Tuesday, November 22, 2016

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Thanksgiving Freebie -- Books I'm Thankful For

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

There are so many books that I could be thankful for.  I had a hard time narrowing it down to ten, but I think I did a decent job.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, #1)
1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling (YA fantasy)
Easy answer, but I can't think of what my life would be like without this series.

A Little Princess
2. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (children's literature)
I loved everything about this story as a little girl.

There's a Nightmare in My Closet
3. There's a Nightmare in My Closet by Mercer Mayer (picture book)
The book that told my parents I was more than a bit obsessed with books.

Number the Stars
4. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (MG historical)
A big reason why I love historical fiction/historical romance nowadays.

Just Listen
5. Just Listen by Sarah Dessen (YA contemporary)
The first literary protagonist that I completely related to.

To Kill a Mockingbird
6. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (literary fiction)
One of the only "assigned reading" books that I actually loved.

Match Me If You Can (Chicago Stars, #6)
7. Match Me If You Can by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (contemporary romance)
One of my all-time comfort reads.

Meet Samantha: An American Girl (American Girls: Samantha, #1)
8. Meet Samantha: An American Girl by Susan S. Alder (children's historical fiction)
Another reason I love historical stories.

Fruits Basket, Vol. 1
9. Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya (fantasy manga)
My first manga series!

Dark Lover (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #1)
10. Dark Lover by JR Ward (paranormal romance)
The book that helped me realize I could enjoy reading about literary vampires.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

REVIEW: "The Debutante is Mine" by Vivienne Lorret

The Debutante Is Mine (Season's Original, #1)
TITLE: The Debutante is Mine
AUTHOR(S): Vivienne Lorret
SERIES: The Season's Original #1

GENRE: Historical Romance
PUBLISHER: Avon Impulse
PUBLICATION DATE: April 12, 2016
SOURCE: Purchased on Amazon
LENGTH: 288 pages
DATE READ: October 2016

READING CHALLENGES: 2016 Pick Your Genre Reading Challenge; 2016 New To You Reading Challenge

CHARACTER ARCHETYPES: Beta Hero, Tormented Heroine

TROPES: Class Differences, Forbidden Love, Female Friendships, Makeover


From the Season Standard: “A true Season’s Original embodies the class, grace, and style of the ton. Such an honor ensures the recipient her pick of eligible suitors…”

Lilah Appleton’s prospects are looking dim. With one last chance to find a titled husband before she’s forced to wed her wretched cousin, she must make this Season count. Plain, forgettable Lilah must become the Season’s Original. Desperate, she seeks help from the devilishly charming, untitled, and thoroughly unsuitable Jack Marlowe. All she must do now is resist the tempting rogue…

Bastard son and self-made man, Jack Marlowe loathes the aristocracy. When he meets Lilah, he expects her to be like all the other greedy husband-hunters. But she’s far more dangerous. Her alluring smiles and sharp tongue intrigue him. Before he knows it, he agrees to help her find a husband, revealing tricks to ensnare any man. The only problem is, his plan works too well—on him.

When Lilah becomes the belle of the ball, Jack realizes he may lose her forever—unless he can take a chance on love and claim his debutante... 

Why I Read It...

I first heard about this book through Anna's awesome review over at Herding Cats, Burning Soup.  Vivienne Lorret is a new-to-me author and I thought the premise was interesting.

What I Liked About It...

1. Lilah has had a rough time in Society so far and knows that this Season is her last chance.  Desperation makes her take chances and I think her character becomes more interesting when she starts to gain confidence.  I really liked her determination and kind nature.  I wanted her to be happy which makes it easier to keep reading.

2. Jack is also a likable character I wanted good things for.  His illegitimacy has shaped who he is, but I appreciated that he did not take it out on everyone.  I loved the fact that he fell for Lilah early on and was willing to do anything to make sure she got what she wanted.  And yeah for self-made heroes!!

3. The romance was very cute and, thankfully, not bogged down by too many external conflicts.  Readers get to see two wonderful people find one another and figure out how to end up together.  The "makeover" and "lessons in love" theme are always going to attract me to a book and Ms. Lorret used them well here.

4. Female friendship for the win!  I am seeking out romances with well-written friendships more and more these days and The Debutante is Mine helped me out with that goal.

What I Disliked About It...

