2019 Book #9 – The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross

51rYxamUQJLTitle: The Beast’s Heart
Author: Leife Shallcross
Date finished: 2/7/19
Genre: Romance, fairy-tale retelling, fantasy
Publisher: Ace
Publication Date: February 12, 2019
Pages in book: 414
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

I am neither monster nor man—yet I am both.

I am the Beast.

He is a broken, wild thing, his heart’s nature exposed by his beastly form. Long ago cursed with a wretched existence, the Beast prowls the dusty hallways of his ruined château with only magical, unseen servants to keep him company—until a weary traveler disturbs his isolation.

Bewitched by the man’s dreams of his beautiful daughter, the Beast devises a plan to lure her to the château. There, Isabeau courageously exchanges her father’s life for her own and agrees to remain with the Beast for a year. But even as their time together weaves its own spell, the Beast finds winning Isabeau’s love is only the first impossible step in breaking free from the curse . . .

My rating:  2.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I read this book as part of the Bookish Romance Novel Bookish Bingo Reading Challenge. This book will be checking off my “Retelling” box, since its a retelling of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale!

So I just love Beauty and the Beast, I have since I was a kid. Who wouldn’t love a story about a smart, book-reading, law-abiding woman who gets kidnapped/rescued by a prince with a kick ass library! So I was intrigued by this novel as I’ve never thought about fully delving into the Beast’s point of view through this whole debacle. And I’m glad that I read this – there were definitely some interesting points to the novel and some creative differences from the original story line that I enjoyed. I didn’t end up loving this however, for a few reasons. I found the Beast’s “voice” to be, well, whiny. And pretty feminine-sounding for the character he was trying to portray. He just kept going on and on, the book ended up feeling so repetitive. And this book seemed (for me) to bring into stark light how unhealthy the Beauty and the Beast story line is. I’ve always loved the movie(s) but this scary dude kidnaps this young girl and its basically a romanticized case of Stockholm syndrome. While I will continue to like the story, the book itself and these particular versions of Beauty and the Beast didn’t really come to live for me. Also, as interesting as it sounded hearing the story from Beast’s point of view, I ended up finding it frustrating that I didn’t know what Isabeau / “Belle” was thinking at any of the times throughout the book. Overall I’m still glad I read the book since it did have some very creative aspects that were added to the traditional story line but overall it wasn’t my favorite read.

Link to author website

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2018 Book #99 – The Duke I Once Knew by Olivia Drake

Title: The Duke I Once Knew
Author: Olivia Drake
Date finished: 12/28/18
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: December 31, 2018
Pages in book: 333
Stand alone or series: #1 in the Unlikely Duchesses series
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

When two childhood sweethearts find themselves together after years apart, does their romance have a chance to be rekindled now that he’s a duke and she’s a governess? Olivia Drake’s new Unlikely Duchesses series begins with The Duke I Once Knew, where first love is always the sweetest…

For years, Abigail Linton devoted herself to caring for her parents and her siblings’ children. Now, eager to create a life of her own, Abby seizes upon a position as a governess on a neighboring estate. Unfortunately, her absentee employer is Maxwell Bryce, the Duke of Rothwell, the notorious rake who once broke her youthful heart. But since he hasn’t set foot on his estate for fifteen years, Abby assumes she’ll never have to lay eyes on him ever again. Then, from out of nowhere, Max appears. He is stunned to come face to face with the girl next door he fell for years ago—before he went away, and she stopped writing to him. . .even though Abby swears that he is the one who left her without a word. Could it be that this spirited, witty spinster has won Max’s heart all over again—and that they may have a second chance at love?

My rating:  3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I tend to accept more requests for first books in a series since it is sometimes easier than trying to jump in on the middle of a series. This book is the first in a new series by this author. Max (the hero in the story) was a little rough around the edges, it took me longer than I had expected to really start to like him. He ended up being an ok guy but he wasn’t my favorite hero. Abby was ok too, if a little weak. There was a plethora of characters but for the most part they were easy to keep track of – I made up a little Linton family tree with the first chapter to help me keep everything straight. Overall the childhood sweethearts reunited trope is not my favorite – it always makes me so sad that they’ve lost so much valuable time together. Overall the book was pretty good – there were parts of the book that I liked and parts that I didn’t like. It was definitely an enjoyable read though and a very sweet love story – I’d recommend it!

Link to author website

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2018 Book #97 – Not the Duke’s Darling by Elizabeth Hoyt

Title: Not the Duke’s Darling
Author: Elizabeth Hoyt
Date finished: 12/23/18
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Forever
Publication Date: December 18, 2018
Pages in book: 496
Stand alone or series: #1 in the Greycourt series
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Freya de Moray is many things: a member of the secret order of Wise Women, the daughter of disgraced nobility, and a chaperone living under an assumed name. What she is not is forgiving. So when the Duke of Harlowe, the man who destroyed her brother and led to the downfall of her family, appears at the country house party she’s attending, she does what any Wise Woman would do: she starts planning her revenge.

