Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
If emotionally stunning, poignant stories w/ steam are your jam please read Julie Anne Long’s Palace of Rogue series & prepare to fall in love. Often.
I’m Only Wicked with You is 3rd in the series & it’s a somewhat circuitous journey to love that had me emotionally invested—stressing at moments & swooning at the end.
When the book opens, American Hugh Cassidy, a self-made man visiting London, has recently tattled on his fellow guest at The Grand Palace on the Thames, Lady Lillias Vaughn, resulting in her being effectively grounded. Lillias, a beautiful, ice cold queen, was smoking a cheroot, something that an Earl’s daughter does not do.
The tension between Hugh & Lillias, the acrimony & the sexual attraction, is strong & both leads feel the latter’s pull even as they acknowledge the former.
But when they’re caught together, these enemies must marry unless they come up with another plan.
First, this book—like the others in the series—is full of beautiful language & humor & warmth, & also lines that bring a flush to my cheeks. Like a line about Hugh wanting to pin her down on a mattress. The lust is top-notch, urgent.
Both leads are imperfect (bc of course!); they aren’t always likable, sunshine & rainbows, & I liked that too—even if it sometimes made me a little uncomfortable (bc I have some long-held beliefs about how women “should” act that I’m still working through.)
But the nuance to them both is beautiful; also their guardedness & the ways they’re affected by the vulnerabilities in the other.
Though the wait for them to admit feelings was a little challenging for me (I could have used some more softness, earlier), the payoff is huge. The sweet moments between Hugh & Lillias are lovely & the epilogue is *chef’s kiss.*
IOWWY is powerful & sexy & I can picture Hugh & Lillias running the world & falling more in love w/ every milestone. Though the dynamic between them isn’t my fave couple dynamic of the series, the whole lot is stellar & I am a huge huge fan.
4.5⭐️. Release Date: 08/24.
Thanks to Avon Publishing & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
️Q: childhood best friends to eventual lovers stories—love them, indifferent to them, dislike them?
Joanna Shupe’s The Devil of Downtown was one of my fave releases last year & she’s rapidly become one of the authors I can depend on for a meltingly hot scene or two. But sadly The Heiress Hunt just doesn’t work so much for me.
Harrison Archer overhears his BFF Maddie Webster say that she thinks of him like a brother...on the night he plans on telling her he’s in love with her. Crushed, he heads to Paris for three years, dropping contact with her entirely, sowing his wild oats, & working on making a name & livelihood for himself—a necessary thing since his horrible, wealthy family disowned him.
Now, back in the US, he learns that Maddie is still not married but maybe almost engaged to a Duke, & he decides to ask her for help finding a spouse as part of a plan to take down his horrible family & to spend more time with her in Newport.
I’ll be honest: I didn’t entirely warm to either lead in this one. As Maddie notes, Harrison is ruthless in pursuing his agenda (*this time around*) but it was never a kind of ruthlessness that warmed my heart, for whatever reason. Maybe because she isn't asking for a lot & he keeps ignoring her wishes time & time again.
There are some things I love about how Maddie is portrayed. A tennis superstar who works hard at her dream?! Yes! How she takes charge during their first sex scene, re-calibrating some power dynamics?! Yes double yes!!
But I just don't see a lot of depth to either character & don't really see a deliberate moment of change/agency on her part—outside of tennis—until the end. The big issue in their relationship is how Harrison takes control & doesn’t see her as a partner & that’s reflected in the story itself; unfortunately—despite the things I love about her characterization—Maddie often fades into the background for me.
The Heiress Hunt has some super sexy scenes, a hero who is utterly devoted to the heroine, a heroine who is ready to take on the world of competitive tennis—so many good things. However, it sadly falls flat for me.
Look for me to be one of the first ones screaming with excitement about Joanna Shupe’s next book, though. I am a major fan.
3.5 ⭐️. The Heiress Hunt is out on 03/09.
Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Q: which kind of anti-hero are you more drawn to: the charming, rogue type or the terrifying, mostly silent type?
Kerrigan Byrne’s Dancing with Danger has a lot of the KB trademarks.
✅ a hero on the wrong side of the law.
✅ a heroine who comes across as “innocent” but not so sheltered that she can’t handle the drama associated with him.
✅ some darkness & violence.
✅ but a once in a lifetime love can offer some kind of hope & redemption.
