Saturday, August 27, 2022

Review: Accomplished by Amanda Quain

Accomplished by Amanda Quain
Series: Georgie Darcy, Book 1
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary 
Accomplished cover
ISBN: 9781250817815
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Georgiana Darcy should have been expelled after The Incident with Wickham Foster last year – at least if you ask any of her Pemberley Academy classmates. She may have escaped expulsion because of her family name, but she didn’t escape the disappointment of her big brother Fitz, the scorn of the entire school, or, it turns out, Wickham’s influence.

But she’s back for her junior year, and she needs to prove to everyone – Fitz, Wickham, her former friends, and maybe even herself – that she’s more than just an embarrassment to the family name. How hard can it be to become the Perfect Darcy? All she has to do is:

- Rebuild her reputation with the marching band (even if it kills her)
- Forget about Wickham and his lies (no matter how tempting they still are), and
- Distract Fitz Darcy — helicopter-sibling extraordinaire — by getting him to fall in love with his classmate, Lizzie Bennet (this one might be difficult…)

Sure, it's a complicated plan, but so is being a Darcy. With the help of her fellow bandmate, Avery, matchmaking ideas lifted straight from her favorite fanfics, and a whole lot of pancakes, Georgie is going to see every one of her plans through. But when the weight of being the Perfect Darcy comes crashing down, Georgie will have to find her own way before she loses everything permanently—including the one guy who sees her for who she really is.

The younger Darcy sibling steps into the spotlight in Accomplished. Amanda Quain’s modern take on Pride and Prejudice is a delight, thanks to its likeable protagonist and fun twists on Jane Austen’s beloved characters.

After the incident with Wickham Foster last year, Georgie Darcy is persona non grata with her Pemberley Academy classmates. Her brother, Fitz, is frustrated with her and is helicopter parenting from the nearby college. So what will she do to gain his trust and win back her classmates’ affection (or at least dampen their disdain)? Georgie will become the Perfect Darcy. Except it’s not as easy as it looks and her efforts seem to be hurting rather than helping. The only person willing to talk to her is band leader and all-around good guy Avery. Still, if she can keep her grades up, charm her marching band team, and distract her brother by matchmaking him with his classmate, Lizzie Bennet, then all should be forgiven, right?

Georgie is kind, determined, and a little naïve. She’s grown up in the lap of luxury and doesn’t quite see her own privilege, though she starts to learn over the course of the book. Because Georgie is a nice protagonist who was taken advantage of by Wickham, who fed on her loneliness, it was heartbreaking at times to see her iced out by all those around her when she tried so hard. I liked seeing Georgie come into her own over the course of the book. She makes mistakes, yes, but she learns from them. By her side is Avery, her incredibly sweet best friend who isn’t put off by the drama Wickham caused. Also by her side (though she can’t always see it) is her brother, Fitz. The elder Darcy is doing his best to take care of his sister and though he makes mistakes as well, I loved watching their relationship develop.

Accomplished focuses on a relatively minor Austen character but there are plenty of spins on Pride and Prejudice that will delight any Janeite. I absolutely loved Bingley being a frat boy – any scene with him is sure to make the reader smile. The references to Lady Catherine de Burgh also made me laugh. I thoroughly enjoyed Accomplished and appreciated how Amanda Quain paid homage to Austen while still creating a story and a heroine that could stand on their own.

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 21, 2022

Review: The Highlander’s Tudor Lass by Heather McCollum

The Highlander’s Tudor Lass by Heather McCollum
Series: The Brothers of Wolf Isle, Book 3
Publisher: Entangled: Amara Next
Genre: Historical Romance 
The Highlanders Tudor Lass cover
ISBN: 9781649371195
Release Date: August 22, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Entangled
Heather McCollum Reading Order

Callum Macquarie would give anything to go back to the Highlands and Wolf Isle. Instead, he’s stuck circling an undefended English castle in too-tight breeches, longing for his bed and his plaid. But he has an oath to keep: to bring home the bonny Anna Montgomerie and her sister before that devil of a blaggard pirate Jundeau finds them first. Only the lass he’s come to rescue has no interest in going back to Scotland with him. Or ever.

