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Review – When The Rogue Returns – Sabrina Jeffries

when the rogue returnsWhen the Rogue Returns
Author: Sabrina Jeffries
Series: #2 in the Duke’s Men series

Review Copy Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss

Description:
Victor Cale never imagined that his sweet, shy bride, Isabella, would use her talents for creating exquisite imitation jewels criminally. But there’s no denying that her handiwork was used in the theft of the Dutch royal diamonds– right after Isa disappeared into the night.

Ten years later, Victor is sent to Edinburgh to investigate a wealthy baron’s mysterious bride-to-be… who turns out to be Isa, masquerading as an alluring widow. No longer the meek girl he once knew, Isa boldly asserts that it was Victor who abandoned her, after he helped steal the royal diamonds!

Piecing together the truth of the past reawakens their volatile passions, which burns hotter than ever. But with a decade of secrets between them, Victor and Isa must trust each other to bring the real thieves to justice– without getting burned themselves.

Review:
I’ll readily admit that Sabrina Jeffries is a comfort read for me, I know exactly what I am getting when I pick up her books. A pretty decent historical romance, normally with a light mystery element (either within the specific book, or through-out the series). In this installment, I was treated not only to the mystery, but a second chance romance story (which I will readily admit that I am a sucker for). In this case, it had been ten years from when Victor and Isa had seen each other last. And thankfully, their separation wasn’t due to “the big misunderstanding” which i hate, but rather the manipulation of a different party.

It was interesting seeing how the author worked in the idea of a missing relative (which was the mystery from the first book) into the main characters for the second book in the series. Although, I felt like I never really got to know Victor as a character. I just felt really detached from him in this book – I felt like I learned more about him in the first book in the series, than this one – which was weird and shouldn’t have been the case. It was due to that, that ultimately, I only gave this book three stars. While it featured a romance trope I enjoy (second chance), mixed with one that i’m not really a fan of (secret baby/child), it just didn’t work for me.

I will say, however, that while I wasn’t quite a fan of this installment in the series, I do continue to like Jeffries writing style and I will continue to read her books in the future.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Review – The Pieces We Keep – Kristina McMorris

the pieces we keepThe Pieces We Keep
Author: Kristina McMorris

Review Copy Provided by the Author via Sisterhood of the Traveling Book on Goodreads

Description:
Two years have done little to ease veterinarian Audra Hughes’s grief over her husband’s untimely death. Eager for a fresh start, Audra plans to leave Portland for a new job in Philadelphia. Her seven-year-old son, Jack, seems apprehensive about flying—but it’s just the beginning of an anxiety that grows to consume him.

As Jack’s fears continue to surface in recurring and violent nightmares, Audra hardly recognizes the introverted boy he has become. Desperate, she traces snippets of information unearthed in Jack’s dreams, leading her to Sean Malloy, a struggling US Army veteran wounded in Afghanistan. Together they unravel a mystery dating back to World War II, and uncover old family secrets that still have the strength to wound—and perhaps, at last, to heal.

Review:
To say words have defied me once i finished reading Kristina McMorris’ latest book is an understatement. I was literally jumping with joy when it showed up in the mail but I forced myself to wait to read it on the metro the next week. And I devoured it – in fact, I realized about 20 seconds prior to the train leaving the station that I needed to get off if I wanted to make my connection…(and I totally tweeted that to Kristina). But I had to ponder my review – not because there were many negatives, but rather because I had so many strong emotions during the reading, that words can’t really describe how it made me feel. She made me laugh, she made me cry, she made me suffer from a severe book depression when I realized that it was over and I wouldn’t visit with the characters again.

While all of her previous books have been set in the past, Kristina took a different route with this story, using an alternating POV with one set in contemporary US and the other WW2 U.S. (which is the setting of her previous books). I will admit that sometimes I find this type of writing style hard to read because it doesn’t always flow well, and the voices of the POV’s sound the same. But that wasn’t the case. Both the voices of Audra (present) and Vivian (past) were unique. I think it also helped that the publisher used two different type-faces for the POV’s. So not only did they sound different, but they also looked different (to geek out a bit, it potentially got rid of the cognitive dissonance from the same format writing but different POV’s).

