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review 2018-02-15 19:03
Review: Devil in Tartan by Julia London
Devil in Tartan (The Highland Grooms) - Julia London

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

Review copy provided by Netgalley

Originally posted at That's What I'm Talking About

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review 2018-02-14 19:02
Sorrow Road
Sorrow Road: A Novel (Bell Elkins Novels) - Julia Keller
I have enjoyed reading this series and was hoping Bell would go out in a bang in this final novel in this series. As the prosecuting attorney in this Appalachian community, she has had her hands full as its citizens deal with drugs and crime. As Bell wrestles with her job she also must handle her own life issues and finding a balance between the two. In this final novel, revenge seems to be on everyone’s mind. The passage of time, the events that have occurred make no difference, it is about retaliation.
 
I found myself not enjoying this novel as much as I have the previous Bell Elkins novels. There were high and lows as I read but there wasn’t the anticipation nor the adrenaline-rush that I have felt in previous novels. I didn’t feel a deep connection to the characters yet I enjoyed their stories and how they tried to resolve their issues. It was nice to see that Bell’s personal life was finally seeing some sunshine. At first, I wasn’t sure what allowed that to seep in and what that would actually do to her but I enjoyed how Bell accepted this change. I enjoyed this series and I liked reading about Bell’s small community and the issues that they faced.

 

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review 2018-02-12 05:51
Review: The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband by Julia Quinn
The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband: A Bridgertons Prequel - Julia Quinn

Reviewed for Joyfully Reviewed

 

When she receives word that her brother has injured on the battlefield in the Colonies, newly orphaned Cecilia Harcourt does the only thing she can do: pack her bags, flee her oily cousin trying to coerce her into marriage, and spend her savings coming to America to take care of her brother.  But when she arrives in New York, it’s not her brother she finds in the hospital, but his best friend, Edward Rokesby.  Edward is injured and unconscious and Cecilia is determined to help him.  To do so, she has to tell one little lie: that she’s his wife.  She doesn’t expect Edward to awaken with no knowledge of the last three months of his life.  He knows who she is and believes it when he’s told they’re married.  With no leads on her brother and an injured, kind man who needs her, Cecilia decides to temporarily carry on her charade.  But the longer she’s around Edward, the harder it is not to slip into the fantasy that she’s his wife.  She knows she can’t lie to him forever, but what will happen when the truth comes out?

 

The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband is a bit of a difficult book for me to review.  Julia Quinn is one of my favorite authors and though this is a solidly-written book, it lacks Ms. Quinn’s signature vibrancy.  Part of this is due to the setting – Revolutionary War America, even away from the battlefront, doesn’t lend itself to witty banter or cheerful antics – but part of the problem is that nothing much happens in this story.  It’s the story of a good woman in a hard situation who is forced to lie, and the good man who is tricked as a result.

 

I won’t say The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband is a bad book, for it isn’t.  Cecilia and Edward are caring, likeable people who clearly make a good match.  But the most engaging part of their romance comes from the excerpts of letters they started to exchange through Cecilia’s brother months before our hero and heroine ever met.  Those tiny bits at the beginning of each chapter were, for me, the liveliest bits of the book.  The rest of the story was fairly slow and uneventful and this is the first time ever that I had no problem putting a book of Ms. Quinn’s down.  As I said before, it’s not a bad book; it’s a sweet, if slightly muted romance, and perhaps it would have worked better for me in a novella format.  Even though The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband wasn’t my particular cup of tea, the ending left me satisfied with Edward and Cecilia’s happily ever after and I’m incredibly anxious to read Andrew Rokesby’s book.

 

****


First thoughts:

2.5 stars. I'm struggling with the rating because this isn't a bad book and the characters are perfectly likeable. But as a JQ book, it's sadly lacking. There's no spark, it's slow, and not much happens for 2/3 of the book. It pains me to give a low rating to a JQ book, but this one was missing her regular magic. It's also the first time ever that I had no problem putting a book of hers down. I'm chalking it up to be an anomaly and I'm still really looking forward to Andrew's book.

Source: www.joyfullyreviewed.net/reviewparent/girl-make-believe-husband-julia-quinn
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review 2018-02-04 06:36
By the Book
By the Book - Julia Sonneborn

Having never read Jane Austen's Persuasion (I know, shame on me), I can't speak of any comparisons or lack thereof. In all honesty, that had nothing to do with my interest in this one. The cover caught my attention and the synopsis piqued my interest. The author certainly has talent and the story is interesting enough, if a bit predictable. I did find myself somewhat confused by the need for so many emails, including addresses, subject lines, etc, interspersed throughout the story. Several were showing the many denials Anne received from publishers, but there were other completely mundane things included as well. They quickly became repetitive and tedious, and I'll readily admit that it didn't take me long to start skimming those parts to get the gist of it before moving on. That said, I never felt like I was reading a romance. I read about a fling and an affair in this tale, but neither of those felt at all romantic. There is plenty about Anne and her ex, their break-up several years earlier, and her discomfort about having to work with him, but the interactions between them are brief and scattered, and completely ordinary. The closest they come to being remotely romantic is one scene when they're having a drink in celebration, but any romance is in Anne's thoughts and doesn't progress any further. So, even though the conclusion for this one held no surprises, there was no real build-up of romantic tension. As far as the characters are concerned, we get a rather odd mix of the likable and not so likable. Our main character, Anne, is interesting if a bit self-centered, but the shining star in this one for me is Larry. He's witty and endearing even when he's making bad choices. To sum it up, the story was okay, but the romance fell a little flat for me. 

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review 2018-01-26 19:44
Paper Ghosts
Paper Ghosts: A Novel of Suspense - Julia Heaberlin

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

I had liked ‘Black-Eyed Susans’ by the same author well enough, and I thought I’d like this one as well, but unfortunately, it wasn’t the case. As evidenced by the time I needed to finish it, that wasn’t because I had too much work and no time to read, but because it kept falling from my hands and I’d reach something else to reach instead.

It started well enough, and I thought that the story would be a game of cat and mouse between the main character and the suspected killer. However, while I kept waiting for said character to reveal her hand—for instance, to show that she had made this or that mistake on purpose, in order to better turn the tables—such moments never happened. I think this is where it went wrong for me, and I believe the first-person narration wasn’t an asset in this case: with a third person POV, I could’ve been fooled into thinking the ‘heroine’ knew what she was doing, since I wouldn’t have been completely ‘in her head; but with first person, it’s more difficult to fool the reader...

So, well, I wasn’t fooled. In spite of all her alluding to her ‘trainer’ and to how she had taught herself to face various difficult situations, she wasn't really one step ahead. Perhaps in the very beginning, but this fell down the train as soon as Carl started coming up with new ‘conditions’ along the way, and she was totally taken aback, and... just relented, or protested weakly. That didn’t fit my idea of someone who had planned carefully, or whose plans were unravelling but who still had the savvy to bounce back.

Also, I wasn’t convinced at all by the twist at the end. Something you can’t see coming because there was never any hint of it throughout the story, is not what I call an actual twist, but cheating the reader. (Now, when I read something and I’m all ‘a-ha! So that’s why she did this in chapter2, and said that in chapter 6, and that character did that in chapter 14’, well, that’s a proper twist.)

Conclusion: 1.5 stars. Too bad.

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