1. Though this is the first book in the Season's Original series, there is a prequel novella in the All I Want for Christmas is a Duke anthology.  The novella includes a subplot that carries on to this book which I was not aware of until it randomly showed up in the story.  It did not ruin the reading experience for me, but I did find myself confused regarding that subplot.

2. The beginning was very slow and I thought about putting the book down a few times.  Thankfully, I stuck with it and ended up enjoying the rest.  I don't have much more to say regarding this aspect, but thought I needed to mention it.

3. There is a "twist" towards the end that I saw coming from the start.  While I understand why the author made the choice, I found myself wishing that things had not been tied up so neatly.  I don't think the story needed it to be a successful romance.

Would I Recommend It...

Yes, but I do want to make sure future readers are aware of the few shortcomings.  It was a sweet story with likable people, but not the most original historical romance I've ever read.  I am interested enough to think about trying the rest of the series someday.


All I Want for Christmas Is a Duke The Debutante Is Mine (Season's Original, #1) This Earl is on Fire (Season's Original #2) When a Marquess Loves a Woman (Season's Original #3)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

2016 TBR CHALLENGE REVIEW: "The Secret Mistress" by Mary Balogh

The Secret Mistress (Mistress Trilogy #3)TITLE: The Secret Mistress
AUTHOR(S): Mary Balogh
SERIES: Mistress Trilogy #3

Historical Romance
PUBLISHER: Delacorte Press
FORMAT: Hardcover
SOURCE: Purchased
LENGTH: 320 pages
DATE READ: November 2016

2016 Pick Your Genre Reading Challenge


TROPES: Opposites Attract, Unrequited Love, House Party


While Lady Angeline Dudley’s pedigree dictates that she must land a titled gentleman, the irrepressible beauty secretly longs for a simple, ordinary suitor. No wild rakes like the men of her family, just a kind heart and good nature. So when Edward Ailsbury, the new Earl of Heyward, rescues her with unmatched civility from the advances of a scoundrel, Angeline thinks that she has found her true love. Persuading the earl is another matter entirely.

Edward has his future neatly mapped out. He hopes to wed his steadfast companion, a woman who shares his values of loyalty, respect, and decorum. But arriving in London to take his seat in the House of Lords, he is derailed by Angeline, an exquisite bird of paradise seemingly devoted to sending his predictable life into chaos.

From the brilliant hues of her fashion to her hoydenish antics, Angeline is the last woman on earth for Edward. And yet a stolen kiss in the moonlight awakens something deep and primal within him. Naturally, being a gentleman, he does the right thing after compromising a lady: He offers marriage.

Angeline knows that Edward’s proposal is born of duty, not love. But denying something so provocative and passionate is easier said than done. Deep down, Angeline believes that Edward’s dedication to convention will melt behind closed doors, where sensuality and seduction play wicked games. For a proper wife by day can become a husband’s secret mistress by night, when delicious desire rules. 

Why I Read It...

The main reason that I read this was to fulfill the November Theme -- Historical for the 2016 TBR Challenge hosted by Wendy the Super Librarian.  I read (and enjoyed) the first two Mistress books during my original Mary Balogh binge years ago.  I was always intrigued by the scenes featuring the brothers' younger sister and her straitlaced husband.  They seemed so different yet so in love that I knew I wanted their story.  Thankfully, Balogh decided to write Angeline and Edward's romance and I bought it as soon as it was released.  Then it languished on my shelf until I dug it out this month.

What I Liked About It...

1. Angeline Dudley is a fantastic heroine.  At first, she comes across as a spoiled, naive debutante, but readers quickly learn that her chattiness is used to deflect from the fact that she is lonely and has low self-esteem.  She has a great sense of humor that heavily relies on self-deprecation which I enjoyed, but also found heartbreaking at times.  I really loved watching Angeline become more confident in herself as the book progressed.

2. I have a huge soft spot for stoic heroes and Edward ticked all the boxes for me.  He grew up in the shadows of his charming older brother and felt like he had to be the perfect child and later gentleman to be worthy of any affection.  After inheriting a title upon his brother's death, he became more determined to do everything perfectly including marriage.  I loved watching Edward navigate through Society with his unique point of view.  I also enjoyed getting to see beyond his strait-laced exterior to the passionate man inside.

