Monday, April 30, 2018

Review: A Duke Like No Other by Valerie Bowman

A Duke Like No Other by Valerie Bowman
Series: Playful Brides, Book 9
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Genre: Historical Romance
ISBN: 9781250121738
Release Date: May 1, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

First comes love, then comes marriage. Unless it's the otherway around…

General Mark Grimaldi has sacrificed everything for his military career, working his way through the ranks without the benefit of a nobleman's title. Now, his years of dedication are about to pay off—with an offer for a prestigious promotion to Home Secretary. There's only one condition: Mark must be married. Aside from the small matter of not actually wanting to be wed, Mark faces another troubling problem: he already has a wife.

Nicole Huntington Grimaldi has spent ten contented years in France without her husband—and without regret. When Mark asks her to return to London and play the part of his beloved wife, she sees her chance. But neither of them is prepared for news that will throw Mark's future into chaos…nor the undeniable desire they've rekindled. Maybe happily-ever-after can happen the second time around in A Duke Like No Other, the next Regency romance from Valerie Bowman.

General Mark Grimaldi, spymaster extraordinaire, has worked his way up the ranks and is now on the cusp of obtaining the promotion he has dedicated his life to achieving. There’s just one problem: his superiors want Britain’s new Home Secretary to be a family man. Given Mark’s many connections, securing a wife wouldn’t be a problem…if only he weren’t already married. It’s been ten years since his wife left him and by all accounts she’s been happily living in France. In order to convince her to come back to England and play the part of loving wife, he’ll have to give her something in return. But the bargain these two strike is more dangerous than either could know. For close quarters have a tendency to bring feelings long-buried to the surface, and neither of them wants to admit that perhaps the fairytale picture they’re painting for others is something they want to be real. Can two people used to guarding their secrets closely take a risk and open their hearts for a shot at happily ever after?

I adore a good reunion romance and A Duke Like No Other is an utterly delightful one! Valerie Bowman has a bright, effervescent writing style that never fails to charm me and I couldn’t help but fall in love with Mark and Nicole’s story.

Mark and Nicole’s whirlwind courtship and marriage crashed and burned within months after secrets came to light and old wounds tore them apart. Nearly ten years later they have both changed, but one thing remains the same: the pull between them cannot be denied. I loved the sparks that flew between Mark and Nicole from the very start. It’s clear they’re utterly perfect for one another and their back-and-forths had me grinning more than once. They’re not just smart, they’re clever, and it was so much fun to watch them dance around the attraction simmering just beneath the surface. That being said, they don’t simply fall back into one another’s arms and I enjoyed that too. They were young when they married and I liked that they got to know one another again, to build that solid foundation they didn’t have in the beginning. It isn’t easy for them to get to the “happily ever after” point. Mark has definite issues with the aristocracy due to his upbringing and family history. His feelings tend to color his judgement and it leads him to make mistakes with Nicole. And after having her heart broken once, Nicole is terrified of opening it up again, which contributes to their communication problems. But every bump in the road is worth it in the end and I was rooting for these two to make it.

The romance in A Duke Like No Other was fantastic but it’d be remiss of me not to mention the subplot involving the unexpected death of an aristocrat with close ties to Mark. I enjoy a good murder mystery and I had a great time putting together the pieces of the puzzle alongside Mark and Nicole. Mark’s career as a spy has been well-established over the course of the Playful Brides series (and his investigative skills are clear even if you’re new to the books), but this is the first time you see Nicole’s talent as an investigator. Watching them and their allies interview suspects was fun and the quest to unmask the killer added to the story without taking the focus off of Nicole and Mark. I do feel it important to note that some readers might have an issue with believability in regards to Nicole’s career that began with the Bow Street Runners and grew since then. There are certain aspects of the story that require suspension of disbelief and there are also some more modern attitudes in this book than one might expect to find in a historical romance. This didn’t bother me because Ms. Bowman’s writing style is so breezy that I was happy to go along for the ride and shrug off things that might bother me in another book, but that may not be true if you’re looking for more historical accuracy in your historical romance. Still, if you want a spirited romance with a cozy mystery on the side, you’re sure to enjoy A Duke Like No Other.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Review: Dead Girl Running by Christina Dodd

Dead Girl Running by Christina Dodd
Series: Cape Charade, Book 1
Publisher: HQN
Genre: Suspense
ISBN: 9781335144362
Release Date: April 24, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N
Christina Dodd Reading Order

I have three confessions to make:
1. I've got the scar of a gunshot on my forehead.
2. I don't remember an entire year of my life.
3. My name is Kellen Adams...and that's half a lie.


