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: 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: 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: Born to Be Wilde by Eloisa James

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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: What Happens in London by Julia Quinn

Screen Shot 2018-07-15 at 3.31.14 PM.pngI read this book on the plane and laughed so hard that I started crying. The woman next to me had to ask if I was okay.

Needless to say, I loved this book: I would give it six stars if I could and it definitely earns a spot on my list of all-time favorites.

Honestly, typically,  Julia Quinn isn’t my favorite author. I don’t dislike her books, but I don’t seek them out either. While she is an excellent writer, I tend to find her plots a little bit dull. Yet this book was anything but! It was just one big glorious mess of “what the heck is going on?”

This book follows the love story of Olivia Bevelstoke and Sir Harry Valentine. The two characters could not be more different: Olivia is the bell of the ball, loves gossip, and shopping for fancy clothes. Meanwhile, Sir Harry Valentine diligently works for the War Office translating Russian documents. He has no interest in balls or flirting and spends most of the day in his office working.

After spying Harry through her window, Olivia becomes convinced he is hiding something (because, really, can someone actually work that much?). Thus, she decides to hide behind the curtains and watch him all day long.

Harry finds the entire situation amusing, but when Olivia gets involved with a Russian prince suddenly her spying doesn’t feel so harmless. When his superiors demand Harry spies on Olivia back sparks fly.

I loved both Harry and Olivia—particularly Henry. We all know how difficult it is to create a regency hero who isn’t a complete tool. And Henry? Definitely not a tool. 10/10 would date. He is dedicated, intelligent, loyal to his family, and completely crazy about Olivia. Furthermore, despite his love of routine and normalcy, he has a surprisingly good sense of humor. The interactions between the two of them always made me smile; the chemistry was definitely there.

However, what catapults this book from just really good to absolutely amazing it is the supporting characters and Russian spy sub-plot. Prince Alexei is amazing and wonderful and don’t even get me started on Harry’s cousin Sebastian and his antics. Not to mention that every time there was an exert from a Miss Butterworth book I snort laughed. Oh to the poor woman next to me on the plane: I’m so very sorry.

But to everyone else: Read this book.

Rating: 5/5

Book Review: A Week to be Wicked

Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 9.10.03 PM.pngI absolutely love this book. It has everything: likable characters, a great plot, hilarious scenes, and visible chemistry. Tessa Dare is one of my favorite authors and she outdid herself with this book.

This book was actually one of the very first Regency romance novels I read—I just re-re-re-read it this past week.  I like to think of this book as a gateway drug to the addicting world of Dukes, ladies, and bastards that define the Regency genre.

The hero of this book is Lord Payne, a Viscount stuck in Spindle Cove at the mercy of his cousin who refuses to give him any money to return to London (where Payne can drink and sleep-a-round a lot). Lord Payne just has a few months left until he comes into his inheritance he can stop relying on his cousin (who by the way is a very decent fellow trying to get Payne on the straight and narrow). He is bored, restless, and absolutely desperate to leave.

Meanwhile, Minerva Highwood is also desperate to escape Spindle Cove—but just for a week so she can attend a geology symposium. After all, if she can just make it to the symposium, she can reveal the fossil of a great lizard footprint (in modern-day-we-know-science lingo a dinosaur) she found in a cave to the world! Oh, and win the sick 500 guinea prize for best research.

Minerva presents Lord Payne with a deal: If he can get her to the conference (in Scotland), she will give him the 500 guineas. The deal is set, and off Minerva and Lord Payne go!

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I want to applaud Dare on Lord Payne’s backstory. So often, authors use a bad childhood experience backstory to excuse and justify the terrible and selfish actions of heroes. Lord Payne wasn’t like that: he was very self-aware of his own flaws and strove to fix them even before he met Minerva. Dare does an amazing job of not falling into the typical “girl fixes bad boy” romance trope. Furthermore, other than their first interaction, Lord Payne always treats Minerva with the utmost respect.

Also… Lord Payne is just a really entertaining dude. He is super funny, considerate, and gets him and Minerva in the craziest situations. 10/10 would date.

But Minerva is the real gem of this book. Writing a good romance heroine is hard work and Dare executes Minerva’s character amazingly. Minerva is smart, stubborn, and dedicated—not to mention wildly courageous. Her dedication to her research is admirable, but her dedication to the people she loves is even more so.

With two amazing characters, and a plotline set up for success, Dare delivers on witty banter, scenes that leave you giggling out loud, and actual investment in the story.

Also, this quote exists:

“Surely it can’t be,” he said, his hand stealing over her thigh, “that this intrepid explorer of underwater caverns hasn’t explored her own little cove?” 

That quote, no joke, make me laugh for a solid five minutes. I don’t know how Minerva continued hooking up with him after that. That would have killed the mood so hard.

Rating: 4.8/5