Review: The Sherbrooke Bride (Bride Series, Book 1) by Catherine Coulter

sherbrooke brideHero: Douglas Sherbrooke, Earl of Northcliffe, needs an heir and a bride. He secures the beautiful Melissande’s hand in marriage. Before they can wed he’s called away to attend delicate matters and sends his cousin to marry for him by proxy. Bad idea! When he returns he finds his cousin stole his bride and married him to the wrong sister.

Heroine: Alexandra Chambers, youngest daughter of the Duke of Beresford, is not beautiful like her sister Melissande. But she has loved Douglas since she was fifteen. When Douglas’s cousin proposes the scheme she is eager to do it. because she knows she will make Douglas a better wife than her high-strung sister. Now she must convince him of it too.

Review: Douglas is furious at the turn of events and takes it out on Alexandra and his cousin Tony. He’s one of those brawny alpha males who does many a pigheaded thing until he gives in and confesses his heart. You either love him or loathe him. Tony was a great side character who for some unknown reason liked an empty-headed vain woman with mush for brains. Melli was very annoying. What’s weird and disturbing is that Tony is training her like a dog to be a better person. Ick. I like Alex as a heroine and the writing was engrossing despite the story’s flaws. On a personal note, the Virgin Bride ghost was an unnecessary supernatural element that detracted more than aided the writing.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Buy: The Sherbrooke Bride (Bride Series)

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Review: Secrets of Seduction (Legendary Lovers, Book 3) by Nicole Jordan

secrets of seductionHero: The Earl of Hawkhurst loved and lost his first wife and child in a fire that also left him scarred. He buried his grief by working for the government in an elite group known as Guardians of the Sword. Hawk has returned to England to fulfill the honor-pact required by the group’s charter in order to lead Guardians. To do this he must wed his mentor’s niece… a woman he’s never met.

Heroine: Skye believes in her cousin’s idea about legendary lovers. In fact, she’s knows just which fairy tale hers is going to be… Beauty and the Beast. When she finds out the man she’s loved since childhood is back in England, but looking for a bride elsewhere, she brazenly enters his life under the threatening clouds of a convenient storm. If he’s going to be beastly about it, well… she’d prepared with a clever rouse to get his help solving a mystery of her uncle’s lost love.

Review: Secrets of Seduction is one of the best books I’ve read this year. I loved it. Skye is a brilliant heroine – not only clever and determined to win the heart of a man she’s loved from afar, but patient enough to see his pain and understand him. You’ll be rooting for her before she’s through uttering her greetings to the hero for the first time. Hawk is very funny – first knowing she’s a virgin, then convincing himself otherwise. Skye’s aunt is very talkative about these things and has prepared Skye for what to expect. It leads to a very sexy scene with some sponges. A classic feel good romance, you’ll love to read!

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Secrets of Seduction (Legendary Lovers)

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Review: Tapestry by Karen Ranney

tapestryHero: Alex, the Earl of Cardiff, never planned to be the earl. He had a father and older brother and so went off to war to make his mark. When he returns, he is severely wounded and hides his ravage face and body and heart in the castle of Heddon Hall. His servants are terrified of him. His stepmother despises him. He can’t tell if his estate manager is swindling him because he can’t read due to the loss of one eye and the headaches that come from trying to focus the other. When an uppity little maid arrives, bold as you please, on his doorstep, he’s intrigued despite his attempts to distance himself from her.

Heroine: Lady Laura Blake has had enough of being rebuffed. If Alex won’t return her letters and tell her what is going on she will figure it out on her own. She shows up at his estate in disguise, wearing her maid’s clothes and using her maid’s name. Once inside his household, she’s put to work in the kitchen. Being a scullery maid was not quite what she had in mind! Soon she’s elevated to be his personal secretary and that suits her so much better. Now she can spend her days with Alex… and nights.

Review: The first half of the novel is the best part of the story. If you want a happy ending that’s truly happy end at book one/part one. I enjoyed the setup with the heroine breaking into the hero’s lair as a servant (though how she managed it is a mystery because she’s a family friend, you’d think she’d be recognized by someone – Alex!!) I like Laura’s bumbling in the kitchen, her determination to reach Alex and break down his walls. I loved his elation at recapturing humanity and love.

However, after they come together the story goes downhill as they are separated, when the hero returns to his wartime duties for one last assignment. Laura doesn’t want him to go, but for his masculine and national pride, Alex must. Their separation leads to misfortune as Alex is captured and assumed dead. Laura experiences a miscarriage because of the news and also faces the doubly incapacitating grief of losing Alex and the babe. When Alex gets out of prison, he allows his evil stepmother’s cruel words to sway him from finding the truth of what is going on with Laura which causes a big misunderstanding. My friends, you know me, and you know I love angst, but holy moly this is too much. I also like more time together with the main characters and less time apart.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Buy: Tapestry

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Audio Review: The Naked Earl (Naked Nobility, Book 4) by Sally Mackenzie

naked earlHero: The Earl of Westbrooke, Robert “Robbie” Hamilton, has no trouble getting “it” up. No, the problem lies in keeping “it” up. This road block is tied to a humiliating moment in his youth and he’s unable to let the incident go. Just when things begin to heat up — like seeing the inebriated and naked Lizzie in her room — the memory will crop up and the excitement turns to frustration.

