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review 2017-02-22 07:13
One simple explanation!
His Dark Kiss - Eve Silver
I read this for the Gothic square for Romance Bingo.

"If I was a new governess come to Manorbrier," he said, drawing out each word, "I would pay no mind to the Round Tower. No mind at all."

OR you people could tell her the reason why she should stay away instead of overacting your side-eye, ghoulish, and secretive roles. This was so gothic, it was a bit paint-by-numbers; every trope and characteristic from the genre was added. The dark lord, murder mysteries, disappearances, and gloom are always going to be present in gothics, along with the melodrama but the usual lingering questions that aren't or can't quite be answered yet that create the mystery was so incredibly forced. Our heroine is told death is in the tower and to stay away. The spoiler is the explanation for this, so don't read if you don't want to know because you don't get the answer until the second half.

the hero is a doctor, he researches diseases in the tower

(spoiler show)
Why, at no point, did he or no one simply say this to the heroine?!? Drove me batty. If your story falls completely apart because of forcing off one simple explanation, that's pretty weak.

I get that the usual culprit in gothics is supernatural and the author makes it

science

(spoiler show)
 here, which works because of the time period but it was ridiculous how this explanation just wasn't said right away. If you couldn't tell, this ruined the story for me. Felt like insta-love, too many inner thoughts from heroine, villain was clever and mysterious; wish that had been the only focus of the mystery and built up more over time to give its shocking conclusion.
I thought the first one was much better in characterization and story.
 
 
 

 

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review 2017-02-21 23:28
Hero loves dogs
Wild Wicked Scot - Julia London

I read this for the Man in a Kilt square for Romance Bingo.

She was afraid of him, disgusted by him, attracted to him.

Without the sweeping epic saga war components, this reminded me of Pride of Lions by Marsha Canham. As with the heroine in that one, Margot grew up extremely spoiled, sheltered, and is incredibly naïve. I personally am not the biggest fan of reading about perfect people, I love growth and journey. When Margot first meets Arran she is only 16 and after only two more meetings they are married after she turns 18. She is then immediately taken out of her home in England and brought to Arran's home in Scotland. Margot is an extreme fish out of water and her elitist ways and attitude definitely don't jive with the clan structure. She tries to help in her known English ways, but it only works to distance her more from Arran's people. Now, Arran may be completely different from the fops she grew up around and liked but we still she her attracted to him but she doesn't quite know what to do with it because she doesn't know him. I liked the fact that Margot wasn't blinded by insta-lust and just because she found Arran attractive she didn’t instantly trust him and it didn’t solve all their problems. Margot's just too young, too scared, and too bitter about not being able to marry someone remotely of her choosing and she ends up leaving Arran after only a couple months of marriage.

"I remember that your list of complaints was quite long."
She could feel the skin of her chest heating beneath his study of her. She had to look away or be devoured by that penetrating gaze. "Were they complaints? I always rather thought them pleas to help me reconcile to my new surroundings."
"Ah, is that what they were, then?" he mused.


Arran is more instantly likeable but while he has about 9 years on Margot, he was almost as clueless to marriage. He's the one who is struck by first sight and he knows as soon as he sees Margot he wants to marry her. He doesn't think about anything else except having her as wife, and doesn't think about how truly different they are. He's extremely caring to her in the bedroom, the one place they do connect, but baffled by her in every other measure. When he brings her to his home he doesn't help or explain to her how she can connect with his people and disappears for most the day doing work or traveling; he lives his life exactly the same way he did before marrying. Later on in the story there is a great conversation between the two where we learn that his parent's both died when he was young and Margot's mother died young also. We see that these two weren't modeled or taught how marriages work in a basic sense. In the beginning, Arran does do more little things to try and make it work but Margot's youth, fear, loneliness, and other issues I talked about cloud and create misunderstandings with their communication. These two simply married too soon and too young.