Wealthy and privileged Mercy Goode puts the skills she’s learned as a member of the Detective Eddard Sharpe Society of Homicidal Mystery Analysis to work after the unfortunate death of a friend. Whom does she discover at her friend’s murder scene but the charming ne’er-do-well, Raphael Sauvageau, smuggler, gangster, & lord of the Fauves?
Assuming Raphael to have been the murdered woman’s lover, Mercy agrees to exchange info with him in an effort to find her killer.
But the more Mercy & Raphael are around each other, the more their chemistry becomes apparent until Raphael issues a daring proposition 🤭.
The explosive chemistry between Raphael & Mercy is complemented by the sweetness of how much Raphael delights in Mercy’s somewhat unorthodox personality. She’s saucy & he loves it.
You can tell he has feelings for his chaton, as he calls her, from the beginning & an antihero having tender feelings that most people don’t pick up on (because they seem impervious to softer emotion ) is one of my fave things.
While I read Dancing with Danger quickly & enjoyed it thoroughly, the plot also often feels rushed to me. The connection between the leads is intense but things between them progress so quickly that it feels a bit shallow. I think the somewhat short length of the book might be a factor here too.
But with that being said Dancing with Danger is a sexy, fast read with enough of those things I love about KB’s writing to bring a sparkle to a reader’s eyes.
I waffled a little on the rating but I’m going with 3.5⭐️. Dancing with Danger is out on 02/09/21.
Thanks to Berkley Pub for inviting me to be part of the blog blitz celebration for Harper St. George's The Heiress Gets a Duke. All opinions provided are my own.
I’m all about an independent, business-minded heroine who would rather not marry a Duke, thankyouverymuch! Harper St. George’s The Heiress Gets a Duke offers that plus an aristocratic hero who *shudder* has to “work” to get his intended bride to accept his suit & some sweet & sexy moments between the two.
American August Crenshaw & her family are temporarily in London to visit a friend when her wealthy parents announce that they’re marrying off her younger, more conventional sister to a penniless, arrogant Duke.
Evan Sterling, said Duke, does not want to marry but he must to save the people who depend on him & to live that Big D—Duke, silly—life to which he is accustomed.
But saucy August—who wants to help run her family’s company, Crenshaw Iron Works, & who decidedly does not want to marry—is the Crenshaw who catches his eye.
The fortune-hunting hero/American heiress pairing isn’t one that I’ve encountered a lot before & it complicates the dynamic between Evan & August in an intriguing way. The set-downs August lays, the fact that she basically laughs in his face at his arrogance, gave me a lot of pleasure ;), & the vulnerable moment Evan has when he shares his grief over his brother is touching.
But I think my biggest quibble with the romance is that it doesn’t feel that truly romantic to me. The hero & heroine are both quite resistant toward marriage well into the book, & though their resistance wears down, their romance arc is never assertive enough. Persuasive enough. Without offering any specific spoilers, it just feels lackluster to me.
Please also note there is reference to Crenshaw Iron Work’s possible expansion into India, a moment that @liber_lady explores in greater detail in her own review.
The Heiress Gets a Duke is an interesting read with a heroine who wants to make her mark on the world & the cover is truly ravishing, but unfortunately the romance falls flat for me.
3 ⭐️. The Heiress Gets a Duke is available today.
About Harper St. George
Harper St. George was raised in the rural backwoods of Alabama and along the tranquil coast of northwest Florida. It was a setting filled with stories of the old days that instilled in her a love of history, romance, and adventure. By high school, she had discovered the historical romance novel which combined all of those elements into one perfect package. She has been hooked ever since. She lives in the Atlanta area with her family and loves to hear from readers.
Thanks for joining me at The Naptime Writer Blog! Hope to see you again soon!
Thanks to @readforeverpub & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided my own.
@romance.in.the.wild 's glowing review of Emily Sullivan’s A Rogue to Remember made me request it right away & let me tell you that I did not regret it. This stunning debut is so emotionally rich, the setting is sumptuous, the way it kept me on a knife’s edge until it finally tumbled into a HEA was divine.
Set largely in 1897 Italy, ARTR tells the second chance story of Lottie Carlisle & Alec Gresham, who both grew up with Lottie’s political mastermind uncle as guardian. Very close as children, they had one magical night where it seemed their relationship would become romantic & then Alec left abruptly without word.
Five years later, Alec, an agent of the crown, has come to Italy to bring the wealthy Lottie back to England before she succeeds in deliberately ruining herself. On their journey home they must wrestle with the weight of their past, shared & not, &, among other things, Alec must decide if he’s willing to take what Lottie would offer.
