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review 2018-12-15 19:22
Cute and fluffy
Kiss Me at Christmas - Valerie Bowman

For more quotes and comments - Buddy Read

 

The past twenty-four hours with him had been unbelievable. Not only had he nearly been killed, but when she’d treated the man for a pistol wound, of all things, she’d been lusting after him like a common street doxy.

 

The leads, Daffin and Regina started off cute and sweet. I really liked Regina as she was a wonderful combination of vulnerable and courageous. When she is talking with Daffin you could feel how much she liked him and how nervous that would make her but then she would charge on bravely, such a great character. Daffin was interesting as a Bow Street Runner but towards the end he started to get a bit redundant with the "I'm not good enough for her" old stand-by.

 

The first half was a really good beginning but the second half didn't expand on it enough for me with growing depth in their relationship, the murder mystery had a villain seemingly out of nowhere and a very rushed ending, past and future hero/heroines clogged up the ending, and I was wanting a little bit more of a holiday feel. 

 

Overall though, I liked it as it had some cute moments, humor popping in, and a heartfelt heroine. 

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review 2018-12-11 00:26
Not the Duke's Darling by Elizabeth Hoyt
Not the Duke's Darling - 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. 

 

First in the new Greycourt series, Hoyt starts us off with a spot of danger as our heroine, Freya, is on the run from some men and finds herself face to face with her childhood crush, Christopher, but who she also blames for her brother's downfall. There's some background foundation to the hows and whys of where are characters are at in life. The main thread is Freya's brother, Ran, tried to elope with Julian Greycourt's sister, she ended up dying (we aren't given specifics), and Christopher just stood by while Ran was beaten bad enough he ended up losing his right hand. Ran, Julian, and Christopher were bestfriends but this fractured their bond and they all separated, the other members of the family cut ties all with each other also.

 

The Wise Women had long been hunted by Dunkelders— nasty, superstitious fanatics who knew about the Wise Women and believed they were witches who should be burned.

 

While the ill fated elopement gave us the underlining emotional tones, the Wise Women that Freya is the Macha (spy) for, gives us the suspense as she is trying to stop a law in the House of Lords that gives free reign to declaring women witches along with her trying to hide from members of the Dunkelders, men who hunt “witches”. These are the two main plot threads but there are numerous other ones, some slight and others weighty, that at times only clog an already full story. Christopher has PTSD induced anxiety from his time in India, we get povs from an old friend of Freya's, Messalina Greycourt, who's storyline looks to be set-up for the next in the series, an imprisoned wife, and a whole slew of secondary characters that get little mini-plots of their own. I like full stories but none of these threads or plots were fully fleshed out and it left a lot feeling shallow and dull.

 

This, this was what he’d been missing without even realizing it: genuine conversation. Genuine feeling.

 

The romance and chemistry between Christopher and Freya was severely lacking for me; I had more fond feelings for the relationship between him and his dog. Hoyt has been a favorite with word play, sexual and taunting, but these two never sparked; it felt like he just found her attractive out of nowhere, while she relied on childhood feelings and the color of his pretty blue eyes. While their bedroom scenes didn't start ridiculously early, besides kissing once or twice, when they do start to get hot and heavy, Freya's first move is to give him a blowjob, because of course. The latter second half brought more sexual scenes but I almost found myself skimming them as their emotional connection wasn't there.

 

He might be a duke now, but she was a de Moray woman , small, swift, and above all ruthless.

 

My biggest disappoint and what frustrated me the most was that Hoyt introduced these interesting ideas, plots, or instances but they all happen off script. The intense ill fated elopement? Happens before this story takes place, no prologue to introduce, show, and explain the basis for the whole the series. Christopher's time in India? No flash back scenes to help immerse the reader into the emotional turmoil of his PTSD or his relationship with is first wife. Freya spending time with the Wise Women? It takes an absurd amount of time for the reader to even get a full explanation of who and what the Wise Women are, let alone the author writing and showing scenes of Freya interacting with the women. This could have been a great emotional fulfillment moment of showing women taking care of one another, bucking the system in a way they could, and female bonding while providing a solid and understandable reason for why this group was so important to Freya and why she might shy away from marrying Christopher.

 

I missed Hoyt's normally atmospheric writing, I did not feel the time period at all, and the sexual heat between the leads that she has a knack for expressing. This honestly felt kind of generic and with dukes popping up everywhere, I'm not sure I could pick this book out of a lineup. The second book is set-up here and with two leads that at least seem like they have some spark, I will give it a try but am hoping for more showing than telling and emotion.

