Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Review: The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo by Kerrigan Byrne

The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo by Kerrigan Byrne
Series: Victorian Rebels, Book 6
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Genre: Historical Romance
ISBN: 9781250122568
Release Date: August 28, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

He is known only as The Rook. A man with no name, no past, no memories. He awakens in a mass grave, a magnificent dragon tattoo on his muscled forearm the sole clue to his mysterious origins. His only hope for survival—and salvation—lies in the deep, fiery eyes of the beautiful stranger who finds him. Who nurses him back to health. And who calms the restless demons in his soul…

A LEGENDARY LOVE

Lorelai will never forget the night she rescued the broken dark angel in the woods, a devilishly handsome man who haunts her dreams to this day. Crippled as a child, she devoted herself to healing the poor tortured man. And when he left, he took a piece of her heart with him. Now, after all these years, The Rook has returned. Like a phantom, he sweeps back into her life and avenges those who wronged her. But can she trust a man who’s been branded a rebel, a thief, and a killer? And can she trust herself to resist him when he takes her in his arms?

A boy who is just becoming a man crawling his way out of a mass grave, barely clinging to life is not how you would think a great romance begins. But Kerrigan Byrne’s Victorian Rebels are anything but ordinary. The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo captivated me from the start as a teenage Lorelai rescues a broken young man with no name, no past, no memories. She gives him a name – Ash – and shows him kindness, gentleness, and love for the first time in his life. And when he’s torn from her, he takes a piece of her heart with him. Flash forward twenty years later and Ash is back, only now he’s the Rook, a man who has known nothing but blood, pain, and cruelty for years. The Rook wants to claim her for his own, but is there enough of Ash left for Lorelai to trust her heart to a pirate?

Lorelai is an incredibly endearing heroine. She’s grown up with an abusive monster of a brother and an indifferent father, but her strength and spirit shine through. She’s gentle and kind and loves rescuing and healing injured animals. How could she not melt your heart? Despite all she’s been through and the toll it has taken physically and emotionally, Lorelai never cowers. She’s got a spine of steel and she’ll need it to take on the Rook. Lorelai is the only good thing in the Rook’s life and he doesn’t want to let her go. Their romance is reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast and I adored watching Lorelai bring her Ash back out into the light. Don’t get me wrong – the Rook has plenty of reasons to be angry. But even at his darkest, it’s clear he loves Lorelai and I couldn’t wait to see him come into his own so they could find happiness. Ms. Byrne excels at delivering grand, passionate romances and Ash and Lorelai’s is no exception. I loved the emotion that leapt off the page; it kept me reading until I couldn’t keep my eyes open no matter how hard I tried.

A hunt for treasure with only the scarred remnants of the Rook’s dragon tattoo as a guide complements the romance perfectly. There’s action, danger, discovery, and betrayal and everything combines into a wonderfully satisfying tale. The treasure hunt also pushes our hero and heroine into the path of beloved characters who may hold the key to the Rook’s past. I was thrilled to revisit past Victorian Rebels characters and the multiple relationships woven into the book absolutely made my day when reading it. If I seem incredibly vague, it’s because I don’t want to spoil the story for readers who want to discover the Rook’s identity on their own.

The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo is a gripping, emotional, sensual love story. Lorelai and Ash have fantastic chemistry and I loved every bit of their romance. My only complaint is that I finished their book wanting more of Ms. Byrne’s Victorian Rebels. This series is like catnip to me – I simply cannot get enough of Ms. Byrne’s dark and dangerous heroes and the strong women who love them.


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, August 21, 2018

Review: Magic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews

Magic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews
Series: Kate Daniels, Book 10
Publisher: Ace
Genre: Urban Fantasy
ISBN: 9780425270714
Release Date: August 28, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N
Ilona Andrews Reading Order

Kate has come a long way from her origins as a loner taking care of paranormal problems in post-Shift Atlanta. She's made friends and enemies. She's found love and started a family with Curran Lennart, the former Beast Lord. But her magic is too strong for the power players of the world to let her be.

Kate and her father, Roland, currently have an uneasy truce, but when he starts testing her defenses again, she knows that sooner or later, a confrontation is inevitable. The Witch Oracle has begun seeing visions of blood, fire, and human bones. And when a mysterious box is delivered to Kate's doorstep, a threat of war from the ancient enemy who nearly destroyed her family, she knows their time is up.

Kate Daniels sees no other choice but to combine forces with the unlikeliest of allies. She knows betrayal is inevitable. She knows she may not survive the coming battle. But she has to try.

The final battle is here. Everything the Kate Daniels series has been building up to comes to a head in Magic Triumphs, culminating in an awesome display of magic. Authors Ilona Andrews have perfectly balanced cinematic action with intimate, personal moments, resulting in a wonderfully satisfying story.

