Saturday, May 27, 2023

Review: The Duchess Takes a Husband by Harper St. George

The Duchess Takes a Husband by Harper St. George
Series: The Gilded Age Heiresses, Book 4
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Historical Romance 
The Duchess Takes a Husband cover
ISBN: 9780593440988
Release Date: May 23, 2023
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Despite her illustrious title, Camille, Duchess of Hereford, remains what she has always been—a pariah. Though her title means she’s technically accepted by London Society, the rebellious widow with her burgeoning interest in the suffrage movement and her American ways isn’t exactly high on every hostess’s guest list. But Camille starts to wonder if being an outcast is not without its perks when the tantalizing answer to her secret fear appears in the shape of Jacob Thorne, the illegitimate son of an earl and co-owner of London’s infamous Montague Club.

Jacob is used to making deals with his club members—he’s just not accustomed to them being beautiful women. Nor have the terms ever been so sweetly seductive as Camille’s shocking proposition. To finally buy his own club and gain the crucial backing of investors, Camille offers Jacob the respectability of a fake engagement with a duchess. In return, the tempting widow has one condition: she wants Jacob to show her if it’s possible for her to experience pleasure in bed.

The lure of such a bargain proves too delicious to resist, drawing the enterprising rogue and the wallflower duchess into a scandalous game and an even more dangerous gamble of the heart.

A sensual bargain is only the beginning of the tale in The Duchess Takes a Husband. Harper St. George wraps up her Gilded Age Heiresses series with American heiress Camille’s story. The widowed Duchess of Hereford is the survivor of an abusive marriage who is just beginning to find herself again. She wants to reclaim her life and oh, how I loved watching her do that. Whether it’s joining the Montague Club or becoming a member of the suffragette movement, Camille is no longer going to let society’s snobbery stop her. One of Camille’s goals is to find out if she can find pleasure in bed, and the man she wants to be her tutor is none other than Jacob Thorne. Jacob is the illegitimate son of an earl and the co-owner of the Montague Club. Jacob has had many advantages in life and he wants to know if he can accomplish something himself. His goal is to open a cabaret club in Paris without the assistance of his brother and his friend, but to do so his investors want him to have the respectability of a fiancée. He and Camille strike a bargain to their mutual benefit, but of course nothing is as simple as it seems…

Camille and Jacob have a slow burn romance that sizzles with sexual tension. Camille has suffered greatly in the past and the trauma she has to face makes things difficult for her. Jacob is patient, kind, and understanding. He never pressures Camille and is there for her when she needs it. But Jacob has baggage and he fears falling in love. As he and Camille grow closer both will need to face the ghosts of their past in order to claim a future together. St. George mixed healing with growth and it was lovely to watch Jacob and Camille’s journey. The two of them had excellent chemistry and the love scenes were worth the buildup. I adored these two together and was rooting for them every step of the way.

The Duchess Takes a Husband is the fourth book of the Gilded Age Heiresses series but I think it stands well on its own. I loved revisiting the Crenshaw siblings and their spouses and the friendships between all the characters were a delight. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Camille and Jacob’s love story and I’m very much looking forward to seeing what Harper St. George 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.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Review: Emma of 83rd Street by Audrey Bellezza and Emily Harding

Emma of 83rd Street by Audrey Bellezza and Emily Harding
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Emma of 83rd Street cover
ISBN: 978-1668008393
Release Date: May 23, 2023
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Beautiful, clever, and rich, Emma Woodhouse has lived twenty-three years in her tight-knit Upper East Side neighborhood with very little to distress or vex her…that is, until her budding matchmaking hobby results in her sister’s marriage—and subsequent move downtown. Now, with her sister gone and all her friends traveling abroad, Emma must start her final year of grad school grappling with an entirely new emotion: boredom. So when she meets Nadine, a wide-eyed Ohio transplant with a heart of gold and drugstore blonde highlights to match, Emma not only sees a potential new friend but a new project. If only her overbearing neighbor George Knightley would get out of her way.