I could probably go on and continue gushing about the story and how it blew my mind, but I’ll save that for others. But before I close out this review, I wanted to tell a story that reading this reminded me off. When I was in high school, the Holocaust was a major subject of interest for me. In fact, if I had ever decided to pursue graduate education in history, the Holocaust probably would have been my main focus. Anyways, when I was doing my senior English project, I spent time interviewing survivors and talking about how their survival had impacted their lives. One of the survivors I had talked to, survived the Auschwitz Death Marches. In fact, the only reason he survived the initial arrival at Auschwitz was because he was wearing long pants and was put to work, the rest of his family died that day. Post war, he never really talked about his experiences until he started having nightmares several decades later. Then he talked about his experiences to his family and to others, he even started traveling and talking to school groups. When he did this, he found that his nightmares went away.

Reading The Pieces We Keep reminded me of his story and the idea of how dreams and nightmares can tell the story of our experiences, or if you believe in the idea of reincarnation, others. Gushing aside, a solid 5 stars for this book and now begins the torture of waiting for her next book (and its going to be a very long wait)…

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – What The Duke Desires – Sabrina Jeffries

what the duke wantsWhat The Duke Desires
Author: Sabrina Jeffries
Series: #1 in The Duke’s Men

Review Copy Provided by Publisher Via Edelweiss

Description:
Maximilian Cale, the Duke of Lyons, accepted long ago that his kidnapped brother was dead. When a cryptic note from investigator Tristan Bonnaud claims otherwise, Max seeks out Tristan’s sister, Lisette—and is infuriated to learn that Tristan has also mysteriously vanished. Have the siblings perpetrated an elaborate hoax? Or is the fiercely protective beauty as innocent as she claims them to be?

Fearful that the powerful Duke will destroy Tristan’s career in his zeal for the truth, the clever Lisette convinces Max to accompany her to Paris in a joint search for their loved ones. But their journey takes a seductive twist when they pose as an ordinary husband and wife—not an English Duke with a tarnished family name and the illegitimate daughter of a viscount—and discover an exhilarating passion free from the damning secrets of the past. With the line between danger and desire enticingly blurred, they discover that some mysteries, like those of the heart, are answered tenfold in the bliss of a true and trusting love.

Review:
I’ll be the first to admit that Sabrina Jeffries is a comfort read for me. I don’t know if I have read a book by her that I haven’t enjoyed – they are all solid historical romances – nothing to completely rave about, but nothing that I truly hate either. I just a solid performance. So when I saw a review copy of her newest book available for download on Edelweiss, and having just finished up her previous series not that long ago, I opted to request it. What the Duke Desires takes place in the same time period as her Hellions of Halstead Hall series, in fact, if you are paying attention, there are a few re-occurring characters. Not enough that you need to have read the previous series in order to enjoy the books, but enough that you can see their lives down the road just a little bit.

What the Duke Desires uses more of my more favorite tropes in the historical romance genre, the bastard child(children) who get screwed over when the family member dies unexpectedly. For some reason, I love the vulnerability of heroines in that kind of situation and it wasn’t like everything was made miraculously better. Lisette continued to struggle through-out the entire story with the ramifications. Of course, that still didn’t stop her from doing some dumb-ass shit…lol (of course). And then there were Max – he was on the verge of being a brilliant tortured hero, and walked the precipice quite well – I do wish that he had fallen in, but I did enjoy him as a character. The romance between the two was satisfying and it seemed nature…it didn’t have the wham bam, thank you ma’am that often seems to occur.