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review 2018-12-02 17:04
Exposed raw nerves
Not Quite a Husband - Sherry Thomas
 
This comes close to visually representing how I felt reading this.
 
I'll let you soak that in for a sec.
 
 
 
What stupid children they had been, to cause each other such pain and then to hold on to their wounds so fiercely.
 
The book page count for this claims it is 341 pgs, my friends, I blew through this like it was an author newsletter free story. The first half felt like one huge exposed raw nerve. There are three main characters, Bryony, Leo, and India. The research! The scenery! The setting! I saw some reviews claiming they didn't like how much detail the author went into but I salivated over finally feeling the time and place of a historical story. 
 
The writing and feel of this is a bit different from most in this genre, I can't find the right words to describe it but we get an intense focus on Bryony and Leo with cut-ins to their past experiences that gives you the hows and whys of what they are feeling and how they've reached this place in their relationship. The time duration is actually pretty short of what we get from them together in the present time but with memories from the past relayed, it felt like they were together longer.
 
While the first half is a raw exposed nerve, the second half is the balm being applied to the wound, done slowly and carefully. The second half slowed down a little bit for me as Bryony's past and why her personality is the way it is never quite jived or fit for me. Young and impressible is going to have to extremely work for you here and carry any good will you'll want to show Bryony. Bryony is a tough one to crack and she is all those characteristics we see in some broody heroes, rigid, harsh, still waters run deep, and etc. Even though her personality was a little cold and I kind of head tilted at the reason given for it, I was still able to stick with the character. 
 
Now, the reason I'm giving this three stars is because of their sexual relationship. Leo has loved Bryony for a loooong time and just thinking about his memories, thoughts, feelings, and actions makes my eyes want to water, But, the majority of their sex scenes (mostly remembered but also a present time one) had me cringing away. I fall more on the side of reading romance for the sexual tension but, for me, sex is an intricate part of a relationship and theirs was off-putting to say the least. I'm going to put in spoiler tags why I cringed ..

During their marriage, Bryony keeps herself emotionally walled off to Leo and when he tries to be sexual with her, she does her best to not respond, obviously making the whole experience awful. He decides to then start coming to her room after she is asleep and proceeds to have sex with her while she is half asleep. Yeah, this falls into a non-consensual discussion for me because when she is fully coherent, she has made her wishes regarding intimacy between them well known. There is also a present situation where, albeit somewhat delirious, Leo grabs her and penetrates her in a move that felt, again, non-consensual. 

(spoiler show)
 
So, given how I felt about their sexual relationship, this couple had a cringe worthy feel to them and I couldn't feel the gushy fuzzies that put couples near and dear to my heart. However, like I said, on the other side of the coin, the writing is superb, addicting, and raw but when I will think back on this story, a cringe will probably be my first reaction but in the complexity of my own thoughts and feelings, second will be watery eyes over Leo's feelings and some of his actions.
 
 
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review 2018-12-01 20:34
An Army, a Parliament, a King, and a dash of idealism
Garland Of Straw - Stella Riley

 

'It was never going to be anything other than it was. The route to being rid of him.’

 

Second in Stella Riley's Roundheads and Cavaliers series, we're once again immersed into political, societal, and familial drama during the second part of the English Civil War (1640s). The first in the series (The Black Madonna) was about the build up and first part while also introducing us to three families and other assorted characters that represented sides of the war. While the first installment mainly followed a Roundhead family along with an outsider's perspective, our heroine is a Cavalier and forced to marry a Roundhead.

 

While in the first, I thought the author had too many irons in the fire that lead to a somewhat fractured story, she nails the inclusion of real historical events and people with her fictional characters. Our hero Gabriel is a Colonel in the Roundhead army and thus, we are given an amazing inclusion and relay of the events of the day.

 

So that,’ concluded Venetia, ‘is it. I’m required to forget the man I’ve been betrothed to for five years in order to marry a base-born Roundhead usurper.

 

If you read the first in the series, you'll remember Venetia and her betrothal to Ellis Brendan. She's a heroine that will make you feel like she takes stubbornness and obstinate actions to the next level for the majority of the story. Her forced hand and lack of control in instances of vital importance are worth remembering but mirrored against Gabriel's strong, steadfast, and generous attitude, will have you feeling very frustrated with her. Their romance is very slow burning and the turmoil swirling around them are much more front and center; this is historical fiction with a thread of romance. That is not to say that their romance isn't inspired, Gabriel is a hero you'll fall in love with, just that I couldn't help reveling in all the historical drama taking place.

