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review 2017-04-13 05:35
Hard-Hearted Highlander by Julia London
Hard-Hearted Highlander (The Highland Grooms) - Julia London

This story was not for me, at all. As much as I loved the first in the series, I did not like this one.

No, men didn't intimidate her. No one intimidated her.

Our heroine is now a lady's maid after eloping with a dude below her station. Her dad wasn't having it, got the marriage annulled and sent the dude away on a ship.

ship sunk, dude died

(spoiler show)

  She's twenty-nine and after living through the disillusionment of happily ever after, she has a bit of a crusty outer layer. I generally liked her, but the numerous sad inner thoughts passages didn't endear her to me so much as keep any momentum between her and the hero from getting rolling.

"You are wretched, Rabbie MacKenzie."

Took the words right out of my mouth. Seriously, the hero goes beyond depressed, grumpy, or broody, he's a d*ck. His rudeness towards his fiancée (who heroine works for) is completely uncalled for. I get it, he doesn't want to marry her, and he’s depressed and still hurting from his first love. Oh that's right, not only is there a fiancée to compete with the heroine but also a lost first love. He comes off immature and d*ckish with his attitude towards everything. I would have accepted standoffish with the fiancée, 'cause hey, she's not the heroine, but his attitude made me severely dislike him.

Not being able to connect with the hero and heroine definitely led to me not feeling their romance. It was probably also the occasional flashbacks to the hero falling in love, with the first woman. I would unscientifically guess that 70% of this story is the hero and heroine bemoaning their losses. They both have reason to, hero missing his first love and the utter devastation the English caused in the Highlands after the failed Jacobite rebellion (no specific history mentioned, except for Culloden referenced, it felt weirdly like the author was trying to give us the emotions from this without giving a solid focus on it) and the heroine had a miscarriage (not a spoiler, told pretty soon).

I'm going to put this next part in spoiler quotes because if you know the outcome, it might ruin some reading enjoyment.

There is a sort of secondary romance where the hero's fiancée starts to become attracted to his brother, because he is at least decent to her. However, after completely misleading the reader it turns out the brother does not like the fiancée, at all. I wanted to scream to the heaven's "WHAT WAS THE POINT?" The portrayal of the fiancée was so mean, lol. She's only 17 and naïve but holy guacamole is the hero mean to her, the heroine says she's a friend but bangs her fiancée and kind of talks smack about her, and then the guy who she thinks likes her, is like no way jose. So mean.

(spoiler show)



Basically, I found the hero mean, too many long hero and heroine inner sad musings, and the impediments to their relationship weren't resolved until waaaaay late in the story; I spent most the time wondering where the romance was in this romance. Also, there was a hero with his first love flashback in the EPILOGUE. Like, no. I get this was supposed to be emotional reminiscing about lost loves because of society and war but for me, it badly missed the mark.

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review 2017-04-11 02:01
Once a Courtesan by Liana LeFey
Once a Courtesan (Once Wicked) - Liana LeFey

Second in the Once Wicked series, this story focuses on Jacqueline, the headmistress of a school that secretly takes in girls saved from brothels and helps create new lives for them. As the purpose of the school deals with sex and child exploitation, along with Jacqueline's abusive past, this story had more of a solemn tone. I have to say, the beginning of this and first half was very slow going. I would almost categorize this as fiction with some mystery instead of romance. The author calmly and steadily integrated us into Jacqueline's mission of running the school and Will's job of infiltrating the school and investigating it, but separately. Our main couple had met and deemed each other attractive but they didn't really intertwine until almost halfway through. The last 40% of the story picked up and things moved very quickly in regards to the mystery and danger from the villain. All in all, I felt the author stretched out and spent too much time on characters' inner musings while not connecting our hero and heroine sooner; a lot of the story was not what I came here for.

Full review can be read at: Reading Between the Wines book club

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review 2017-04-09 22:32
Heroine went for it
Sinful Scottish Laird (The Highland Grooms) - Julia London

3.3 stars

 

Cailean fumed on the long walk to Arrandale, exasperated he'd been put on his heels by the Englishwoman, astounded that it had happened before he knew it, and amazed by her cheek. Och, she was barmy, that was what. And bonny. A barmy, bonny woman---the worst sort to have underfoot.

Second in the Highland Grooms series, the author has the son of the previous couple as the hero. I enjoyed this jump as I really liked the couple from the first and it felt like a fresh move. In fact, what I enjoyed the most from this story was the flip-the-script direction the author decided to take not only with the time jump but especially the heroine's personality.

Daisy, our heroine, is English, a widow, a self-proclaimed middling mother, and trying to avoid another unwanted marriage. She's almost thirty and when she sees our hero Cailean, mama want. Usually, in romance books, the pursuer is the hero while the heroine maidenly shies away, not so here. Daisy finds Cailean a lusty piece of man meat and with the confidence and drive of a woman almost thirty, she flirts, provokes, and is not shy about her attraction to him. I loved it, so few times do we get to see heroines like this (probably due to heroine's younger ages).

"You shouldn't come in."
"No," he agreed. "I shouldna kiss you, either."
She stepped back again, so that she was now very much in her room. "You keep saying that," she said and lifted her arms, pulling the pins from her hair.
Cailean watched her hair tumble down around her shoulders. "I keep meaning it," he said quietly.


