Friday, July 29, 2016

REVIEW: "A Duke to Remember" by Kelly Bowen

A Duke to Remember (Season for Scandal, #2)
(Season for Scandal #2)

Historical Romance -- Regency England
Forever -- July 26, 2016
eARC, 368 pages
Read in July 2016

Goodreads -- Author Website


Elise deVries is not what she seems. By night, the actress captivates London theatergoers with her chameleon-like ability to slip inside her characters. By day, she uses her mastery of disguise to work undercover for Chegarre & Associates, an elite agency known for its discreet handling of indelicate scandals. But when Elise is tasked with locating the missing Duke of Ashland, she finds herself center stage in a real-life drama.

Noah Ellery left the glamour of the London aristocracy to pursue a simpler life in the country. He's managed to avoid any complications or entanglements—that is, until he lays eyes on Elise and realizes there's more to this beautiful woman than meets the eye. But when Elise reveals her real identity—and her true feelings for him—the runaway duke must confront the past he left behind . . . to keep the woman he loves forever. 

Tortured Hero, Actress Heroine, Character in Disguise, Class Differences, Inheritance

I received an eARC of this book from Forever Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Kelly Bowen showed that she really knew how to write smart, capable heroines in the first book in this series Duke of My Heart with Ivory Moore, owner of Chegarre & Associates.  Now Bowen has turned to another associate, Elise deVries who uses her skills as a professional actress to become one of the company's premier spies/undercover agents.  Elise's mission is to find the longtime missing Duke of Ashland at the bequest of his sister who is desperate to save her mother from an insane asylum.  What Elise doesn't expect is to find the duke living as a simple farmer.  She also doesn't expect to fall in love with him.

Elise was definitely a character that I was intrigued by in the first book.  I was super excited to see her take center stage and I think she was as wonderfully developed as I hoped.  I loved her resourcefulness and her independence.  I also appreciated her sense of humor which helped alleviate the tension in some of the situations she found herself in.  Noah was a great character on his own though it was clear that this was Elise's story.  He had a difficult childhood and has understandable reasons for rejecting his family and the title.  But, despite his treatment, he was able to climb from the streets and make something of himself.

Elise and Noah fell in love with one another in a short amount of time, but I never felt like it was a case of insta-love.  I think this is because they were such richly drawn characters and it was obvious that they had an immediate connection.  There was a bit of a fallout when Elise's true purpose was revealed, but I thought they both handled the situation in a decent and understandable fashion.  Elise and Noah are an example of romantic it can be when a couple actually sits down and talks to one another.  I really believed in their happy ending.

I also love the entire premise of this series!  Seemingly inspired by Olivia Pope, Chegarre & Associates specializes in minimizing the damage of major least to those who can afford their services.  There are a multitude of fascinating characters who work for and around the company and I hope to see many of them get their own stories soon.  I am especially interested to see what Kelly Bowen does with the mysterious King whose background becomes a little less murky in this book.

The only thing that kept this book from being an all-time favorite was the ending.  I felt like it was rushed especially the final confrontation with Noah's scheming cousin.  I wish that the payoff had been better.  That being said, I still enjoyed reading A Duke to Remember and am really looking forward to the next book in the series.  If you are a reader who loves strong, admirable heroines in historical settings, I can't recommend this book or its prequel, Duke of My Heart, enough.  Elise and Ivory are fantastic and I'm sure the heroine of Between the Devil and the Duke will be as well.

2016 Pick Your Genre Reading Challenge


Duke of My Heart (Season for Scandal, #1) A Duke to Remember (Season for Scandal, #2) Between the Devil and the Duke (Season for Scandal, #3)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

MINI-REVIEWS: Jayne Fresina, Ilona Andrews, Anne Barton, Elizabeth Harmon, Mary Balogh

How to Rescue a Rake (Book Club Belles Society, #3)How to Rescue a Rake (Book Club Belles #3) by Jayne Fresina
Historical Romance
Sourcebooks Casablanca -- January 5, 2016