3. Angeline and Edward's romance was on the slower side despite the fact that Angeline fell for Edward the moment she saw him.  Their early friendship was really sweet to see and I enjoyed reading their conversations.  I liked how different they were and how those differences helped them move towards happiness.  Angeline needed Edward's stability and Edward needed Angeline's fun-loving personality.  They just worked so well together and I really believed in their happy ending.

4. I enjoy secondary romances, but only if they enhance the main story.  The side story in The Secret Mistress was very sweet and worked perfectly to balance out Angeline and Edward's romance.  I don't want to go into much detail about it because part of the fun was being surprised with the identity of the side couple.  But, I loved every scene between them and would love to read a novella about them in the future.

5. Family is a super important theme in this book...well, actually this whole series.  Angeline's brothers get their stories told in More Than a Mistress and No Man's Mistress so it was nice to read about how they acted before becoming heroes.  The relationship between Angeline, Ferdinand, and Jocelyn is really well-written and a driving force for the series.  I also liked the little tidbits we got about Edward's meddling, but well-meaning relatives.  Every family scene felt real and worked to help develop the overall story.

What I Disliked About It...

1. The pacing at the beginning was a little slow.  It did a good job of introducing readers to the characters, but I did struggle to get interested for the first 100 pages.  Once the Season got started, I was all in on this romance.  I just wish it had grabbed me earlier.

Would I Recommend It...

I would absolutely recommend this book to readers who like gentle, character-driven romances with likable people.  Mary Balogh has a very distinct writing style and it just works for me on so many levels.  I also think this story could easily be read as a stand-alone due to the fact that it is actually a prequel to the first two Mistress books despite it being labeled as number three in the trilogy.


More Than a Mistress (Mistress Trilogy #1) No Man's Mistress (Mistress Trilogy #2) The Secret Mistress (Mistress Trilogy #3) Now a Bride (Mistress Trilogy #2.5)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Movie Freebie -- My All-Time Favorites

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

I love movies, but I don't talk about them much on the blog.  So, for this week, I decided to focus on my all-time favorites.  Enjoy!

The Cutting Edge Poster
1. The Cutting Edge
I love sports romances and this movie is probably the main reason why.

Bridget Jones's Diary Poster
2. Bridget Jones's Diary
It just makes me smile, no matter what.

Beauty and the Beast Poster
3. Beauty and the Beast
My all-time favorite Disney movie.  I can't wait for the live-action version!

Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back Poster
4. Empire Strikes Back
Leia kicks so much ass in this one plus the Big Reveal.

Spirited Away Poster
5. Spirited Away
Beautifully shot and a great character study.

Singin' in the Rain Poster
6. Singin' in the Rain
Great music, funny characters, sweet romance.  This has it all!

Monty Python and the Holy Grail Poster
7. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
I love smart humor and the gentlemen of Monty Python are the best at it.

Mad Max: Fury Road Poster
8. Mad Max: Fury Road
My favorite movie of 2015.  I loved the action, the amazing heroines, and the cinematography.

Miss Congeniality Poster
9. Miss Congeniality
Sandra Bullock is one of my favorite actresses and this is my favorite of her movies.

The Princess Bride Poster
10. The Princess Bride
A classic that has really stood the test of time.

Friday, November 11, 2016

REVIEW: "Baron" by Joanna Shupe

Baron (The Knickerbocker Club, #2)
TITLE: Baron
AUTHOR(S): Joanna Shupe
SERIES: Knickerbocker Club #2

GENRE: Historical Romance
PUBLICATION DATE: October 25, 2016
SOURCE: Netgalley
LENGTH: 352 pages
DATE READ: October 2016

READING CHALLENGES: 2016 Pick Your Genre Reading Challenge

CHARACTER ARCHETYPES: Alpha Hero, Con Artist Heroine

TROPES: Class Differences, Enemies to Lovers


Born into one of New York’s most respected families, William Sloane is a railroad baron who has all the right friends in all the right places. But no matter how much success he achieves, he always wants more. Having secured his place atop the city’s highest echelons of society, he’s now setting his sights on a political run. Nothing can distract him from his next pursuit—except, perhaps, the enchanting con artist he never saw coming . . .
Ava Jones has eked out a living the only way she knows how. As “Madame Zolikoff,” she hoodwinks gullible audiences into believing she can communicate with the spirit world. But her carefully crafted persona is nearly destroyed when Will Sloane walks into her life—and lays bare her latest scheme. The charlatan is certain she can seduce the handsome millionaire into keeping her secret and using her skills for his campaign—unless he’s the one who’s already put a spell on her . . .

