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review 2017-12-09 22:10
It Takes Two to Tumble by Cat Sebastian
It Takes Two to Tumble: Seducing the Sedgwicks - Cat Sebastian

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.

Phillip has spent most of his life at sea, as the Captain, he knows his place and is effective in managing his people. When his ship finally berths after two years, his shore leave allows him to go home for awhile, a home where letters have informed him that his wife has died and his three children are running wild. 
Ben enjoys his job as the vicar; it allows him to see to everyone. When he gets tasked with taking care of the absent Captain's children, he may be in over head. 
Phillip and Ben haven't been able to fully admit certain truths to themselves but as their relationship grows, they begin to become whole through each other. 
 
Phillip hadn't planned on lusting after the vicar. 
 
The first in a new series, the author introduces us to Phillip, the stern rigid naval captain and Ben, the affable mellow vicar. Both characters were very contained people in their own way. Phillip has dyslexia but has managed to figure out how to hide it and be effective as captain and he also carries around some melancholy which seems to be due to not being able to fully be his self. Ben had to essentially be the father to his brothers as theirs ascribed to a very bohemian philosophy that led to a lack of structure or responsibility. Both acknowledged their attraction to men but kept it in a contained box that as long as they didn't make it personal, putting real feeling in to it, they could lead "normal" lives. When they meet each other and start to develop those more emotional feelings, beyond just sexual, hard truths have to be recognized. 
 
But comfort and ease suddenly seemed like pale and flimsy things. 
 
I loved how Ben and Phillip's personalities played off each other. Ben's effortless charm and lightness cracked open Phillip's hard walls and helped him be at ease more, while Phillip's strength and willing to prod at Ben helped Ben release his more passionate side. They became more themselves through the other and there is nothing more romantic than that. For how much Phillip's children played a part in the story plot, I thought they were strangely more absent from the story than warranted. We get some scenes with Phillip bonding but I never felt like I knew them; they felt like obvious plot elements instead of woven into the story. I also thought Phillip's relationship with his former Lt. McCarthy needed to be flushed out more. It started off like there was a big emotional attachment but then it seemed to be more on the physical side, not quite fully explained well enough. 
 
"When we're together it feels right. I want to go down that path and see what's there."
"With me?" It was a hoarse whisper.
"Together."
 

 
This is my first book by this author and I was impressed with the ease of her writing flow, how secondary characters felt complete and added so much to the story, and the historical feel. This had faint whisperings of the Sound of Music to it and I could read all day of Ben taking some starch out of the Captain and Phillip igniting some fire in the vicar. There's a slow burn feel as their relationship starts off challenging, to tentative, to heated and I enjoyed how they both were, somewhat, virgins not only emotionally but physically and we got see them explore and learn together. There's also a hot desk scene that you won't want to miss. 
 
I missed interaction scenes with Phillip's children to get to know them better which in turn would have created more depth in Phillip's character, the middle seemed to meander a smidgen as the outer story took over more, but I delighted in Ben and Phillip's relationship. There's some bitter sweetness to the ending as Phillip and Ben don't quite get the full happily ever after they deserve due to the time period and country they live in, but they worked for and got more than most do. The author's talent with emotions will have me searching out her books from here on out.

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review 2017-12-09 05:12
Review: Romancing the Scot (The Pennington Family #1) by May McGoldrick
Romancing the Scot (The Pennington Family) - May McGoldrick

The story wasn’t bad but I had a few issues that didn’t let me fully enjoy this story.
It was a good romance story, not to mention the suspense sub-plot indeed kept me turning the pages. The thing is, I think there were too many things this book could have done without and it still would have been a good story. 
It all started with lots of heart-pumping action. Someone murdered Grace’s father and now she’s trying to escape the same fate. Miraculously, she ends up in the land of a well-placed family that takes her as one of their own. After that initial encounter and Grace’s convalescence, the pace starts slowing down. 

The characters were charismatic and complex. Hugh was smart and charming; stern when needed yet wicked when he wanted to be. Grace was also smart with the gift of a super memory, although it took forever to get to why it was so important she had such a gift. Jo, Hugh’s sister had a tragic past, something that I also think we spend too much time on. I think they were setting ground for future books but again, I think it was not needed. The writing was impeccable and the historical accuracy was on point. The problem with that was that we spent too much time reading about history and not enough time with the main characters as people. Even the suspense that was so good at the start ends up being kind of a let down because I felt some things about Grace’s father were more guesswork than actual answers. 

** I received this book at no cost to me via Netgalley and I volunteered to read it; this is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.***

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review 2017-12-06 23:38
A joy to read despite the shortcomings
Only Mr. Darcy Will Do - Kara Louise

I’m such a sucker for these kinds of books featuring Pride and Prejudice. There are so many different types of retellings and most of them are good. This one has its moments and it was enjoyable to read.

 

So in this twist, our beloved Mr Bennet dies prematurely and Elizabeth becomes a governess. This was rather interesting, and it does suit Elizabeth rather well - although back then in the day it’s a drop in the society ladder and everyone she knows makes sure she knows it.

 

So she meets Rosalyn which I thought at first, was an ideal friend for our dear Lizzie. She’s a bit  vapid and valley girl type of character. Especially when Mr Darcy is around (can’t blame her, we all love Mr Darcy) but it’s almost to the point where she’s annoying about it.  It’s not until the latter half of the novel where Rosalyn does a complete 360 and she becomes a pretty awful person (including her mother).

 

The plot in this one tries to stay within the main one we’re all familiar with it just diverts the path a bit and comes back to full circle. Which is nice as it tries to stay true to the original story at the same time you just get a different “what if” scenario to enjoy reading. I’d have to say I enjoy reading Hamilton (another cousin of Darcy’s) playing along with Elizabeth. It was playful banter and he sounded like the type of rogue we all love to read and fall for (albeit, foolishly). It was a bit hard to get into at first but it’s worth going through to the end as once Rosalyn does her 360 turn, everything becomes much more interesting.

 

The only thing I did not enjoy reading is towards the end Darcy does something completely out of character and it just did not sit well with me. He’s not the type to be outspoken even when it comes to be madly in love. Don’t make him something he’s not. It nearly ruined the entire book as it was doing so well staying close to the true nature of the characters only to have him do something he wouldn’t EVER do (nor can you picture him doing so).

 

Also, the ending just dragged too much for me. We get it. We all know what’s going to happen. We all know what did happen. There’s no need for extra fodder in the last few chapters of the book. It could have just ended with the proposal or wedding and done. Perhaps the last few chapters could have been made into an entirely new idea for another book to be made. It was just so unnecessary.

 

Overall, it was a good read for those that love Pride and Prejudice “what if” scenarios and fans. I enjoyed it despite those changes in characters that nearly caused me to grind my teeth and yelling out certain expletives.

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review 2017-12-03 07:21
A Duke in Shining Armor by Loretta Chase
A Duke in Shining Armor - Loretta Chase
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.

Olympia is dangerously close to being on the shelf but when she serendipitously catches the attention of a duke, she has a chance to help her large family from financial ruin.
The Duke of Ripley is doing all he can to help his bestfriend not flub up his wedding but he should have been paying attention to the bride. When he sees her make a run for it, he chases her.
They're not meant to be together but they also wouldn't have it any other way.
 
He was trying desperately to find a way out of whatever it was he'd got himself into. 
 
The first in a new series, A Duke in Shining Armor introduces us to the three Dis-Graces, dukes who have a bit of a tainted reputation because of the antics they have gotten up to over the years. The Duke of Ashmont has the face of angel but a bit of a drinking problem. Through some reverse psychology his uncle gets him to really pay attention to Olympia and offer for her. Just returned from a trip on the continent our hero, the Duke of Ripley, has come across Olympia at balls and such but tried to keep his attention of her to the peripheral as he wasn't ready to grow up yet. This latent attraction becomes the source of his problem.
 
This is a road romance that from page one hits the ground running and doesn't let up into well into the second half of the book. Ripley and Olympia have a bit of madcap adventures as they constantly spout wit back and forth. It gave them some spark but the duration and focus of it, came at the expense of some depth. Their dialogue had a tendency to come off as them talking at each other instead of with and I had a hard time getting to know them. 
 
He'd said things and looked at her in ways other men didn't, and the combination had started to make her think she wasn't altogether the young woman she'd always believed she was. She knew rakes were dangerous but she hadn't understood how subtle the danger could be. Her ideas about a great many subjects were threatening revolution. 
 
Along with their dialogue lacking exploring other emotions for most of the book, the vast majority (I think the last 5% goes a week into the future) takes place within 4 days, the first 50% of the story is the first day. I will say, even with this time frame, it doesn't feel like insta-love, which is a credit to the author's writing. The author has Ripley admit to himself a couple times that he always noticed Olympia and liked her personality and Olympia remembering having a pining moment over Ripley dancing with someone else but we don't get the scenes of a solid emotional growing between beginning attraction that I personally look for and enjoy. 
 
"What are you doing?" he said.
"I'm being unsubtle," she said.
 

 
With the hero and heroine busy being witty and flitting around, I never gained a strong grasp of who they were. Olympia was probably the stronger of the two with her large family driving her to marriage and feeling like she didn't belong because she was voted the most boring debutante years in a row, which felt brought up more than enough. Her love of books and categorizing books is discussed but I would have liked some family interaction scenes or if she had friends; scenes that help show more personality and different nuances of a character. Ripley is given a very vague bad past with an ill father and though he has scenes with his friends, the Duke of Ashmont who's bride he's accidentally stealing and his brother-in-law the Duke of Blackwood, we're not shown how they became friends or what really binds them together. I was left with a lot of questions regarding Ripley and who he was.

Ripley was a disgrace and had been for years, but this had to be the worst thing he'd done in his life. 
Yet it seemed to him the best thing he'd ever done.
 

 
The last 15% or so was more of what I was looking for, Ripley and Olympia seemed to talk with each other more and I began to feel their emotional connection, but it would have been great to have that start more towards the middle of the book. They also start to hit the sheets more but I frankly could have done with more of the platonic growing together at the time. Ashmont definitely doesn't shine here but as I'm sure he'll get the chance to be a hero of his own book, his redemption will interesting. The other friend Blackwood and his wife (Ripley's sister) seemingly have a secret frosty relationship that raises a lot of questions. With all the dukes running around, even I started to get fatigued but it's still a hard title to say no to. In a very small side story that managed to kind of steal the show for me, Ripley’s aunt seems to have a very interesting hurt and angry past with Ashmont’s uncle. The emotion and tension could be cut with a knife whenever the two were in a room and I’m greatly looking forward to seeing what comes of them.
 
With a bit too much wit and one-upping sarcasm for its own good and short time duration, this didn't start providing enough emotional building blocks for me until closer at the end. This author's writing is always engaging though and if you're in the mood for a quick paced witty back and forth, this definitely would provide.
 
 

 

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review 2017-11-30 17:41
Review: The Toymaker by Kay Springsteen
The Toymaker - Kay Springsteen

A book that had great potential that was killed by predictable writing and some really awful "cutesy" naming after the first 25% mark. I kept reading it hoping for it to regain some shine but after the 60% mark it just became a hot mess.

 

Ivy Plumthorne is the eldest and only unmarried daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Wythorpe. Her parents want her married and off their hands asap. Ivy has rejected the 11 previous suitors and is already throwing a tantrum about meeting number 12 at Lord and Lady Kringle's Christmas Eve Ball. Through a low-key meet cute she meets Phillip Green; unbeknownst to most in Hampstead, he is the new 12th Duke of Greenbriar after inheriting the estate and title from his uncle. Phillip's hobby is toy maker, a trade he learned from Jani Klaus, a man who mentored him when he was a teen. Ivy and Phillip fall in love, although Ivy thinks she is in love with a simple tradesman rather than the old duke. When she finds out the truth, she throws a GIGANTIC tantrum and vows never to see Phillip again. She then says and does stupid, impulsive things and gets herself in deep trouble with society at the ball, Phillip comes to her rescue.

 

Ivy is a brat and a stupid, reckless, thoughtless spoiled girl. Phillip was a decent hero but the writing at the end of the story made him too perfect for my taste. I didn't care for any of the side characters and the prologue and epilogue with the characters in present day rang so false I had to roll my eyes hard. The present day kids were not realistic at all and the mom was annoyingly smug. All the shoe-horned Christmas details were superficial and were really amateurish. Read this for a square on the 16 tasks challenge.

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