I'm usually a linear person but the switching chapters from past to present so worked for me. I loved how it set the tone and gave a clear understanding of how and why Arran and Margot felt the way they did, while also adding some drama. This was mostly a character driven story and our couple had the major chops to carry it; I devoured the first half of this absorbed into their story. I think it was around the 56% mark that the Reason I Read Romance conversation between the two happened. A couple lines, I refuse to spoil by putting them here, are spoken by Arran and let's just say I made sounds that probably only happen at the Cheesecake Factory when they bring me my red velvet cheesecake. They're crosses between gasps, sobs, happiness, and heart palpitations.

The second half and ending involving family and Jacobite drama didn't fully work for me, it wasn't flushed out enough. Especially, the quick and off screen way it was wrapped up, ended up feeling unneeded to me because of its lack of substance. Some secondary characters could have been fleshed out more like Arran's friend Jock and Margot's brother Knox. I guess I'm saying I wanted this book to be 200 pages of more because I loved the story so much.

I also felt the ending bringing together between Arran and Margot felt a little off. Arran had a quick to anger moment over something Margot did and then was just as quick to forgiveness, making it feel angst for angst sake. Then at the end when they have time to really have it out and come together, there was this kind of awkward lingering distrustfulness from Arran and unsure from Margot that felt overdone. At this point in the story and after certain things had been done, they should have had a united front.

Still, I gobbled this story up. Margot's growth was evident and I enjoyed how she went from a spoiled, scared, and naïve girl to a woman finding and testing her own strength and mind. Arran matured into a man who learned to open his clueless eyes and pay attention to his wife, while not trying to mold her into what he thought she should be instead of who she truly was. I'd read about this couple all day.

Bonus:
Arran loves dogs and my crazy dog lady feelings couldn't handle it.

She was suddenly reminded of a young dog here at Balhaire who'd been badly injured by a trap that had been set illegaly. When the gamekeeper determined the poor dog could not be saved and, futhermore, would suffer in his last hours, she had watched Arran scoop the dog up in his arms and carry him from this very hall with tears on his face. He'd taken the dog into the woods and mercifully put it out of its misery. She shivered at the painful recollection of how he'd grieved for the dog.

Not going to lie, reading this and then how three gray muzzled dogs sleep on the bed, the only thought running through my head was Shut it Down, Shut it all Down. Any Romanices Hero of 2017 talk is over.

 

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review 2017-02-17 05:15
Excommunicated Warrior Monk
My Forever Love - Marsha Canham

I read this for my Series Headway pick.

This review is for the original My Forever Love and not the revised Dragon Tree.

"A man can lose his way in this world so easily," he said softly. "He can see horrors that make him question his sense of worth, his sense of well-being, his sense of what is right and wrong. He can be overcome by greed, by lust, by the lure of another man's possessions. He can have everything he owns, even his name and his reputation taken away from him in the blink of an eye. But the one thing, the only thing a man cannot have taken away from him is his honor. That, he has to give away."

Oh how I miss historicals that actually feel like historicals and have research and setting to them. Canham did an excellent job placing me in the times, this is a little brutal and gory with the what the heroine faced in her marriages and the fighting scenes, but medieval times were a bit like that. The first half was a little slow and I started shipping Marak and the heroine for awhile because of much more flushed out their relationship was. While the setting, scene, and secondary characters were vividly painted, the romance fell short. The hero and heroine's relationship felt more like insta-lust and then their bonding felt pretty rushed at the end. Separately, the heroine with her black widow ways and fighting spirit and the hero with his excommunicated warrior monk status, were fascinating but together their romance lacked spark.

The author addressed the romance issues in this and has heavily revised the story, I'd recommend reading the newer version if you have choice.

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review 2017-02-16 20:46
Lack of hockey was disappointing
 Crazy Pucking Love - Cindi Madsen

I read this for the New Adult square for Romance Bingo.