Nathaniel Sherringham has returned to Hawcombe Prior a changed man. Gone is the reckless rake who went out on a limb to propose to Diana Makepiece three years ago. Now Nate's mysterious new wealth has the town's rumor mill spinning. To stir things up (and get Diana's attention), Nate boldly announces his plans to marry "any suitable girl" under the age of 25.
Diana, now 27 and still single, is acutely aware of Nate's return. When her mother suggests a trip to visit a cousin in Bath, Diana leaps at the chance to escape the heartbreak and regret she can't help but feel in Nate's presence...and avoid his irritating charade to find a bride.
But for Nate, Diana has always been the one. He might just have to follow her to Bath and once again lay his heart on the line to win her attention-and her heart.
I usually try to read series in order, but this one grabbed my attention because it is a retelling of my favorite Jane Austen book, Persuasion.  Nate and Diana had a bit of a flirtation a few years ago that ended due to mysterious reasons.  Then Nate returned to the village and these two different, but likable characters found themselves dealing with their past feelings and expectations for the future.  I thought this book was charming and sweet.  All the Persuasion elements were there with plenty of new characterization for the main couple.  I quite liked the idea of the hero pursuing the heroine throughout the story since, very often, it is the other way around.  I had a good time reading How to Rescue a Rake even if it wasn't the most original or scintillating story.


Fate's Edge (The Edge, #3)Fate's Edge (The Edge #3) by Ilona Andrews
Urban Fantasy
Penguin -- November 29, 2011

Audrey Callahan left behind her life in the Edge, and she's determined to stay on the straight and narrow. But when her brother gets into hot water, the former thief takes on one last heist and finds herself matching wits with a jack of all trades...

Kaldar Mar-a gambler, lawyer, thief, and spy-expects his latest assignment tracking down a stolen item to be a piece of cake, until Audrey shows up. But when the item falls into the hands of a lethal criminal, Kaldar realizes that in order to finish the job, he's going to need Audrey's help...
Fate's Edge had the difficult job of coming after Bayou Moon which was one of my favorite reads of 2016 so far.  It was as entertaining and engrossing like other books in this series, but I felt like it was lacking something.  Kaldar was a fascinating character with his multitude of slightly left of the law talents and his devotion to his family.  I also liked Audrey and her determination to do what was right despite her upbringing.  I guess I just felt like the romance was too rushed and overshadowed the action subplot.  And I continue to adore any scene with George and Jack!


Once She Was Tempted (Honeycote, #2)Once She Was Tempted (Honeycote #2) by Anne Barton
Historical Romance
Forever -- October 29, 2013

A Portrait of a Lady
…or is it? The risqué painting owned by Benjamin Elliot, the earl of Foxburn, features a stunning beauty with sapphire eyes, golden hair, and creamy skin. Ben recognizes this particular English rose the instant he meets her—though she's wearing considerably more clothing. In person, the demure debutante is even more irresistible…
In desperate need of money for her sick mother, Daphne Honeycote had posed for two scandalous portraits. Now she must hide her secret to save the Honeycote family name. Ben's possession of one painting makes him an insufferable thorn in her side—and yet he may be her best chance at finding the canvas's companion. As she becomes drawn to the dark-tempered earl, can Daphne risk laying bare the secrets of her heart?
First of all, I loved the premise of this book.  Years ago, Daphne posed for two scandalous paintings to earn money for her family.  But, now that things are good financially for them, she must deal with the aftermath especially when the hero, Benjamin, happens to own one of the paintings.  I am all about a cranky, but secretly sweet hero and Ben just grabbed my heart from the beginning.  I loved his and Daphne's interactions.  They just couldn't resist each other and I think they ended up making one another a better person.  Daphne's genuine kindness paired with Ben's grumpiness very well.  I did think that the plot got a bit bland towards the end, but the characters kept me reading on.


Getting It Back (Red Hot Russians, #3)Getting It Back (Red Hot Russians #3) by Elizabeth Harmon
Contemporary Romance
Carina Press -- April 4, 2016

In this second-chance romance, a former top men's figure skating champion is willing to risk everything for a comeback--except a new start with his long lost love.
An unexpected phone call from the man who broke her heart offers Amy Shepherd an opportunity to return to the work she loves, training elite figure skaters. Except it’s just one figure skater: Him. Can she finally forgive and forget?
Figure skater Mikhail “Misha” Zaikov once had it all: medals, money and the adoration of millions. But a devastating injury put an end to his career and his romance, leaving him with nothing but regret over what could have been. His last chance to re-join the world’s top skaters is now. And there’s only one person who can help him: Her.
On Russia’s unyielding ice, Misha must reclaim what he's lost while facing off against a talented young rival and risking further injury. But Amy soon discovers Misha's much bigger challenges lurk off the ice. And she's determined to keep Misha whole and healthy, even if doing so ends his shot at the gold.
Second chance romances can be touch and go, mostly due to the different ways that the original romance can go south.  I thought Getting It Back was a decent example of this theme and I had a good time reading it.  I loved the heroine and how capable she was at her job.  I also admired her willingness to pursue her dream even with the pressure she was receiving from her family and friends.  Misha was a decent enough hero.  I didn't care for his past treatment of Amy, but, at least, he knew how crappy he was and apologized a lot for his actions.  The romance developed slowly and I thought that worked for two people who had a past, but were afraid to jump back in again.  My main issue was the pacing.  The first half of the book just kept dragging on and I was bored. Thankfully, things picked up when they went to Russia and got back into the ice skating world.  I just wish that had happened sooner.