Heroine: Lady Elizabeth “Lizzie” Runyon, is the younger sister of Robbie’s best friend, James. She has been in love with Robbie most of her life and would like nothing better than to marry him. When he falls through her window (escaping across the rooftop from a calculating marriage-minded spinster), during a house party, she takes advantage of his naked state and her own, by stealing innocently passionate kisses.

Review: When the guests come running to her door, he begs her for silence and so while she could have kept him all to herself, she does as he asks, which I think takes guts. Of course, Lizzie feels Robbie will come around properly to ask for her hand and is flummoxed when he does not. There was a lot of potential with the book and where it fell flat for me was the passion fizzled at its highest points (and I don’t mean when it fizzled for Robbie as those were some of the better moments in the book because you could really feel his anxiety and frustration over his reactions or lack thereof). Robbie really wanted to be the man he felt Lizzie deserved and needed/wanted. The best-friend’s-sister or brother’s-best-friend trope is a tough one for me to warm up to, but I found myself rooting for the two quite early in the novel. The momentum just didn’t keep up with my expectations.

Narrator: The narrator was exceptional and one of the reasons it was so easy for me to get involved in the romance. I would recommend listening to Terry Donnelly if you get the chance. She’s very good at the intimate moments and keeping characters straight and reads very lively and with emotion. (4.5 of 5 Stars)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Buy: Sally MacKenzie Bundle: The Naked Earl, The Naked Gentleman, The Naked Marquis, The Naked Baron, The Naked Duke, The Naked Viscount, The Naked King

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Review: When the Rogue Returns (The Duke’s Men, Book 2) by Sabrina Jeffries

When the Rogue ReturnsHero: Victor Cale just recently learned of his wife’s whereabouts after she abandoned him and said their marriage was a mistake. She left him to face the consequences of the crime she and her family colluded to and executed so effortlessly under his nose. He plans to confront her and seek justice for all the injuries they and she inflicted on him through their perjury. His broken heart is at the top of that list.

Heroine: Isa Cale, hiding under an assumed name, Sofe Franke, is angry and frightened when her husband shows up in Edinburgh ten years after he deserted her. Why is he there? Why now? What does he want? Does he know of their child? Does he want to trick her or force her into illegal activities again? Well, he’s about to find out that Isa is not the timid little mouse he married. She’s got teeth and she’s willing to do what it takes to protect her daughter.

Review: It’s clear from the beginning that the hero and heroine are laboring under a big misunderstanding. A decade spent apart and a series of lies has torn their fledging marriage into two and two hearts are grieving for the loss of a love they both thought was true. Their double-speak when they first meet again is quite entertaining. Victor’s reaction to Isa’s feelings, about the pet name he gave her, is particularly heart-wrenching. He did not realize he’d been so misunderstood! He’s quick to come up with an alternative. Both are unique to the heroine and I love that. What great about this novel is that Sabrina Jeffries knits both hearts, both characters, slowly back together. Trust is a big issue for them both and it’s a delight to see them work through the fabrications and make amends for back judgments in the past. It’s also nice to know that even while they trust, they did both still have doubts and had to fight to overcome them time and again. It made for a realistic read. I also enjoyed that the story took place outside of the usual London setting. Not a book to be missed!

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: When the Rogue Returns (The Duke’s Men)

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Review: A Hint of Frost by Hailey Edwards

A Hint of FrostReviewed by Susan S.

Summary: Araneae Nation, Book One It is with a heavy heart that Lourdes replaces her mother as maven of the Araneidae clan. A single act of betrayal has thrust her into a position she was neither prepared for, nor expecting. These circumstances call for a strength-of-steel. And a bravery even stronger than the silk she spins. Her clansmen have turned to her for protection, guidance, and leadership. Make no mistake-she “will” rise to the challenge!

But first, Lourdes must join forces with a Mimetidae warrior referred to as “Rhys the Cold.” Rhys is duty-bound to locate and kill the Theridiidae responsible for the death of her parents. Vengeance they were prepared for. Love? Well, love caught them completely unawares.

Review: I especially enjoyed the differences between the main characters. Lourdes is wealthy. Rhys is penniless. She has a loving family environment. He doesn’t. It’s those differences which made me appreciate how the author bridged those gaps. And although I prefer the sexually experienced heroes, Rhys’s masculine näiveté was, I’ll admit-lovely.

A Hint of Frost will entrance you with spirit walkers, entertain you with sibling wordplays, and bring you novel characters with spider-like characteristics. If I was to attribute Hailey Edwards with a modus operandi – it’d be great storytelling! However, I’m still weeks away from erasing the death of the sickly pecora from my memory bank.

Recommendations: Suggested for readers who enjoy the arranged marriage tropes and for booklovers who flock to fantasy romances, Indian folklore, and strong fearless warriors.

