Q: do you think that you’d be good at maintaining a lie about your identity if it was your job to do so?
A terrifying ghost dressed in white, rumored to be haunting the husband who supposedly killed her. A bedchamber door that’s mysteriously unlocked, but only for the heroine. A hero who has more secrets than coins (<—this is a purely hyperbolic statement made for effect).
Anna Bradley’s romance The Virgin who Vindicated Lord Darlington takes an intriguing walk on the gothic romance side, offering a slow burn class difference/everyone’s keeping secrets/widower’s second chance at love tale.
Cecilia Gilchrist is posing as a housemaid in Lord Darlington’s home to discover if he really is in fact the Murderous Marquess. Believed to have murdered his wife, Gideon faces malicious gossip & things really start boiling over when a ghostly apparition believed to be his dead wife starts appearing in advance of his upcoming marriage to someone who is not our heroine.
Will Cecilia solve the case? & will Gideon actually marry someone who is not our Cecilia (also remember: our heroine isn’t being honest with him ).
This secret-driven atmospheric romance is an entertaining change of pace. I love how Cecilia challenges the lordly Lord Gideon & how she’s a genuinely nice person who, as Gideon says, enlivens his world. His devotion to Cecilia & his niece is pure sweetness.
But I didn’t care for how the deception plot unravels. Cecilia shares very little about her actual life w/ Gideon & what she does share is a lie, & that doesn’t feel adequately or sufficiently corrected by the end. I didn’t really feel like he “knew her” knew her & that’s important to me.
Also, & this could just be a personality clash, I was annoyed with some of the risks she continued to take .
My reading of this one was a little uneven but I’m looking forward to trying more in the series, especially book 1, which I’ve seen great reviews of.
there’s a disturbing plot element related to the death of Gideon’s first wife. Please contact me if you'd like more info.
3.5 ⭐️. The Virgin who Vindicated Lord Darlington publishes on 02/02. Thanks to Kensington Press & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Q: what’s one of your fave romance small towns?
Last week I started Jill Shalvis’s The Forever Girl, immediately had my heart squeezed by the talented hands of an Emotional Wizard, & decided that I would continue reading it another day 🤣.
Yesterday was the day & I approached it full steam ahead, both really enjoying it & determined to see this couple get their HEA.
The book opens with four friends/foster siblings gathered at the grave of the boy they lost & whom they all miss greatly.
Mazey Porter, called Maze & sometimes Mayhem Maze, also feels terribly guilty for his death, a guilt that has made her act out in certain ways & that hasn’t been helped by her fear of abandonment & of being vulnerable w/ others.
Walker Scott is also there at the grave, a man she lived with for a year when they were teens, the man she drunkenly married as a young 20-something in Vegas, the man she tries to ignore—& who does the same to her—even though she can never fully do that.
Three years of not talking later, when one of their foster siblings hatches a plan to have them all back in the same Wildstone house for a week, Mazey & Walker can’t stay away from each other. Maybe this time they can figure it out...once the truth about Mazey’s fake boyfriend/best friend she roped into accompanying her comes out, that is.
This book is hardhitting in the emotional department, from the friendships to Mazey & Walker, to another foster sibling, Cat. If you like found family then The Forever Girl might be your jam because it’s all about grabbing on tight to the people you feel are your own.
While the relationship between Mazey & Walker isn’t quite as steamy as I would like, the chemistry is there & I love how complementary they are.
That leads me to my critique of this novel—it just feels obvious to me that they belong together, that they know it too, despite what they think sometimes & say—& this plus the forced proximity & how he’s always seeking her out—I don’t know 🤷🏻♀️—the tension, the will they or won’t they, is a little weak for me.
Still, this is a really great read written by an author who knows how to play the heart like a musical instrument .
References to past abuse, parental neglect, & death of a child. There’s also an insensitive joke comparing someone’s dancing to a seizure.