From her near-loner beginnings in Magic Bites to now, it’s been a hell of a journey for Kate. She and Curran have a family – both of blood and of their own choosing – that stretches wide across Atlanta. They want peace for their loved ones and safety for their son, but that’s not possible with Kate’s father, the godlike Roland, casting his shadow over the land and people Kate has sworn to protect. And when an ancient and powerful enemy comes to her door and the Oracle sees fire and blood in the future, Kate knows that she’s now in the countdown to the battle that could cost her all she holds dear.

Kate is as kickass as ever. She’s fierce, powerful, loving, and sometimes entertainingly out of her depth as mother to the rather unique (and scene-stealing) Conlan. Even with the stakes being so high, with the intensity that builds to a screaming point as you worry over the fate of beloved characters, Ilona Andrews never loses sight of the personal moments. It’s those moments that make Magic Triumphs a stand-out story. Don’t get me wrong – Ilona Andrews’ worldbuilding is seriously top-notch. The battles are epic, the threats intriguing, unique, and powerful, and the various relationships, alliances, and politics Kate has to maneuver are intricate. But for me it was the personal moments that locked me into the story, that reinforced who and what Kate is fighting for.

If you’re wondering why I’m not saying much about the plot it’s because spoilers are hard to avoid and I definitely don’t want to ruin this book for anyone. If you’re at all familiar with the Kate Daniels books (and you definitely should be before starting this story), you know to expect spectacular battles, complex plots, and multifaceted characters. It definitely wouldn’t be a finale without all the key players from past books having a role to play and getting time with Kate. Ilona Andrews has filled this world with unique, vibrant characters and I was thrilled to revisit my favorites and see how everything and everyone would come together in the end. Is Magic Triumphs absolutely, positively everything a fan of the series could want for a conclusion? Of course not. I’ve been invested in this series for over a decade and no matter how hard I tried not to, I came in with my own hopes and it’d be ridiculous to assume the authors could meet all fan expectations. But any issues I had were minor and I found this to be a supremely satisfying end to Kate’s journey. Magic Triumphs is brilliant, engaging, funny, intense, and wholly original. I cannot recommend it highly enough.


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, August 19, 2018

Review: Three-Way Split by Elia Winters

Three-Way Split by Elia Winters
Series: Comes in Threes, Book 1
Publisher: Entangled: Scorched
Genre: Erotic Contemporary Polyamorous Romance
ISBN: 9781724687715
Release Date: August 20, 2018
Source: Author
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Hannah Stewart knows what she likes, and it doesn't include relationships. She has enough on her plate with her fledgling adult novelty shop, Yes Please. But even with an arsenal of sex toys at her disposal, she's hit a dry spell—one she wishes the sexy Mitchell Fredericks would help her out with.

There's just one snag. His sexy roommate and business partner, Ben Harrington.

The last thing she wants to do is come between their friendship—even though she'd like to come between them in other ways. Instead, she comes up with a proposition for them, one that might lead to a very hot, very unexpected outcome.

Three-Way Split is a sexy as hell polyam romance with a lot of heart. Elia Winters’s first Comes in Threes book is positively scorching, but it’s the characters and the way they approach their relationships that really makes this story stand out.

Hannah is a fiercely independent owner of an adult store. She’s smart, knowledgeable, flirty and fun, but she also has very realistic struggles, insecurities, and fears. At the beginning of the story, she has the hots for both Ben and Mitchell, but she doesn’t want things to be any deeper than some very hot fun and friendship for the three of them because she’s afraid of having her heart broken. Like Hannah, Ben guards his heart closely. He’s been burned badly by an ex and though he and Mitchell have been friends with benefits for a couple of years, he won’t let things go any farther. Ben is brilliant and so charming that I couldn’t help but smile whenever he was on the page. As with Hannah, I was really rooting for Ben to open up because it’s clear he, Hannah, and Mitchell could have something special. Which brings me to the third member of the triad: Mitchell. If I had to pick a favorite character in this book it would definitely be the quietly dominant chef. Mitchell is perhaps the most openly vulnerable of the three of them; he clearly wants a relationship but is careful not to ask for more than Ben or Hannah think they can give. Mitchell isn’t perfect, but he’s pretty much everything a person could ask for in a partner, only he doesn’t quite see how special he is which just grabbed my heart.

As individuals, Mitchell, Ben, and Hannah are compelling characters. When they get together, either in twos or threes, Three-Way Split is seriously hot. A fun, sex-positive m/m/f erotic romance would be enough, but what took this book to the next level was the way it discussed polyamory. It’s not just hot times in the bedroom (among other places) and I loved the realism woven into the fantasy. As Hannah, Ben, and Mitchell become more serious, they take the time to learn more about polyamory, what it means, and how to communicate with your partners, especially when it comes to your wants, fears, expectations, and feelings. This gives the book and the love stories such wonderful depth and works perfectly with the kinky good times. The only downside of Three-Way Split is that I finished it wanting the next Comes in Threes book because I loved the characters and romances in this one so much.


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

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.