Romance Reads

April 2020 Reads

I absolutely loved this book, and can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

Raven Crawford is saddled with her ex-boyfriend’s debit, works in a dead-end diner poring coffee for abysmal tippers, and finds lost things. She’s just trying to keep her head down, put her weary feet up every night and focus on moving on with her life once this nightmare of drudgery she’s stuck in comes to an end.

She senses the Underworld coiling around the dark fae that walks into her diner. Honestly, he’s very difficult to ignore and she calls him TDD. She’s disappointed when he orders a cup of coffee and nothing else. Of course he would be a Camper. Even if his voice tingles up and down her spine and he makes her wish for things she shouldn’t, she cannot forgive him for hacking her delusions to bits.

But he’s not there to make small-talk, or really to even drink the cup of coffee he just ordered. He wants to question her about the whereabouts of her elusive brother. She refuses to divulge any details and orders him to leave. Amazingly, he does so. She’s relieved to have escaped that close encounter. And then he kidnaps her from the alley after her shift is over.

Soon, Raven is the prime piece of real estate in an elaborate tug-of-war, a pawn caught between powerful fae. She knows her brother is in trouble, and she is determined to save him from his bad decisions. But the Lord of Shadows and the Lord of War are also determined to coerce her into acting as their lead – because of course her brother used his larcenous skills to obtain something he has no business trafficking.

If you like Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series, Keri Arthur’s Riley Jenson Guardian series, or Patricia Briggs’ Mercedes Thompson series, you’ll love the world-building and snarky heroine in this urban fantasy.

The publisher and Netgalley provided me with an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.

This book was utter perfection. Naomi has decided to wage a war on her wedding. Even though she and Nick live together they just coexist. They stick to the rigid boundaries of their prescribed lives, trading carefully crafted insults and barbed words.

Naomi’s bridesmaids are wearing the exact shade of cream she wanted for her own dress. She wasn’t allowed to have a lemon wedding cake. Dreadful Deborah, the tenacious and annoying D, is the potential mother-in-law that makes Jane Fonda look like the Mother Theresa. She controls every aspect of her beloved son’s wedding to the future vessel of her grandchildren.

So Naomi has decided that she is only forty percent in love with her fiancé. She is determined to sabotage the wedding because she’s convinced she’s not enough. Not polished enough. Not patient enough. Not complacent enough. Maybe she’ll get to keep the ring so she can pawn it later or wax prosaic over what might have been.

But then Nick buys a house in the middle of the woods. Naomi falls in love with a Charlie Brown tree in the yard. An oar is lost and a canoe is abandoned in the middle of a pond. A nutcracker finds a home on a mantel. Bonding happens over the most disgusting dinner ever. And then they defend each other against D-Money.

Gradually, Naomi realizes that Nick is her best friend. She misses him when he’s gone. His eyes sparkle when they look at her and when he’s wearing his lumber jack inspired hat with the flaps. And she wants to get married to this man she has re-learned and fallen in love with again.

This lovers to enemies to lovers story has snark that leaps off the page, cunning that will make you laugh aloud, and a magical exploration of all of the facets that tie couples together.

March 2020 Reads

The publisher and Netgalley provided me with an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.

Morrigan is not the typical daughter of a Scottish physician and Aidan is not the typical Scottish barrister. Morrigan would rather have a sword in her hand than a needle, and would rather go for the jugular than sit quietly sipping tea. Aidan’s comfortability as a soldier is not common to his chosen profession, and his argumentative nature can lead to a brawl in and out of the courtroom setting. They have an immediate attraction, even though their first encounter ends with Morrigan rendering him immobile.

Soon they are both embroiled in an intrigue to preserve the sanctity of the Scottish crown, and they are both loyal to the grandson of Bonnie Prince Charlie. Their loyalty has been garnered for different reasons, and they are thrown in close proximity because of it. And Morrigan has secrets she needs to protect.

Morrigan’s secrets come home to roost when a horrible piece of her past becomes part of her community. She must balance her instinct for flight against the safety net she has found, and her growing attraction for Aidan against her feelings of betrayal.