4 ⭐️. The Forever Girl is out on 01/12/21. Thanks to William Morrow & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
🥃 Q: have you read any romance novels set where you live?
Max Abbott is a bit taken aback when Quinn Bazemore, the woman he fell in love with 13 years ago & then DUMPED, matter-of-factly strides back into his life like the Business Queen she is & says hi, everyone, I’m working with you on a new product roll-out.
Max and his family own King’s Finest Distillery & they’re going to use fruit from Quinn’s grandfather’s orchard to produce fruit-flavored brandies. As a PR pro Quinn’s got a lot to add to their initiative...even if Max doesn’t want to bring her on-board.
But Quinn’s determined to ignore the memories of their one summer, even if that’s proving impossible for both of them.
This second chance romance is a scrumptious, dishy treat with lots of layers. Reese Ryan crafts a story that feels complex despite it’s shorter length—there’s the history between Quinn & Max, their efforts to roll-out their product, & a family rivalry that I think will get more air-time in the next book.
There are some elements of Quinn & Max’s story that feel a little thin to me, but for the most part I felt satisfied by the emotional depth of A Reunion of Rivals, particularly after Max starts opening up.
That guy took a little while for me to warm up to—until his secrets started spilling out. Then I discovered he was mushy soft on the inside & as emotionally devastated by Quinn as I had hoped.
And Quinn—what a woman. I love her professionalism, her confidence. There are a couple of times where she puts Max in his place & I was so happy to see her standing up for herself and for the younger woman whose heart had been broken.
A Reunion of Rivals is a great intro to the Abbott family and their distillery. I’m definitely coming back for more (ya know, at some point. Anyone else’s TBR getting out of control?).
CW: the heroine was previously harassed & lied about at work and resigned (off page)
A Reunion of Rivals is available now. Thanks to Harlequin Publishing and Netgalley for my complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Like many of you I’ve changed the genres I’ve been seeking out during the pandemic because my emotional state already seems a bit wobbly. I've read Abby Jimenez’s The Friend Zone and, since that book had me in knots, I was kind of dreading this one tbh, especially at this moment in time. But for much of the book The Happy Ever After Playlist is a freaking delight, crackling with humor and devotion of all kinds, giving me enough drive to get through the heavy parts because I knew there would be even happier stuff on the other side.
We met Sloan in The Friend Zone, where she encouraged her BF Kristen to accept true love and where she suffered the tragic loss of her own fiancé. Set two years later, THEAP opens with her stuck in a pretty stagnant state. A dog—someone’s lost pet—helps pull her out of it.
Sloan eventually learns that the dog’s owner’s name is Jason and he’s a musician currently traveling in Australia, and before she knows it they’re texting and then eventually, finally meeting in person.
Even when Jimenez has held my heart crushed between her fingers I’ve never doubted her characters’ love for each other. It sings. It dances. In this case, I felt Jason’s love like it was a tangible thing & that made what was to follow a little easier to bear. This book is INTENSELY romantic and gives me some major flutters.
As much as I appreciated how THEAP is lighter in angst than I had anticipated, I was kinda surprised that Brandon—and Sloan’s feelings about moving on from him—didn’t take up even more of the story. There’s also a scene with Jason when he’s initially processing that her fiancé died and his reaction is a little off-putting. To be clear, Sloan is definitely devastated by Brandon’s loss but I expected even more introspection, maybe even more guilt, about dating someone new...although maybe I’ve just read too many books like that and that’s just my problem ;).
There are a couple of things about the plot that I was somewhat resistant to but overall this book is a joy...with some heartache thrown in. It’s sooo funny—there’s one line from Kristen I’ve been wanting to share with people so badly haha—and I stan a creative, talented couple who care about their careers...and making it work with someone very special.
I felt the love in this one, people!
The Happy Ever After Playlist releases on April 14th. Thanks to Forever Pub & Grand Central Pub for my complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Give me that HEA, please.
Join my mailing list.
Want to receive a weekly email with links to my latest blog posts? Sign up below!