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Currently Browsing: historical romance
Feb
19

Review: Highland Conquest by Alyson McLayne

Review: Highland Conquest by Alyson McLayne Highland Conquest Author: Alyson McLayne Reviewer: Nima Rating: A What I’m Talking About: I haven’t read a historical romance in a while so I didn’t go in over-saturated with the genre.  Highland Conquest (originally titled Highland Bride) was a fun read. In fact, it makes me sad I missed the first one in the Sons of Gregor MacLeod series.  I’m going to have to go back and pick it up before the third comes out. McLayne plans five books in this series, following five boys, fostered by Gregor MacLeod and raised as brothers to strapping warriors and leaders. Even though McLayne is a solid, award-winning author, the Sons of Gregor MacLeod series is her first foray into historical romance.  She hits it out of the park with sexy, feisty, and strong characters—especially Amber MacPhearson.  She’s the kind of loyal leading lady you’re sure you’d be best friends with in real life. Amber is opinionated and will do anything she can to protect her clan from the evil Laird Murray. After being stalked by Murray since she was seventeen, she has determined that she will never marry.  Enter Lachlan MacKay… Lachlan doesn’t want to marry either, but is drawn to Amber even before he knows who she is or what she means to him.  His pursuit of Murray, who murdered his brother, leads him to Amber.  Together they scheme and work for his capture.  Together they have amazing chemistry—although in a refreshing approach, they don’t consummate their relationship until they’re actually married. Of course there’s a whole lotta foreplay before that. The banter is smart and even amusing.  I only stumbled across one line that was so out of character that I marked it.  After circumstances require Amber cut her famous copper locks, this big, kilt wearing warrior says, “Your eyes look wider, and your cheeks…they’re so high.“ Whaaaaat?!  No matter how aware of her he was, there’s no way that though would have even crossed the consciousness of a big, burly Scotsman. But that was really my only criticism.  The rest of the story flowed and reached a satisfactory conclusion. The cover art for this series, while typical with men in kilts—is some very fine men in kilts that are not overly stylized.  I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during that photo shoot… Grab this one up! My Rating: A, Loved It About the Book: Laird Lachlan MacKay never planned on leading his...
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Feb
14

Review: Devil in Tartan by Julia London

Review: Devil in Tartan by Julia London Devil in Tartan Author: Julia London Reviewer: Jen Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Aulay Mackenzie has only ever felt himself when at sea. In an effort to save his family’s shipping business, Aulay decides to make his first commissioned trip, taking on cargo for another, despite his family’s concerns over the risk. Barely away from port, Aulay comes across a distressed ship and offers assistance to its beautiful passenger, Ms. Lottie Livingstone. Lottie’s clan is at the end of its rope, hoping to sell their illegal whiskey overseas, when their ship is attacked, leaving her father severely injured. Lottie’s plan to commandeer Aulay’s vessel goes smoothly, despite her attraction to its captain. However, once things start unraveling, Lottie isn’t sure she should continue with her plans. Devil in Tartan is an enjoyable highland adventure. Taking place mostly at sea, Lottie and Aulay are forced to spend time together in confided quarters, allowing their mutual attraction to boil over and develop into a friendship. However, it’s not sunshine and roses. Aulay stands to lose everything due to Lottie’s scheme, and Lottie bears the weight of saving her entire clan from losing their homes and land. Aulay’s constant struggle between his duty, family, and his feelings for Lottie create incredible emotional turmoil and conflict. Aulay and Lottie are both lonely souls, doing what they can for their families. But whereas Lottie sacrifices herself to keep her family together, Aulay runs away from his, not feeling worthy under his father’s roof. Yet the pair, drawn by a powerful attraction, have the time to see the real individuals beneath the layers of protective outer shell that each has built to keep themselves emotionally distant. They grow close and fall in love, even though Aulay’s hurt overshadows the love for a while. Luckily Lottie doesn’t grow bitter, and remains open and caring, allow their reunion to proceed and love to grow, even after the damage she does. Overall, I enjoyed Devil in Tartan. The romance and story progress and a slow and steady pace, allowing time for both self-discovery and a deeper mutual bond. My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot About the Book: Lottie Livingstone bears the weight of an island on her shoulders. Under threat of losing their home, she and her clan take to the seas to sell a shipload of illegal whiskey. When an attack leaves them vulnerable, she transforms from a maiden daughter to a clever warrior. For...
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Dec
11

