2020 Book #4 – Hunting for a Highlander by Lynsay Sands

51Oio45BkYLTitle: Hunting for a Highlander
Author: Lynsay Sands
Date finished: 1/17/20
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: January 28, 2020
Pages in book: 384
Stand alone or series: #8 in the Highland Brides series
Where I got the book from: Edelweiss
NOTE: I received this book for free from Edelweiss 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:

Four Buchanan brothers have found their brides…only three more to go in this scintillating romance from New York Times bestselling author Lynsay Sands…

Lady Dwyn Innes feels utterly out of place among the eligible women who’ve descended on Buchanan Keep, vying for the attention of the last unmarried brothers. She isn’t long-legged and slender like her sisters, or flirtatious and wily like other lasses. Since her betrothed died, Dwyn has resigned herself to becoming an old maid. Yet a chance encounter with a stranger in the orchard awakens her to a new world of sensation and possibility…

After weeks away, Geordie Buchanan returns to find his home swarming with potential brides, thanks to his loving but interfering family. But one lass in particular draws his attention from the moment he spies her climbing a tree. Lady Dwyn is not nearly as plain as she thinks. Her lush figure and eager kisses delight him, as does her honesty. But the real test lies ahead: eliminating a hidden enemy, so that he and Dwyn can seal their Highland passion with a vow.

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 have read others in the series and always enjoy reading Lynsay Sands and was glad to have the opportunity to read her upcoming release. This was a pretty good book, I enjoyed it. I struggled a little because I never was able to read it during a time when I could really concentrate on it, I was reading it in spurts here and there so it was a little harder to get into the plot line. Overall though the plot line was good. There were some good plot twists, most were predictable but they were good just the same. And I loved how honest the conversation was amongst the main characters, especially Geordie and Dwyn. Their frank conversation was refreshing while also being pretty hilarious at times. Some of the characters seemed a little ridiculous, only because they seemed to be overly exaggerated – some to the point of being caricature-like. And there was a lot of mention of other characters who seemed to have had their own books. Most of those characters I didn’t know since I didn’t read their books but that didn’t take any enjoyment out of the book for me. Overall I thought it was a really enjoyable, entertaining, and exciting read. I’d definitely recommend it!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2019 Book #102 – Forever My Duke by Olivia Drake

51200dkZwOLTitle: Forever My Duke
Author: Olivia Drake
Date finished: 12/31/19
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: December 31, 2019
Pages in book: 384
Stand alone or series: #2 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:

Hadrian Ames, the Duke of Clayton, needs a bride. He even has the perfect one picked out. That is, until he meets the lovely, free-spirited Natalie Fanshawe. She’s the opposite of what a man of his high rank should desire in a wife—an outspoken American who has never even set foot in a London ballroom.

But Natalie doesn’t have time to be swept off her feet by a handsome duke who must be a spoiled scoundrel like every other British lord. And she couldn’t care less about Hadrian’s title. After all, it’s not as if he actually worked to attain his wealth and status. He surely can’t understand what it’s like to be a busy woman, planning to open a school while trying to reunite a six-year-old orphan with his English relatives. Nevertheless, Hadrian launches his campaign to win her heart. Can the utterly delightful American beauty ever find a way to love him…despite his being a duke?

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.

I had also read the first book in this series, The Duke I Once Knew, and I wanted to read the next one in the series. I liked this book ok – it was a good romance read but it wasn’t my favorite. I got pretty frustrated with Natalie and how much stock she was putting in Hadrian saying he loved her. The words can be important but she was going to go all the way back to America just because he didn’t say the words, while it was pretty obvious from his actions that he did love her. Some of the conversations / interactions I thought were a little stilted / awkward. It was a sweet story though. I loved Leo’s character and his connection to Hadrian and his childhood. I really enjoyed the side characters in this novel too, they were especially entertaining. I’d still say that I’d recommend this one, though it wasn’t my favorite.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2019 Book #100 – The Prince of Broadway by Joanna Shupe

