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review 2017-11-18 06:02
Romancing the Scot by May McGoldrick
Romancing the Scot (The Pennington Family) - May McGoldrick
Authors holding $100 Visa gift card giveaway to celebrate new series! Click Giveaway for chance. Ends Nov. 26

3.5 stars

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.

The Napoleonic Wars are over but the political maneuverings are far from, Grace and her father are traveling with messages from Joseph Bonaparte to his wife Julie. They are attacked and Grace ends up hiding in a crate that gets shipped off to Scotland. As the daughter of a French cavalry officer with Jacobite ancestors, Grace finds herself in a perilous position when she awakens in the home of a former English cavalry officer and current judge. 
Hugh still blames himself for not being able to rescue his wife and son during the war; he therefore likes dangerous hobbies such as ballooning. When an unconscious woman is found in the new basket he had delivered, he can't help but be drawn to her. 
Grace and Hugh may have been on opposite sides of the war but their serendipitous meeting will have them joining together.
 
"I shouldn't have kissed you," she finally managed to whisper.
"No, it was I," he said, his gaze still setting her body aflame even from two steps away. "But I don't regret it, and I don't think you do, either."
 

 
First in the new Pennington Family series, Romancing the Scotis a rich and intriguing tale. Hugh is our viscount, former cavalry officer, and current judge hero, whose parents you might remember from the authors' Scottish Dream Trilogy. I greatly appreciated the authors' attention to Hugh as a judge. We don't get a courtroom scene but instead an engaging look at how he approaches his cases, specifically through a case involving a deaf and mute woman accused of murdering her child (in the author's note, the case is said to be based on a real one). This approach not only allowed Hugh and Grace to bond through solving how to work the case, showing how Hugh appreciated Grace's mind and abilities, it also added unique details to an often written about time period. 
 
While Hugh provided the calm and commanding demeanor, Grace gave us the action and compelling components. She at first claims amnesia because she fears that her father fighting for Napoleon and her Jacobite ancestors might land her in trouble but can't keep lying as she grows closer with Hugh. Grace was a wonderful heroine who didn't need to be dramatically overwritten to show her brilliance in strength living the everyday life she was placed in. She traveled with her French cavalry father, fighting sicknesses, helping wounded, and marching in the muck like many of the women in her time did; she's utterly capable but also so human in her vulnerability. The story's drama comes from Grace running from men who killed her father and her thinking they're after a huge diamond she didn't know until later she was transporting. There are English and French spies and some machinations. 
 
The story started off right away at a bit of run and it did jolt me a bit as I had to attempt to place the characters and what exactly was going on but it does level off fairly quickly. The middle slowed a bit as I thought more of a focus on the romance between Grace and Hugh could have sparked vivacity but I also greatly enjoyed the feel of history in this historical romance. There's a mention of the Spa Fields riots, the workings of the law I mentioned, and a focus on the Scottish Clearances. If you read a fair amount of Scottish historicals from the 1800s, you've probably run across this historical event, what made this feel different was instead of just reciting what the Clearances were or did, the authors' focused on the actual people and effects, it felt more intimate. The historical components in this story felt true and woven in a way that immensely added to the feel and created a richer story tapestry. 
 
I thought the middle could have used more romance between our couple but I also believed in them when they made love, the writing sometimes veered toward flowery/purple, the plot was weaving and intriguing, and the historical components highly enriched the story. Hugh's sister Jo was a touching character in her own right and with the set-up (adopted, broken engagement) the authors' have alluded to, I can't wait to read her book. Romancing the Scot was just an all around interesting read and a strong beginning to the Pennington Family series. 
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review 2017-11-11 21:37
Loved the setting
Dream Island - Josie Litton

They stood in the silence that descended, looking at one another. Alex saw a woman of courage and honor who stirred his blood even as she won his admiration. Were he to have no concern beyond his own wishes, he would not hesitate to claim the right to both possess and protect her. For her part, Joanna saw a man who seemed to have stepped directly from a legend into her dreams. Were the world a different place, it would have been so easy to forget all else and yield to the soul-deep hunger he ignited within her.

 

I was a big fan of the heroine Joanna but the setting won my attention for best "character". This is set in Regency times but the author creates a fictional island and people called Akora (maybe Atlantis survivors?) and delivers big time on the descriptions. I was lost into the world the author created with such lush and detailed descriptions of the islands and their culture. 

 

The clash of cultures between Joanna and Alex provided for some fun back and forth but what made it really fantastic was how they both respected each other, even when Alex was stating that Joanna needed to be subservient, he was admiring her strength providing a look into his true character. 

 

There is a slight other worldly feel, the island atmosphere but also the "gifts" that Joanna and Alex's sister possess. I thought the traitor storyline could have been flushed out more and the beginning had a bit of a slow start but I think I'm too used to newer releases jumping right in instead of setting the atmosphere, which this one did. 