I’m so excited about Emily Sullivan’s talent, about these characters she’s written & how beautifully she writes their journey. On top of the aforementioned emotional mastery on display here, this book offers stellar sex scenes including one in front of a mirror 🥵 & I think that’s all I need to say about that.
I did think that one aspect of the plot could have been a little tighter but wow, what a book!
5 ⭐️. A Rogue to Remember is available on 03/09/21.
📚 Q: what’s one of your top 10 (or so) reads of the year?
I really wanted to write a top ten list but of course it was difficult. Like so many others have said this year has felt so segmented; time has felt taffy-like, & there are some books I *remember* loving like Beach Read, even if it feels like I read them months ago WHEN I WAS A DIFFERENT PERSON.
I love how these lists send me into an existential crisis 😆.
So this is my list of 11 most memorable, top reads of 2020, with the caveat that I actually read so many amazing books that aren’t included here. A big hurray to all the authors who made our year better!
Cara Bastone’s Just a Heartbeat Away
Adrienne Young’s Fable
Emily Henry’s Beach Read
Charlie Adhara’s Big Bad Wolf series
Scarlett Peckham’s The Rakess
Ilona Andrews’s Sapphire Flames
Joanna Shupe’s The Devil of Downtown
Alexandria Bellefleur’s Written in the Stars
Alexis Hall’s Boyfriend Material
Talia Hibbert’s Take a Hint, Dani Brown
Roan Parrish’s In the Middle of Somewhere
Within the first chapter of When a Rogue Meets His Match I knew Elizabeth Hoyt had my number.
A lean, fighting machine of a hero who’s frequently described as having glittering black eyes & who is a so-called bully man for a Duke; said hero can’t help but watch & appreciate our heroine Messalina & want her even though she loathes him...I didn’t stand a chance, okay?
Gideon Hawthorne uses violence to do the Duke of Windmere’s dirty work & to collect debts. Raised in St. Giles he’s since made a fortune & plans on using Messalina to help win over aristocratic investors in his business ventures. It only helps that he’s long wanted her, the Duke’s niece.
Messalina has always believed the worst of her Gideon. It doesn’t help matters when her uncle threatens her into marrying him. But she begins to see Gideon in a new light now & again, which confuses her & makes her question her decision to leave him after securing enough funds to provide for herself & her sister.
In case I didn’t make it clear, this hero really does things for me. From his physical description to his mannerisms to his big feelings for Messalina which he doesn’t immediately recognize as love. Of course you love her, you adorable deadly fool.
But the “mysterious task” the Duke has given him in exchange for “giving”Messalina to him in marriage & Gideon’s own so-called manipulative nature could ruin everything.
I love how Hoyt explores class differences w/ a working-class hero trying to force his way into an unreceptive aristocratic class & how Messalina tries to help him. How he and their marriage make her realize things about life for those in each class. How she & their marriage make him realize how to show & express love.
Like in the other Hoyt books I’ve read, the characters (esp the males) are often gray & willing to contemplate stepping over the line into black. There’s quite a lot of violence in this book.
But the violent antihero with a secret mushy heart really worked for me 🤣.
[cw: memories of a child who was hanged for theft.]
4.5 ⭐️. When a Rogue Meets His Match is out on 12/01. Thanks to Forever Pub, Grand Central Pub, & Netgalley for the complimentary copies of this book. All opinions provided are my own.
If you love dark, tortured, emotionally starved heroes who eventually recognize that they’ve fallen HARD for the heroine then may I rec Kerrigan Byrne.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from her latest release, All Scot & Bothered, but I really enjoyed it, barring a couple of reservations. More on that later.
Cecelia Teague is a mathematician, spinster, & Red Rogue. She unexpectedly inherits a school from her aunt & learns that it’s funded by gambling.
Chief Justice Cassius Ramsay, an unforgiving Judgy McJudgerson, believes that the school is actually a front for kidnapping & human trafficking. In his raid of the school Cecelia adopts the disguise of The Scarlet Lady.
Our hero has very reluctant pants feelings for both women, Cecelia & The Scarlet Lady, not realizing that they are one & the same. He’s also been celibate for 7+ years & has no plans of changing that, especially because women are the worst yada yada yada & The Scarlet Lady is the worst of them all.
This book has a few things you might love-
She’s soft; he’s hard (lots of jokes we could make there).
