Announcement

Feminist Fairy Tale Reviews is currently on hiatus. I hope to return to blogging sooner rather than later.

I will still be posting mini book reviews on Goodreads and talking books on Twitter so feel free to find me there.

Thank you and happy reading1


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Beach Reads


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

For me, beach reads are books that are engrossing and entertaining.  There is no particular genre that I focus on while I'm on vacation.  I just look for books that will grab me from the beginning and not let go until the conclusion.

The Royal We
1. The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (contemporary romance)
An American college student studies abroad in England and falls in love with the crown prince.
  A Summer to Remember (Bedwyn Saga, #.6)
2. A Summer to Remember by Mary Balogh (historical romance)
A sweet and emotional "fake engagement" story between two opposites.

Fallout (Lois Lane, #1)
3. Fallout by Gwenda Bond (YA science fiction)
Lois Lane solving mysteries and causing mischief in high school.

Romancing the Duke (Castles Ever After, #1)
4. Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare (historical romance)
Lighthearted Beauty and the Beast retelling with some wonderful tidbits about fandom culture.

The Martian
5. The Martian by Andy Weir (science fiction)
Funny and absorbing look at an astronaut trying to survive on Mars alone.

Kiss of Steel (London Steampunk, #1)
6. Kiss of Steel by Bec McMaster (steampunk romance)
Probably the darkest book on this list, but it is enthralling and extremely romantic.

The Shattered Court (The Four Arts, #1)
7. The Shattered Court by M.J. Scott (fantasy romance)
The fantasy world is wonderfully detailed and the romance is subtle, yet beautiful.

Forever Your Earl (The Wicked Quills of London, #1)
8. Forever Your Earl by Eva Leigh (historical romance)
Sassy writer heroine and the scandalous lord she follows around for her stories.

Act Like It
9. Act Like It by Lucy Parker (contemporary romance)
Two stage actors embark on a fake relationship for the press and end up falling in love for real.

This Is What Happy Looks Like (This is What Happy Looks Like, #1)
10. This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith (YA contemporary)
Light and cute YA romance between a teen idol and the small town girl who sees his true self.

Monday, May 30, 2016

MINI-REVIEWS: April/May 2016


Hamilton: The RevolutionHamilton: The Revolution by Jeremy McCarter and Lin-Manuel Miranda
Nonfiction
Grand Central Publishing -- April 12, 2016

RATING: 5 STARS
Lin-Manuel Miranda's groundbreaking musical Hamilton is as revolutionary as its subject, the poor kid from the Caribbean who fought the British, defended the Constitution, and helped to found the United States. Fusing hip-hop, pop, R&B, and the best traditions of theater, this once-in-a-generation show broadens the sound of Broadway, reveals the storytelling power of rap, and claims our country's origins for a diverse new generation.
HAMILTON: THE REVOLUTION gives readers an unprecedented view of both revolutions, from the only two writers able to provide it. Miranda, along with Jeremy McCarter, a cultural critic and theater artist who was involved in the project from its earliest stages--"since before this was even a show," according to Miranda--traces its development from an improbable perfor­mance at the White House to its landmark opening night on Broadway six years later. In addition, Miranda has written more than 200 funny, revealing footnotes for his award-winning libretto, the full text of which is published here.
Their account features photos by the renowned Frank Ockenfels and veteran Broadway photographer, Joan Marcus; exclusive looks at notebooks and emails; interviews with Questlove, Stephen Sond­heim, leading political commentators, and more than 50 people involved with the production; and multiple appearances by Presi­dent Obama himself. The book does more than tell the surprising story of how a Broadway musical became a national phenomenon: It demonstrates that America has always been renewed by the brash upstarts and brilliant outsiders, the men and women who don't throw away their shot.
Like many people, I am obsessed with the musical Hamilton.  I listen to the soundtrack all the time and am very close to having to completely memorized.  I also have a thing for narratives about how things are made especially works of art.  So, this account of the creation and implementation of the musical is right up my alley.  It was just fascinating for a process nerd like me to see it transition from a random idea to a full-blown pop culture phenomenon.  I also adored the lyric annotations from Lin-Manuel Miranda which ranged from funny to poignant to just plain weird.  If you are a fan of this show at all, I highly recommend Hamilton: The Revolution.