Review: Once Upon a Christmas Eve by Elizabeth Hoyt

Review: Once Upon a Christmas Eve by Elizabeth Hoyt Once Upon a Christmas Eve Author: Elizabeth Hoyt Reviewer: Jen Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: Adam Rutledge, Viscount d’Arque, loves his grandmother and will do anything to please her, including traveling in a snow storm just before Christmas. When their carriage is damaged, the pair finds refuge in the home of Godric St. John, where friends and family have gathered for the holidays, including his lovely half-sister, Sarah. Once Upon a Christmas Eve is a very quick, holiday-themed novella set in Ms. Hoyt’s Maiden Lane world. It is a standalone story featuring Adam Rutledge, Viscount d’Arque, and Sarah St. John. The pair met briefly once before, and through the innermost confessions of each, we learn there is a mutual attraction. However, because Adam is a confirmed bachelor (and rake), and Sarah is determined to find a respectable man to marry, the pair pull apart each time they indulge in their feelings even a tiny bit. The story moves along rapidly, with nudges from family members helping to bring the pair together. While I think their journey deserved more time and development, it is complete. I really like both Adam and Sarah, but felt everything was rushed a bit to fit the novella-length (or shorter?) story. In the end, Once Upon a Christmas Eve is a delightful, albeit, short historical, holiday romance. It is sweet, and a little bit sexy, with an HEA for Adam and Sarah. My Rating:  B- Liked It, but I had a few small issues About the Book: Adam Rutledge, Viscount d’Arque, really rather loathes Christmas. The banal cheerfulness. The asinine party games. And, worst of all, the obligatory trip to the countryside. His grandmother, however, loves the holiday—and Adam loves his grandmother, so he’ll brave the fiercest snowstorm to please her. But when their carriage wheel snaps, they’re forced to seek shelter at the home of the most maddening, infuriating, and utterly beguiling woman he’s ever met. Sarah St. John really rather loathes rakes. The self-satisfied smirks. The sly predatory gazes. Oh, and the constant witty banter rife with double meaning. But in the spirit of the season, she’ll welcome this admittedly handsome viscount into her home. But as the snowstorm rages, the Yule log crackles, and the tension rises, Sarah and Adam find themselves locked in a fiery, passionate kiss. If love is the true meaning of Christmas, it’s the one gift this mismatched pair can’t wait to unwrap. Release Date: December 5,...
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Nov
21

Review: Enchanted by the Highlander by Lecia Cornwall

Review: Enchanted by the Highlander by Lecia Cornwall Enchanted by the Highlander Author: Lecia Cornwall Reviewer: Una Rating: A I absolutely love Ms. Cornwall’s Highland Fairy Tale series.  This latest installment, Enchanted by the Highlander, is another delightfully romantic and compelling tale. In this story, we have a retelling of Cinderella.  But like the other stories in this series, it is a fresh retelling with twists and turns that make it wholly its own fairytale.  Gillian (Gilly) has always gone along with what her sisters and father have wanted, so much so, most of the time they even speak for her.  Gilly may be shy, but she is not unintelligent.  She is actually quite observant, intelligent, and possesses the MacLeod stubborn determination. But she prefers not to make waves, so she bobs along by the directions of her family.  However, in trying to do the right thing, the family decides to marry her off to a far older man.  Sir Douglas would provide a quiet, safe, and low-key home for Gilly while she could be more of an assistant to his writings.  Unfortunately, Gilly had already lost her heart to someone she knows her family would reject. We previously met our hero, English John, in the first novel in this series, Beauty and the Highland Beast.  He was Dair’s captain of the guard and protected Fia and her sister Meggie when the village were about to burn them at the stake (if you haven’t read it yet, do so – it’s great story).  John meets Gilly about a year before she is engaged to Sir Douglas.  She had been returning from Edinburgh after unsuccessfully finding a suitor.  Upon one glance between them, the line was cast and caught.  The problem, besides that John is an Englishman, is that he is disowned by his father.  John’s tale is full of grief and heartache.  He has no plans of marriage as he feels he could not condemn a woman to life bound with a disowned, poor man. The fates of these two are sealed when Gilly, stepping out of her comfort zone, dresses up in a different costume than the one her sister Fia had picked out.  John, stunned by the beautiful and intelligent woman, shares a kiss – the kiss that changes everything.  John does not know the identity of the masked woman, but after that kiss, he desires no other. Fast forward ten months, and we find Gilly preparing for her wedding. However, things do not go...
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Nov
14

