Review: The Duke’s Embrace (with excerpt)

Book CoverThe Duke’s Embrace by Erica Ridley
My Rating: 3 Stars
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: December 3, 2019
Formats: eBook, Paperback

The Duke’s Embrace is the seventh book in Erica Ridley’s 12 Dukes of Christmas series. Sébastien le Duc, one of the local blacksmiths in the town of Cressmouth, is eager to return to his home country of France now that the family debt is paid off. Eve Shelling aspires to be a journalist whose stories are more than just fluff, yet finds it hard to be taken seriously in a world ruled by men. When the le Duc men decide to sell the blacksmithy in order to fund their voyage home, Eve is right there, telling their story.

I really enjoyed Eve’s ambitions in a world that did not favor women’s independence. She’s strong-willed and pushes the boundaries, trying to grow the Cressmouth Gazette into a true newspaper, even as her father circumvents her ideas. You won’t find Eve without her bullmastiff, who seems to be enamored by the le Duc’s pig, Chef.

Sébastien is still a bit of a mystery to me even with him being a point of view character. It might be that his current concerns were so limited in scope that we didn’t get a deep dive into who he is as a person. I did enjoy that we got both de Luc brothers interacting often in this story, especially as Lucien was quite a mystery after book six.

The Duke’s Embrace sheds a bit of the overly-witty banter found in the 12 Dukes series, which is a refreshing change and kept me more engaged in the story. It was a bit surprising that no one specifically named Sébastien as a “duke,” breaking the consistency from previous books in the series (though book six points out that all three le Duc siblings are “dukes” of Cressmouth). The village remains as charming as ever, regardless, though we see less of its inhabitants this time around.

The 12 Dukes books are all fast reads, but this one in particular would have benefited from a bit more development with their relationship. I still wasn’t sure why the couple fell for each other by the end, other than attraction. The conflict between the two was also too quickly resolved, as if both were willing to just forget the hurtful words they tossed around without at least talking out their problems.

This is a fun read that can be easily squeezed into a busy holiday week. What excites me the most about The Duke’s Embrace is the anticipation it creates for Lucien’s story, which will come in book eight.


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An excerpt from The Duke’s Embrace: Continue reading “Review: The Duke’s Embrace (with excerpt)”

Review: Forever and a Duke

Book CoverForever and a Duke by Olivia Drake
My Rating: 3.5-Stars
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: December 31, 2019
Formats: eBook, Paperback

Natalie Fanshawe has traveled from America to England with a singular purpose: to safely deliver an orphaned boy, Leo, to his grandfather. Leo has a penchant for mischief, and while searching for Leo during a travel stop, Natalie crosses paths with Hadrian Ames, the Duke of Clayton. Hadrian is on his way to meet a potential future bride, and doesn’t need any Americans disrupting his day.

She’s been raised to dislike the English aristocracy. He needs the perfect English bride. They’re both about to get what they absolutely didn’t expect.

Hadrian is portrayed as haughty, yet from the moment you dive into his point of view, you see that he’s a caring individual hiding behind a shell that his glittering world expects to see. He’s reluctant to get involved in Natalie and Leo’s lives, but he does the right thing.

In time, Hadrian begins breaking down all the prejudices that Natalie has regarding the aristocracy. Her knowledge was tainted by her father’s less-than-stellar life experiences, but she discovers that regardless of rank, there are people worthy of her respect. And as for the rest—they don’t need to accept her, she needs to accept them. To Natalie, that’s the meaning of being free. Equal. American.

This is a story of two people from opposite worlds coming together. The romance itself grows naturally and we see both characters evolve to accept their differences, similarities, and ultimately each other.

I would have rated this at four stars had the subplot involving Richard and his money troubles not dragged the story down a notch. It was predictable and didn’t add anything to a story already rife with its own conflict. Another reason for the downgrade in rating is that Leo is so centric to the plot… but (MINOR SPOILER, HIGHLIGHT TO SEE:) we never find out the resolution to his story.

Forever and a Duke is a charming tale of strong leads finding a way to make their differences work for each other. As it releases on December 31, it would be an enjoyable read to welcome in the new year.

 

I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: The Duke’s Bride

Book CoverThe Duke’s Bride by Erica Ridley
My Rating: 3 Stars
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: November 12, 2019
Formats: eBook, Paperback

Smuggler (and father) Jack Skeffington needs a governess to reign in his ten-year-old twins. Désirée le Duc needs the money to secure her trip home to France — finally — all the faster. Of course, neither of them harbor any feelings for the other.

Right?

The Duke’s Bride is the sixth entry in Erica Ridley’s 12 Dukes of Christmas series. The “duke” is rarely ever an actual duke, and this is the first one I’ve read where the duke is a woman (le Duc!). Disclaimer: I’ve only read three of the six, so that might not be an accurate accounting of the series.

Both Jack and Désirée are looking for different things in life. He wants to stay in Cressmouth village, raise his children, and not suffer the potential risk of losing another woman he loves again. Now that the war has ended, she wants to return, with her brothers, to reclaim her ancestral home in France and own her own vineyard. Jack isn’t willing to do anything that will disappoint his children, but as Annie and Fredrick’s opinions change about Désirée, he realizes that he is willing to risk it all.