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Diary of an Accidental Wallflower (Seduction Diaries, #1)Diary of an Accidental Wallflower (Seduction Diaries #1) by Jennifer McQuiston
Historical Romance
Avon -- February 24, 2015

RATING: 4 STARS
Pretty and popular, Miss Clare Westmore knows exactly what (or rather, who) she wants: the next Duke of Harrington. But when she twists her ankle on the eve of the Season’s most touted event, Clare is left standing in the wallflower line watching her best friend dance away with her duke.
Dr. Daniel Merial is tempted to deliver more than a diagnosis to London's most unlikely wallflower, but he doesn’t have time for distractions, even one so delectable. Besides, she's clearly got her sights on more promising prey. So why can’t he stop thinking about her?
All Clare wants to do is return to the dance floor. But as her former friends try to knock her permanently out of place, she realizes with horror she is falling for her doctor instead of her duke. When her ankle finally heals and she faces her old life again, will she throw herself back into the game?
Or will her time in the wallflower line have given her a glimpse of who she was really meant to be?
This was an adorable and surprisingly poignant read.  Clare is part of a Regency-era "mean girl" clique though her true personality doesn't really go with their philosophy.  Daniel is a doctor who does not feel comfortable in a fancy ballroom, but is determined to make sure Clare does not injure herself further.  They have immediate chemistry when they first meet though it is their interactions while Clare is recovering that really develop the relationship.  I loved the way that Clare was able to let her true self shine around Daniel and that the author gave a legitimate reason for her earlier actions.  I am always interested in historical romance heroes who work for a living and Daniel was a great example of that archetype.  I also enjoyed the tidbits about Clare's siblings who will be focused on in the rest of the trilogy. 

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Bound by Flames (Night Prince, #3)Bound By Flames (Night Prince #3) by Jeaniene Frost
Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Avon -- January 27, 2015

RATING: 3.5 STARS
Leila’s years on the carnie circuit were certainly an education. What she didn’t learn: how to be a vampire, or how to be married to the most famous vampire of them all. Adjusting to both has Leila teetering on a knife edge between passion and peril, and now the real danger is about to begin…

Vlad must battle with a centuries-old enemy whose reach stretches across continents and whose strength equals his own. It isn’t like Vlad to feel fear, but he does…for Leila, because his enemy knows she is Vlad’s greatest weakness. As friend and foe alike align against him—and his overprotectiveness drives Leila away—Vlad’s love for his new bride could be the very thing that dooms them both…
I had high expectations for this book because I love Jeaniene Frost's writing and I always want more Vlad in my life.  Bound by Flames takes place shortly after Vlad and Leila's wedding and forces the newlyweds to deal with some relationship issues while also dealing with outside threats.  Leila has really grown as a character and this book lets her shine.  She is a fascinating mix of strength and vulnerability who has not lost her humanity even after being transformed into a vampire.  My biggest issue with this book (sadly) was Vlad.  I don't mind an overprotective, alpha hero, but he crossed the line into asshole territory quite a few times.  His fear of losing Leila took over his personality and turned him into a character I didn't care much for.  There was an decent amount of groveling towards the end, but I don't think it was enough though I am still going to read the series conclusion when it is released. 


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Z (Demonica, #11.7)Z (Demonica #11.7) by Larissa Ione
Paranormal Romance
Evil Eye Concepts -- April 26, 2016

RATING: 3.25 STARS
Zhubaal, fallen angel assistant to the Grim Reaper, has spent decades searching for the angel he loved and lost nearly a century ago. Not even her death can keep him from trying to find her, not when he knows she’s been given a second chance at life in a new body. But as time passes, he’s losing hope, and he wonders how much longer he can hold to the oath he swore to her so long ago…
As an emim, the wingless offspring of two fallen angels, Vex has always felt like a second-class citizen. But if she manages to secure a deal with the Grim Reaper — by any means necessary — she will have earned her place in the world. The only obstacle in the way of her plan is a sexy hardass called Z, who seems determined to thwart her at every turn. Soon it becomes clear that they have a powerful connection rooted in the past…but can any vow stand the test of time?
This is another novella in the expansive and detailed Demonica world that features angels, demons, vampires, and a multitude of other supernatural creatures.  Zhubaal has been a prominent figure in the stories that take place in the underworld and this story allows him to find the woman he has been looking for after centuries apart.  I absolutely loved Vex and wanted to best for her.  This author really excels at providing strong heroines who don't take crap from anyone.  Zhubaal was decent, but I did get annoyed with his issues and the anger that he sometimes took out on Vex.  I will admit that I am not the biggest fan of fated mates stories though this series has had quite a few that I have enjoyed.  I just had trouble truly believing that these two could be happy together forever.  I think Ione is really good at novellas, but this is an incidence where I think the love story would have benefited from more pages to develop naturally.

