Monday, August 13, 2018

Review: A Duchess in the Dark by Kate McKinley

A Duchess in the Dark by Kate McKinley
Series: By Invitation Only, Book 1
Publisher: Forever Yours
Genre: Erotic Historical Romance
ISBN: 9781455574278
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Miss Daphne Hayward is on the hunt for a safe, honorable husband and she has set her sights on the perfect target. She plans a full-scale seduction that will bring him to his knees, and have him begging for her hand in marriage. But when she mistakenly slips into another man's bed, the passions that quickly ignite threaten to send her well-laid plans up in smoke.

Ashton Fitzgerald, Duke of Claymore has never been for want of a willing woman in his bed and his rakish ways have become legend in boudoirs and dark corners all across London. But not even Ashton can account for the powerful desire that surges through him when a mysterious woman pays him a clandestine midnight visit. As dawn breaks, his goddess flees before he can learn her identity. Now Ashton will stop at nothing to unmask the identity of the woman who bewitched him body and soul and make her his…forever.

Daphne Hayward is determined to marry a man her brother-in-law doesn’t approve of, so she sets out to secure her future by sliding into bed with the man she wants to wed. Only she unknowingly winds up in the bed of Ashton Fitzgerald, Duke of Claymore. Their night together is phenomenal, but when each discovers who their mysterious bed partner is, they’re in for one heck of a surprise. Though she’s attracted to Ashton, Daphne has no interest in wedding a man every woman swoons over. Only Ashton isn’t about to give Daphne up so easily…

A case of mixed-up bedrooms can either lead to ruin or utter happiness in A Duchess in the Dark. Kate McKinley’s first By Invitation Only book is fast-paced, fun, and sexy, making for a perfect afternoon escape from reality. While Daphne and Ashton’s romance is definitely spicy, it’s also incredibly sweet and that’s what makes the book stand out for me. Ashton’s good looks are the least important part of his character. He’s kind, caring, protective, and non-judgmental, which makes him a really appealing hero. I was rooting for him to win Daphne over because they clearly fit. A Duchess in the Dark is a fairly short novella, so it’s a bit of a whirlwind love story, but that was fine by me. The dialogue was sprightly, the characters likeable, and the romance an excellent mix of sensual and sweet. I was charmed by Daphne and Ashton’s story and I look forward to reading the rest of the By Invitation Only series.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Review: The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
ISBN: 9781492657965
Release Date: September 18, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

The Rules of Blackheath
Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered at 11:00 p.m.
There are eight days, and eight witnesses for you to inhabit.
We will only let you escape once you tell us the name of the killer.
Understood? Then let's begin…

***

Evelyn Hardcastle will die. Every day until Aiden Bishop can identify her killer and break the cycle. But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest. And some of his hosts are more helpful than others…

Evelyn Hardcastle is going to die; that much has been foretold. But who did it? That is the question Aiden Bishop must answer if he ever hopes to be free of Blackheath. He has eight hosts – each a player on a deadly chessboard he can’t fully see. Eight different points of view, eight chances to solve a mystery before time runs out…

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is an intense, evocative, intricately-plotted tale that will keep you on your toes. From the start, I was drawn into the rich imagery of the decaying world of Blackheath, its inhabitants unique and vividly drawn. There are so many secrets in this complex mystery, so many puzzle pieces and point of view jumps that it’s no wonder our protagonist needs eight hosts to even have a glimmer of a chance at solving Evelyn’s murder.

