Wednesday, August 31, 2016

REVIEW: "If I Only Had a Duke" by Lenora Bell

If I Only Had a Duke (The Disgraceful Dukes, #2)
TITLE: If I Only Had a Duke
AUTHOR(S): Lenora Bell
SERIES: Disgraceful Dukes #2

GENRE:
Historical Romance -- Regency England
PUBLISHER: Avon
PUBLICATION DATE: August 30, 2016
FORMAT: eARC
SOURCE: Edelweiss
LENGTH: 384 pages
DATE READ: August 2016

READING CHALLENGES:
2016 Pick Your Genre Reading Challenge

THEMES/TROPES:
Enemies to Lovers; Big Secret; Road Romance

RATING: 4.25 STARS

SUMMARY: 

After four failed seasons and a disastrous jilting, Lady Dorothea Beaumont has had more than enough of her family’s scheming. She won’t domesticate a duke, entangle an earl, or vie for a viscount. She will quietly exit to her aunt’s Irish estate for a life of blissful freedom. Until an arrogant, sinfully handsome duke singles her out for a waltz, making Thea the most popular belle of the season.

The duke ruined her plans and he’ll just have to fix them.

Dalton, Duke of Osborne, is far too heartless for debutantes or marriage—he uses dalliances and public spectacle to distract from his real purpose: finding the man who destroyed his family. When his search leads to Ireland, the last thing he needs is the determined, achingly innocent Thea, who arrives in the dead of night demanding he escort her to her aunt. His foolish agreement may prove his undoing. The road to the Emerald Isle is fraught with unforeseen dangers, but the greatest peril of all might just be discovering that he has a heart...and he’s losing it to Thea.
MY THOUGHTS: 

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


I found Lenora Bell's debut, How the Duke Was Won, to be entertaining and had high expectations for the sequel, If I Only Had a Duke.  I was especially to excited to read it when I learned that the heroine would be Lady Dorothea, whom the heroine of book one spent much of the story impersonating.  Though Thea was only in a few scenes in the first book, she made a real impression on me and I knew her story would be fabulous...and it was!

Despite her mother's efforts, Thea has never been a success in the marriage mart.  Thankfully, her real dream is to live with her aunt in Ireland and never attend a Society ball again.  Things get complicated during Thea's last Season when Dalton, the sexy, but cocky Duke of Osborne, decides to dance with her.  This causes Thea to become the belle of the ball...the last thing she wanted.  In retaliation, Thea shows up at Dalton's house and insists that he take her to Ireland so that she can escape her unwanted beaus.  This begins a crazy, entertaining road trip with two stubborn people who might just be perfect for one another if they can stop arguing long enough.

Both Dalton and Thea have their own reasons to travel to Ireland which help develop their individual personalities.  Dalton has carefully cultivated a bad boy reputation in order to allow him the opportunity to search for the man that killed his brother and destroyed his childhood.  I found him fascinating with how different his actual personality was to what he showed Society.  He is a secretly sweet and sensitive guy who was traumatized by his brother's death and is desperate for someone to connect with.

Thea is a smart, feisty heroine who wants more from her life than just marriage and children.  During a trip to Italy, she became obsessed with Artemisia Gentileschi, an Italian Renaissance artist, and she is determined to discover more about her.  I loved reading about her passion for art and how determined she was to take charge of her future.  She was very easy to root for and I was happy that she stayed consistent with how she was described in How the Duke Was Won.

I thought the road trip aspect was the perfect way to show Dalton and Thea falling for one another.  Due to their different personalities, forced intimacy allowed them the time to talk to each other.  They developed a connection early on (despite their best efforts) and this helped them to move past their early arguments.  I also enjoyed the fact that they are both intelligent and aren't afraid to challenge one another.  It was easy to see how they could end up as a happy couple which is really what I want in a romance.

If I Only Had a Duke is a fun, emotional story that grabbed me from the get-go and had me smiling throughout it.  It is easy to get sucked into a book that has such well-drawn characters like Dalton and Thea.  There are a few moments of crazysauce in the plot, but I never felt like they took away from the love story since they worked with the overall tone.  I am definitely excited to see what happens in the third Disgraceful Dukes book next summer.

