’d crept through life, escaping the notice of everyone.”
Adam and Eliza have a love/hate relationship; both needing the other and parts of them resenting that need. Their chemistry is as explosive as gasoline and dynamite. Bright, hot, and burning everything that stands in its flames. As they work to stay one step ahead of Mab and find the weapon she desperately wants, they take the time to get to know one another without the ever present antagonism. Adam’s sexual innuendos and volatile nature is the perfect foil against Eliza’s more reserved and cynical nature; adding humor to this otherwise dark tale of betrayal and heartbreak.
“Ah my lovely, it’s been far too long.”
“Shall I leave you to alone then?” Eliza’s lips twitched. She had never seen such a look of reverence mixed with old familiarity. It was nearly indecent.
Adam spared her a glance. “Quiet woman, a man’s relationship with his sword is a sacred thing.”
“So I’ve heard.”
Callihan blends the conflict of the story with the emotionally intense journey of Eliza and Adam; using external subplots to heighten the danger and suspense that surrounds them. Steady pacing and plentiful action speeds the story along as the big picture begins to reveal itself with the addition of new storylines. With each scene we watch Adam and Eliza face and overcome their fears while dealing with the external factors that try to defeat them. Neither plot nor romance is sacrificed. They balance and complement each other through the entire story; merging together towards the climatic and arc twisting ending.
“I’ve always wanted you. I always will.”
As always, the supporting characters are intense, well developed, and intertwine with our protagonists to give us a rich, full-bodied story. Much that played out behind the scenes continues to be revealed, offering even more insight into this rich, intriguing world and its inhabitants. Sin (St. John Evernight) plays a larger role in here as do the reasons for what he has done. We also see more of Augustus and learn just how far reaching his power actually is. I look forward to book seven-title and release date to be announced-which looks to be Sin’s book.
Callihan continues to engage readers with her strong characters, intriguing storylines, fantastical world, and romantic journeys whose rough starts lead to incredible rewards.
Elijah Carter is a young man who is treated like a simpleton because he is deaf. Gay and ashamed of his sexual orientation and penchant for pain, he aElijah Carter is a young man who is treated like a simpleton because he is deaf. Gay and ashamed of his sexual orientation and penchant for pain, he allows himself to be sexually abused by the owner of the local saloon, Harlan Crane.
Grady Mullins, a cattle rustler, wants Elijah too but unlike Harlan, he doesn’t want to control him. He gently pursues Elijah, trying to show him he has choices in life, but Elijah is unable to separate himself from the vicious cycle he is caught in.
When someone Elijah loves is taken from him, Elijah begins to spiral down a dark path towards vengeance and despair. Caught between love and hate, Elijah learns to take control of his own destiny and is forced to make a choice. A choice that could end his life or free him forever.
Sweetwater by Lisa Henry is a somber bittersweet coming of age story that addresses the stigma of homosexuality (both internally and externally) and the cruelty shown those with disabilities. Set in the boomtown-South Pass City- in the 1800s, Lisa Henry paints a vivid picture of life in a small western town that is only one step from extinction. You can taste the dirt and grit permeating your nose and mouth while experiencing the almost maniacal atmosphere that surrounds a town built on greed and gold. A fast pace and clear concise writing tells us a story that appeals to our sense of justice and innate need to champion the underdog. An interesting cast of characters reside here. Not all together likable but dynamic in the realistic roles they play in this town and in the hero’s life.
Harmon Ely had a dream. A dream to establish his own town smack dab in the middle of Texas but first, he had to find the right men and women to help mHarmon Ely had a dream. A dream to establish his own town smack dab in the middle of Texas but first, he had to find the right men and women to help make his dream a reality. Forty acres and a home is his offer to anyone brave enough to come settle in this forsaken land. All they need to bring is their willingness to work… and a wife.
Three men take him up on his offer-Patrick McAllen, Clint Truman, and Gillian Matheson. Patrick McAllen, the youngest son of an abusive religious leader, sneaks out of his father’s home in the middle of the night with his best friend and soon to be wife, Anne Spencer, and heads towards Ely’s trading post. A master carpenter, Patrick has no doubts he can be an asset to the town, but Patrick knows his father will be coming for him and this time escape may not possible.
Clint Truman, a former Texas Ranger, has already buried one family and is slowly following them into an early grave one drink at a time. His best friend, Sheriff Lightstone, knows he has only one chance to save Clint from himself and tells him of Ely’s offer. Clint doesn’t want another wife but when his friend takes him to meet a young mother whose situation in-flames Clint’s protective nature, Clint agrees to marry her and help her raise her newborn son if she is willing to trust him and help build a new life for the three of them.
Captain Gillian Matheson has no idea why his wife Daisy has insisted he come meet her and their sons at Harmon’s Ely’s Trading Post but he fears the worse. Married for five years, Gillian and his wife has spent more time apart then together as he refused to leave the Army and she refused to leave her family and follow him from post to post. Commissioned to take a young girl to safety before heading to meet his wife, Gillian is injured and wakes to find himself at the trading post with a parcel of strangers and a wife with some interesting news.
Jodi Thomas’s small town contemporary romance series, Harmony, just keeps getting better and better with each new installment. A tried and true contemporary with a strong ongoing arc written in an entertaining conversational “soap opera” style. After seven books, I can honestly say my attention hasn’t even begun to falter.
Favorite Quote: Cursing softly, he finally admitted to himself that he wanted to be her hero.
Sir Orion Wherlocke has spent most of his adult life avoiFavorite Quote: Cursing softly, he finally admitted to himself that he wanted to be her hero.
