Devil Takes a Bride by Gaelen Foley

Screen Shot 2019-01-21 at 8.51.33 PM.pngIf you’ve read my reviews regularly, you know that characters named “Devil,” “Beast” or any other strange “I guess this is supposed to show what a bad boy he is” name really bothers me. It’s a pet peeve of mine; it just feels like lazy writing. Therefore, it is a testament to how much I enjoyed this book that I’m still able to give Devil Takes A Bride four stars. After all, Foley does nickname our hero, the Viscount of Strathmore, “Devil” (his real name, Devlin, by the way, is much better).

Our story starts out soon after Devlin has made his way back to London. When Devlin was a teenager, his parents were tragically killed leading him to go seriously off the deep end. In response, his Grandmother, the Dowager Viscountess, kicked him out of England to go find himself on a ship. And he did. Which is why, although most of London thinks he is back to his wild ways, in reality, Devlin is desperately searching for his parents’ murderer.

Lizzie Carlisle—lady’s companion to the Dowager Viscountess Strathmore—is one of those haters. She has a huge ax to grind with irresponsible men after getting her heart shattered so when she sees gambling bill after gambling bill sent to her employer, she decides its time to teach the Viscount a lesson by sending him a letter saying that his grandmother is dying.

And thus the hijinks begin (that I will not spoil)

This book, like many of Foley’s, almost sits at the edge of romance and thriller. The men Devlin investigates are seriously scummy—many have committed rape and murder. The danger faced by our two characters is real (there are no random unnecessary kidnappings in this book) and present throughout the novel. However, despite the fact that probably half of the book’s words are devoted the mystery, I never felt like the romance between Devlin and Lizzie was lacking. Foley does an amazing job of navigating these two plots and giving them both justice. I honestly felt like neither were rushed.

Devlin was such a complex hero. He was very singularly focused on avenging his parents and I loved reading how his relationship with Lizzie affected his mission. His emotions over his parents’ death and his reactions felt so real. I could feel Devlin’s guilt and burden as a reader.

At the same time, I appreciated that the book didn’t drown in Devlin’s angst. The interactions between Lizzie and Devlin often left me smiling and I even giggled at a few points. Pretty remarkable when you consider just how heavy the plot was at times.

Lizzie was the perfect heroine for Devlin. She was kind and caring while also having a backbone of steel. While initially wary of Devlin, she soon let go of her first impression and trusted the goodness in him instead of his reputation. That said, I wish we had gotten to know Lizzie better: Devil Takes A Bride was primarily Devlin’s book and oftentimes it felt like Lizzie was just a supporting character.

In conclusion, this book was beautifully written with interesting characters. It is the kind of book that you will stay up to finish with a smile on your face.

Rating: 4/5

Dukes Are Forever by Anna Harrington

Screen Shot 2019-01-13 at 3.18.34 PM.pngI did not like this book. At all. It made me low-key uncomfortable and I’m high-key disappointed in Anna Harrington—I tend to enjoy her books. But this book was just so…so…icky. I can’t remember the last time I disliked a hero so much and the heroine wasn’t much better. The power dynamics in the book (which followed the trope of a ward and guardian) made me uneasy: our hero was incredibly controlling and our heroine incredibly immature, which resulted in a situation that seemed mildly emotionally abusive.

Our “hero” is the Duke of Swarthmore, Edward Westover, who has spent the past few years of his life attempting to destroy the life of Phillip Benton, who killed his brother and sister-in-law while racing his phaeton completely trashed. In order to do that, Edward has bought up all the man’s debts and, in the process, unknowingly received a ward—Benton’s daughter. When he discovers his guardianship, he goes to meet his ward assuming she is a young girl enamored by dolls.

She is not.

Kate Benton is actually 21 and has zero patience for the fact that her rights were just signed over to a man she has never met. While she thinks he is handsome, she values her freedom, her passion for medicine, and her role at Brambly House—a small estate left to her by her mother. While at first glance, Kate seems like she would be an amazing character she is quite honestly one of the most immature and annoying heroines ever. Honestly, for most of the book, she acted like she was twelve. She was whiney, made some terrible decisions, and just generally came across as ungrateful and incredibly irresponsible.

