Wednesday, February 15, 2017

2017 TBR CHALLENGE REVIEW: "The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker" by Leanna Renee Hieber


The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker (Strangely Beautiful, #1)TITLE: The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker
AUTHOR(S): Leanna Renee Hieber
SERIES: Strangely Beautiful #1

GENRE: Historical Fantasy Romance
PUBLISHER: Leisure Books
PUBLICATION DATE: August 20, 2009
FORMAT: Mass Market Paperback
SOURCE: Purchased
LENGTH: 324 pages
DATE READ: February 2017

READING CHALLENGES: 2017 TBR Challenge, 2017 Historical  Romance Reading Challenge, 2017 New To You Reading Challenge, 2017 Backlist Reader Challenge

CHARACTER ARCHETYPES: Teacher Hero

TROPES: Forbidden Love

RATING: 3.5 STARS

SUMMARY:
What fortune awaited sweet, timid Percy Parker at Athens Academy? Hidden in the dark heart of Victorian London, the Romanesque school was dreadfully imposing, a veritable fortress, and little could Percy guess what lay inside. She had never met its powerful and mysterious Professor Alexi Rychman, knew nothing of the growing shadows, of the Ripper and other supernatural terrors against which his coterie stood guard. She saw simply that she was different, haunted, with her snow white hair, pearlescent skin and uncanny gift. This arched stone doorway was a portal to a new life, to an education far from what could be had at a convent -- and it was an invitation to an intimate yet dangerous dance at the threshold of life and death...

MY THOUGHTS: 


Why I Read It...
This month's TBR Challenge theme is New-To-You Author and, while re-organizing my bookshelves last week, I discovered The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker.  Who knows how long it has been languishing on my shelf!  After re-reading the summary and figuring out that I had never read a Leanna Renee Hieber book, I decided this would be my February TBR read.

What I Liked About It...

1.  Historical romance is my one true reading love, but my second genre of choice is paranormal/fantasy so I am always excited when authors combine the two.  I enjoyed the worldbuilding that the author did and, though there is the required info dumping at the beginning, I thought it was explained very well.  I especially liked the Greek mythology inspirations.

2. Percy Parker is an interesting heroine who I didn't expect to like as much as I did.  She is sheltered and has very low self-esteem.  But, through her interactions at Athens Academy, she breaks out of her shell and becomes a strong person.  I thought her development felt natural and I appreciated the emphasis on emotional/mental strength rather than just physical power.

3. Alexi Rychman is a typical paranormal/fantasy hero at first glance.  He is brooding, mysterious, and completely focused on himself.  But, through Percy, he is able to figure out a different path for his life.  I thought the idea of him being a man of science and math while also dealing with the supernatural was a fun juxtaposition.

4.  The Guard consists of five other people who are gifted with powers to keep the supernatural world in order while also helping Alexi find the prophesied seventh.  I loved these characters!  Even though the focus was primarily on Alexi and Percy, every scene with Josie, Rebecca, Michael, Elijah, and Jane stood out to me.  I loved their friendship which crossed class lines and felt very organic.  Elijah and Josie were particular favorites of mine and I am hoping the sequel will focus more on them.

What I Disliked About It...

1. I did think the romance between Percy and Alexi happened too quickly.  The author tried to help with the love story's development by having them meet up many times, but I never really got much from those moments besides Percy's crush.  I had a hard time believing Alexi's feelings went beyond intrigue and his opinion that she is the destined seventh member of their group.  It is weird for me to say this, but I think I would have preferred there to be no or little romance in this story.  I didn't think it added anything to the interesting plot and the well-designed characters.

Would I Recommend It...

Despite my issues with the romance development, I enjoyed The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker.  It was engaging and grabbed my interest from the beginning.  The writing is beautiful and the characters are so interesting that I want to know more about.  I will hopefully read the sequel sometime soon.

BOOKS IN THE SERIES:


The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker (Strangely Beautiful, #1) The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker (Strangely Beautiful, #2) The Perilous Prophecy of Guard and Goddess (Strangely Beautiful, #3)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Favorite Funny Romances


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

I like a dark, angsty romance as much as the next reader, but, most of the time, I find myself craving a love story that is full of laughs and sweetness.  Here are a few of my favorites:

The Viscount Who Loved Me (Bridgertons, #2)
1. The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn (historical romance)

Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs (Jane Jameson, #1)
2. Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs by Molly Harper (paranormal romance)

Match Me If You Can (Chicago Stars, #6)
3. Match Me If You Can by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (contemporary romance)

Mr. Impossible (Carsington Brothers, #2)
4. Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase (historical romance)

Love Is Blind
5. Love Is Blind by Lynsay Sands (historical romance)

