Book Review: The Duke’s Holiday by Maggie Fenton

Screen Shot 2018-08-15 at 8.48.33 AM.pngDespite being over 400 pages, this book was an incredibly quick read. I snort-laughed multiple times (to the other people in the dentist’s waiting room: I’m sorry), wanted to strangle the main characters multiple times, and will probably read this book again multiple times. The book was absurdly predictable, full of every cliché possible, unbelievably unrealistic, and the writing was aggressively mediocre. All that said: What a hilariously fun book!

Since the beginning of time, the Montford dukedom (famous for their stuffiness) and the Honeywell family (famous for their homemade ale) have been sworn mortal enemies.  So when the Duke of Montford—his real name is Cyril…a truly awful name—discovers that the patriarch of the Honeywell family is dead, he wonders why on earth the estate (which is originally part of the Dukedom, but has been leased to the Honeywell for hundreds of years) is still running. And when his man of affairs doesn’t return after going to Yorkshire to inspect said estate there is only one thing for Montford to do: visit it himself.

At the estate, Montford meets the now matriarch of the Honeywell family: Astrid Honeywell—who really, really, really hates the fact that she has to relinquish her family estate just because of her gender. Astrid is the anthesis of Montford. She’s messy, unorganized, loud, and has a zeal for life. The two immediately clash as Astrid fights to keep her estate.

The hijinks that ensue in this book will make you laugh. The humor is not at all sophisticated in any sense—this is the book of slapstick humor. The two throw things at each other for goodness sake. But just the absolutely ridiculous scenarios that occur when the two try and one-up each other are golden. Even the “serious” scenes in this book feel like a bit of a joke. This book will definitely not tug at your heartstrings or bring about any emotion other than giddiness.

Quite honestly, neither of the characters were particularly likable. I liked Montford more than Astrid. Despite the fact that he definitely had a stick his butt, his cluelessness was endearing. I just wanted to give him a hug as I watched him grapple with a situation that went wildly out of control. Astrid was just…immensely immature. I would have believed she was 12 before I believed she was 26. She threw food at Montford! I know Fenton was trying to go with a strong independent woman vibe, but I got more moody-teenage-upset-at-her-parents vibe instead.

While the writing was fine, whoever edited this book missed the fact that essentially every single line of dialogue ended with an exclamation mark! I think I counted twenty on one page alone! I hope the rest of the series doesn’t make this mistake! It drove me crazy!

In conclusion, despite the fact that I think this review came off rather negative, I really did enjoy this read. You just need to know what you’re getting in for. If you ever need to get your mind off something serious, I would highly recommend this book.

Rating: 3.5/5

 

 

 

Book Review: Yours Until Dawn by Teresa Medeiros

Screen Shot 2018-08-08 at 5.33.42 PM.pngWhat a glorious book! I initially worried to read it: I thought it might just drown in angst and I tend to enjoy more light-hearted romances. But this book was an utter delight. I was engaged from the first page to the last, giggled several times, and desperately wanted to give our hero—Gabriel Fairchild—a hug more than once.

Samantha Wickersham is a young nurse who takes a job at Fairchild Park looking over the Earl of Sheffield, Gabriel Fairchild: ex-careless rogue and current blind war hero. Ostracized from society and abandoned by both his family and lady love, Gabriel is deeply depressed and near suicidal. As a result, he is belligerent, petulant, and bullies his staff (at the beginning of the book he has already scared off multiple nurses). When Samantha first arrives Gabriel does everything in his power to push her away. However, Samantha refuses to let Gabriel drown in self-pity; she forces him to accept the care of others and teaches him to navigate his life as a blind man.

The love that grows between Samantha and Gabriel is a slow burn: their relationship moves from mutual disdain to a trusting friendship and, finally, to lovers. Unlike so many romance novels (thank golly), this book did not feature insta-love: their connection grew out of mutual respect and trust.

Both characters were glorious. Samantha had a backbone of steel and enough compassion to become a saint. I admired her resilience, patience, and ability to see past Gabriel’s anger to the man underneath. Initially reading the blurb of this book I was nervous about Gabriel: I was worried we would see little of the man other than his depression. Or, even worse, his depression would be treated lightly and cured within a day. However, Gabriel winded up being a fabulous hero and Medeiros does an amazing job building sympathy for his actions without excusing them.

