4 star review

Review – Falling for the Highlander by Lynsay Sands + Giveaway

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New York Times bestselling author Lynsay Sands welcomes readers back to the Scottish Highlands, where a gallant warrior vows to protect a beautiful runaway . . .

Lady Murine Carmichael has known her share of bad luck. But when her debt-ridden half brother tries to sell her off in exchange for a few Scottish horses, it’s the final straw. If keeping her freedom means escaping through harsh countryside alone, so be it. She has barely begun her journey when she lands an unlikely escort—the brawny Highlander who just refused to buy her virtue.

Dougall Buchanan was disgusted by Lord Danvries’ shameful offer, but Murine tempts him beyond measure. Even bedraggled and dusty, the lass glows with beauty and bravery. Dougall wants to do more than just help her flee. He wants to protect her—with his life and his heart—if she’ll only let him. For Murine may be pursued by a powerful foe, but nothing compares to the fiery courage of a Highlander in love.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review. GIVEAWAY

This is my happy-go-lucky, light and sappy, happy place. Lynsay Sands is almost always good for a few laughs and a sappy romance, and I have been digging on this series for a while now. In fact, I moved this ahead on my queue after reading a truly angst inducing series, after which I was compelled to go back to the angst which prompted a reread of this whole series. They are that light, happy, and fluffy. The perfect counterpoint to angst.

We had met both Murine and Dougall in the previous books, and Murine had already proved herself to be kind, loyal, and brave. So I was predisposed to like her. She didn’t necessarily exhibit the extreme competence levels of previous heroines, but she was cute and likeable so I was happy to go through her story to happily ever after. And while Dougall was really just one of a bunch of big brash Buchanans, well I enjoy that sort of character, so he worked for me as well. And needless to say I enjoyed seeing the rest of the brothers again too and will look forward to the rest of their stories as well (particularly that of the scarred eldest brother). And while this story itself stands alone, I think it is one where it is best if you have read the series, especially books 2 & 3.

The story itself was a series of pratfalls, misadventures, and misunderstandings (albit small ones which were mostly talked out in quick order-I HATE the BIG Mis). Murine has had horrible disasters befall her, and a really hard life of late, but her stepbrother’s latest betrayal was just one step too far. Escape was in order. And so our fainting heroine rides forth on her trusty steed…a bull. Seriously! That is just the start of the ridiculousness in store if you pick up this book.

Poor Murine and Dougall. They stagger from one calamity to the next, eventually finding love and a life together. It was sweet and left me feeling happy. Though I’ll admit, I saw the bad guy coming from YEARS away, literally, I saw it coming from book 2. But even so, I enjoyed the story.

Now I’ll admit, this isn’t the most earth shaking and moving or memorable story. In fact in probably a week or two I’ll probably remember very little of it except the bull (and maybe the plumber’s crack above that kilt…how odd is that cover?). But that is fine, it is great even. Because that isn’t why I read these books, I read them for that happy little moood lifting buzz, and it provided that in spades. So it not being the most memorable book every just means I’ll be even happier when I go back and re-read it, which I guarantee you I will! I finished it with a big old sloppy/sappy grin on my face, and if you like a good wallpaper highland historical complete with brogue, Sands put out another winner.

Falling for the Highlander (Highlanders, #4)

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3.5 star review

Review – Highland Chieftan by Hannah Howell

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I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

Responsible for protecting her younger siblings from their abusive father, Bethoc Matheson is in no position to rescue another soul in Scotland. Yet when she sees a bleeding man on the verge of drowning, that’s exactly what she does, securing him safely in a cave where she can return day after day to tend to his wounds.

Sir Callum MacMillan can scarcely believe such a slight lass as Bethoc could save him from the grasp of death. But he knows the telltale marks of an angry fist on her skin, and he knows she has the soul of a fighter within her feminine frame. Raised to be a protector of the weak by his Murray clansmen, Callum would prefer to be the one saving her—and save her, he will. If he can first survive the treacherous attack that led him into her irresistible arms . . .