A misogynist hero who comes to some big realizations, though I wanted them to go even further since they’re so tied up to how amazing Cecelia specifically is. What about other women, pal?
A spectacles-wearing, plump heroine who doesn’t like confrontation but stands up for herself w/ him.
The # of times said heroine stares at how his muscles move under his clothes.
But I do think there’s a convo romance could have about how the Italian Count is described, & race & ethnicity in general in this book, my overall reading of which was indirectly informed by a series of Tweets by a romance reader who had issues with a lot of the book, including how it handles the topics of misogyny & race. If you’re thinking about picking this one up I definitely rec that you read reviews written by POC.
With that being said overall for me this is mostly another transporting book written by a master at pulling heartstrings. But is anyone else hoping for a KB book w/ a heroine who goes scorched Earth on the hero for a sec?
4 ⭐️. All Scot & Bothered is out now. Thanks to St. Martin's Press & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC & finished copy. All opinions provided are my own.
I’m a huge fan of Beauty & the Beast re-tellings & I was so excited to get my hands on Lenora Bell’s spin. Love is a Rogue is a delightful version with a heroine as the beast & the sweetest softest hero—a cinnamon rogue as I think I saw Lenora call him.
Lady Beatrice Bentley is an etymologist working on compiling her own dictionary in Cornwall. Dubbed Beastly Beatrice, she wants to be a spinster but her mother, a Duchess, has other plans.
Stamford “Ford” Wright is a naval carpenter on temporary leave who can’t help but be drawn to Beatrice.
He’s a rogue. She’s a duke’s sister with an awful nickname who was isolated from others in her childhood & is now preoccupied with her work.
Both resolve to stay away from the other but that’s hard to do when Ford must inform the Duke of some employee malfeasance & Beatrice inherits a London bookstore that just so happens to need a renovation.
What did I love about this historical? The rep—Beatrice wears spectacles & has palsy. How Lenora explores the societal constraints Beatrice & Ford face. The emotionality of the hero & how soft he is when it comes to Beatrice. The bold women we see here, members of a Knitting League that doesn’t knit.
Overall this is an enjoyable read & a cool Beauty & the Beast re-telling with a stand-out hero.
3.5 ⭐️. Love is a Rogue is out now. Thanks to Avon & Goodreads for my complimentary copy, which I won in a giveaway. All opinions provided are my own.
Q: who’s an underrated historical romance author you rec?
I’m a big fan of Grace Burrowes:
Unconventional, sex-positive characters.
An understated Downtown Abbey-esque style—gentle tones used to convey some tough love, insults, & drama!
Secrets! & some familial discord but the characters also possess an unbending sense of integrity & loyalty.
The Truth about Dukes focuses on Robert, a duke living with epilepsy who has decided to return to his rightful societal place.
As a child, after experiencing epileptic episodes, Robert was sent to live in a mental asylum by his father & the assumption was that he was dead. After his brother rescued him Robert spent years in his home, anxious of many things related to his terrible asylum experience.
Now, forced to act like a Duke, Robert finds an old ally, Lady Constance Wentworth, who once left her family for reasons unknown so she could be a maid at the aforementioned asylum. They had a friendship, an allyship, then but haven’t spoken since.
Like with her other books I’ve read, the love story here is touching & tender & gives me those awww feelings. Because Burrowes writes imperfect characters, her romances often feel real & approachable.
Robert & Constance are two ships on storm-wrecked seas & I love how they latch onto each other. They’re able to reveal their vulnerabilities with one another & it’s truly beautiful to me.
I did feel like there are some execution issues with this romance though, particularly some aspects of the plot & characterization that feel rushed.
Be aware too that this book is tackling the subject of how people in the 19th century might have viewed someone with epilepsy, & the reactions to Robert & his episodes are often callous, insensitive, &/or cruel, both outside of the leads’ families & within.
With TTaD Burrowes offers another beautiful tale of two characters falling in love—it’s just that some aspects of how the tale unfold don’t quite hold up for me.
the heroine felt like she had to give up her illegitimate daughter for adoption years earlier. Veiled references to the heroine’s background, including things her violent father did & forced his children to do.]
3.5 ⭐️. The Truth about Dukes releases on 11/10. Thanks to Netgalley, Forever Pub, & Grand Central Pub for the complimentary ARC (and the latter two for the finished copy, too.) All opinions provided are my own.
Give me that HEA, please.
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