Caution: This novel contains several beheadings and some cannibalistic themes. Definitely “not” for the weak of heart! Although if you think about it, these characters exhibit spider-like qualities and there really is such a thing as spider cannibalism.

Favorite Scenes:

Scene # 1: When Rhys bares his soul and tells Lourdes what her love is worth. That scene was sigh-worthy!

Scene # 2: Will settle the debate regarding what’s under a man’s kilt.

Scene # 3: Lourdes is grieving the loss of her parents and Rhys understands this. He joins her in bed and holds her while she cries.

Comedic Touch: Rhys’s brother (Vaughn) is being disrespectful. O.k., honestly? He’s being annoying! He keeps interrupting an elder’s storytelling. So Rhys forks him in the thigh. Heck, even I wanted to fork him! Reviewer takes a sly look at her sharp utensils.

Disclaimer: I received this novel free of charge in exchange for my honest review.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: A Hint of Frost: Araneae Nation, Book 1

Samhain Publishing, Ltd., Copyright 2012, Fantasy Romance, eBook, ISBN# 978-1-60928-756-6.

Review: The Billionaire Boss’ Innocent Bride by Lindsay Armstrong

Heroine: 21 year old Alex Hill works as an interpreter. Between 17 and 21 she lived in a convent after her parents died because the mother superior was related to her (aunt). She has an irrational dislike (fear) of elevators.

Hero: Playboy Max Goodwin is a mining magnate in his mid 30s. He needs an interpreter for several weeks while he woos a new Japanese client. When they first meet he’s unimpressed but after a makeover this confirmed bachelor wants her in his bed.

Sour Grapes: Max demands Alex get a makeover to make her presentable for being around the events he’s meeting his client in to which she accepts with a lot of grace (though she quibbles over who will pay for the makeover) considering how insulting he was. Then immediately following her makeover he makes a scene with a comment demanding to know what had been done to her in a makeover. Now she was too pretty? WTF, jerk.

Review: The constant switching in thoughts from one paragraph to the next. It was a mental tennis match. The switches were too obvious and too immediate, sharing what one thinks or the other thinks about a situation instead of letting the narrative progress. It was distracting and ruined the reading experience of interpreting information. This book is an example why for so long getting into the hero’s head wasn’t on the table or until the end of the book for his “Oh crap – I’ve got to grovel now or lose her forever!” moment. The dialogue between them was so full of cheese that I rolled my eyes until I got dizzy.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Buy: The Billionaire Boss’s Innocent Bride (Harlequin Presents Extra)

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Review: A Dash of Scandal by Amelia Grey

(Reissue) Originally published in 2002 by Jove Books, The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc., New York

My Dear Readers,

A mind changed against its will is of the same opinion still. Which is why Millicent Blair, heroine, refuses to believe Lord Dunraven’s rakish days are a thing of the past. Chandler Prestwick, hero, may plead his case as he wishes, but Millicent refuses to be swayed. A lady must protect her virtue at all costs!

“Secretly” writing a gossip column while Aunt Beatrice recovers from her fall is proving to be more daunting than she’d realized. Assisting her aunt, lack of sleep, and the countless soirees must be the reason resisting Prestwick is getting harder and harder. Yes, that must be it. Yet one can’t help but wonder, if and when Miss Blair will throw caution to the wind, and succumb to his advances. With any luck, her duplicity should discourage him. But luck has fled like a stallion fleeing a barn fire. Leaving Dunraven more determined and more eager to have her. This leaves us to peruse the scandal sheets while we enjoy our tea and scones.

For surely, no lady can resist, the pull of a titled and dashing… blue-eyed rogue!

by Susan S., guest reviewer

Review: Amelia Grey’s novels are what romance dreams are made of. Simply charming! I’m thrilled this novel was reissued; allowing me the chance to discover its beauty. I’ll admit I’m partial to novels featuring reformed rakes. Knowing the heroine succeeded where hordes of women failed. Yet regardless of your favorite tropes, I believe all romance readers will enjoy A Dash of Scandal.

I’d also like to mention that some authors reveal clues pointing to the mysterious antagonist. Not so with Grey. I never realized who the Mad Ton Thief was until it was revealed at novel’s end. I believed it to be someone else entirely. Apparently, I’m not the sleuth I once was. Romance, mystery, and scandal, intermingle in what’s sure to be…your newest favorite read.

Disclosure: I received this novel free of charge in exchange for my honest review.

Favorite scenes:

Number 1: Millicent is writing gossip notes on her dance card when a shadow falls over her card. Guess what the shadow is? Not a what. A who! Lord Dunraven. Ha-ha.

Number 2: Every…time, he blows her a kiss. Yowzah! I know you can’t hear me because I’m wearing my gloves, but I’m clapping wildly.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: A Dash of Scandal, A Dash of Scandal (UK)

Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc., Copyright October 2011, Historical Romance, Mass Market Paperback, Print Pages 315. ISBN# 978-1-4022-3979-3.

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