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Review: Devil In My Arms – Samantha Kane

Devil In My Arms

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Expected Release Date: November 26, 2013
Publisher: Random House
Imprint: Loveswept
Author’s Website: http://samanthakane.us
My Source for This Book: Netgalley
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 3, The Saint’s Devils Series
Series Best Read In Order: Worked well as a standalone
Steam Level: Steamy
Pet Peeves:
Favorite Tropes: Abused Heroine, On The Run, Affair Turns To Love, Courtroom Drama

Official Blurb:

One by one, the Saint’s Devils – Samantha Kane’s wicked, wonderful Regency heroes – continue to enchant the women who capture their rakish hearts. 

Even though she is starving and destitute, Eleanor Enderby’s quiet beauty strikes Sir Hilary St. John speechless. He expects the woman he’s searching for to be skittish and plain. Instead he finds the picture of bravery – and willfulness – in his quarry. She gives away little, but Hil can see something is terribly amiss. And though he cannot say exactly why, he is determined not to let her come to more harm than whatever it is she has already survived.

Six months later, Eleanor believes she has finally found safety from the tyrant she risked her life to escape. Thought to be dead by society, Eleanor is ready to be reborn as someone new – someone whose life will never again be tied to the fate of one man. But her smoldering savior seems unwilling to leave her unprotected for an instant. Despite the threats he thinks he sees coming, the real dangers Eleanor faces in Hil’s arms are unmistakable: temptation, seduction, and maybe even love.

What Worked For Me:

  • I’m always a sucker for an abused heroine, even when the abuse is emotional rather than physical.  The abuse that Eleanor experienced at the hands of her husband were no less traumatic in the lack of physical bruises, and it instantly made her a very sympathetic character for me.
  • On a similar note, one of my quirks is that I love it when characters are phsycially starving. I think this appeals to me because it shows the character has truly fallen on hard times, rather than simply having to wear shabbier clothing or not move in the same social circles that they’re used to. In this case, it really helped to illustrated Eleanor’s desperation to escape the clutches of her abusive husband.
  • I also enjoyed Sir Hilary’s character.  A historical Private Eye, complete with all of the cleverness and hubris one would expect from such a man.
  • The murder mystery was quite a bit of fun, even though I wasn’t thrilled with the identity of the culprit.  Ms. Kane did an excellent job of utilizing a ticking-clock so to speak, and the tension was lovely.
  • How often do we get to see a “courtroom drama” in a historical romance? Almost never, right?  That’s why I adored watching the proceedings of Eleanor’s trial, even if I’m not 100% certain the unfolding drama was historically accurate.  I especially loved that she almost wasn’t allowed to even present a defense — the concept is strange to those of us used to modern American trial law, but seemed to really fit in with the times.
  • I also really enjoyed the fact that Eleanor and Sir Hilary set out to have a rather uncomplicated affair rather than either actually seeking any courtship from the other.  Eleanor wasn’t the “typical” romance heroine, and it fit that her goals in life would be different from a woman in different circumstances.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • As mentioned above, I wasn’t thrilled with the choice of the culprit for the murder mystery.  On one hand, I could see that it was the right choice to have the villain be one who was more interested in taking down our hero than our heroine, but on the other hand, it almost felt as if it came completely out of left field. Then again, I haven’t read the other books in the series, and that was probably to my detriment as far as this issue is concerned. Perhaps it would have felt more organic to me if I had the other two books to use a background. As it was, it felt as if it were reaching a bit to give the villain this particular identity.

I admit, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I haven’t read the other books in the series, so I wasn’t certain of what to expect, but what I found was a dramatic tale of a heroine desperate to escape her emotionally abusive husband, the private investigator hired by her family to find her, and a captivating murder mystery, all wrapped up with a tense courtroom drama.  That doesn’t even include the heat and chemistry between our hero and heroine, with both of them finding that keeping their hearts unengaged was more of a struggle than they’d anticipated.

I loved that even though she’d wound up poor and starving, Eleanor never once lost her determination or spirit, and it was that strength that really appealed to me from the start.  Her plan to escape was actually rather brilliant, and when things took a surprising turn, I found myself glued to the pages wondering how she would escape again.

Hilary, too, was a favorite of mine, with both his cleverness and his own determination to see Eleanor free.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching him tease out the clues of the murder mystery, and his own desperation to keep Eleanor safe was delicious.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one.