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Lessons In Pleasure
Lessons in Pleasure by Victoria Dahl
Historical Romance
Lyrical Press -- May 10, 2016

RATING: 3.25 STARS

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…
This was a perfectly decent novella about a married couple trying to deal with issues in the bedroom.  I thought both characters were likable and I wanted them to be happy.  I did find Sarah to be too naive at times though I understood what the author was doing with her character.  I did expect, based on the topic, for the bedroom scenes to be steamier.  I also would like to have seen more character development.  But, this was an entertaining "slice of life" story that was a quick and easy read.

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

Friday, May 27, 2016

REVIEW: "Archangel's Consort" by Nalini Singh


Archangel's Consort  (Guild Hunter, #3)
(Guild Hunter #3)

Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Berkley -- January 25, 2011
Ebook, 377 pages
Read in April 2016
Purchased

Goodreads -- Author Website

RATING: 4.25 STARS

SUMMARY
Vampire hunter Elena Deveraux and her lover, the lethally beautiful archangel Raphael, have returned home to New York only to face an uncompromising new evil…

A vampire has attacked a girls’ school—the assault one of sheer, vicious madness—and it is only the first act. Rampant bloodlust takes vampire after vampire, threatening to make the streets run with blood. Then Raphael himself begins to show signs of an uncontrolled rage, as inexplicable storms darken the city skyline and the earth itself shudders. The omens are suddenly terrifyingly clear.

An ancient and malevolent immortal is rising. The violent winds whisper her name: Caliane. She has returned to reclaim her son, Raphael. Only one thing stands in her way: Elena, the consort who must be destroyed…


THEMES AND TROPES
Alternate Universe, Alpha Hero, Kick-Ass Heroine, Established Couple

MY THOUGHTS 
Warning!  This review contains minor spoilers for earlier books in the Guild Hunter series.

Archangel's Consort is book three in the creative and dark Guild Hunter series which takes place in an alternate universe where angels rule a world that is also inhabited by vampires and humans.  Elena Deveraux is a powerful vampire hunter who becomes the first human known to be Made into an angel and this book shows what happens when she returns to New York and becomes quite a sensation.  Her homecoming is complicated by a series of events that signal something ancient is awakening and she must try to figure out a plan with her archangel lover, Raphael.

Elena and Raphael are two of the most interesting characters I've read about in a paranormal series.  She is in an interesting position as she transitions to life as an immortal while also retaining her vampire hunter skills.  I love that she continues to work with Guild since that is such a key part of her personality.  There is also an interesting look at what it is like to be newly immortal in this world.  Elena is difficult to kill, but she is still young and unskilled when it comes to most of the other angels.  She is not used to being considered so weak among her peers and that causes some intriguing confrontations.

Raphael, for his part, is like the king of alpha heroes.  He is not warm and fuzzy even around his beloved Elena.  I don't usually have a thing for super-alphas, but his determination and ruthlessness has wormed its way into my heart.  What makes him stand out among other alphas is that his position in the world is firmly established and the author makes sure readers understand why he has to act the way that he does.

They are a fascinating couple because of their strong personalities and stubbornness.  But, there is something that happens when they are together that enhances both of them.  Elena has found someone who cares for every aspect of her though she does chaff at being overprotected.  I think Raphael's reaction to the relationship is the most interesting because he is used to being so strong all the time that he is still awkward about letting someone see him at his weakest.  But, Elena provides him with a safe place to be someone other than the ruler of North America and that is not something he is willing to give up.

I also enjoyed the way that Nalini Singh utilizes the large cast of characters she is developing in this world.  Readers continue to learn more about (and fall in love with) Raphael's Seven, a group of vampires and angels who are his main advisers and friends.  My particular favorite of these guys is the beautiful, but powerful Ilium (aka Bluebell).  All of the Seven have intriguing back stories and I look forward to seeing them in their own books.  Readers also get to see some fun scenes with Elena and her fellow Guild Hunters.  Sara, Ashwini, and Ransom are just as intriguing as Raphael's Seven and I love every moment I get to spend with them.

