Monday, April 25, 2022

Review: Highland Justice by Heather McCollum

Highland Justice by Heather McCollum
Series: Sons of Sinclair, Book 3
Publisher: Entangled: Amara
Genre: Historical Romance 
Highland Justice cover
ISBN: 9781649371669
Release Date: April 26, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Entangled
Heather McCollum Reading Order

As the new chief of Clan Mackay, Gideon Sinclair knows the importance of maintaining order at any cost. To keep the conquered clan in line, Gideon must mete out ruthless justice or risk losing their precious new peace. But from the moment he meets Cait Mackay—aye, from the moment the sweetness of her lips captures his—all of Gideon’s careful objectivity is well and thoroughly compromised.

Cait knows that kissing the brawny Highlander is a dangerous game. It was bad enough she picked his pocket to feed the children in her care, but sometimes a desperate woman must disguise her crimes any way she can. Only her act of deception has made things worse… Because one kiss with the Highland’s most brutal chief leaves her breathless and out of her depth.

Now Gideon must choose between his duty and his heart when his lovely thief is accused of treason against the king himself.

The Horseman of Justice learns that not everything is black and white in Highland Justice. Gideon Sinclair was raised to believe things are right or wrong – no in between. He believes in law, order, and has no room for messiness. Cait Mackay knows nothing but messiness and complications; her life is lived in shades of grey. When the two cross paths there’s bound to be an explosion.

Gideon is a good man at his core, but his role in life was so drilled into him by his father that he has a hard time seeing the whole picture. As the new chief of Clan Mackay, he’s doing what he thinks is right to bring peace and wellbeing to his people but it’s clear from the start he’s missing some things. Cait opens his eyes to the messy reality of the world they live in. The survivor of an abusive marriage who now takes in orphans, Cait will do whatever it takes to see her children survive and thrive. She’s strong, smart, and determined – an easy heroine to like. I enjoyed watching her get past Gideon’s walls and to make him question what he’s always known. Gideon, in turn, is someone Cait can rely on. She’s self-sufficient but it’s wonderful that he can be there for her as an equal partner. The two of them just fit and watching them fall for each other was lovely.

Both Gideon and Cait are tested with the arrival of King James. Plots are afoot and both get mixed up in ways that could get them killed. How things work out I’ll leave readers to discover for themselves but suffice it to say that author Heather McCollum gives our protagonists a completely satisfying happily ever after. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Highland Justice. Cait and Gideon are both more than others think of them and it was a delight to see them realize it. I am very much looking forward to seeing what McCollum has in store for the youngest Sinclair, Bàs.

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.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Review: All the Duke I Need by Caroline Linden

All the Duke I Need by Caroline Linden
Series: Desperately Seeking Duke, Book 3
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Historical Romance 
All the Duke I Need cover
ISBN: 9780062913661
Release Date: April 26, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

She’s a duchess in all but name
Philippa Kirkpatrick has been raised at Carlyle Castle by her doting guardian, the Duchess of Carlyle. Preoccupied with the succession of the dukedom and the duke’s health, the duchess has left the estate in Philippa’s hands—and Philippa is determined not to let her down.

He's not a duke at all…
The arrival of a new estate steward should be a relief, but instead it threatens to upend everything. William Montclair is handsome, brash, and scandalously bold. The horrified duchess wants to sack him on sight. Philippa is just as shocked…but also, somehow, charmed.

But could he be her hero?
Carlyle cannot be her home forever, but Philippa is determined to leave it in good hands. She means to teach Will how to run the estate properly and love Carlyle as she does. The more time she spends with Will, though, the more she likes him… trusts him…even loves him. Unfortunately, she’s also more and more certain that Will is keeping secrets that could break her heart.

The mystery of who will inherit the Carlyle dukedom is solved in All the Duke I Need. I was entertained by Philippa and Will’s story from beginning to end, thanks to the excellent chemistry between the leads.

After her father married into the Duke of Carlyle’s family, Philippa Kirkpatrick was adopted by them and raised by the dowager duchess after her father and stepmother’s death. She’s had a front row seat to the search for the heir to the dukedom. Meanwhile, Carlyle estate needs a new steward, but the man hired for the job is nothing like she imagined a steward should be. William Montclair is a brash, bold American whose blunt tongue raises the dowager duchess’s hackles. But Will is also dedicated, hardworking, and determined to repair and modernize Carlyle. He and Philippa lock horns once in a while (especially as she tries to help him not get fired by her grandmother), but mostly their banter made me smile. There’s an effortless chemistry to their interactions thanks to author Caroline Linden’s writing. It was easy to become lost in their story and watch them fall in love. Both are likeable leads with good hearts, quick wit, and senses of humor – how could you not be swept away by them?