Recommended to fans of historical courtroom dramas,  a strong heroine brought down by circumstance, and a hero that will do absolutely anything to save the woman he loves.

4.5/5 Stars

Review: My Lady Quicksilver – Bec McMaster

My Lady Quicksilver

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Expected Release Date: October 1, 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Imprint: Casablanca
Author’s Website: http://www.becmcmaster.com/
My Source for This Book: Netgalley
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 3, London Steampunk Series
Series Best Read In Order: Probably, but would stand well on its own.
Steam Level: Hot
Pet Peeves: Adultery/Infidelity (Sort Of, Minor)
Favorite Tropes: Enemies To Lovers, Secret Identity

Official Blurb:

Determined to destroy the Echelon she despises, Rosalind Fairchild is on seemingly easy mission. Get in. Uncover the secrets of her brother’s disappearance. And get out.

In order to infiltrate the Nighthawks and find their leader, Sir Jasper Lynch, Rosalind will pose as their secretary. But she doesn’t count on Lynch being such a dangerously charismatic man, challenging her at every turn, forcing her to re-evaluate everything she knows about the enemy.

He could be her most dangerous nemesis—or the ally she never dreamed existed.

What Worked For Me:

  • This never counts for or against a book’s rating, but really, look at that gorgeous cover! That is art I wouldn’t mind having as a print in my office.
  • I would be remiss not to mention my deep and abiding love for the world that Ms. McMaster has created.  With “blue bloods” — nobles that are infected with a craving virus that makes stronger and more powerful but having the tiny downfall of needing to drink human blood — replacing the titled gentlemen of the ton in a traditional Victorian romance, and debutantes who vie for the right to be taken into a “thrall contract” in place of a titled marriage, this new twist on vampires captured my interest from the very first book.  I love also that those who were “accidentally” infected with the craving virus are considered rogues, skirting the fringes of high society so like those born on the wrong side of the blanket in books that we are used to.  Throw in the growing rebellion of the lower classes and this becomes one of the most intriguing series I’ve read in a long time. 
  • Though the love scenes in no way overwhelmed the story, they were hot. Mmmmph. The chemistry between Rosalind and Lynch has always been present, but it grows exponentially throughout the story, and I love the whole possessive/animalistic hero. Guh.
  • Lynch was everything I’d hoped for and more.  The entire concept of the Nighthawks has fascinated me from the beginning, and seeing him in his element was lovely. More than that, though, was his tight control over his impulses, which of course somewhat lead to his delightful downfall.
  • I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Rosalind’s character, especially when she was posing as Rosa, Lynch’s new secretary.  Seeing her grow as a character from a hardened woman full of anger and hatred, into a woman who began to see that not everything was black and white was a joy.
  • I also really liked the mystery behind the attacks in the blue blood families. It wasn’t just the mystery, though, but the actual investigation that really drew me in and refused to let go.  I loved watching Rosalind (masquerading as Rosa, Lynch’s new secretary) assist in the investigation, and I of course am deeply in love with the scene that involved an up-close-and-personal discovery of the source of the madness (as well as the scrumptious scenes that followed).
  • Oh the ending was fantastic. Just when you honestly think there can be no happy ending, Ms. McMaster throws in the perfect little twist to make things work out exactly as they should.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • Cheating is a big no-no for me, even when the person you’re cheating with is actually the secret alter-ego of the person you’re cheating on. The key factor being that the person doing the cheating didn’t realize that these two people were actually one and the same, so while it may not be “technically” cheating, it was still cheating in spirit and it didn’t sit well with me, no matter how incredibly hot the scene was.
  • There is a certain scene towards the end that was glossed over completely as though it were of no importance, much to my disappointment. No spoilers — I am fairly certain that when you read it, you will know which scene I speak of.

I’ve been anxiously awaiting this book ever since the final pages of the previous book, Heart of Iron. I love the Enemies To Lovers trope in romance, and this one certainly didn’t disappoint.  With Lynch on the hunt for the elusive rebel leader, Mercury, and Mercury herself hiding right under his nose, there was plenty of excitement and subterfuge, and I loved getting an inside look into the Nighthawks.