To hell with Callum and his oath. Anna won’t step one foot in Scotland—no matter the danger. Not after what she’s left behind, and not while there’s a chance she can remain in England. But she has a plan. And the only hitch involves a braw, fiercely protective highlander who refuses to leave…and whose touch burns hotter than fire.

Now Anna and Callum are caught between the threat coming for Anna. Staying means danger. Leaving means death. And a blazing attraction that could spoil everyone’s plans.

The middle Macquarie brother finds love – if he can convince the stubborn woman of his dreams to come to Scotland with him – in The Highlander's Tudor Lass. Callum Macquarie yearns to be taken seriously by his brothers, which is why he’s determined to fulfill his sister-in-law’s request that he bring her sisters Anna and Dora home to Wolf Isle. Except when he comes upon the Montgomerie sisters, Anna beans him with a pomander. This is not the laughing, sweet woman he expected to find. Anna has fled Scotland and is now serving the young English princess, Elizabeth Tudor. She has no intention of going back to Scotland, not now, not ever. But with a pirate bent on revenge hunting for the Macquarie brothers and the Montgomerie sisters, Anna and her sister aren’t safe at Sudeley Castle. And the longer Anna is around Callum, the more she’s torn between the life she has told herself she wants and the promise of what could be between her and the handsome highlander.

Anna and Callum are both easy to like. Anna is strong and protective, determined to do what’s best for those in her care. She hasn’t had anyone she could lean on for a long time and she knows that evil can lurk even where there should be safe harbor. Callum has strong shoulders and a good heart. He desperately wants to be taken seriously by his brothers, which leads him to make mistakes, but at his heart he’s a strong and kind warrior. He shows Anna he believes in her and wants her to be free, not stifled like she is among the English lords and ladies. The two of them have great chemistry and it was easy for me to fall into their story.

Threats abound in The Highlander's Tudor Lass. There are court machinations at Sudeley, a suspicious lord bent on sweeping Anna off her feet, and the evil pirate Jandeau is always a danger. Heather McCollum weaves these threads through the romance, never taking the focus off Anna and Callum. I adored these two strong and sweet protagonists and was delighted by their happily ever after. McCollum’s highlander heroes always delight as do the women who love them. I’m looking forward to seeing what McCollum has in store for the next Brothers of Wolf Isle 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.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Review: Nobody’s Princess by Erica Ridley

Nobody’s Princess by Erica Ridley
Series: The Wild Wynchesters, Book 3
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Historical Romance 
Nobodys Princess cover
ISBN: 9781538719589
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Nothing happens in London without Graham Wynchester knowing. His massive collection of intelligence is invaluable to his family’s mission of aiding those most in need. So when he deciphers a series of coded messages in the scandal sheets, Graham’s convinced he must come to a royal’s rescue. But his quarry turns out not to be a princess at all… The captivating Kunigunde de Heusch is anything but a damsel in distress, and the last thing she wants is Graham’s help.

All her life, Kuni trained alongside the fiercest Royal Guardsmen in her family, secretly planning to become her country’s first Royal Guardswoman. This mission in London is a chance to prove herself worthy without help from a man, not even one as devilishly handsome as Graham. To her surprise, Graham believes in her dream as much as she does, which makes it harder to resist kissing him…and falling in love. But how can she risk her heart if her future lies an ocean away?

