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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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review 2018-11-16 17:45
Lovesick couldn't be a more appropriate title
Lovesick - Ángeles Mastretta,Margaret Sayers Peden

 

"When did you get here?" Emilia asked him, kissing him as she had when their lips were smooth and unwrinkled. The eternal throbbing beat below her breastbone.

"I never leave," said Daniel, stroking her head with its scent of mysteries.

 

Spanning almost 50yrs, this is the story of Emilia. The vast majority of the story takes place during the Mexican Revolution (1910-20) and does a good job shining a light on how discontent, injustice, and passion bring about such wars. Emilia's childhood friend, who grows up to be her love, Daniel, is more than full of passion for the war and constantly leaves and is at battle leaving Emilia. Their love story is one people in their younger years would find exciting, dramatic, lustful, and love torn; a lovestory that is exciting to read about but hellish to live. 

 

Emilia's father was a pharmacist, and she starts to study under him and grow her own passion but for medicine. She naturally and fights her way to becoming a doctor, no mean feat during this time period. She meets a Dr. Zavalza and love triangle ensues. 

 

I really enjoyed the first 70% of this, as we get a historical feel for the Revolution with discussion and interaction with Diaz, Madero, Zapata. I do wish we could have had some scenes from Daniel to get a feel for the battles but this look at it from ordinary citizens was encompassing in its own way, too. Emilia's aunt and a poet who is in love with said aunt, were my favorite secondary characters and I would happily read the aunt's life story, what a woman she sounds like. 

 

The last 30% was very rushed through as we get some of the conflict following the Revolution with Zapatistas and Cardenas with Daniel and Emilia continuing their relationship in a not thought of conventional way. Years pass quickly and Emilia becoming a doctor and having children is quickly told. This rushed ending kind of gave all the emotional upheaval and drama, I as the reader, went through less gravitas. 

 

Lovesick couldn't be a more apt title as Emilia and Daniel's relationship wasn't exactly healthy. Daniel's passion for the war and how he constantly puts it above Emilia and Emilia's inability to let impulsive Daniel and his frenzy for fighting go in favor of Zavalza's calm supporting love will make you want to pull your hair out. 

 

The historical context was weaved expertly into the story and Emilia's life journey will definitely make you feel.

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review 2018-11-12 21:57
I came very close to hating The Hating Game
The Hating Game: A Novel - Sally Thorne

I am very close to being a complete outlier on this one, a handful of friends seem to have had the same issues I did but the vast majority LOVED this story.

I Buddy Read this with others who loved it, so for their comments/thoughts and more of mine - The Hating Game BR

I finally finished and honestly, it was a struggle for me. I don't want to yuck people's yum but the general tone of this didn't work for me personally.
What didn't work for me:
-The tone, only having Lucy's pov made it hard for me to read Josh the way I think the author wanted me to.
-Their hating game, came off immature from Lucy's pov, Josh seemed dickish instead of shy (he was rude to the hotel staff, I didn't enjoy his shyness coming off as rude/mean/abrupt to the extreme that people cried after talking to him and feared him.
-The many, many, many reminders of Lucy being short/little but wait, she eats like a NFL O-lineman!
-The fat-shaming is truly cringe worthy here
-Their chemistry, one or two lines between them worked for me, other than that, their first kiss where Lucy honest to god thinks Josh is going to hurt or kill her before he kisses her was uncomfortable.
-Lucy solves Josh's decades old feud with his father, something his mother who knows how to handle his brusque father and loves Josh oh so much and misses him like crazy, couldn't step up and do, once.

Suffice to say Lucy genuinely fearing Josh at many points, his shyness that came off as making hotel employees cry after dealing with him, and their "flirting/foreplay" of back and forth actual HR sexual harassment complaints, didn't personally jive with me. It all felt immature and forced.

Books with similar stories that I really liked - Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie and Rock Hard by Nalini Singh

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