Saturday, April 30, 2016

UPCOMING RELEASES: May 2016

A list of new releases that grabbed my attention for the coming month. As always, release dates are subject to change.  All titles link back to Goodreads.

5/1

Double Down (Lois Lane, #2)
Double Down by Gwenda Bond (YA science fiction)
Lois Lane has settled in to her new school. She has friends, for maybe the first time in her life. She has a job that challenges her. And her friendship is growing with SmallvilleGuy, her online maybe-more-than-a-friend. But when her friend Maddy's twin collapses in a part of town she never should've been in, Lois finds herself embroiled in adangerous mystery that brings her closer to the dirty underbelly of Metropolis.

5/2

Leveling the Field (Gamers #4)
Leveling the Field by Megan Erickson (contemporary romance)
Reclusive magazine exec Ethan Talley is furious when his business partner hires a photographer—a gorgeous photographer who insists on speaking her mind, damn it—to take pictures for an upcoming article. No matter how badly he wants the woman…under him, over him, against the nearest wall…he has reasons for not wanting to be on camera anymore, and his scars are only one of them.
It takes approximately two seconds for Lissa Kingsman to recognize Ethan as the popular YouTube gamer who fell off the planet years ago. But this Ethan is different than the charming man she used to watch, and the crush she had on him then is nothing compared to the way she’s lusting after the brooding man he is today. If sex is all he can give her, fine. Why not use that bearskin rug in her studio for something other than a prop? But she’s determined to put a chink in his armor, no matter how much he resists.

5/3

Only Beloved (The Survivors' Club #7)
Only Beloved by Mary Balogh (historical romance)
For the first time since the death of his wife, the Duke of Stanbrook is considering remarrying and finally embracing happiness for himself. With that thought comes the treasured image of a woman he met briefly a year ago and never saw again.

Dora Debbins relinquished all hope to marry when a family scandal left her in charge of her younger sister. Earning a modest living as a music teacher, she’s left with only an unfulfilled dream. Then one afternoon, an unexpected visitor makes it come true.
For both George and Dora that brief first encounter was as fleeting as it was unforgettable. Now is the time for a second chance. And while even true love comes with a risk, who are two dreamers to argue with destiny?

The Untamed Earl (Playful Brides, #5)
The Untamed Earl by Valerie Bowman (historical romance)
Lady Alexandra Hobbs, the daughter of the Duke of Huntley, has intended to marry Lord Owen Monroe since she first glimpsed him from the window of her bedchamber, back when she was just a girl. But the duke has already chosen Alex's infamously spoiled elder sister, Lavinia, for Owen. And now there's no turning back.
Owen has spent most of his bachelor years drinking, gambling, and skirt-chasing. He won't see another pound from his parents, however, until he's engaged to Lavinia. Desperate, he accepts an offer from her innocent and spirited--and absolutely beautiful--sister Alex: She will turn him into a perfectly tamed suitor, and show him how to woo the shrew. But when Alex's true motives come to light, will their bargain lead to recriminations--or to a romance that defies everyone's expectations?

I Thee Wed (Worthington, #4)
I Thee Wed by Celeste Bradley (historical romance)
Intelligent and driven, Orion Worthington aspired to be like his mentor, the acclaimed scientist Sir Geoffrey Blayne. Logically, Sir Geoffrey’s daughter would be Orion’s perfect match. So why can’t he keep his mind off the unruly girl who works in Sir Geoffrey’s lab?
Orphaned fire-cracker Francesca Penrose hopes that London is modern enough to accept her brilliant mind despite her womanhood. But she can’t help noticing Orion’s mind...or his body.
So they decide to run an experiment: if they give in to their passions, their attraction will simply fizzle out, with no impact on their hearts...right?