Handsome, smart, and successful, the only thing that frustrates Knightley more than a corked whiskey is his childhood friend, Emma. Whether it’s her shopping sprees between classes or her revolving door of ill-conceived hobbies, he is only too happy to lecture her on all the finer points of adulthood she’s so hell-bent on ignoring. But despite his gripes—and much to his own chagrin—Knightley can’t help but notice that the girl next door is a woman now…one who he suddenly can’t get out of his head.

As Emma’s best laid plans collide with everyone from hipster baristas to meddling family members to flaky playboy millionaires, these two friends slowly realize their need to always be right has been usurped by a new need entirely, and it’s not long before they discover that even the most familiar stories still have some surprises.

Emma of 83rd Street is pure joy to read! Like the most successful modern-day Jane Austen retellings, authors Audrey Bellezza and Emily Harding take a classic story and give it their own spin, marrying the original plot with a story that can stand and be enjoyed on its own.

Emma Woodhouse is handsome, clever, rich, and a delightful heroine. She is at a crossroads in this novel; having successfully matchmade her sister she’s now feeling a bit lonely. Her friends are abroad, her sister has her new life, and it’s just Emma, her father, and the handsome, vexing George Knightley. Knightley has been Emma’s neighbor and best friend her entire life, but now something is different between them. Something Emma can’t quite put a finger on. With everything changing around them, perhaps it’s time for both Emma and Knightley to see that what they both need has been right in front of them the whole time.

Oh, how I adore Emma and Knightley’s romance. Their chemistry is perfect from the start – even as the two of them fight it. They fit like lock and key and can weather any storm, whether it’s Knightley’s disapproval of how Emma initially takes Ohio transplant Nadine under her wing to Emma pushing back on Knightley’s lecturing and pointing out that he isn’t perfect either. Each has lessons to learn and a need to look beyond how they think things should be. Bellezza and Harding take the attraction between our hero and heroine from the classic and add some heat to it which only makes the story better. I loved every bit of the love story between Emma and Knightley; it makes me smile even to think about them together.

Central to Emma of 83rd Street are Emma’s relationships with her friends and family. Even though her friendship with Nadine begins almost like a project to cure Emma’s loneliness, they really do become wonderful friends. I loved seeing Nadine come into her own over the course of the story – she’s a character I wouldn’t mind following longer. Both Emma and Knightley have strong relationships with family and friends at work and home and it was a delight to see them interact with those closest to them. Bellezza and Harding also leave the door open for more stories set in the same universe and I couldn’t be more excited by the possibilities.

Emma of 83rd Street worked for me on every level. As an Emma retelling it was perfect, blending the classic story with new energy, creating and combining characters in a way that felt familiar and fresh all at once. As its own novel, it was a delight. Emma and Knightley aren’t perfect, but they’re perfect for each other and were just wonderful to read about. I loved this book from beginning to end and I cannot wait to revisit it!

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, May 20, 2023

Review: Identity by Nora Roberts

Identity by Nora Roberts
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Romantic Suspense 
Identity cover
ISBN: 9781250284112
Release Date: May 23, 2023
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Former Army brat Morgan Albright has finally planted roots in a friendly neighborhood near Baltimore. Her friend and roommate Nina helps her make the mortgage payments, as does Morgan's job as a bartender. But after she and Nina host their first dinner party—attended by Luke, the flirtatious IT guy who'd been chatting her up at the bar—her carefully built world is shattered. The back door glass is broken, cash and jewelry are missing, her car is gone, and Nina lies dead on the floor.

Soon, a horrific truth emerges: It was Morgan who let the monster in. "Luke" is actually a cold-hearted con artist named Gavin who targets a particular type of woman, steals her assets and identity, and then commits his ultimate goal: murder.

What the FBI tells Morgan is beyond chilling. Nina wasn't his type. Morgan is. Nina was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. And Morgan's nightmare is just beginning. Soon she has no choice but to flee to her mother's home in Vermont. While she struggles to build something new, she meets another man, Miles Jameson. He isn't flashy or flirtatious, and his family business has deep roots in town. But Gavin is still out there hunting new victims, and he hasn't forgotten the one who got away.