Sir Orion Wherlocke has spent most of his adult life avoiding commitment and marriage. A confirmed bachelor, his childhood and various family members has shown him that marriage for the Wherlockes and Vaughns only ends in pain and sorrow. He has his sons and is more than able to find someone to warm his bed when the urges comes upon him…and walk away when he’s done.
That is until he meets the one women he may not be able to walk away from.
Lady Catryn Gryffin de Warrene is at a loss on how to protect her son from her late husband’s brother’s manipulations. He wants her son’s inheritance in his pocket, her in his bed and is willing to go to unbelievable lengths to secure both. She is determined to protect her son, no matter the cost to her.
That is until she meets the one man whose price may be to high for her to pay.
Sir Orion finds himself involved in Lady Catryn’s troubles when she steals his carriage, along his wayward son, to chase down the men who have kidnapped her son. As they cross the countryside, searching for the little boy, Orion and Catryn find themselves at the mercy of a madman whose defeat will require a whole lot of daring and a little bit magic.
If He’s Daring is the sixth installment of Ms. Howell’s Wherlocke series. A sensual entertaining historical romance series that gives voice to the more darker aspects of human nature. Love, humor, heroism, revenge, and redemption all combine to produce a winning literary recipe. Action and suspense go hand in hand as two lost souls come together to stop a mad man from destroying a young boy’s life and the lives of those who care for him. This can be read as a stand alone and you do not have to read the others in order to appreciate this story, though previous heroes and heroines drift in and out of the story at random intervals.
As with all of Howell’s heros and heroines, I was instantly smitten upon first meeting Catyrn and Orion. Unlike previous books, this installment has not one but two heroes-father and son. Heavily character driven, Howell excels at building dynamic characters whose complicated lives draws readers in effortlessly. Exciting plotlines open the door to a whirlwind adventure that pits good against evil. A strong paranormal base only adds to the intrigue and suspense.
Orion is a delightfully sexy alpha with a commanding nature, sensuous soul, and generous heart. Though his childhood caused him to barricade his emotions behind a stout wall and engage in affairs with expiration dates, I found his quiet sense of honor a delicious attribute. He is the quintessential reluctant hero. The events in book five brought change to his life, causing him to look beyond himself and his own wants and needs. One of those changes was his son, Giles. Giles is a delightful young man whose exuberance for life belays his tragic upbringing. Discovered living on the streets in book five, Giles is eight going on eighty. It’s because of him that Orion takes a chance on helping Catyrn; knowing that getting close to her could be his downfall.
A widowed woman with her own tragic secrets, Catyrn is not one to hide behind her gender or social status when faced with difficult tasks. Like Orion, her loyalty, honor, and love for her family is boundless. She is a pillar of steel wrapped in an attractive and deceptive looking package. Strong and intelligent, watching her war within herself as she struggles to remain cool, calm, and collected with each new revelation into her husband’s distasteful deeds that placed her on the road she’s on now was interesting to watch and spoke of her own emotional wall.
Catyrn and Orion’s romance begins slowly, taking almost the entire book to achieve fruition. Neither of them are looking for love or the complications that can come with it. Catyrn is not one to indulge in a short sweet affair and that’s all Orion thinks he has in him to give her. Their chemistry is a solid presence, slipping into your subconscious from the start. No games are played nor are we inundated with overly dramatic misconstrued events. As they are not married and in the public eye, they have to be careful in their exploration of their sexual compatibility which slows down the journey even more; but makes for some fantastic sticky sexual tension. There is a sweetness to their lovemaking once decisions are made. Their passions are quiet but explosive and you will swoon as each bare more than their bodies to one another.
A series of dark actions is the building block of this story. As the storyline reveals, we learn the true extent of the harm that has been visited on the heroine. We know who the villain is from the beginning but bringing him down proves not as easy as you would think. A well crafted persona of pure insanity, this villain exceeds all boundaries yet he never crosses the line into unbelievable. His downfall is both dramatic and fitting.
Dynamic vibrant secondary characters are everywhere yet you never feel overwhelmed. We see various Wherlockes and Vaughns from previous books and meet a few new ones whom I hope we see more.They really are a large and unusual family and Howell gives us a little more background on the families with each new book. The inclusion of the supernatural into the storyline holds a bigger portion than normal, but as always, Howell uses the characters’ gifts to enhance the main conflict, not as a catchall to solve all their problems and save the day.
If I had any qualms about the story, it was Catyrn’s ability to brush off her anger and pain over certain events. I wanted to see a deeper emotional outburst at all that had been done to her. She doesn’t really deal with it. Instead, she pushes it deep inside, hiding it away with the thought, “It’s over. There is nothing I can do about it now.”
Regardless, If He’s Tempted is well rounded enjoyable historical romance that is sure to be a keeper on any readers shelf who loves a dash of everything in their love stories.
Favorite Quote: “Nothing about you could ever be ugly to me.”
The third and final installment of Joanna Chamber’s historical M/M romance brings a conclusion to this poignant and sensual love story between two men who defy convention and society’s edicts to be together. Lush emotional scenes and heartfelt declarations only serve to remind us that no matter what gender is being presented, love is a gift and should be viewed as such.
Enlightened picks up five months after Beguiled ended. David was badly injured when he helped a friend escape her abusive marriage. His lover, Lord Mundo, takes David to his country estate to recover and they use the time to indulge in their growing passion far away from prying eyes and judgemental tongues. But David knows something is wrong; Mundo seems to be drifting further away with each passing day. When David’s learns his mentor is dying, David and Mundo travel to London and David agrees to perform one last act to ensure his mentor’s daughter will be safe. While in London Mundo’s father pays a surprise visit and delivers some shocking news that makes David question Mundo and their relationship.