I’m definitely interesting in seeing what happens in the rest of the series. I’d give What The Duke Desires 3.5 stars – a solid historical romance read from an enjoyable author.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Audiobook Review – Never Seduce A Scot – Maya Banks

the audies
never seduce a scotNever Seduce A Scot
Author: Maya Banks
Series: #1 in the The Montgomerys and Armstrongs series

Narrator: Kirsten Potter
Run Time: 10 hrs and 10 minutes
Producer: Tantor Audio

Description:
Eveline Armstrong is fiercely loved and protected by her powerful clan, but outsiders consider her “touched.” Beautiful, fey, with a level, intent gaze, she doesn’t speak. No one, not even her family, knows that she cannot hear. Content with her life of seclusion, Eveline has taught herself to read lips and allows the outside world to view her as daft. But when an arranged marriage into a rival clan makes Graeme Montgomery her husband, Eveline accepts her duty—unprepared for the delights to come. Graeme is a rugged warrior with a voice so deep and powerful that his new bride can hear it, and hands and kisses so tender and skilled that he stirs her deepest passions.

Graeme is intrigued by the mysterious Eveline, whose silent lips are ripe with temptation and whose bright, intelligent eyes can see into his soul. As intimacy deepens, he learns her secret. But when clan rivalries and dark deeds threaten the wife he has only begun to cherish, the Scottish warrior will move heaven and earth to save the woman who has awakened his heart to the beautiful song of a rare and magical love.

Review:
Its been a while since I have read/listened to any of Maya Banks stuff and the first time that I have tried her non-erotic romance (although I did enjoy her Sweet series). I had been hearing good things about this series from many of my friends, so I was glad to see the audiobook as one of the nominees for the romance category in the Audies. This was also my first time listening to not only Maya Banks, but also the narrator, Kirsten Potter, so it was an interesting experience all around.

I can’t say that the plot in general blew me away – it did feel the same as a lot of the highland romances that have been published in the past (authors like Julie Garwood) – where the King forces a marriage between two clans in order to strength blood ties, reduce the number of feuds. Which is exactly what happened in Never Seduce A Scot – the Montgomery’s and the Armstrong’s had been feuding for several generations – although, you never knew what actually started the feud (I think it might have been the death of a family member at the hands of the other clan – but I was kind of confused on that part) – which I guess goes to show, how the feuds are continued year after year, generation after generation and eventually people lose sight as to how or why they started.

I have to admit that I did have a soft spot for Eveline, the main character – there was something about her characterization that just sucked me in. Maybe it was how her issues/disability was written. My only gripe was that her change in character occurred really quickly after her marriage – and it seemed fake – like all of a sudden, there was a light-switch that was turned on. I would have liked to have seen it dragged out a little bit more – but at the same time, since the entire book took place in like a three week period (give or take), I guess there wasn’t a lot of time for self-discovery and other people discovery…

I would say that Potter’s narration was a solid middle range for me – it wasn’t some of the best narration, I have ever heard, nor was it the worst. She did a good job with the various female voices, including the pitch/tone/volume of Eveline’s at various stages in the story. But I felt like she struggled a bit with the male narration. Their voices did get better as the book went along, but initially I had a hard time distinguishing the various male voices from each other, they seemed to blur together. That being said, I will more than likely check out other books narrated by her in the future and I look forward to reading more books in this series. I gave both the book and the narration 3.5 stars.

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2013 in Audiobook Review

 

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Audiobook Review – The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie – Jennifer Ashley

the audiesthe madness of lord ianThe Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie
Author: Jennifer Ashley
Series: #1 in the Highland Pleasures series

Narrator: Angela Dawe
Run Time: 9hrs and 53 minutes
Publisher: Tantor Media

Description:
The year is 1881. Meet the Mackenzie family–rich, powerful, dangerous, eccentric. A lady couldn’t be seen with them without ruin. Rumors surround them–of tragic violence, of their mistresses, of their dark appetites, of scandals that set England and Scotland abuzz.

The youngest brother, Ian, known as the Mad Mackenzie, spent most of his young life in an asylum, and everyone agrees he is decidedly odd. He’s also hard and handsome and has a penchant for Ming pottery and beautiful women.

Beth Ackerley, widow, has recently come into a fortune. She has decided that she wants no more drama in her life. She was raised in drama–an alcoholic father who drove them into the workhouse, a frail mother she had to nurse until her death, a fussy old lady she became constant companion to. No, she wants to take her money and find peace, to travel, to learn art, to sit back and fondly remember her brief but happy marriage to her late husband.