The more you know about a mystery going in, the less enjoyable it is, so I’m loathe to say much about what happens in the story. I will say that I loved watching Aiden put the pieces of this sizeable puzzle together. It’s no easy feat, as he’s hindered as well as aided by the hosts chosen for him. In the hands of another author, this story might have been a tangled mess. But Stuart Turton has done an exceptional job of weaving together a massive number of threads to form one solid mystery. The worldbuilding in this book is fantastic and I loved that I couldn’t tell what would happen next. With so many personalities swirling about, no one can be entirely predictable. There’s also a sinister presence dogging Aiden’s steps that adds a slightly chilling quality to the story, which I enjoyed. The only thing that kept me from absolutely loving this book was the ending. When it comes to stories like these, you really have to stick the landing or it’s a bit of a letdown and while the ending was satisfying enough, it did leave me wanting a bit more. That being said, I still highly recommend The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle to anyone looking for an original, engaging mystery and I’m looking forward to seeing what Mr. Turton comes up with next.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Review: Serendipity by Carly Phillips

Serendipity by Carly Phillips
Series: Serendipity, Book 1
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance Serendipity Cover
ISBN: 9780425243831
Source: Publisher
Blue Ribbon Rating: 4 out of 5
Original Review Link
Book Purchase Link
Carly Phillips Reading Order

Faith Harrington grew up in the lap of luxury and never left it…until her father being sent to prison for running a Ponzi scheme was followed up by finding out that her husband was a cheating jerk. Faith needs a fresh start, and she’s determined to get it in her home town of Serendipity where she wants to start her interior design business. Unfortunately, some people in Serendipity are putting the blame for the sins of the father on Faith. What’s more, the mansion Faith grew up in is now home to notorious bad boy Ethan Barron. What’s a woman to do? Well, when Ethan hires her to redecorate his home, a woman like Faith takes the chance. But will she also take a chance on the scoundrel who’s always sent her heart racing?

Author Carly Phillips starts off her SERENDIPITY series with a bang! SERENDIPITY is passion and fun, past mistakes and new beginnings all rolled into one.

Faith is a woman who is determined to claim her life as her own, and she’ll work her butt off to make a success of herself. Faith is beautiful, intelligent and wealthy, but what makes her a fantastic heroine is her hard work and likeability. Ethan, in turn, is a former bad boy who has returned to Serendipity to make amends and reconnect with his family. Sadly, his past makes it hard for people – especially his brothers – to see the man he has become. I flat-out adored Ethan and not only did I want him to find love with Faith, I wanted him to get the acceptance he craves. To her credit, Ms. Phillips doesn’t make it easy for Ethan. I was every bit as invested in Ethan and Faith’s individual journeys as I was in their romance.

Ms. Phillips could have easily fallen into one of the well-known contemporary romance patterns with SERENDIPITY – ex-bad boy falls for good girl/princess. But Ms. Phillips takes the best parts of that romance archetype and then spins her own unique story from here. There are twists and turns in SERENDIPITY that I didn’t see coming, and I LOVED them. I finished SERENDIPITY with a smile on my face, delighted by Ethan and Faith’s utterly charming romance. Bring on the next SERENDIPITY novel, DESTINY!

Note: My review was written for Romance Junkies and is cross-posted here with permission from Romance Junkies.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Review: Destined Mate by Katie Reus

Destined Mate by Katie Reus
Series: Werewolf Mates, Book 1
Publisher: Harlequin Nocturne Cravings
Genre: Paranormal Romance Destined Mate Cover
ASIN: B005N99JFK
Source: Publisher
Blue Ribbon Rating: 3 out of 5
Original Review Link
Book Purchase Link

It’s been nearly a century since Angela has seen Knox, the man she loves. Knox is a werewolf Alpha, and she fled his embrace when she was turned into a vampire. Now a vampire friend of Angela’s has been kidnapped by a werewolf, and Angela plans to rescue her. But when she sneaks onto Knox’s land; her former lover captures her. This time, however, Knox isn’t willing to let Angela go. But will their rekindled romance ruin any chance for peace between their two species?

Passion, politics and the paranormal go together perfectly in author Katie Reus’ novel, DESTINED MATE. Readers will hit the ground running in DESTINED MATE, and the fast pace doesn’t let up. Strains of the movie Underworld slink through this sexy tale. The former star-crossed lovers in this story must overcome prejudice from both species. I was fascinated by the paranormal politics in DESTINED MATE, almost as much as I was interested in the romance. Ms. Reus had me cheering Angela and Knox on, and I avidly read DESTINED MATE to see how these two would get their happily ever after. And you know they will - it’s clear that Angela and Knox are, yes, destined to be together.

Sensual, exciting and entertaining, DESTINED MATE is sure to delight fans of paranormal romance.

Note: My review was written for Romance Junkies and is cross-posted here with permission from Romance Junkies.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Review: The Singular Mr. Sinclair by Mia Marlowe

The Singular Mr. Sinclair by Mia Marlowe
Series: The House of Lovell, Book 1
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Genre: Historical Romance
ISBN: 9781516105977
Release Date: July 17, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Lord and Lady Chatham were blessed with five sons and only one daughter. But when it comes to Caroline, one is more than enough…

Caroline is about to embark on her third Season and her parents fear she’ll be permanently on the shelf if she fails to make a match this time. Unfortunately for them, that is precisely what Caroline wants! Curious and adventuresome, Caroline longs for a life of travel, excitement, and perhaps even a touch of danger…

If only she can remain unmarried until she turns twenty-one, Caroline will inherit her grandmother’s bequest and gain her freedom. It’s not a staggering amount, but it’s enough to fund her dreams without a husband’s permission. She has her future all planned out—until Lawrence Sinclair appears on the scene…

Intense, intriguing, and handsome, the man reminds Caroline of a caged lion. In fact, the more she knows of him, the more questions she has. And when she learns how dangerous he really is, he may just become her new fascination—the one she can’t resist…

The Singular Mr. Sinclair is a true delight to read! Reformed rakes and silver-tongued rogues make for fine heroes, but there’s something about a slightly awkward hero that just grabs my heart. Lawrence charmed me from the start and made me smile. He isn’t a dashing duke, but rather a self-made man whose position as heir to an earldom is tenuous at best. He’s not someone most ladies would fawn over because he’s not suave or witty, but they’d be missing out because he’s a smart, honorable, kind, loyal, and strong man. He’s also unabashedly head-over-heels for Caroline from the very start and that just made me melt.

Caroline may have grown up in the heart of the ton, but she longs for a life much different than the one laid out for her. She’s determined to see the world and she’ll even flirt with an unsuitable gentleman if it undermines her parents’ plans to marry her off before she comes into her inheritance and can take off on her own. The one thing Caroline never planned for was Lawrence. He needs her help if he’s to fit into society, but there’s something about her brother’s friend that knocks her just slightly off-kilter and she senses that there’s more to him than meets the eye.

The Singular Mr. Sinclair has a slightly slow pace, but I was charmed enough by the characters that I didn’t mind. Caroline and Lawrence’s romance develops organically and there are just enough obstacles that I was curious to see how they would ultimately end up together. Caroline and Lawrence would be enough to make this a satisfying read, but the addition of Caroline’s brothers filled out this story nicely and made me look forward to more House of Lovell books. The Singular Mr. Sinclair was a joy to read and by the time I finished the book I was excited to read more of Mia Marlowe’s work.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Review: I Want Candy by Susan Donovan

I Want Candy by Susan Donovan
Series: Bigler, North Carolina, Book 2
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary Romance I Want Candy Cover
ISBN: 9780312536220
Source: Publisher
Blue Ribbon Rating: 4 out of 5
Original Review Link
Book Purchase Link

Candace Carmichael enjoyed living the high life until the Florida real estate market crashed. Suddenly out of a job and in debt up to her ears, Candy has no choice but to return to her hometown of Bigler, North Carolina. The adjustment is anything but smooth, yet despite the constant stream of disasters there’s one bright spot to Candy’s return; Sheriff Turner Halliday. Turner is an old friend of Candy’s, but the sparks that fly between them are totally new. Candy would love to see the sexy sheriff out of uniform, but two things are holding her back; first, Turner’s a widower who still wears his wedding ring and second, Candy has no intention of staying in Bigler permanently. Will Candy and Turner be able to let go of their pasts and create a future – together – unlike any either had ever dreamed of?

I WANT CANDY makes me say “I want more of Susan Donovan’s books!” The bright and fun sequel to CHERI ON TOP has humor and heart to spare, making it a delightful read. Candy and Turner are characters who thought they had it all together, but clearly their lives aren’t as figured out as they thought they were. It was a joy to watch them learn what they wanted out of life, whether it was the ability to move on and find love again or learning that it was okay to find a new dream when the old one failed. Ms. Donovan had me cheering for Candy and Turner to get together, but more importantly, she had me eagerly turning the pages of I WANT CANDY to see how the two protagonists developed over the course of the story.

I WANT CANDY is a tasty treat from start to finish. Candy and Turner are a couple you can root for and the oftentimes zany residents of Bigler will make you chuckle. Fans of contemporary romance with a healthy dose of comedy are sure to enjoy I WANT CANDY.


Note: My review was written for Romance Junkies and is cross-posted here with permission from Romance Junkies.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Review: Playing Dirty by Amy Andrews

Playing Dirty by Amy Andrews
Series: Sydney Smoke Rugby, Book 6
Publisher: Entangled: Brazen
Genre: Erotic Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9781640635494
Release Date: July 9, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Sydney Smoke star recruit Kyle Leighton can’t believe the best sex of his life was just a one-night stand. He didn’t even know her name… Until she shows up at the locker room two weeks later and he connects the dots.

Val King. Oh shit.

Coach has one hard and fast rule: Never, ever date (much less f*ck ten ways to Sunday) his daughter. And not only did Kyle break that rule, but he wants to break it over and over again. In the shower. Against a wall. On every flat surface in his home.

But the coach and his daughter share more than just DNA. Their issues run deep and fooling around with her could widen the family chasm.

And get Kyle benched for life.

So why can’t he stop thinking about her? Flirting with her? Suggesting they date for real and damn the consequences?

The first rule any player for the Sydney Smoke learns is this: Stay away from the coach’s daughter. That’s all well and good for newly-traded hotshot Kyle Leighton. He’s come to be coached by Griffin King and no woman would ever take precedence over rugby. Only when Kyle goes to a bar and has a blazing hot one-night stand with the mysterious Val, he has no idea that she’s the one woman in all of Sydney he’s supposed to stay away from. One mistake like that could jeopardize his career – not to mention Val’s already strained relationship with her father. It’s clear to both Val and Kyle that they should stay away from one another. Except some passions burn too hot to ignore…

Playing Dirty is smoking hot and a whole lot of fun. Where can I put an order in for one of Amy Andrews’s Sydney Smoke players? Ms. Andrews has a gift for penning insanely hot athletes who are seriously sexy, incredibly talented on the pitch and in the bedroom, and yet they’re never full of themselves. In other words, the whole team is made up of perfect book boyfriend material and Kyle Leighton is no exception. Kyle is talented, fun, and has a big heart. He isn’t flawless and it drove me nuts when he made decisions in Val’s interest without talking to her, but when he makes mistakes they’re made with good intentions and a kind heart. Val is a blast to read about and I’ve been looking forward to her story from the very first book in the series. Like Kyle, she’s a funny and kind protagonist and it’s easy to adore her. She and Kyle have a red hot romance that made the pages of Playing Dirty fly by and I was rooting for them every step of the way.

Kyle and Val’s romance shines, but there’s an equally important secondary plot in Playing Dirty that will just tug on your heartstrings. Val carries a lot of hurt buried not-so-deep beneath the surface and it’s due to her relationship with her father. She desperately wants her father’s love, but there’s so much grief and guilt in their past that Griff can’t see past to give it to her. Kyle, the outsider in this situation, gets involved because he can’t bear to see Val hurting. The result is a messy, emotional journey that’s intertwined with the romance and I loved it.

Playing Dirty is the sixth book in the Sydney Smoke Rugby series but it can easily be read as a standalone. Every book in this series is a great mix of humor, heat, and heart and Kyle and Val’s story is no exception. I adored Playing Dirty and by the time I finished it I was grinning like a loon (it doesn’t hurt that Ms. Andrews’s heroes excel at incredibly fun, over-the-top displays of affection). I can’t wait to see what Ms. Andrews has in store for readers in the next Sydney Smoke book!


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.