Also, just because I’m a bit of a stickler for this, I loved the mutual consent in the sexy time scenes. It made their relationship all the stronger in my opinion.

I would highly recommend this book. It is a heart-warming read where the chemistry is not just sexual and features excellent character development. I only give it four stars due to the ending where, in my opinion, the characters (particularly Gabriel) acted a bit immature and made rash decisions.

Rating: 4/5

Book Review: London’s Perfect Scoundrel by Suzanne Enoch

Screen Shot 2018-08-08 at 5.31.29 PM.pngThis book was a wild ride. I honestly had no idea where it was going, what the heck was going to happen, and whether or not I even supported the romance. My feelings about this book are just all over the place. Ultimately, I think I end up on the disliking-it-most-than-liking-it side of things, but I will definitely be reading more Suzanne Enoch in the future. After all, it takes a special kind of book for me to text my friends at every single plot twist.

This book features the Marquis of St. Aubyn otherwise known as “Saint.” The name is a complete misnomer: he has bedded half over London and drinks until dawn. He also (thanks to his late mother) heads the board of trustees at the Heart of Hope Orphanage—a position which he completely hates.

Evelyn Ruddick is the epitome of everything Saint is not: hard-working, organized, and compassionate to a fault (seriously…she spends most of the book helping her obnoxious brother get elected to parliament even though he is a complete dingbat to her). She also desperately wants to help out at the Heart of Hope Orphanage.

After the two come head-to-head, Evelyn decides that the too-attractive-for-his-own-good Saint desperately needs some reforming. Meanwhile, Saint decides that he definitely wants to bed the proper-but-delectable Evelyn.

The hijinks that Evelyn enacted to reform Saint were frankly wonderful (I won’t spoil them, but needless to say I was surprised at her resourcefulness). Despite her strong attraction to him, she had a backbone of steel and refused to dance to his tune. As strange as this sounds, I loved Evelyn’s ability to see the bigger picture. She put a lot of thought into how she was going to improve the lives of the orphans at the Heart of Hope—she didn’t just coo and knit ugly sweaters. She attended political teas and danced with cringe-inducing men to further her brother’s political career not out of sibling loyalty but because of her honest belief that he would be a great politician. While she did (regularly) make sketchy decisions surrounding Saint, extreme sexual attraction will do that to a girl. I would love to befriend Evelyn: you can just tell she would have your back through thick and thin.

I just couldn’t get myself to like Saint. I have low patience for bad boys (an unpopular preference in the romance genre) and so Saint just really got on my nerves. Like….Seriously what do you see in him Evelyn? As far as I could see he had zero redeemable qualities other than a six pack. I understand the appeal of a challenge, but once you strip away the brooding and alcohol all you get is a hyper-possessive man.

This book was a lot of fun. However, at times (and the reason for the two star review) it left a bad taste in my mouth. The initial interactions between Saint and Evelyn included borderline—if not outright—sexual harassment and Saint’s dedication at getting into Evelyn’s pants at the expense of her reputation seriously bothered me. The consent, frankly, was just too gray for me to fully enjoy this book. The twists and turns of the plot could not make up for the queasy feeling in my stomach.

Rating: 2/5

Book Review: Marry in Scandal by Annie Gracie

Screen Shot 2018-08-08 at 5.28.46 PM.pngTo my chagrin, this book was such an utter disappointment. While Annie Gracie has never been one of my favorite authors, her books are always solidly decent and engaging. However, this book was simply dreadfully dull. It was a complete chore to get through. A complete snooze fest.

The beginning of the book starts out decently enough. Lady Lily Rutherford is kidnapped (a real shake-up from the typical trope of random kidnapping at the end of books) for her inheritance. In the process of escaping she runs into her brother’s friend Edward Galbraith.

Edward Galbraith isn’t really sure what to think about Lily (other than that she gets his engines running), but knows he has to return her home safely. However, when word gets out that they traveled through the countryside together, scandal and propriety forces them to marry.