However, my dislike for Kate pales in comparison to my disdain for Edward. Ugh. What an awful controlling, boring, and manipulative man. Literally the definition of a chauvinist. He never listened to Kate’s requests, lorded the guardianship over her, and micromanaged her life like she actually was a child (which honestly she sort of acted like sometimes). However, what bothered me the most was his treatment of Kate: he flip-flopped between lusting after her and treating her like she was the devil herself through slut-shaming and accusing her of using her sexuality to manipulate him. It was just disgusting.

The result? A relationship that lacked mutual respect, trust, and, from what I could see, love. The ward-guardianship trope only highlighted the deeply disturbing dynamics in the relationship. I kept on reading, hoping it would get healthier, but it never did.

Anna Harrington, I normally like your books, but this one left a horrible taste in my mouth.

Rating: 1.5/5

Book Review: For the Duke’s Eyes Only by Lenora Bell

Screen Shot 2018-07-18 at 4.57.14 PM.pngDRC graciously provided by Edelweiss + Publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I was feeling a little bit apprehensive about starting this book; I was worried it couldn’t possibly live up to my hype. Ever since reading What a Difference a Duke Makes I’ve been extremely excited for this book. Lady India was honestly one of my favorite secondary characters of all time (I mean come ‘on… who doesn’t love a female Indiana Jones who rails against the restrictive gender stereotypes of regency England?), and the chemistry between her and the Duke of Ravenwood was sizzling. Thus, I was very worried that Bell couldn’t possibly do this character justice.

Thankfully Bell delivered: This book was AMAZING!

The book follows the Duke of Ravenwood and Lady India on their mission to retrieve the Rosetta Stone after it was stolen from the British Museum. The two have a tumultuous history: childhood best friends turned sworn enemies. Both have a deep internet in antiquities, but whereas archaeologist Lady India travels the world scavenging for them, Ravenwood just buys them off the black market while living the life of a rogue. Clashing at every encounter since their late teens, their infamous rivalry is reported in newspapers across England.

Golly gee, I loved this plot. While this book is most certainly a romance first, the mystery of solving who stole the stone was genuinely engaging. Every scene in the book felt purposeful and fit in with the adventurous tone of the book (one of my biggest pet peeves of regency novels is often to spice up a boring plot/character an author will just randomly throw in a kidnapping or duel…like why?). Even if this book had no romance—if it was just two random detectives looking for the stone—I would still strongly consider reading it.

But oh my…the romance was definitely the highlight. If I thought the chemistry between Ravenwood and India was sizzling in What a Difference a Duke Makes, in this book it is explosive! I don’t think I’ve ever seen (or read? I’m not sure about this grammar) two characters with this much sexual tension before. Even though there were only two or three sexy time scenes in this book, every interaction between the two of them was just…

*Fans myself vigorously*

Yet what was remarkable about this book was that it didn’t conflate lust with love. By the end of the book, the love between Lady India and Ravenwood was obvious: the mutual respect of each other’s work, shared interests, and willingness to make sacrifices for the sake of their relationship. Both characters were amazing. Lady India was unbelievably confident and ambitious—the sort of woman young girls should have as a role model.

To Lenora Bell: If you ever get sick of writing romance, you should write a mystery/adventure series starring Lady India.

While initially, I was concerned that Ravenwood would just be one of those broody, misogynistic, obnoxious heroes (and thus never deserve to end up with Lady India) he wasn’t at all! He was a great hero and I thought the reasoning behind his actions (breaking Lady India’s heart when they were younger, becoming a careless rogue, etc.) made a lot of sense.

My only issue with this book is I don’t think Lenora Bell’s writing is that strong—she uses a lot of repetitive sentence structures and inserts a lot of unnecessary questions in a poor attempt to create suspense. But even still: this book is a definite must read!

Rating: 5/5

Book Review: The Governess Game by Tessa Dare

Screen Shot 2018-08-29 at 9.20.52 AM.pngI tend to really enjoy Tessa Dare’s book: they make me giggle and her heroes tend to not get on my nerves. Moreover, I find that even when she follows a cliché predictable plot, she manages to almost always find a fresh take—normally by writing very memorable characters. However, for me, I found that this book missed the mark. Don’t get me wrong, I thought it was fine, but it just wasn’t great.

