Friday, September 4, 2015

REVIEW: "The Brigadier's Runaway Bride" by Erica Ridley


The Brigadier's Runaway Bride (The Dukes of War, #5)
(Dukes of War #5)

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

Intrepid Reads -- Published on September 1, 2015
eARC, 250 pages
Read in August 2015
Received from Netgalley

RATING: 3 STARS

THEMES/TROPES
Childhood Sweethearts, Reunited Couple, Returning Military, Pregnancy/Babies

SUMMARY
Miss Sarah Fairfax is having a wretched year. Her intended perished at war. His child is in her belly. To secure her future, she resigns herself to a loveless marriage. Just as she’s about to say "I do," her fiancĂ©e returns from the grave to crash the wedding... but he’s no longer the charming, carefree man she remembers.

After being left for dead on the battlefield, Brigadier Edmund Blackpool is scarred inside and out. He fights his way home only to discover his intended before the altar with his best friend. He'll be the one to marry her, no matter what she wants! But when his new bride disappears with his child, he must reopen his wounds to win the most important battle of his life.



FIRST LINE
"Most women would be delighted to find themselves mere moments away from being a duchess."

MY THOUGHTS
I received a free copy of this book from Intrepid Reads via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Dukes of War series has been a back and forth experience for me.  I thought it took some time for the series to get going, but the fourth book (The Major's Faux Fiancee) was enjoyable and I was looking forward to this installment.  I also was excited because poor Sarah Fairfax and the long-lost Edmund Blackpool would finally be able to reunite and get their well-deserved happy ending.

Sarah and Edmund were betrothed before the war started and they spent one amazing night together.  The next day Edmund was gravely injured and thought to be dead by his brother and his friends.  Sarah is devastated by her betrothed's death and her life just gets worse when she discovers that she is pregnant.  Earlier books in the series have shown Edmund's friends trying to help Sarah with the Duke of Ravenwood offering to marry her.  And, of course, things are thrown for a loop when Edmund shows up at the wedding and discovers the truth about what has been going on for the past eight and a half months.

While I got through The Brigadier's Runaway Bride pretty quickly, I found myself a little disappointed.  Edmund and Sarah's story had so much potential, but the whole thing felt rushed and unsatisfactory.  I thought the development of both characters was well-done.  Sarah had a difficult time after Edmund went missing and I admired her ability to be realistic about her situation.  And I felt for Edmund who did everything he could to return to her and was shocked by what he came back to.  But, as a couple, they kept being put in situations without being allowed to just be together and I felt like the romance suffered.  I also wished that more time had been given to the issues that Edmund brought back from the war because it felt like it was just glossed over.

I hated to have this type of reaction to a book that I was really looking forward to.  I do still enjoy Erica Ridley's writing so I will continue with the series, but I will go into them with more hesitation than I did this time.

BOOKS IN THE SERIES
1. The Viscount's Christmas Temptation
2. The Earl's Defiant Wallflower
3. The Captain's Bluestocking Mistress
4. The Major's Faux Fiancee
5. The Brigadier's Runaway Bride
6. The Pirate's Tempting Stowaway (Coming 2015)
7. The Duke's Accidental Wife (Coming 2016)

LEARN MORE
Goodreads -- Author Website

WHERE TO GET IT
Amazon -- B&N -- Kobo -- Google Play -- All Romance

Thursday, September 3, 2015

THEME THURSDAY: Pirates

This is part of a feature where I focus on a specific theme (or trope) that I have found in my years as a voracious reader/blogger.  I love finding commonalities between my favorite books and how that helps define me as a reader.

Please note this is not meant to be a comprehensive list.  I am just picking a few examples of this trope.  So, if you have a favorite example of this theme, let me know about it in the comments.  I'm always on the lookout for more books to be added to my wishlist.

PIRATES

The Pirate Prince (Ascension Trilogy #1)
The Pirate Prince by Gaelen Foley
Historical Romance
When Allegra Monteverdi, the daughter of Lazar's sworn enemy, throws herself on his mercy, the pirate prince Lazar di Fiori agrees to spare the lives of her family but only if she sails away with him.

Alone at sea with this dark, intriguing man, moving between seduction and fear, Allegra realizes it will take more than her growing love for this pirate prince to bring peace to her beloved home. For Lazar must face the demons of his shattered past - if he is to forge the destiny that is theirs to claim...