 

Said Algernon Sidney, ‘The King can be tried by no Court; and no man can be tried by this Court.’

I tell you,’ replied Cromwell, ‘we will cut off his head with the Crown upon it.’

 

The way the author relayed history and wove it into a story that was entertaining along with intellectually stimulating deserves a standing ovation. I was lost into the various different factions of the Army, Parliament, rising up of Levellers, and various others fighting for control, and bringing and introducing new ideals that pop up in our government today. This was living breathing history that directly shaped and impacts us today. I felt the passion of Free-born John, the self-righteousness of Cromwell, the weariness and fear of the people, and the monumental moment of trying a King.

 

Our heroine and hero have a bit of side story and drama but I thought the author did a better job, than the first, of integrating it into the overall and spotlight deserving Army and Parliament battles of the Civil War. Books like this is how you reach people who think history is boring, they'll learn, it will spark thinking, and be entertained. I can't wait to read on in the series to follow along with these characters Riley has created to see what becomes of them, not mention England's growth struggle.

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review 2018-11-24 18:57
The Good, the Bad, and the Duke by Janna MacGregor
The Good, the Bad, and the Duke - Janna MacGregor

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. 

 

He’d been desired before, but never with that look. She thought him noble.

He stumbled back a step.

 

Fourth in the Cavensham Heiresses series, we finally get Paul Barstowe, the Duke of Southart's story. He is the friend of the previous heroes of the series who has become the outcast due to circumstances out of his control and of his own making. Our heroine Daphne is the younger sister to one of the previous heroes and she has always held a tendre for Paul. When Daphne ends up accidentally being home alone during Christmas time and desperately searching for her stolen diary, Paul ends up partnering her on the adventures.

 

Even if you haven't read the previous books in the series, there wouldn't much of a problem starting here. The author does a good job of relaying the how and why of past relationships, there would be a missed deeper connection but Daphne and Paul's relationship is the main focus of the story and that starts in this book. Paul's history is a little bit of wrong place, wrong time with some ill gotten luck, his father was cold to him and while he had a loving relationship with his brother, that brother is now deceased. His two closest friends are still wary and cold to him but since obtaining the title of Duke, he has been working hard to make something of himself.

 

Daphne is surrounded by happy marriages and is starting to get tired of hiding in the shadows as a way to not cause problems as she didn't want to upset anyone after her sister died. When she gets left alone, she finds it a perfect opportunity to get her life in order. I liked the premise of these two coming together, enjoyed a few flashbacks to how she and Paul interacted in their younger years but the physical attraction started immediately and was the focus throughout the vast majority of the story.

 

I feel like I'm beginning to notice a trend in historical romance where there is an insistence to feature blowjobs. The first one featured here isn't between the hero and heroine but the heroine's desire to watch and want and the heroine's second sexual encounter with the hero where she does the act, felt out of place in this. I, personally, read historicals for a different feel on the romance between the heroine and hero, I like the focus to be more on the words or feelings and not physical acts in the bedroom. I'm not saying this can never work for me but, here, it didn't.

 

I also like to read historicals for the time period feel and as Daphne and Paul never venture from about three locations, her house, a gaming hall, and his house, I couldn't even tell you within ten years when this story was supposed to take place. I like character driven stories, with the thread of wanting to find Daphne's diary, this story was mainly focused on Daphne and Paul but they never ventured from Paul finding Daphne gorgeous but constantly and morosely thinking he wasn't good enough for her and Daphne wanting Paul, with her wanting to stem only from him being nice to her when she was younger and his good looks. There was also a lot of repetitiveness, with Daphne being close to TSTL with insisting on putting herself in obviously dangerous (reputation wise) situations, Paul objecting but then eventually going along with her, so much rinse and repeat.

 

There just wasn't enough meat to this story to keep me actively involved, I felt like I was passively reading because all our main characters did was lust (kind of lukewarm meandering lust, at that) and our hero was a little bit of an Eeyore about how he wasn't good enough. I've read the first in the series (debut) by this author and thought she had good promise and then really enjoyed the second, but this one felt like a lackluster phone in. I do, however, find the cover to still be as gorgeous as ever.

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