This book (in case you couldn’t guess by the name) is your stereotypical governess-meets-rake romance. It stars Alexandra Mountbatten—who used to adjust the time on clocks but after her fixing instrument breaks takes the governess job out of desperation—and Chase Reynaud—a future duke with two young and rambunctious wards who has currently taken over the house’s housekeeping quarters to install a sexy time cave.

The book is absurdly predictable. Seriously, I don’t think there was even one creative plot twist or some attempt to distinguish it from the plethora of other governess romances. Thus, Dare relies heavily on a reader falling in love with both Alexandra and Chase. Which is easy to do: Alexandra is an amazing character with a spine of steel and an interesting background and Chase (while he takes some warming up to) is kind and funny. However, the real stars of the show are the secondary characters: Rosamund and Daisy (the two wards) with their doll funerals and kleptomaniac tendencies. And Alexandra’s friends—particularly Lady Penelope with her obsession with helping wounded animals and disgusting vegetarian sandwiches—are wonderful. However, despite the characters are lovely (not to mention many scenes that made me laugh out loud), I just couldn’t get over how almost lazy and uncreative the plot was. When I can guess essentially chapter-by-chapter what will happen a book just isn’t very interesting.

Of course, I’ve read hundreds of historical romances so one could argue I’m pretty jaded when it comes to plots. And this summer I’ve super-duper binged on them. Henceforth, this review is definitely harsher than it would have been if this was the very first governess-meets-rake romance I’d read. Or even the 10th. Therefore, despite my grips, I do recommend this book: it features wonderful characters and Tessa Dare’s trademark humor in spades. Moreover, it is definitely on the stronger end of governess and rake romances. I just can’t bring myself to characterize this book as a must read.

Rating: 3/5.

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Book Review: Love and Other Scandals by Caroline Linden

Screen Shot 2018-08-18 at 11.50.24 AM.pngThis book gave me just all of the warm and fuzzy feelings. I read this book after a binge on angsty romances with intense subplots; this book was just the breath of fresh air that I needed. Sometimes you just need some good ole fluff in your life.

The story follows Joan Bennet, a wallflower approaching spinsterhood who honestly is the sassiest main character I’ve ever encountered. Her family is incredibly close (I love seeing this in a romance novel honestly…good parenting is just so hard to find) minus her older brother who is going through a wee bit of a rake phase. When her mom asks her to visit him in his bachelor lodgings and secure his promise to attend a ball, Joan runs smacks into her brother’s best friend Lord Burke shirtless.

The rest of the book is a classic good-girl-meets-rake and they fall desperately in love. I kept on waiting for a crazy subplot with some sort of kidnapping (like I said…it has been a week of insanity) but nope. I should probably re-read this book at a later date and see if it is still deserving of five stars, but the predictability and adorableness of this book drew me in.

I really, really, really loved both main characters. I could see myself becoming best friends with Joan and her secret interest in 50 Shades of Sin (a women’s pamphlet currently circulating around London) reminded me of hiding romance novels from my mom in middle school. I can see why a reader might not warm up to her—she does have a lot of attitude—but for me it was the right amount. Better than a simpering miss with no personality. Lord Burke (given name Tristan) was honestly a swoon-worthy hero. He was so charming and funny and gah—definitely a datable man. I loved watching him and Joan flirt. I giggled multiple times.

For some reason, this book felt like it could cater to a younger audience more than a lot of other Regency romances. Which, on some level, seems ridiculous given that the sexy times were more explicit than a lot of other Regency romances. But the romance between them was just so cute that it gave off more two-teenagers-falling-in-love-for-the-first-time vibes instead of two-adults-contemplating-marriage vibes. Personally, I found the book endearing but I can also see a possibility that someone might find the book a little bit immature.

To conclude, I really enjoyed this book. It’s a quick, adorable, funny read and I’m so glad it doesn’t feature insta-love (one of my least favorite tropes). I think it has earned a spot on my favorites shelf, but I’ll definitely need to give it another read when I’m not in an I-want-a-cute-romance mood to confirm.

Rating: 4.5/5

 

 

 

 

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