Cailean I had a harder time connecting with. He was our burned once a billion times shy hero, and with my not feeling like his personality and soul of character was flushed out, it made his reluctance for angst sake denying Daisy pretty annoying. These two were really still at the starting line around the 50% mark, which made the story drag a bit for me.

The sort of villain felt a bit too done with his poopy personality and he fizzed out at the end; I like a little dedication from my villains, at least an attempted child kidnapping to get his way or something. The secondary character of Daisy's cousin Belinda was a bit uneven, but Daisy's son Ellis wonderfully stayed away from being overly cute or butting into my romance. The author did a great job with trying new things here and I greatly appreciated it, books in series should follow a connecting thread but not feel like the same story written over and over just with different names in the leads.

Our heroine Daisy was a breath of fresh air but I had problems connecting with our hero Cailean. Their romance took too long to get going causing the story to drag a bit and their declarations of love didn't feel like they had a solid foundation. The next book in the series is about Cailean's brother and I'm definitely going to read it and see what fresh new turn the author has in store while hoping some of the magic from the first in the series makes a return appearance.

"In the Highlands, if you want something, you reach for it."

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review 2017-03-19 15:52
Man & Monster (The Savage Land, #2) by Michael Jensen
Man & Monster (The Savage Land: Book 2) - Michael Jensen

 

 

Man & Monster (The Savage Land, #2) is a blast of an historical fiction, m/m romance, horror novel!

 

Cole ("Cold-Hearted") Seavey meets up with the characters from Man & Beast (The Savage Land, #1) , out on the Ohio Frontier, circa 1799. (Namely John Chapman, (Johnny Appleseed), and Pakim, (our handsome Delaware Brave). Pakim rescues Cole after he finds him badly injured as the result of an attack. An attack from what is the question; especially after this creature begins to attack Hugh's Lick-the small settlement that is closest to John Chapman's claim.

 

Soon the reader is fully engrossed in the story of this town, its inhabitants and whatever the thing is that's hunting them. The characters are so solidly drawn, they're vivid in my mind. I was happy to see John Chapman again, (I didn't know that he was going to be in this one!) and Cole turns out to be anything but cold-hearted. He soon develops feelings for Pakim and together with John Chapman and others, they struggle to defend themselves against what Pakim believes is a Wendigo.

 

The real meat of this story was the mystery of the Wendigo. I have always had a fondness for creatures of legends of myth, and Wendigos are near the top of my list. Native American cultures are fascinating and so are the stories they told to each other. The author's research into these and into the norms and taboos of the white frontier-folk of the time really shines through and rings true.

 

With many exciting action scenes and twisty turns of the plot, Man & Monster turned out to be a lot of fun, even though it's wayyyy out of my wheelhouse. To me, it's always the story that is paramount, and in that regard, Michael Jensen delivers.

 

Highly recommended to fans of historical fiction, m/m romance, and HORROR!

 

You can get your copy here: Man & Monster (The Savage Land: Book 2)

 

*I received a free e-copy from the author in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.* **In addition, I consider this author to be an online friend. This did not affect the content of my review.**

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review 2017-03-08 05:20
History and romance, my favorite combo
The Dutch Girl: Renegades of the American Revolution - Donna Thorland

"You mean you will let us have novels?" asked the taller one, who must be Jannetje.
"As long as you do your other reading and advance in all of your subjects, I see no reason that you should not read novels."
"Reverend Blauvelt says they give women ideas."
"Well, someone has to," said Anna.


What a story. This is more historical fiction with romance than vice versa but the intermingling of fact, real historical figures/events, and romance was amazing (I do think this was heavier on romance than the previous in series). I can see a few getting bogged down in the middle with our heroine's journey turning more toward the issues of the time, British and Americans fighting for land, but my history loving heart was all in.

The story reads a bit like a crescendo, with the last 30% providing us with answers and action that the first 70% hinted at and built towards (a bit rushed of an ending). This is part of a series but you could still start here and be fine. The connecting thread is an American woman spy nicknamed The Widow who helps Anna when she is younger and is the impetus for the journey she makes. There is also a character named Kate Grey who was featured before and makes a smallish but important appearance.

The romance between Anna and Gerrit is not the focus, like I said, but when they show up together on the pages, they spark. When we first see them together their conversation and back and forth had my toes curling, not so much because of sexual reasons but from two people attracted to each other whose intelligence, wit, and teasing caused heat. They knew each other as children, so we get them falling in love through some reminiscing and I did miss more of their romance aspect in their present. I thought the one night we got of them together could have been lengthened and emboldened more but I'm greedy like that.

This is more Anna's story than Anna and Gerrit's or the birth of America but it worked well in this capacity. The details are immaculate in this without feeling unnecessary or weighed down in minutiae; the author provides an amazing feel for the time period. The secondary characters have depth and breadth that kept them from being strictly villains or heroes.

I felt this was a little different from the others in the series in that working for the cause on the American patriots’ side wasn't the focus. You'll learn about Dutch culture and since Anna doesn't so much as have a horse in the race as she is just trying to survive, you'll get how average citizens were affected by the war. There was some great feminist thinking from Anna, which even two hundred years later still begs to be discussed, that had me wanting to quote a lot from this book.

I think this story ended in 1778 and I fervently hope the author keeps writing up to 1783 and then 1812 and then, well I hope she keeps writing historical romances until the end of time. If you like this time period and want a little romance in your historical fiction, this series is a must read.

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