I continue to be blown away by the creativity that Nalini Singh shows with this series.  The world is fully realized and has rules that are strictly followed.  The relationship between angels, vampires, and humans is complicated and Elena's transition has thrown things for a loop.  I appreciate the way that the violence of this world is used to showcase the power struggles and the importance of pure trust/friendship.  This series is addicting and I can't to read more!


FAVORITE QUOTE
For the first time in forever, he was stunned to silence. Not by her words, but by the tenderness in her hands, the worry in her eyes. He was an archangel. He’d been wounded far, far worse and shrugged it off. But then, there had been no woman with sun kissed by the sunset and eyes of storm gray to tear into him for daring to get himself hurt.
READING CHALLENGES
2016 Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy Reading Challenge
2016 Spooks, Howls, and Fangs Reading Challenge

BOOKS IN THE SERIES

Angels' Blood (Guild Hunter, #1) Archangel's Kiss (Guild Hunter, #2) Archangel's Consort  (Guild Hunter, #3) Archangel's Blade (Guild Hunter, #4) Archangel's Storm (Guild Hunter, #5) Archangel's Legion (Guild Hunter, #6) Archangel's Shadows (Guild Hunter, #7) Archangel's Enigma (Guild Hunter, #8)

Thursday, May 26, 2016

UPCOMING RELEASES: June 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.

Allegiance of Honor (Psy-Changeling #15)
Allegiance of Honor (Psy-Changeling #15) by Nalini Singh (6/14)
Paranormal Romance

The Psy-Changeling world has undergone a staggering transformation and now stands at a crossroads. The Trinity Accord promises a new era of cooperation between disparate races and groups. It is a beacon of hope held together by many hands: Old enemies. New allies. Wary loners.
But a century of distrust and suspicion can’t be so easily forgotten and threatens to shatter Trinity from within at any moment. As rival members vie for dominance, chaos and evil gather in the shadows and a kidnapped woman’s cry for help washes up in San Francisco, while the Consortium turns its murderous gaze toward a child who is the embodiment of change, of love, of piercing hope: A child who is both Psy…and changeling.
To find the lost, protect the vulnerable—and save Trinity—no one can stand alone. This is a time of loyalty across divisions, of bonds woven into the heart and the soul, of heroes known and unknown standing back to back and holding the line. But is an allegiance of honor even possible with traitors lurking in their midst?

Big Vamp on Campus (Half-Moon Hollow, #5.5)
Big Vamp on Campus (Half-Moon Hollow #5.5) by Molly Harper (6/7)
Paranormal Romance
You've asked for years when Ophelia and Jamie would get their own story and now it's here! How will Ophelia adjust to living in a dorm room now that she has been banished from the Council and forced to matriculate at college with Jamie? Communal showers! Horrible, pretentious roommates! Humans who try to be FRIENDS! The horror!

Forevermore
Forevermore (Darkest London #7) by Kristen Callihan (6/28)
Historical/Paranormal Romance
Miss Layla Starling, the young, beautiful, and extremely wealthy heiress, is the talk of London. Until now, she's managed to evade the marriage noose. Despite the fact that she is unfortunately American, she's received a staggering number of offers. And turned down every one.
St. John Evernight does not want to admit the relief he feels every time he hears that she has rejected one of her suitors. Which is unfair of him. Layla deserves to be happy. But he can not offer her happiness. He will never be normal, never be anything but a freak in her world. So St. John resolves to keep his distance, until he is recruited by the Society for the Suppression of Supernaturals to guard Layla. For she is in grave danger, and he is about to learn the full extent of his powers.


Bittersweet (True North, #1)
Bittersweet (True North #1) by Sarina Bowen (6/14)
Contemporary Romance
If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the orchard.
The last person Griffin Shipley expects to find stuck in a ditch on his Vermont country road is his ex-hookup. Five years ago they’d shared a couple of steamy nights together. But that was a lifetime ago.At twenty-seven, Griff is now the accidental patriarch of his family farm. Even his enormous shoulders feel the strain of supporting his mother, three siblings and a dotty grandfather. He doesn’t have time for the sorority girl who’s shown up expecting to buy his harvest at half price.  
Vermont was never in Audrey Kidder’s travel plans. Neither was Griff Shipley. But she needs a second chance with the restaurant conglomerate employing her. Okay—a fifth chance. And no self-righteous lumbersexual farmer will stand in her way.  They’re adversaries. They want entirely different things from life. Too bad their sexual chemistry is as hot as Audrey’s top secret enchilada sauce, and then some.

