Caught by the Scot- Karen Hawkins

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Don’t you just love when you read a book from an author that is new to you, and it is so good that the author is immediately added to your “must read all new books” list? Well, that is what this book did for me and Karen Hawkins. Fortunately, my first Hawkins is also the first in her new “Made to Marry” series which is a great retread of a fave trope: some hot Scottish brothers are forced to marry in order to inherit.

The Story-
The first brother in this series, Conner is a young roustabout rogue who is absolutely certain that an old family friend, Theodora, will be tickled pink to marry him, if only he offers. In a funny twist, Theodora has just eloped with a local guy and is not about to swoon at Conner’s feet now that he is finally giving her the time of day.

My Thoughts-
I adore the humor in this book. There are some truly hysterical situations and scenes, but the wit is also there. Also, I am so glad that Hawkins didn’t make Theodora’s fiance some jerky guy. She took a way better, more interesting route in his character development that felt just perfect. Conner and Theodora are super duper hot, which I love. He’s so surprised by their heat, and she’s so true to herself; the inner conflicts shine and make you root for both characters. Hawkins’ writing kept me rapt; I couldn’t quit reading. The plot feels fresh. Even though it has been done before, it hasn’t been done in this way with this humor. And yet, though there is humor, the heart is still here.

The Bottom Line-
If you love historical and haven’t read Karen Hawkins, this is an EXCELLENT choice to start with. If you are a fan of hers, you probably already have this on pre-order. I cannot wait to read more from her. I highly recommend her to fans of Tessa Dare, Eloisa James, Loretta Chase,and Julie Garwood. And, to top it off, she writes Scots, which happens to be one of my fave historical sub-groups. 5 stars!

The Rogue’s Conquest- Lily Maxton

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This is my first book by Lily Maxton, and I am pleased to say that I really enjoyed it. The Townsends series features siblings in Edinburgh that are up and coming in society, a bit on the fringe, but definitely devoted to one another.

The Story-
Eleanor Townsend studies bugs, beetles specifically. She is brilliant in her recordings and findings, and has been requested to present them to an important society. Unfortunately, they believe her to be male. What to do, but dress up as a man and present the findings incognito?! James MacGregor is a prize-fighter who wants only to climb in society for vengeful reasons. When he discovers Eleanor’s secret, he decides that she is his way in.

My Thoughts-
Eleanor and James are both somewhat underdogs, so I loved seeing them interact and overcome their own personal issues to be together. This is an excellent friends-to-lovers romance with nice twists that I didn’t expect. I always have a soft spot for when a hero sees something special in a girl that no one else sees, and Maxton does that so well here. Another big plus? The “other woman” is not a b****! Yay! We have real female friendship without backbiting. Way to go! The story has great pacing, identifiable characters, and swoon-worthy moments.

The Bottom Line-
I love when I find an author that isn’t with one of the big pubs that is really great. Lily Maxton is the real deal, and this book is thoroughly enjoyable. The different setting of Edinburgh, the development of this great family, and a great twist on a recognizable plot all came together to make me love this book. I will be reading the rest of the series, and I recommend this author to fans of Julia Quinn and Sarah MacLean. 5 stars

Blame it on the Bet- L.E. Rico

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This “Bliss” book is set in an adorable Irish pub in Minnesota setting with “whiskey sisters” named after various brands of whiskey. This is Hennessy’s story, and it is like a not-cheesy Hallmark movie. Having previously read and enjoyed Rico’s hot contemporary, “Solo”, I was looking forward to this one, especially since I spent 5 years of my life in North Dakota. It didn’t disappoint; Rico got the vibe of small-town almost-Canada perfectly from hotdishes to the lethal ice on the sidewalks.

The Story-
Hennessy’s father just died and left her and her sisters with a mountain of debt and an Irish pub that he was all set to sell. The buyer, Bryan Truitt, travels to Minnesota to complete the sale. Of course, he is charmed by the small town and its inhabitants.

My Thoughts-
While this may sound like a story you’ve heard or a movie you’ve seen (starring Candace Cameron Bure), Rico’s smart sense of humor and approach make it feel entirely fresh. She populates the town with an array of secondary characters, and some have a lot more going on than you might figure. I was initially a bit confused by all the characters with the androgynous whiskey names, but I soon got everyone straight and appreciated that she took the time to really flesh out who these people are. It makes me even more excited for future books. As I said above, she got the mid-west charm down to a “t” and made me miss my stand-in home for a few years. The romance is well-developed, especially in the motivations and background of the hero. Since this is a “Bliss” book, the sex happens behind closed doors, but I didn’t feel like it detracted from the story. (For the most part…What can I say? I like the door open.)