Like all the 12 Dukes of Christmas books, this is a fast-paced story that doesn’t keep you dangling for long for that happy ending. The epilogue is one of the cutest I’ve seen in a while, probably because the twins are really the glue that brings the book together. I would have been more into The Duke’s Bride had Jack and Désirée’s relationship felt organic instead of its emphasis on an overwhelming attraction, but the characters are all likeable (and at times, a dash too witty) enough to pull me along for the ride.

If you want a heartwarming, family-centric holiday story that you can squeeze into your busy schedule, check out The Duke’s Bride.

The Duke’s Bride is out now and available in both eBook and paperback formats.

 

I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Dukes, Actually (with excerpt)

Book CoverDukes, Actually by Erica Ridley
My Rating: 4 Stars
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: October 22, 2019
Formats: eBook, Paperback

Dukes, Actually is the latest installment in Erica Ridley’s 12 Dukes of Christmas series. Adam Farland, the shy Duke of Azureford visiting his cabin in the village of Christmas (Cressmouth), asks extroverted socializer Miss Carole Quincy for help with his lack of conversational skills and the design of his new billiard room. The story is short and sweet, with the usual quirky cast of characters you can expect in a 12 Dukes book.

Carole has many passions, but the ones that burn most brightly are architecture and her commitment to her father’s well-being. Her commitment to caring for her absent (yet present) father is pretty extreme, and little by little you see her shed the mantle of caretaker that she never should have taken up in the first place. Adam nurturing her other interests helps her to gain the freedom of choice she was missing.

Adam seems aloof on the surface, but is so shy that he pretends to be detached. It isn’t until he sets aside his year-round dedication to Parliament and spends time talking about his real self that he learns to shed this fear—at least around Carole. He’s a bit hardheaded in his view of what his duchess should be (as are most dukes in historical romances), but nuances like his list of qualities modeled off of Carole are endearing and lead to Adam realizing that he doesn’t need perfection, but instead, the right person.

After losing her sketchbook in Adam’s library during a house party, the two are brought together as Carole insists on searching for it while he packs up his books for donations. Adam discovers her architectural talent, and the two find themselves in each other’s company for weeks as she directs the design of a new billiard room in Adam’s cabin. Though this is the premise that throws the two together, it’s the connections they make that seals the deal.

The town of Cressmouth/Christmas is as quirky as ever, with a spookily-accurate fortune teller, the never-ending feast at the castle, and familiar faces from the previous stories. Carole’s maid and Adam’s butler have a side romance going on as well, adding some hilarity to the book.

This is a witty and fun story that proves Paula Abdul’s assertion that opposites attract. The only drawback for me was that the ending felt rushed, especially after all the build-up that went into their relationship. It was a bit too easily resolved, but still gives a satisfying conclusion.


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An excerpt from Dukes, Actually: Continue reading “Review: Dukes, Actually (with excerpt)”

Review: The Widow of Rose House (with excerpt)

Book CoverThe Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller
My Rating: 4 Stars
Genre: Historical/Paranormal Romance
Release Date: October 8, 2019
Formats: eBook, Paperback

The Widow of Rose House is author Diana Biller’s debut novel set in New York City during the Gilded Age. This fast-paced read will give you everything you need for a perfect October book: engaging characters, a major ghost problem, and a spooky mystery that needs to be solved.

It’s 1875, and New York’s Gilded Age is in full swing. After fleeing her abusive husband, Alva Webster spent three years being pilloried in the newspapers of two continents. Now he’s dead, and she’s returned to New York to start over, restoring Liefdehuis, a dilapidated Hyde Park mansion for her new home decoration book and hopefully her reputation in the process. So when the eccentric and brilliant Professor Samuel Moore appears, threatening her fresh start with stories of a haunting at her house, she refuses to give him access. Alva doesn’t believe in ghosts.

A pioneer in electric lighting and a member of the nationally-adored Moore family of scientists, Sam’s latest obsession is ghosts. When he learns about a house with a surprising number of ghost stories, he’s desperate to convince its beautiful owner to let him study it. Can he find his way into her house…and her heart?

What really got me hooked into this story was not just the mysterious ghost issue at the mansion, but also the fact that both characters are extremely capable, and this makes them beautiful complements to each other. Alva is a woman who can get things done, and she doesn’t let anyone stand in her way. Her personality shines like an inspiring beacon of hope in an era that still treated women as weak. She has goals and she will do what it takes to achieve them. Sam was adorably eccentric, honest, and at times pushy. Though he’s famed for his many inventions, his intelligence is best seen in how he helps Alva emerge from the hardened shell that she had erected. He’s patient when she needs it and pushes at the fringes when she doesn’t.

I really enjoyed the pacing of the book⁠—it was hard to put it down for sleep, and harder still to wait until after work to finish it. This story will grab you in and keep you engrossed from start to finish. Sam’s family and his friend Henry are strong side characters that help to both complicate and further the story. Even the mansion itself has its own personality. The epilogue was brief, but it gave a satisfying look into Alva and Sam’s happily-ever-after—something I find myself missing in many recent historical romances, so it’s refreshing to see it done well here.

So after all of that praise, why the four stars? Most books have some sort of subplot, but in The Widow of Rose House, the story would have stood up fine without the additional drama. And despite my praise for Sam’s character, he seemed a bit too perfect at times (though being that messy would be a deal-breaker for me!).


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An excerpt from chapter one of The Widow of Rose House: Continue reading “Review: The Widow of Rose House (with excerpt)”