This was a multi-layered love story with an intriguing cast of secondary characters, a plot rich in historical detail and a lens focused on a more obscure facet of the Victorian era.

Publisher’s Description

Sebastian Sinclair, the Duke of Wessex, is not in love with Eliza Benton—nor anyone else, for that matter. But he must marry and produce an heir, and love is not required for either. His future duchess must be of high birth and good nature, a lady unlikely to snipe at him over breakfast. In short, the complete opposite of Eliza. So who better to help him find a bride?

Eliza Benton is not in love with the Duke of Wessex. He’s infuriating, arrogant, and an ass of the first order. Not that she has any intention of marrying anyone now that her secret dream is on the cusp of becoming reality. A husband would ruin all her careful plans. But she’s all for finding her nemesis the perfect bride, anything to get him from underfoot so she can focus on her writing.

Thank goodness Sebastian and Eliza aren’t in love. That would be disastrous.

My Review

 “It was like discovering that the marble pillar one believed to be merely decorative was in fact holding up the bloody roof.”

This regency romance provided the perfect escape. The dialogue is witty and provocative, a modern saucy Austen story with elements of Emma. I laughed aloud at the clever turns of phrase, the hero’s deliberate obtuseness, and the heroine’s frustration. The essential ingredient to their happiness is within their grasp, but they are too blind to see it.

He calls her Sigrid because she seems aloof and untouched. His endless teasing doesn’t disturb her equilibrium in the least – or so he believes. What Eliza can’t afford to tell him is that she can’t fathom a life without his laughter and sparkling brown eyes. Sebastian has something he wants to tell her – but the thoughts on his tongue are always dispelled by her presence.

Eliza has very good reasons for shunning marriage. She has very good reasons for avoiding entrapment. Until a man who hides his deep thoughts and carng behind a mask of nonchalance creeps beneath her defenses.

This was a quick, absolutely lovely, engaging read.

4.5 Stars

February 2020 Reads

Ilsa Madden-Mills has become one of my favorite romance authors. Her characters are intricately complex and full of nuance. Her plots are elegant and believable. Her ability to build the bones of a love story without making it awkward or tropey always makes my throat dry and my tears flow unbidden.

Cold and Evil aka Shark Number One aka Knox is unapproachable. But his eyes follow her every move, like that stalkerish song by The Police. Their staring contests are epic bouts across rooms, where they devour and then studiously ignore one other. He stirs things in Ava she wants to shove away and bury.

Ava came back to school to prove to everyone she isn’t damaged by what happened. She rose above it and she is invincible. Knox knows she’s fierce and strong, and she’s irresistible to him. He struggles against the inexorable pull of the fire between them, stoked by his fury at the terrible things that have shaped who she is.

A partnering assignment in their film class becomes an invitation and a temptation. She votes Star Wars and he votes Dirty Dancing. They have caustic, layered conversations where they say nothing and reveal everything. And when they finally kiss, the world just disappears.

The time and the place aren’t right- but they can’t stay away from each other.

This enemies-to-lovers romance was absolutely fantastic.

5 Stars.

February 2020 Releases

Publisher’s Blurb:

Her first marriage was an epic failure.

Lady Avalon Warwyck never did love her husband. Arrogant, selfish, and cruel, it’s a blessing when she’s widowed and left to raise her son all by herself. Finally, Avalon can live freely and do the work she loves: helping fallen women become businesswomen. She’s lived these past ten years with no desire to remarry―that is, until Mr. Devan Farris comes to town.

Can he convince her to take another chance at happily ever after?

Devan Farris―charming vicar, reputed rake, and the brother of Avalon’s son’s guardian―is reluctantly sent to town to keep tabs on Avalon and her son. Devan wishes he didn’t have to meddle in her affairs; he’s not one to trod on a woman’s independent nature and keen sense of convictions. But she’ll have nothing to do with vicar with a wild reputation―even though he’s never given his heart and body to another. If only he could find a way to show Avalon who he really is on the inside―a good, true soul looking for its other half. But how can prove that he wants to love and care for her. . .until death do they part? 