Christopher Renshaw, the Duke of Harlowe, is being blackmailed. Intent on keeping his secrets safe, he agrees to attend a house party where he will put an end to this coercion once and for all. Until he recognizes Freya, masquerading among the party revelers, and realizes his troubles have just begun. Freya knows all about his sins-sins he’d much rather forget. But she’s also fiery, bold, and sensuous-a temptation he can’t resist. When it becomes clear Freya is in grave danger, he’ll risk everything to keep her safe. But first, he will have to earn Freya’s trust…by whatever means necessary.

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I’ve really enjoyed Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series over the past few years, so I was excited to see that she had a new series coming out. I liked this book, the plot was really interesting. It was a very feminist inspired novel, which I’m cool with. It is always nice to read a book that empowers women, especially historical romances. I will say that this book had a lot going on – there were a lot of characters and a lot going on with the plot line. I had to take notes at first because I wanted to make sure I kept track of what was going on. I’m glad I stuck with it because the plethora of plot points and characters made for a really interesting story – I didn’t want to put the book down! The small down side was that I felt like we didn’t get to know some the characters very well since there were so many characters involved. I still really enjoyed it though and I’d recommend it! I look forward to seeing what’s next in the series.

Link to author website

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2018 Book #95 – Secret Sisters by Jayne Ann Krentz

Title: Secret Sisters
Author: Jayne Ann Krentz
Date finished: 12/17/18
Genre: Romantic suspense
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: December 8, 2015
Pages in book: 336
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Purchased!

Blurb from the cover:

Madeline and Daphne were once as close as sisters—until a secret tore them apart. Now it might take them to their graves.

They knew his name, the man who tried to brutally attack twelve-year-old Madeline in her grandmother’s hotel. They thought they knew his fate. He wouldn’t be bothering them anymore…ever. Still their lives would never be the same. 

Madeline has returned to Washington after her grandmother’s mysterious death. And at the old, abandoned hotel—a place she never wanted to see again—a dying man’s last words convey a warning: the secrets she and Daphne believed buried forever have been discovered.

Now, after almost two decades, Madeline and Daphne will be reunited in friendship and in fear. Unable to trust the local police, Madeline summons Jack Rayner, the hotel chain’s new security expert. Despite the secrets and mysteries that surround him, Jack is the only one she trusts…and wants. 

Jack is no good at relationships but he does possess a specific skill set that includes a profoundly intimate understanding of warped and dangerous minds. With the assistance of Jack’s brother, Abe, a high-tech magician, the four of them will form an uneasy alliance against a killer who will stop at nothing to hide the truth….

My rating:  4.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review:

I have read a lot of books by this author in the past and I just love her books. I purchased this book from a discount book store in Williamsburg, VA while I was on vacation a couple months ago. I have been having trouble keeping up with my review schedule (I’m chafing against how constrained I’ve been in my reading schedule the past few years) so I decided to pick this up and read it! 

I haven’t been super thrilled with some of this author’s other recent releases. It started to feel like there was a “plot formula” that was being followed. And while this book’s plot does still feel a bit similar to those I’ve read in the past, I still really enjoyed it. There were definitely some things that felt different about this one, I felt really interested in how things were going to turn out. And although I had somewhat of an idea, the plot twists kept me guessing right up until the end. There was a great build up in tension within the plot line but I still thought there was a lack of chemistry between the main characters. It felt almost like the emotions at play were a tad forced, it didn’t feel like there was a depth of real emotions there. This could have just been me personally not being able to connect much with the characters, but I find that this is a common issue for me with this author’s more recent work. It didn’t take much away from my enjoyment of the story though since I enjoyed the plot line so much. I’d still recommend reading it!

Link to author website

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2018 Book #93 – A Christmas Date by Camilla Isley

Title: A Christmas Date
Author: Camilla Isley
Date finished: 12/9/18
Genre: Contemporary romance, romantic comedy
Publisher: Pink Bloom Press
Publication Date: October 25, 2018
Pages in book: 231
Stand alone or series: #3 in the First Comes Love series
Where I got the book from: Author/publisher NOTE: I received this book for free from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

No one wants to be single at the holidays.

Even Little Miss Grinch, Nikki, a successful and independent woman, must face her bachelorette status at the most horrible time of the year.

December is her personal version of holly-jolly hell: a merry torture made of couples kissing at every corner, forced vacation days, and an inescapable family reunion.

And when her baby sister announces she’s engaged—to Paul, the man Nikki is secretly in love with—and that he’s spending the holidays with them, Christmas starts looking bluer than ever.