And then Ian Mackenzie decides he wants her.

Review:
I rarely re-read books because for me there is just such a wide variety of new stuff out there, that going back and re-reading just seems like a waste of time. However, when tMoLIM was nominated for an Audie award for its audiobook narration in the category that I was listening to, I knew that I was going to be re-reading (or rather re-listening) to it in the near future. I have to say that my memories of my original read through were vague – I remember it being the current IT book and everyone raving about it, but when I read it, I was ultimately disappointed. It didn’t live up to the hype, was my opinion. However, when I started listening to the audio, I was pleasantly surprised. I realized that I had forgotten a good amount of plot points that made it a more enjoyable listen. I have to wonder, if I had listened to it the first time (if it had been available), would I have enjoyed it more – I think the answer is likely yes. However, since I did remember the outcome of the mystery that did kind of take away the enjoyment of the listen. But re-living Ian and Beth’s relationship again made up for it. As I am still reading the series, I love seeing how it all started because they play such a role in the other books.

I will admit that at first, I wasn’t sure about Angela Dawe’s narration – I had heard/read some reviews that didn’t bode to well for it. So I was surprised how enjoyable it was. I wouldn’t go out there and say that it was the best narration ever, but it was solid. I thought that she did a good job mixing up between Beth’s english tone and Ian’s scottish burr – as well as making sure that the other MacKenzie brothers sounded similar, but not the same (if that makes sense). Her pacing was good and I felt like overall the narration flowed well.

In my first read, I think I gave this book 3 stars, but after my re-listen, I am upping it to 4 stars and looking forward to listening to more in the series, as well as other narrations by Ms Dawe in the future.

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2013 in Audiobook Review

 

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Audiobook Review – Scandalous Desires – Elizabeth Hoyt

the audies
scandalous desiresScandalous Desires
Author: Elizabeth Hoyt
Series: #3 in the Maiden Lane series

Narrator: Ashford McNab
Run Time: 11hrs and 29 minutes
Producer: Hachette Audio

Description:
Can a pirate learn that the only true treasure lies in a woman’s heart?

Widowed Silence Hollingbrook is impoverished, lovely, and kind—and nine months ago she made a horrible mistake. She went to a river pirate for help in saving her husband and in the process made a bargain that cost her her marriage. That night wounded her so terribly that she hides in the foundling home she helps run with her brother. Except now that same river pirate is back . . . and he’s asking for her help.

“Charming” Mickey O’Connor is the most ruthless river pirate in London. Devastatingly handsome and fearsomely intelligent, he clawed his way up through London’s criminal underworld. Mickey has no use for tender emotions like compassion and love, and he sees people as pawns to be manipulated. And yet he’s never been able to forget the naive captain’s wife who came to him for help—and spent one memorable night in his bed . . . talking.

When his bastard baby girl was dumped in his lap—her mother having died—Mickey couldn’t resist the Machiavellian urge to leave the baby on Silence’s doorstep. The baby would be hidden from his enemies and he’d also bind Silence to him by her love for his daughter

Review:
I’ve read many romances in the last decade and a bit, but for the life of me, I can’t remember if I have ever read anything by Elizabeth Hoyt. I think that I probably have, but I am blanking on what book and when…lol. So I was intrigued to read/listen to this book when I saw that it had been nominated for an audio award. And I love bad boys in my romance novels, especially pirates and the good/pious women. It also felt nice to go back to a more traditional historical romance, since it has been a while since I have read one that I truly enjoyed – most of the ones I have read recently were just ehhh. Overall, I liked the general plot and story-telling of the book. Even though it was book 3 in a series and I haven’t read the previous 2, I didn’t feel like I was too lost – although I am intrigued enough to want to go back and read/listen to the earlier books.

One of my favorite parts was the baby (Mary Darling) in the story. So often in romances in general, there are kids in the story, but they aren’t key to the storyline – they kind of get relegated to the background. Kind of like, oh, let’s add a kid because it will make the characters seem more likeable. But in this instance, Mary Darling was pivotal to the story. Without her, there wouldn’t have been a story and I wouldn’t have come to love Mickey and Silence like I did. She was the true heart of the story.