Review: Christmas in Kilts Anthology

Review: Christmas in Kilts Anthology Christmas in Kilts Authors: Terri Brisbin, Lavinia Kent, Bronwen Evans, May McGoldrick, and Lecia Cornwall Reviewer: Una Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Christmas in Kilts is a delightful collection of historical Christmas-themed novellas all featuring brawny Scots.  It is a lovely collection, and I enjoyed this anthology immensely.  I look forward to reading it again this season.  Please continue to see my thoughts on each of the anthology’s offerings, listed in order of appearance. “A Highlander’s Hope” – This story was intriguing. A warrior from a clan and another clan’s harlot find love and hope. Iain has been widowed for five years – a marriage that was arranged for the benefit of his clan.  However, as much as his chieftain would like to arrange another marriage, Iain wants love.  Robena is the village “lady”.  Though she plies her services by her own choice, this is the only life she feels is available to her.  She does have a favored client – one that makes her feel more woman than service.  The complications and heartache that Iain and Robena need to overcome seem almost impossible.  Thankfully Christmas is full of miracles.  I liked this tale though Robena is almost as hardheaded and determined as Iain.  (B+) “A Highland Christmas Wager” – I love Lecia Cornwall’s Highland Fairy Tale series.  In this story, Meggie MacLeod is the heroine as she tries to shelter from a fierce winter storm with her grandmother, some clansman in the home of the Laird that stole her virginity.  The characters in the story are delightfully varied.  In this series, the stories tend to be loose retellings of popular fairytales.  In this one, I’m still working to figure out the fairytale, but loved how she wove the Twelve Days of Christmas into the story.  It’s little Easter Eggs like this that delight and add a special element to these beautifully crafted love stories.   (A) “A Scot for Christmas” – In this story, Dougray has decided to remarry.  Though the loss of his first wife still cuts, he knows he needs to fulfill a deathbed promise to his father as well as provide much needed heirs.  In this endeavor, he invites several friends to his hunting lodge for a few weeks of fun before proposing marriage.  Unbeknownst to him, his best friend reluctantly brings his younger sister, Emma, who insisted she join the party.  Her desire before embarking on a lonely life as a spinster is...
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Nov
6

Review: Once upon a Maiden Lane by Elizabeth Hoyt

Review: Once upon a Maiden Lane by Elizabeth Hoyt Once upon a Maiden Lane Author: Elizabeth Hoyt Reviewer: Jen Rating: B What I’m Talking About: After a case of mistaken identity, Lord Henry Blackwell identifies the orphaned Miss Mary Whitsun as Lady Cecilia Albright, the long-lost daughter of an earl, the very woman he is supposed to wed. She is welcomed by her birth mother and twin sister, and even finds friendship with, and an attraction to, her betrothed. However, after two near misses on her life, it appears not everyone is pleased with Henry’s discovery. Once upon a Maiden Lane is a sweet, standalone novella that appears to wrap up the wonderful Maiden Lane series. As a recent newcomer to the series, I only recognized a handful of the characters mentioned in the story; however, longtime fans will probably enjoy this tale even more because of it. The romance of Henry and Mary is genuine and charming, and I love how the pair so quickly become friends, attracted to each another both physically and mentally. They spend time getting to know one another while getting in a few scandalous moments when left unchaperoned. Of course, Ms. Hoyt tosses in a twist or two, keeping readers on their toes. While the events of the story would have been significantly altered if only the Countess Angrove had spoken up sooner (I did have to roll my eyes on this part), the lightness and jovial mood of the tale swept me away and made me smile. Once upon a Maiden Lane is a delightful novella for fans of the Cinderella trope. My Rating:  B, Liked It About the Book: Miss Mary Whitsun is far too intelligent to fall for the rakish charms of a handsome aristocrat. But when the gentleman in question approaches her in a bookshop, mistaking her for his fiancée, Lady Johanna Albright, the flirtatious encounter only raises more questions. Could Mary, a servant raised in a St Giles orphanage, actually be Lady Joanna’s long-lost twin sister? If so, Mary has been betrothed since birth—to the rakishly handsome aristocrat himself. Henry Collins, Viscount Blackwell, is far too intrigued by Mary to let her go so easily. He’s drawn to her sharp mind, indomitable spirit, and the fiery way in which she dismisses him—ladies simply don’t dismiss Lord Blackwell. But as Mary makes her first hesitant steps into society, she can’t help but wonder if she truly has a place in Henry’s world—or in his heart. Release Date: November...
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Oct
17