David Laureston, an Edinburgh Advocate, has always been ashamed of his love for men. A complicated man whose sexual preferences have cause him pain and confusion in the past. His ethics continuously war with his passions. He knows he should not be attracted to men but is unable to resist. Especially concerning Lord Mundo. Mundo breaks through David’s walls and has him imaging the seemingly impossible-a lifetime together.
The two were linked, quite inextricably, his affection for Mundo exposing him in ways that horrified him. The protective barriers he’d spent a lifetime building up felt like they were crumbling away in the face of the emotions he was helpless to deny.
Lord Mundo Belfour, a Scottish Lord, was a self proclaimed hedonist who did not see his enjoyment of male companionship as a hindrance to his eventual marriage and procreation of a heir. It was merely an itch to be scratched. David is the only man who has ever made Mundo question his actions and feel something beyond physical attraction.
“I thought you were naive, till you made me see that life I’d always wanted [...] didn’t amount to anything at all. I wasn’t going to have it all. I was going to have nothing. You saved me from that.”
The intense and unavoidable chemistry takes a softer note in here, having gone far beyond the initial base attraction. We are shown the intimacies that exist when two people fall in love. The confusion and conflict our two protagonists struggle with strikes a poignant note in your heart as you wonder how this can possibly work. David’s near death brings out a side of Mundo that both enchants and scares David. Seductive and heartfelt dialogue and actions speak of our lovers deep feelings towards one another.
“So very like you to want to put things right,” Murdo murmured. He turned his head till their eyes met, and his dark gaze was warm with affection. His lips sought David’s, and their mouths moved together in a consoling kiss that had nothing to do with passion. “David,” he said, when they broke apart. “David.” He said David’s name like it meant something all on its own. Like a vow. Like a promise.
The continuing arc comes to a head as David sets in motion a plan that will protect his friends once and for all; helped along by a most unexpected source. Events set in motion by David’s plan creates an unintended domino effect that leads to an exciting and well earned conclusion for this trilogy.
Joanna Chambers’ Enlightened trilogy has been a joy to read and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.
Stormy Persuasion (Malory-Anderson, #11) by Johanna Lindsey Historical Romance Paperback, 384 pages June 10, 2014 Galley Books
Reviewed by Tori
Jacqueline and Judith Malory are more than cousins; they are best friends. Having grown up together, they are dismayed to find their parents are separating them for their first debut into society. James Malory made a promise to his wife’s family many years ago that his daughter, Jacqueline (Jack), would have her coming out in America. This doesn’t bode well for the bosom cousins. Jack and Judith beg and plead until Judith’s parents give in and allow her to travel to America with Jack. Neither girls have any plans to fall in love their first season; especially Judith as her dreams are filled with a certain “ghost” who haunts the house next door.
Nathan Tremayne isn’t a ghost but a smuggler with a mission and time is running out. Set up and captured, his freedom depends on his helping to capture a group of dangerous men. Nathan finagles a job aboard the Malory’s ship (The Maiden George) when he discovers his quarry is in America. He is surprised to find Judith aboard and even more shocked when he discovers she not only knows who he is, but begins to blackmail him into spending time with her. Passion builds and love begins as Judith and Nathan play a dangerous game, but when accusations are made and Judith turns her back on him, Nathan decides to cut his losses and finish out his mission.
When the past comes back to haunt the Malorys, Nathan grabs the reins and turns the tables on Judith. This time she will do his bidding. But love follows no rules and soon Nathan is fighting for more than his freedom…he is fighting for Judith’s heart.
First off, let me say I’m SHOCKED we at Smexy Books have never reviewed a Judith Lindsey book. So, we are effectively popping our Lindsey cherry with this one. ”Holla!!”
Judith Lindsey’s favorite family, the Malory’s and Anderson’s, are back in a new adventure involving love on the high seas. Stormy Persuasion is the eleventh book in the Malory-Anderson series and focuses on brothers James and Anthony Malory’s two oldest girls-Jacqueline (Jack) and Judith. Both eighteen, they are getting ready for their coming out but as you all know, nothing ever goes as planned with the Malorys. This lightweight mild multi plotted storyline is filled with humor, intrigue, adventure, and romance. The high energy of the Malory/Anderson clan keeps the story moving along at a steady pace. Though the eleventh in the series, it is quite easy to follow along with as Ms. Lindsey interjects past storylines, tying them effortlessly into the present, allowing readers to get the general idea of who everyone is in regards to relationships.
I’ve always enjoyed this series though it has been hit or miss for me. Some of the stories I have devoured, unable to read them quick enough while some barely managed to hold my attention. Stormy Persuasion falls in the middle. The beginning starts out promising with Judith and Jack scheming to get Judith’s mother to agree to allow her to sail to America with Jack. We learn about the supposed deserted mansion and Judith’s secret crush on the ghost that haunts it. While on board ship, Judith sees her ghost and realizes he is very much a flesh and blood man. Suspecting smuggling and/or thievery, she demands an explanation as to why he is on board her family’s ship or she will go to her father and tell him her suspicions. Nathan refuses and Judith in return blackmails him into attending her in order to extract information from him. As they spend more time together, Judith’s convictions begin to waver and her attraction to him strengthens.
Visiting with the Malorys again was a treat. Lindsey has built such a gregarious LARGE family. Lively, rambunctious, and intelligent, this family embraces it’s aristocracy but tempers it with a mischievous side that shines through at the most inappropriate times. The men are the perfect alpha males who drag their feet reluctantly towards romance but once they find the one, they love with their whole hearts. The women they love are witty, clever, and usually extremely stubborn when it comes to what they want. They are a class act that delivers with aplomb.