However, I did feel that the mystery about the Vicar of White-Chapel (the bad guy) felt forced – until the final reveal about who he was happened. I think I would have preferred to have his identity revealed earlier on and allowed for some more character development. As it was, it seemed a bit lacking.

I was pleasantly surprised by Ashford McNab’s narration – although I will have to admit that at first, I was expecting a male narrator (and I was kind of excited because there are few male narrators in the romance genre). So when this young sounding female voice came across my speakers, I was a bit taken aback. But I was soon sucked into her narration. I found her cadence as she was speaking nicely flowing – not too fast, nor too slow. I liked her Irish lilt that she was able to give Mickey O’Rourke and how I was able to distinguish between all the various characters in the book. I know that I’ll be looking for more books narrated by her in the future. I’d give the book a 3 and the narration a 4, so 3.5 overall.

In the ranking scheme of the other romance books nominated for the Audies – I would put this 2nd out of the 3 I have listened to – with The Witness (Nora Roberts) leading right now.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2013 in Audiobook Review

 

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Review – ‘Twas the Night After Christmas – Sabrina Jeffries

twas the night after christmas‘Twas the Night After Christmas
Author: Sabrina Jeffries
Series: #6 in the Hellions of Halstead Hall series (can be read stand-alone)

Review Copy Provided by Galley Books via Edelweiss

Description:
Pierce Waverly, the Earl of Devonmont, has been estranged from his mother for most of his life. When his mother’s new companion, Mrs. Camilla Stuart, writes to tell him that his mother is seriously ill, he goes home. But when he learns that the lovely widow tricked him in order to effect a holiday reconciliation, he refuses to stay—unless she meets his “terms.” Somewhere between trying to seduce the beautiful Camilla and struggling with the cruel memories of his childhood Christmases, Pierce discovers that not only does forgiveness go two ways, but that love can blossom even in the coldest of winters.

Review:
Ok, so this is one of the reviews where I admit that I have too many series in progress and that I am an idiot…when I was browsing Edelweiss and came across this book (being as it is book 6 in a series), I could have sworn that I had read the previous books – so my finger got click-itis (I wonder if i can get that as an actual medical diagnosis) and I got it on my kindle…to realize that I hadn’t even started the series…I did have book 1 somewhere in the archives of my kindle, but I hadn’t read it, or the 4 that followed…and being a tad OCD like I am, I couldn’t read it out of order (even though I was told by friends that i could)…so this review is a bit delayed, which I read the other ones in the series, but I am now all caught up… (no laughing from the peanut galley over my antics…its the old adage, too many books, too little time)

Anyways, after that digression (aren’t you glad you read it) – here is my review…I had really enjoyed reading the previous books in the series. i am a sucker for those that feature a family or a close-knit group of friends (a la Lisa Kleypas, or Stephanie Laurens as alternative authors), so seeing how the mystery emerged and was solved was great. However, this book, which loosely linked (Pierce, the main character, was a secondary character in #4 – To Wed A Wild Lord – didn’t really fit into what I was expecting – it was much more of a stand-alone traditional historical romance (not that that is bad, just wasn’t quite what I expected). Although, my favorite character from the series, Jackson, the Bow Street Runner made an appearance.

I did enjoy how the author was able to work in the ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas poem into the story. I grew up with it but honestly didn’t realize that it was around in the early 1800’s – although then called “A Visit From Saint Nicholas.” so it was interesting seeing how some Christmas traditions that still exist today were carried out nearly two centuries again (in about 10 years time…).

I think that my biggest issue with the story was the feud/disagreement/mystery (whatever you want to call it) between Pierce and his mother. While it was a significant part of the story, it was just underwhelming to me. I felt like it, while it could have been center stage, kind of took a backseat to the romance (not that that is bad, I just wanted more). Overall I would give this book a solid 3 stars – it was for me, a comfort read…since I rarely re-read, I can’t say that I would see myself reading it again, but at the same time, it is the type of book that I seek out when I just want to spend the day bumming around doing nothing.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2013 in Book Review

 

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