Book Excerpt:

I’ve considered your request that the young marquess continue his studies at home, but at the age of ten, his interests would best be served by attending Eton sooner rather than later. That’s where boys turn into men. Your suggestion that he attend Harrow won’t do. His father had insisted that I promise he attend Eton. However, since his Latin skills are somewhat lacking, I’ve decided to hire my brother, Mr. Farris, to tutor him in the subject.

Her blood simmered at the words. The earl’s declaration was nothing more than gilding the lily. Everyone within fifty miles of London knew that Devan Farris sought to marry an heiress. Until he found one, the fortune-hunting vicar thought to use her son’s marquisate to pay double for his services. Since her son’s estate paid for the vicar’s wages, Mr. Farris would receive another wage from the coffers for tutoring lessons.

But what really brought her blood to boil was that the smug vicar would be nosing into her business, and that wouldn’t do at all. She and only she ruled the parish with a fair and impartial hand. No one, including Devan Farris, would upset her world.

My Review:

Avalon has her choices taken away from her when she was seventeen. She was trapped in an emotionally cruel, bereft marriage without the support of friends or family. Her only comfort becomes her son. When her husband dies, she rejoices in the independence and freedom of her widowhood. She is determined to raise her son in the loving community she has built, and continue her charitable efforts.

Avalon is her son’s guardian, but the purse strings to his fortune are held by one of her husband’s former cronies. That crony wants to make sure she doesn’t have her hands in the estate money, and dispatches his intrepid brother to investigate. Avalon has every reason to despise Devan Farris, as he witnessed her most humiliating moment.

But Avalon and Devan are more alike than they seem. They both have formidable intelligence, a stubborn streak a mile wide, and hide deep loneliness and the wish to belong to someone. Their efforts to take care of their community, she as the landholder and he as the new vicar, bring them closer together. Soon they are confidantes rather than sworn enemies.

One night, locked in a wine cellar, changes everything. But hidden foes, manipulative debutantes and their own doubts conspire to keep them from finding their HEA.

This was a wonderful installment in Janna MacGregor’s Cavensham Heiresses series.

January 2020 Releases

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Publication Date January 28, 2020

MY REVIEW

Miranda has seen firsthand how a disregard for the consequences a game of chance can ruin a family, and she is determined to avoid liaisons with irresponsible men who stake their lives on the turn of a card. But her first glimpse of a bedraggled, muddy, kilted highlander with a stray dog in his arms makes her dream about impossibilities.

Aden is the very thing Miranda avoids- a wagerer. What Miranda doesn’t know is that Aden’s wagering is based on his statistical expertise and calculation of the odds. He may be a wagerer, but he is neither reckless nor irresponsible. He is immediately drawn to Miranda, despite her prickly reaction to him.

When a nefarious character is determined to get Miranda in his clutches, and blindsides and coerces her brother into abetting his scheme, Miranda turns to Aden for help. Stolen kisses and close quarters turn their business arrangement into something more.

I loved this addition to a favorite historical romance series of mine. This book can be read as a standalone or as part of the series.

4 Stars.

Summary from publisher:

Miranda Harris is known for her charm, wit, and ability to solve any problem she encounters. But when her brother lands neck-deep in gambling debt to a crafty villain and Miranda is subsequently blackmailed into marrying him, she must enlist the help of the devil himself to save the family honor—and herself.

Devilishly handsome Highlander Aden MacTaggert knows next to nothing about the ways of the ton, but he most certainly knows his way around gaming halls and womens’ hearts. Still, Aden is not sure how he’ll manage to find a Sassenach bride in time to save his family’s inheritance. When his almost sister-in-law Miranda comes to him for assistance, he proposes a partnership: She will help him navigate London society and he’ll teach her everything about wagering…and winning back her freedom. The beautiful, clever lass intrigues Aden—but is she playing her own game, or are the sparks between them real? He is accustomed to risking his pocket. But betting on Miranda’s love is a game he can’t afford to lose. . .

September 2019 Releases

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Publication Date 9/3/2019

The publisher and Netgalley provided me with an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.

This is a lovely, untraditional blend of a sedate regency and an expose on the popularity of penny dreadfuls in the late 19th century.

Elizabeth is the headmistress of a school for well-heeled daughters of the aristocracy. These same scions of society would cut her to the quick and withdraw their approval if they knew she penned salacious novels about London’s underbelly.