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake (Love By Numbers, #1)
6. Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean (historical romance)

Halfway to the Grave (Night Huntress, #1)
7. Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost (paranormal romance/urban fantasy)

See Jane Score (Chinooks Hockey Team, #2)
8. See Jane Score by Rachel Gibson (contemporary romance)

Dragon Actually (Dragon Kin, #1)
9. Dragon Actually by G.A. Aiken (fantasy romance)

Romancing the Duke (Castles Ever After, #1)
10. Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare (historical romance)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

REVIEW: "Between the Devil and the Duke" by Kelly Bowen


Between the Devil and the Duke (Season for Scandal, #3)

TITLE: Between the Devil and the Duke
AUTHOR(S): Kelly Bowen
SERIES: Season for Scandal #3

GENRE: Historical Romance
PUBLISHER: Forever
PUBLICATION DATE: January 31, 2017
FORMAT: eARC
SOURCE: Netgalley
LENGTH: 368 pages
DATE READ: February 2017

READING CHALLENGES: 2017 Historical Romance Reading Challenge

CHARACTER ARCHETYPES: Bad Boy Hero, Genius Heroine

TROPES: Employer/Employee Romance, Gambling Hell, Blackmail

RATING: 4 STARS

SUMMARY:
Their love was always in the cards.He should have thrown her out. But when club owner Alexander Lavoie catches a mysterious blonde counting cards at his vingt-et-un table, he's more intrigued than angry. He has to see more of this beauty—in his club, in his office, in his bed. But first he'll have to devise a proposition she can't turn down.

Gossip said he was an assassin. Common sense told her to stay away. But Angelique Archer was desperate, and Lavoie's club offered a surefire way to make quick money—until she got caught. Instead of throwing her out though, the devil offers her a deal: come work for him. Refusing him means facing starvation, but with a man so sinfully handsome and fiercely protective, keeping things professional might prove impossible.
MY THOUGHTS: 

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

Why I Read It...
Kelly Bowen has become one of my favorite historical authors in the past year and I love what she is doing with this Season for Scandal series.  Alex has been an integral part of the series and I wanted to know more about him especially in light of the information received in the previous installment, A Duke to Remember.

What I Liked About It...

1. Kelly Bowen continues to provide me with intelligent, spirited heroines who are unorthodox yet still feel realistic to the time period they are living in.  I loved everything about Angelique from her affinity for numbers, her determination to keep her family together, and her loyalty even when I felt like certain people (her brother) didn't deserve it.  She was a fantastically drawn character that is worthy of every bit of happiness she got in the end.

2. I also liked Alex who, as I mentioned, I have wanted to learn more about since he first appeared.  I have a soft spot in my heart for heroes who run gambling clubs...probably the result of my obsession with Lisa Kleypas's Dreaming of You.  I love the mystery surrounding his character and that he was such a genuinely nice guy underneath.  He figured out how special Angelique was from the beginning and strived to make sure she knew it.

3. I tend to be on the fence when it comes to mysteries in historical romance, but, when it comes to this author and this series, I am coming to really enjoy them.  I found the whole concept of who was trying to ruin the Archer family and why to be interesting and surprising.  It is clear that Kelly Bowen takes her time developing both the romance plot and the mystery plot since they work so well together.

What I Disliked About It...

1. While I did admire Angelique's devotion to her family, I was irritated by her younger brother and wish there had been more of a resolution to his story.  He was a big part of the plot including the murder mystery, but then he just was gone.  I am kinda hoping he will return to show readers (and his sister) how much he has grown and become a worthy romance hero.

Would I Recommend It...

Absolutely!  The characters are different and likable and their romance was a delight to read.  I found myself wanting more scenes of them together just because they made me so happy.  My love of Kelly Bowen's writing continues!


BOOKS IN THE SERIES:

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)

Sunday, February 5, 2017

TAKE MY MONEY: February 2017

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


Devil in Spring (The Ravenels, #3)
Devil in Spring (Ravenels #3) by Lisa Kleypas (historical romance) -- February 21st
Definitely one of the books I am most looking forward to this year.  I can't wait to see Evie and Sebastian again plus I find Pandora Ravenel to be a fascinating character.

Pretty Face (London Celebrities, #2)
Pretty Face (London Celebrities #2) by Lucy Parker (contemporary romance) -- February 20th
I loved Parker's debut last year (Act Like It) and am super excited to read more of her work.  I also like the idea of the heroine trying to go against type casting and fact that it is a director/actor romance.

The Duke (Victorian Rebels, #4)
The Duke (Victorian Rebels #4) by Kerrigan Byrne (historical romance) -- February 7th
Byrne is an expert at lush historicals with crazy, engaging plots.  This one features a one-handed lord and a female spy.