The Pirate Lord (Lord Trilogy, #1)
The Pirate Lord by Sabrina Jeffries
Historical Romance
A Splendid Opportunity
A shipload of women - theirs for the taking! Pirate captain Gideon Horn couldn't be more delighted. His men are tired of wandering the high seas and want to settle down with wives on the uncharted island paradise they've discovered. And the women are bound to be grateful to be rescued from the life of drudgery awaiting them in New South Wales . . .
A Splendid Passion
Married? To pirates? Sara Willis couldn't be more appalled. First she demands proper courting—at least a month. The darkly handsome pirate lord gives them two weeks. Then Sara insists the men vacate their huts for the women—Gideon demands her kisses in return. As the demands heat up, so do their passions—and soon Sara can't remember just why she's fighting the devilishly seductive captain so hard. . .

The Windflower
The Windflower by Laura London
Historical Romance
Merry Wilding is a lady of breeding, of innocence, and of breathtaking beauty. With high hopes for a holiday in England, she sets sail from New York-but the tide of her life is destined to turn. Mistakenly swept aboard an infamous pirate ship, Merry finds herself at the mercy of a wicked crew . . . and one sinfully handsome pirate. Soon she's spending her days yearning for escape, and her nights learning the pleasures of captivity.
Devon Crandall believes Merry is in league with his greatest enemy. He's determined to slowly urge her secrets from her. But along the way, he discovers her beautifully unbreakable spirit . . . and a desire unlike any he's ever known. She is hiding something from him, and yet, each day that passes brings her deeper into his heart. When fierce arguments give way to fiercer passion, can a pirate learn to love a woman? Or will true love be lost at sea?

The Pirate Next Door (Regency Pirates, #1)
The Pirate Next Door by Jennifer Ashley
Historical Romance
Alexandra Alastair, a respectable young English widow, wonders if she dare add the new viscount who’s moved in next door to her list of potential husbands.

He certainly doesn’t look like the gentlemen on her list—Grayson Finley, Viscount Stoke, is tall and sun-bronzed, muscular and blue-eyed. He wears dress so casual as to be unclothed—long coats, leather breeches, shirts without collar or cravat, and he carries pistols wherever he goes. The men who attend him are just as strange, exotic-looking, even. And the way Grayson smiles at Alexandra whenever they pass in the street—sinful, blood-warming—turns her inside out.
In the middle of the night Alexandra hears shouting coming from the house next door, and the viscount’s life being threatened. She rushes over just in time to save Grayson from being hanged by his greatest enemy, his former best friend.
Thus is Alexandra pulled into the adventures of Grayson Finley, former pirate and terror of the seas. Grayson has made a bargain with the devil (in the form of the pirate hunter, James Ardmore), in order to ensure the safety of his daughter. He’ll do anything to keep her safe, but when Alexandra saves his life, he looks into her eyes the color of water and starts to drown . . .

The Ugly Duchess (Fairy Tales, #4)
The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James
Historical Romance
Theodora Saxby is the last woman anyone expects the gorgeous James Ryburn, heir to the Duchy of Ashbrook, to marry. But after a romantic proposal before the prince himself, even practical Theo finds herself convinced of her soon-to-be duke's passion.
Still, the tabloids give the marriage six months.
Theo would have given it a lifetime... until she discovers that James desired not her heart, and certainly not her countenance, but her dowry. Society was shocked by their wedding; it's scandalized by their separation.
Now James faces the battle of his lifetime, convincing Theo that he loved the duckling who blossomed into the swan.  And Theo will quickly find that for a man with the soul of a pirate, All's Fair in Love — or War.

Broken Wing
Broken Wing by Judith James
Historical Romance
Set during the chaotic beginnings of Napoleon's rule, this saga tells the story of Gabriel St. Croix, a street survivor searching for a place to belong. Abandoned as a child and raised in a brothel, he has never known friendship or affection. Hiding physical and emotional scars behind an icy facade, his only relationship is with a young boy he has spent the last five years protecting from the brutal reality of their environment. But all that is about to change. The boy's family has found him, and they are coming to take him home.

Sarah Munroe blames herself for her brother's disappearance. When he's located, safe and unharmed despite where he has been living, Sarah vows to help the man who rescued and protected him in any way she can. With loving patience she helps Gabriel face his demons and teaches him to trust in friendship and love. But when the past catches up with him, Gabriel must face it on his own. Becoming a mercenary, pirate, and professional gambler, he travels to London, France, and the Barbary Coast in a desperate attempt to find Sarah again. On the way, however, he will discover the most dangerous journey and the greatest gamble of all is within the darkest reaches of his own heart.