Gareth: Lord of Rakes (Lonely Lords, #6)
Gareth: Lord of Rakes by Grace Burrowes (historical romance)
She's caught between a rake and certain ruin…
Felicity Worthington's only hope of avoiding poverty—or worse—is to accept her distant cousin's dubious bequest…a thriving, high-class brothel. Felicity has 90 days to convince her cousin's solicitors that Gareth Alexander has taught her the art of pleasing a man, though she's more interested in the gentleman she glimpses beneath Gareth's debauched airs, than in the rake he's become.
In the business of love…How much should he teach her?
Gareth Alexander, Marquis of Heathgate, has little incentive to help a spinster learn to manage a brothel—except that the alternatives for the prim, pretty Miss Worthington are even worse. His resistance to teaching Felicity how to be a madam leaves Gareth wondering if the honor he'd thought long dead still survives, and if that honor allows him to yield to the lady's ruinous scheme…and to their shared desires.

The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo, #1)
The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan (MG fantasy)
How do you punish an immortal?
By making him human.
After angering his father Zeus, the god Apollo is cast down from Olympus. Weak and disorientated, he lands in New York City as a regular teenage boy. Now, without his godly powers, the four-thousand-year-old deity must learn to survive in the modern world until he can somehow find a way to regain Zeus's favour.
But Apollo has many enemies - gods, monsters and mortals who would love to see the former Olympian permanently destroyed. Apollo needs help, and he can think of only one place to go . . . an enclave of modern demigods known as Camp Half-Blood.

5/10

Lessons In Pleasure
Lessons in Pleasure by Victoria Dahl (historical romance)
Newlywed Sarah Rose Hood should be blissfully happy. After all, she is married to her beloved, handsome James, who’s provided her with a lovely home, servants, and all the new dresses and books she could wish for. She cannot help but love him—and fear him, just a bit. For Sarah is unused to the attentions of gentlemen, and suddenly living so intimately with a man fills her with anxiety—and also a puzzling longing. Fortunately, her kind, experienced husband plans to awaken Sarah to the joy of giving—and receiving—pleasure, turning her unease to delicious desire, and forging a true union of body and soul…

5/16

Showmance
Showmance by L.H. Cosway (contemporary romance)
Damon Atwood was Hollywood’s golden boy. Having won an Oscar at the tender age of thirteen, he had the life many could only dream about. But his success came at a price, and after a short but fruitful film career, he chose to live a life of obscurity on a remote Scottish island. Almost a decade later he’s finally ready to make his return, starting with a lead role in a musical on London’s West End.
As a choreographer’s assistant, Rose Taylor has always faded into the background. She watches shows come to life from the side lines, but has never craved the attention of stardom. When rumours begin circulating of Damon’s involvement in her latest gig, she doesn’t predict how she will be thrust into the limelight, nor how the mysterious and strangely introverted man will need her to teach him how to be a star again.
Rose knows that show crushes don’t last. Actors fall for each other during the intensity of a production, often losing themselves in their roles. These kinds of affairs burn bright and then they fade. The question is, should Rose let herself shine with Damon, or guard her heart from being broken after the final curtain call?

5/17

The Crown's Game (The Crown's Game, #1)
The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye (YA fantasy)
Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the Tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.
And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.
Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?
For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.
And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love... or be killed himself.
As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear... the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

5/23

Come What May (All Saints, #1)
Come What May by A.M. Arthur (M/M contemporary)
Jonas needs Tate. He just doesn't know it yet.
Or at least, he doesn't want to admit it. Because there is no way Jonas Ashcroft is gay. He's a straight, carefree frat boy player, just like any good son of a conservative state senator. If only his struggle to convince everyone—especially himself—didn't leave him so miserable. No matter how many girls or bottles he drowns himself in, Jonas can neither escape nor accept who he is.
Enter Tate. He's smart, confident, and instantly sees right through Jonas's surly exterior. Sure, he's done things in life he's not proud of, but he knows who he is and what he wants. And what he wants is Jonas. As their easy friendship intensifies into something more, Tate introduces Jonas to a life he's never known. One filled with acceptance and sex and a love that terrifies and excites them both.
But some inner demons refuse to be shaken off so easily. When Jonas's old life barges in, he faces a shattering choice, one that could destroy everything he and Tate have fought so hard for. Sometimes love just isn't enough—and sometimes it's exactly what you need.