I’m so absolutely thrilled to be back with the Murray Family, despite the fact I mostly enjoyed my sojourn with the Wherlocke-Vaughn family. It is slightly insane that I haven’t actually reviewed one of these here since they were such a staple of my romance diet and I still have an enormous stack of dog-eared (yes I was one of those-you dead tree lovers can be grateful for the advent of digital so hooligans like me no longer deface books) and well-loved books chronicling the lives and loves of the Murrays and MacEnroys.

For the most part I think these can be read as stand alones. Yes there are characters from previous books, but with no centralized arc, jumping in just anywhere is entirely possible, even here with the 21 book, though I do tend to recommend the rest of the series. I suggest no hard long gloms though as it can all be a bit predictable.

This is another of Howell’s damsel and knight in distress books, where they each save each other, with a passel of plot moppets to round it out. I adore it.

We have two mysteries circling around to entertain us, and of course a delightful push-pull of romance between our two main characters.  Callum is one of the rescued boys from Highland Angel, and it is good to see those poor boys grown up and getting the happiness they deserve. And he has grown up to be such a sweet man, and Bethoc is a fitting mate for him. There are some heartbreaking events but overall it is a sweet and happy book.

We also got to check in on the lives of beloved characters, though as I said this can be read as a stand alone, so I don’t think they are overly intrusive if you haven’t read them. You can depend on what you’ll get from this series though, good kind people doing good kind things even in the face of heartbreak, and even though they are a bit muddle headed about love. I am really pleased to be back with the Murray’s and hope to keep visiting with them for years to come.

Highland Chieftain (Murray Family #21)

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3 star review

Review-If He’s Noble by Hannah Howell

If He's Noble

New York Times bestselling author Hannah Howell delivers adventure and instant attraction in this all-new Wherlocke Family novel…

For Lady Primrose Wootten nothing has been ordinary since her father the Baron died and his wayward family filled the estate with greed and treachery. Primrose knows if she can just track down her brother, he can send the odious relations on their way. But instead she finds this enormous, powerful stranger, and forgets entirely what she was doing in the first place…

Sir Bened Vaughn isn’t much afraid of a pistol. But he is a bit afraid of the woman holding it, who stirs up something so primal he’s not sure he can shake it off. Vaughn is an honorable man, and he knows he has no right to desire Primrose. Yet he does have an obligation to help her, and as they learn more about her brother’s disappearance, he realizes that means staying by her side…wanting her all the while… and wondering how much longer they can resist temptation…

So a little less than a year ago when THIS book came out, I binged, and binged, and binged, and binged, and binged, and binged (yes, that is 6) to prepare for this book and then I rather didn’t care to see another Wherlocke ever again. For some reason though this popped back to my attention and I figured maybe it was time to try to finish this off. Plus the 21rst Murray story is coming out in September, and I think I would feel guilty if I didn’t read this one first. Yes, I am strange.

What we have here is the epic trek. Primrose and Bened trek about all over the countryside killing people and foiling kidnapping and murder plots while searching for her brother. It is a romp. I actually expected a ton more “I am not good enough he/she is too good” etc, but there was only a little. What there was more of was adult like contemplation of the ramifications of their possible affair, which was a pleasant change from the usual fare.

There really wasn’t any mystery so this was more action oriented and on that it delivered fairly well. Primrose was charming and capable, and slightly ridiculous. Bened was stalwart as a good historical hero should be. And there was a ridiculous little plot pet of the man-eating purse rat variety.

I liked this one fairly well. No one was cheating, there were no protracted ridiculous separations, and there were happy endings all around (you know, if you consider bad people dying a happy ending, which I do). I hope if there is a next book it will be Modred’s, but I suspect it will be the brother’s.

If your local library has copies of these, I recommend them as a pleasant way to pass the time.

If He's Noble (Wherlocke)

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3 star review

Review – A Duke to Remember by Kelly Bowen

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Love takes the stage…

Elise deVries is not what she seems. By night, the actress captivates London theatergoers with her chameleon-like ability to slip inside her characters. By day, she uses her mastery of disguise to work undercover for Chegarre & Associates, an elite agency known for its discreet handling of indelicate scandals. But when Elise is tasked with locating the missing Duke of Ashland, she finds herself center stage in a real-life drama.