Scandalous Desires (Maiden Lane, #3)
Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt
Historical Romance
Can a pirate learn that the only true treasure lies in a woman's heart?
Widowed Silence Hollingbrook is impoverished, lovely, and kind--and nine months ago she made a horrible mistake. She went to a river pirate for help in saving her husband and in the process made a bargain that cost her her marriage. That night wounded her so terribly that she hides in the foundling home she helps run with her brother. Except now that same river pirate is back...and he's asking for her help.
"Charming" Mickey O'Connor is the most ruthless river pirate in London. Devastatingly handsome and fearsomely intelligent, he clawed his way up through London's criminal underworld. Mickey has no use for tender emotions like compassion and love, and he sees people as pawns to be manipulated. And yet he's never been able to forget the naive captain's wife who came to him for help and spent one memorable night in his bed...talking.

When his bastard baby girl was dumped in his lap--her mother having died--Mickey couldn't resist the Machiavellian urge to leave the baby on Silence's doorstep. The baby would be hidden from his enemies and he'd also bind Silence to him by her love for his daughter.

The Lion's Lady (Crown's Spies, #1)
The Lion's Lady by Julie Garwood
Historical Romance
Christina Bennett had taken London society by storm. The ravishing beauty guarded the secret of her mysterious past until the night Lyon, Marquis of Lyonwood, stole a searching, sensuous kiss. An arrogant nobleman with a pirate's passions, he tasted the wild fire smoldering beneath Christina's cool charm and swore to posess her...
But the fiesty and defiant Christina would not be so easily conquered. Mistress of her heart and of her fortune, she resisted Lyon's sensuous caresses. She dared not surrender to his love...for then, she must also forsake her precious secret...and her promised destiny!

Captured
Captured by Beverly Jenkins
Historical Romance
Dominic LeVeq, the most notorious privateer ever to command the high seas, has just captured a coveted prize: a British frigate. On a dangerous mission against the Crown, Dominic should be thinking only of his ship's safety. But the rebel captain is utterly entranced by Clare Sullivan, the stunning slave on board. Consumed by desire, desperate to have her, Dominic offers Clare her freedom in exchange for a forbidden night in his bed—a night he assures her will be most pleasureable indeed.
Clare believes that Dominic is nothing more than a seductive rogue used to getting what he wants. But she too feels a tantalizing passion between them, and so she submits to just one night of bliss. She'll soon realize that Dominic has captured more than her body. He's captured her heart . . . and she doesn't want him to ever let go.

Hook's Pan (Kingdom, #5)
Hook's Pan by Marie Hall
Fantasy Romance
Trishelle Page has known pain in her life, but instead of it making her weak, she's stronger. Confident. That is until the day a fairy kidnaps her during her staring role in Peter Pan's play and tells her not only do fairy tales exist, but that she's the soulmate of the pirate they call Hook, making her question everything she ever thought she knew.
Captain James Hook is a man at the end of his rope. He's not the villainous bastard tales have made him out to be. So when the curvaceous blonde drops, literally, at his feet he aims to prove it to her. If only to get her into his bed.
What neither one knows is that fate and magic are conspiring and they can deny the attraction all they want but the end is already written, it's just a matter of getting there.

Catherine and the Pirate
Catherine and the Pirate by Karen Hawkins
Young Adult Historical
Born to a prominent Boston family, Catherine Markham is a bit of a hellion despite her gentle upbringing. Stifled by the rules imposed by society, Catherine yearns for adventure. When her beloved brother is kidnapped, she decides to deliver the ransom herself -- with the help of a young man few others might turn to.
Derrick St. John lives on the edge. The memory of his dead father tainted by treason, Derrick's life has been spent at sea in both legal and not-so-legal pursuits. Determined to clear his father's name, the last thing this young pirate wants is to embark on a voyage to Savannah in the midst of a war with the British, much less with a young lady who spells trouble at every turn.
An emotion stronger than caution takes hold of Derrick, and he finds himself unable to refuse Catherine's pleas for assistance, even though the journey promises peril for them both. And so the headstrong girl and the daring sea captain sail into an exhilarating adventure that fast becomes a journey of the heart.

Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy (Bloody Jack, #1)
Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy by L.A. Meyer
Young Adult Historical
Life as a ship's boy aboard HMS Dolphin is a dream come true for Jacky Faber. Gone are the days of scavenging for food and fighting for survival on the streets of eighteenth-century London. Instead, Jacky is becoming a skilled and respected sailor as the crew pursues pirates on the high seas.
There's only one problem: Jacky is a girl. And she will have to use every bit of her spirit, wit, and courage to keep the crew from discovering her secret. This could be the adventure of her life--if only she doesn't get caught. . . .