5/30

A Common Scandal (The Grantham Girls, #2)
A Common Scandal by Amanda Weaver (historical romance)
Finishing school taught Amelia Wheeler how to put on a well-mannered performance—when she’s not bored and looking for trouble. Lady Grantham’s is behind her and now it's time for Amelia to keep her promise to her dying mother: marry a title and leave her wild days behind.

That promise would be much easier to keep if Nate Smythe hadn’t just reappeared in a London ballroom. The son of an impoverished sailor, Nate—Natty, as he used to be called—has grown up to become handsome, rich and polished. He claims to be looking for a proper bride who can advance his business interests, but that doesn’t stop him from seeking out Amelia every chance he gets. Challenging her. Kissing her.
Suddenly, struggling against her simmering passion is the least of Amelia's problems—one of her titled suitors is hiding a desperate secret that could stop Amelia from pleasing her parents or finding happiness with Nate. As a weeklong house party threatens to derail her hard-won future, Amelia must decide: fight against disaster or act like the lady she's promised to become?

5/31


Duke of Sin (Maiden Lane, #10)
Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt (historical romance)
A MAN OF SIN
Devastatingly handsome. Vain. Unscrupulous. Valentine Napier, the Duke of Montgomery, is the man London whispers about in boudoirs and back alleys. A notorious rake and blackmailer, Montgomery has returned from exile, intent on seeking revenge on those who have wronged him. But what he finds in his own bedroom may lay waste to all his plans.
A WOMAN OF HONOR
Born a bastard, housekeeper Bridget Crumb is clever, bold, and fiercely loyal. When her aristocratic mother becomes the target of extortion, Bridget joins the Duke of Montgomery's household to search for the incriminating evidence-and uncovers something far more dangerous.
A SECRET THAT THREATENS TO DESTROY THEM BOTH
Astonished by the deceptively prim-and surprisingly witty-domestic spy in his chambers, Montgomery is intrigued. And try as she might, Bridget can't resist the slyly charming duke. Now as the two begin their treacherous game of cat and mouse, they soon realize that they both have secrets-and neither may be as nefarious-or as innocent-as they appear . . .

Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels, #2)
Marrying Winterbourne by Lisa Kleypas (historical romance)
A ruthless tycoon...Savage ambition has brought common-born Rhys Winterborne vast wealth and success. In business and beyond, Rhys gets exactly what he wants. And from the moment he meets the shy, aristocratic Lady Helen Ravenel, he is determined to possess her. If he must take her virtue to ensure she marries him, so much the better…
A sheltered beauty...Helen has had little contact with the glittering, cynical world of London society. Yet Rhys’s determined seduction awakens an intense mutual passion. Helen’s gentle upbringing belies a stubborn conviction that only she can tame her unruly husband. As Rhys’s enemies conspire against them, Helen must trust him with her darkest secret. The risks are unthinkable…the reward, a lifetime of incomparable bliss. And it all begins with…

Lana and the Laird (Untamed Highlanders, #3)
Lana and the Laird by Sabrina York (historical romance)
Lachlan Sinclair cannot escape his accursed heritage in his Highlands homeland. Somewhat resigned to the fate that destroyed his ancestors, he is prepared to live his life without an heir, without a wife―without love. But when he meets the woman of his dreams in the flesh, the bewitching lass makes him want to throw away his cursed, restrained existence…and unleash the highlander within…
Lana Dounreay has only seen the Duke of Caithness in her dreams as a wild, rugged man, while in reality, his life has been cramped by curses and cravats. He may have forgone his kilt and lost his brogue, but Lana knows that the heart of a true Scotsman beats within his broad, muscular chest. But what plans does the mysterious, passionate Lachlan have in mind for her―and can she convince him that love is stronger than all else?

Friday, April 29, 2016

HISTORICAL ROMANCE 101: Readalong -- "Indigo" by Beverly Jenkins

Historical Romance 101

HISTORICAL ROMANCE 101 is a celebration of the genre that will be occurring throughout the month of April. My blog along with On a Book BenderAddicted to Romance, and Quinn's Book Nook will be writing on a variety of topics every Monday and Friday in April.