While Judith is definitely a Malory, she didn’t engage me as much some of the other characters did. I found her a quick to judge and assume the worse and it wasn’t attractive. Lindsey portrays her rather too well as an young over privileged member of gentry. She is childish at times, especially when she interacts with Nathan. There were also few scenes where her reactions after the fact didn’t mesh up to how I felt a young women of this era would or should react.
Nathan is a more realistic and well rounded character. He has a complicated rather inspiring backstory and his reasons for his current occupations make sense. I found it hilarious the way he makes her come to him and he treats her with amusement and caution. He feels Judith is just amusing herself with him while he has some very good incentives to not fail on his mission. He dislikes the ‘nabobs’ as he calls the aristocratic set and with good reason. The chemistry between he and Judith is there but I’d be hard pressed to say why they were attracted to one another. The romance blossoms slowly, very low-key, neither of them giving the words both need to hear. I wasn’t sure until the very end if they would even work together.
The main conflict blends well with the various subplots sprinkled throughout; keeping the book from centering only on Judith and Nathan. Newly discovered relatives regenerates a past storyline and provides clues for book twelve. The dynamic Malorys provide more then enough giggles; James and Anthony’s never ceasing bickering and boxing and Jack’s introduction to her possible HEA, whom she affectionately refers to as ‘The Bastard.’
All in all a fast read that easily chased away a rainy afternoon, but the story dragged at times on the ship with the constant back and forth between Judith and Nathan. I found the beginning and ending held the excitement and drama I wished for the entire book. Regardless of my few qualms, I am looking forward to book twelve, title and release date to be announced.
An enjoyable NA based on the roaring 20s. Jazz, prohibition, and violence all revolve around a young lady, Tiny, whose small time bootlegging father iAn enjoyable NA based on the roaring 20s. Jazz, prohibition, and violence all revolve around a young lady, Tiny, whose small time bootlegging father is kidnapped by a gangster. Tiny lies, scams, and works all angles as she tries to save her father and resist falling in love with the son of the man who kidnapped her dad. A fast paced with plenty of action and steam. Looking forward to book 2-Speak Low. ...more
A short sweet journey back in to the MacKenzie Clan via their in-laws, the McBrides. Steven McBride is on leave from his regiment and finds himself3.5
A short sweet journey back in to the MacKenzie Clan via their in-laws, the McBrides. Steven McBride is on leave from his regiment and finds himself stepping in to save an unfortunate. Only this time around, he's the one whose beig saved. ...more
Favorite Quote: “You de Piaget have strange and unwholesome ideas of independence.”
Isabelle de Piaget, the last child of Rhys and Gwen de Piaget, is tired of being unnoticed and referred to as “that one” by all the suitors who invade her family’s estate wanting to see if her sister Amanda is indeed married and unavailable. When she received a missive, commanding her to come to France or her grandparents’ lives will be forfeit, Isabelle sees this as a chance to get out from underneath her family’s suffocating protectiveness and become her own person. When her boat to France crashes off the coast, she is rescued by a broody man with no memory to who she is and why she is there.
Gevarse de Seger, Lord of Monsaert, has enough to worry about in his own life then trying to discover who a lost servant boy belongs too. Gervase places the bedraggled urchin he rescues to scrubbing floors until he realises that this boy is none other than Isabelle de Piaget and her family, especially her over zealous brother Nicolas, may not appreciate the humor when learning their beloved sister was scrubbing Gervase’s floors. Gervais knows he needs to get word to her family of her health but her beauty and wit ensnares him while her keen mind shows that she may hold the key to his problems.
Working towards the truth takes Isabelle and Gervase on a merry chase as lies and deception slowly unravel to reveal the viper(s) in their midst. Romance takes root and shows our couple that love can bloom at the most unexpected time and all it takes it is a single look.
I have enjoyed Lynn Kurland’s historical romances for years. Ms. Kurland has a wonderfully lyrical and engaging voice that gently guides her characters through the intricate rituals of courtship and love. What I truly enjoy about her stories is the air of innocence in them. The love affairs her characters embark upon are heartfelt and humorous as the romance unfolds. The physical love scenes are almost always non existence or off scene. One delightful aspect of her stories is you’re never sure if this will be a straightforward historical romance, with both protagonists from the same time period, or if she will engage her time traveling storyline, tossing one of them in the future or dragging one back into the past. Or perhaps both.
Dreams of Lilacs is a sweet love story about two people who feel judged by their looks. In here, we stay firmly in the past. This story, rather like her last few, has a gentler feel to it. The passion and energy that was present in her earlier stories isn’t present though I did see a glimmer of it at times. The focus is more on the couple and their journey to their happily ever after rather than the mystery(s) that surround them. Smooth writing and a steady pace makes for easy reading but the tension and drama wasn’t a strong feature here. The main conflict develops admirably but I was a little dismayed by the easy copulation of the villain(s) and the matter of fact way it is resolved. I think this is why I prefer her time traveling romances over the era fixed ones. They are more rambunctious as past meets present and the protags have to ride the culture shock. In here, the flirting and dialogue is appropriate for the time period but is so subtle and polite, it’s hard to get excited about what’s happening at times.