I'm not a big New Adult fan, I'm in my 30s and find a lot of the storylines overplayed, immature, and forced angst, and I'm a huge hockey fan. This book was kind of in trouble from the beginning. Definitely don't read this looking for some hockey in your story, the few descriptions of games kind of read like basketball in the beginning, NCAA college players wear a full cage so hero's punch to someone's face wouldn't connect, and college athletes can't have a side job that pays, I think, over $2,000, so Dane wouldn't even think about that option. Rachel Gibson and Deirdre Martin write wonderful hockey romances that incorporate the feel of the game and it's obvious they've either researched it or are fans themselves.

The romance was so incredibly wishy-washy and drawn-out with the hero's reasoning for not wanting to call the heroine his girlfriend, wanted a relationship with her mind you, just not call it that and keep it a secret, was forced for continued story sake. He made promises to his high-school girlfriend but then left to go to college and she didn't take it well and he feels guilty. It was brought up over and over along with Dane's family and little sister drama that managed to annoyingly show up multiple times without being fully flushed out. The heroine's story line was better and her kick butt Math love and smarts was great to read about but she got dragged on the slow moving train of wishy-washy romance.

I'm not sure I could even call this light and fluffy, just drawn out.

 

 

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review 2017-02-14 04:13
Last Night With the Duke by Amelia Grey
Last Night with the Duke (The Rakes of St. James) - Amelia Grey

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.

 

Esmeralda is a viscount's granddaughter but after her mother was disowned by the family for marrying an Irish poet, she finds herself overseeing a chaperone and governess business.
Griffin might have been a wild youth, but as the Duke and head of the family now, he wants nothing to go wrong when his twin sisters make their debut.
With the possibility of someone out to hurt Griffin's sisters he hires Esmeralda as their chaperone, thinking she has the fortitude to keep them out of mischief.
Sisters, dogs, young bucks, and finding love in a surprising place will make this a season Griffin and Esmeralda won't forget.

"Surrender, Miss Swift. I have won this battle."

Last Night With the Duke is the first in a series and introduces us to Griffin and Esmeralda. I found the beginning to be a very slow start with their first conversation taking 20-30% of the story. There was also a feeling of insta-lust/love as they were both very physically attracted to one another immediately. The slow start feed into a very slow half, the story doesn't really get going until the second part. The whole point of Griffin hiring Esmeralda is to keep his sisters in line and safe during their season debut. When Griffin younger, he and his two other Duke friends (the author acknowledges the stretch it would be to have three young and unmarried dukes at one time) committed a prank where they set up a situation where debutantes were tested to see if they would show up to meet a secret admirer. There's a rumor going around that someone is still upset over how that might have affected a debutante and is going to ruin Griffin's sisters to get back at him.

This was a good plot to create some mystery, it's brought up and worried about by Griffin, but then that was it. The danger, villain, or storyline never came to fruition and fizzled at the end. With the mystery plot not going anywhere I turned to the romance. I'm personally not a fan of insta-lust/love, so I started off on the wrong foot with this one. I also never thought Griffin and Esmeralda spent enough time together to develop any sort of relationship. Griffin was instantly an invader of Esmeralda's space and by their third conversation he was rubbing his nose against hers but since they didn't have any emotional connection, the tension felt off and misplaced. This also could have been a personal issue too, but since Esmeralda worked for Griffin, the unequal power dynamic gave his looming an uncomfortable feel.

The secondary characters of Griffin's sisters seemed nice if a little airy and spoiled while Esmeralda's younger sister seemed kind of bratty to me. Her attitude at times was obviously allowed to create angst and emotion but for me, I would have sent her to her room more than once. Griffin's friends are obviously introduced and set-up for books of their own, they didn't make a strong appearance but they were genial enough.

The biggest problem I had with this book was that I felt it was slow and nothing seemed to be happening until the very end when the last 10% rushed to wrap up the plots. Except for a very, very at the end bedroom scene, this was an extremely clean read with just a few kisses, which bedroom closed readers may appreciate.

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