Girl running...from a year she can't remember, from a husband she prays is dead, from homelessness and fear. Tough, capable Kellen Adams takes a job as assistant manager of a remote vacation resort on the North Pacific Coast. There amid the towering storms and the lashing waves, she hopes to find sanctuary. But when she discovers a woman's dead and mutilated body, she's soon trying to keep her own secrets while investigating first one murder...then another.

Now every guest and employee is a suspect. Every friendly face a mask. Every kind word a lie. Kellen's driven to defend her job, her friends and the place she's come to call home. Yet she wonders--with the scar of a gunshot on her forehead and amnesia that leaves her unsure of her own past--could the killer be staring her in the face?

Everyone has secrets and no one knows that better than Kellen Adams. To say that her life has been turned upside down more than once would be an understatement. But Kellen is a survivor. And for the first time in longer than she can remember, she has a shot at finding home when she takes the job of assistant manager at the Yearning Sands resort. Only on the very day that her bosses leave on vacation a dead body appears on resort property and it’s clear the victim had been murdered. Now everyone around her is a suspect – from the staff to the guests – and Kellen has to put the pieces of the puzzle together before her new home turns into something from a horror movie. And is it the stress of tracking a killer that’s bringing old nightmares to the forefront of her memory or are there more sinister elements at play? Kellen can’t be sure, especially when a potentially vital year of her life is missing from her memory…

Dead Girl Running is a fantastic thriller that kept me up way too late reading. Christina Dodd is in top form in her first Cape Charade novel. It’s an engrossing, evocative, pulse-pounding page-turner.

Kellen is a stellar heroine. She’s been through absolute hell, almost lost herself in the process, and survived horrors that would break most people. She’s not exactly superhuman, but she is an incredibly strong character. I admired the way she built her life back up from the ashes and fully came into her own over the course of the story. She’s got a spine of steel and the visible scars she carries are no match for the emotional ones, but she’s a kind, fascinating character. I loved uncovering the pieces of her past alongside Kellen and my only real problem with Dead Girl Running is that I have to wait for the second book because holy cow, the information Ms. Dodd reveals about Kellen only makes me want to know more.

Mystery and murder abound at what would otherwise be the idyllic Yearning Sands. I’d be doing a disservice to readers to reveal much of the plot because this is a thriller and the excitement comes from looking for clues and watching events unfold. Suffice it to say that there are a few mysteries and they’re well-crafted and interwoven without the book losing its focus. There are also multiple players in this game and Ms. Dodd does a great job of fleshing them out and bringing the world of Dead Girl Running to life. The story itself starts off with a bang and continues to move at a good pace, building intensity until you absolutely cannot put the book down.

Dead Girl Running is the first book in Ms. Dodd’s Cape Charade series and I absolutely cannot wait for more. While this book easily stands alone, fans of Ms. Dodd’s will enjoy the loose ties it has to her Bella Terra Deception and Virtue Falls series. Whether you’re an old fan of Ms. Dodd’s or are diving into her work for the first time, Dead Girl Running is a captivating suspense novel that will leaving you begging for more Cape Charade stories.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Review: Murder Takes the High Road by Josh Lanyon

Murder Takes the High Road by Josh Lanyon
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: Male/Male Contemporary Romance/Mystery
ISBN: 9781459293595
Release Date: April 23, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N
Josh Lanyon Reading Order

Librarian Carter Matheson is determined to enjoy himself on a Scottish bus tour for fans of mystery author Dame Vanessa Rayburn. Sure, his ex, Trevor, will also be on the trip with his new boyfriend, leaving Carter to share a room with a stranger, but he can’t pass up a chance to meet his favorite author.

Carter’s roommate turns out to be John Knight, a figure as mysterious as any character from Vanessa’s books. His strange affect and nighttime wanderings make Carter suspicious. When a fellow traveler’s death sparks rumors of foul play, Carter is left wondering if there’s anyone on the tour he can trust.

Drawn into the intrigue, Carter searches for answers, trying to fend off his growing attraction toward John. But as unexplained tragedies continue, the whole tour must face the fact that there may be a murderer in their midst—but who?