Into the Fire (Night Prince, #4)
Into the Fire (Night Prince #4) by Jeaniene Frost (urban fantasy) -- February 28th
I was disappointed by the last installment of this series (Bound By Flames), but I have to see how Leila and Vlad's story ends.

Someone to Hold (Westcott, #2)
Someone to Hold (Westcott #2) by Mary Balogh (historical romance) -- February 7th
Camille annoyed me in the first book (Someone to Love), but I am interested to see how she adjusts to becoming a teacher and falling for an art instructor.

An Unseen Attraction (Sins of the Cities, #1)
An Unseen Attraction (Sins of the Cities #1) by K.J. Charles (historical romance M/M) -- February 21st
One of my favorite authors I discovered last year.  Definitely excited to read her new series.

Passion Favors the Bold (The Royal Rewards Duo, #2)
Passion Favors the Bold (Royal Rewards #2) by Theresa Romain (historical romance) -- February 28th
I really enjoyed the first book (Fortune Favors the Wicked) and am always up for a falling in love with one's best friend's sister premise.  Plus more treasure hunting!

Shadow's Seduction (Immortals After Dark, #17; The Dacians, #2)
Shadow's Seduction (Dacians #2) by Kresley Cole (paranormal romance M/M) -- February 28th
I'm a bit behind on this series, but am excited to see what Cole can do with a male/male romance.

Echoes in Death (In Death, #44)
Echoes in Death (In Death #44) by JD Robb (romantic suspense) -- February 7th
Another series I'm hopelessly behind on yet I am determined to catch up...one day.

The Lawrence Browne Affair
The Lawrence Browne Affair by Cat Sebastian (historical romance M/M) -- February 7th
The Soldier's Scoundrel was so good that I have to read more of Sebastian's writing especially if it features a con artist posing as a recluse's new secretary.

My Fair Duchess (Dukes Behaving Badly, #5)
My Fair Duchess (Dukes Behaving Badly #5) by Megan Frampton (historical romance) -- February 28th
I am always up for a Pygmalion/My Fair Lady retelling especially if it is paired with Frampton's writing and sense of humor.

The Burning World  (Warm Bodies, #2)
The Burning World (Warm Bodies #2) by Isaac Marion (YA dystopian) -- February 7th
Gah!!  Finally getting a sequel!!  Warm Bodies was a very different read for me, but I loved it and hope I will love this just as much.

If the Duke Demands (Capturing the Carlisles, #1)
If the Duke Demands (Capturing the Carlisles #1) by Anna Harrington (historical romance) -- February 28th
Masquerades, mistaken identities, falling for one's crush's older brother?  Sounds like a book I want to read!

Till Death
Till Death by Jennifer L. Armentrout (romantic suspense) -- February 28th
I'm not really a big fan of romantic suspense, but, with JLA's addictive writing, I am willing to give this a try.


WHAT NEW RELEASES ARE YOU EXCITED FOR IN FEBRUARY?

Friday, February 3, 2017

MINI-REVIEWS: Amy Sandas, Cat Sebastian, Mary Balogh, Joanna Shupe



The Untouchable Earl (Fallen Ladies, #2)The Untouchable Earl (Fallen Ladies #2) by Amy Sandas
Historical Romance
Sourcebooks Casablanca -- November 1, 2016

RATING: 3.75 STARS

Lily Chadwick has spent her life playing the respectable debutante. But when an unscrupulous moneylender snatches her off the street and puts her up for auction at a pleasure house, she finds herself in the possession of a man who fills her with breathless terror and impossible yearning.

Though the Earl of Harte claimed Lily with the highest bid, he hides a painful secret―one that has kept him from knowing the pleasure of a lover's touch. Even the barest brush of skin brings him physical pain, and he's spent his life keeping the world at arm's length. But there's something about Lily that maddens him, bewitches him, compels him...and drives him toward the one woman brave and kind enough to heal his troubled heart.


I adored the premise of this book and did end up enjoying it, but not nearly as much as I hoped.  Having already read the first book, I thought it was interesting how the two stories were interconnected though I don't think it would be difficult for new readers to jump straight in.  Both characters were likable and complex with Lily being a particular highlight for me.  I just related so much to her love of reading and dreamy personality.  The hero was interesting especially with his aversion to touch, but I thought the resolution of his issues was too convenient and quick.  That being said, I still found the romance to be full of chemistry and really believed in the couple.

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The Soldier's Scoundrel
The Soldier's Scoundrel by Cat Sebastian
Historical Romance (M/M)
Avon Impulse -- September 20, 2016

RATING: 4 STARS

A scoundrel who lives in the shadows...Jack Turner grew up in the darkness of London's slums, born into a life of crime and willing to do anything to keep his belly full and his siblings safe. Now he uses the tricks and schemes of the underworld to help those who need the kind of assistance only a scoundrel can provide. His distrust of the nobility runs deep and his services do not extend to the gorgeous high-born soldier who personifies everything Jack will never be.