51BMJcQBlcLTitle: The Prince of Broadway
Author: Joanna Shupe
Date finished: 12/29/19
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: December 30, 2019
Pages in book: 384
Stand alone or series: #2 in Uptown Girls series
Where I got the book from: Edelweiss
NOTE: I received this book for free from Edelweiss 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:

In the second novel in Joanna Shupe’s the Uptown Girl series, a ruthless casino owner bent on revenge finds his plans upended by a beautiful woman who proves to be more determined than he is–and too irresistible to deny.

Powerful casino owner.
Ruthless mastermind.
Destroyer of men.

He lives in the shadows . . .

As the owner of the city’s most exclusive casino, Clayton Madden holds the fortunes of prominent families in the palms of his hands every night. There is one particular family he burns to ruin, however, one that has escaped his grasp . . . until now.

She is society’s darling . . .

Florence Greene is no one’s fool. She knows Clayton Madden is using her to ruin her prestigious family . . . and she’s using him right back. She plans to learn all she can from the mysterious casino owner–then open a casino of her own just for women.

With revenge on his mind, Clay agrees to mentor Florence. However, she soon proves more adept–and more alluring–than Clay bargained for. When his plans are threatened, Clay must decide if he is willing to gamble his empire on love.

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.

I haven’t read anything by this author in the past (I’m fairly sure) but I’ve heard so many good things about her novels on the podcasts I listen too. And I saw her speak recently at an event that I went to, so I was excited to try one of her novels. This book reminded me a LOT of another book I read recently, Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas. I haven’t read a lot of historical romances set during this time period and while I enjoyed it, it was definitely a change. The women in this novel were very rebellious. Like more rebellious than I was even during this modern time period. So that piece of the story line felt a little off to me. Though you wouldn’t be able to set up the story line otherwise so it was necessary. The story line itself felt a little drawn out too – some pieces started to feel redundant. All that being said, I did enjoy a lot about this book. This was a very feminist novel, and it had a lot of strong female characters. I liked a lot of Florence’s character though she was a bit naive of the risks she was taking on with her actions. Overall though it was a sweet story and I’d recommend it.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2019 Book #82 – The Lady’s Deception by Susanna Craig

51dl92DyeEL (1).jpgTitle: The Lady’s Deception
Author: Susanna Craig
Date finished: 10/27/19
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Publication Date: October 29, 2019
Pages in book: 288
Stand alone or series: Rogues & Rebels #3
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:

Can a runaway English bride find love with a haunted Irish rebel?
 
Paris Burke, Dublin’s most charismatic barrister, has enough on his mind without the worries of looking after his two youngest sisters. The aftermath of a failed rebellion weighs on his conscience, so when the young English gentlewoman with an unwavering gaze arrives, he asks far too few questions before hiring her on as governess. But her quick wit and mysterious past prove an unexpected temptation.

Rosamund Gorse knows she should not have let Mr. Burke think her the candidate from the employment bureau. But after her midnight escape from a brother bent on marrying her off to a scoundrel, honesty is a luxury she can no longer afford. With his clever mind and persuasive skill, Paris could soon have her spilling her secrets freely just to lift the sorrow from his face. And if words won’t work, perhaps kisses would be better?

Hiding under her brother’s nose, Rosamund knows she shouldn’t take risks. If Paris learns the truth, she might lose her freedom for good. But if she can learn to trust him with her heart, she might discover just the champion she desires . . .

My rating:  2.5 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. Also I’m reading this book as part of my October Bookish Bingo Reading Challenge, checking of the “protagonist has a cat” box since a kitten played a big part of the interactions between the two main characters.