The Wild Wynchesters are back and it’s Graham Wynchester at the center this time in Nobody’s Princess. Graham has a hunger for knowing everything, which is why he takes note of the gorgeous woman who seems to be gathering intelligence of her own around Mayfair. Kunigunde de Heusch is the companion of the Balcovian princess, but her true desire is to be a member of the Royal Guardsmen. Her time in England is her chance to prove herself the equal of her brothers, two of her country’s finest Royal Guardsmen. She’s taken aback by the charming, handsome Graham at first and the way he offers to help. Kuni doesn’t need anyone’s help, but she soon finds herself whisked away into the world of the Wynchesters. The more she learns about the unique family, the more she desires to become a part of it. But her lifelong dream isn’t something she can toss away, even for a family as welcoming as the Wynchesters and a man as tempting as Graham. The clock’s ticking until it’s time for Kuni to return to Balcovia, but it’s becoming harder for her to tear herself away.

Kuni is strong, smart, and stubborn. She has tried so hard to be a part of her family and has worked so hard to try for the chance at becoming a Royal Guardswoman – not just for herself but to be a role model for girls in Balcovia – that now the chance is almost within reach she cannot seem to see beyond it. And it’s clear from the start that although Kuni would be an amazing Guardswoman, she’d be an even better Wynchester. The quirky family welcomes Kuni immediately and she becomes involved in their quest to help people in need. Kuni is also entranced by Graham, the former circus performer turned intelligence gatherer. Graham has long been captivated by the idea of being acknowledged by royalty and Kuni is the closest he’s gotten to it. But fantasies aside, he’s drawn to the brave, determined woman. Their romance is an extremely slow burn but sweet.

I liked Nobody’s Princess but I’m sad to report it’s not my favorite Erica Ridley novel. The Wynchester family members have always been presented as unique, but fully-formed characters and in this story many of them felt reduced to one character trait. The family is such an important part of this book and the series that this brought down the book a bit. And though I enjoyed Kuni and Graham together, they were missing some of the spark I expect from Ridley’s couples. Things picked up near the end and the happily ever after was sweet, but it was slow going for the first part of the story. The book could be repetitive at times and it felt like much of the story was spent with the characters spinning their wheels until it was time to wrap things up – perhaps in a shorter format the story would have been stronger. As I said, I did like the ending and Graham with his good heart and dreams was a good match for Kuni who has a strong sense of purpose and a yearning heart. But this story never grabbed my attention the way the first two Wynchester books did and I just wanted a bit more. Still, I look forward to seeing more of Kuni and Graham as more Wynchester siblings find their happily ever afters.

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 7, 2022

Review: Forever, Plus One by Wendy Warren

Forever, Plus One by Wendy Warren
Series: Holliday, Oregon, Book 2
Publisher: Harlequin Special Edition
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Forever Plus One cover
ISBN: 9781335724144
Release Date: August 23, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Harlequin

Rescued…by the brother of the (ex-)groom!

Nikki Choi loves the boisterous family she was adopted into as a baby. But dreams of her own happy-ever-after are dashed when her fiancé suddenly calls off the wedding. Leave it to her BFF to come to her rescue! Evan Northrup is the perfect faux beau, offering support and making no demands—making her feel loved. But the single dad seems intent on keeping things pretend, while Nikki is shocked to be falling wildly, deeply for her old friend…

Forever, Plus One is a heartwarming best friends-to-lovers romance that tugged on my heartstrings. Wendy Warren’s second venture into Holliday, Oregon is an engaging romance filled with characters who are easy to adore.

Nikki Choi was just dumped six weeks before her wedding. Nikki is smart, loving, and beautiful but her relationship with her ex played into her insecurities and she’s now trying to claim herself again. She’s coming up on her thirty-seventh birthday and has serious anxiety about finding love and starting a family in a way that feels deeply relatable. Evan Northrup, the older brother of her ex-fiancé, has been her best friend for years and offers to save her from the awkwardness of the upcoming summer of weddings she’s attending by pretending to be her boyfriend. Evan is a single father whose son is the center of his world. He’s a loving dad and a great best friend, but he has issues about commitment after the way his marriage ended and the parade of stepmothers he’s had all his life.