Noah Ellery left the glamour of the London aristocracy to pursue a simpler life in the country. He’s managed to avoid any complications or entanglements—that is, until he lays eyes on Elise and realizes there’s more to this beautiful woman than meets the eye. But when Elise reveals her real identity—and her true feelings for him—the runaway duke must confront the past he left behind . . . to keep the woman he loves forever.

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

This is the second book in this series, and Kelly Bowen is fast becoming an author I feel I can trust for a quick, fun romp through wallpaper historical England. And this particular series is such smashing fun because the heroines have their own agency, and by that I mean both their personal agency to affect change in their own lives, and an honest to goodness agency-their place of business where scandals can be made to go away.

I’ll admit that this one did not capture my attention as firmly at the start as the previous story did. And that is at least in part because I didn’t immediately connect Elise in this story to the lady in the previous book. She was an interesting character, it is just that Ivory just overwhelmed me. So it felt like starting cold to me, and the author clearly meant us to have already had some time with her. So if you don’t remember Elise, I say brush up by reading at least the first chapter or so from Duke of my Heart. I think that will truly make a difference in how one starts out with Elise. The other part is that the Big-Mis of the two character not understanding who each other was and what their purposes were just made me feel so awkward with the characters, despite their obvious initial attraction.

Once things got going though I was really into it. The back story was way sadder than the blurb leads one to believe, but it was interesting. And the way Chegarre and Associates handled the return of the wayward and missing earl was a delight. I could have read chapters more of that. I also really enjoyed getting more backstory on a mysterious character from the previous book.

Unfortunately the way the relationship resolution came about was less than what I had hoped. It wasn’t bad, I just wanted more. I suppose that is the theme here, I wanted more, more of the mystery, more of the agency working, and more of the relationship-everything that was there did work, so I suppose I am just being greedy. In any event this is a story I honestly enjoyed reading and which leads me top gladly keep reading the series, it just won’t go on my re-read shelf. Perfect for anyone looking for a quick, fun romp.

A Duke to Remember (Season for Scandal, #2)

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4 star review

Review – The Last Hellion by Loretta Chase

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She Needed to be Tamed . . .

She was a breathtaking firebrand, and Vere Mallory, the notorious Duke of Ainswood, had never seen anything like her. Although he thought he was rescuing Lydia Grenville from the cluches of a renowned wastrel, he quickly discovers she is angry at his interference! Amused by the sultry hell-cats’s fury, Mallory vows to teach her some humility — in life and in love.

He Was Just the Man to Do It.

Lydia Grenville was fuming. She was determined to savewomankind from disreputable rakes like the infamous Mallory, not to succumb to his scandalous charms. She finds herself overwhelmed by the scintillating sensations he brings to her body, but when she discovers that he has bragged that he’s going to “tame” her, Lydia vows to fight his advances . . . but nothing prepares her for the surrender she finds in his arms.

Ah, how Loretta Chase surprises me. Whereas Lord of Scoundrels enthralled me, Captives of the Night came just shy of boring me, so I didn’t have high hopes but was happy enough to read it, if you see what I mean. Kind of like cold pizza it is still enjoyable enough in its way. That was my expectation, but Chase knocked it back out of the park again, maybe a smidge below  LoS, but close. This one is also available on OpenLibrary with the usual disclaimers.

Lydia Grenville was an Amazon, both in deed and in person. You know who she kind of reminded me of? Helen from Catherine Coulter’s The Courtship. I had to give up on Coulter because you never knew when you would run into a so-called “hero”and “love” story that were absolutely stomach churning, but this one I remember with delight because of its Amazonian heroine, and the current amazing heroine may be prompting a reread of a book I literally wore the spine out of so many years ago.

Vere I simply wasn’t looking forward to though. He made a showing in Lord of Scoundrels that did not endear him to me. But, as seems to be Chase’s way, she turned that initial impression on its head. He was maybe not right, but he did have his reasons for behaving the way he did, and in the end I had empathy.

Rather than being focused on the mystery, this one mainly focused on the relationship as LoS did, and it really, really worked for me. Their courtship was almost as unusual as unusual as Jessica’s and Sebastian’s, though not nearly as violent.

We have some nice twists of mystery, delightful character growth, and most loose ends of the series were tied up. It was also delightful to see Jessica’s brother Bertie grow up some and find some happiness, he wasn’t an interesting enough hero to carry his own book, but the slice of Bertie we got was ridiculously sweet. We also get to see just how she weaved in characters and events from all the books, supporting characters just are never what they seemed, and Francis Beaumont was an interesting if despicable thread throughout. The only complaint I have about the series as a whole is that there seems to be a thread dangling in the form of one Andrew Herriard, and I desperately wish we knew what happened to him (if he popped up anywhere else, some please enlighten me).

This is an altogether lovely series, and this one the delightful cherry on top. I can’t believe I waited so very long to stumble onto Chase, but am glad to have some back list to glom. Especially since she seems to have a delightful feminist flair for her heroines. Each of them have been strong-willed, not in the least mishish, and perfectly willing to either go toe to toe or be devious sneaks as needs must. I find them delightful.

The Last Hellion (Scoundrels, #4)

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3 star review

Review – Captives of the Night by Loretta Chase

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Leila Beaumont is a gorgeous and talented portrait painter trapped in a loveless marriage with her profligate husband, Francis. Though long ago, Francis very much played the hero, rescuing and wedding the orphaned 17-year-old Leila – Francis’ more recent hedonistic lifestyle of drinking, drugging and womanizing has not only earned him quite a few enemies in London, but lost him the love of his wife.

When Francis turns up dead in the Beaumont townhouse, right after a loud and vitriolic argument with his wife, Leila is seen as the primary suspect, innocent though she is. Because of Francis’ many enemies and victims, government officials instigate a quiet investigation, many of whom fear fallout from Francis’ numerous blackmail and extortion schemes.

The man they call on – the sexy blue-eyed Comte d’Esmond – is a man of many talents who has spent the past ten years as one of the government’s most trusted covert operatives; a man who also has a dark and treacherous past.

Neither Leila, nor d’Esmond is especially happy to be working together – their relationship is one of intense attraction accompanied by intense resistance. Leila had long ago given up on the idea of love and saw her husband as a means of propriety in London, but now she finds the dangerous Esmond’s seductive charm nearly irresistible.But work together they must: Esmond, with a carefully hidden identity that would shock Leila to the core and Leila with her own secrets to keep…

It’s danger that unites them and it’s danger that chains their hearts: Esmond’s virility and bold touch enflame Leila’s blood…and draw her into the most irresistible intrigue of all…truly passionate love.

I read these out of order, being captivated by Lord of Scoundrels I had to go back, but fortunately my library had the entire series available for immediate checkout. It turns out though, that books 2-4 in the series are somewhat intertwined. While this one does start out before the events of book 3, if I am reading it aright, it actually spans past book 4. So I am not entirely certain how it is book 2 in the series, but whatever, just know it is possible to read them out of order and be able to follow along, but perhaps for the way the characters in this story (in my opinion) suffer by comparison, it might be best to read them in order.

And I hate to say it, but this one just doesn’t quite come up to LoS’s level. Don’t get me wrong, it is good, quite good, and Loretta Chase has a hell of a way of turning a phrase, writing interesting characters, and mysteries. I don’t know, it just didn’t hit me quite the same way. Maybe it is that I read them out of order?

In any event, Leila is a strong willed and self possessed woman. She’s almost a little too perfect perhaps. She’s artistic and wickedly clever, almost preternaturally so. The Comte d’Esmond is almost ridiculously opaque, though Leila figures him out soon enough. There was a reasonable degree of chemistry there I suppose, they just didn’t come close to extremes exhibited by Jessica and Sebastian. Kind of like fuzzy copies, Leila just wasn’t near the tyro that Jessica was, and while Esmond had his own sad story, he just couldn’t tug my heart strings like Sebastian did. Perhaps if I had read the first book in the series (something it turns out I have no interest in doing), I might have had more sympathy for him…or maybe not.

