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!).


Widow-of-Rose-House-FULL-Book-Cover

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

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Review: The Spitfire

Book CoverThe Spitfire by Christi Caldwell
My Rating: 4-5 Stars
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: September 17, 2019
Formats: Kindle Unlimited, eBook, Paperback

The Spitfire is book #5 in the Wicked Wallflowers series. Even though it’s a departure from the Killoran family featured in the first four books, and wasn’t in Caldwell’s original plans for the series, this is the best book of the five.

Clara Winters has left behind the life as a courtesan and madam to become a self-made woman by opening a respectable music hall to be enjoyed by the masses. Henry March is an earl living a tightly-ordered life, obsessed with creating law and order across London. A late-night attack in Clara’s neighborhood leaves Henry nearly dead and Clara as his rescuer and nurse. Despite the provoking thoughts and interesting banter the two have, can their new-found friendship survive Henry’s return to politics?

This story didn’t have an insta-love situation and instead, Clara and Henry grow to know and love each other over many weeks. Both characters changed a lot from their involvement in each other’s lives. Clara grew beyond the shell of a woman who was burdened by her past and Henry emerged as a person who learned to love and appreciate who was around him, not just what he could accomplish.

The plot was engaging and moved quickly. Neither Clara nor Henry are perfect, and their flaws play well into the story. The first chapter kicks off so unconventionally that you can’t help but be hooked.

Henry’s sister, Lila, was a great supporting character in this story. She has her own demons and they won’t be easy to conquer. I’m hoping that she gets her own book someday, as her story is bound to be compelling.

This book was nearly a five-star review from me, which is rare. The reason it lost half a star is a sad but increasingly recent trend in historical romances: there is no epilogue. The final chapter did bring the main plot to a satisfying conclusion. But I want a look at the ever after part of happily ever after. I’m left wondering too much⁠—will they actually get married, will society cause problems, will they ever have children, and much more. Does all of that need answered? No. But without any of it, this story ends with a happily for now.

The Spitfire will release on September 17, 2019.

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

 

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Review: Sapphire Flames

Book CoverSapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews
My Rating: 3-Stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: out now
Formats: eBook, Paperback, Hardcover

Sapphire Flames is the fourth Hidden Legacy novel by Ilona Andrews and the first in a new trilogy. So completionists, be warned: the main plot of this book is solved, but neither the romance nor the overarching plot will reach a conclusion until the end of the current trilogy.

I had not read the previous three Hidden Legacy books. While I was a bit overwhelmed by the various unique terminology at first, everything was explained well enough, and naturally enough, throughout the course of Sapphire Flames that someone new to the series would feel just as welcome as a returning reader.

In a world where magic is the key to power and wealth, Catalina Baylor is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, and the Head of her House. Catalina has always been afraid to use her unique powers, but when her friend’s mother and sister are murdered, Catalina risks her reputation and safety to unravel the mystery.

But behind the scenes powerful forces are at work, and one of them is Alessandro Sagredo, the Italian Prime who was once Catalina’s teenage crush. Dangerous and unpredictable, Alessandro’s true motives are unclear, but he’s drawn to Catalina like a moth to a flame.

To help her friend, Catalina must test the limits of her extraordinary powers, but doing so may cost her both her House–and her heart.

Catalina was an interesting character who is aware of her responsibilities to her House. She is guided by her morals and struggles with rationalizing putting her family in danger and doing the right thing by helping a friend. She could do with a bit less of letting “Victoria Tremaine’s granddaughter rise to the surface,” but I do like Catalina’s strength and goals. However, soon she’s in too deep, and that’s where Alessandro enters the picture. Continue reading “Review: Sapphire Flames”

Series Review: Gothic Love Stories

Book CoverToo Wicked to Kiss, Too Sinful to Deny, Too Tempting to Resist, & Too Wanton to Wed
by Erica Ridley
My Rating: 3.5-Stars
Genre: Gothic Romance
Release Date: out now
Formats: Kindle Unlimited, eBook, or Paperback

The Gothic Love Stories series by Erica Ridley consists of books that were previously released before and have been edited and re-released. Books three and four were published under different titles in their prior editions: Too Tempting to Resist was known as Romancing the Rogue and Too Wanton to Wed was known as Dark Surrender.