Why I Read It...

Class differences are always going to make me want to read a book plus I love the Gilded Age setting of the Knickerbocker Club series.  I also enjoy Joanna Shupe's penchant for reforming bad boy heroes and was intrigued by the fact that the heroine earns money by acting as a medium for the upper echelon of New York society.

What I Liked About It...

1.The heroine, Ava, was just fantastic!  I loved her ambition and determination to keep her family safe, no matter what.  I thought her ways of "conning" the audience were very clever and showed a real observant mind.  I also liked that she was willing to listen to differing opinions regarding her chosen profession while also not letting others walk all over her.

2. Shupe has developed a reputation (at least for me) of reforming bad boys so I had high expectations for the development of Will Sloane.  While reading Magnate, I admired his devotion to his younger sister despite the fact that he was an ass the rest of the time.  Will had a rough childhood, even though it seemed charmed on the outside, and he was dealing with linger issues the best he could.  I liked the fact that he was a genuinely good person underneath his arrogant rich guy persona and his relationship with Ava allowed him to be more comfortable letting that show.

3. Ava and Will's romance was full of chemistry.  They clicked from their very first meeting and the continuous banter just amped up the tension.  And, once they crossed that bridge, there was no looking back.  I really liked the way that the steaminess of their physical relationship balanced with the growing emotional feelings they had towards one another.  I also felt like they helped each other learn how to be a better person which I enjoyed.

4. Family was a big theme in this book and I thought the depiction of both Ava and Will's siblings to be well-done.  Each of them were fully realized characters and had important roles to play in the overall story.  Ava's siblings were key to showing why she kept up with her Madam Zolikoff persona and Will's sister helped bring out his softer side before the romance really got going.

5. Like with Tycoon and Magnate, I thoroughly enjoyed the setting.  It feels so fresh after I have read so many Regency-era romances to have something slightly more modern and in a city that I actually have visited.  I also liked the little historical details that the author threw in.  This book specifically deals with the corrupt political scene in New York at the time with Tammany Hall and how people (such as the hero) tried to combat it.

What I Disliked About It...

1. The pacing of the romance felt a bit off towards the end, but that is a minor quibble.

Would I Recommend It...

I would absolutely recommend this book to readers who want a different historical setting and liked to read about arrogant rich guys falling in love with their polar opposite.  The heroine is smart, feisty, and makes me want to be her friend.  I love this series and can't wait for the next installment.

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


Tycoon (The Knickerbocker Club, #0.5) Magnate (The Knickerbocker Club, #1) Baron (The Knickerbocker Club, #2) Mogul (The Knickerbocker Club, #3)

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books I've Recently Added To My To-Read List

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

The Beast of Clan Kincaid (Highland Warrior #1)
1. The Beast of Clan Kincaid by Lily Blackwood (historical romance)

A Taste of Blood Wine (Blood Wine, #1)
2. A Taste of Blood Wine by Freda Warrington (historical-paranormal romance)

The Infamous Miss Rodriguez ( Ciudad Real, 0.5)
3. The Infamous Miss Rodriguez (Ciudad Real #0.5) by Lydia San Andres (historical romance)

The Underground Railroad
4. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (alternate history)

His Royal Secret (His Royal Secret, #1)
5. His Royal Secret (His Royal Secret #1) by Lilah Pace (contemporary romance -- M/M)

The Leopard King (Ars Numina, #1)
6. The Leopard King (Ars Numina #1) by Ann Aguirre (paranormal romance)

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1)
7. The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1) by N.K. Jemisin (fantasy)

The Restorer (Graveyard Queen, #1)
8. The Restorer (Graveyard Queen #1) by Amanda Stevens (urban fantasy)

Mr. President (White House, #1)
9. Mr. President (White House #1) by Katy Evans (contemporary romance)

Royally Screwed (Royally, #1)
10. Royally Screwed (Royally #1) by Emma Chase (contemporary romance)