The world-building is fantastic, as it has been throughout the series, and I simply cannot get enough of this world where the glittering sphere of the Echelon clashes so perfectly with the dark, gritty world of the mechs and the working class.

The battle between the blue bloods and the humanists really heats up in this story, and the hunt for Mercury as well as the humanists’ plans for war really come to life.

Getting inside of Rosalind’s head was wonderful, and I loved the insight into not only her past but also her heart.  I’ve known ever since he first graced the pages that Lynch was a man of great depth, and seeing him, especially at his most vulnerable, made me all for him even harder.

Bottom line  — I adored this book.  Had it not been for the kind-of-sort-of-but-maybe-not-really cheating, it very likely would have been a full five stars for me.  As it is, though, it was still a wonderful, exciting, sexy read, and it is firmly on my keeper shelf.

4half4.5/5 Stars

Review: How To Lose A Bride In One Night – Sophie Jordan

How To Lose A Bride In One Night

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Expected Release Date: July 30, 2013
Publisher: HarperCollins
Imprint: Avon
Author’s Website: http://www.sophiejordan.net/
My Source for This Book: Edelweiss
Part of a Series: Yes, Forgotten Princesses, Book 3
Series Best Read In Order: Works well as a standalone
Steam Level: Steamy
Pet Peeves: {Cannot List Without Being A Spoiler}
Favorite Tropes: Plain Heroine, Disability, PTSD

Official Blurb:

He saved her life…

When Annalise Hadley is tossed over the side of her honeymoon barge, the newly-minted duchess knows she’s been left for dead — for her husband’s only interest is in her vast dowry, not her muddied lineage. However, she didn’t count on a savior. Especially not an honorable, sinfully intriguing earl who will tempt her to risk everything—again.

Now he will seduce her heart and soul

A man with his own demons, Owen Crawford, the reclusive Earl of McDowell, is enchanted by the mysterious, courageous woman he rescued. He will help her heal, teach her to protect herself, and then send her away—so that she’ll never see he’s far from the hero she believes him to be.

But days and nights alone prove that some secrets are meant to be discovered…some desires are too powerful to resist…and some wounds can only be healed by love.

What Worked For Me:

  • I’ve been interested in Owen’s character ever since he was first mentioned in the previous novella, The Earl In My Bed. It was wonderful to see his point of view on the marriage of his brother and his ex-fiance, as well as find out some of what had happened to while he was fighting in battle.
  • I do love a “damaged” heroine, and the somewhat plain, awkward Annalise, with her background and painful betrayal by her newlywed husband was wonderful.
  • I enjoyed the time spent in the gypsy camp — it was an unexpected turn of events, but I really enjoyed the characters there as well as the slowly developing relationship between Owen and Anna.
  • I did enjoy the sexual tension between Owen and Anna, especially with her dilemma about already being married (though the marriage was, of course, unconsummated).

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • Although I know it goes along with a “true” Happily Ever After, I was really disappointed about the results of Annalise’s injury. I’m trying to avoid spoilers, but it should be obvious which part I am referring to for those who have read it.
  • While I absolutely understood her very logic reasoning, I began to find myself annoyed with Annalise for not telling Owen the truth, or at a bare minimum trying to reach out to her sisters.  The deception was dragged out to the point that it felt almost unnecessary.  I think, perhaps, some of my dissatisfaction stems from the fact that the previous characters in the series did not make more of an appearance, though I can understand the desire to focus more on the main couple as well as make it more of a stand alone title.
  • Though this is a minor point because the heroine did it on purpose, I still didn’t particularly care for the scene where Anna allowed Owen to see her in the bath. It’s just.. not my thing.

Ever since I read the excerpt of the first chapter for this book at the end of The Earl In My Bed, I have greatly anticipated this read.  While it definitely delivered on some fronts — the sexual tension between Owen and Anna, the horrifying betrayal by her “husband”, and the angst of being crippled and somewhat plain in a society that places beauty and perfection in the highest regard — in other areas, it fell a bit short.

I was disappointed in not only how long Anna kept her identity a secret, but also the aftermath of her broken leg.  Add to that the minor issue of Owen seeing Anna in the bath, as well as the almost over-the-top villainous husband, and I ended up feeling a tiny bit let down.

Still, I did enjoy getting to know Owen’s character, and I admit I did enjoy seeing plain, shy, unassuming Annalise come into her own.

