Annabelle Stephens is traveling from Boston to Texas to meet her fiancee when she is abducted from her hotel bathtub by a gorgeous bandit. This wasn't...moreAnnabelle Stephens is traveling from Boston to Texas to meet her fiancee when she is abducted from her hotel bathtub by a gorgeous bandit. This wasn't the freedom she was hoping for when she left stuffy Boston society, and though she fights it, she finds herself falling for the rough bandit, Xander Hollis. Xander is a modern day Robin Hood: sabotaging supplies and stealing from the Southern Gorge Railroad to stop the company from taking homesteaders land. He and his best friend, James, are on the run, and the last thing they need is a sexy Easterner--no matter how much they both want her and each other.
Oh.... where to start? This book is not good. It's not terrible--I was reluctantly interested to know how the three MCs would manage to get out of their predicament, so I finished it in spite of my major issues with pretty much everything about it. Annabelle is known as "Sweetheart Annie" in Boston, and she hates it. So she agrees to marry her father's business partner, and travels to Texas, wanting her freedom. Unfortunately, the reader never really sees her as a "Sweetheart," we are just told she is, repeatedly. I never really felt her connection to Xander or James was real, at least not on her end. They were the first men she was exposed to outside of Boston society, and she leaps into a relationship with them with a speed seemed out of character even for a romance novel.
The way the menage relationship progresses really felt strange, set as it was in Texas in the 1800s. Xander's family accepts their unconventional relationship without batting an eye, even going so far as to provide a room for the three of them on Xander and Annabelle's wedding day. WTF? I would have preferred them to be more discreet about it; I can see a loving family in that time period looking the other way, but not accepting such a blatant flaunting of societal conventions. Perhaps I've been spoiled by Ava March's well done gay historicals, where the characters are always aware that loving one another is dangerous, but this blase acceptance of alternative lifestyle just didn't sit well with me.
The sex scenes were okay. For a menage book, there's an awful lot of straight sex, and the actual menage scenes were lackluster at best. As much as Xander and James profess to love and be attracted to one another, when they get down to business, it's mostly about Annabelle. There is one m/m scene, but it didn't do much to change my opinion.
The only bright spot in the whole book, for me, was Xander's cousin, Graham. In a cast of many 2D cut-outs, he was the only one who seemed like a real person. He was devastated by his participation in the Civil War(view spoiler)[ and the loss of his wife (hide spoiler)]. He is obviously damaged, and when he first meets Annabelle (while she is still trying to escape Xander), he sees her as his salvation, and fights his cousin for her. After the trio arrives at the family ranch, he and Annabelle become friends, mending his relationship with his family and his soul.
This book started with a good premise, and couldn't make it work. It failed on all levels for me: the romance, the menage, and the historical. I will not be seeking out more of Ms. Petrova's books in the future.
Amanda Briars is nearly thirty, unmarried, and firmly on the shelf. She makes a good living as a novelist, but though she enjoys her independence, she...moreAmanda Briars is nearly thirty, unmarried, and firmly on the shelf. She makes a good living as a novelist, but though she enjoys her independence, she craves the touch of a man. So, taking matters into her own hands, she approaches one of London's most notorious madams, and orders herself a birthday present--a sexy male prostitute. When he arrives, even more gorgeous and sensual than she could have imagined, Jack shows her a pleasure she never imagined existed, though he stops short of taking her virginity.
Publisher Jack Devlin is rather shocked when the author he's come to negotiate with obviously mistakes him for a hired stud--but he can't resist her voluptuous charms. When they meet again, and she discovers the deception, she's understandably upset, but a working relationship blossoms into a friendship that quickly becomes much more.
If I were rating this book on characters alone, it would get six out of five stars. Amanda is a perfect mix of confidence and insecurity, completely convinced of her own undesirability, yet assertive in her professional life. Jack is the bastard son of a nobleman who clawed his way to the top of the publishing world by any means at his disposal. He is very damaged, convinced that he's not what Amanda needs, yet unwilling to let her go. Their chemistry is explosive, and in spite of--or perhaps because of--their initial encounter, their relationship proceeds at a perfectly slow pace. The love scenes are well-done and numerous without feeling excessive. Jack and Amanda are also quite a bit more adventurous than the average couple in historical romance, which I liked quite a bit.
Unfortunately, the plot doesn't always measure up to the high standards set by the characters. The main obstacles to their relationship are Amanda's fear Jack will tire of her and Jack's damaging past, and honestly, those are good ones, more than enough to be the crux of the plot. However, Ms. Kleypas seems to need to throw more and more things in their way, cluttering up the last 1/3 of the book. And just when you think Jack & Amanda will get their HEA, there's yet another issue! This book would have been much improved if the last 50 or so pages had been cut and jumped right into the epilogue.
If you love strong heroines and sexy, damaged alpha heroes, this book is definitely one to check out. Just don't hold the meandering ending against Jack and Amanda.
This whole series is really fantastic. (Do I overuse that word my reviews? I feel like I do.) Elizabeth Hoyt is now one of my very favorite romance au...moreThis whole series is really fantastic. (Do I overuse that word my reviews? I feel like I do.) Elizabeth Hoyt is now one of my very favorite romance authors--even more so, because her books are set in the 18th century, which is not the norm. And fairy tales! So many fairy tales. :D(less)
Robert Anderson is jealous. His best friend since childhood, Linus Radcliffe, is flirting with another man. It's a common sight in the ballrooms of Lo...moreRobert Anderson is jealous. His best friend since childhood, Linus Radcliffe, is flirting with another man. It's a common sight in the ballrooms of London's ton, but one that's become harder and harder for Rob to take. Unlike his friend, Rob generally prefers women in bed--with the very big exception of Linus. After a jealousy-fueled night of passion, he decides to take matters in hand, and proposes they become exclusive. To his surprise and dismay, Linus refuses, and walks out of his bedroom with a flippant word. Undeterred, he is determined to convince his best friend that they belong together--no matter what Linus may think.
Gay Regency romance should be an easy sell for me--two of my favorite genres in one! Unfortunately, ROGUES fell flat for me. I liked Rob, and enjoyed his inner journey from rake to monogamy, from bisexual to gay (or gay-for-you), and his stumbles along the way. His hurt and jealousy over Linus's affairs was believable and a little sad. The story starts just as he loses his patience with watching Linus waltz from bed to bed, and the reader is with him as he struggles to understand how to win Linus back. The sex scenes between the two were absolutely smoking hot, and the chemistry was palpable. I love that they weren't exclusively top or bottom--something far too rare in m/m romances. Their balance in the bedroom is an extension of their longstanding friendship and love for one another.
Linus, on the other hand, was rather annoying. His reasoning for turning Rob down--and the main conflict of the novella--just didn't ring true to me. It wasn't until Linus's second POV chapter that I even realized what his problem was; it was not clear at all the first time around. The teasers about Linus's traumatic past seemed tacked on, as if the author decided she needed another reason for Linus to be wary of monogamy with Rob, as did the bit about him having made this decision before.
Overall, I think a lot of my issues with this novella can be blamed on the lack of length. There's not much time to get to know the characters, or flesh out their pasts, or set up a satisfying conflict. The smoking sex scenes (they switch!!) and my love of Rob, in all his cluelessly domineering glory, still make this a solid three-star read. Fans of the previous books will enjoy the brief cameos by Bennett & Norton from My True Love Gave to Me and Parker from Thief.
This ARC was provided free of charge by the publisher via NetGalley for the purpose of this review.(less)