READALONG -- "INDIGO" BY BEVERLY JENKINS

Indigo


As a child Hester Wyatt escaped slavery, but now the dark skinned beauty is a dedicated member of Michigan's Underground railroad, offering other runaways a chance at the freedom she has learned to love. When one of her fellow conductors brings her an injured man to hide, Hester doesn't hesitate even after she is told about the price on his head. The man in question is the great conductor known as the "Black Daniel" a vital member of the North's Underground railroad network, but Hester finds him so rude and arrogant, she begins to question her vow to hide him.


When the injured and beaten Galen Vachon, aka, the Black Daniel awakens in Hester's cellar, he is unprepared for the feisty young conductor providing his care. As a member of one of the wealthiest free Black families in New Orleans, Galen has turned his back on the lavish living he is accustomed to in order to provide freedom to those enslaved in the south. However, as he heals he cannot turn his back on Hester Wyatt. Her innocence fills him like a breath of fresh air and he is determined to make her his, but traitors have to be found, slave catchers have to be routed and Hester's refusal to trust her own heart have to be overcome before she and Galen can find the freedom only love can bring.


INTRODUCTION
1. Have you ever read a book by Beverly Jenkins?
This is my second Beverly Jenkins experience.  Early this year, I read (and adored) her newest release, Forbidden.  You can find my 4.5 star review here.

2. What were your expectations before reading Indigo?
I had high expectations from my earlier experience with Jenkins's writing and the amazing reviews I've read from other readers plus I know it is considered a classic.

3. Was there anything you were hesitant about?
I was a little worried about how depressing the Underground Railroad aspect would be.  I don't mind darker themes in historical romance, but I do read them as a means of escape.

CHARACTERS
4. How would you describe the heroine in three words? The hero?
I would describe Hester as intelligent, loyal, and a survivor.  I would describe Galen as determined,

5. Was there anything you didn't care for in their characters?
I loved everything about Hester.  I liked Galen, but didn't like the high-handed way he handled his relationship with Hester at times.

6. Did you feel like they both grew as people?
Hester gained more confidence in herself and became more willing to take credit for the amazing works she did while Galen learned to think about other people.  I liked how they both dealt with the unorthodox aspect of their courtship in their own individual way.

7. What did you think of their individual character journeys?
Both of them were well-developed and consistent with their personalities.  Hester's journey was my favorite because I loved her the most while Galen's was the most needed.  I felt like he had to do some growing up in order to be "worthy" of Hester and I think Beverly Jenkins accomplished that.

8. Did any secondary characters stand out to you (good or bad)?
My favorite side character was Galen's best friend, Raymond, who gets his own romance in Through the Storm which I want to read right now!  I loved to hate Hester's fiance, Foster, though I did feel bad for him towards the end.  I was fascinated by Galen's grandmother who was a bigger than life sub-villain.

ROMANCE
9. What did you think of the first meeting between Hester and Galen?
I think the first scene was interesting because Galen is put in a vulnerable position where he has to rely on someone else which he isn't used to and he doesn't react well.  Hester showed her strength and determination in these moments which made me fall in love with her.

10. Were you able to root for their happy ending easily?
Yes since I liked both of them and thought they were good for one another.  Galen provided Hester with stability and someone who cherished her which she hadn't had in a long time.  Hester inspired Galen to be less reckless and more calculated in his work.  She also forced him to look at what he really wanted out of life.

11. What was your favorite romantic interaction between them?
I loved the bathtub reunion scene.  It had a nice balance between sweetness and sexiness that I enjoyed.  I liked the tenderness that Galen showed, but also the secretly feisty nature of Hester.

12. Do you think their happy ending felt realistic?
I definitely believed in Hester and Galen's happily ever after.  They had to go through a lot to get there and I think they were stronger for it.