Friends-to-lovers, single parents with sweet children, and commitment phobia are all common in romances, but Warren makes everything feel fresh in this story thanks to her wonderful characters. Nikki is adopted and even growing up with a family who loves her unconditionally it doesn’t mean she hasn’t struggled in the past. And even being a high school guidance counselor with a degree in Psychology doesn’t protect her from having body image issues; issues that her fitness fanatic ex fed into. And Evan has deep-seated insecurities about his own ability to have a relationship that he has to confront. Warren doesn’t make it easy on them, but the way things worked out made every bump in the road worth it. Nikki and Evan are simply meant to be, no matter that they’ve hidden it from themselves for years.

Forever, Plus One is the second book in the Holliday, Oregon series but it can easily be read as a standalone. I adored revisiting Eden and Gideon (of Moonlight, Menorahs and Mistletoe) and thoroughly enjoyed my time in Holliday. And it would be remiss of me to discuss this book without mentioning Nikki’s family. I absolutely loved the Choi family and they helped make the world of this story come alive. Not to mention Noah, Evan’s son, is so sweet with Nikki and I adored their relationship. The surprising emotional hits for me in this book were scenes Nikki and Evan had with their parents. Those brought tears to my eyes and really rounded out the book well.

Forever, Plus One was a true joy to read. The characters came alive, the romance was a satisfying slow burn built on a healthy foundation, and the happily ever after made me smile. I cannot wait to revisit Nikki and Evan again!

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, August 6, 2022

Review: Storm Echo by Nalini Singh

Storm Echo by Nalini Singh
Series: Psy-Changeling Trinity, Book 6
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Paranormal Romance 
Storm Echo cover
ISBN: 9780593440674
Release Date: August 9, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Nalini Singh Reading Order

Silence has fallen. The Psy are free to feel emotion. Free to love. But Silence was never a prison for Ivan Mercant. The biggest threat to his future lies dormant in his brain—a psychic monster that wants only to feed. And now, the brutal leash he’s kept on that monster is slipping. He prepared for this day, for the end of Ivan Mercant…but that was before he met Lei.

As primal as she is human, this wild changeling brings color into his life, laughter to his soul. Then the dream shatters in a rain of blood, in silent bodies in the snow. Lei is gone. Vanished without a trace…until he meets strangely familiar eyes across a busy San Francisco street.

Soleil Bijoux Garcia is a healer who has lost everything. She exists in a world of desolate aloneness…till the day she finds herself face-to-face with a lethal stranger. The animal who is her other half knows this man, but her memories are tattered fragments. Sorrow and a need for vengeance are all that drive her. Her mission? To kill the alpha of the DarkRiver leopard pack.

But fate has other plans. Soon, a deadly soldier who believes himself a monster and a broken healer might be all that stand between life and death for the entire Psy race…
Storm Echo is sensational! It’s romantic, entertaining, and deeply interesting. Nalini Singh’s latest Psy-Changeling Trinity novel is the kind of book that makes you want to cancel plans so you can keep reading – it’s that engaging.

Ivan Mercant knows love and absolute loyalty thanks to his grandmother and cousins. But even with them he’s often an island unto himself – the knowledge that he carries a toxic power in him so deeply embedded that he’s wary of ensnaring anyone in his web. Then he meets Lei, a changeling who bursts into his world with brightness and color and laughter…before she disappears in an event of violent madness. Over a year later Ivan comes face-to-face with Soleil Bijoux Garcia, a changeling whose human side doesn’t know him, but whose cat can sense an unbroken bond between them.

Ivan is a Psy whose cold exterior covers a vulnerable heart that absolutely melted me. He’s dominant and protective, but so sweet I could swoon. Soleil is a healer who backs down from nothing and no one. She’s a changeling who needs pack but has been isolated for most of her life. I won’t spoil what happens when she comes to San Francisco looking for answers, but suffice it to say it’s satisfying. Fans of the Psy-Changeling series will know that given the location of this book they’re sure to meet old friends again. I loved that Singh incorporates both the Mercant and DarkRiver worlds in this book. It’s a true treat see these two packs/families that are so different yet so similar.