Idol (VIP, #1)
Idol (VIP #1) by Kristen Callihan (6/7)
Contemporary Romance
Libby
I found Killian drunk and sprawled out on my lawn like some lost prince. With the face of a god and the arrogance to match, the pest won’t leave. Sexy, charming, and just a little bit dirty, he’s slowly wearing me down, making me crave more.
He could be mine if I dare to claim him. Problem is, the world thinks he’s theirs. How do you keep an idol when everyone is intent on taking him away?
Killian
As lead singer for the biggest rock band in the world, I lived a life of dreams. It all fell apart with one fateful decision. Now everything is in shambles.
Until Liberty. She’s grouchy, a recluse—and kind of cute. Scratch that. When I get my hands on her, she is scorching hot and more addictive than all the fans who’ve screamed my name.
The world is clamoring for me to get back on stage, but I’m not willing to leave her. I’ve got to find away to coax the hermit from her shell and keep her with me. Because, with Libby, everything has changed. Everything.

Beauty and the Highland Beast (A Highland Fairy Tale, #1)
Beauty and the Highland Beast (A Highland Fairy Tale #1) by Lecia Cornwall (6/21)
Historical Romance
Powerful and dangerous highlander Dair Sinclair was once the favored son of his clan, The Sinclairs of Carraig Brigh. With Dair at the helm, Sinclair ships circled the globe bringing home incredible fortune. Until one deadly mission when Daire is captured, tortured and is unable to save his young cousin. He returns home breaking under the weight of his guilt and becomes known as the Madman of Carraig Brigh.
When a pagan healer predicts that only a virgin bride can heal his son’s body and mind, Daire’s father sets off to find the perfect wife for his son. At the castle of the fearsome McLeods, he meets lovely and kind Fia MacLeod.
Although Daire does his best to frighten Fia, she sees the man underneath the damage and uses her charm and special gifts to heal his mind and heart. Will Daire let Fia love him or is he cursed with madness forever?

Chasing Lady Amelia (Keeping Up with the Cavendishes, #2)
Chasing Lady Amelia (Cavendish #2) by Maya Rodale (6/28)
Historical Romance
Terribly ImproperLady Amelia is fed up with being a proper lady and wishes to explore London, so one night she escapes . . . and finds herself in the company of one Alistair Finlay-Jones. He’s been ordered by his uncle to wed one of the American girls. How lucky, then, that one of them stumbles right into his arms!
Totally ScandalousAlistair and Amelia have one perfect day to explore London, from Astley’s Amphitheater to Vauxhall Gardens. Inevitably they end up falling in love and making love. If anyone finds out, she will be ruined, but he will win everything he’s ever wanted.
Very RomanticWhen Amelia finds out Alistair has been ordered to marry her, he must woo her and win back the angry American girl. But with the threat of scandals, plural, looming . . . will he ever catch up to the woman he loves?

Damned If You Do
Damned If You Do by Marie Sexton (6/14)
Paranormal Romance -- M/M
Soul acquisition is a drag, but if Abaddon doesn’t catch up on his quota, he could be demoted to scooping poop for the Hounds of Hell. With a deadline hanging over him, he heads for the Bible Belt, looking for the perfect combination of sweetness and challenge.
Seth is a blind musician, part of a traveling tent revival. He’s cute, mystically talented, and quotes the Bible at every turn. His soul is pure enough to fill Abaddon’s quota for months to come, and Abaddon is determined to claim it.
The problem? There’s the revival foreman who watches Abaddon’s every move. Then there’s the mystery of Seth’s many unusual talents. Lastly, there’s Abaddon himself. He’s beginning to like Seth a bit too much. Maybe Seth deserves something better than damnation.
But Hell’s agenda isn’t negotiable, and time is running out. If Abaddon doesn’t play his cards right, he could condemn both of them to the worst fate of all—an eternity apart.