Overall, still as solidly enjoyable read.

04stars

4/5 Stars

 

Review: Texas Wide Open – K.C. Klein

Texas Wide Open

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Expected Release Date:  November 15, 2012
Publisher: Kensington
Imprint: Kensington Trade/eKensington
Author’s Website: http://kckleinbooks.com/
My Source for This Book: Gift from the author
Part of a Series: No
Series Best Read In Order: N/A
Steam Level: Steamy
Pet Peeves: Adultery or Infideliy, Too Much Emphasis On Secondary Romance
Favorite Tropes: Unrequited Love, Good Use Of Flashbacks

Official Blurb:

Katie Harris loved growing up on a ranch. She had her horse, the beautiful Texas prairie, and Cole Logan, the cowboy next door. But there are a lot of secrets hidden under a Texas sky…

Katie always knew she’d marry Cole one day—until he broke her dreams and her heart. But now that Katie’s father is sick, she’s back home, older, wiser and nowhere near the love-sick fool she once was.

Cole knows Katie doesn’t want anything to do with him. But after so many years, he can’t pretend she’s no more than a neighbor. Not when thinking about her cherry lip gloss and hell-for-leather passion is keeping him up all night. Holding his ground was hard enough when she was seventeen. Now that she’s her own woman, Cole’s heart doesn’t stand a chance…

What Worked For Me:

  • The angst. Oh, the angst!  I loved every painful moment of the unrequited love, and the push and pull between Katie and Cole. 
  • I’m not usually a big fan of flashbacks in fiction, but the author did a wonderful job of using them to create tension and tell the past story, without abusing them or making things confusing.
  • There’s also a strong presence of a good secondary romance. I admit, I was annoyed at first (and in the end — see section below) by the story getting sidetracked as it did, but in the end, even with the way things ended up, I enjoyed that subplot quite a bit.
  • The chemistry and the angst of this story were so intertwined that I can’t actually separate the two, but there was scrumptious tension between Katie and Cole.
  • loved that things weren’t always as they seemed, and this rather goes back to the flashbacks a bit, but I really enjoyed seeing things from both a youthful and an older perspective of all of the characters.
  • I loved how the ranch life was woven into the story. A self-proclaimed City Girl, I’ve never had any experience with horses outside of some rather ill-fated riding lessons when I was younger, and yet the world of the ranch simply… was. It never felt forced, or as though it were merely set dressing, but instead was simply the world that Katie and Cole were a part of.  Very well done.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • I don’t like infidelity in my romances, even when that infidelity is a matter of the the hero or heroine being “in a relationship” with someone else when the relationship between the hero and heroine is being rekindled. 
  • I enjoyed the secondary romance in the story, but was disappointed that it was left open ended after so much time had been spent on building it up. I’m not certain if this was the setup for the next story in a possible series, or if this was simply the author’s choice to give a more bittersweet feel to an angsty story rather than big fluffy bunny happy endings, but either way, it was a let down.

As most followers of my reviews already know, I tend to shy away from contemporary novels in general, but as a fan of Ms. Klein’s sci-fi tales, I couldn’t turn this one down.

The use of flashbacks was brilliant, and expertly crafted to build tension without becoming tiresome, and the copious amounts of angst and heartache in the story were sublime.

The two biggest, and really only, drawbacks for me were the presence of infidelity on the part of one of the protagonists, as one of them was involved in a relationship with another person when Katie was unexpected thrust back into Cole’s path, and the secondary romance between Jett and Nikki.  The former is simply a pet peeve of mine, and the latter threw me off quite a bit.  Cole and Katie’s tale is interrupted somewhere around halfway through by a full albeit integrated secondary tale of Cole’s sister Nikki and Cole’s best friend, Jett.  As the story progressed, I began to really enjoy the secondary storyline, but was incredibly disappointed by the ending — so much time had been spent building up things between them, but the ending is at worst unsatisfying and at best bittersweet, and not at all what I was expecting as the book was obviously drawing to a close.

Even so, the emotional roller coaster that was Cole and Katie’s relationship made it more than worth the while to read.  This is not a light, fluffy romance by any means, but I think that those looking for a harder road to a happy ending will be quite pleased.

4half
4.5/5 Stars, and I’m really hoping that Nikki and Jett get a sequel.