I received an eARC of this book from Carina Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


Only Beloved (The Survivors' Club, #7)
Only Beloved (The Survivors' Club #7) by Mary Balogh
Historical Romance
Signet -- May 3, 2016

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?
Mary Balogh's signature style is a quiet, but still emotionally powerful romances and her Survivors' Club series has been full of great examples of that.  I really applaud her for Only Beloved which features an older (not definitely not old) couple than one usually sees in historical romance.  George has been a steady, but mysterious force throughout this series so it was great to learn more about him.  I developed a big girl crush on Dora in Only Enchanting and I continued to like her character a ton here.  I appreciated the gentleness of the romance between these two mature and lonely people who really deserved some happiness.  I do wish that the mystery surrounding the death of George's ex-wife hadn't taken up so much page time.  I wanted more sweet scenes with George and Dora slowly falling in love with one another.  But, this was a perfectly charming conclusion to an amazing series.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Things Books Have Made Me Want to Do or Learn

Hosted by the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish.

This was a much easier topic than I thought it was going to be.  While I have not done most of the things on this list, there are definitely ones that I am very motivated to try at some point in my life.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, #1)
1. Attend Transfiguration class

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake (Love By Numbers, #1)
2. Learn to fence

Princess in the Spotlight (The Princess Diaries, #2)
3. Attend a Rocky Horror Picture Show screening

The Viscount Who Loved Me (Bridgertons, #2)
4. Play Pall Mall

See Jane Score (Chinooks Hockey Team, #2)
5. Become a hockey fan

Bet Me
6. Eat chicken marsala

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)
7. Learn archery

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour
8. Go on a road trip across the country

The Chocolate Thief (Amour et Chocolat, #1)
9. Learn how to make gourmet chocolate

Summer Is for Lovers (Second Sons, #2)
10. Travel to Brighton, England

Monday, July 25, 2016

REVIEW: "The Unleashing" by Shelly Laurenston

The Unleashing (Call of Crows, #1)
(Call of Crows #1)

Paranormal Romance
Kensington -- March 31, 2015
eARC, 373 pages
Read in July 2016

Goodreads -- Author Website


Kera Watson never expected to face death behind a Los Angeles coffee shop. Not after surviving two tours lugging an M16 around the Middle East. If it wasn’t for her hot Viking customer showing up too late to help, nobody would even see her die.

In uncountable years of service to the Allfather Odin, Ludvig “Vig” Rundstöm has never seen anyone kick ass with quite as much style as Kera. He knows one way to save her life—but she might not like it. Signing up with the Crows will get Kera a new set of battle buddies: cackling, gossiping, squabbling, party-hearty women. With wings. So not the Marines.

But Vig can’t give up on someone as special as Kera. With a storm of oh-crap magic speeding straight for L.A., survival will depend on combining their strengths: Kera’s discipline, Vig’s loyalty… and the Crows’ sheer love of battle. Boy, are they in trouble.

Kickass Heroine, Mythology

I received an eARC of this book from Kensington via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Unleashing is the first book in Shelly Laurenston's new paranormal series which focuses on the Crows, a group of women who are saved from death by the Norse goddess Skuld and tasked with doing her biding.  The heroine, Kera, is killed in the alley behind a coffee shop and given the chance at a Second Life by Skuld.  She accepts the offer and begins to adjust to her new life as a Crow.

