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review 2017-06-22 01:46
The Highland Commander by Amy Jarecki
The Highland Commander (The Highland Lords) - Amy Jarecki

***Full Review***

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Lady Magdalen's father has been imprisoned in the Tower and charged with treason against Queen Anne. Magdalen's step-mother is pregnant and even though she's shunned Magdalen for being a bastard, she begs her to go to London and plead for her father's case. Magdalen would do anything for her father so she takes off with her maid Agnes.
Commander Lord Aiden has leave from his ship for the first time in two years and plans to finally live life to the fullest at Whitehall. However, on his way there he comes across a Lady and her maid needing help.
Magdalen and Aiden have met before but court intrigues and war may keep them from their true destinies.
 
Second in the Lords of the Highlands series, The Highland Commander can be read as a standalone. When we are first introduced to Magdalen and Aiden they came off as gently sweet characters; they were a bit Garwood-esqu in their feel. Magdalen was the slightly outcast heroine because of her label as bastard but she had cultivated a role with the people of her town by running a hospital for battered women. Aiden is a second son of a duke and in the Royal Navy, is very young (early twenties), and the exact opposite of a rake. While we've seen the essence of Magdalen many times in romance, Aiden was sweetly different.
 
As the story went on I thought it lost some of its focus on Magdalen and Aiden together and instead kept hammering on Aiden's virginity. I wished the focus hadn't been on Aiden simply wanting to lose it and instead his growing attraction and affection for Magdalen for the sake of herself; missed more of an emotional bond. Don’t let Aiden’s lack of experience fool you though, towards the middle and end, sexual escapades are had. The court intrigue and Magdalen trying to find a way to free her father and later trying to work for her father lacked some details and progression that could have kept it from feeling like Magdalen only bemoaning her circumstances instead of making moves to change it.
 
There's a plethora of secondary characters, real and historical, that the author did a good job of incorporating that helped shaped the world and setting. The ending did seem extremely rushed and the fate and revealing of some characters lacked the emotional punch it was supposed to have because of the lack of previously laid groundwork. The first half was a bit slow while the ending was rushed as a jumble of ideas and story plots got thrown at the reader and wrapped up with perfect bows. Magdalen and Aiden were two very sweet characters but their story was lacking support.

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review 2017-05-30 01:11
The Wicked Cousin by Stella Riley
The Wicked Cousin (Rockliffe Book 4) - Stella Riley

After his twin brother died and his father smothered him trying to keep him from any danger, Sebastian broke the chains to live a wild and carefree life. Now that he is a little older and wiser, he just wishes all the fervor from his younger exploits would die down.

Cassandra is less than impressed with all the stories about their wicked "cousin" but when she actually meets the man, she finds herself singing a different tune.

 

Fourth in the Rockliffe series, The Wicked Cousin focuses on Sebastian and Cassandra. I'm a newbie to this series and while it is entirely possible to start here, the extended family and friends secondary characters (heroes and heroines from the previous books) will make you wish you had read their stories. If you've read Grace Burrowes and her Windham series, the incorporation of past characters and world building is in the same vein here. I did think Riley did a slightly better job of unobtrusively weaving them in, not as much a feeling of off tangent if you're not previously acquainted with them.

 

And with the utmost reluctance, she saw what she had been unconsciously determined not to see. She saw what all the fuss was about.

 

Cassandra was our wondrously level-headed heroine, who does get a bit outshined by the hero, but always likeable. A heroine from a loving family with no horrible trauma almost seems like a novelty these days. However, the angst that was replaced with loving family dynamics, a sweet father and mother paired with an overly precocious little sister, provided heartwarming nuances and emotions more modern trends have been leaving out. I would have liked more scenes with Cassandra interacting with her sister, mother, and friends, as Riley did a tremendous job showcasing the male relationships.

 

It occurred to Sebastian that, in only a handful of meetings, he had come to like Cassandra Delahaye much more than was probably wise.

 

Our hero Sebastian is one that you won't help but fall in love with. The pain and sense of loss (both brother and sense of self) when his twin brother dies is heartbreaking. The way that Riley took this instance and constructed how it affected Sebastian, his family, and therefore their relationships added immense depth, you'll feel this story. Before we are introduced to Sebastian we learn of his persona but just like Cassandra learns, the true man is much more. His character make-up was so rich, confident, and teasing but yet vulnerable and shy at times. He was no one-trick pony or cardboard cutout, if you're a hero-centric reader, you don't want to miss Sebastian and his gorgeous garnet hair.

 

This was very much a character driven story, in which there was such an ease and flow to the writing that it envelopes you into the story. There was dramatic flair added with a scorned mistress causing problems for our couple. This provided some of the drama we all secretly love in romance but did stretch out for an unneeded extra scene; it turned around to feel like the deranged villain needed serious help instead of the truth spoke a bit harshly to her, even if it also felt justified. The story tempo is more leisurely, which with the richness of characters and story I didn't mind, but there were a few times I thought it was too slow following a bit long on offshoots. I also thought the climax of the story hit around the 80% mark and created a bit of a deflated balloon ending, however, people who like extended epilogues will probably enjoy the continuation.

 

All in all, I was a big fan of this story with its rich depth in characters and world. I've been complaining lately of story structure, definitely not a probably here, it feels like this was edited with a fine tooth comb. I'll be going back and reading the rest of the books in this series, I have a strong desire to grow more acquainted with the Duke of Rockliffe after his appearances here. There was also glimpses of a secondary romance featured and with the set-up of a duke's brother and woman who feels she couldn't be good enough for him, you can bet I'll be first in line when it gets published. We read romance to get lost in another world for some time, this is one you'll not want to come back from.

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review 2017-05-13 22:35
Again, Eh
Because of Miss Bridgerton - Julia Quinn

Found the heroine hard to connect with, she was a bit oblivious/ignorant of how rude she would come off. The hero was a beta treat and their enemies-to-lovers trope I'm a sucker for but their interactions and chemistry seemed a bit off and uneven. This could have been a novella as a lot of the story dragged and felt like not much happened, very character driven but problems with unevenness I mentioned hurt it. Quinn's writing is always good so I liked it but this felt uninspired compared to her original Bridgerton series.

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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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