Review: The Wicked Wedding of Miss Ellie Vyne (Sydney Dovedale, Book 2) by Jayne Fresina

the wicked wedding of miss ellie vyneHero: James Hartley is tracking down the man who stole a family heirloom right off the neck of his mistress. He knew better than to give her the jewels, she was not the mysterious woman he kissed at a costume ball. The only person he wants to find more than the Count de Bonneville is his Marie Antoinette. If he only knew they were one and the same!

Heroine: Ellie Vyne does what she must to keep her stepfather and half-sisters afloat. If they guessed she did it crossing-dressing and pretending to be a Count while fleecing noble drunkards at the gaming tables nearly every evening, they would all surely have a fit and explode. She’s just deciding to call the charade quits, when James bursts into her room at a hotel and comes to the conclusion she’s the Count’s mistress. Oh boy.

Review: As childhood frenemies, Ellie liked to take James down a size so he and his ego could fit through a door, and it’s much the same now that they are grown. If he won’t get over Sophie (see previous book in series) and notice how much she likes him, then she’ll poke fun at him instead. Grieves is a great side character – adding depth to the hero’s life and supplying endless dry humor for the reader. There were a few things I’d write out of the story, like the bastard child, but overall there are few complaints to be had. The wit, banter, and charm of the story are a home run smash out of the park. In conclusion, if you are looking for a terrific, wonderful, and amusing romp – look no further than Jayne Fresina’s latest release – with characters you like, and a couple to lose your heart too. You will want to run not walk to the bookstore.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Wicked Wedding of Miss Ellie Vyne

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Review: To Seduce an Earl (Seduction, Book 1) by Lori Brighton

to seduce an earlHero: When Alex Weston was young, he was blackmailed into working as a male prostitute in order to keep his family from London’s prisons. He has been thinking of escaping ever since, but the information that caught him then, is holding him captive today. With nothing much better to look forward, Alex decides to stay where he’s at until an intriguing costumer comes to his bed. Can he find the strength to break away from his world in order to keep her there?

Heroine: Grace Brisbane arrives at Lavender Hills quite by mistake. She’s tricked by her stepbrother and has no idea what she’s getting when Alex comes to the bedchamber. Clearly he is not an eccentric book collector. Horribly hurt by her stepbrother’s actions, Grace confronts him and learns the family’s finances are not good. Apparently her stepbrother wanted to help her catch the eye of the Earl of Rodrick, a man Grace has been infatuated with for a while. The Earl prefers experienced women over virgins. Can she gain enough experience to seduce an earl without complete ruination? One way to find out!

Review: I got tired of Alex’s never-ending pity party. The picture painted at Lavender Hills wasn’t ideal, but neither was it so foul that I felt Alex was truly trapped. (Is this a double standard? Yes, it is.) He was trapped mentally in his own apathy about his situation more than anything else. Sure, there are a couple of big brutes standing guard in the halls – it’s called a window. Alex won’t take that escape either because the blackmailing madam of the house would send said brutes to find him. For a man capable of wooing any virgin, he wasn’t as manly or ferocious in his sex appeal and I had hoped. Grace and Alex, when they are together, kept the story moving forward and kept my focus. It’s entertaining, quick, and good for passing time at the airport. I look forward to learning more about Gideon.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

Buy: To Seduce an Earl (The Seduction Series)

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Review: Two Sinful Secrets (The Scandalous St. Claires, Book 2) by Laurel McKee

two sinful secretsHero: Dominic St. Claire and his brothers continue to uphold a feud that started many years ago with the Huntingtons, involving older relatives on both sides. They brothers blame the Huntingtons for the loss of their family fortune. Revenge would be sweet and Lady Sophia would be perfect target. Dominic decides he will elope with her and then dump her at the altar, forever ruining her. What will he do, however, when his treacherous heart gets involved?

Heroine: When Lady Sophia Huntington, now Mrs. Westman, was younger refused to give up a man she thought she loved was banished from her family’s bosom. He wasn’t such a prince after all. Widowed now, Sophia is betting against the house in order to survive and maybe to finally make her way home. But blast it all! She can’t possibly win her family’s forgiveness if she shows up with Dominic St. Claire. Can she?

