The Bastard Billionaire- Jessica Lemmon

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“The Bastard Billionaire” is my first book by Jessica Lemmon, and I have to admit that I totally selected this book based on the cover. Love the combination of the tattoos and the suit! I really expected this to be about a true bastard, not just a guy who acts like a bastard/jerk. But, even though it wasn’t entirely what I expected, I was not disappointed.

The Story-

Eli was in the military and had a traumatic experience where he lost a leg and two friends.  His wealthy family is desperate for him to take his place in the family business, but he wants to wallow alone in his depression/guilt. So, he acts like an absolute asshole to every assistant that is sent his way. Apparently his “meanness” has sent many an assistant away, crying. (Who are these weak women than can’t handle a bit of a jerk?) Isabella happens to own the agency sending the assistants, and now she is planning on going in herself, pretending to be an assistant, in order to keep their business and smooth relations until she can replace herself with a viable option. Eli acts like a jerk; she takes none of his crap. (Surprise, surprise!)

My Thoughts-

The main reason I actually enjoyed this book despite the predictable plot and jerk hero is the heroine, Isabella.  She is smart, self-assured, beautiful, and never whiny. Isabella is confident, and gives us someone to root for. Parts of this book dragged for me; it felt like a similar conflict kept arising between the two, only to be resolved, then to come back later.  There are some excellent moments, though, that make this book thoroughly enjoyable.  The “hot” scenes are both realistic and completely steamy at the same time: button snipping, I am thinking of you… And, our hero redeems himself fully in several critical scenes involving Isabella’s past and insecurities.

The Bottom Line-

The billionaire aspect of this book is practically non-existent, which is a good thing to me. Eli doesn’t act like a jerk because he’s a billionaire; that actually barely registers in his life. He has some real issues to work through. Isabella is an excellent character: the perfect balance of soft and confident that many women aspire to. I recommend this book for fans of contemporary with strong female characters and damaged men. 4 stars

The Beast of Aros Castle- Heather McCollum


I’ll admit it: this is another one where the cover absolutely was the reason I wanted to read the book.  In fact, I was slightly worried with the word “beast” in the title that it might be too… something … for me. But, I love highlanders, and I love the tiny islands that surround my dream land of Scotland. So, yep… this was not a difficult choice. “The Beast of Aros Castle” paid off and successfully provided a lovely jaunt across the sea.
The Story-

Ava is a commoner that was taken in by a noble family in England; she’s more than a servant, but not treated exactly as family, especially by the horrific brother who is soon to inherit upon his father’s death. Fearing rape, forced marriage and other terrible outcomes, Ava and Grace, her best friend and daughter of the family, scheme to escape by marrying Grace off to a Scottish laird.  When Grace fears going through with the marriage, Ava decides to step up, pretend to be Grace, and marry Tor Maclean herself. The plan is to eventually slip away and live on their own in Scotland, away from threats.   Tor is not interested in marrying again after being deceived the first time around.  But, this feisty woman refuses to give up, and a man can’t hold out forever, can he?
My Thoughts-

I really loved Ava for her wit, intelligence and courage.  Honestly, as much as I liked the hero, I’m not entirely sure he’s good enough for her.  The relationship between her and Grace added to the story; I just love it when we see a healthy female relationship where they support each other.  The bad guy is really bad (perverse, evil, plotting), and I thought the resolution was extremely satisfying.  There are some great twists and surprises in this story, and I became very invested in Ava.
The Bottom Line-

The island setting was refreshing for a Scottish-set romance, and the heroine is certainly more than your typical damsel-in-distress.  I’m already scouring Heather McCollum’s backlist for more! 4 stars

Rough and Tumble- Rhenna Morgan 


Contemporary isn’t normally my jam. I like my romance to let me escape to another world or another time, but let me tell you: if Rough and Tumble represents now, I want to stay.   Ms. Morgan has previously been a fantasy fave of mine, but in this new series, her writing, her characters, and her heat level hit a new ballpark altogether.
The Story-

Vivienne has always helped her sister out of bad decisions. In fact, her sister’s bad decisions have informed how she lives her life: clean and safe.  When she meets Jace while saving her sister from yet another drunken scrape, he is anything but clean and safe. He is a rough alpha that immediately tempts her to let her wild side loose.
My Thoughts-

Jace is everything. He is the perfect blend of alpha: protective, directive, but aims to please in only the best way. Things that would sound cocky or annoying coming out of most character’s mouths just sound sexy when Jace says them. I melted my way through this book, reading and rereading chapters. Viv is totally relatable, with a great dog and a funky room that I wish I had in my own house. The Haven Brothers (just wait!) are each special in their own way, and I think Ms. Morgan decided to create a series based on the various fantasies of women. We have a cowboy, a doctor, a brooding security guy, a hot nerd, and a Scot. I think that about covers it, right ladies? I am personally most excited about the hot nerd, Knox, and the Scot. What can I say? I have a weakness for plaid… Either way, this book is the perfect introduction to what I believe will be an amazing series.
Bottom Line-