Once a Soldier  (Rogues Redeemed, #1)
Once a Soldier (Rogues Redeemed #1) by Mary Jo Putney (6/28)
Historical Romance
As heir to a title and great wealth, Will Masterson should have stayed home and tended his responsibilities. Instead he went to war. Now, after perilous years fighting the French, he intends his current mission to be his last. But all his plans are forgotten when he arrives in the small mountain stronghold of San Gabriel and meets her.

Knowing herself to be too tall, strong, and unconventional to appeal to a man, Athena Markham has always gloried in her independence. But for the first time in her life, she finds a man who might be her match.

Two of a kind, too brave for their own good, Athena and Will vow to do whatever it takes to vanquish San Gabriel's enemies. For neither will back down from death, and only together can they find happiness and a love deeper than any they'd dared imagine...

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

REVIEW: "Duke of Sin" by Elizabeth Hoyt


Duke of Sin (Maiden Lane, #10)
(Maiden Lane #10)

Historical Romance (Georgian England)
Grand Central Publishing -- May 31, 2016
eARC, 364 pages
Read in April 2016
Netgalley

Goodreads -- Author Website

RATING: 4.5 STARS

SUMMARY
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 . . .


THEMES AND TROPES
Reformed Villain, Bad Boy, Class Differences, Opposites Attract, Employer/Employee Romance

MY THOUGHTS 
I received an eARC of this book from Grand Central Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The reformed villain trope is one that I enjoy, but it is difficult to find one that is done right.  Character development is key in these stories as the author must, first, establish the person in question as a villain through their actions...often in previous books in a series.  Then, once they take center stage, they must provide opportunities for the character to show that they have "reformed" while not acting like a completely different person.

Valentine, Duke of Montgomery, was established as a villainous character in the Maiden Lane series after trying to kidnap Lady Phoebe in Dearest Rogue.  Despite his immoral actions, I (and many other readers) were intrigued by him and wanted to know more about him.  I wasn't sure if he was redeemable and these hesitations existed even when I started Duke of Sin.  But, I am happy to say that Elizabeth Hoyt portrays his transformation wonderfully as well as giving us one of the best heroines of the series so far in Bridget.

Bridget Crumb is the illegitimate daughter of a lady and has been charged with trying to remove items that are causing her mother to be blackmailed by Valentine.  In order to accomplish her goal, Bridget positions herself as his housekeeper so that she may have full run of his household.  What she does not expect is for him to return from exile and begins causing chaos once again.  She also doesn't expect to start interacting with him on a more intimate level that threatens her sanity and her heart.

There is so much that I loved about this book.  Both Valentine and Bridget are fully developed characters who have flaws and virtues that are shown through their actions.  Like with most bad boys in romance, Valentine has a dark past that affects his choices and he has chosen to use his power to always be in control of himself and as many people as possible.  He finds, in Bridget, a woman who is not intimidated by his manipulative nature and can match him toe to toe when it comes to games of wit.  Her greatest virtue is her determination even when she finds herself in a tight spot which makes her admirable to Valentine and the reader.

Besides the love story between Valentine and Bridget, there are a few subplots which provide obstacles to their happiness.  There is the matter of Valentine's blackmail attempts of Bridget's mother whose identity will be familiar to long-time readers of the series.  Bridget also finds herself embroiled in an even darker situation when shadows from Valentine's past reappear and fix their eyes on her.  These past villains have been mentioned in the last few installments and I enjoyed watching them finally get their comeuppance at Valentine and Bridget's hands.

Duke of Sin is part of a long-running series so, as expected, there are many cameos with previous protagonists.  But, I think Elizabeth Hoyt handles these reappearances with a deft hand.  Each returning character is involved for a reason and it is never just to provide readers with a detailed explanation of their happy ending.  I particularly enjoyed the way that Eve, Valentine's sister from Sweetest Scoundrel, and the Huntington family from Wicked Intentions were utilized to further the story.  And, of course, I have to mention the entertaining scenes between Alf, Valentine's errand runner, and the Duke of Kyle who will be featured in the next Maiden Lane book, Duke of Pleasure.

I was nervous about this book, but it has ended up being one of my favorites of the series so far.  Valentine is reformed by the end though he retains the elements that make his character so intriguing.  He is still very recognizable as the manipulative blackmailer in earlier installments just with a softer edge thanks to Bridget.  She managed to wiggle her way into his heart and knows how to keep him honest, but still himself.  I think this book could be read as a stand-alone though I think the fun of Valentine's character journey may be lost a bit without at least reading Dearest Rogue and Sweetest Scoundrel first.