Review: Duke of Desire by Elizabeth Hoyt

Review: Duke of Desire by Elizabeth Hoyt Duke of Desire Author: Elizabeth Hoyt Reviewer: Jen Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Duke of Desire jumps right into the thick of things, with Iris, the Lady Jordan, kidnapped four days ago as she departed from the Duke of Kyle’s wedding. She is currently bound on an alter in front of the masked Lords of Chaos who are arguing over Iris’s identity, confusing her with the new Duchess of Kyle. Raphael, Duke of Dyemore, is working to infiltrate and eliminate the atrocious Lords of Chaos, the group his father once proudly ruled. Seeing the innocent Lady Jordan held captive on his own lands pushes him to take action. Demanding she be his to use, he hauls her away, in an effort to save her. However as circumstances become dangerous for Iris and Raphael, he insists marriage is the only way he can protect her. As a late-comer to the wonderful Maiden Lane series, I was sad to learn that Duke of Desire is the last novel in this delightful world. While this book isn’t my favorite of the series, it puts some issues to rest and leaves readers with a happily-ever-after epilogue. I enjoyed the story, but I felt the plot revolving around the Lords of Chaos and Raphael’s revenge overshadows the romance. Iris is a strong woman and wonderful character. She’s a different type of heroine from many that I normally read. Rather than push to get her way, she decides she shall convince and plot. Rather than stand up, she goes along, keeping faith and hope she’ll turn things around. She knows what she wants, and is willing to temporarily “settle” for less, with the hope she will get through Raphael’s defenses eventually. Not that she’ll wear him down, but rather that she’ll help him realize there is more to life than revenge. But her nature causes her to appear complacent at times, and I wanted to her to fight harder for herself and those she cares about. It’s a good thing I’m not Iris, or the author, or I’d have ended up pushing Raphael away permanently! Raphael was left emotionally, physically, and mentally damaged by his father and a horrific childhood. Even though his aunt was able to help him escape the dangers at home, Raphael’s memories will never let him rest. His mind is warped; convinced he will end up a monster like his father. While Raphael’s behaviors and attitude are probably genuine and...
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Sep
27

Review: The Last Gentleman Standing by Jane Ashford

Review: The Last Gentleman Standing by Jane Ashford The Last Gentleman Standing Author: Jane Ashford Reviewer: Ang Rating: C What I’m Talking About: My understanding is the The Last Gentleman Standing is a re-release that was originally published some 25 years ago. This helped me understand the book so much better. The characters are fun and witty, but the character development isn’t as strong as I like, especially between Elizabeth and Derek. If they are the main couple of the book, why does the author spend so much time telling us about Belinda and the Duke? I also feel like the ending of the novel came out of nowhere. Yes, there are a few hints, but the villain of the story, along with his helper, are poorly developed and so the sudden climax makes little sense. The hero is valiant and handsome. The heroine is beautiful, strong, and charming. All the pieces are in place for a classic, lovely historical romance, and that is exactly what The Last Gentleman Standing is: a lovely little read and a fun diversion for an afternoon, but not something I’d likely pick up again. If you are looking for a sweet, “clean” historical romance full of all the classic elements, balls, courtship, an unexpected heiress, handsome men, and a secret or two, then this is perfect. The Last Gentleman Standing is a book you can share with your adolescent daughter as something that skips the heaving bosoms and torn bodices so common 25 years ago. It is light with a picture-perfect happy ending. However, if you’re looking for strong, well-developed characters that you want to know more about, then you might want to skip this one. My Rating: C, Finished It – Liked some, didn’t like some About the Book: A fortune hunter’s dream… Miss Elisabeth Elham is an unlikely heiress. She never knew the curmudgeonly uncle who died suddenly and left her a fortune. She’s proud, outspoken and independent―a definite challenge for London’s fortune hunting suitors. As various determined gentlemen vie for her attention at balls, routs, picnics and parties, Elisabeth finds herself embroiled with a charming rake, a mysterious nabob, and an elegant neighbor. This would all be great fun, if only she wasn’t so fascinated by the one man in London who’s not trying to woo her… Originally titled Bluestocking, this story has been unavailable for over 25 years. Release Date: September 5, 2017 Publisher: Sourcebooks Series: Standalone Genre: Historical Romance Format(s): paperback (352 pages), e-book, audiobook Book Source:...
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Sep
19

