Beauty and the Best Man (The Lassiters, Book 0.5) by by Maureen Child

beauty best manSummary: Matt Hollis would never let a woman get between him and his first mistress, his career. Except there was one once that wanted to commit and he let her get away. He’s been thinking about her ever since. His best friend is marrying her best friend and they’re thrown together once again. Kayla is conflicted and unsure if she should open to hear to Matt again. Tables are turned as Matt tries to prove commitment is worth it.

Review: It’s a novella and very short. On one hand it felt long because of the constant circling of will they-won’t they arguments that generally felt the same, but then the romance falls into place much too quickly. Definitely a story for readers who’ve seen these two in action in another book.

Liked the tag line – May the Best Man Win……the Maid of Honor?

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

Buy: Beauty and the Best Man (Dynasties: The Lassiters)

Review: A Promise of Spring by Mary Balogh

temporary wifeHero: Sir Peregrine “Perry” Lampman is a good guy and effortlessly charming. He’s the toast wherever he goes. He has many male friends and many female admirers. He’s the toast of most parties as everyone adores him and respects him. He’s a beta hero and is kind in a way more romance novel heroes are not depicted. He stands apart for that kindness and his gentleness. He’s unflappable, sturdy, and trustworthy.

Heroine: Grace Howard is a spinster living with her vicar brother, who is dead at the start of the novel. When Perry offers for her hand in marriage to save her from destitution she confesses that she is not a virgin and once had a child (now dead). She implies the father of the child is dead. He still wishes to marry her because of his friendship with her brother.

Review: The sex scenes in this book are very mild. Perry is invested in them, but Grace is absent. It’s the only word I can think of to describe it. She lies there and holds him but doesn’t actively participate in their intercourse. It made perfect sense in the beginning because of both character’s pasts and personalities. That said, it bugged me that she never allowed herself to be coaxed into a more active role. Was she really so broken? Could Perry’s love not heal her? The inner monologue for both characters was stuck on repeat. All could have changed if they overcame an unwillingness to voice their wants, needs, and desires either because they felt lacking or were too embarrassed or both. In short, this is a slow romance with a focus on renewal and reconciliation. It gets credit for being a different storyline than the usual fanfare.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

Buy: The Temporary Wife/A Promise of Spring

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Review: Torch in the Forest by Marcie Kremer

torch in the forestHeroine: Eleanor of Strathcombe is a young widow, only 18, and managing her late husband’s estate. Poachers are running rampant and keep escaping into the neighboring Lord’s estate, where her forrestor cannot pursue. The poacher’s activity is creating a whole host of problems. Then the long absent Lord returns and blames her for the poachers. What’s a lady to do? Fight him of course.

Hero: Lord Hugh of Wykeham doesn’t trust any woman, and stands accused of murdering his faithless wife. Now he is back from crusading and finds his lands are being poached. If Eleanor were a better stewardess this wouldn’t be a problem. Demanding control of the forest boundaries is the only option… that and to marry Eleanor’s sister… which clearly won’t do at all because Eleanor likes the arrogant fellow.

Review: I wasn’t able to connect with the characters in this book and found myself trudging through by sheer force of will at times. The heroine is too strong and comes across anachronistic. A child bride who was married for two years and widowed for two more could be strong, no question, but I didn’t sense the buildup of this strength. The hero is a dunderhead and came across one-dimensional.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

Buy: Torch in the Forest (Entangled Scandalous)

Review: Frosted by Wendy Sparrow

frosted wendy sparrowHero: In Jack Frost’s kingdom he is all powerful and he loves bringing winter to Earth. When a prophecy led him to a lake to wait for his future queen, he was calm and expectant. When Kate fell through the ice and into his world, he was pleased and excited, but he came on too strong, too fast and lost her.

Heroine: Kate Finley used to love the winter months and all the winter activities that came with it. But seven years ago that changed and now she lives in Florida and tries to never leave the sunny state for any reason. It’s too bad for her that her boss expects her to hop on a plane to cater to a new client interested in snow skies… and the client? Jack Frost, whose myth was larger than life, whose myth would eventually claim her life too.

Review: One word: underwhelming. I know, ouch, but I was excited to read this and the potential was there. The story didn’t meet expectations. The silent frost pixies, isolated world, what would be the draw to become the queen? Jack wasn’t enough of a reason. He didn’t make the heroine (or me) feel like he was everything, sun and moon, etc. Both characters could have been fleshed out more. I felt like I was reading a plot/character synopsis instead of the full story. Too much tell, not enough show. The cover, however, is simply gorgeous. Wow! Also, I really liked the explanation of global warming. That was really clever.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

Buy: Frosted (Entangled Ever After)

Audio Review: Over the Edge (Kincaid Brides, Book 3) by Mary Connealy

over the edgeHero: Seth Kincaid has landed in some very unusual circumstances. He survived a fire, ran off to partake in the Civil War, and apparently got hitched along the way. He just can’t remember it. He wants too, though. Very much.

Heroine: Callie has been praying and searching for her missing husband. Chances are he’s dead. But when she finds out he’s alive, well, you can’t blame her for wanting to wring his neck for abandoning her. The stupid man wants to rekindle their love, but she’s not so sure she can trust him.

Review: You will start this story off with a bang. Literally. You are in the middle of a robbery and a shooting. Callie is one tough cookie. More focus on romance, less on Seth’s secret subplot. In the end it was missing something for me and I just wasn’t enamored.