READING CHALLENGES
2016 Historical Romance Reading Challenge

BOOKS IN THE SERIES


Wicked Intentions (Maiden Lane, #1) Notorious Pleasures (Maiden Lane, #2) Scandalous Desires (Maiden Lane, #3) Thief of Shadows (Maiden Lane, #4) Lord of Darkness (Maiden Lane, #5) Duke of Midnight (Maiden Lane, #6) Darling Beast (Maiden Lane, #7) Dearest Rogue (Maiden Lane, #8) Sweetest Scoundrel (Maiden Lane, #9)    
Duke of Sin (Maiden Lane, #10) Duke of Pleasure (Maiden Lane, #11)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books I Feel Differently About After Time Has Passed


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

I thought this would be a hard topic, but, once I really started thinking about it, it pretty much wrote itself.  I find discussions about one's reading evolution fascinating and this was a quick and easy way for me to think about how my tastes have changed over the years.

The Perfect Rake (The Merridew Sisters, #1)
1. The Perfect Rake by Anne Grace (historical romance)
I read this very early on in my historical romance binge and thought it was nice, but boring.  Now I appreciate its beautiful prose and the fact that it twisted tropes around.  I plan on re-reading it very soon and really delving into my changing opinion.

Enchanted (Medieval, #3)
2. Enchanted by Elizabeth Lowell (historical romance)
I still find this medieval love story to be engrossing and romantic, but the hero has some major jerk tendencies.  His mistrust of the heroine is over-the-top and, if I read it for the first time now, I don't think I would care much for him.  But, the nostalgia of how I felt when I first read this book is still there so my feelings about it are complicated.

Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades, #1)
3. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James (contemporary romance)
I read this early on in its popularity and, while I did find issues with the hero and the depiction of BDSM, I did like it.  But, after reading more about BDSM and reading the other installments, I would definitely bring my rating down significantly if I read it again.

Eden Burning
4. Eden Burning by Elizabeth Lowell (contemporary romance)
I discovered this on my mother's bookshelf when I was in middle school and became absorbed in the world.  I especially enjoyed the dance element and the heroine.  But, I re-read this a few years ago and was appalled by the hero and his treatment of the heroine.  He was just horrible and never really groveled enough.

The Devil's Web (Web, #3)
5. Devil's Web by Mary Balogh (historical romance)
I adore Balogh's historicals, but not all of them are hits.  I was really looking forward to this book because the hero and heroine had been circling around each other for the past two installments in the series.  I think I was so happy that they finally got together that I overlooked the significant issues with the story.  A re-read led me to discover major communication problems that could easily have been solved with a single conversation.

Mr. Impossible (Carsington Brothers, #2)
6. Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase (historical romance)
I gorged myself on Loretta Chase's backlist after reading Lord of Scoundrels and I do remember liking this book.  But, when I re-read it last year, I was blown away with the fabulous characterization, detailed setting, and beautiful love story that I don't think I really got on my first read.

Slave to Sensation (Psy-Changeling, #1)
7. Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh (paranormal romance)
I liked this first Psy-Changeling book, but had a hard time getting into it for some reason.  But, now that I am obsessed with the series, I re-read it and understand much more what the author was doing.  It definitely improved upon a second reading and I look forward to seeing that happen with other books in the series.

Lover Reborn (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #10)
8. Lover Reborn by JR Ward (paranormal romance)
I had been waiting for Tohrment's HEA for so long that I don't think I paid much attention to the issues in this book.  I also didn't care for the previous book in the series so the fact that Lover Reborn was better helped hide some problems.  Upon reflection, I can tell that this is when the secondary plotlines really started to take over the primary romance.

Unearthly (Unearthly, #1)
9. Unearthly by Cynthia Hand (YA paranormal)
This was a unique read for me because of the angels aspect so I think that made me enjoy it more than I would nowadays.  My tolerance for love triangles is also much lower which is a big part of this book's romantic plotline.

Hex Hall (Hex Hall, #1)
10. Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins (YA paranormal)
When I read this book, I knew that it was doing something different with its magic school storyline.  But, I really understand how unique it is since I've read more books with similar themes.  The thing that really stands out to me now is the dark humor.