Review: I could have done without the obsessed stalker hunting the heroine. In my opinion, it was superfluous to the storyline. The revenge plot could have had more oomph. It’s hard to feel for somebody holding onto a grudge that really isn’t his to hold. One of the hottest scenes in the book is the very first chapter. It introduces both characters and a meeting they had prior to the start of the main action. She’s a masked figure gambling in his family’s gaming establishment. Sophia knows who Dominic is, but he does not know her. They share quite a passionate kiss before she breaks it off and runs away. It’s a moment neither party can forget or the reader.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Buy: Two Sinful Secrets (The Scandalous St. Claires)

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Review: Too Wicked to Wed (Lords of Midnight, Book 1) by Cara Elliott

too wicked to wedHero: The Earl of Killingworth, Connor Linsley, is not your usual Earl of the Realm. He works for a living earning money from his gambling den and brothel that carters to men of the peerage. He hides this fact from others by pretending to be just any other high roller in the establishment. Like any alpha he keeps his heart guarded, but the fiery Alexa gets to him like no other could – when she lays claim to half of his business and refuses to give it back!

Heroine: Lady Alexa Hendrie is fierce. She tracks her brother to The Wolf’s Lair and demands of Connor his location. The price for that information is a kiss (and it will knock your socks off and Connor’s too). Later unbeknownst to her, Connor is robbed at the gaming tables and from his safe. When his pledge of half the business (which is exchanged for money from a friend) comes across her path–while she’s dressed as a man playing cards–she wins it and uses it to blackmail Connor into helping her locate her wayward brother.

Review: The story really picks up the pace when Connor gets shot and the two of them flee to Linsley Close, Connor’s abandoned estate by the coast. There they pose as newlyweds while Connor convalesces. It’s pretty funny when the housekeeper walks in on them to bring Connor sustenance. These two lovebirds have got some pretty blistering chemistry. There’s lots of kissing – the really hot kind!

I also like the other lords who are Connor’s friends: Gryff and Cam. Gryff is going to have to lay off the booze, it’s not that attractive, but his other qualities make up for it (for now). Cam is seriously hot and a thief. I want to read his book. Yum!

Favorite Quote:

“Why the devil does she feel she must take such awful risks?”

“Is that a rhetorical question,” asked Cameron. “Or do you wish for an honest answer?”

[…]

“Because she loves you. She’s willing to risk anything to win your heart.” Cameron crossed one booted leg over the other. “And you, you ungrateful cur, ought to have your teeth kicked out through your arse if you don’t appreciate what a rare and wondrous gift that is.”

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Too Wicked to Wed (Lords of Midnight)

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Review: The Highest Stakes of All by Sara Craven

Heroine: Joanna Veron is somewhere around 19. In her father’s world she plays at being a high maintenance vapid beauty, but inside she’s really just a sweetheart looking for a way out of her father’s lifestyle (without having to go to her perfectly nice uncle) ever since a particularly bad incident when they were living in Australia where they swindled a youngish man named Peter out of a lot of money. She extracts a promise from her father to never use her in such a manner again, but of course Denys doesn’t hold to it for long.

Hero: Vassos Gordanis (I see his name and think vaseline) is somewhere in his 30s. He’s out for revenge against Denys and Joanna (though of course she’s clueless.) When he wins Joanna in a high stakes poker game he believes he has the chance to accomplish both punishments as he believes Joanna is Denys mistress. Obviously he’s not buying the “she’s my niece” they both claimed ever since Joanna joined her father on his jaunts around the gambling dens of the world. (Why does Joanna allow this? Gross.)

Favorite Moment: The first and second time they make love when he learns of her innocence (read virginity surprise!) and then tries to teach her about lovemaking which she tries so hard to hate … There’s flavors of Stockholm Syndrome in this, but honestly it worked for me because there’s also the play on the Persephone myth.

Missed Opportunity:
If I remember right they were talking about her real relationship to Denys, but it could also have easily alluded to her virgin state.

Vassos: Why didn’t you tell me?
Joanna’s answer should have been: Would you have believed me?

It seems like a perfectly standard response, but it never came up.

TSTL Ending: Why did the HEA have to include a flowery all is forgiven resolution between Joanna and Denys? What a crappy way to tie it off. Sometimes splitting family units is okay and in this case her dad is such a scumbag there’s really no way I’d buy his remorse and sudden “Oh shut up” speech to his new wife (whom he married right after Joanna was taken by Vassos to avoid his debts and to get the hell out of dodge, the bastard didn’t even look for her to get her back.)

Rating: ★★★★☆ – I know the rating seems incongruent with the story’s flaws, but I’m also factoring in the *guilty pleasure* I got out of it, because what worked, worked really well for me.

Buy: The Highest Stakes of All (Harlequin Presents)

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Review: A Hellion in Her Bed by Sabrina Jeffries

A Hellion in Her Bed is book two of the Hellions of Halstead Hall series by Sabrina Jeffries. The Sharpe family consists of five children raised by their grandmother. Their parents died under mysterious circumstances which set tongues wagging throughout the ton and shadowed their lives growing up. When all the children were grown but exhibited no signs of finding partners and settling into married life and babies, their grandmother decided to do something about it. Her ultimatum dictated that they all had to wed by the end of the year or be disinherited.