I had such a good time with this book!  Kera is a killer heroine who is not afraid to get her hands dirty, but also has a strict moral code that eventually becomes a benefit to the Crows.  I found her obsession with organization to be very endearing and especially loved her devotion to her dog.  She even convinced Skuld to give sweet Brodie Hawaii a Second Life!  Vig is an intriguing hero due to the fact that he is considered to be one of the most deadly of the Raven Clan, but is also a sweet introvert when he isn't in battle.  I also loved that he had been harboring a crush on Kera since he first saw her in a coffee shop and wanted to help guide her into her life.

For me, the real star of this book was the depiction of female friendship. The romance was sweet and easy to root for, but I spent much of the book looking forward to any of the scenes featuring the Crows.  These are amazing ladies who come from all corners of the globe and, despite their differences, are completely devoted to one another.  They fight like any other group of friends, but they always have each other's back.  I also adored the scenes with them just joking around and hanging out.  My particular favorite Crows to read about were Erin, the redhead who loves to cause chaos, Jace, the quiet one who has berserker tendencies, and Tessa, the steady one with the happy family.

The mythology of this series does take some time to get used to.  The author mentions at the beginning that she has taken liberties with various aspects of Nordi mythology so I was able to just sit back and enjoy the ride.  I love the idea of the different Clans and how their association with the various gods/goddesses define their missions.  I know that this series focuses primarily on the Crows, but I would love to see the author do a few spin-off stories with the other Clans especially the followers of Ran.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves a violent adventure filled with powerful women and detailed mythological details.  The Unleashing provided a great introduction to this series and I am excited to learn about this world.

2016 Pick Your Genre Reading Challenge
2016 Blogger Shame Reading Challenge
2016 Spooks, Howls, and Fangs Reading Challenge


The Unleashing (Call of Crows, #1) The Undoing (Call of Crows, #2) The Unyielding (Call of Crows, #3)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

THEMES & TROPES: Funny Romances

I love finding commonalities between my favorite books and how that helps define me as a reader.  So I decided to do a random feature where I focus on a specific theme/trope and provide a few examples of it. 



When She Said I Do (Worthington, #1) Mr. Impossible (Carsington Brothers, #2) Romancing the Duke (Castles Ever After, #1) How to Marry a Marquis (Agents of the Crown, #2) Love Is Blind My American Duchess Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake (Love By Numbers, #1) When Harry Met Molly (Impossible Bachelors, #1)

  • When She Said I Do by Celeste Bradley
  • Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase
  • Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare
  • How to Marry a Marquis by Julia Quinn
  • Love Is Blind by Lynsay Sands
  • My American Duchess by Eloisa James
  • Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean
  • When Harry Met Molly by Kieran Kramer


See Jane Score (Chinooks Hockey Team, #2) Cut & Run (Cut & Run, #1) Just the Sexiest Man Alive It Had to Be You (Chicago Stars, #1) Neanderthal Seeks Human (Knitting in the City, #1)
Saving the CEO (49th Floor, #1) My Bluegrass Baby (Bluegrass, #1) You Don't Have to Say You Love Me

  • See Jane Score by Rachel Gibson
  • Cut & Run by Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban
  • Just the Sexiest Man Alive by Julie James
  • It Had To Be You by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
  • Neanderthal Meets Human by Penny Reid
  • Saving the CEO by Jenny Holiday
  • My Bluegrass Baby by Molly Harper
  • You Don't To Say You Love Me by Sarra Manning


Dragon Actually (Dragon Kin, #1) Soulless (Parasol Protectorate, #1) Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs (Jane Jameson, #1) Halfway to the Grave (Night Huntress, #1) The Unleashing (Call of Crows, #1)
  • Dragon Actually by G.A. Aiken
  • Soulless by Gail Carriger
  • Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs by Molly Harper
  • Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost
  • The Unleashing by Shelly Laurenston

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

2016 TBR CHALLENGE REVIEW: "To Love a Thief" by Julie Anne Long

To Love a Thief
Historical Romance
Warner Forever -- April 1, 2005
Ebook, 355 pages
Read in July 2016

Goodreads -- Author Website


Lily Masters has a gift for picking pockets and telling stories—skills that come in handy for surviving London's slums. She's proud of providing for herself and her lively young sister, Alice, and she's never been caught. Well, there's always a first time.

Gideon Cole is a brilliant barrister with an unfortunate weakness for clients who can't pay. His latest charitable misstep: buying the freedom of a daring, beautiful thief. To repay the debt, Lily agrees to his proposition: pose as the object of his desire and help him snare a wealthy bride. All he has to do is transform the impudent Lily into a diamond of the first water.