Morgan Albright had a home and life she loved and a roommate who was like a sister to her. Everything was going perfectly and the former Army brat was putting down the roots she so desperately yearned for. Then a monster took it all. The seemingly charming IT guy Morgan had started seeing turned out to be psychopath Gavin Rozwell. He stole her identity and murdered Nina, but Morgan survived. Retreating to Vermont, Morgan moves in with her mother and grandmother to start rebuilding her life. This time she meets another man, one as genuine and kind as Rozwell was false and cruel. But Rozwell is still out there, and Morgan is the one that got away from him…

Identity is an engaging romantic suspense that is classic Nora Roberts. Morgan is a heroine who is easy to root for. She’s smart, strong, and a survivor. She’s not perfect, not invulnerable – Rozwell proves that – but she doesn’t break even in her darkest moments. She goes through a nightmare and still doesn’t lose herself. I enjoyed watching Morgan find her new dream, her new life in Vermont. I loved watching her claim her life, whether it was working behind the bar, making home improvements, or building new relationships.

One of those relationships is with Miles Jameson. His family owns the local resort where Morgan gets a job managing the bar. Miles has deep roots in the area and the resort is very much a family business with each member playing to their strengths. I loved his relationships with his family and how Morgan became a part of all that. He and Morgan have good chemistry and it was easy to fall into their romance. They went from mutual attraction to something much deeper in an organic way. Roberts lets the story breathe, allows everything time to grow and develop without ever slowing the pace of the book.

The characters – both main and supporting – all shine in Identity. Roberts brought the world to life so well that I hated to put the book down. The hunt for Rozwell was compelling but never overshadowed Morgan and Miles or the life they were building. In other words, Roberts perfectly balanced the romance with the suspense. This book was addictive pure and simple and everything about it worked for me. Identity entertained from the first page to the last and I cannot wait to re-read it.

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.

Friday, May 12, 2023

Review: Highland Beast by Heather McCollum

Highland Beast by Heather McCollum
Series: Sons of Sinclair, Book 4
Publisher: Entangled: Amara
Genre: Historical Romance 
Highland Beast cover
ISBN: 9781649373441
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Entangled
Heather McCollum Reading Order

Bàs Sinclair is the cold and brutal hand—and sword—of justice across the Highlands. He has one destiny: to bring fear into the hearts of guilty men. But when he is called to execute a midwife for her crimes, he cannot raise his weapon. For Bàs already knows this lovely, part-wild creature. After all, she gave him his first and only kiss…

Shana Drummond will do anything to protect her beloved sister. Now her cruel, merciless brother-in-law has called upon Bàs to have Shana killed for crimes she didn’t commit. She can’t reconcile the cold, lethal warrior before her with the gentle one she met—nay, kissed—only days before.

But mercy from Bàs can only lead to one thing: war among the clans. A war that will test allegiances, tear families apart, and challenge everything Bàs knows about himself and his heart. Because once this Highlander knows love, nothing will stop him from keeping Shana safe…even if it means destroying his own destiny.

Bàs Sinclair finally learns he can be more than just the Horseman of Death in Highland Beast. The quiet and somber youngest Sinclair brother stole my heart from the first Sons of Sinclair story and I was so excited to read his book. And who else could be a match for a man they call Death than a midwife who brings life into this world?

Shana Drummond doesn’t fear Bàs and doesn’t buy into all the whispers that his touch can kill. Shana has known death, heartbreak, and fear but she has survived. On the run and desperate to save her sister and nephew, she finds refuge with Bàs. Shana is strong, smart, and determined, but even she can use help sometimes. And Bàs…the poor man was raised since childhood to be Death, to be feared, to be a monster. He hides away from the world that would shun him, more at home among the beasts. I adored Bàs who was kind, considerate, and so tortured it could break your heart. Shana sees the true man for all he is and won’t stand for him treating himself as a monster when he’s got a heart of gold. They made a good match and I liked when they were alone together because we got to see their chemistry.