Unlike a lot of Ridley’s writing, these books were darker and more substantial in length. The gothic theme is strong throughout three of the four titlesI found it lacking in Too Tempting to Resist, but the story was enjoyable regardless as a general historical romance. This series has murder, mystery, ghosts, creepy castles, intriguing plots, engaging characters, and so much more.

Each book is standalone with no cliffhangers and a HEA.

Continue reading “Series Review: Gothic Love Stories”

Series Review: Magic and Mayhem

Book CoverKissed by Magic, Must Love Magic, & Smitten by Magic by Erica Ridley
My Rating: 3.5-Stars
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Release Date: out now
Formats: Kindle Unlimited or eBook ($1/$3/$3)

The Magic and Mayhem series by Erica Ridley consists of books that were previously released before and are being edited and re-released. Out of the three, I had only read Kissed by Magic in the past when it was titled Let It Snow. The book Must Love Magic was previously released as Charmed, and Smitten by Magic was previously released as Midwinter Magic.

What I really enjoy about Erica Ridley’s writing is that her books are fast-paced, adventurous, and full of character development. While each title varies in the depth in which that is accomplished, she writes memorable stories that will stick with you in the days that follow.

Magic and Mayhem‘s books are all lighthearted and fun as well as a bit sexy. They each feature magic in different ways, from fairy tale castles to a paranormal courtroom to a bureaucracy of angels. There’s curses and talking horses and backfiring mechanical wands that turn things into pumpkins. Each book promises a fun fantasy adventure with a HEA.

The one thing the stories suffer from is something I find myself mentioning more and more often: the endings can be sudden and there’s no epilogues. When I spend time taking that romantic journey with the story’s main characters, I also want either an ending that doesn’t feel rushed or a glimpse into the future to show that yes, things continued to work out. In Must Love Magic, how did Daisy and Trevor juggle two completely different worlds? Did Sarah and Javier make a difference in the world with their new positions in Smitten by Magic? I don’t need all the answers, but I do desire some reassurance.

Individual book comments:

Kissed by Magic (3.5 stars): Lance needs some money and decides to rob a cursed castlewhat could possibly go wrong? There he meets Marigold, who has been trapped in a loop that repeated her birthday day for the past 6,000 years. It’s a lonely existence, and it’s up to Lance to break the curse and set them both free. This story has a classic fairy tale vibe that will give you warm fuzzies inside. Marigold must grow beyond her fears that she’ll lose Lance just like she’s lost everyone else, but it’s Lance that transforms the most throughout the story as it takes some unexpected twists and turns.

Must Love Magic (4 stars): Daisy le Fey just wants to earn her wings, and the tooth fairy business is sure to do that. It’s a shame that her mentor sent Daisy to retrieve a recently unearthed tooth that happens to be resting beneath an archaeologist’s face. Trevor needs more credibility and less crazy-fairy in his life. Up for tenure against an exasperating colleague, Trevor needs to decide what’s more important: work or love. Must Love Magic has some fantastic world building as we’re introduced to the realm of Nether-Netherland. Both the main and side characters were fully fleshed out. The biggest flaws of Daisy and Trevorthat the both were status-seekerstook longer for the characters to overcome than I expected. The few times to story went to the villain’s point of view detracted from what could have been an interesting element of surprise in the story’s events. However, I really enjoyed getting to know these characters and the many humorous hurdles they had to overcome.

Smitten by Magic (3 stars): Sarah Phimm is Javier’s guardian angel. She’s been there since the day he was born, and he was blissfully unaware of ituntil now. Forced to reveal herself, Sarah struggles to do her job by keeping Javier alive as he battles his conscious by performing risky good deed after risky good deed. The setting lost me mid-story though: where did that hardware store come from in the middle of nowhere? Why did Javier have cell phone service? Little details like that detracted from the believability factor of the setting, which was quite the contrast right after reading Must Love Magic. Regardless, this story had me hooked until the end, when it dropped off in an extremely rushed and convenient ending (that Javier did not react enough to at all).

The entire Magic and Mayhem series is available now!

I received an ARC of all three books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

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