What really shined though was the mystery and how they just kept turning through suspects and incidents and intrigues, like a a two headed snake that was eating itself, it kept me racing through the pages. I simply had to find out what happened next.

I don’t know what to say, overall it was middling so there’s just not much to say, it is good enough that it wouldn’t put me off reading her if I had started here, but I don’t think it is her strongest effort and it won’t be going on my re-reads shelf.

Captives of the Night (Scoundrels, #2)

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4 star review

July TBR Challenge 2016 – Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase

TBR Challenge 2016

Topic: Award Nominee or Winner

Lord of Scoundrels

DETERMINED LADY

Tough-minded Jessica Trent’s sole intention is to free her nitwit brother from the destructive influence of Sebastian Ballister, the notorious Marquess of Dain. She never expects to desire the arrogant, amoral cad. And when Dain’s reciprocal passion places them in a scandalously compromising, and public, position, Jessica is left with no choice but to seek satisfaction …

LORD OF SCOUNDRELS

Damn the minx for tempting him, kissing him … and then forcing him to salvage her reputation! Lord Dain can’t wait to put the infuriating bluestocking in her place — and in some amorous position, And if that means marriage, so be it! — though Sebastian is less than certain he can continue to remain aloof … and steel his heart to the sensuous, headstrong lady’s considerable charm.

This particular month’s challenge was RITA Award Winners and Finalists, and it turns out I actually had several to choose from on my TBR.

This particular book has been on my TBR since I discovered Doc Turtle’s analysis at SBTB. This won’t be my first Loretta Chase, as that honor goes to Mr. Impossible, which was fantastic. I was actually fortunate enough to get this book digitally from the library, so whoohoo for saving money (and it turns out it is available from Open Library), but Lord of Scoundrels is actually the third book in the series, and I do not have time to read the others first, so I am jumping in and hoping for the best. It is a generally well liked book so I’ve got my fingers crossed, and since it is so well and often reviewed, and more than 20 years old, I shan’t apologize for any possible spoilers, you have been warned.

The story starts with a rather unhappy marriage and an even unhappier young Sebastian. Seriously, there ought to be a law against some people procreating. So he grows up hard and crude, and stunted emotionally. He has no faith in women or love and is basically an awful, awful person with a ton of self loathing.

Jessica Trent on the other hand is what turns this book from historical to wallpaper historical in my opinion. She is simply out there. Basically Chase plopped a contemporary (albeit slightly insane) heroine into a historical, AND I JUST DO NOT EVEN CARE! Seriously, Jessica is a trip and makes the story. She’s acerbic and strong willed, devious, and supremely competent. She’s runs circles around her brother Bertie, bowls over the hero, and takes the insults and stupidities of Sebastian’s rakish friends like Vere Mallory in her stride. And she doesn’t belittle herself for being a normal human being. In short, she’s my idea of delightful.

And their “courtship” can best be summed up in their most common phrase to one another “I should like to see you try.” Irresistible force meets unmovable object doesn’t even begin to cover it. It is a series one one ups and misunderstandings that are epic in their proportions. Meanwhile, they are both actually being very upfront and vulnerable to each other, though they each suspect the other’s motives and can’t see that fact.

Their “courtship” culminates with Jessica shooting Sebastian, so naturally enough he HAS to marry her, there is no other way for him to top that. At which point our protagonists finally get some extended time to work through their issues, and Sebastian in particular starts seeing the world and himself through a very different lens, which changes everything. And naturally they fall in love and live happily ever after.

So what if that sounds trite, it isn’t, and it is seriously delightful. My only issue I think comes from jumping into the series at a mid point, because it seemed as though there were characters that I should already know. However, going back and reading the blurb for Captives of the Night (book 2), it looks like that actually happens AFTER Lord of Scoundrels, so I am a little confused. In any event, following completion of LoS, I immediately checked out books 2 & 4, so I should get that all cleared up in my mind fairly shortly.

Lord of Scoundrels (Scoundrels, #3)

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