Narrator: Hillary Huber has a nice range in voices, but it was extremely hard to hear the exposition in Hillary’s natural voice, which is a lower register than the heroine’s voice. It broke the flow for me in a big way and kept drawing me out of the story.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

Buy: Over the Edge (The Kincaid Brides Book #3)

Review: The Saint Who Stole My Heart (Regency Rogues, Book 4) by Stefanie Sloane

Summary: He’s a master spy playing the idiot dandy. She’s the bluestocking who can’t stand him. Together they solve a murder mystery involving the “Bishop.”

Hero: Dashiell Matthews, Viscount Carrington, is a member of the Young Corinthians spy league. For years he’s perfected his addle-brained persona to counteract his arresting good looks. More than anything he wants to capture the Bishop and hold him accountable for the multitude of murders he’s responsible for, including that of the mother of one of Dashiell’s best friends.

Heroine: Miss Elena Barnes wants the priceless books in Dash’s collection. When her father tells her that his father willed the collection to them, she packs up and heads to London. She doesn’t expect Dashiell to whom she is very attracted too until he opens his mouth and speaks. When she uncovers his plot to get the Bishop she willingly joins him.

Review: The flashback makes you think the daughter of the murdered woman is the heroine of this story, but she’s not. I could live with that, but then there were the bizarre plot twists that detracted from the overall flow of the story. For instance, Elena’s maid’s abduction and rescue. That would have made more sense at the end of the tale.

The sequence was supposed to show the heroine as a social injustice reformer, but she comes across as stupid; running into a brothel run by evil bad guys to rescue her maid all without proper backup kind of stupid. It also turns out that Rowena, the maid, is like her best friend and practically a sister. Um, what?

I have loved other idiot/genius heroes in the past, but Dashiell was surprisingly bad at keeping the idiot front up around the heroine. He gives up the act too quickly and easily for someone who had to use it nonstop for spying and chose to live his life as the idiot in public to help his position in the Young Corinthians.

Finally, I felt that the romance was pushed a little too far too fast when the hero and heroine had sex in the carriage. The connection wasn’t there. They were missing a scene or two of development for it to translate to the reader.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

Review: The Saint Who Stole My Heart: A Regency Rogues Novel

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Review: By Force of Instinct by Abigail Reynolds

The Question that Starts it All: What if Darcy had been forced to stay at Rosings after giving Elizabeth his letter?

Review (with spoilers): I’m a big fan of Abigail Reynold’s Pemberley Variations, but By Force of Instinct lacked her usual flair. It was heavy on the “My loves” and “My hearts.” Give it to me in another language and it’s not so bad, but I felt there was room for better pet names and that the frequency needed to be turned way down. Through in a few more uses of their names and that would have been good too. As it was the conversations came across as overly mushy and sentimental (and cluttered with unnecessary poetry) distracting from the truly great pieces of dialogue about happiness and love.

Also Lizzy was out of character in a way that wasn’t explained satisfactorily. She was prone to crying and such, instead of meeting (confronting!) situations with confidence and wit we all know her to have.

There was too much misunderstanding between Lizzy and Darcy. Why be so elliptical/obtuse?

Mrs. Gardenier was the character with perfect understanding, who’s insightful commentary was too convenient, taking out the challenge right out from under Lizzy and Darcy, because Mrs. Gardenier gave them everything they needed, instead of letting them figure it out on their own.

A Fun Twist on the Perfect Sister: Georgiana was petulant and sullen over Wickham. She acts like a petty teenager and tells Lizzy that Darcy is actively with a mistress. All this is fine with me but it is all wrapped up in a big bow of understanding and forgiveness with little real contrition. Georgiana should have figured out how to bridge the emotional gap between Lizzy and Darcy. Especially considering…

Mr. Bennet’s intense dislike of Darcy. He refuses to bless their union/marriage until the day of it. His sudden change of heart and understanding is a little far fetched because he isn’t even grudgingly accepting Darcy even after others try to explain how great Darcy is and what Darcy’s done.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

Buy: By Force of Instinct (The Pemberley Variations)

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Review: Long Hard Ride (Rough Riders) by Lorelei James

Story: Channing Kinkaid’s western adventure is turning out to be a big flop because the cowboy she hitched herself too is a real possessive jerk… and married?! Appalled she’s determined to get the hell out of Dodge until professional cowboy Colby McKay propositions her with a threesome/moresome sexual adventure a girl would be foolish to pass up. The rules are simple – she’s there for them whenever they want her and she can’t question them about the pleasures they plan to bring her.

Review (Spoilers): I can’t decide if I want to give props and hose the fact that Channing and Colby wind up together sans Colby’s partners. It’s certainly original for this erotica subgenre, but I felt Colby was acting ridiculous at times. He does threesomes all the time and then because Channing’s involved it’s not nearly so palpable for him? On one hand it’s realistic but on the other hand what makes Channing the one to inspire the green monster?

I also felt bad for the “third” rodeo partner who was gay and participated in getting a blowjob from Channing because Colby told him too instead of just coming out and saying he was gay and wasn’t interested in her. I thought that was degrading especially since it is clear later in the book that Colby knew the guy was gay. The second partner is bisexual and likes being with women and with the third partner adding extra drama.

Finally, the first half of the novel didn’t do much for me for two reasons. The first is that Channing is introduced feeling insecure about her rather large breast size (which never comes up again after she wins a random wet T-shirt contest) and kind of introverted because of her meek behavior with her parents and then she becomes an expert sexy woman with no qualms telling them what she wants and talking dirty which is so at odds to the mental image I had from the first little bit and secondly because I didn’t feel there was any emotion involved other than the need to do it. The second half did have the emotion as it became more traditional romance with spicy erotica elements due to Colby’s jealousy and desire to make Channing “just his.” I think perhaps that should have been the focus all along.

The sex was certainly steamy, hot!

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

Buy: Long Hard Ride: Rough Riders, Book 1