Heavily character driven, it’s the players in this story that brought it to life for me. The humorous dialogue is a prevalent force and I found myself smiling incisively through out here. Isabelle is a delightful heroine; bold, strong, devious, loyal, beautiful, and charming-like all the di Piagets. She embraces her quest and uses her wits and ingenuity to figure out who’s trying to hurt her family and why. As the baby of the family, she just wants to be noticed as a woman in her own right. She feels no one really sees her.
“I have spent my whole of my life , standing in the shadows, saying nothing at all.”
Gervase is a broody man whose frowns and bad moods masks his physical pain. Once one of the most feared knights in France, he was badly injured in a fire and became the subject of speculation, rumors, and pity. He now stays at his estate, struggling to cope with his disabilities, his six inquisitive brothers, and running his large estate. His entertaining grumpiness, dry wit, and steadfast honor makes him the perfect match for Isabelle.
“I can’t send her home yet.”
“Because, she’s still missing her memories. The shock would be too great. She might return home and find her family nothing but strangers. Ask yourself what kind of man would leave a rare flower of that sort in a spot exposed to too much wind and rain.”
As Gervase and Isabelle spend more time together, their witty banter sparks powerful chemistry; drawing him and his family into Isabelle’s colorful abet crazy orbit.
“Lying is a sin.” “So in grumbling overmuch.” “I don’t grumble. I express my opinions in stately, measured tones.”
She not only enchants Gervase but his entire estate. From his blood thirsty five year old brother to the head groomsman, no one is safe from Isabelle’s charm or gentle manipulation.
The romance is very soft and dreamy in its reveal. As I stated earlier, there is no sex. Light kisses, stolen touches, and lots of scorching looks is about all you’re going to get but it works. Isabelle is a lady of breeding and Gervase is a knight of honor. He wants her as his wife and he’ll do nothing to sully her or his honor. Of course, that isn’t a problem once her brothers, Miles and Robin show up to offer advice, threats, and even more laughter. However, even they cannot not stop Gervase and Isabelle from engaging in some deliciously sweet flirting.
He shot Miles a warning look, then gathered her in his arms. “I will,” he whispered against her ear, “consent to be led about however you will if you’ll simply agree to look at me twice.”
“You will not.” “You might be surprised.” “I might be convinced to look at you more then twice, then.” “We must elude them at our earliest opportunity.”
A Kurland story wouldn’t be a Kurland story if family didn’t get involved. And the de Piagets arrive in force to “rescue” Isabelle from the beast of Monsaert. Their infectious humor and demonstrative swaggering only adds to the overall appeal of the story. Miles and Robin arrive post haste, determined to protect Isabelle. Both decide to join her in her quest and make sure Gervase keeps his naughty hands and lips to himself. Jocelin, one of Gervase’s brother’s, provides much laughter as he protects Gervase’s back all while teasing him about his romantic intentions towards Isabelle.
“Lord Rhy’s is going to murder you.” Jocelin said thoughtfully. “But if I murder Guys at the same time, then I inherit the title. If I’m exceptionally clever, I might convince our lovely guest to look at me instead of you.” He smiled happily. “Life has a way of rewarding lads with good hearts, don’t you think?”
The main conflict is a light undercurrent that flows in and around the romance. Extremely low key, Kurland reveals clues sporadically until we arrive at the point of no return. Everything wraps up rather fast in that aspect. I felt that portion of the storyline failed a bit in it’s undramatic reveal. I had pretty much guessed who it was and the reasons why. There aren’t but a few reasons someone would try and kill a Lord. I did wish the conflict would have balanced better with the romance.
All in all, Kurland pens an enjoyable lightweight historical romance filled with humor, love, and a wee bit of mystery. Perfect reading for a lazy day. Each of her romances in this and her coordinating series can be read as stand alones as each storyline consists of a single couple finding their happily ever after. I believe, but am not one hundred percent sure, this in the 16th book in the de Piaget series and the 20th book in the MacLeod/de Piaget series.
Lovely installment. Lily and Apollo were delightful together and Hoyt does a fabulous job of facilitating their romance without overwhelming the underLovely installment. Lily and Apollo were delightful together and Hoyt does a fabulous job of facilitating their romance without overwhelming the underlying storyline. Dynamic, intense, and funny secondary characters added just the right amount of aplumb to the story. Montgomery was hilarious and I do hope Hoyt gives him his own book. ...more
The Magpie Lord is a dark and humorous M/M PNR that pits a male witch and a newly inherited Earl against a malevolent force that has targeted the EarlThe Magpie Lord is a dark and humorous M/M PNR that pits a male witch and a newly inherited Earl against a malevolent force that has targeted the Earl. The romance is hinted at-both parties are attracted to one another but the mystery is the prevalent force that drives this story. Light sarcastic humor and witty banter balances well against the conflict. Strong protags and secondary characters help o push the story along at an engaging pace.
Favorite Quote: When a woman says she fine, an intelligent man runs in the opposite direction.
Ex Nex Agent William Thorne was violently altered mentally and physically when he risked his life to save his best friend. Slowly going insane by the changes affecting him, William knows he must find Holly Evernight before he loses his grip on reality forever.
People are trying to kill SOS agent Holly Evernight and she has every reason to believe William Thorne is one of them. After all, it’s her invention that is slowly killing him. When he confronts her at home, Holly pushes aside her fear and strikes a bargain with him. She will help heal him if he will protect her from the assassins who are stalking her.
William agrees as her touch seems to soothe the madness within him. But someone wants Holly dead and if William doesn’t figure out who it is, he will lose his only hope at salvation.
Evernight, the fifth book in Callihan’s dark and thrilling Darkest London series, drops us back down the rabbit hole from the first page. As this book references and expands upon events that happened in book four, Shadowdance, I wouldn’t recommend starting the series here.