For any book lover, a tour through Scotland where you get to meet one of your favorite authors sounds like a dream vacation. And so it would be for librarian Carter Matheson…if only his ex, Trevor, and Trevor’s new boyfriend weren’t on the same tour. Still, Carter is determined to enjoy the trip, even if it kills him. And it just might. Because this tour destined for the home of famed mystery author Vanessa Rayburn is taking a potentially deadly turn. A fellow tourist has died under mysterious circumstances and the whispers are flying. Suddenly Carter can’t help but put on his amateur sleuth hat. Everyone’s behavior is suspect, even Carter’s mysterious and attractive roommate, John…

Strangers brought together by chance, mysterious deaths, gossip, and a cast of quirky characters far away from home all come together to form a cozy mystery in Murder Takes the High Road. Strains of Agatha Christie float through this tale which was enjoyable, but was missing that ineffable Josh Lanyon spark.

Murder Takes the High Road is a bit difficult for me to review and I spent over a month mulling it over because I don’t really have much to say about the story, either positive or negative. Ms. Lanyon is an excellent writer so this isn’t a bad book by any means. But it unfolds slowly and the sizeable set of characters Carter either chooses to or is forced to interact with aren’t very interesting. They’re like pieces in a chess set, moving across the board that is the mystery and are only of interest when they serve the plot. Because most of them are expendable (in the classic murder mystery way), I didn’t care much about their actions and I was much more interested in scenes with just Carter and John. From strangers to lovers, their romance is one I loved watching unfold. Carter is still dealing with the fallout of his breakup with Trevor, but John is no rebound for him. They have excellent chemistry and I loved them together so much that I really hope there is a sequel to this book because I’d love to learn more about John.

Murder Takes the High Road features an interesting mystery, one that’s slow to build but the payoff is worth it. The mystery does take up more page time than the romance, which isn’t a problem per se, but it did leave me wanting more. I’m a big fan of Ms. Lanyon’s work, so I can’t help but compare this book to others of hers that had more energy and drew me into the story more. Still, Murder Takes the High Road is a solid story and if you’re craving a Christie-type tale this book will serve you well.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Review: Hot and Badgered by Shelly Laurenston

Hot and Badgered by Shelly Laurenston
Series: The Honey Badger Chronicles, Book 1
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: Paranormal Romance
ISBN: 9781496714343
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

It’s not every day that a beautiful naked woman falls out of the sky and lands face-first on grizzly shifter Berg Dunn’s hotel balcony. Definitely they don’t usually hop up and demand his best gun. Berg gives the lady a grizzly-sized t-shirt and his cell phone, too, just on style points. And then she’s gone, taking his XXXL heart with her. By the time he figures out she’s a honey badger shifter, it’s too late.

Honey badgers are survivors. Brutal, vicious, ill-tempered survivors. Or maybe Charlie Taylor-MacKilligan is just pissed that her useless father is trying to get them all killed again, and won’t even tell her how. Protecting her little sisters has always been her job, and she’s not about to let some pesky giant grizzly protection specialist with a network of every shifter in Manhattan get in her way. Wait. He’s trying to help? Why would he want to do that? He’s cute enough that she just might let him tag along—that is, if he can keep up…

Ever since her mother died, Charlie Taylor-MacKilligan’s biggest job has been to take care of her sisters. Easier said than done and that’s before you take into account the three sisters’ no-good father who is constantly screwing up their lives. Charlie has never been able to rely on anyone, but all that changes when she falls – literally – into Berg Dunn’s life. Berg is a grizzly with a heart of gold and it’s in his nature to protect. After their initial meeting, he can’t get the gorgeous woman with a gun out of his mind. Charlie doesn’t like accepting help, but to protect her sisters she’ll do anything and her father’s latest “scheme” has landed them in more danger than before. And though she believes her family is cursed and doesn’t want to bring that kind of disaster down on the seriously cute Berg, she’s about to learn that this determined grizzly will do anything to capture her heart.

Hot and Badgered is totally bonkers, and I mean that in the very best way. It’s bright, loud, and wholly unique with a ton of zany characters who practically jump off the page and a slow-burn romance that made me smile.

I absolutely loved Berg. He’s big, strong, and protective, but he’s also so damn gone over Charlie that he made me melt. As for Charlie, she’s equally strong and just a bit crazy (partly due to being half honey-badger, partly because…well, take a look at her family). I loved watching Charlie and Berg slowly fall in love. I sighed and smiled as Charlie learned she could lean on Berg, that he understood sibling love and loyalty (he’s a triplet), and that he and his family could take on the MacKilligan crazy and keep rolling. Charlie and Berg’s romance slowly built over the course of the story and it was lovely to watch unfold.

