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Currently Browsing: historical romance
Apr
17

Review: A Gentleman Revealed by Cooper Davis

Review: A Gentleman Revealed by Cooper Davis A Gentleman Revealed Author: Cooper Davis Reviewer: B. Rating: C+ What I’m Talking About: While A Gentleman Revealed is the beginning of a series, I believe that the narrative would have benefitted greatly if I’d read the original stories that prefaced it. There are private jokes and intricacies which are crucial to the various relationships that define the characters, but left me confused, and sometimes very irritated, without an understanding of these previously defined behaviors. After carefully perusing several synopses and lengthy reviews of the first series, things made more sense. As such, it might be helpful to new readers to do some research into the earlier novels if reading them in their entirety isn’t an option.  With that in mind, and in a unique and promising twist, A Gentleman Revealed is set in a universe where same-sex unions are not only accepted, but encouraged. At least, that seems to be true most of the time. Alistair’s foster brother, the current king, was apparently forced to marry a woman in order to produce an heir before her death opened the way to his pursuit of a male concubine (who he is now married to). Marcus’ father, however, is fine with the idea of Marcus and Alistair adopting, which is wonderful. Other particulars of the story regarding scandals and the tarnishing of reputations led me to believe that these relationships were actually more “tolerated” than truly celebrated.  Another thing that made it easier to distance myself from the narrative were some of the modifiers used to describe Alistair’s form—especially when thought or implied by Marcus. Phrases like “generous proportions” and “heavyset,” etc. are moderate, yet forthright enough, but I was a little horrified that Marcus considered him as “big as a barn” in his own head. There were a few similar incidents, as well. I expected that kind of phrasing from other characters, but not Alistair’s lover. Despite the above, however, Marcus was a favorite of mine in the story, and I wanted him to find happiness with Alistair a great deal.  On a far more serious note, A Gentleman Revealed takes a unvarnished and oftentimes brutal look at Alistair’s constant battle with negative body image and alcoholism. While Alistair’s struggles are specific to him, they illustrate a universal and very real need for patience, acceptance, and support on both sides of the situation. The vast majority of the novel concerns Alistair’s self-loathing and the downward spiral he’s in, and...
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Apr
10

Review: Marry in Scandal by Anne Gracie

Review: Marry in Scandal by Anne Gracie Marry in Scandal Author: Anne Gracie Reviewer: Ang Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Marry In Scandal is the second title in the Marriage of Convenience series, but it can picked up and read by itself without any issues. If you are familiar with the series, you will enjoy visiting with characters you’ve come to know. If you are new to them I think you will still likely enjoy spending time in their company. The main characters are Lily and Edward, who are forced into marriage after a kidnapping and rescue bring them together. But despite their lack of choice in the matter they are able to find love, hope, and forgiveness through their relationship. Lily is a classic Victorian lady with a twist. She is sweet, kind and respectable but the perfect touch of independence, intelligence and just plain pluck. She may have been forced into a marriage of convenience but she going to give it her all to make it work. Given this desire, she is able to help Edward, our jaded, broken and handsome hero, accept forgiveness from those he loves, learn to forgive himself and help him rebuild bridges he burned a long time ago. Overall Marry in Scandal is a lovely afternoon escape filled with awful villains who get theirs in fun and unexpected ways, strong loving families, smart, feisty and fun ladies, and strong, handsome men and willing to take on the world for those they love. There are fun, unexpected twists and turns throughout the novel that had me laughing, cheering and sighing out loud… seriously I got some strange looks at Barnes and Noble but it was totally worth it to see Lily and Edward find happiness in the least likely of places, a marriage of convenience. My Rating:  A, Loved It About the Book: Shy young heiress, Lady Lily Rutherford, is in no hurry to marry. She dreams of true love and a real courtship. But when disaster strikes, she finds herself facing a scandal-forced marriage to her rescuer, Edward Galbraith, a well known rake. Despite his reputation Lily is drawn to the handsome Galbraith. In the gamble of her life, she agrees to marry him, hoping to turn a convenient marriage into a love match. As heir to a title, Galbraith knows he must wed, so a convenient marriage suits him perfectly. But there is a darkness in his past, and secrets he refuses to share with his tender-hearted...
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Mar
5

Review: As the Devil Dares by Anna Harrington

Review: As the Devil Dares by Anna Harrington As the Devil Dares Author: Anna Harrington Reviewer: Jen Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: In an effort to seek the approval of his deceased father, Robert has spent the past two years planning for the chance to be part of Winslow Shipping and Henry Winslow’s partner. The catch: Robert must find a husband for Winslow’s unruly daughter, Mariah, aka the Hellion. Mariah grew up without her mother, at her father’s side at the docks and shipyard. She knows Winslow Shipping inside and out and hopes to run the family business someday. But her father wants Mariah to be a proper lady, and instead seeks to find a partner outside the family. She’ll do everything she can to foil Robert’s plans to marry her off and take the company for himself. As the Devil Dares is a fun story with an enemies-to-lovers romance. Robert and Mariah are at odds from the start – both vying for her father’s attention and a piece of Winslow Shipping. Each is running from their own demons, having solid reasons for wanting to hold Winslow’s favor. But placing Robert in charge of Mariah’s season and finding her a husband creates a forced proximity with hilarious consequences. Mariah does everything she can to go along with the plan, while simultaneously working against the idea of marriage. As the pair spends time together, they start to get past their ambitions and see true natures beneath rough exteriors. They learn about one another, finding commonality in the death of a parent. Both are motivated and can appreciate the drive of the other. However, as all good stories go, mistakes made prior to their friendship developing come to light, causing conflict and drama. While it was obvious from the start that the conflict would occur, Ms. Harrington weaves a solid and entertaining story that kept me engaged. In the end, I enjoyed this third story in the Capturing the Carlisles series. Ms. Harrington has become a must-read author for me. I love her unconventional, strong-willed women who defy their time and go after what they want, and As the Devil Dares is another delightful example. Mariah and Robert are the perfect pairing, finding true love after learning to be friends then lovers. My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot About the Book: Whether it’s business or pleasure, Lord Robert Carlisle never backs down from a dare. But finding a husband for scandalous Mariah Winslow? It’s one challenge he...
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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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