Romance is the key element on which this series is built while the the fantasy aspects play hard and fast. Outstanding world building and the dynamic characters breathe life in this series. Callihan keeps the main premise of the arc intact while she expertly injects new subplots; heightening the drama and suspense as she slowly begins to pull the individual pieces together towards the series finale.
The originality of her characters and their individual stories is what keeps me hooked. There are no clear cut good and bad and we are often shown that some feel the means justify the end. The lines between good and evil are blurred; giving credence to the knowledge that sometimes heroes and villains are only separated by a series of degrees. Smooth writing, fast pacing, and engaging dialogue keeps you on your toes to the very end. Multiple sub plots are rich in subterfuge and adventure as you submerge yourself into the decadent and dangerous lives of the amazing individuals who exist in here.
William and Holly’s story started from tragedy in Shadowdance and continues on as such in here. Both used as pawns in a brewing supernatural war that is larger and more ominous than we have been led to believe. Holly was kidnapped and forced to place one of her inventions, a mechanical heart, in William at the instruction of an insane man. This invention is slowly killing William and keeps in him excruciating pain. This places Holly and William at direct odds because William thought Holly was a willing participant in his torture and now he feels she must pay him his pound of flesh.
When they ripped out his heart, and he had finally succumbed to blissful oblivion, he held on to one thing: his hatred of his tormentor and the one with the angel’s face and devil’s mind. Evernight.
A majority of the book focuses on Holly and William’s relationship. William blames Holly for his torture yet he must stay with in her reach in order to alleviate his pain and madness. Holly also feels responsible for his torture and has chosen to separate herself from the world out of penance and fear. Holly’s and William’s chemistry sparks white lightning from their first scene. Forced to work together, they slowly learn more about one another and begin to form a bond that deepens the more time they spend together. William’s sexual innuendos and flamboyant nature is the perfect foil for Holly’s more reserved and sardonic nature; adding humor in this otherwise somber tale of betrayal and deception.
“Let me see if I have this correctly,” he said struggling not to crow, “you are going to rub your hands all over my body…” -she narrowed her eyes in distaste, which only made him grin reach epic proportions- “slowly and thoroughly-”
“Really Mr. Thorne.”
“While my part in it is to lie here and take it?” His cheeks ached from smiling. “Is that the plan?”
Callihan does an epic job of blending the suspense of the story with the emotional journey of William and Holly. Non stop action speeds the story along as you frantically absorb all the nuances and shifts. The plot was remarkable in it’s elements and I found myself riveted as the story slowly revealed itself. Callihan’s clear and concise writing leaves little confusion with the convoluted and multi-layered storyline. With each scene we watch William and Holly face their demons and overcome internal obstacles while dealing with external factors that try to stop them. Neither plot nor romance is sacrificed. They balance and complement each other through the entire arc; merging together towards the end.
“I’ll never be truly safe.”
“None of us are. It is a sacrifice to the life we choose. That does not mean we must live it in fear.”
Engaging word play creates a story you cannot put down. The supporting characters are intense, well developed, and intertwine with our protagonists to give us a rich, full bodied story. Much that has been played out behind the scenes comes into the light. Everyone here has an agenda and doesn’t always play by the rules. There are plenty in here to love and hate with abundance. We learn much more about Adam; his particular story has been waiting to be told since he was first introduced, and the additional powerful supernatural beings who are finally making themselves known. Alliances are made as enemies come out of the dark, threatening the well being of all those involved.
As we headed towards the ending I found myself gripped with tension. Callihan plays it close to the vest. The ending is a phenomenal mixture of hope and despair; wrapping up the main conflict and introducing new pathways for the arc to follow. Once again Callihan leaves me both satisfied and wanting more. Evernight contains the perfect balance of action, suspense, intrigue, and romance that makes this series a must read for all noir PNR aficionados.
Favorite Quote: “People believe what they wish to believe.”
Lady Georgiana, our heroine, fell from her lofty social pedestal when she bore a child outFavorite Quote: “People believe what they wish to believe.”
Lady Georgiana, our heroine, fell from her lofty social pedestal when she bore a child out of wedlock and was forced to disappear from Society. She has come to terms with this and found her own way to get back at those who snubbed her while cheering her demise. For years, Georgiana has played the London ton for the fools they are by offering them a jewel encrusted rope with which they could hang themselves. But now the time has come for her to take her place in Society again; opening herself back up to the scorn and ridicule she knows will be heaped upon her in order to secure her child’s future.
Our hero, Duncan West, is an interesting choice in a hero for the Lady Georgiana. Not because he’s a tradesman or a secret partner in the gaming hall, but because one of his gossip rags is what has forced her back into the public eye. Duncan, a newspaper magnate, owns several publications, one of which published a nasty little cartoon that not only mocked Georgiana, but also her daughter. Meeting Lady Georgiana places him in a perplexing and somewhat uncomfortable position. He is intrigued by her beauty, intelligence, and strength while ashamed of what his paper has said about her over the years. When he learns of one of her secrets; he offers to help her secure her desire of a proper marriage if she helps him obtain some information from Chase that he needs to get out from under an unscrupulous enemy’s thumb.
The last installment of Maclean’s The Rules of Scoundrels series gives readers the story they have been waiting on; the unmasking of the infamous Chase. The most mysterious of the four founders of the popular and decadent gaming hall, the Fallen Angel. Those who’ve read the whole series have been given little clues throughout to Chase’s identity but it’s only here that MacLean announces her well kept secret.