UPCOMING THEMES
  • Makeovers -- September 10th
  • Animals -- September 17th

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

REVIEW: "The Highwayman" by Kerrigan Byrne


The Highwayman (Victorian Rebels #1)
(Victorian Rebels #1)

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

St. Martin's -- Published on September 1, 2015
eARC, 384 pages
Read in August 2015
Receive from Netgalley

RATING: 4.5 STARS

THEMES/TROPES
Alpha Hero, Marriage of Convenience

SUMMARY
Dorian Blackwell, the Blackheart of Ben More, is a ruthless villain. Scarred and hard-hearted, Dorian is one of London’s wealthiest, most influential men who will stop at nothing to wreak vengeance on those who’ve wronged him…and will fight to the death to seize what he wants. The lovely, still innocent widow Farah Leigh Mackenzie is no exception—and soon Dorian whisks the beautiful lass away to his sanctuary in the wild Highlands…

But Farah is no one’s puppet. She possesses a powerful secret—one that threatens her very life. When being held captive by Dorian proves to be the only way to keep Farah safe from those who would see her dead, Dorian makes Farah a scandalous proposition: marry him for protection in exchange for using her secret to help him exact revenge on his enemies. But what the Blackheart of Ben More never could have imagined is that Farah has terms of her own, igniting a tempestuous desire that consumes them both. Could it be that the woman he captured is the only one who can touch the black heart he’d long thought dead?



FIRST LINE
"Blood ran down Dougan Mackenzie's forearms as he crouched against the ancient stone wall separating the grounds of Applecross Orphanage from the wild mountains beyond."

MY THOUGHTS
I received a free copy of this book from St. Martin's Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I heard about this book from various bloggers who were at the RT event in Texas.  So I was ecstatic to receive an eARC and really had to be patient and not start it right away.  I have never read a Kerrigan Byrne romance, but I am ready to read everything she has ever written now.  The Highwayman is one of those stories that sucks you in from the beginning and doesn't let go until the final, emotional page.  It was reminiscent of older historical romances in the very best sense.

The story starts with a sweet interlude between a young boy, Dougan, and girl, Farah Leigh, at an orphanage run by an abusive priest.  Dougan and Farah quickly become best friends and even have an adorable hand fasting ceremony.  Then the real world comes crashing back and they are separated.  Seventeen years later, Farah, who lives as Dougan's widow, meets up with the ruthless Dorian Blackwell who claims to have known Dougan in prison and he convinces her to marry him in order to get back her inheritance.

Dorian is a type of hero that I am not often attracted to, but I loved him in the context of this book.  He is super alpha, dark, brooding, etc.  His past is full of trauma and he uses the anger from it to fuel his ever-expanding empire in London.  Dorian also has a problem with people touching him and this causes some obvious issues when he and Farah get married.  What I liked the most about him as a character was his complexity and how much he developed over the course of the story.

If Dorian is the dark, then Farah is obviously the light character.  She is beautiful, kind, and almost too good to be true.  But, she has a spine that comes out at various points which shows that she is not a fragile flower.  I was especially impressed with her devotion to Dougan as she visited the prison every day until she was informed of his untimely death.  I also liked that she was not afraid to call Dorian out when he was being particularly thickheaded or demanding.

Farah and Dorian's romance is full of passion and drama.  Their chemistry is immediate and I spent much of my reading time anticipating their first kiss.  I thought they really worked as a couple despite the unorthodox beginning.  Everything about their relationship is so well-written and portrayed that I never felt like things were too insurmountable for them.  Not to say that there aren't issues, but I strongly believed that Farah and Dorian would make it.  And, then there's the sex scenes which are a bit more abrasive than I am used to seeing in modern-day historical romance, but work for this particular story.

The plot of The Highwayman is complicated, over-the-top, and just tons of fun!  It has everything in here from vengeful suitors to secret pasts to chases across the countryside.  There is a lot going on so I settled back and enjoyed the ride.  I think it works best if you try not to think about the logistics of it too hard since there are a few inconsistencies that I noticed.  But, everything is improved by the beautiful writing.  The author really knows how to set a scene and portray sexual tension in just a few words.

I have seen other bloggers refer to this book as crack and I think I agree.  There are things about it that should irritate me, but they were showcased in such a way that I just went along with it.  I read it in just two days and spent much of the time, that I wasn't reading it, thinking about it.  Kerrigan Byrne really has a winner with The Highwayman and I am looking forward to the rest of the series.

FAVORITE QUOTE
"If I've learn anything in my life, it's that there is no darkness so absolute that it cannot be dispelled by the fainted of light."

BOOKS IN THE SERIES
1. The Highwayman
2. The Hunter (Coming 2016)
3. The Highlander (Coming 2016)

LEARN MORE
Goodreads -- Author Website

WHERE TO GET IT
Amazon -- B&N -- BAM -- Book Depository -- Kobo -- Google Play -- Audible