PLOT
13. What did you think of the pacing of the story?
The beginning was suspenseful with the constant danger of Galen being discovered.  I did think the middle dragged a bit especially in the scenes where they were separated for a decent amount of time.  But, the ending was action-packed and really helped tie everything together.

14. Did you feel like the romance was helped or hindered by the subplots? Why?
I think it was helped by the various side stories.  While I thought Galen and Hester were great together, the type of love story that they had wasn't something that I was unfamiliar with.  But, when paired with the danger of the Underground Railroad work and the drama between their different social upbringings, it felt more alive and unique.

15. How would you describe the tone of this book?
There were definitely dark moments in Indigo which I expected.  But, I was happily surprised by the humor and the hope that shown through even in the darkest times.

SETTING
16. Had you ever read a romance about the Underground Railroad before? How did this affect your experience with the book?
This was my first Underground Railroad romance and I thought it really made it stand out.  There is always a need for conflict in a romance and this was ready-made.

17. How do you think the author handled the historical details? Were they just wallpaper or did they make the story come alive?
Beverly Jenkins is known for providing amazing historical detail in her romances and that is definitely the case here.  She clearly did her research and put a ton of it in here.  I felt like I was in the room with Hester and Galen at times.  I also found myself turning pages faster and faster during the most suspenseful scenes because of the detail provided.

18. Did this book make you want to learn more about this setting?
Absolutely!  My knowledge of the Underground Railroad came from the little bit I got in school and it is obvious that social studies books were only able to scratch the surface.  I also want to know more about the story that ended up inspiring this romance where a free black man fell in love with a slave and ended up putting himself in slavery in order to be with here.

MISCELLANEOUS
19. What surprised you most about your reading experience with Indigo?
What surprised me the most was how the history came alive for me.  I knew from my experience with Forbidden that Beverly Jenkins was skilled at this part, but I just became completely engrossed in this world and what the characters were trying to accomplish.

20. Any favorite quotes you would like to share?

"May you be as moonsick as this someday and may I be around to laugh with the same enjoyment."
--A fun interaction between Galen and Raymond that only good friends can have.

"Yes, they are, which is why it's important to seek out humor and beauty whenever possible.  If we don't, we'll all be buried beneath the weight of the misery."
--A great summary of the tone of this book and why it works so well.

21. Will you read more books by Beverly Jenkins in the future?
Definitely!  I have one of her more recent releases on my e-reader that I have moved up in the queue.  I also plan on reading Raymond story, Through the Storm, as soon as it comes in through my library.



Have you read Indigo before?  Do you want to now?  Any Beverly Jenkins or Underground Railroad recommendations you would like to give me?


GIVEAWAY!!

There will be five winners: one grand prize winner, two runner-ups, two second runner-ups.
Winners will receive one or more historical romance novels. See below for specifics.
One entry per day per person throughout April.
You must be 18+ to enter.
Winners must live in the U.S.

The same rafflecopter is being used on all Historical Romance 101 blogs. You can only enter once a day regardless of which blog you visit to enter. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, April 28, 2016

REVIEW: "Temptations of a Wallflower" by Eva Leigh


Temptations of a Wallflower (The Wicked Quills of London, #3)
(Wicked Quills of London #1)

For Ages 18+ (Language, Sensuality)
Historical Romance -- Regency England

Avon -- April 26, 2016
eARC, 384 pages
Read in April 2016
Received from Edelweiss

Goodreads -- Author Website -- Publisher Website

RATING: 4 STARS

SUMMARY
In society circles she’s known as the Watching Wallflower—shy, quiet, and certainly never scandalous. Yet beneath Lady Sarah Frampton’s demure fa├žade hides the mind of The Lady of Dubious Quality, author of the most titillating erotic fiction the ton has ever seen. Sarah knows discovery would lead to her ruin, but marriage—to a vicar, no less—could help protect her from slander. An especially tempting option when the clergyman in question is the handsome, intriguing Jeremy Cleland.