I found Don’t Judge a Lady by Her Cover to be more light than the previous installments. While our hero and heroine follow the prescribed premise of the series by having suffered in the past, they are not as emotionally or mentally damaged as we have seen in previous characters. The storyline is more internal based; focusing on Lady Georgiana’s internal conflicts and secrets. MacLean’s smooth verse and witty dialogue glides readers easily through the story, taking us back in time and then slowly leading us to the present, making sure we understand exactly what is at stake. Dynamic characterization provides us with easy recognizable friends and foes. Lush physical and emotional descriptions keep us firmly engaged as we follow our hero and heroine down the rocky path that leads them to their destiny.
‘He laughed low and deep, the sound rippling through her. She did not like that, either, the way he seemed to catch her off guard when she was her most guarded. ‘
I have enjoyed Lady Georgiana since first meeting her but in here my admiration skyrocketed. She is a fabulous strong lead, especially for a historical. As a young lady of this era, even being the daughter of a duke, she has no real power. The choices in her life would have been at the commands of her father and then her brother. Yet she shows remarkable initiative and strength as she plots and triumphs on her own path of empowerment. She not only broke the rules, but she redefined them to make them work for her. By aligning herself with three others who had also been disgraced and hurt by Society only showcases her deep compassion.
‘She had partnered with three fallen aristocrats, each stronger and more intelligent than the rest of Society, each ruined without question.’
Duncan is an enigma. He is remarkably astute in some areas yet as clueless as those around him. A sexy alpha male whose ability to make or break someone socially contrasts beautifully with his need to protect the one person whose actions make him money. I was disappointed at times when he would fall back too often on the prescribed notion that Georgiana has little options and is being forced into certain situations even though Georgiana reassured him often she is fine. His anger and jealousy at her secrets impeded his judgement at times.
As the story unfolds, the chemistry between our hero and heroine simmers with playful flirting, steamy glances, and faint touches filled with longing. It’s a slow emerging romance due to the original plans of Georgiana and her issues from the past. Love, she has learned is not real but an illusion some use for their own gains; often at the expense of others. Their chemistry is a solid presence, slipping into your subconscious from the start. No petty games are played not are we inundated with overly dramatic misconstrued events that take forever to clear up. The sexual tension builds admirably as they banter and fence around their attraction.
“No doubt our contretemps will be in the papers tomorrow, she said, letting the accusation into the words.
“I see my reputation precedes me.”
“Should mine be the only one?”
Vibrant secondary characters are bursting from the seams of the book yet you never feel overwhelmed. We see various characters from previous books and meet a few new ones. I enjoyed seeing where the other “scoundrels” are at in their lives and learning even more about ‘Chase’s sometimes unscrupulous deeds and deals that are made even more astounding now that readers know who Chase really is. Caroline was a dream and quite humorous in her questioning of her mother’s views and actions. The inclusion of additional subplots is well done and blends well with the main storyline.
The ending is a mixture of suspense and surprise as MacLean ties up all the loose threads and ends the series on an original and beautiful note that assures us the last ‘scoundrel’ has finally found the happiness they so richly deserved.
I’ve always enjoyed Jennifer Haymore’s lush and emotionally plump historical romances. The House of Trent series has been particularly enjoyable as it builds upon the trope of impossible connections forming between unlikely candidates. A seductive and somewhat somber series that divulges into the scandals and secrets of an aristocratic family.
The Scoundrel’s Seduction is the third book in Haymore’s historical romance suspense series-The House Of Trent. Focusing on the first born, Samuel Hawkins, we finally learn the reasons behind his quiet deadly nature and frequent disappearances. Though the first born, his illegitimacy forbid him from inheriting the title when the former Duke passed away. Employed as a spy for the Crown, Sam lives his life where he feels the most comfortable- in the shadows.
Our heroine, Lady Elisa Dunthrope, escaped to England as a child when her family fell victim to the guillotine’s kiss during the French Revolution. Pushed into marriage at a young age by her uncle, she has suffered for her French heritage and her husband’s dreams of grandeur. Dreams that lead him to betray his country. After seeing her husband murdered before her eyes, Elisa is dragged into a deadly game of cat and mouse where everyone wants her dead. Her only hope is a man whose very nature demands he never trust her.
The story starts out with a heavy hand towards action and intrigue when our hero, Samuel Hawkins, is forced to take prisoner the wife of the man he just assassinated. A spy for the Crown, Samuel learned that Lord Dunthrope was selling secrets to the French. The verdict for this treason? Death. However, no one expected Lady Dunthrope to be in residence. As a witness to the murder, Samuel can’t let her go. Now Samuel has to figure out how how involved she is in this conspiracy and what to do with her once he gets his answers.
While I liked it overall, I found it didn’t engage me. The storyline moves extremely slow and the majority is filled with Sam and Elisa getting to know one another and pontificating on the benefits and drawbacks of their growing attraction to one another. Samuel wants her from the beginning but unable to prove or disprove her loyalties leaves him unsure if he should act on it. He’s also put out a little that Elisa doesn’t seem to be grieving for her late husband or even particularly upset that Samuel murdered him. The plotlines are predictable with very little tension or apprehension. I expected more action and conflict because of the spy storyline.
The characters are well developed but I felt like I they were missing something. Both were extremely even natured people. Their back stories are revealed in a matter of fact way; interjected at the appropriate times to ensure the reader understands the reasons behind their actions. It’s acceptable but not inspiring. Even the conflicts between them are low key and easily overcome. The “insta love” aspect is prevalent and while the chemistry between them is believable, I wanted more emotional involvement. I wanted Elisa to rage at being held captive and once more not in control of her life. I want Sam to get angry about his childhood and the seemingly intractable situation he now finds himself in. It was all very ce la vie.