All of this is set up for a greatly entertaining book but it just fell flat. It was definitely insta-love on Lady Lily’s part. Of course, her infatuation makes sense—Edward did save her life. However, I never really felt like Lady Lily moved past her hero worship of Edward. Her feelings for him reminded me more of a young girl’s endless devotion to a boy band than a deep love grown out of mutual respect. Furthermore, I just found Lady Lily a thoroughly annoying character. Gracie waxes on about Lady Lily’s loyalty and ability to forgive but all I saw was a girl that lets everyone walk all over her.

Edward wasn’t much better. He was a very angsty man who just wallowed in his own misery for most of the book. For the life of me, I couldn’t see why Lily found him so appealing. The chemistry between Edward and Lily (other than during sexy times) felt non-existent. There were too many scenes in this book where they just sat in comfortable silence. While I understand that some people are more talkative than others, and that “comfortable silence” is important, one does need to converse to build a proper relationship.

I give this book two stars instead of one because it never made me angry or deeply uncomfortable. I never wanted to chuck my Kindle at the ground or murder one of the main characters. Furthermore, it was well written. That is it for the nice things I have to say about this book. It was painstakingly boring and the characters were annoying. Definitely a miss.

Rating: 2/5

Book Review: Born to Be Wilde by Eloisa James

Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 9.07.36 PM.png

For the past three months, I have thought about this book every single day.

I am not exaggerating.

Eloisa James is arguably my favorite author and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed both of her Wilde books so far. Yet, throughout the two books, I salivated at every scene that featured Lavinia and Parth—their bickering made the series for me. Needless to say I was very, very, very excited for this book.

So last night, at nine pm (I live on the West Coast), when the book popped up on my Kindle homepage I screamed. I sounded like a sixth-grade girl at the release of a Justin Bieber album. I promptly ignored the entire world (including my ten friends at my house for Bachelorette night) and started reading.

This book thoroughly met my expectations. I’ve already read it twice. It gave me all of the warm and fuzzy feelings and at least five daydreams. Watching Lavinia and Parth dance around their feelings touched my little heart.

This book was much darker than I excepted. Lavinia is dealing with her mom who, in the depths of an opioid addiction, squandered Lavinia’s dowry and stole from their friends. At the beginning of the book, Lavinia asks Parth to marry her out of desperation. Of course, she also asks due to her lingering infatuation—all of those insults she flung around for the past two books were really just a product of her inability to express her feelings. A very relatable issue to be honest.

Parth doesn’t know what to do with Lavinia after discovering her circumstances. He promises to help find her an adequate spouse but the more time he spends around Lavinia he begins to recognize her intelligence, her acute business acumen, and gains respect for her passion for fashion. She is not at the shallow vain girl that he once pegged her as.

This book is a gradual burn: lust is not conflated with love and there are very few sexy time scenes. In some ways, the book is less about Parth and Lavinia’s romance and more about Lavinia’s journey to find her confidence and self-worth. Born to be Wilde did not wallow in angst, but it is not a cheery read either. If you come into this book excepting 300 pages of silly flirtation and hurling insults (essentially Parth and Lavinia’s relationship in the previous two books), you will be disappointed. The reality of Lavinia’s situation is grim, and Eloisa James does not sugarcoat. However, the serious tone of the book fits the plot and definitely brings new depth to the characters we first met in Wilde in Love. And, as someone who loves cutesy romances, I actually believe the book is all the stronger for its serious tone.

I truly believe this is one of Eloisa James’ best books. While her writing is always superb, I don’t always like James’ characters. I loved Parth: his dedication to the Wildes, his confidence, and his sardonic humor. However, this is Lavinia’s book. Her quiet strength, ambition, and grab-the-bull-by-its-horns approach to life made her one of my favorite romance heroines of all time.

While this book can definitely be read as a standalone, I would highly recommend reading the previous two books in the series so you can gain a sense of Parth and Lavinia’s relationship before this book.

This book simply amazing. It has earned a spot on my all times favs shelf.

Rating: 5/5

Book Review: Beyond Scandal and Desire by Lorraine Heath

Screen Shot 2018-07-29 at 4.24.07 PM.pngI  thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it wholeheartedly.

The book follows Mick Trewlove, a successful London businessman, in his quest to destroy the man who sired him—the Duke of Hedley who gave him away to a poor widow as a boy. Mick plans to beggar him by taking advantage of his gambling addict son, Kipwick, and seduce the Duke of Hedley’s ward, Lady Aslyn Hastings (who also happens to be Kipwick’s betrothed). However, in the process of his revenge, he falls in grows to care for Lady Aslyn; his plans start to unravel as he is forced to make the decision between revenge and love.