I loved every moment with Charlie and Berg, so for me the one downside of Hot and Badgered is that they did at times feel pushed out of their own story. Max and Stevie (Charlie’s sisters) are every bit as important to the story as Charlie. They’re wild, over the top, interesting characters and I can’t wait to read their books. Max and Stevie added a lot of humor to the story, but they were a whole lotta personality and they did sometimes seem to drown out Charlie and Berg, who were the relatively calm voices. And while Hot and Badgered is the first book in the Honey Badger Chronicles, this series is a spinoff of Shelly Laurenston’s Pride series. As I haven’t read that series, the sheer amount of Pride characters popping up pulled me out of the story a bit, especially when it felt like some cameos were shoehorned in. Perhaps if I had an emotional attachment to the characters I wouldn’t have felt that way, so if you’re a Pride fan you might feel differently than I.

The plot of Hot and Badgered is pretty much impossible to talk about because there are so many storylines and characters that there’s no real way to summarize it. Multiple storylines, at least one of which looks to be a series-long arc, action, danger, and a ton of colorful characters keep the book moving at a breakneck pace. In the hands of a lesser author, this book would have spun out of control, but Ms. Laurenston deftly juggles everything in a truly inspiring way. This was my first foray into Ms. Laurenston’s work and I will definitely be coming back for more. If you’re looking for a paranormal romance that’s unique, Hot and Badgered definitely fits the bill.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Review: The Earl in My Bed by Stacy Reid

The Earl in My Bed by Stacy Reid
Series: Rebellious Desires, Book 2
Publisher: Entangled: Scandalous
Genre: Historical Romance
ISBN: 9781986680998
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

For years, Daphne Wentworth, Countess Carrington has loved her powerful, enigmatic husband, despite the fact that they married under less than ideal circumstances. But no more. Finally at her breaking point, Daphne intends to create a scandal so big, her austere husband will have no choice but to divorce her. Except everything goes awry when he surprises her with the last thing she expected.

Sylvester Wentworth, Earl of Carrington, has returned to London for one reason—to seduce his wife. After a near-death experience, he is in need of an heir and means to make his marriage a real one. To his shock, though, his wicked, beautiful countess wants the exact opposite, and he must now do everything possible to entice his countess to stay forever.

Sylvester and Daphne haven’t had an easy marriage. Six years ago they met and had an instant connection; one that was spoiled when Daphne’s father threatened to ruin Sylvester’s sister unless the earl came to heel. Since their fateful wedding, Sylvester has pretty much ignored Daphne, and the love she had for him has given way to a desperation to break free from the holding pattern she’s been in for years. Daphne is determined to court a scandal so big her husband will be forced to divorce her. There’s just one hitch in her plan: her husband doesn’t want a divorce.

Having recently escaped an assassination attempt, Sylvester believes it’s time to do his duty and beget an heir. Only Daphne isn’t exactly prepared to welcome him with open arms. For the first time, Sylvester is seeing past his own anger to truly look at Daphne. And he’ll have to do some heavy wooing if he wants to keep the wife he’s only just realizing is his perfect match.

I love good second chance romance and The Earl in My Bed fits that favored trope fairly well. Daphne and Sylvester have been in a strange freeze for the past six years – married, yet not. Sylvester is the only man Daphne has ever craved, but I loved that she didn’t just fall into his arms when he decided he wanted to be her husband in truth. Sylvester has his reasons for having been cold toward Daphne for years. Her father’s machinations nearly cost his sister her life and that’s not something a sibling can look past. Did I want to shake Sylvester for placing blame on Daphne? Of course. But Stacy Reid does a good job of balancing his flaws with strengths. Sylvester is fighting hard to abolish slavery in all British territories, risking his life in the process. He’s not a good husband at the beginning of this story, but he is a good man which means you want to see him succeed. I enjoyed the fact that Sylvester is self-aware enough to realize that he has royally screwed up with Daphne. She’s a kind, patient woman who has reached her breaking point because of him. Their romance in is slow to build, mostly because there’s so much distrust and hurt. I liked that the love story unfolded organically, that Daphne and Sylvester got to truly know one another before things heated up.

The Earl in My Bed is the second book in the Rebellious Desires series, but it can easily be read as a standalone (though it was lovely to get to see Georgiana and Rhys again). I always get caught up in Ms. Reid’s writing and this story was no exception. I finished this book looking forward to what scandals the next Rebellious Desires book has in store for readers.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.