Thursday, November 3, 2016

REVIEW: "A Raven's Heart" by K.C. Bateman

A Raven's Heart
TITLE: A Raven's Heart
AUTHOR(S): K.C. Bateman
SERIES: Secrets and Spies #2

GENRE: Historical Romance
PUBLISHER: Loveswept
PUBLICATION DATE: October 18, 2016
SOURCE: Netgalley
LENGTH: 266 pages
DATE READ: October 2016

READING CHALLENGES: 2016 Pick Your Genre Reading Challenge

CHARACTER ARCHETYPES: Bluestocking Heroine, Spy Hero

TROPES: Childhood Friends, Unrequited Love, Road Romance


August 1815. The war with France is officially over, Napoleon’s an exile on St Helena, but Europe is still a very dangerous place to be.
Kidnapped and held for ransom at nineteen, ducal heir William Ravenwood knows the only person he can rely on is himself. Now part of a spy ring that includes his friends Nicolas and Richard Hampden, he’s the smuggler known as The Raven, a ruthless agent who specializes in rescuing hostages and prisoners of war from captivity.
Raven longs to discover the fate of his colleague, Christopher ‘Kit’ Carlisle, who’s been missing, presumed dead, for over two years. He’s also equally determined to stay away from the one thing he knows is dangerous to his health – the bane of his life, his best friends’ infuriating and provocative little sister, Heloise.
Heloise is a brilliant code breaker, one of the English government’s most valuable assets. She’s also loved Raven for years, but considering that he rejected her at sixteen, before her face was scarred rescuing her brother from an icy river, she’s certain he doesn’t want her now, despite his outrageous flirting.
But when Heloise decodes a message that proves Kit is alive and a prisoner in Spain, Raven realizes she’s in grave danger. With French agents determined to silence her, he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her safe – even if that means taking her to Spain with him as an unwilling hostage.
As they face French deserters and Spanish freedom fighters, Raven and Heloise try to ignore the simmering attraction that’s been building between them for eight long years. The differences between them are striking but they’ve always had a strange underlying bond. Heloise might be scarred outwardly, but Raven’s wounds are all on the inside. He knows he’s not worthy of her love—a shadowed Hades pining for sun-kissed Persephone—but he’s not above showing her passion for the short time they’re together.
A master at decoding complex messages, Heloise finds Raven frustratingly hard to read, but as their lives hang in the balance she’s determined to unravel his secrets and unlock his dark, elusive heart…

Why I Read It...

I adored the first book in the series, To Steal a Heart.  Heloise and Raven were very minor characters in that book, but it was obvious that their story would be epic.  I also was very lucky to receive a review copy from Loveswept via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

What I Liked About It...

1. Heloise was fantastic.  She was smart, generous, and willing to learn from her mistakes.  I just loved the whole concept of her being a code breaker and liked the little tidbits the author threw in about that world.  I also appreciated Heloise's determination to live life the way she thought best rather than bowing to society's pressures.

2. Raven was a great hero for Heloise.  His past and profession forced him to make difficult choices, but he was still a good person.  I always have a soft spot for heroes who are in an unrequited love situation with the heroine.  He respected Heloise's intellect and loved her for the amazing person that she was.  I also liked the way he grew to have more confidence in his worth as a person.

3. Spies are not normally my cup of tea in historical romance, but I enjoyed the way K.C. Bateman handled that element.  The plot was fast-paced and full of action.  I liked the way the settings changed and allowed me to learn more about the time immediately after the end of the Napoleonic wars. 

4. I have always been interested in the Hades/Persephone myth and thought this was a good retelling.  I appreciated the tweaks that the author made to the original story such as the "kidnapping" and the pomegranate seeds.  Anyone who is familiar with the myth will recognize the little details the author threw in, but also will probably enjoy the updates she made.

What I Disliked About It...

1. Raven had a few annoying moments where he kept harping on the fact that he believed he was unworthy of Heloise.  I understood why he felt that way, but it just kept being brought up even when it should have been obvious to him that Heloise didn't care.

Would I Recommend It...

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am so happy that I discovered K.C. Bateman's historicals.  Her characters, plots, and writing style really work for me so I look forward to what she does next.  I definitely recommend this book if you like action and smart as a whip heroines with your romance.

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


To Steal a Heart (Secrets and Spies, #1) A Raven's Heart