At the heart of Storm Echo is the love story between Soleil and Ivan. These two fit like lock and key and I was swept into their romance from the first. Ivan is a man with titanium shields but they’re no match for his cat’s claws. Soleil has a spine of steel that won’t let Ivan go and the way they just gripped each other, so to speak, grabbed my heart in turn. There’s such love, care, and passion in their romance that it makes me smile just to think about it. I dare you not to fall in love with these two protective souls.

The overarching series mystery of the denigration of the PsyNet and the damage caused by the Scarabs is at the forefront of this story and it’s fascinating. I love how Singh brought about more questions and answers, her worldbuilding top-notch as we delve deeper into Psy minds and powers. I can’t say much about this plot without spoiling things so I’ll leave it by saying that I finished Storm Echo desperately eager to see what Singh will do next. I cannot recommend Soleil and Ivan’s story highly enough. Nalini Singh is in top form in this thrilling, romantic tale!

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 3, 2022

Review: The Secret of Bow Lane by Jennifer Ashley

The Secret of Bow Lane by Jennifer Ashley
Series: Below Stairs Mysteries, Book 6
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Historical Mystery 
The Secret of Bow Lane cover
ISBN: 9780440001799
Release Date: August 2, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Jennifer Ashley Reading Order

A stranger who appears on Kat's doorstep turns out to be one Charlotte Bristow, legal wife of Joe Bristow, the man Kat once believed herself married to—who she thought died at sea twelve years ago. Kat is jolted by Charlotte’s claims that not only was Joe murdered, but he had amassed a small fortune before he died. Charlotte makes the cook an offer she cannot refuse—if Kat can discover the identity of Joe's murderer, Charlotte will give her a share of the fortune Joe left behind.

With the help of Daniel McAdam, her attractive and charismatic confidante, Kat plunges into her own past to investigate. When it becomes apparent that the case of Joe’s death goes far deeper than simple, opportunistic theft, Kat and Daniel's relationship is put to the test, and Kat herself comes under scrutiny as her connection to Joe is uncovered. She must race to catch the real killer before she loses her job and possibly her life.

Gifted cook and not-so-amateur sleuth Kat Holloway is back with a cold case that hits close to home in The Secret of Bow Lane. When Charlotte Bristow – the legal widow of the man Kat had once believed herself married to – shows up on her doorstep with a tale of murder and a lost fortune, Kat is taken aback…but also intrigued. With the help of her friends (and the man who is slowly becoming much more than a friend) Kat looks to the past for answers, and learns more than she bargained for. It’s a cold case, but because of how closely it’s tied to Kat’s past it’s a very interesting one. I enjoyed learning more about Kat’s history and to see her interact with those who knew her before she had become the woman she is today. Along the way, author Jennifer Ashley also doles out more information about Daniel McAdam, which I was equally excited by. Kat and Daniel have a very slow burn romance but as they open up to each other more and we learn more about their pasts, the two become closer and the love story moves forward.

The Secret of Bow Lane is the sixth novel in the Below Stairs series and to fully enjoy it you should at least be familiar with the cast of characters before diving into this book. Kat and Daniel’s relationship is one of many connections in this story that makes the world come alive. I adore the entire supporting cast, from Cynthia to Mr. Thanos to Tess and beyond. All the characters are well-drawn and come with unique personalities and voices that help make the book come alive. With its enjoyable characters, Ashley’s engaging writing style, and an interesting mystery that both stands on its own and moves overarching plots forward, there’s no way The Secret of Bow Lane could fail to entertain. I finished Kat’s latest adventure a well-satisfied reader and I’m looking forward to seeing where Jennifer Ashley takes our favorite cook 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.