Lord Jarret couldn’t be more disgusted that his older brother, Lord Stoneville capitulated so easily to their grandmother and was now honeymooning with his new bride. Determined not to yield to the old broad, Jarret strikes a new bargain with his grandmother. He will manage the Plumtree brewery for a year, without her interference, in exchange for his inheritance which he plans to use to save his other siblings from the unhappy task of following their grandmother’s dictates.

When he meets Annabel Lake, of Lake Ale, a young single woman, he’s immediately suspicious of his grandmother’s involvement. Her proposition of combining forces to brew an October ale to take to the Dutch East India Company was equally ludicrous and foolhardy. If all went well all the brewery’s troubles (and his own) would be taken care of permanently. If not, he would lose everything. Against his gambling nature, he turns her down, but her second proposition based on a wager was too tempting to turn down.

Both are determined, competent, family oriented characters with a passion for brewing. Both have secrets and hidden depths. The true question is, are both willing to gamble for love?

As a complete side note: Some of the cutest paraphernalia came with this book when I got it in the mail. There were interviews in the Parasol Papers for both the hero and heroine, a letter to the editor of the papers from the hero and heroine, a little how-to on beating a gambling rogue at cards, and a deck of playing cards with the book’s cover on them. There were more cute things describing book one of series too. I thought it was excellent marketing and lots of fun to read too.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: A Hellion in Her Bed (Hellions of Halstead Hall)

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Review: Triumph in Arms by Jennifer Blake

This is the sixth book in the Maitres D’Armes series.

The Story: Widow + Child + Parents + Brother + Father’s Gaming Debt = Sword Master + Vengeance Plot + Marriage Proposal + Newly Acquired Family Home & Family.

How’s that for a brief overlook? lol :D

When widowed Reine Cassard Pingre’s father gambles and loses everything to sword master Christien Lennoir her only option to save her family, her daughter, and herself is to agree to marry him. Remarrying was never in her cards prior to this humungous cluster-fuck because of the emotional abuse she suffered from her late husband and the shame he brought her by constantly seeking pleasure outside of the marriage bed. Men as far as she’s concerned can’t be faithful.

Christien Lennoir didn’t offer a proposal purely out of interest for Reine, although it’s definitely there. He wants family but more importantly he wants her and her daughter as his family. Still, the reasons behind his offer are twofold. What he wants is to expose the secrets of River’s Edge and help his aging mentor to get revenge for the ruin and death of his daughter.

Of concern is Marguerite, Reine’s daughter. She keeps having nightmares about a loup-garou (werewolf) haunting her. She finds great comfort in Christien’s presence and that is enough to sway Reine’s decision on the marriage proposal. She accepts and plans are underway, but Christien’s suspicious behavior gives her doubts. Ironically, Reine’s reactions to his behavior cause Christien to be wary of her and just when it seems he’ll get everything he wants, including her love… all hell breaks loose.

It was a good story. Rich. Sweet. Full of intrigue. My previous opinion of Jennifer Blake stands… I believe I have found myself another author to love and glom.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Triumph in Arms (Maitres D’armes)

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Review: One Night is Never Enough by Anne Mallory

I’m squeeing all over the place with this book. One Night Is Never Enough is not enough! I want it to be 5 times longer – and that’s only a slight hyperbole there.

I loved the hero. He’s all kinds of toe-curling wonderful. Let’s start with his name… Roman Merrick… two of my favorite first names! Subjective I know but I liked it. He’s got scars (hurrah!) and attitude from clawing his way up the ladder (hurrah!). He’s fiercely loyal to those who count (yes please!) and determined to get what he wants (me please? lol). Simply sinfully scrumptious. Yum!

Roman Merrick and his brother are probably the equivalent of the mob in Regency London. They run a gambling hell, several side businesses, buy the markers of debt of wealthy nobles, and pretty much have their fingers in every pot. One of the things Roman has going for him is his intuition. His gut feeling to do something, be somewhere, take interest in someone…

That particular someone is Charlotte Chatsworth, the crown jewel of the ton, her father is holding out for a duke in marriage, but Roman feels things are about to change. Fortuitously he’s sitting at the very game where one of Charlotte’s suitors tricks the father into placing an outrageous bet… 1 night spent all alone in her company against 10,000 pounds! This is a hand Roman will not lose.

I got to say I really liked how Roman and Charlotte met the first time and then again when she discovers who won the card game her father lost her in. Delicious. To be together one must risk a financial empire and the other all social security… so the question remains are they both willing to gamble on the other?

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: One Night Is Never Enough

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