Tasked with unmasking London’s most scandalous author by his powerful family, Jeremy has no idea that his beautiful, innocent bride is the very woman he seeks to destroy. His mission must remain a secret, even from the new wife who stirs his deepest longings. Yet when the truth comes to light, Sarah and Jeremy’s newfound love will be tested. Will Sarah’s secret identity tear them apart or will the temptations of his wallflower wife prove too wicked to resist? 


THEMES AND TROPES
Beta Hero, Bluestocking Heroine, Cross-Class Romance

READING CHALLENGES
2016 Pick Your Genre Reading Challenge

MY THOUGHTS 
I received an eARC of this book from Avon via Edelweiss in exchange for a honest review.

Temptations of a Wallflower is the conclusion to the Wicked Quills of London trilogy which focuses on women writers.  So far, the books have featured a gossip newspaper owner and a playwright.  Now the focus shifts to Lady Sarah Frampton who is known by society as the Watching Wallflower for her tendency to just sit back and observe at events.  But, what the ton doesn't know is that Sarah secretly writes popular erotic stories under the pseudonym The Lady of Dubious Quality.  Sarah feels content with her life until she begins to suspect that someone is trying to figure out her true identity which happens at the same time that she meets vicar Jeremy Cleland, cousin to the hero of Scandal Takes the Stage.

The whole premise of this book made me happy.  I love the intriguing pairing of a vicar and a wallflower who writes erotic fiction.  Of course, there is much more to both Sarah and Jeremy than those initial impressions, but talk about a way to grab a reader's attention!  Sarah is a spinster who only feels like she is her true self when she is writing especially about sexual escapades.  The only thing that makes her wary is the fact that she knows her secret will ruin her and her family.  Jeremy is a kindly vicar who was pushed into the work by his father.  He enjoys helping people, but often feels restrained by his obligations and his responsibility as a role model.

When Sarah and Jeremy meet, it is obvious that they have an attraction.  Both of them see something that the rest of society (and even their families) don't see.  They take advantage of this and quickly become friends.  Eventually Sarah finds herself in a potentially scandalous situation so they decide to get married and both believe that love is in their future.  Of course their blissfully happy life gets turned upside down when it comes to Sarah's secret life and the fact that Jeremy was initially brought to London by his father to hunt down The Lady of Dubious Quality.  This causes some obvious strife that shows that maybe they didn't know each other enough after all.

Temptations of a Wallflower puts a strong emphasis on sex and its place in society.  Sarah is an inexperienced woman who is interested in it and wants to experience it for herself.  Jeremy is in a position where he feels like he must uphold a strong moral compass though that doesn't exactly jive with his lust-filled mind especially after he meets Sarah.  I loved the way that the author depicted the trouble of wanting things sexually, but not being able to express those desires for fear of scorn.  There is no shame depicted in the sexual encounters between Sarah and Jeremy.  Both of them learn to work with each other and take charge of getting what they want.  I applaud the author for this timely subplot and for giving it the respect it deserves.

The only quibble I had with this book was the handling of the reveal of Sarah's identity and what Jeremy was really doing in London.  These issues were an important part of the story and provided the necessary conflict, but I felt like it took too long.  I completely understood both characters' hesitations and their initial reactions.  It worked well for their character development.  I guess it felt like it just happened so late in the book that the resolution had to be rushed.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Temptations of a Wallflower and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it or the prequels (Forever Your Earl and Scandal Takes the Stage).  The characters blew me away in their complexity and development while the romance was enchanting.  There is something to be said about having two likable, mature people finding someone perfect for them when they least expected it.  That is one thing I enjoy about reading romance and I definitely found it in this book.

FAVORITE QUOTE
"She'd no desire to write 'serious literature.'  It was too often moralizing or crammed full of sorrow.  Escape had its own important value.  She would never flatter herself into thinking she could change the world, but she didn't want to.  That task would be left to other writers, other minds.  She wanted only to entertain and counted herself lucky that she had the opportunity to do so."
BOOKS IN THE SERIES


Forever Your Earl (The Wicked Quills of London, #1) Scandal Takes the Stage (The Wicked Quills of London, #2) Temptations of a Wallflower (The Wicked Quills of London, #3)