The Bottom Line-
If you like Hallmark movies, this is so much smarter than those usually are, although it would make an excellent Hallmart Christmas movie. (series!) I can’t wait to read Bailey’s book eventually because I loved her particular brand of sass, but whichever Whiskey Sister is next, I’m game! 4 stars

Releasing Henry- Sarah Hegger

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Sarah Hegger has crafted a beautifully-written medieval world and family in the Sir Arthur’s Legacy series, so I was really looking forward to returning to this world. When I started the book, I was completely thrown by how different it was, but once I got into it, I found the characters even more touching than before.

The Story-
Henry went off to the crusades several years ago and, somehow, has ended up a slave in North Africa. An old friend buys his freedom at the same time that a local merchant, originally from Genoa, is sending his daughter back to Europe to protect her. She happens to be a gal that Henry has watched, admiringly, from a distance. He will have to get much closer to her when he gets tasked with bringing her to family in Genoa before he heads home to Anglesea.

My Thoughts-
I feel like Sarah did an amazing job of getting across her message without being preachy. She handled issues of race, discrimination, and differences with grace and dignity. I felt so strongly for both Alya and Henry as they tried to make a new life for themselves. This is truly an emotional book that examines human connections and love. It does get a bit dark, so if you are looking for a light-hearted historical romance, this isn’t it. This is more serious and thought-provoking.

The Bottom Line-
What a beautiful end to a lovely series. I did cry a little (twice). I hope Ms. Hegger isn’t done with historical (although I LOVE her new contemporary series and highly suggest you check it out) because she really has a knack for historical world-building and making me feel like I’ve stepped back into the past, if only for a few hours. 4 1/2 stars

The Laird Takes a Bride- Lisa Berne

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The Laird Takes a Bride is my first book by Lisa Berne, but I was pleasantly surprised. A true Scottish historical (not a Regency disguising itself as Scottish), this marriage of convenience story definitely provides a different spin on the trope.

The Story-
Fiona has had her heart broken, and she has given up on love. Alasdair was enjoying the bachelor life, but when an old edict is uncovered, he’s going to have to make a big change.

My Thoughts-
I really enjoyed the “Bachelor” set-up, but was disappointed at how quickly everything was settled. The characters are well developed, but they are both too stubborn to almost be believed. That being said, I couldn’t quit turning pages because I absolutely had to know how it was that these two would end up falling for each other. The Scottish setting and daily life circumstances provide depth and a nice historical framework that isn’t always achieved in books like this.

The Bottom Line-
I would read another book by Berne, especially if it is set in Scotland. An enjoyable historical read. 4 stars

Traitor in Her Arms- Shana Galen

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Previously having read and enjoyed a Regency historical by Galen, I was looking forward to this one, especially when I noticed that it was set during the French Revolution. I was not disappointed, but this was not the light-hearted romp that I am accustomed to in historical romance.

The Story-
After her husband’s death, Gabrielle is left with all of his gambling debt and no way to pay it back. She has taken to stealing expensive artifacts from the rich in order to keep her head above water, but when she is offered the chance to repay everything and help the Scarlet Pimpernel free innocents in Paris, she must act. Ramsey has always been intrigued by Gabrielle, but no more so than now, catching her in the act of theft. A secret and blackmail keep him from realizing his full potential, and now he will follow Gabrielle into danger to hopefully free himself.

My Thoughts-
It was so refreshing to read of a different time period than Regency or Victorian England, but man, Revolutionary Paris is pretty depressing. Exciting, yes. But still depressing. The danger in this story was as palpable as a world-ending paranormal, which I adjusted to, but was perhaps not expecting from the normally light historical genre. The development of the characters was thorough and complete; their actions are entirely driven by their motivations. The heat between the two was constantly simmering beneath the surface. Mostly though, the depictions of Paris during the Revolution perfectly set the scene. I could almost smell the blood and feel the tension, waiting for the zing of the guillotine. Honestly, this felt more like a historical novel with romantic elements than a true romance because of the weight of the plot. I think that is what kept it from a 5 star rating for me; I wasn’t prepared, and the suspense stressed me a bit.

The Bottom Line-
If, after reading this review, you are thinking that this sounds like a book you will really enjoy, you will likely LOVE this one. If you are in the mood for a light historical, this probably won’t be your jam today. Well-written and a wonderfully different setting! 4 1/2 stars

How to Marry a Marquess- Stacy Reid

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This is the third book in Reid’s “Wedded By Scandal” series which focuses on a variety of couples caught in some sort of scandalous behavior. I really enjoyed the second book in this series, and this one was also entertaining.

The Story-
Evie and Richard have been friends for a long time. He’s helped her keep unwanted suitors away since she was 16. But, now that it is time for her to actually marry, Richard is torn between helping her with lessons in seduction and finding a wife for himself and his illegitimate daughter.