I haven’t read anything by this author before but I really liked the cover and was interested in giving it a try. I liked the book a good amount but there was a lot that I wasn’t thrilled with also. Rosamund was so very strong willed and I really liked that about her character, but at the same time she was so unbearably naive. And Paris was in some ways a great example of a romance novel hero but he was also very selfish and self-absorbed. There was a lot in this book too that seemed to be related to characters from previous novels in the series – I think I would’ve felt more connected to the story line if I had had some involvement in those story lines as well. And their relationship felt like it was progressing slowly but then it went warp speed when they started getting physical and it just didn’t feel developed enough for what was happening. Overall I liked the book ok but wasn’t especially excited about it.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2019 Book #80 – The Duke’s Stolen Bride by Sophie Jordan

512jesA6P5LTitle: The Duke’s Stolen Bride
Author: Sophie Jordan
Date finished: 10/22/19
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: October 22, 2019
Pages in book: 368
Stand alone or series: #5 in The Rogue Files series
Where I got the book from: Edelweiss
NOTE: I received this book for free from Edelweiss 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:

An urgent dilemma…

To save her impoverished family, Marian Langley will become a mistress. But she will not be just any mistress. Marian intends to become so skilled, so coveted, that she can set her own terms, retaining control over her body and her fate. Only one problem remains: finding a tutor…

A scandalous solution…

Other men deprive themselves of pleasure for propriety’s sake. Nathaniel, Duke of Warrington, would much rather be depraved. He slakes his desires with professionals who ask nothing of him but his coin. Marian’s proposal—that he train her without taking her virtue—is an intriguing diversion, until their lessons in seduction spin out of control.

And a most unlikely duchess…

When Marian is blackmailed into engagement by a man she despises, Nate impulsively steals her away. Though he never intended to take a wife, he can’t tolerate the idea of Marian forfeiting her freedom to another. But can he bear to give her what she demands—a real marriage?

My rating:  2.75 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. Also I’m reading this book as part of my October Bookish Bingo Reading Challenge, checking of the “a character goes missing” box since Marian gets herself kidnapped towards the end of the book (*spoiler alert* I guess though it’s not a huge plot point).

I had actually read the last book in this series also (#4) and didn’t really realize it til partway through the book. Which is fine. Anyways, I had mixed feelings about this book. There was a lot that I did really like – the chemistry between the two main characters was fantastic and I swear the pages caught on fire during a couple of their intimate scenes. Also the book overall really captured my interest and I wanted to see how the book would end. At the same time though, there were some problematic areas of the book for me. The biggest is probably the scene where Marian and Nate have sex for the first time – there is some questionable consent in the scene that made me unhappy. It involved Nate being the one not fully consenting, but I don’t think that should be treated any differently than how a reader would think of the scene were a woman in his place. I also just overall wasn’t into the plot line personally. The fact that Marian had to basically throw herself at him, and then let him walk all over her in order to strike the deal she needed, was not my cup of tea. I’m sure it will 100% work for certain readers but it didn’t for me. Overall this was (I thought) a well written book but it just wasn’t the right fit for me personally.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2019 Book #77 – The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller

41TLd3ldCPLTitle: The Widow of Rose House
Author: Diana Biller
Date finished: 10/13/19
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: St. Martins’ Griffin
Publication Date: October 8, 2019
Pages in book: 346
Stand alone or series: This is actually Biller’s debut novel! We’ll have to wait to see if there will be a 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:

** A “MOST ANTICIPATED ROMANCE” of 2019 (BookPage) **

A young widow restores a dilapidated mansion with the assistance of a charming, eccentric genius, only to find the house is full of dangerous secrets in this effervescent Gilded Age romantic comedy debut

It’s 1875, and Alva Webster has perfected her stiff upper lip after three years of being pilloried in the presses of two continents over fleeing her abusive husband. Now his sudden death allows her to return to New York to make a fresh start, restoring Liefdehuis, a dilapidated Hyde Park mansion, and hopefully her reputation at the same time.