Fletcher is trying to unearth the identity of the upstart author who has usurped him as the most successful author of penny dreadfuls. There is more at stake than his livelihood – the fortunes of all of the children trapped in untenable situations, who are desperately in need of rescue.

As they work on their next literary release, the fates and hearts of Elizabeth and Fletcher become irrevocably entwined.

This book was written with painstaking attention to detail, phenomenal historical accuracy, and wonderful dialogue from the era.

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Publication Date 9/17/2019

I was provided with an ARC of this title from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This was an engaging historical romance with a feisty heroine and a brooding hero. The passion between them was evident from their first meeting, but the relationship evolved realistically before their feelings were declared. The plot twists were unconventional enough to be unpredictable.

Juliana is determined to bring her wayward fiance to heel – there is too much at stake. He is her dearest friend and she needs his support and protection from her nefarious family. She embarks on a journey to Scotland with a vague idea of his whereabouts.

After an unfortunate carriage incident that results in her gown bearing the stains of her maid’s upset stomach, she meets Logan. He is dismayed by her audacity, and though aware of her bedraggled appearance and odorous person, is inexplicably drawn to her.

He becomes her unknowing quarry, and leads her to his brother, her errant suitor. But Fitzwilliam is betrothed to someone else, and all of the correspondence she sent him went unacknowledged and unanswered.

She is in dire straits and needs a husband posthaste. Fitzwilliam decides that Logan can rescue the damsel in distress. The union between Juliana and Logan is based on mistrust and manipulation, but they become invested in making it real.

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Publication Date 9/17/2019

I was provided with an ARC of this title from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sophronia is trapped in a finely wrought, golden cage by her fears and the burden of shared secrets. She wanders the empty rooms of her immaculately furnished, cavernous home in an established routine, one day blending into the next in an eternal interlude.

Gabriel is determined to become indispensable to his new congregation. He has accepted a post as the new Transcendentalist minister in the isolated, superstitious backwater town of Pale Harbor. The townsfolk have warned him about giving the bloodthirsty, secluded widow a wide berth. But Gabriel is not superstitious, and once he meets Sophronia he is irrevocably drawn to her.

The town of Pale Harbor is being targeted by a vicious, twisted mind who is re-enacting Gothic horror stories. Sophronia is the likely culprit as an outsider and suspected black widow.

This gothic love story enthralled me from start to finish. The writing was evocative and descriptive, the plot was liberally dosed with insidious elements, and the characters were convincing and believable.

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Publication Date 9/24/2019

I was provided with an ARC of this title from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Lia and Conri are meant to be. Even though they are strangers and enemies, their entwined destinies were written in the stars and the blood-soaked soil of their homeland.

Lia is betrothed to a madman. She keeps him from sealing their vows by rigidly protecting her virtue. Time is not her ally, and she knows Anure will soon claim her.

Then a rebel king lands in her domain. He has a violent history, a fearsome reputation, and a tenacity that intimidates her. She senses that he may be the key to saving her and Calanthe.

But she does not expect his unswerving loyalty, carefully hidden vulnerability or genuine affection. Conri is everything she never expected, and everything she needs.

This book has elegant banter, vivid characters, and an intricate plot. I became lost in the world and connected with the characters.

November 2019 Releases

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Publication Date 11/19/2019

I was provided with an ARC of this title from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

It all started with one too many sips of rum punch. But the serving passage was away from bossy matrons and the exhausting bustle of the ball. And she had a mask, so no one could accuse her of errant behavior. So she could blame her flirtations and fluttering heart on the effects of three glasses of punch instead of the intoxicating man who cornered her.

Their first meeting is memorable, but Eliza is exactly the opposite of a perfect princess candidate. She is unflinchingly honest, unabashedly forthright, and utterly unintimidated by Sebastian’s glowering demands. They are thrown together to reveal a murderer, and their sleuthing leads to the unexpected entanglement.

This was a lovely story about wanting what we have been told we cannot have because of our perceived shortcomings or unrealistic expectations. It is about one couple’s ingenuity to overcome those obstacles and grasp the happiness within their reach.