My Thoughts-
I enjoy Reid’s style which focuses more on character development and really hashing out why the two belong together. Although the plot is strong, it is the characters here who really shine. Evie is perfectly easy to imagine from the moment we meet her vomiting all over Richard’s shoes and burping to warn off would-be suitors, but still beautiful and innocent. (Not joking. She is a lot of fun.) Richard is an equally well-drawn character, and it is great to see how Reid winds a path around their journey to each other.

The Bottom Line-
These books always have a different, refreshing feel to me that is welcome in a normally predictable genre. The only thing that kept this from 5 stars for me was that the conflict keeping the hero and heroine apart didn’t seem to need as much time to resolve as it took. But, I will definitely be around for the next one in the series and recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical romance. 4 stars

The Deepest Well- Juliette Cross

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Re-releasing today for .99! This book is a prequel to the upcoming Dominion series from Juliette Cross which also takes place in the same world she introduced in the Vessel series (starts with Forged in Fire). You can read this as a stand-alone or read the Vessel series first. The benefit of starting with the Vessel series is that you know the outcome, so seeing how the characters get to the outcome you already know is lots of fun. That being said, you will be able to follow completely if you are new to this world of angels and demons.

The Story-
Lady Katherine is going through the motions of her life. When she meets a handsome stranger on the same night that she realizes what a sham her marriage is, her life changes forever.

My Thoughts-
Y’all, this goes dark. It is not fun and flirty. The characters go through hell before they can find their HEA, but that makes it even more satisfying when they do. This is such a beautiful journey, and Cross will rip your heart out along the way. I love everything about this book. I can almost guarantee that it won’t be what you expect: it is so much more. Cross’s prose is beautiful with wonderful imagery and lovingly-crafted characters that you immediately connect with.

The Bottom Line-
This book is paranormal historical, perfect for fans of Karen Marie Moning, Bec Mc Master or high-concept dark romance. An RT top pick, this is an excellent book that didn’t have the release it deserved because of Samhain Publishing’s collapse. This is such a great opportunity for new readers to discover an amazing author and two fabulous series. 5 stars

Buy it Now! Amazon

The Wicked Heir- Elizabeth Michels

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The Spare Heirs… I just love this concept. This was my first book in the series, but now I want to go back and read them all. It’s such a great idea to focus on those second sons who won’t inherit, but have no jobs or “meaning” in life. Although, I can’t imagine a much better spare heir than Fallon St. James, and I fear the others will pale in comparison.

The Story-
Isabelle is a romantic. She keeps a diary, loves to read romance, and reminded me of the heroine from Northanger Abbey. Since she daydreams her fantasies, of course her ideal man is tall and blonde with worldly interests and charisma. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to realize she is alive, but when his best friend, Fallon St. James, notices her light stalking (like all teenage girls do), they become unlikely friends. There’s a mystery, friends-to-lovers, and other fun stuff that I don’t want to spoil.

My Thoughts-
I could see how someone could become annoyed with the heroine, but I felt such a kinship with her that I forgave her naivete. As for the hero, he was one of my absolute faves of recent reads. The plot is wonderfully captivating, and the characters are well-developed. My mystery feels more high stakes than most in Regency romances with a truly evil bad guy.

The Bottom Line-
If you read Regency, this series is a must, and I suspect that this is one of the best heroes in this series. A very fast read that will have you smiling and sighing. I can’t wait to read about another “Spare Heir” (hopefully Lord Brice). 5 stars

My Hellion, My Heart- Amalie Howard and Angie Morgan

This is the third book in Howard and Morgan’s “Lords of Essex” series. I read and reviewed the first book “My Rogue, My Ruin” and really enjoyed it, but I liked this one even better. Don’t worry: you don’t need to have read the previous books in the series to enjoy this one.

The Story-

Princess Irina is in her third season, and is expected to make a match, but none of her suitors can match up to the man who has always been lurking in the back of her mind, her former guardian Henry. Henry is a different man since the war; he sees himself as unfit for anyone, but he is continually drawn to the one woman he has always considered off limits.

My Thoughts-

I loved Irina in particular. This heroine can keep up with men in all areas, protects herself, and has the wit to match. She is a whisky-drinking, knife-toting, sassy gal, and I wanted to be her friend. Henry, while playing the part of handsome, brooding guy, was sexy and swoon-worthy, but I felt he was somewhat too closed up for too long. Not sure I’d have waited for him if I was Irina. The only other niggle I had was who turned out to be the bad guy. I won’t say more because it would be a spoiler, but I was disappointed. That being said, I loved the plot and characters, and found it cohesive and compelling.

The Bottom Line-

This is an improvement upon an already wonderful series with refreshingly different Regency characters, especially the heroine. I am looking forward to what comes next from Howard and Morgan, and will happily read whatever they write. 4 1/2 stars!