Nikki can’t possibly survive an entire week trapped home as the family’s spinster. But she has no time to meet men or to try the newest dating app, she’s too busy working as a video producer for an advertising agency. 

So what’s a girl to do? 

Nikki has the perfect solution: to hire a fake boyfriend.

Luckily, her job gives her access to an endless catalog of gorgeous actors to choose from.

But Nikki will soon discover that keeping business and pleasure from mixing isn’t so easy, and that she might not be immune to a little mistletoe magic. Especially not when she picked out the perfect man as her Christmas date…

My rating: 4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. 

So far I’ve read the other 2 books in this series and I have to say overall this is just a great series. The books are laugh out loud funny and short enough to hold your interest but long enough to still have a well developed story line. If you’re looking for a fairly quick but still engaging and fun read, these are the books for you! The characters in this book in particular were great – I liked Nikki a lot and I liked Diego a good amount as well. A lot of the characters in this book tended to be a little selfish, which isn’t necessarily my favorite thing, but it didn’t take too much away from my overall enjoyment of the book. I loved seeing the relationship develop between Diego and Nikki – the tension between their characters was really well done and the emotions in the story fairly leapt off the page. I really liked the book a lot and I would recommend it!

And the end of the Kindle book version included a preview for the author’s next novel. I don’t usually read previews but I did end up reading this one and it looked great! I really hope I get a chance to read it when it comes out!

Link to author website

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2018 Book #91 – My One and Only Duke by Grace Burrowes

Title: My One and Only Duke
Author: Grace Burrowes
Date finished: 11/25/18
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Forever
Publication Date: November 6, 2018
Pages in book: 465
Stand alone or series: #1 in the Rogues to Riches series
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

One minute, London banker Quinn Wentworth is facing execution. The next, he’s declared the long-lost heir to a dukedom. Quinn has fought his way up from the worst slums, and now he’s ready to use every dirty trick he knows to find the enemy who schemed against him.

Jane Winston, the widowed and pregnant, crosses paths with Quinn while her father is preaching to the prisoners. Believing his days are numbered, Quinn offers her marriage as a way to guarantee her independence and provide for her child. Neither thinks they’ll actually have a future together.

He’s a wealthy gutter rat out for vengeance. She’s a minister’s daughter who must turn a marriage of desperation into a proper ducal union. Are they doomed from the start or destined for a happily-ever-after?

My rating:  3.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

This one was pretty long. For the most part I was able to stay interested but there were a couple parts where I though it got a tad dull. Overall though I thought the plot for this book was pretty creative – I haven’t read many other romance novels with similar plots. That being said I thought the ending wrapped up a little too quickly, for how drawn out the rest of the story was I thought the ending all came together pretty fast. Due to the length the reader is able to get to know the characters a little better, which I did enjoy. I didn’t love Quinn’s character though, even with the extra time. He was a little too deceptive for my tastes and Jane was so generous and loving. Other than items already discussed, I did enjoy this book. It wasn’t necessarily my favorite (mostly because it took me so long to get through) but I did enjoy it. I’d recommend it, especially since the plot was so different. 

Link to author website

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2018 Book #92 – The Duke of Kisses by Darcy Burke

51eQF-PRE9LTitle: The Duke of Kisses
Author: Darcy Burke
Date finished: 11/27/18
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Self-published
Publication Date: November 27, 2018
Pages in book: 254
Stand alone or series:  The Untouchables series Book #11
Where I got the book from: Social Butterfly PR
NOTE: 
I received this book for free from Social Butterfly PR in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Frances Snowden can hardly believe her good fortune when she’s whisked away from her boring life by her sister who is now a duchess. Instead of becoming the third wife of her parents’ stuffy neighbor, she can be anything she wants: a doting aunt to her newborn niece, a debutante in London, or even an independent spinster. But when she meets and kisses a mysterious man on a walk in the countryside, she knows exactly what she desires—him.

David Langley, Earl of St. Ives, is resigned to marrying the dull woman his parents chose when he was a child. His future is suddenly, and happily, diverted when he encounters a captivating young woman who shows him everything he’s been missing. Ready to embark on a blissful life together, a long-buried feud between their families makes their marriage impossible. Nothing is more important than duty and family, but can he turn his back on love?

My rating:  3.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I’ve been following this series for a little while now and I do enjoy each of the new stories that come out.  I really liked Fanny’s character in this book, though that is definitely not my favorite name for a heroine. David and Fanny were a really sweet couple and their story was definitely romantic. I felt bad for the other girl (Miss Stokes) since she seemed to like David and couldn’t really understand why she was being thrown out of the running. Also – there were a ton of characters in this book, and I had a lot of trouble keeping track of who everyone was, especially with their first and second names being used interchangeably. Other than that though, I did enjoy the book as it was romantic and sweet. I would recommend giving this book a read, along with the rest of the series!

Link to author website

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