The romance itself is delicious with plenty of whispered promises, steamy touches, and passionate love making. I liked that as both had been married before so no games are played and they are very honest with one another. Elisa isn’t forced to play the blushing virgin and Samuel doesn’t have to hold back his desires. Elisa has no issues with telling Samuel how much she wants him and boldly initiates their love making at times.
Haymore intertwines the main storyline with the ongoing arc concerning the disappearance of Sam’s mother-Duchess of Trent. Fortunately, this is resolved and in all honesty, was the most interesting part of the story. We learn the reasons about why she left and it makes sense though I’m at a loss to understand why certain things were done the way they were. We spend a fair amount of time with the Trent siblings but again, something was missing. I didn’t get the same connection with them as in her previous installments.
For me, the story really picked up in the last 25%. The story moves fast and furious once the Duchess is reintroduced and the villains behind spy ring reveal themselves and make their move. The ending is justifiable though anti climatic as we knew what would happen from the beginning and nothing was really left to the imagination or chance.
Though I will continue to read Ms. Haymore’s romances and am looking forward to Esme’s story, this was not my favorite installment in this series.
Book has potencial with more editing and development both character & story wise. Nothing is addressed beyond a cursory level. Lots of unansweredBook has potencial with more editing and development both character & story wise. Nothing is addressed beyond a cursory level. Lots of unanswered questions and undeveloped plot lines. ...more
Favorite Quote: “To win a man’s heart, a woman must have the mind of a diplomat, a general, and Cleopatra, all in one.”
Lady Anne-Sophia Duncombe is running from an abusive father whose last scheme almost killed her. He wants her with child and will do anything to accomplish that. Sophia manages to escape her father and hide with the help of a friend. She decides the only way to avoid recapture is to become a commoner. She disguises herself up as a widow and seeks employment at Rougemont, home to the insane Earl of Devon.
Wilhelm Montague, the Earl of Devon, is thought to be insane. A tortured war hero tainted by scandal, he is suffers from savant autism. He remains closeted on his country estate, safe in his routines and composing his beautiful brilliant music; a necessary release of his illness.
When Wilhelm meets the newest member of his household, he is stunned by the chemistry that blazes between them. He knows instinctively she is hiding secrets but finds himself drawn to her beauty and intelligence. When danger comes to Rougemont, Wilhelm and Sophia must push through their fears in order to triumph over the evil that seeks to destroy them both.
Song For Sophia is a delightful historical romance filled with mystery, suspense, sizzling chemistry, and sparkling dialogue. Set in the Victorian era, this strong character driven story features a hero and heroine so supremely built, their characterization catapults this from good to fantastic. Well plotted with a healthy balance between the conflict and romance. Strong dialogue is punctuated with humour and wit, written without flowery prose or overly saturated angst, entrances the reader and draws them into the story. Darkness shadows our protagonists yet their journey to true love is a bright shining thread that intertwines through the storyline.
I loved Sophia and Wilhelm from their first meeting. Both are strong, intelligent, strong willed characters who have been victimized by life but able to rise above it. They each have been alone for so long that it takes awhile for their minds to acknowledged what their souls already know-they are one. Neither of them sees the other as damaged. They are both accepting of who the other one is and that only enhances the joy that occurs when they begin to embrace and accept it. I loved the banter between them. It reflects their personalities and intentions so well we watch their acquaintance turn into friendship, then love.
“Lord Devon,” she greeted dryly in the same tone she might say, “you impish prankster.” He shrugged one shoulder to mean, “So, you finally figured it out. Bravo.” “The only havoc I see here is the dreadful cataloging. For one so meticulous, it strikes me as odd that the alphabet should be beyond you.” He nodded thoughtfully.”Perhaps I had them organized chronologically by genre.” “You have the Bible next to Homer.” “Fiction.”
Sophia is a wonderful mixture of fragility and steel. She had defied incredible odds to survive the horror that is her father and continues to fight her way towards complete freedom, using whatever means are necessary. She hates being deceptive but her staying safe also guarantees the safety of others.
“You said before I may keep my secrets and I shall. I promise, you would like me less without my mystery.”
Wilhelm is fabulous with his patience and steadfast ways towards Sophia. He handles her with care; knowing that she needs to trust herself and him before they can go forward. His complete acceptance of her and her story makes him a true hero in my eyes. He assures her repeatedly that no matter what she does or where she goes, he will always be there for her.
“This is a peaceful place. I vow you have nothing to fear. And you may keep your secrets, Madam.”
The romance evolves at a realistic pace, allowing Wilhelm and Sophia time to get to know one another and deal with their personal issues. Wilhelm's illness causes him great consternation while Sophia remains on constant vigil. The chemistry and sexual tension between Wilhelm and Sophia is so emotionally charged you can feel it leaping off the pages. Their love scenes are deliciously sensual and revealing. The internal and external dialogue between one another is both humorous and heart wrenching. Trust is hard won but once it’s earned, it’s a silken tie that binds them to one another with the strength of steel.
Ms. Densley does a fantastic job of blending the suspense of the story with the romance. Non stop action speeds the story along at an engaging pace as the conflict begins to weave its way into the main conflict. While there is much going on, Ms. Densley clear and concise writing leaves little confusion. With each scene we watch Wilhelm and Sophia face their fears and overcome obstacles. Neither the plot nor romance is sacrificed. They balance and complement each other through the entire book.
Moriah Densley paints a beautiful love affair in her historical romance debut and I for one look forward to reading more from her in the future.