 

If you're looking for something set in the 1800s but widely different, a magical feel, and two leads who challenge each, you'll want to hunt for this one. I'll definitely be continuing on in the series to see Joanna's brother and perhaps Alex's sister join in on the HEA.

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review 2017-11-10 05:26
Twisted Truths by Rebecca Zanetti
Twisted Truths (Blood Brothers) - Rebecca Zanetti

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.

Noni has worked hard to get over Denver ever since he left but when she needs to track down her sister's kidnapped baby, he's the only one she trusts to turn to. 
Denver can't believe the danger Noni has put herself in with plastering a picture of them together all over the internet. When he finds out about the baby though, he can't walk away.
With the sheriff and Dr. tightening their circle around the Blood Brothers, Denver must protect Noni and the rest of his family.
 
Twisted Truths is the final book in the Blood Brothers trilogy, which is a spin-off of the Sin Brothers series. It's a series dealing with genetically enhanced super soldiers who break free from their maker Dr. Madison and are on the run. While the Sin Brothers have all found their happily ever afters, they make appearances in this series but you wouldn't need to have read those books. I would highly suggest you read the other two books in the Blood Brothers trilogy though, as the continuing suspense storyline is very prevalent. 
 
"I've hurt you enough," he countered softly. 
She moved, turning and straddling him, her thighs outside his hard ones. Atop him, facing him, was exactly where she wanted to be. "Maybe this time I'll hurt you."
His chin lifted, and his eyes darkened to a dangerous blue. Intensity, so sharp it hurt to see, swirled there. "You've already slayed me through, darlin'."
 

 
The last book ended with Denver going off to find Noni, a woman he spent time with while he was working a case. She has plastered a picture of them together all over the internet trying to find him. What Noni doesn’t know is that Denver and his brothers are still trying to hide from a sheriff Cobb, brother to the man who ran the boys ranch Denver and his brothers were raised at. This brother liked to beat the boys and one night Denver, Ryker, and Heath end up killing him and run away. The sheriff has been searching for them ever since, along with Dr. Madison. She's the doctor who created all the super soldiers, but always claiming Denver was special. When Denver finds Noni, she tells him how her foster care sister overdosed and the gangbanger father took the baby and plans to sell her. Denver agrees to help her out. 
 
If it sounds like a lot of action happening to you, you'd be right. The story started off at a run right away. Which if you're more action oriented you would like, but some character and relationship development got left behind. We never really get to know Noni (get a feel for Denver in the previous two books) and since Denver and Noni's relationship had started off screen, we never get to experience them falling in love. We get a sex scene about 30% in and I can't say I really felt any emotion from it. There are no flashbacks to their previous relationship and no time for them to stop and develop one as they are either on the run from Cobb and Madison or trying to get the baby. 
 
The story had a little bit of rinse and repeat with Denver sensing danger, Noni refusing to be sent away to safety, people shooting at them, getting away from danger, Denver trying to refuse help from his brothers, going to a new safe house, and then the steps all repeating again. 
 
Our series villains didn't seem to quite have the weight they did in the previous books, Cobb was his violently psychotic self but almost rigidly so and instead of Dr. Madison being her scientifically psychotic brilliantly cunning self, she was ultimately shifted more toward kooky psychotic. The characters personalities and the story plot just seemed to run out of steam towards the end.
 
As I mentioned, you'll want to have at least read the other books in the Blood Brothers trilogy, or you'll be hopefully lost. For those of you that have, you'll greatly enjoy a return to Denver, Ryker, and Heath's brotherly relationship with all the other Sin Brothers making some appearances. The romance just didn't worm it's way in enough for me here but even though it didn't quite have the potency ending I was looking forward to, I still enjoyed our boys getting their happily ever afters. 

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review 2017-11-08 13:32
Once Upon a Maiden Lane by Elizabeth Hoyt
Once Upon a Maiden Lane - Elizabeth Hoyt

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.

"I want to learn all of you. I want you to know me in return. When I next kiss you, I want you to welcome my lips like a lover instead of a stranger." 
 
A novella listed as #12.5 in the Maiden Lane series, you could still read this as a standalone. Mary grew up in the orphanage featured in the series and we've seen glimpses of her and a couple other characters before but the hero and their romance is a new introduction.
 
With some Cinderella inspiration, nursemaid Mary is identified in a bookstore by our hero Lord Henry Blackwell to be the missing Albright twin. Twin babies stolen by their nursemaid, while Johanna was recovered Cecilia was never found. Henry is taken aback by how much Mary looks like Johanna and immediately claims she is Cecilia. Now, this is a novella, so the tempo gets pushed up. Henry's immediate claim Mary is Cecilia and the family accepting it is a bit side-eyeing but the relationship Henry and Mary have, made up for it for me.
 
He looked at her, at her straight black brows and the big brown eyes regarding him so seriously, and yet with a spark of humor, and it was as if something turned over in his chest. She was playing with him, this woman. 
 