Review: A Strange Scottish Shore by Juliana Gray

Review: A Strange Scottish Shore by Juliana Gray A Strange Scottish Shore Author: Juliana Gray Reviewer: Ang Rating: B What I’m Talking About: First, I apologize that this review is not very long; there are just too many places where a spoiler could be dropped and there is nothing worse than a spoiler when it comes to a mystery novel. I am not as a rule a mystery reader. I don’t like trying to guess what will happen or has happened to get us to where we are. I also don’t like to be left hanging as happens all too often in mystery novels. That being said I am a Juliana Gray fan and I enjoyed, her previous offering, A Most Extraordinary Pursuit, so I was really looking forward to A Strange Scottish Shore. However, after having finished it, I can’t say I loved it as much as I did A Most Extraordinary Pursuit. I enjoyed the characters and setting and will admit Ms. gray continues to weave a good story, but there were details like the time traveling that I found to be discombobulating and confusing. I understand there is an element of mystery and magic to time travel but I don’t feel like the rules were clearly explained, and so I spent more time than I would have liked trying to figure out how people got where they were and how they might get back, which kept me from enjoying the story as much as I wanted to. That being said, when I wasn’t distracted by random questions and rules I did enjoy the settings, the escape to another time period, and getting to know new and very interesting characters. Ms. Gray took me to a part of history that I was not even remotely familiar with and did such a good job with it that i actually took time after finishing the book to look up more information on the time period and its people. She also kept me engaged despite the distractions. The bad guy continues to be really bad, while Truelove and Silverton continue to make a fantastic pair. They are funny and engaging and balance one another beautifully. The secondary characters add flavor and insight to Truelove and Silverton’s story, something I always enjoy. The idea of how legend continues to have an effect on people generations upon generations after it is told was also a fun theme to explore. Overall, A Strange Scottish Shore was an interesting break from my usual...
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Aug
28

Review: When the Scoundrel Sins by Anna Harrington

Review: When the Scoundrel Sins by Anna Harrington When the Scoundrel Sins Author: Anna Harrington Reviewer: Jen Rating: A What I’m Talking About: The book opens six years in the past, at Annabelle’s London debut. Unfortunately, Quinton (Quinn) Carlisle couldn’t stop teasing his long-time acquaintance, leading to misunderstanding, scandal, and heartbreak. Fast forward to a month before Belle’s twenty-fifth birthday, by which she must marry, or lose her home and security. Quinn is beguiled by Annabelle, and he loves to tease her to light her inner fire. He can’t explain why she holds such attraction to him. Seeing her now, six years older, he is taken aback by the woman she’s become. But Quinn is heading to America, to keep a promise he made to his deceased father, and he will never allow himself to fall in love anyhow. Lady Ainsley, widowed caretaker and mother figure, wants love for Annabelle, but knows Belle’s security is more important. She wants/needs Annabelle to find a match, so she calls in her grand-nephew, Quinn, to help sort out proper suitors from fortune hunters, putting the pair together for the first time in six years. I absolutely adored When a Scoundrel Sins and it’s two main characters, Belle and Quinn. It’s obvious to everyone but the pair, that they are two peas-in-a-pod and meant to be together. However, Quinn is so wrapped up in his fear of love that he uses his promise to go to America as a wedge to drive Belle away. Yet he’s so inexplicably enamored by Belle that he can’t stop touching her and sending other suitors away. “But this, this wasn’t just a kiss. This was so much more. “Those other kisses didn’t leave him trembling the way that he trembled now. They didn’t intoxicate him with the wild scent of the highlands and heather. They didn’t leave his gut twisting into knots and his head spinning, or make the the world fall away until he was aware only of the warm sweetness of her breath tickling at his lips, her soft body leaning into his innocent invitation. But Belle’s kisses did just that.” The boy has it bad but refuses to acknowledge his love. Then there is Belle who knows she has feelings for Quinn, but keeping her home is more important than a marriage based on love. She tries to convince Quinn that they should marry for convenience – she’d even let him go to America – but he’s so stubborn. So she continues...
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