BOOKS IN THE SERIES:


How the Duke Was Won (The Disgraceful Dukes, #1) If I Only Had a Duke (The Disgraceful Dukes, #2)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Back to School -- Favorite Teacher Characters


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

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, #1)
1. Professor Minerva McGonagall -- Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

Thief of Shadows (Maiden Lane, #4)
2. Winter Makepeace -- Thief of Shadows by Elizabeth Hoyt

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3. Miss Frizzle -- Magic School Bus series by Joanna Cole

Married By Morning (The Hathaways, #4)
4. Catherine Marks -- Married by Morning by Lisa Kleypas

Sideways Stories from Wayside School (Wayside School #1)
5. Mrs. Jewls -- Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar

Angels' Dance (Guild Hunter, #0.4)
6. Jessamy -- Angels' Dance by Nalini Singh

Promises (Coda Books, #1)
7. Jared Thomas -- Promises by Marie Sexton

Lady Be Good (Wynette, Texas #2)
8. Lady Emma Wells-Finch -- Lady Be Good by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

A Lady by Midnight (Spindle Cove, #3)
9. Kate Taylor -- A Lady By Midnight by Tessa Dare

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1)
10. Diana Bishop -- A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Thursday, August 25, 2016

TAKE MY MONEY: September 2016

Where I feature new releases that grabbed my attention in the upcoming month.  As always, release dates are subject to change.  All titles link back to Goodreads.

Magic Binds (Kate Daniels, #9)
Magic Binds (Kate Daniels #9) by Ilona Andrews (urban fantasy) -- September 20th
I finally got caught up on this series and I am dying for this installment.  Kate and Curran are the best!!

Do You Want to Start a Scandal (Spindle Cove, #5)
Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare (historical romance) -- September 27th
Love that Tessa Dare is returning to Spindle Cove!

A Change of Heart
A Change of Heart by Sonali Dev (contemporary romance) -- September 27th
Both of Dev's other contemporaries have been winners to me so I expect nothing less from this book.  Plus that is a gorgeous cover!

Apprentice in Death (In Death, #43)
Apprentice in Death (In Death #43) by JD Robb (romantic suspense) -- September 6th
I feel like I will never catch up with this series, but I love it too much to give up.

Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame
Where Am I Now: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame by Mara Wilson (nonfiction) -- September 13th
Mara Wilson was one of my childhood idols especially with her depiction of Matilda.  Now she is one of my favorite celebrities to follow on Twitter.

Rookie Move (Brooklyn Bruisers, #1)
Rookie Move (Brooklyn Bruisers #1) by Sarina Bowen (NA contemporary) -- September 6th
I love Bowen's writing and am happy to see more of her hockey romances in the hopper.

Blood Red Kiss (Immortals After Dark, #1; MoonBound Clan Vampires, #2.5; Otherworld Assassin, #2.5)
Blood Red Kiss by Kresley Cole, Larissa Ione, Gena Showalter (paranormal romance) -- September 20th
I need more Immortals After Dark and Moonbound Clan Vampires in my life!

Say It Right (All Saints, #2)
Say It Right (All Saints #2) by A.M. Arthur (M/M contemporary romance) -- September 12th
One of my favorite M/M romance writers who really knows how to bring out the emotions.

Destined for a King (The Bastard Brotherhood, #1)
Destined for a King (The Bastard Brotherhood #1) by Ashlyn Macnamara (fantasy romance) -- September 6th
After falling in love with Amanda Bouchet's A Promise of Fire, I am desperate for more fantasy romance and this seems like a good follow-up.

Miss Goodhue Lives for a Night (Winner Takes All, #2.5)
Miss Goodhue Lives for a Night (Winner Takes It All #2.5) by Kate Noble (historical romance) -- September 19th
I liked the one Kate Noble historical and the premise of this novella with a quiet schoolteacher who meets up with the man who broke her heart years ago hits all my buttons.

Overexposed (In Focus, #4)
Overexposed (In Focus #4) by Megan Erickson (M/M contemporary) -- September 20th
I am really liking this series and interested to see more of the reality show theme from the last book.

The Goal (Off-Campus, #4)
The Goal (Off-Campus #4) by Elle Kennedy (NA contemporary) -- September 26th
Yeah, we finally get Tucker and Sabrina's story!