However, fresh starts aren’t as easy as they seem, as Alva discovers when stories of a haunting at Liefdehuis begin to reach her. But Alva doesn’t believe in ghosts. So when the eccentric and brilliant professor Samuel Moore appears and informs her that he can get to the bottom of the mystery that surrounds Liefdehuis, she turns him down flat. She doesn’t need any more complications in her life—especially not a handsome, convention-flouting, scandal-raising one like Sam. Unfortunately, though Alva is loath to admit it, Sam, a pioneer in electric lighting and a member of the nationally-adored Moore family of scientists, is the only one who can help. Together, the two delve into the tragic secrets wreathing Alva’s new home while Sam attempts to unlock Alva’s history—and her heart.

Set during the Gilded Age in New York City, The Widow of Rose House is a gorgeous debut by Diana Biller, with a darkly Victorian Gothic flair and an intrepid and resilient American heroine guaranteed to delight readers.

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. Also I’m reading this book as part of my October Bookish Bingo Reading Challenge, checking of the “set in a haunted house” box because (obviously) much of the book takes place in and centers around the haunted house.

I had read a sample of this book in the Buzz Books Romance collection and liked it. I also really love the cover, though the key that’s featured on it plays an important but much shorter role than I expected. I really enjoyed the book though – mostly because of Sam and his family. Sam was perfectly quirky, funny, and devoted to Alva. He was enchanting and every sort of endearing and I just loved his character. And his interactions with his equally quirky and endearing family were hilarious. Alva’s character was alright but some pieces of it just didn’t work for me personally for a couple reasons. The ghost story was pretty good in this book, I was sufficiently engaged in finding out the ending for it, but I did find that the romance side of the plot wasn’t as well developed as I thought the ghost side of the plot was. Overall though I really liked the book and I can’t wait to read more books by this author!

Link to author’s website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

The Widow of Rose House BLOG TOUR!!

41TLd3ldCPLThe Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller was released this past Tuesday, and to celebrate I am participating in a Blog Tour for the book! I’m hoping to have my review up tomorrow, I’ve been reading it for most of the day today and have been really enjoying it! See below for more information about the book, a short author bio, and an excerpt: 

SUMMARY

** A “MOST ANTICIPATED ROMANCE” of 2019 (BookPage) **

A young widow restores a dilapidated mansion with the assistance of a charming, eccentric genius, only to find the house is full of dangerous secrets in this effervescent Gilded Age romantic comedy debut

It’s 1875, and Alva Webster has perfected her stiff upper lip after three years of being pilloried in the presses of two continents over fleeing her abusive husband. Now his sudden death allows her to return to New York to make a fresh start, restoring Liefdehuis, a dilapidated Hyde Park mansion, and hopefully her reputation at the same time.

However, fresh starts aren’t as easy as they seem, as Alva discovers when stories of a haunting at Liefdehuis begin to reach her. But Alva doesn’t believe in ghosts. So when the eccentric and brilliant professor Samuel Moore appears and informs her that he can get to the bottom of the mystery that surrounds Liefdehuis, she turns him down flat. She doesn’t need any more complications in her life—especially not a handsome, convention-flouting, scandal-raising one like Sam. Unfortunately, though Alva is loath to admit it, Sam, a pioneer in electric lighting and a member of the nationally-adored Moore family of scientists, is the only one who can help. Together, the two delve into the tragic secrets wreathing Alva’s new home while Sam attempts to unlock Alva’s history—and her heart.

Set during the Gilded Age in New York City, The Widow of Rose House is a gorgeous debut by Diana Biller, with a darkly Victorian Gothic flair and an intrepid and resilient American heroine guaranteed to delight readers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

DIANA BILLER lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their very good dog. THE WIDOW OF ROSE HOUSE is her debut novel.

BUY IT HERE!