I instantly felt a spark between the two, Hoyt's skill with sexual tension was evident but the friendship and sheer compatibility between the two won the show for me. Mary's guardedness but also strength paired with Henry's charm provided a delightful give and take between them. 
 
"And you? Did you have a pet as a child?"
"Yes, several," he replied. "Dogs and cats. Now I've got two hounds---Mole and Timberline."
"Mole?"
"His ears are very soft," he said a tad defensively.
 

 
I also thought this story was laced with skillful writing moments that a top author like Hoyt can provide; showing, instead of being told, little nuances of a character make the reading so much richer. You'll also get a pretty good feel for the times (1700s) as Hoyt focuses on the clothing through Mary being dressed as a lady for the first time.
 
As I mentioned, the Cinderella story, and all it’s in and outs, has some forced and awkward moments and the ending was a tad rushed but there is an epilogue that works to soothe that (you'll see a lot of past characters show up here). This is a novella and if you're looking for a quick hit of romance warmth, Once Upon a Maiden Lane would provide that and a friendly return to the Maiden Lane world. 
 
It was like a fairy tale come true. 

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review 2017-11-07 01:15
Political drama
A Lady's Code of Misconduct - Meredith Duran

First off, I just want to say, I could weep for how well written this was. I didn't catch a connection to other books in this series but if you read Duke of Shadows, two names (Duke of Auburn and Lockwood) are going to be familiar to you. The story structure, characters, and how Duran interweaved them all together was just plain great story telling. Why I ended up giving this three stars (solidly liked it) is all due to just personal taste. 

And so, in the very act of communicating an opinion, she had committed the egregious offense of insisting on her humanity. 

Again, why I read romance typically written by women and for women, are the underlining tones of women's personhood and how they have fought for it over the years. With the laws in place during the 1860s, our heroine Jane has no autonomy and has her life and money controlled by her uncle after her parents die. The author doesn't shy away from how crappy women had it and forces the reader to understand what those laws financially and emotionally do to women. Reading women’s pain, anger, and triumphs never fails to hit me in the gut and heart.

Where had this woman come from? Her voice was made of steel and her dignity, unbreakable. 

I'm glad I wait until December to do my yearly romance awards because Jane is going to be on my best heroines list with bells on. Her character gets 5 stars for me. From the way she had to survive under her uncle, to deciding she couldn't do it anymore, and how she owned her decisions. She is a bleeding heart liberal who gets knocked sideways by realities a bit but instead of shunning knowledge or being too embarrassed to acknowledge when she is wrong, she takes her licks and keeps on. Her courage was magnificent.

"You've been having a good deal of fun," he said slowly, "haven't you? Convincing the world that you're a mouse." 

I loved the beginning of the book before Crispin gets his amnesia. I loved his dark villainy to Jane's avenging angel. You could see where he starts to notice her (my favorite romance moment, when the hero "sees" the heroine in a way no one else does) and through this, the reader gets a deeper glimpse into his character and how he may have some shades of grey.

A squeak came from her. She had made that noise. His lips felt hot. He spoke against her skin.
"Your hair," he said, "is a glory. Promise me you will never pin it up again." 
The brush of his mouth sent static sparks along her skin. She felt flushed, shivering, light-headed. "I don't…it would be a scandal."
He turned her wrist ever so slightly, finding her pulse with his tongue. Her breath caught. She heard him breathe in deeply.
"Then unpin it just for me," he whispered.
 


The reason this got a three star rating from me was because I didn't fully connect with the hero Crispin and the romance between the two. I loved Crispin pre-amnesia and was settled in for some great sparking battles between him and Jane. When his amnesia reverts his personality back to before perceived betrayals (which kind of confused me, didn't all the betrayals happen before the 5 yrs he couldn't remember? Wouldn't the bitterness still be there for him? Felt kind of odd that he would only develop the bitterness the last couple years) and he lacks the dark bitterness that turned him distrustful and produced his self-isolation. It felt too easy; I wanted the journey and the work more. Since it wasn't "my" Crispin, I didn't feel the romance the way I think I should have between him and Jane. 

But the newspapers craft their headlines to sell papers, not facts. If crime has gone up in London, it has not gone up to such an extent that we should repeat the mistakes of the past. 

****
It would be difficult, after working alongside the poor, to forgot them in the halls of power. Impossible, too, to think of politics as a game, rather than the machinery through which real lives could be saved or squandered. 

Along with Jane’s character, I loved the political tone in this. The subtle jabbing Duran directs towards certain thoughts and ideologies. The pointed reminders of what the point of it all should be and the recriminations of how some people in power can shape and mold opinions and laws toward their benefit. There is a lot of political talk in this one, but in my opinion, the story only flourished from it. 

He had never realized how much could be communicated through touch, how much trust and warmth could travel through a hand simply laid over one's arm. 

Even though the hero and the romance didn't grab me the way other Duran couples have, there was no lack of her beautifully emotional lines. 

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