This book is special. Like 5 stars, life-changing, special. I will read it again, and I can’t wait to hear what they do with the audio book. If Jace sounds as hot as he is in this book, that is gonna be totally worth it. If you like contemporary, this is such a no-brainer. If you don’t, this book may just convert you. Warning: it is so hot. Don’t get me wrong; there is a definite love story, and it is not just sex, but Jace makes it hot as hell even when they are just chit-chatting.  Yes, I am raving, but if this book doesn’t get nominated for some stuff this year, I will be shocked. It’s that good. 5 very strong, shiny gold stars!

BUY IT NOW!

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Harlequin (Print, Ebook, & Audio) – http://bit.ly/RT-Harl
Carina Press – http://bit.ly/RT1-CP

Millionaire Makeover- Naima Simone

“Millionaire Makeover” is my first book by Naima Simone, and it will definitely not be my last. Right up front: this is not a typical millionaire book.  And for me, that’s a good thing. For some reason, the trope of some prick rich guy falling for his secretary doesn’t really speak to me (Pride and Prejudice notwithstanding).  The fact that the guy has money is not really integral to the plot; in fact, this is really more of a second chance romance. 

The Story-

When Niall’s best friend and practically brother died, he had a one-night stand with BFF’s younger sister.  It was everything, but when he woke in the morning, he found a letter from dead BFF asking him to take care of her and help her find a guy “worthy” of her.  Since he feels that he is definitely NOT that worthy guy, he backs off and leaves her.  Fast-forward a few years, and Khloe has a good job and a crush on her boss.  When her best friend suggests making her appear more desirable by taking a hot date from a bachelor auction to an upcoming function, Khloe reluctantly agrees.  Of course, the bachelors are masked, so she doesn’t realize that she is, in fact, bidding on Niall.

My Thoughts-

My favorite thing about this book is how much Niall appreciates Khloe for who she is.  He has no desire to change her; he worships her curves. He daydreams about all the naughty things that he wants to do to her. He showers her with gifts.  I also love how normal Khloe is.  She doesn’t normally dress up for work, preferring comfy, loose clothing (hello Lularoe!) and is generally laid-back.  Khloe’s “makeover” is not about changing who she is because Niall is all about who she is.  It’s more about pampering her and making her feel special. Who doesn’t want that?  The romance was perfectly built with so many hot moments before they even got it on.  And OMG, this book made me cry. Sentimental sigh. I did not expect to have so many feels from a “millionaire” book. 

The Bottom Line-

This is a wonderful contemporary.  I will be reading more from Ms. Simone very soon. She has hooked me into her millionaire books, at least, and who knows? Maybe I judged the genre too quickly. Either way, this receives a sentimental 5 stars from me and a great big smile/sigh. 

The Duke- Kerrigan Byrne

This is my first Kerrigan Byrne, and I have to tell you… after coming off Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series, I was a little worried about reading a historical that might not be able to match the intensity. Boy, was I wrong! Byrne has her own dark intensity, and at one point, I literally said, “what!?! oh my gosh!” 

The Story- 
Imogen is stuck tending bar at a whorehouse because her dad ran up a ton of debt before he died. One night, a young Duke strolls in and pays for her virginity. The experience changes the both of them and will influence both of their paths as the years pass. 

My Thoughts-
OMG, I love Imogen. I think she is my spirit animal, if that can be said of a character. The way she picks herself up and focuses on creating and being light and life inspires me. I’m honestly not sure the Duke is worthy of her, but she wants him, so that’s good enough for me. Her story is so good, but will definitely surprise you. The tension between the two is palpable, and the pain that they both feel is so real that all the reactions make complete sense. You feel like these are two people that have truly been to hell and back and are coming to grips with it. Don’t get me wrong: this book will also make you laugh out loud and cheer Imogen’s wit. 

Bottom Line-
If you are a fan of historical romance that has a dark edge and intriguing, fully-developed characters, you will love this! I can’t wait to go back and read the rest of the series. 5 stars

Hooked- Christina Phillips

I’ll admit it: this cover “hooked” me. (tee hee!) Between the cover and the motorcycle club being the “Viking Bastards”, umm yeah, I was on board. This is my first book by Christina Phillips, but it will not be my last. 

The Story-
Grace’s car happens to break down in the “wrong side of town” on the day after she breaks off her engagement to a stuffy prick. When she wanders into Odin’s, a biker bar named after the Viking god, she and Zach have immediate sparks that they decide to act on… on the pool table in the back room. Neither one is looking for something serious, but they can’t get enough of one another in more ways than one.