I avoided reading this book for as long as I possibly could: the plot seemed too similar to Sarah Maclean’s The Wicked and the Wallflower—one of my least favorite books of all time. I was worried the book would be overconsumed by angst, broodiness, and more lust than love.

That said, I’m so glad I decided to break down and purchase this book. Every scene surprised me as the book dodged trope by trope. The romantic connection existed between Mick and Lady Aslyn before they acted on it (a real shocker when it comes to historical romance). Lady Aslyn admired Mick’s success, his loyalty, and progressive views—she wasn’t just drawn to him because he was a bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Mick never doubted his feelings for Lady Aslyn, never went on a long self-pity fest of “I don’t deserve her,” and respected her. Furthermore, the twist at the end of the book was superb: I didn’t see it coming at all. Honestly, this book was one of the least predictable romances I’ve ever read.

The real strength of this book lies in the characters. It is hard to do a romance hero—particularly a regency one (especially since the time period was sexist as heck)—well and Lorraine does a phenomenal job with Mick. While Mick is haunted by the demons of his past, he (thank heavens) is not a brooding, angsty, high-key alcoholic hero. While he is motivated by revenge, he cares more about love and family. Also—always needed for a good romance—he was just amazing at flirting (in the words of my favorite reality TV show Love Island he had “great chat”). Yet his most appealing characteristic was his kindness: I know he will treat Lady Aslyn like a princess for the rest of their lives.

Lorraine’s secondary characters also rocked. In this book nobody was all “good” or all “bad.” Everyone was a shade of gray, having made mistakes they are desperate to atone for. I really, really, liked that about this book. It made the book feel realistic despite the absurdity of the plot: everybody was three-dimensional, complicated, and more than a little bit messy.

In conclusion, this was one of Lorraine Heath’s best books and a definite must read for any historical romance junkie.

Rating: 4/5

Book Review: How to Capture a Countess by Karen Hawkins

Screen Shot 2018-07-19 at 4.25.29 PM.pngRose Balfour is:

  • stubborn
  • adventurous
  • a great archer and horse rider
  • amusing
  • loyal
  • sometimes somewhat responsible.

She is not:

  • a great beauty
  • an heiress
  • a Lady

So when she finds herself flirting with the infamous Lord Alton Sinclair (otherwise known as Lord Sin…the man really likes to drink and sleep around) at a ball, she seizes her opportunity to steal her very first kiss. When the kiss gets a little too hot to handle, she freaks out and pushes Lord Sin into a fountain (which, by the way, is totally something I would do—I understand you Rose!).

Society takes one look at the wet Lord Sin and nicknames him “Lord Fin.” Needless to say: Lord Fin gets angry. And even angrier when he realizes Rose has fled to the countryside leaving him alone to deal with the scandal.

Six years later, Lord Sin has only descended further into his profligate ways. His Grandmother—the Duchess of Roxburghe—decides that something needs to be done (or, to put it bluntly, someone respectful needs to be done). Using an unsuspecting Rose as bait, she lures him to her estate.

When the two reunite, sparks fly. The two bicker constantly while trying to decide what to do with the sexual tension between them. While Rose decides to ignore it, Lord Sin attempts to fan the sparks into a raging flame. Anyways, you’ll never guess who wins (sarcasm… this is a romance novel folk!)

Real question: Did that metaphor about fire I just used even make sense?

While I really liked this book, I felt like something was missing. I didn’t find Lord Sin or Rose particularly compelling characters: they both were ridiculously competitive which made their interactions funny but also made me terrified for their future children. Honestly, I struggled to find any redeeming qualities in Lord Sin. He just sort of seemed like a super obnoxious tool. Rose was fine, but she was kind of forgettable. Finally, I never really felt the love between Rose and Lord Sin: it was just super intense lust 24/7. They just sort of fought or hooked up. To reiterate: I’m terrified for their future children.

But the wonderfully witty dialogue and the amusing plot made up for most of the character faults. Also, I’m just such a freaking sucker for a hate to love story.

Rating: 3.7/5