Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Review: All Scot and Bothered by Kerrigan Byrne

All Scot and Bothered by Kerrigan Byrne
Series: Devil You Know, Book 2
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Genre: Historical Romance 
All Scot and Bothered Cover
ISBN: 9781250318862
Release Date: September 29, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

They are a dangerous duke, a fierce lord, and an infamous earl—dark, bold, brave men who know exactly what they want. And there is only one woman who can bring them to their knees…

He is first and foremost—at everything. A man who’s made his own way through ruthless cunning and sheer force of will. A strong and imposing Scot who can turn on the charm but does not suffer fools. His title: Lord Chief Justice of the High Court. His name: Cassius Gerard Ramsay. His mission: To investigate the goings-on at London's most notorious gaming hell, owned and operated by one of the most intriguing and desirable women he’s ever met.

IN THIS GAME OF LOVE, THE RULES DO NOT APPLY

Cecelia Teague was an orphan facing a rather dire future—until a secret benefactor from her mother’s scandalous past swept into her life. Sent to a prestigious boarding school and later to university, Cecelia believed high society was at her fingertips...Then, from out of nowhere, she became the inheritor of a gambling establishment. Now Cecelia must live two lives: one as a proper lady who finds herself undeniably drawn to Lord Ramsay and the other as a savvy gaming hell owner trying to save her business from the very same man. He has no idea she is both women...and Cecelia would like to keep it that way. But what happens when consuming passion and escalating danger threaten to reveal the truth?

All Scot and Bothered is capital D Dramatic and I am so here for it! I’m increasingly picky when it comes to heavy angst, but Kerrigan Byrne always manages to sweep me off my feet. I couldn’t put Cecilia and Ramsay’s book down – even going so far as to wake up early before work to read more of it (a mark of a truly addictive read since I am not morning person).

Cecilia Teague had a terrible childhood with an abusive father before she was rescued by a mysterious benefactor. Until she found the Red Rogues, her best friends Alexandra and Francesca, she was a lonely girl and there’s a part of her that is still a bit lonely. She’s a gorgeous, intelligent woman that many have beaten down because of her gender, looks, and incredibly sharp brain. I adored Cecilia and she tugged on my heartstrings more than once. When she finds out she’s inherited a scandalous gambling establishment as well as a school it funds, Cecilia has little time to settle in and take stock before chaos erupts. She’s inherited secrets she must decode along with the building and in order to protect herself and everyone else she has to figure it out quickly. With her life in danger, help comes from the most unlikely of sources: Cassius Gerard Ramsay, Lord Chief Justice of the High Court.

Ramsay is large, hostile, and carries deep scars that have made him suspicious of many. He’s a fierce hero who is tempted by Cecilia even as he is determined to take down the gaming hell he’s unaware she has inherited. Sparks fly and Cecelia and Ramsay clash, but the chemistry between them is undeniable. I loved the sexual tension, the push-pull between logic and desire…everything about their love story worked for me. Ramsay can be cold and angry and his walls are miles high, but I loved watching them come down. He’s been hurt so badly in the past that even when I wanted to shout at him to trust Cecilia, I understood why it was hard for him. I also loved that Cecilia doesn’t try to fix Ramsay, but knows he has to change on his own. She is perhaps the only woman who can go toe-to-toe with him. And I loved that he was someone she could lean on. Ramsay has a huge protective streak and even for a woman who is used to solving her own problems, it’s lovely to see Cecilia find someone who will take some of the weight off of her shoulders. The two of them are a fantastic match and it melted my heart to see two such lonely souls find each other. Though their romance is rocky, I was glued to it from beginning to end.

Danger and mystery round out All Scot and Bothered, keeping things moving at a quick clip all the way through. There’s an ongoing mystery that I cannot wait to see resolved in the next book, The Devil in Her Bed. But for now, I was more than satisfied with Cecilia and Ramsay’s story. I loved the angst, the passion, and the chemistry between the two well-drawn, complex leads and Ms. Byrne’s writing had me spellbound from the first page to the very last.



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, September 20, 2020

Review: Well Played by Jen DeLuca

Well Played by Jen DeLuca
Series: Well Met, Book 2
Publisher: Berkley
Well Played Cover
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9781984805409
Release Date: September 22, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

A laugh-out-loud romantic comedy featuring kilted musicians, Renaissance Faire tavern wenches, and an unlikely love story.