I struggled with rating Highland Beast because there’s a lot I like about the characters. Bàs and Shana make a good couple, but I would have loved more time for them to explore and develop their relationship without the interference of others. As much as I love the Sinclair family, they tended to take over the page. When you add in Shana’s sister and the plotline involving her evil husband and a baby in danger, not to mention politics, intrigue, and accusations of witchcraft, then you have so much going and so many vocal characters that it pulls focus from our less flashy protagonists. The story moved more slowly than I’m used to from Heather McCollum, which was a pity since I was so excited for Bàs to get his happily ever after. At the end of the day, I liked Highland Beast but didn’t love it. I was looking for the spark I so enjoy in McCollum’s writing, along with more focus on the central characters.

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, May 2, 2023

Review: The Bride Wore White by Amanda Quick

The Bride Wore White by Amanda Quick
Series: Burning Cove, Book 7
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Historical Romantic Suspense with Paranormal Elements 
The Bride Wore White cover
ISBN: 9780593337868
Release Date: May 2, 2023
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Being Madame Ariadne, Psychic Dream Consultant, wasn’t Prudence Ryland’s ideal gig, but it paid well which was reason enough to do the work—until she realizes that her latest client intends to kill her. But Prudence, a master at reinvention, finds a new job and home as far away as possible and is finally able to relax—which turns out to be a big mistake. Letting her guard down means being kidnapped and drugged and waking up in a bloodstained wedding dress in the honeymoon suite next to a dead man. With the press outside the hotel, waiting with their cameras and police sirens in the distance, it’s obvious she’s being framed for the man’s murder. Prudence knows who is responsible, but will anyone believe her?

It doesn’t seem likely that rumored crime boss Luther Pell or his associate, Jack Wingate, believe her seemingly outrageous claims of being a target of a ruthless vendetta. In fact, Prudence is convinced that the mysterious Mr. Wingate believes her to be a fraud at best, and at worst: a murderer. And Jack Wingate does seem to be someone intimately familiar with violence, if going by his scarred face and grim expression. So no one is more shocked than Prudence when Jack says he’ll help her. Of course, his ideas for helping her involve using her as the bait for a killer, but Prudence feels oddly safe with Jack protecting her. But who will protect Prudence from her growing fascination with this enigma of a man?

A psychic framed for murder plus a skeptic consultant who takes her case equals an entertaining adventure in The Bride Wore White. Amanda Quick returns to Burning Cove for another round of romance, 1930s glamour, murder, and a splash of the paranormal.

Prudence Ryland left dream reading behind in San Francisco after a client almost killed her. As a librarian in Southern California she’s working toward earning enough money to open a bookstore when she’s kidnapped only to awaken in a bloodstained wedding gown next to a dead man. Who wants to frame her and why? Prudence turns to Burning Cove’s most notorious resident, Luther Pell, for assistance. Luther in turn assigns her case to Jack Wingate, a man with a quick mind and a strong disbelief in the paranormal. Sparks fly between Jack and Prudence from the start and they have entertaining energy. Both are haunted by ghosts of their pasts and it was sweet to see two lonely hearts find their perfect match. In short, I liked them together and that made the pages of this book fly by.

If you’re at all familiar with Amanda Quick’s Burning Cove series (and you don’t have to be to enjoy this book) then you’ll recognize the formula. The protagonists’ search for answers leads them to multiple suspects and a puzzle with some twists and reveals. Though it’s formulaic, I enjoy Quick’s writing and characters, so I was happily along for the ride. Overall I only had two issues with the story. The first is that I wished more time and attention had been put on the romance versus the mystery and the paranormal elements. The second is that the ending was predictable and yet at the same time didn’t feel wholly earned. Still, even with these issues I enjoyed reading The Bride Wore White. Quick’s writing sucked me in for a fast-paced, entertaining ride with a hero and heroine who were fun to spend time with.

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.