I wavered on how to rate All the Duke I Need because I adored the romance and the family dynamics at Carlyle. Philippa’s love for her adoptive family warmed my heart and the way Will just fit at the estate made me smile. However, there were some elements of the story that felt rushed and underdeveloped. Will’s relationship with his brother, Jack, and their family’s shipping business never felt fully realized. And then there’s the resolution to the missing heir storyline. I’m treading carefully to avoid spoilers and I will say that I liked where Linden took us with this plot. However, it was rushed, left me with questions, and the book ended so abruptly I thought I was missing some pages. So while I thoroughly enjoyed All the Duke I Need overall, I felt like a few more chapters would have taken this book from very entertaining to fantastic.

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, April 17, 2022

Review: Go Hex Yourself by Jessica Clare

Go Hex Yourself by Jessica Clare
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Paranormal Romance 
Go Hex Yourself cover
ISBN: 9780593337561
Release Date: April 19, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

When Reggie Johnson answers a job ad in the paper, she’s astonished to find that she’s not applying to work at her favorite card game, Spellcraft: The Magicking. Instead, she’s applying to be an actual familiar for an actual witch. As in, real magic.

The new job has a few perks - great room and board, excellent pay, and she's apprenticing to a powerful witch. Sure, the witch is a bit eccentric. And sure, there was that issue with the black cat Reggie would prefer to forget about. The biggest problem, however, is warlock Ben Magnus, her employer's nephew and the most arrogant, insufferable, maddening man to ever cast a spell.

Reggie absolutely hates him. He's handsome, but he's also bossy and irritating and orders her around. Ben's butt might look great in a crystal ball vision, but that's as far as it goes. But when someone with a vendetta targets the household, she finds herself working with Ben to break a deadly curse. Apparently, when they're not fighting like cats and dogs, things get downright...bewitching.

When Reggie Johnson answers a job ad, she thinks she’s applying to work for her favorite card game, not be a familiar to a witch. Magic isn’t real, of course, but Dru is paying her more than she could ever dream of and she’s a sweetheart, if slightly delusional. The only downside to this new job is Dru’s nephew, Ben Magnus. The man is insufferable and though it’s sweet he loves his aunt, the fact that he’s feeding into her believing in magic is just another mark against him.

Except magic is real and her employer is really a two-thousand-year-old witch. And her nephew? He’s a five-hundred-year-old warlock who’s an outcast even among their own kind. But when a curse strikes the Magnus home Ben and Reggie will have to work together. And close quarters means it’s harder for both to pretend they’re not falling for each other.

Go Hex Yourself is an enjoyable paranormal rom-com. Other reviewers have pointed out that it feels like thinly-veiled Reylo ff (Rey/Kylo Ren fan fiction) and I definitely can see that. That being said, the Reylo vibes were my favorite part of the book. Ben is an outcast even though he’s an incredibly powerful warlock. Beneath the fearsome surface, however, is a lonely man with deep wounds. Reggie sees past the layers to the protective, caring man beneath. Ben’s pretty easy to become attached to; he’s grumpy, yes, but desperately in need of love and it’s hard not to be drawn to him. He’s there when Reggie needs him and bonds with her on a number of levels.

Reggie had a hard childhood and the only person she can depend on is her best friend, Nick. Because of said childhood, Reggie has an obsessive need to organize and control her environment. She doesn’t believe in magic when she answers Dru’s ad, but unfortunately the first half of the book drags something awful because it takes so long for her to become a believer. Go Hex Yourself hits its stride when Reggie finally realizes magic is real and spells, curses, etc. can be discovered through her eyes. Her romance with Ben has a good amount of tension and when things heat up, Jessica Clare delivers on steam. I was rooting for these two every step of the way, even when things were hard for them.

A cast of quirky supporting characters rounds out Go Hex Yourself. I enjoyed the world Clare created; witches and warlocks who are thousands of years old have a way of behaving that is sometimes unpredictable. I would love to learn more about the familiars (aside from being their master’s battery source and pupil) and Penny, Reggie’s new friend, in particular. I had mixed feelings about Go Hex Yourself because the first half of the book didn’t grab me, but ultimately I enjoyed the resolution and I hope Clare plans more books set in this world.

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.