My Thoughts-
It’s been awhile since I read something in first person, so that took a little getting used to. The only thing about it that bothered me was the multiple swaps in a chapter, but I really did love hearing the characters’ inner voices. With people who are withholding so much information from the other party, that inner monologue clears things up for the reader. Both Zach and Grace are incredibly likable, and they heat up the pages of this book. I found it to be an extremely quick read that kept me smiling and turning pages. 

The Bottom Line-
I will be back for more Viking Bastards. I hope they are all as hot as Zach, and I can’t wait to meet them. This book was a piece of candy that I ate a little to fast, but has me reaching for another… 4 stars

Schooling the Viscount- Maggie Robinson

 This is my first book by Maggie Robinson, but the idea of a romance set in the Cotswolds really appealed to me. “Schooling the Viscount” is the first book in the Cotswold Confidential series and, despite the silly name, Robinson delivers a satisfying romance.

The Story-
The tiny village of Puddling-on-the-Wold, which is in the Cotswolds, is a Regency/Victorian rehab of sorts. When family members go off the rails or need some sort of intervention, they get sent to the village where everyone in the village conspires to help cure them of whatever ailment they possess. If he’s a drunk, there is no liquor to be found in town. If they need to lose a few pounds, only healthy food is available. (Can someone please send me on a diet in the Cotswolds?) Our viscount, Henry, got caught by his father with a couple of prostitutes so… every young woman must stay hidden from his view during his visit. Of course, Henry wanders where he shouldn’t and comes across the young schoolteacher, Rachel.

My Thoughts-

As innocent and innocuous as all this sounds, it actually has some great spice and tension. The best thing about the book is that Robinson allows her characters depth and true humanity.  Rachel isn’t a cookie-cutter schoolteacher; she is a passionate woman who fantasizes about being swept away in naughty ways. Henry is dealing with some PTSD from his wartime experiences.  Yes, there are some hijinks and silliness here and there: for some reason, the hero keeps bumping his head or falling down. Even so, I felt that the build of the romance and the relationship was strong and satisfying. Also, the secondary characters are interesting and well-developed. They add to the story rather that just being space fillers. I loved Rachel’s dad!  
Bottom Line-

If you like your romance with some humor, this is a good choice. The characters are well-developed and interesting. I visited the Cotswolds this past year, and this book was such a fun return to a beautiful and unique setting for a romance. I hope publishers and authors keep producing books that take place somewhere other than the typical 5 or so settings. I will definitely be looking forward to Cotswold Confidential Book #2!  4 stars

Wicked in His Arms- Stacy Reid

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I love when I find a new (to me) author to get excited about and read all her new books when they come out. Stacy Reid has a fan in me with “Wicked in His Arms”. I’ll admit to a little light Internet stalking where I found Reid’s story about how she came up with the idea for this series. She said that she was rewatching “Pride and Prejudice” (love) and said to her husband “why doesn’t Jane just get herself caught in a scandal with Mr. Bingley?” or something to that nature. And he suggested that she write books about characters forced to marry because they get caught together or are involved in scandal. I love that! Even better, this isn’t a typical marriage-of-convenience trope where they got caught, but it was a mistake or something. These two have serious passion! But, I am getting ahead of myself…

The Story-
Livvie didn’t have a successful first season out because of the scandal surrounding her father’s suicide. In order to make sure she marries properly, she is sent to the estate of a Duke whose mother is supposed to help Livvie. The Duke in question, Tobias, is known as a cold and calculating man. He never lets his feathers get ruffled or loses his temper: he is like a pressure cooker which is constantly simmering, but never bursting. He refuses to let a woman make a fool of him like the previous men in his family. Oh, and he’s a writer! Swoon!

My Thoughts-
I identified with Livvie- her temper, her love of reading and doing things her own way made her a very appealing heroine. Tobias was maddening, but so lovingly redeemed in the end that it made his journey worth it. Still… up to that point, I was like “poor Livvie should not be putting up with this emotionally unavailable jerk.” I found the dialogue very strong and loved how Livvie put the other women in their place. Some of the back and forth in the second half of the novel got a bit redundant to me, but the characters and the development of their romance won me over.

Bottom Line-
If you enjoy historical romance with savvy dialogue, I recommend fun and unique read. The characters just fly off the page into the imagination and make you root for them so hard. Isn’t that what all romance strives to be? I will be checking out the first book in this series and am looking forward to the next one! 4 1/2 stars

Married to Her Enemy- Jenni Fletcher

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“Married to Her Enemy” is the debut book by Jenni Fletcher, and it is a historical romance for those who love history. This is not your typical historical romance; the scope of the story and the history set it apart.

The Story-

Aediva is a Saxon lord’s daughter is in the midst of the Norman invasion. Her sister, Cille, has returned from her castle which has been sacked, only to give birth just as their family home is being invaded.  When the invading Norman mentions taking her back as a bride for the Norman commander, