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review 2020-08-09 17:56
Finally a genuinely good book with a solid story
Lady In Disguise (The Langley Sisters) - Wendy Vella

"...Let me sleep with you in my arms and wake you with my kisses. Only with you can I truly be the man I want to be. You fill all the places inside me that have been empty for so long and you take away the pain of who I once was and the people I hurt.”" - Lord William Ryder

Short summary:

Olivia Langley is the eldest of three sisters who have lost both of their parents in a short span of time and were left penniless and alone. Olivia shoulders most of the responsibilities now although her sisters help in everything and are equally involved in the house affairs. She has accepted the fact that she will never have a season in London and therefore will remain unwed just so all of the funds could be given to her second sister Phoebe's season and her third sister Bella's health requirements.

The funds that they don't have at the moment. So they turn to highwaymen robberies. And as luck would have it, the first person to fall as a victim to them is Olivia's first love, Lord William Ryder, a man who left 5 years ago without telling anyone and hasn't contacted anyone since then.

Atop of all of that, there is a looming threat of the sisters' being evicted from their home by their cousin, the new Lord Langley, who doesn't want to support them at all but he does have a more sinister plot in mind for all of the sisters.

“Only a strong woman could have done what you did, love, and no matter how I feel about the choices you’ve made, I cannot blame you for them. You did what you thought was necessary to keep your family safe.” - Lord William Ryder



Olivia Langley is a strong heroine for her time. She stepped up to being in charge of the household, of her sisters' affairs, of preserving the fake facade in front of the rest of the town and of sacrificing her own happiness for her sisters'. She also rides in a Derby and robs people with her sister Phoebe, holding people at gunpoint and taking their money which is an offence punishable by death. But she isn't portrayed like a 'mary sue', a flawless super heroine that nothing can get to, no, she is portrayed as a multi-layered person who has her moments of weakness but does her best for her sisters' sake.

"Yet, how could you prepare yourself to see the man you loved while pointing a gun at his head?"

"...to my mind, anyone who buys me a cinnamon bun is someone worth my time.”" - Olivia Langley


Lord William Ryder is a man who was born with a title and into huge wealth. He, as the second son, did not bear the weight of responsibility from an early age as his brother did so he grew up spoiled. William was one of those men who knew they had money for life and little responsibility and so they went around living in debauchery and only cared about their bad company and their appearances. He was arrogant and irresponsible. That is why his brother could not stand him and they continuously clashed. In a moment of clarity, William saw that his life will not improve with the current circumstances so he left. He left without one word. He left to build his own life and himself in his own way and on his own terms. And for that I have huge respect for this character. And yes, not even sending one letter later was not good but I can understand it. He wanted to achieve something on his own before he comes back to this life he left behind.

"“I couldn’t possibly leave without going into the church; after all, I could walk out a better man.” “To the best of my knowledge, my lord, the last miracle performed here was two hundred years ago,” Olivia muttered." - William and Olivia

"I do not tolerate men who threaten women, especially not a woman whom I count as my friend.” - Lord William Ryder



Writing is extremely smart if I can put it like that. The author is very skilled with her words. There is subtle foreshadowing presented, an interesting story, multi-layered characters that we immediately connect with, plenty of witty humour, nicely presented era, slow building emotions and tension... almost everything I deem perfect in a book like this one.

“There are plenty who will say they are your friend but only a few who actually mean it.” - Lord William Ryder


What didn't work for me.

I would have to go into spoiler territory to fully explain but I won't do that. I'll just keep it simple. Sisters have lost their parents and were left with no money. The youngest sister needs medical remedies. They need money to keep appearances so they will have at least some prospect of marriage, or at least one of them. All of that is pressuring them into desperate actions to get the money. And here is where it doesn't fully work for me.

So, the sisters would rather risk highway robbery and being sentenced to death if found out or even risking death at the robbery itself rather than ask for help. Especially from the Duke. I understand one has pride. And ego. And doesn't want to spoil the good name of their family. But you cannot tell me you'd rather risk death and hold people at gunpoint (people who could be struggling for money themselves) rather than explain the situation to the Duke whose family has always had connections with their family and all of them grew up together and they knew the Duke's character. And since this is a very big part of the story, it always ate at me because I could not understand it.

The author could have made it more difficult for them to ask the Duke for help, like for instance their late father offending him or them already owing money to him or a refusal of some sort in his youth from one of the sisters... anything that would explain it better.


All in all.

Wonderful read in almost all aspects. It is truly a page turner. You want desperately to see what happens next and what other things will surface and make everything extra complicated.

Absolutely recommended.


"...“You love me, Olivia Langley, otherwise last night would never have happened.” “No, you are mistaken, my lord, I—I love no one.” “Your eyes say the opposite to your lips, my love. When I return to Willow Hall tomorrow we will talk, Livvy, and you will tell me what troubles you. And while you lay in your cold bed tonight remember one thing. You are mine now and I will never let you go.”" - Lord William Ryder

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review 2020-07-27 13:08
On par with the first book in the series
Critical Intelligence - Mandy M. Roth

Critical Intelligence, as a second book in the Immortal Ops series, has done a few things better than the first book but then again a few things not as good so the rating is the same as for the first book which is 4*. 4* because in the paranormal erotic romance genre this book is almost as good as it gets with a few things that can be improved upon, at least in my humble opinion.

In the second book our lucky main couple constitutes of: Missy, the shadow PSI agent badass kickass strong heroine and Roi, our resident Immortal Ops womaniser and the brother of Lukhian, the leader of the Immortal Ops.


Missy is truly a strong heroine in all meanings of that phrase, she can look after herself, she doesn't just rely on her powers, she can kick ass in the most physical sense possible and still sarcastically engages everyone involved. I have been looking forward to reading about her because she represents a self sufficient independent woman who can rely on her resourcefulness, wit and physical ability, relies on herself to make it through, but she has friends to also share her hardships with (although not all) and she, later on, starts relying on her partner as well.
Missy definitely grows as a character, especially emotionally, she learns how to trust others and how to ask for help when needed. She, in that regard, is a bit better in the strong heroine department than Peren from the first book. Peren didn't have a more gradual progress, she just did 180 and got to her powers and abilities. Missy is the easiest one to relate to because I believe she puts the most effort in her abilities and her gradual growth.


Roi... what to say about Roi. He is the right hand man and a brother to the leader of the Immortal Ops, his quirk is that he is a terrible womaniser and that (in the first book) has even started to affect his work. He bangs everything that moves and doesn't even ask for a name. But on the other hand, he is a good warrior with a good heart and would do anything for his teammates so he has that going for him. And his looks of course. That is pretty much as far as it goes with him. In this regard, I feel like the hero of the first book was more established than this one. It's like this hero here is just here to put emphasis on the strong badass heroine. So I felt his character lacking something. Some more depth.



My thoughts

Missy and Roi as a couple are indeed a good match and Missy's backstory is truly heartbreaking. They had some wonderful scenes and the action was just as good as in the first book. The writing is still excellent and the sarcasm just oozes from Missy which is 50 extra points for this book haha.


My main complaint here is again how everything happens in the span of another two weeks. So, the first book happened in the span of two weeks and now this one happens in the span of two weeks after that. It is an extremely short amount of time and I wish this would have been differently.


For the first book I understand somewhat, it happened quickly, the main couple got the instant mates vibes upon meeting and all of the action happened after the Ops were hired to take her out, so it goes to show that someone else will be doing it when they didn't. In the second book, however, regardless of the fact that someone is now after Missy too, we have certain characters established, we have the world building, it would have been nice to give more time to characters to actually develop. To give time to resolving problems and not having it come to a huge obstacle that immediately gets solved. The action propels you forward but this then doesn't have you maniacally turning the pages to see what happens because you already know.


And in the end I will mention one more thing that I see being written often about. The insta-love mates thing. I do not like it that much, no. I prefer characters being able to choose whom they love and marry without having it being a fate you-must-do-it or you won't have another love, you won't have children, you will suffer and you might die kind of thing. That isn't sitting well with me.
I do take it as being a central premise to shifters in this universe the author created so I am not taking down stars because of it. It is a personal preference and the author cannot please everyone. I have taken it as a part of this universe and simply judge based on how it plays out, not the fact that it even exists. If you cannot go past that then it is better not to even read this series. Because everything revolves around it. If you do choose to read it even when you know this fact then don't give this book 2* rating or similar simply based on 'I hate the mates thing, the no choice, insta-love pull the characters have'. It isn't fair to the books and to the author.


All in all, another thrill ride with a better heroine than hero this time around. If the book would be longer and gave more time to the characters and actually develop the main hero without just saying how his d$ck hurts because he needs to be inside that petit badass heroine it would have been a perfect paranormal erotic romance read. Like this, it sits at a 4* rating for me.

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review 2020-07-13 19:58
A wonderful discovery in the form of a web novel
Mr. Tycoon's Daring Wife - Xincerely


If you love a good love story, with a dark past and plenty of hardships to overcome and a thoroughly satisfying ending then this one is a must.


What happens when you live through a horrific trauma? It changes you. There is no other way. You either succumb and die or you get stronger and you live, but you are a different you. And that is what our strong heroine is, she is a changed person who changed for the better, for the stronger and for the smarter. And she kicks as$ (quite literally).


Zhao Lifei has never had a good emotional upbringing but she was raised in wealth and that is what made her conceited and arrogant. When she survived something terrible and managed to work through her trauma and her mistakes, she was built up as a new, improved version of herself. With this still struggling version of herself she meets her destiny in the form of an amazingly hunky and dangerous CEO Yang Feng, oh and by the way, he also rules the shady part of town. When they meet they grow as people - into people whom they are then proud to present to the world. All of that happens with a world of suffering, torture, deaths, humiliation, struggle, kidnappings, resolving their pasts etc. It is a struggle worth going through because it is written in a very compelling and smart way with a dark undertone.


The characters are flawed, as well as they should be. I hate characters that are cookie cutter characters lacking any realism. These characters are flawed, yes.

Zhao Lifei is too stubborn, bottles up her feelings, builds walls around herself and projects things from her past into current situations.

Yang Feng is a bit obsessive and possessive and stubborn as all hell when it comes to things and people he loves.

They both have a dark past and are dealing with their demons. What matters is that they grow, they mature, they lessen their bad characteristics as they spend more time with each other. They help each other. I see plenty of reviews saying the male lead character is too possessive, he is like this and like that but what they fail to mention is that his first thought is like that yes, but then he is actually much more considerate in his actions albeit still a bit too possessive and then he gets burned by our kickas$ female lead and he learns, and he adapts and he realises he can do better and he does. Isn't that the point? Going through hardships and misunderstandings to actually accomplish something, realise something, grow and mature? I certainly think it is.


The storyline is great, the plot keeps getting more and more complicated and the mystery is compelling and you just want to keep reading and discovering and enjoying the process of getting to that sweet wonderful ending.

The characters are wonderful, flawed and full of battle scars and you care for them every step of the way.

The pacing is also done well, there weren't any long scenes that you'd feel like you wanted to skip or that you'd look later at and say that was completely unnecessary. It all has a meaning, gives clues and ties the loose ends in the end.


One thing that I found quite amusing was the ending itself and no, I won't spoil it. I'll just say that it has more endings than The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King XD I kept thinking my goodness, that is amazing, ah this was so good, so that is how it ends and then you turn another chapter and then there is more, and then another and another and another and in the end I might as well say that no stone was left unturned, everyone's story had a proper ending and kudos to the writer for managing it. Well done.


All in all, it was a wonderful experience and a journey I'd sign myself up for at any time.

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review 2019-05-22 09:48
Everything you would ever want from a historical romance !
Highlander's Honor - Barbara Bard

This book has everything... love, betrayal, backstabbing, conspiracy, kidnapping, looming threat of a great war, great heroes, action, great twists and turns and an amazing ending for all of us romantic saps out there. What more can I actually say about it, go and read and enjoy !


Well, there is a little bit more I can say about this book without really spoiling the plot or ruining some twists.


Catrin is an amazingly written character. She is depicted as a strong heroine because even though she happens to get kidnapped and imprisoned and goes through a lot of tough situations, she actually doesn't just stand around wailing about the situation, she fights, oh boy does she fight good. And for a woman in that time period, that is exceptional and rare but not non-existent. So for anyone out there saying she just gets kidnapped like any other damsel in distress, that is not true. That person clearly did not read this book. Catrin is strong and capable and smart and very relatable. One of the best heroines in the historical romance genre I had a pleasure of getting to know well.


Ranulf is also an amazingly written character which is why this book works so well. He is a strong warrior and a laird but he is down to earth. Also, he isn't invulnerable like most of the heroes in this genre. He gets hurt, physically and emotionally. He is compassionate but also ruthless when the situation demands for it. He is... human. And that makes him all the more delicious, especially when placing him next to a character such as Catrin.


One of the most important things for me in a book is that I can see how heroes grow and mature. If a hero is constantly unchanging then all of the hardships he goes through are meaningless. You are left wondering why did you even read this book and why it exists. But when you see the growth, maturing, changing then you can say yes, it was worth it. And Ranulf and Catrin certainly grow. They both have preconceptions about the other's nation and its people (English/Scottish). With experience and time they begin to realise how mistaken they were and how people are just people. Something similar happens with the memory of their lost family members, they learn things about them that paint them in a different light and with some struggles they need to learn how to accept it as the truth and reconcile their feelings accordingly.


I have not enjoyed a good book like this in a long time so I am giving it the best rating there is. It has everything a book in this genre should have, it is written well, grammar is superb, characters are enchanting and even though I stayed up until 04:30 in the morning reading this book I wouldn't change a thing.


Absolutely recommended to everyone, especially people who appreciate a well written story.

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review 2015-10-22 00:46
Dream A Little Dream
Dream a Little Dream - Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Um, well. I almost didn't make it through the first six chapters of Dream A Little Dream.  Why? Because of a little boy, Edward, whose first reaction to adversity is to ask his mom "Are we gonna die?" Because of his mother, Rachel, as pared down emotionally and spiritually as she is physically. A woman who has no room for anything but ensuring Edward's survival, who is without the luxury of worrying over dignity, self-esteem, or vanity. A woman more than willing to stand toe-to-toe with the devil himself (or at least a minor demon) for her son. And then the emotional death rattle of a once gentle man, haunted by personal loss, drowning in grief, who, finding no succor in pills, booze, or self-imposed isolation, has sunk so far as to attempt to break the one person who threatens to shake him out of his despondency in the most elemental destructive way.


"Do you give up?" He ground out the words, and only after they were spoken did he realize he'd made it sound as if this were some child's game they were playing.


He felt the faint tremor that passed through her body. "I'm not going to fight you. I don't care that much."


He still hadn't broken her. Instead, it was as if he'd done nothing more than give her another job. Pick up the trash. Clean out the johns. Spread your legs so I can fuck you. Her acceptance made him furious, and he shoved her dress up to her waist.


"Damn it! Are you so stupid you don't know what I'm going to do to you?"


Her eyes bore into his without flinching. "Are you so stupid you haven't figured out yet that it doesn't matter?" (54-55)


I made it through those chapters only because I knew Susan Elizabeth Phillips would not leave these three characters there in that dark place. And I might also have indulged in an adult beverage or two to help, some rocking in a corner, and breathing into a paper bag. Seriously, I did have to stop reading for an hour or so before I could pick Dream A Little Dream up and continue. But on the other side of the bad place is a book I absolutely love.


Rachel Stone is a truly unforgettable character. A woman of both complexity and simplicity. A woman of faith who married a charlatan tele-evangelist with a madonna/whore complex. A woman who was poor, then wealthy, then something much less than poor again but with a fragile child to rear. A woman who believes no sacrifice is too great if it means the health and well-being of her son, Edward. She is fierce and practical and refuses to give up no matter what obstacles are thrown her way. And that's the difference between Rachel and Gabe Bonner.


Because Gabe has all but given up; the biggest evidence of this is the gun he keeps in his bedside table, and it's not for self-defense against burglars or would-be murderers. The death of his wife and son sent him spiraling down into a depression so dark and entrenched he feels he has nothing to live for. The scene I quoted above comes early in Dream A Little Dream but it is the big turning point for Gabe. He is forced to confront the man he has become, to decide whether he has any shred of humanity left in him. To this point, Gabe Bonner wasn't much of a hero, but he redeems himself very nicely, and Rachel is the reason he comes out of that dark place.


Edward is a great kid, and I'm not usually a fan of children in romance. They either veer into plot moppet territory, completely without purpose except to provide a bit of precociousness, or are an afterthought, or a way for the hero or heroine to shine in each other's eyes or thousands of other essentially useless reasons. Not Edward. Edward begins as a timid little boy whose lack of roots and security have him expecting life as he knows it to end at any moment, no matter how inconsequential the circumstance. He's very introverted, socially awkward, and terrified of Gabe with reason. Because Gabe does not like Edward at all. If Rachel is the first reason Gabe steps out into life again, Edward is the second. Gabe and Edward take a while to warm up to each other, but Edward, or Chip (yes, Chip Stone!) as he wants to be called, is the brave and honest one who lays all the cards on the table, while Gabe is still hiding behind deception.


He began tugging up clumps of grass. "You could pretend."


"Pretend? I don't know what you mean."


More grass came up. "You could pretend you like me. Then my mommy would marry you, and we wouldn't have to go away."


"I - I don't think that would work."


His brown eyes filled with hurt. "Couldn't you even pretend to like me? It wouldn't have to be real."


Gabe forced himself to meet the boy's gaze and utter his lie with complete conviction. "I do like you."


"No." Edward shook his head. "But you could pretend. And I could pretend about you, too. If we pretended real good, my mommy would never know." (287)


To watch this shy fragile little fellow transform into a strong, funny, young boy able to finally give away his well-loved stuffed rabbit named "Horse" to Cal and Jane's baby, Rosie, to see him grow in confidence, to begin to enjoy making friends, to be a normal five-year old boy, to call Gabe Bonner on a lie, to take a proactive role to persuade his mom not to leave behind the place and the people he has come to care about made him as much a part of this story as the romance between Gabe and Rachel.


One of the first things I fell in love with in Nobody's Baby But Mine was the marriage-in-trouble subplot of Cal Bonner's parents. In Dream A Little Dream, there was the secondary romance of Reverend Ethan Stone and his church secretary, Kristy. If I had a complaint about this book, it would be that these two really needed their own book. I loved when Kristy had had enough of being doormat for Ethan, watching him lust after women wearing tight jeans and spandex but never seeing the woman right in front of him, who has been in love with him for years. When she comes in to work wearing jeans so tight she has difficulty breathing, a new flirty "feathery" hairstyle, magenta polish on her toes, rings on her fingers, and breasts minimally covered in a tank top, defying gravity with the help of her new Wonderbra, Ethan is shocked and disapproving. Her jeans are too tight, her lipstick is too bright, and her breasts are too prominent. In short, Kristy is not appropriately attired for a church office. He feels betrayed because Kristy was supposed to remain invisible and sexless so that he never saw his friend as a sexual being. Kristy is justifiably furious about Ethan's double standard. After all, Ethan drools "over Laura Delapino with her crimson lipstick" and her spandex but for Kristy he has only criticism.


"You don't like my lipstick," she said flatly.


"I didn't say that. It's not my place to like it or not. I just think for a church office . . ."


Rachel would never put up with this. Not in a million years. And neither would she.

"If you don't like it, you can fire me."


He seemed genuinely shocked. "Kristy!"


She had to get out of here before she started to cry.


"Now there's no need to get upset." He cleared his throat. "I'm sure once you have a chance to think this over. . ."


"I have, and I quit!" (171)


Kristy runs out of the church office, upset that she'd wasted so many years waiting for Ethan, waiting for him to see her, to really see her, and realizing that he probably never will. Ethan pursues her to her car.




The engine roared to life. He ran toward her. She shot out of the parking space.


He rushed to the side of her car. "Stop it, Kristy! You're overreacting! Let's talk about this."

That was when she did the unthinkable. She rolled down the window, thrust out her hand, and gave Reverend Ethan Bonner the bird. (171-172)


I was applauding frankly. Ethan needed almost as much shaking up as Gabe.


I read a post earlier this week at Book Riot, "Some Like It Hot: The Literary Function of Sex Scenes in Romance" by Jessica Tripler. In it, she said something that stuck with me while I was reading Dream A Little Dream.


We often think about emotions as psychological, but romance fiction recalls us to our lived bodily experience, and nowhere more so than in sex scenes. Emotions in romance aren’t private mental entities that one can choose to share or hide. The body doesn’t “reveal” emotions locked up in the head. Instead, emotions reside within and between bodies, forming the stickiness of our connections with each other. A character becomes aware of herself as a subject and an object. She sees herself both from her own point of view and through her lover’s eyes, and she knows her partner is doing the same. Sex is an integral part of the attunement and mutual recognition that constitute a successful and convincing romantic relationship.


Of course, some writers do this well and some don’t. Sex scenes in romance can be boring, cliched, repetitive, ridiculous, pointless, offensive, or ineffective.


Sex between a hero and heroine in a Susan Elizabeth Phillips' book is not gratuitous. Though I've only read six of her books, I haven't run across anything close to "boring, cliched, repetitive, ridiculous, pointless, offensive, or ineffective" sex between her heroes and heroines. Instead, sex reveals something about character, says something important about where the couple are in their relationship. That scene at the beginning of this review? That one fueled by Gabe's anger with a tinge of lust and Rachel's stubborn refusal to be used or cowed by any man? It's the line in the sand: How far will he go to stop her from dragging him into the land of the living again, to leave him alone with his comfortable numbness? Will she stand her ground or will she run? How much does she have to lose? Has she reached the bottom of her reserves of strength yet? What does it say about Gabe and his dark space that he wants to break Rachel? In the end, he is forced to acknowledge that between the two of them, Rachel is much tougher than he is.


The first time they actually make love is a stripping away of their pasts. For Gabe, it's a reawakening, an acknowledgement that as much as he may want to be, he is not dead. He is very much alive. It's the first time he makes love with any woman who was not his wife, Cherry. For Rachel, it's long-awaited satisfaction of her curiosity, an affirmation that she is more than a mere "vessel." For the first time she is free to participate, to reach out and grab some little bit of pleasure just for herself, instead of feeling the "horrible, stifling, solicitude as if she were not capable of making up her mind, as if she were breakable, untouchable, undefilable", not a "woman at all." This is where Rachel and Gabe both become aware of each other as partners, the beginning of their "mutual recognition." Then, there's a funny yet tenderly passionate scene between Rachel and Gabe. If you don't believe me, just wait till you read the "squishing/assault with a deadly book" scene. They are a comfortable with each other, there's an easiness and a knowledge of each other mixed with genuine longing for that emotional connection that creates a deep intimacy in the scene only to have the intensity lightened with laughter and a sense of the absurd.


I honestly did not intend this review to be quite this long, and yet here I am. There's so much more than what I've rambled on about here. Susan Elizabeth Phillips has a talent for making me care, care very deeply, what happens to these characters. I haven't started one of her books yet without a little bit of a wince and a stray thought that maybe this book, these characters, are not for me. But her greatest talent, her gift, is that each and every time, she's turns that around for me, making me the loudest cheerleader for those questionable characters, and she does it with humor and with complex, very flawed characters facing real problems and barriers to a happy ever after. If you haven't had a chance to read a Susan Elizabeth Phillips' book, Dream A Little Dream is a good place to start. I highly recommend it.



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