A soldier untarnished by vice...After the chaos of war, Oliver Rivington craves the safe predictability of a gentleman's life-one that doesn't include sparring with a ne'er-do-well who flouts the law at every turn. But Jack tempts Oliver like no other man has before. Soon his yearning for the unapologetic criminal is only matched by Jack's pleasure in watching his genteel polish crumble every time they're together.

Two men only meant for each other.


I received an eARC of this book via the Avon Addicts Program in exchange for an honest review.

 This was an impressive debut from Ms. Sebastian!  Everything about the premise of this book sang to me from the underworld-adjacent hero to the soldier returning from war and adjusting to a peaceful life.  Jack and Oliver were so well-developed that they felt like they jumped off the page.  Each had their own issues to get over beyond the fact that they are physically attracted to men in a day where that could get one killed.  I appreciated that aspect because it helped me root for them beyond just the forbidden part.  I also thought the mystery of who was blackmailing one of Jack's clients to be a good side plot and a fun way to force them to interact.  I definitely will be reading more in this series. 

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Someone to Love (Westcott, #1)
Someone to Love (Westcott #1) by Mary Balogh
Historical Romance 
Signet -- November 8, 2016

RATING: 3.5 STARS

Humphrey Westcott, Earl of Riverdale, has died, leaving behind a fortune that will forever alter the lives of everyone in his family—including the daughter no one knew he had...

Anna Snow grew up in an orphanage in Bath knowing nothing of the family she came from. Now she discovers that the late Earl of Riverdale was her father and that she has inherited his fortune. She is also overjoyed to learn she has siblings. However, they want nothing to do with her or her attempts to share her new wealth. But the new earl’s guardian is interested in Anna…

Avery Archer, Duke of Netherby, keeps others at a distance. Yet something prompts him to aid Anna in her transition from orphan to lady. As London society and her newfound relatives threaten to overwhelm Anna, Avery steps in to rescue her and finds himself vulnerable to feelings and desires he has hidden so well and for so long.


Mary Balogh is one of my favorite historical writers and she has a very distinctive style which is evident in Someone to Love.  The characters are brilliantly laid out and are relatable, if not always likable.  There are clear motivations in their actions which are consistent.  I really admired Anna's determination to give her new role a chance especially with the fact that she finally has a family being the main incentive.  This was a makeover story, but Anna never allowed her new position and appearance turn her into a different person.  Avery was not as fascinating to me, but I still liked his character and enjoyed his journey.  I especially liked the fact that he was able to find a resolution to his very private loneliness.  I did like the book, but, to be honest, I found the pacing to be very slow.  It felt like it just kept dragging and, while I don't need tons of action in my romance, I had trouble sticking with it.  I do find the entire premise of the series intriguing and look forward to seeing what Balogh does with it next.

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Mogul (The Knickerbocker Club, #3)
Mogul (Knickerbocker Club #3) by Joanna Shupe
Historical Romance
Zebra -- January 31, 2017

RATING: 3.5 STARS 

As owner of a well-respected national newspaper, Calvin Cabot has the means to indulge his capricious taste for excess—and the power to bring the upper crust of society to its knees. So when a desperate heiress from his past begs for his help, Calvin agrees . . . as long as she promises to stay out of his way. Except, like the newsman, this willful beauty always gets what she wants.

Lillian Davies lives a life brimming with boundless parties, impressive yachts, and exotic getaways. But when her brother disappears, Lily knows that blood runs thicker than champagne and she'll spare nothing to bring him back alive. Unfortunately, the only man who can help her is the one she never wanted to see again. Can Lily keep Calvin at arm's length long enough to save her brother and protect her name . . . even when the tenacious powerbroker turns out to be absolutely irresistible?


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

I adored the first two full-length novels in this series, but found Mogul to be a bit of a disappointment.  The Gilded Age setting is still wonderfully drawn and I really liked the way that the author focused on the Chinese immigration situation at the time.  It felt very real to me which I always want in historical fiction.  While I got annoyed by certain aspects of Calvin and Lily's personalities, I thought they were designed well and had some interesting backstories.  My biggest issue was that I couldn't make myself believe they were truly in love.  It is obvious that they had good sexual chemistry and clearly lusted after one another.  But, I felt like I kept being told they were in love rather than shown that.  Also, I thought the ending was rushed and a bit of a whiplash.  Despite the issues I had, I still was drawn into the setting and the plot enough to read it fairly quickly.  I just wish I could believe in the happy ending more.