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

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

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February Reading Challenge – Romance Novel Bookish Bingo

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So as part of my 2019 Goals I wanted to participate in some Bookish Bingo reading challenges for certain months, one of which was February! And (exciting news!) I just checked and Bookish is doing a Romance novel book bingo in addition to their regular reading bingo for this month. Which is great for me since I end up reading a lot of romance, and also I’d love to focus on romance novels during the most romantic month of the year (allegedly)! PLUS I’m still helping to judge novels for a Romance Reader’s Choice Awards, so those will all count towards my bingo! My biggest challenge I think is going to be finding time to read outside of work – February is going to be (excuse my French) a shit-tastic month for my work schedule this year and I may have to enact my “sleep budget” schedule in order to get my reading done. I’m really looking forward to participating in this month’s reading bingo though!

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The Duke I Once Knew BLOG TOUR!!

The Duke I Once Knew by Olivia Drake was released today December 31st, and to celebrate I am participating in a Blog Tour for the book! If you haven’t already seen it, you can find my review of the book under Book Reviews on my site. See below for more information about the book, a short author bio, and an excerpt! This was a really good read and I would recommend checking it out!

SUMMARY

Award-winning author Olivia Drake begins her new Unlikely Duchesses series with THE DUKE I ONCE KNEW (St. Martin’s Paperbacks; December 31, 2018). With compelling characters and skillful plot twists, Drake’s latest novel will take your breath away.

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?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Olivia Drake is the author of the Cinderella Sisterhood series (Seducing the Heiress, Never Trust a Rogue, Scandal of the Year, If the Slipper Fits, Stroke of Midnight, Abducted by the Prince, Bella and the Beast, His Wicked Wish, and The Scandalous Flirt). She has been a member of Romance Writers of America since 1981, and her novels have won the Golden Heart Award, Best Historical Romantic Suspense and Best Regency Historical from Romantic Times. She has also won the prestigious RITA award. She currently resides in Houston, TX.

BUY IT HERE!

EXCERPT

The sounds of cooing and kissing mortified her. Good heavens, would they never stop? Anyone might walk into the library! They ought to have the decency to take their amorous activities upstairs to a bedchamber.

But, of course, Rothwell did not possess a shred of decency. It made her cringe to recall that she herself had once fallen prey to his allure.

She risked another look over the edge of the table. Her eyes goggled.

The duke was delving beneath the hem of his paramour’s gown, sliding his hand up her ankle and out of sight. The ladybird squirmed and squealed in a frisky attempt at evasion. He leaned down and silenced her playful protests with a masterful kiss.

Abby sank back down again. Her pulse pounded and a blush heated her inside and out. She oughtn’t be so scandalized. Rothwell had a reputation as a notorious rake. Over the years, she had heard many a tale whispered among the neighbors of his disgraceful doings. Yet it was one thing to listen to idle gossip and quite another to actually witness him in the throes of depravity.

And here she was, trapped. What was she to do?

If she made her presence known, the duke would find out that Miss Abigail Linton was the new governess. She could not be absolutely certain that he had forgotten her. And if he did remember, he surely would dismiss her on the spot, for he wanted nothing to do with her. Her spirits fell into a fit of the dismals. That would mark the end of her little adventure out into the world. Oh, she could apply for a position elsewhere, but who would hire her if she’d been summarily discharged from her previous post? She would be forced to return to her brother’s house and resume her predictable life as the maiden aunt, growing withered and gray, shuttled between relatives, with no real say in her future.

The very thought was suffocating.

Nevertheless, she could not continue to crouch here while the two lovers were smooching and whispering. What if their intimate activities escalated? What if they did the deed right here, right now?

The horrid prospect spurred Abby to action. She must try to sneak out of the library unobserved. It was her only hope.

Dropping to her hands and knees, she crept along the carpet, weaving a path between the tables. Her long skirts hampered her progress, forcing her to inch along at a snail’s pace. Rothwell’s black boots were visible through a forest of chair legs. At least he was too distracted to notice her, judging by the amorous sounds emanating from across the room. To be safe, she made a wide berth around the couple. Feverish plans raced through her head. If only she could reach the door and slip out, then all might be well. Perhaps she could convince Lady Gwendolyn not to mention the new governess to her brother. And what of Lady Hester? Was there a chance that she could be persuaded to bide her tongue, too? Should Abby confess the truth and enlist her help? Was it possible to stay out of sight until he departed the Court?

Sweet heaven, how long did he intend to stay?

In the midst of her meditations, she couldn’t help over- hearing the syrupy drivel of their tête-à-tête.

“Your Grace, you are too bold! Such a naughty boy you are!”

“I left boyhood behind long ago. Shall I demonstrate?” “Mm, no. You mustn’t . . . ah, yes. Yes!

Abby grimaced under a tide of acute embarrassment. As she crawled closer to the door, she glared in the direction of the lovers. She could just see Rothwell’s legs pressed against a froth of cream skirts. Blast him and his
debauchery! He was the worst of rogues, the king of scoundrels. A more wicked man had never been born—! Too caught up in remonstrations to watch where she was going, Abby bumped her hip hard against a mahogany pedestal. A little squeak escaped before she could clap her hand to her mouth. At the same instant, a faint clanking noise drew her attention upward.

The globe atop the pedestal wobbled precariously. As she watched in horror, the sphere toppled from its perch and clunked onto the floor, where it rolled straight past the chairs and tables to land at Rothwell’s heels.

“What the devil—!”

Frozen in concealment, Abby watched wide-eyed through the maze of table legs as his boots shifted around. A large male hand flashed down to stop the spinning of the globe. Any faint hope that he might assume it had fallen of its own accord vanished in a millisecond.

Rothwell strode forward, his footfalls sharp and decisive. He came straight to her. To her great consternation, she found herself gazing at the polished black leather of his boots only a few inches away.

“Who are you?” he demanded. “What are you doing in here?”

Abby raised her chin only slightly, keeping her face averted. It was best that he didn’t gaze fully at her—or hear the normal pitch of her voice lest it trigger his memory. “I’m just a servant,” she whispered, “tending to my duties.” “Speak up! Why did you not make your presence known at once?”

His dictatorial tone shredded her better judgment. “I was trying to leave discreetly,” she flared. “It didn’t strike me as wise to interrupt your tryst.” She paused, then added in a more servile tone, “I do beg your pardon, Your Grace.” She felt his gaze boring down like a physical force that threatened to smother her. She wanted badly to look up, to glare into his face and tell him in no uncertain terms exactly what she thought of him.

But that would be highly imprudent.

With lightning swiftness, he clamped his hands around her upper arms and hauled Abby to her feet. She found herself staring up into a pair of wintry gray eyes set in a face of unabashed masculinity. Although a dissipated life had hardened his expression and etched faint lines on either side of his mouth, he was more disturbingly handsome than ever. He also seemed taller and tougher, his chest broader and his shoulders wider.

She hated that he still had the power to make the breath catch in her throat. Worse, she hated that he had the authority to dismiss her with a snap of his arrogant fingers. As she racked her beleaguered brain for a way to convince him not to do so, something flickered in those icy eyes.

“Abby?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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