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)”

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”