EXCERPT

New York City, February 1, 1875

Alva stood on the city sidewalk and sucked in a deep, triumphant gulp of air. The clock had just struck ten—the middle of the eve­ ning by New York City standards—and she was surrounded by elegantly dressed men escorting women dripping diamonds and rolled up tightly in furs. A few feet from her, the street was busy with carriages. She could smell the city: The damp fog, the sharp tang of refuse, the high floral notes of perfumed women. Horse dung.

Had she missed it? She wasn’t sure, although she knew she missed the steep, tangled streets of Montmartre already. But it was America that held her future now, even as it held her past. For a second her triumph was tempered by the remembrance of the thin envelope in her pocket, a few brief lines from her mother’s secretary, thanking her for her interest in visiting and regretting that Mrs. Rensselaer would be unable to see her. Alva knew her mother, likely even now sitting down to a stiff dinner with her husband and twelve of their closest friends fifty blocks away, did indeed feel regret. She just suspected it was about giv­ ing birth to her at all.

The restaurant door opened behind her, and, recalled to the moment, she signaled to the boy hailing cabs to find her one.

“Excuse me,” a deep voice said. “Mrs. Webster?”

Oh, for heavens sake. Couldn’t she stand outside for one min- ute without some intrepid lothario assuming she must be wait­ ing for him? In the less than seventy­two hours she’d been back in the States, she’d been propositioned eleven times. Twice by friends of her father’s.

She glanced over her shoulder at the man, receiving an in­ stant impression of big, though he stood mostly in the shadows. “I don’t know you,” she said, her voice flat. “Go home to your wife.”

“But I don’t have a wife,” the man said. He took a hesitant step towards her, leaving the shadows, and her eyebrows lifted. He looked more like a laborer than a man finishing a dinner at Delmonico’s, for all he was dressed in a suit and tie. Sort of dressed, she amended; the suit looked like it had been made for someone two inches shorter and two inches narrower across the shoulders. “Do I need a wife to talk to you? Is it a chaperone sort of thing? I have a mother, but she’s in Ohio.”

Alva blinked. “You’re not very good at this,” she observed. “I’m not a man, but I don’t think it’s standard behavior to invoke one’s mother at a time like this.”

They stared at each other in puzzlement. He was attrac­ tive in the sort of way she’d always imagined the heroes of west­ ern folktales to be: tall, broad shouldered, with a strong nose and a square jaw. He could stand to add barber to the list of people he needed to see, though, the one that started with tailor. Actually, looking at the way his dark blond hair fell into his eyes, she thought he’d better have it start with barber and go from there.

“There’s been a misunderstanding,” he said finally. “Perhaps if I introduce myself—my name is Professor Samuel Moore.”

He held out his hand. She looked at it, looked up at him, and did not extend her own. Bafflingly, he smiled at her, as though she’d done something rather clever.

Was he really a professor? He certainly didn’t look like one, not that it mattered, because she made it a policy, these days, never to talk to strange men—

“A professor of what?” she heard herself saying, although she was pleased it at least came out with a nice air of sarcasm and disbelief.

“This and that,” he said, still smiling. “Engineering, mostly.” She looked at his rumpled clothes. Yes, she could see that, one of those men who always had a tool in one hand and a grease can in the other. She didn’t know they were giving professorships out to men like that, but why not, after all? She was as apprecia­ tive of things like trains and working carriage wheels as the next person.

And now she’d gone and encouraged him. Stupid. “I see,” she said as coldly as she could manage. “Well, I’m not interested, so I’ll wish you good evening.”

“But how can you know if you’re not interested?” He shook his head in confusion, still smiling at her. The smile was . . . im­ pressive. “I haven’t even explained my proposition, yet.”

“I find that if you’ve heard one proposition, you’ve heard them all,” she replied. Stop talking to him, you idiot. “They’re not as unique as men would like to believe.”

“But—who else has approached you? Was it Langley, from Yale?” His tone turned plaintive. “How did he hear about this before me?”

“Langley—who?”