Stacey is jolted when her friends Simon and Emily get engaged. She knew she was putting her life on hold when she stayed in Willow Creek to care for her sick mother, but it's been years now, and even though Stacey loves spending her summers pouring drinks and flirting with patrons at the local Renaissance Faire, she wants more out of life. Stacey vows to have her life figured out by the time her friends get hitched at Faire next summer. Maybe she'll even find The One.

When Stacey imagined "The One," it never occurred to her that her summertime Faire fling, Dex MacLean, might fit the bill. While Dex is easy on the eyes onstage with his band The Dueling Kilts, Stacey has never felt an emotional connection with him. So when she receives a tender email from the typically monosyllabic hunk, she's not sure what to make of it.

Faire returns to Willow Creek, and Stacey comes face-to-face with the man with whom she’s exchanged hundreds of online messages over the past nine months. To Stacey's shock, it isn't Dex—she's been falling in love with a man she barely knows.

The Willow Creek Renaissance Faire and its lively cast of characters are back in Well Played. I adored the Ren Faire world author Jen DeLuca brought to life in Well Met and there is no sophomore slump in this series. Stacey’s story is bright and fun, but also grabbed my heart at unexpected moments.

Stacey loves her family, her friends, and the faire, but lately that’s not enough to satisfy her. Her friends getting married, having children, and generally moving forward in their lives makes her realize how stagnant her own life has become. She feels stuck and a bit down, which is something I think many readers, myself included, can sympathize with. But she also doesn’t know how to take that leap into something that will create change. I adored Stacey for her kind nature and generous smile, but also for her secret vulnerabilities.

One night – when alcohol and melancholy don’t mix – she takes a chance and messages Dex MacLean, her faire fling of the past few years. She opens up to Dex and his reply is nothing like she would expect from the sexy but shallow musician. And the more she and Dex text and email over the months, the closer they come. Only when faire time rolls around, Stacey learns that the man she’s falling for isn’t Dex at all. I think her hero is obvious from the start, but since the blurb leaves it a surprise I won’t be the one to spoil it. I will say that I loved not-Dex. The hero of Well Played is unquestionably wrong by not telling Stacey from the start who he is. However, like Stacey I found it fairly easy to forgive him. He’s a sweet hero who is quietly sexy…basically the opposite of Dex. I adored watching he and Stacey fall in love through letters and texts. The spark and the romance is there, quiet, steady, and true in a way that made me smile over and over. And I really enjoyed their relationship becoming real once the truth came out and all masks were dropped.

Well Played can easily be read as a standalone (if you don’t mind some spoilers from Well Met). However, part of the joy of this book is seeing Emily and Simon’s happily ever through Stacey’s eyes as her friends plan their Ren Faire wedding. And don’t think there aren’t teasing glimpses at a future Well Met couple that made me curse the wait for their story. All in all, I adored Well Played. The ups and downs in Stacey’s life and her burgeoning romance with her marshmallow heart hero had me hooked, life at the faire made me smile, and I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. DeLuca’s writing.



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, September 13, 2020

Review: When the Earl Met His Match by Stacy Reid

When the Earl Met His Match by Stacy Reid
Series: Wedded by Scandal, Book 4
Publisher: Entangled: Scandalous
Genre: Historical Romance 
ISBN: 9781649370525
Release Date: September 14, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Entangled
Stacy Reid Reading Order

When Hugh Winthrop, the future Earl of Albury, decides to advertise for a wife in the London paper, he never expected an anonymous response from a woman who matches him wit for wit. Their back-and-forth letters on the true nature of love, something they disagree on wholeheartedly, leave him shocked—and intrigued. But then the woman he’s been corresponding with shows up on his doorstep, enticingly beautiful and offering a marriage of convenience in exchange for his protection…

Lady Phoebe Maitland expected to marry for love and nothing else, until the man she gave her trust betrayed her. The more intrigued she becomes by the mysterious and devastatingly handsome Hugh, however, the more she realizes he’s holding back from opening his heart due to long-held secrets she struggles to understand. As passion flares wickedly between them, their marriage bed is quick to heat up. But when Phoebe’s past threatens to destroy the fragile bond they’ve formed, even a budding belief in love might not be enough to save them.

Ever since I finished the last Wedded by Scandal book, How to Marry a Marquess, I’ve been eagerly anticipating Phoebe Maitland’s story. Stacy Reid did not disappoint. I was swept away by When the Earl Met His Match from the very first page, losing track of time until I looked up upon finishing the book. Ms. Reid’s writing is just that addictive.

Phoebe may come from wealth and power, but that doesn’t equal freedom. She’s had to bank the inner fire in her to be the dutiful daughter. But when she risked everything for love, it blew up in her face as the man she wanted to marry betrayed her. Though her heart has been bruised and her faith in love shaken, Phoebe makes one last desperate gamble in order to escape the horrible fate her mother has planned for her: she proposes marriage to a man she has only known through letters. I loved Phoebe’s spirit and determination, how she picked herself up from heartbreak and was determined to make a new life. She has a big heart and a sunny nature that even the storms she weathers can’t tamp down. Quite simply, I adored her.

And Hugh… *sigh* The future Earl of Albury might just be my favorite of Ms. Reid’s heroes to date. Hugh has been badly hurt in the past and he’s had it drilled into him never to risk opening his heart to his future wife. But Hugh has also been raised to be a man of honor and said honor shines through and makes him an utterly irresistible hero. He’s protective, kind, and sexy as sin. Hugh is also determined to honor his father’s wishes and take his place in London society. To do so, he needs a wife with connections and no scandal to her name. Given his circumstances (which I won’t spoil), he advertises for a wife in the newspaper. When Phoebe takes umbrage to his ad and writes a scathing letter in reply, it’s only the beginning for them. Their back-and-forths made me grin and I loved watching their friendship form before they even meet in person. When they do, the mutual attraction sizzles and despite logic saying Phoebe isn’t a proper match for him, Hugh agrees to a marriage of convenience.

The chemistry between Phoebe and Hugh is top-notch. I loved watching their friendship deepen into love, especially since the sexual tension constantly simmering was utterly delicious. Both have secrets in the beginning of the story that I won’t spoil, so I will have to be a bit vague. There are things about Hugh and Phoebe that so-called polite society would love to gossip and make cutting remarks about. But it’s those things that show their true strengths of character as they adapt and support one another. Their love story is both sweet and passionate, which is the best combination. There are some truly special moments in this book that I smile just thinking about. Is it a smooth road to happily ever after? No. Old wounds and outside obstacles threaten to hinder their romance, but I was rooting for them every step of the way.

Hugh’s family adds further life to When the Earl Met His Match and I hope to see Caroline Winthrop get a book of her own. All in all, I loved Hugh and Phoebe’s story from beginning to end. It has heat, humor, and heart – a truly potent combination.



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.

Stacy Reid Book Order

Click on series title to jump to a particular reading order:


Sinful Wallflowers
Wedded by Scandal
Rebellious Desires
Forever Yours
Scandalous House of Calydon
The Kincaids
The Amagarians
Stand Alones


Sinful Wallflowers

1. My Darling Duke
Alexander Masters and Kitty Danvers
My Review

2. Her Wicked Marquess (available 12/29/20)
Nicolas Ives and Maryann FitzWilliam
My Review

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Wedded by Scandal

1. Accidentally Compromising the Duke
Edmond Rochester and Adeline Hays
My Review

2. Wicked in His Arms
Tobias Walcott and Olivia Sherwood
My Review

3. How to Marry a Marquess
Richard Maitland and Evie Chesterfield
My Review

4. When the Earl Met His Match
Hugh Winthrop and Phoebe Maitland
My Review


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Rebellious Desires

1. Duchess by Day, Mistress by Night
Rhys Tremayne and Georgiana Rutherford
My Review

2. The Earl in My Bed
Sylvester Wentworth and Daphne Wentworth
My Review


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Forever Yours

1. The Marquess and I
Alasdair Morley and Willow Arlington

2. The Duke and I
Elliot Winthrop and Emmaline Fitzgerald

3. The Viscount and I
Sebastian Rutledge and Fanny Dashwood

4. Misadventures with the Duke
Christopher Worth and Pippa Cavanaugh

5. When the Earl was Wicked
James Radcliffe and Verity Ayles

6. A Prince of My Own
Simon Astor and Miranda Cheswick

7. Sophia and the Duke
William Astor and Sophia Knightly

8. Sins of Viscount Worsley
Viscount Worsley and Marianne Ashbrook

9. An Unconventional Affair
Maximillian Langdon and Amelie Weatherston

10. Mischief and Mistletoe
Graham Wynter and Callisto Middleton

11. A Rogue in the Making (available 10/12/20)


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Scandalous House of Calydon

1. The Duke’s Shotgun Wedding
Sebastian Thornton and Jocelyn Rathbourne

2. The Irresistible Miss Peppiwell
Anthony Thornton and Phillipa Pippiwell

3. Sins of a Duke
Lucan Wynwood and Constance Thornton

4. The Royal Conquest
Mikhail Konstantinovich and Payton Peppiwell


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The Kincaids

1. Taming Elijah
Elijah Kincaid and Sheridan Wentworth

2. Tempting Bethany
Joshua Kincaid and Bethany Galloway

3. Lawless: Noah Kincaid
Noah Kincaid and Ada Bancroft


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The Amagarians

1. Eternal Darkness
Drac and Saieke

2. Eternal Flames
Ajali and Tehdra

3. Eternal Damnation
Lachlan and Shilah

4. Eternal Phoenyx
Gavyn and Xian

4. Eternal Promise (release date unknown)


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Stand Alones

The Scandalous Diary of Lily Layton
Oliver Carlyle and Lily Layton
My Review

Letters to Emily
Marcellus, Emily, and Maxwell

Wicked Deeds on a Winter Night
Gabriel Northcote and Primrose Markham


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Please note: This page was written by me, so as always, please visit the author’s website for up-to-date, author-verified information as well as for information books that have not yet been included to this list.

https://www.stacyreid.com/

Monday, September 7, 2020

Review: A Dance with Fate by Juliet Marillier

A Dance with Fate by Juliet Marillier
Series: Warrior Bards, Book 2
Publisher: Ace
Genre: Fantasy 
A Dance with Fate cover
ISBN: 9780451492807
Release Date: September 1, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

A young woman who is both a bard--and a warrior--seeks to repay her debts and settle scores in this thrilling historical fantasy series.

The young warrior and bard Liobhan has lost her brother to the Otherworld. Even more determined to gain a place as an elite fighter, she returns to Swan Island to continue her training. But Liobhan is devastated when her comrade Dau is injured and loses his sight in their final display bout. Blamed by Dau's family for the accident, she agrees to go to Dau's home as a bond servant for the span of one year.

There, she soon learns that Oakhill is a place of dark secrets. The vicious Crow Folk still threaten both worlds. And Dau, battling the demon of despair, is not an easy man to help.

When Liobhan and Dau start to expose the rot at the center of Oakhill, they place themselves in deadly danger. For their enemy wields great power and will stop at nothing to get his way. It will take all the skills of a Swan Island warrior and a touch of the uncanny to give them a hope of survival…

Return to the world of Juliet Marillier’s Warrior Bards, where the uncanny can be found by those who know where to look and where the bonds of love and friendship are the greatest weapon against the darkest of hearts. A Dance with Fate is full of struggle and sorrow, but balanced with hope and triumph. It’s a bridge book and has the ups and downs of being the middle story, but it’s balanced by Ms. Marillier’s addictive prose. I made the mistake of starting this book late in the day and I was up reading until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, then immediately went back to finish the next morning.

Three seasons have passed since the events of The Harp of Kings and Liobhan and Dau are in their final display bout on Swan Island when things go horribly wrong. An accident leaves Dau blinded and forced to a return to Oakhill, a place of nightmares where he was tortured by his evil brothers for most of his childhood. As recompense for her part in the accident, Liobhan goes as well to serve a bonded servant for one year. It’s immediately clear that all is not right at Oakhill. Dau’s eldest brother is truly evil and there are mysteries Liobhan and Dau must uncover as they fight to stay alive. The fight is harder for Dau, a warrior struggling to cope with his new life without sight. Dau broke my heart in this book. The memories at Oakhill have vicious teeth and he bleeds from old wounds and new. I wanted to see Dau come back to himself, but it’s difficult. Liobhan doesn’t give up on him, though. While there are those who would seek to hurt her, Liobhan is good at making friends and allies wherever she goes. She’s quick, smart, skilled, and fierce, which I just love about her. She has a generous heart to match her mind and spirit and it was easy to get lost in her story. She and Dau go through a lot (to be more detailed would spoil the story) but I was rooting for them every step of the way. It would be remiss of me to not mention that the connection between Liobhan and Dau that was apparent in the previous book grows over the course of this story. The love story that is developing between them is understated but still intriguing.

Meanwhile, in the Otherworld we have Brocc, Liobhan’s half-fey adopted brother. Brocc is wrestling with missing his family while finding his place as husband to Eirne, the half-fey queen. Brocc is looking into the Crow Folk, the mysterious, violent creatures who have been attacking people both in the Otherworld and human realm. Brocc’s compassion and understanding are what I love best about him and it is those traits that clue him into the fact that there’s more to the Crow Folk than meet the eye. How this plays out, I cannot wait to see. But as much as I like Brocc, his chapters were the weakest for me in A Dance with Fate. When he’s away from Eirne, Brocc shines. But with her, he’s muted and sometimes forced to tamp down on the more human part of him. With events ending as they did, I desperately hope Ms. Marillier gives him a satisfying ending.

Liobhan, Dau, and Brocc face challenges unlike any before in A Dance with Fate, but they are growing confident in themselves and what they stand for. I cannot wait to see what they do in the next Warrior Bards 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.

Review: You Lucky Dog by Julia London

You Lucky Dog by Julia London
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9780593100387
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Carly Kennedy's life is in a spiral. She is drowning in work, her divorced parents are going through their midlife crises, and somehow Carly's sister convinces her to foster Baxter--a basset hound rescue with a bad case of the blues. When Carly comes home late from work one day to discover that the dog walker has accidentally switched out Baxter for another perkier, friendlier basset hound, she has reached the end of her leash.

When Max Sheffington finds a depressed male basset hound in place of his cheerful Hazel, he is bewildered. But when cute, fiery Carly arrives on his doorstep, he is intrigued. He was expecting the dog walker, not a pretty woman with firm ideas about dog discipline. And Carly was not expecting a handsome, bespectacled man to be feeding her dog mac and cheese. Baxter is besotted with Hazel, and Carly realizes she may have found the key to her puppy’s happiness. For his sake, she starts to spend more time with Hazel and Max, until she begins to understand the appeal of falling for your polar opposite.

A dog mix-up and a love-struck basset hound are the perfect start to a fun romantic comedy. The love story between depressed basset hound Baxter and the cheerful basset hound Hazel charmed the heck out of me and kept You Lucky Dog sprightly when the main storyline threatened to drag it down. The romance between the humans took far longer to work its charm on me.

Carly Kennedy’s life is one disaster after another. She’s struggling with starting her own PR business and her impossible clients aren’t helping any. Then there’s her family, with her overwhelmed sister who comes with a chaotic household and her recently divorced parents who are into finding their bliss and selling timeshares. And that’s all before the rent hike and the accidental dog swap courtesy of her (now fired) dog walker. Finding the cheerful, throw pillow-eating Hazel in place of Baxter is the last straw. She’s able to track down her dog at Max Sheffington’s house and sparks fly instantly…between the humans, that is. Max is a neuroscientist and trying to make his case for tenure at the university is the most important thing at the moment. He hopes the additional funding for his research will lead to help for people like his brother, who is severely autistic. The last thing he needs right now is a complication in the form of whirlwind Carly, but Max can’t help but find himself charmed. When it’s clear they need to keep seeing each other – for the dogs’ sakes, of course – the pull between them becomes stronger. But Carly has plans that don’t include staying in Texas, so things would be doomed between them from the start…right?

I liked Max from the start. He’s cute, nerdy, and has a good heart – all of those make him an irresistible hero to me. Carly is overwhelmed and a bit too much for me at the start. I could feel her stress and author Julia London made it understandable why she was so short with Max. However, there was so much chaos and so much bogging Carly down that it took until the halfway point for me to start seeing the character beneath the stress. At that point You Lucky Dog improved, becoming a more interesting romance. It never blew me away, but it was solid and I was rooting for Max and Carly to get their happily ever after by the end.

A host of supporting characters both add and detract from the story. I loved Max’s father and brother and welcomed any scenes with his family. As for the boatload of high maintenance family and clients Carly came with… I think there were too many over the top voices that dragged the story down. It was like being in a room with everyone shouting when these characters appeared and it was just too much. Sure, it made Carly more sympathetic when everyone was unlikeable. But it also made me put down the book a number of times for a break. So while You Lucky Dog ended up being just an OK read for me, I will say that readers with more patience for over the top characters might enjoy this book a lot more than I did.


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.