But the education of Lily could cost Gideon his carefully planned future. While she plays cards with his invalid uncle, and Alice charms the servants, the honorable Gideon is harboring less than honorable thoughts. For sweet, stubborn, and sensual Lily has a way of slipping past a gentleman's defenses—especially when she's stealing his heart. 

Class Differences, Thief Heroine, Children, House Party

I read this book for the 2016 TBR Challenge -- July -- Award Nominee or Winner.  The challenge is hosted by Wendy the Super Librarian.

To Love a Thief is a stand-alone historical romance that was nominated for Best Short Historical Romance at the 2006 RITA awards.  Julie Anne Long is a popular author and one whose backlist I've been meaning to dive into for awhile.  Before this book, I had only read What I Did for a Duke and really enjoyed it so I had high expectations for this story.  And I was not disappointed!

This is a fun and emotional retelling of the Pygmalion/My Fair Lady story where the hero ends up saving the heroine after she is caught stealing.  As payment, he decides to bring her to his family estate and groom her to be a lady so that she can help him gain the wife he wants.  There are parts of this premise that made me a little uncomfortable, but the writing and the characters really helped me get over those hesitations.

Gideon is a type of hero that I really like reading about.  His parents' death forced him to attempt to go through life pursuing a Master Plan which he believes will bring him the most happiness.  Part of that plan includes marrying Lady Constance, the daughter of a wealthy marquis.  But, his interactions with Lily force him to re-evaluate what he wants out of life.  Lily is fabulous as well.  While her life is difficult, she knows how to work with it and the only reason that she accepts Gideon's offer is to provide more security for her sister.  I really appreciated the way that the author depicted Lily's resourcefulness and how her experiences have helped her become the person that she is.  Plus it is always interesting to find yourself rooting for someone who is a criminal.

Lily and Gideon are an example of characters who have immediate chemistry, but spend much of the book resisting their attraction.  The tension in the waltz lesson scene and the picnic scene was some of the best I've read in awhile.  The only issue that I had with the romance was that Gideon took forever to finally come to terms with the fact that Lady Constance was not the woman for him.  I wanted to smack him a few times to make him see how much Lily cared for him and that he was hurting her.  The grovel scene was well-done, but I still was irritated with how dense Gideon was earlier in the book.

The secondary characters are just as developed as the main couple which makes the story come alive even more.  I especially enjoyed the way that Lily's sister, Gideon's best friend, and Gideon's uncle were threaded into the plot.  They helped me as a reader understand both Lily and Gideon more and also provided some humorous side moments.  I also found the characterization of Lady Constance to be interesting.  She could have been a caricature, but the author did a good job of providing details to explain why she was the way that she was.  It was easy to understand her motivations which made her much more than just a one-dimensional rival.

I had a great time reading To Love a Thief and I can tell why it was nominated for a RITA.  The writing is impeccable, the characters feel like they could jump off the page, and the plot had me reading late into the night.  I am happy that I finally dug this book out from the depths of my e-reader!

2016 TBR Challenge
2016 Pick Your Genre Reading Challenge
2016 Oldie But Goodie Reading Challenge

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books Set Outside the U.S. and Great Britain

Hosted by the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish.

I added Great Britain to this week's topic because I read a ton of historical romances, most of which take place in England, Scotland, and Wales.

Rock Hard (Rock Kiss, #2)
1. Rock Hard by Nalini Singh (contemporary romance) -- New Zealand

Butterfly Swords (Tang Dynasty, #1)
2. Butterfly Swords by Jeannie Lin (historical romance) -- China

Mr. Impossible (Carsington Brothers, #2)
3. Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase (historical romance) -- Egypt

The Rosie Project (Don Tillman, #1)
4. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (contemporary romance) -- Australia

Anna and the French Kiss (Anna and the French Kiss, #1)
5. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (YA contemporary) -- France

Goddess of Yesterday
6. Goddess of Yesterday by Caroline B. Cooney (YA historical) -- Ancient Greece

Not Quite a Husband
7. Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas (historical romance) -- India

His Wicked Kiss (Knight Miscellany, #7)
8. His Wicked Kiss by Gaelen Foley (historical romance) -- Venezuela

On the Island (On the Island, #1)
9. On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves (contemporary romance) -- Desert Island

Slightly Tempted (Bedwyn Saga, #4)
10. Slightly Tempted by Mary Balogh (historical romance) -- Belgium