Highland Chieftain (Murray Family, #21)
Highland Chieftain (Murray Family #21) by Hannah Howell (historical romance) -- September 27th
This series is one of my favorites with its sexy heroes, sassy heroines, and tons of action.

The Perks of Loving a Scoundrel (Seduction Diaries, #3)
The Perks of Loving a Scoundrel (Seduction Diaries #3) by Jennifer McQuiston (historical romance) -- September 30th
I can never get enough shy, bookish heroines in historical romance so I am, of course, excited to read this.

Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas, #1)
Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas #1) by Zoraida Cordova (YA paranormal) -- September 6th
The first thing that grabbed my attention about this book is that intensely gorgeous cover.  I am also intrigued by the premise of the heroine being a one in a generation super-powered witch who hates magic.

Not Your Sidekick
Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee (YA science fiction) -- September 8th
I always need more superhero novels in my life.

The Governess Was Wicked (Governess, #1)
The Governess Was Wicked (Governess #1) by Julia Kelly (historical romance) -- September 12th
A governess and a doctor who has to make a frequent amount of house calls?  I'm sold!

The Bookshop on the Corner
The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan (literary fiction) -- September 20th
I can't resist a book about a heroine who runs a mobile bookshop.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

REVIEW: "Marrying Winterborne" by Lisa Kleypas


Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels, #2)
TITLE: Marrying Winterborne
AUTHOR(S): Lisa Kleypas
SERIES: Ravenels #2

GENRE: Historical Romance -- Victorian England
PUBLISHER: Avon
PUBLICATION DATE: May 31, 2016
FORMAT: Mass Market Paperback
SOURCE: Library
LENGTH: 416 pages
DATE READ: July 2016

READING CHALLENGES: Pick Your Genre Reading Challenge

THEMES/TROPES: Alpha Hero, Class Differences, Big Secret

RATING: 4.25 Stars

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

While the first Ravenel book didn't complete grab me, the secondary plot of Helen and Rhys's courtship was one of my favorite aspects.  So I got a copy of Marrying Winterborne as fast as I could and I am happy to say that this is what I expect from Lisa Kleypas's historical romances.  It was not perfect, but I was engrossed in the story from page one and finished it in one day.

While Rhys Winterborne was recovering from a train accident in the first book, Helen became the only person who could sooth him and eventually found themselves betrothed.  Their future of their relationship was left hanging at the end of Cold-Hearted Rake and this book opens with Helen arriving at Rhys's department store, determined to get him to see reason.

Helen is the quietest and sweetest of the Ravenel sisters.  She also a stubborn streak a mile wide.  I love it when authors provide heroines who are so much more than they first appear.  I admired how secretly strong Helen is and that makes her the perfect woman to upend Rhys's life.  Lisa Kleypas excels at self-made heroes and Rhys is another example of this talent.  He is ambitious and arrogant, but also secretly insecure and very sweet around Helen.  I always enjoy reading about heroes who think they have life figured out until someone special walks in and shows them what they are missing.

The romance between Helen and Rhys was surprisingly sweet and beautiful.  They are great for one another and help each other grow as people.  Helen learns to take chances while Rhys learns to trust others.  I did feel like there were times (especially towards the end) where the love story got shafted due to the secondary plot of Helen's Big Secret which she refused to divulge until the last minute.  I am not a fan of this type of conflict and felt like the romance was compelling enough without it.

The use of Winterborne's as a historical setting was another highlight.  I am fascinated by how different one-stop shopping was to people of the time and what changes it brought to society.  I felt like Kleypas really brought the store to life and it gave the book that something special to make it stand out even more.

Marrying Winterborne was a beautifully written story with two stubborn people who were perfect for each other.  They had some obstacles to overcome to get their happy ending, but it was definitely worth it.  I cannot wait for the next Ravenel book, Devil in Spring, which features the unorthodox Pandora Ravenel and...Gabriel St. Vincent, son of Sebastian and Evie from my all-time favorite Kleypas historical, Devil in Winter.

FAVORITE QUOTE:

“My heart only beats as an echo of yours.”
BOOKS IN THE SERIES:


Cold-Hearted Rake (The Ravenels, #1) Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels, #2) Devil in Spring (The Ravenels, #3)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books That Have Been On My Shelf Since Before Blogging


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

I started my blog in June of 2011 so it is really sad (IMO) that I still have so many books which are just languishing on my TBR shelf.