“Piers Langley,” he said. “No? I can’t think of anyone else reputable—look here, if you’ve been approached by anyone from that quack Santa Fe institute you should know they’re absolute frauds.”

“Institute?” Alva said faintly. “What on earth are you talking about?”

“Your house, of course. I hadn’t realized I was so behind on the news.” His face fell—What must it be like to let all your emo- tions float freely on your face?—but he nodded gravely. “If it’s Langley, though, he’s an excellent researcher, and a decent human, too.”

“It’s not Lang—what do you want with my house?” It was her turn to sound plaintive.

“But that’s what—” He stared at her, his brows crunched to­ gether. “Oh god. I wasn’t—I wouldn’t—”

To her astonishment, a distinct touch of pink appeared in his cheeks. He cleared his throat.

“I beg your pardon, ma’am. Henry warned me—that is, I shouldn’t have; my proposition is not of an intimate nature.”

“I’m coming to understand that,” she said.

“You thought . . . do men . . . they must—good lord.

She began to feel in charity with this befuddled giant. “In­ deed,” she said. “I quite agree. But I must ask again—what is it you want with Liefdehuis?”

“To study it,” he said. “One of my personal interests is in metaphysical energies, you see, and from what I’ve heard, your house may prove a most interesting case. Your ghost story is so recent, you know. I hardly ever hear one claiming to be that new—”

He broke off as she shook her head. “You almost had me con­ vinced that you were unlike the majority of your sex,” she said. “And now I see you are. I’m just not sure insanity is much of an improvement.”

To her surprise, he smiled again. “You’re not the only one who thinks so,” he said. The embarrassment had left his face; he was quite relaxed once more. A man who apologizes for a propo- sition and grins at an insult, Alva thought. Where did you come from, Professor Moore?

“And I’ll admit there’s no conclusive evidence yet,” he con­ tinued, “but what I have collected looks extremely promising. Certainly promising enough to warrant extensive study.”

A hint of cold pierced her thoughts. Firmly, she banished it. “You’re talking about ghosts,” she said.

“Maybe,” he replied. “Or I could be studying some kind of alien intelligence that just happens to concentrate in areas cor­ responding to local folklore.”

“Alien intelligence.”

Invisible alien intelligence,” he clarified. “At least invisible to the naked human eye. But ‘ghost’ is probably the easiest term.”

“Really.”

“People tend to go a bit strange when you talk to them about invisible alien intelligences,” he confided. “Which is odd, when you think about it, because why are the shades of one’s dead an­ cestors any less unsettling?”

She found herself nodding before the rest of her wits caught up with her. “No,” she said, not because the word corresponded with any particular question, but because she had the feeling the only way to survive here was to stick to very black­and­white words. His nuances were both compelling and sticky. “I’m afraid I won’t give you access. I don’t believe in ghosts, and I’m about to start several months’ worth of building work.”

“Don’t decide yet,” he begged. “I’m willing to pay you for the privilege, and I promise I won’t be in the way . . . although there is rather a lot of equipment, so I suppose—”

The boy hailing cabs caught her eye and gestured as a han­ som pulled up beside him.

“That’s mine,” she said. “I’m sorry I can’t help you. Good evening.”

“Wait!” he said. “I’ll—I’ll send you a letter. Henry said that was the way to do it—I’ll write you and explain more.”

“It won’t help,” she said as the cab boy helped her into the carriage. “I’m sorry. Good­bye, Professor Moore.”

Finally, he sighed acceptance and raised his hand. “Good evening, Mrs. Webster.”

As the cab pulled away from the sidewalk, though, she looked back at him, to find him staring after her with his hands shoved in his pockets and that apparently irrepressible grin back in place. An uncomfortable lightness expanded in her chest as she watched him standing head­and­shoulders taller than the passersby around him, looking back at her as though he would be perfectly happy never to look at anything else ever again.

What couldn’t I get, if I could look at people like that? she thought, and settled grumpily back against her seat.