Born of Shadows (The League, #4)
1. Born of Shadows by Sherrilyn Kenyon (science fiction romance)

Along for the Ride
2. Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen (YA contemporary)

Highland Wedding (Highland Brides, #2)
3. Highland Wedding by Hannah Howell (historical romance)

Grimspace (Sirantha Jax, #1)
4. Grimspace by Ann Aguirre (science fiction)

Dead Witch Walking (The Hollows, #1)
5. Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison (urban fantasy)

The Secret Mistress (Mistress Trilogy #3)
6. The Secret Mistress by Mary Balogh (historical romance)

The Season
7. The Season by Sarah MacLean (YA historical)

Graceling (Graceling Realm, #1)
8. Graceling by Kristin Cashore (YA fantasy)

The Further Observations of Lady Whistledown (Lady Whistledown, #1)
9. The Further Observations of Lady Whistledown by Julia Quinn, Suzanne Enoch, Karen Hawkins and Mia Ryan (historical romance)

The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, #1)
10. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (fantasy)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

REVIEW: "To Kiss a Thief" by Susanna Craig

To Kiss a Thief (Runaway Desires #1) TITLE: To Kiss a Thief
AUTHOR(S): Susanna Craig
SERIES: Runaway Desires #1

GENRE:
Historical Romance -- Georgian England
PUBLISHER: Kensington Lyrical Press
PUBLICATION DATE: August 16, 2016
FORMAT: eARC
SOURCE: Netgalley
LENGTH: 264 pages
DATE READ: August 2016

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

THEMES/TROPES:
Arranged Marriage, Big Secret, Reunited Couple

RATING: 3.5 STARS

SUMMARY:

Can a marriage made for money blossom into something more?

Sarah Sutliffe, Lady Fairfax, dreams of love—until she overhears her new husband proclaim his heart will never be hers. Devastated, she offers no defense when a sapphire necklace disappears during a ball and she is accused of its theft. Instead, she runs away from the scandal…and the heartbreak.

St. John, Viscount Fairfax, has sworn never to love again. How could a mousy merchant’s daughter tempt him to break that vow? Three years after Sarah vanished, St. John uncovers her hiding place. Now, he’s out to prove she’s a thief before she steals his heart. 
MY THOUGHTS:

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

To Kiss a Thief is a decent debut that has me interested in what Susanna Craig will do next even if it was a bit flawed. It focuses on Sarah, Lady Fairfax, whose dream of a happy marriage with her new husband is dashed when she is forced to leave London after being accused of stealing a family heirloom.  She tries to forget about her past life, but things get complicated when her husband goes hunting for her three years later.

I really liked Sarah.  She was innocent and naive at the beginning so it was easy to see how she came to feel like she had little choice than to run away.  But, it became very obvious that she gained experience in her time away and I admired the way that she took charge of her own life.  I also liked the fact that she did not trust her husband when he arrived despite the fact that she had been in love with him all along.  It takes a strong person to understand their weaknesses and figure out how to deal with them.

St. John was more difficult to like.  I was not a fan of his at the beginning when he didn't stand up for his wife and even acted as another reason for her to leave.  I also was irritated by his reasoning for trying to find Sarah after all these years.  He did grow on me as he learned more about Sarah and what she went through, but I still had a hard time believing him when he proclaimed his love towards the end.

There is a lot going on in this book.  The second chance romance is entertaining and easy to get sucked into even if the hero annoyed me.  There is also the subplot surrounding the location of the missing necklace and how certain people within St. John and Sarah's circle cannot be trusted.  And then there is the social issues of the period with a great deal of time spent on discussing abolitionism and the plight of the poor.

I thought Susanna Craig's writing was intriguing and I appreciated the fact that this book took place in a different era than the overly saturated Regency years.  I also enjoyed the way that the social problems were integrated within the romance to make the world seem more alive.  I do wish that the hero hadn't been so annoying and unworthy of the fantastic heroine.  But, I think this author has real potential so I'm interested to see what she has for readers in To Tempt an Heiress which is being released at the end of the year. 

BOOKS IN THE SERIES:


To Kiss a Thief (Runaway Desires #1) To Tempt an Heiress (Runaway Desires #2)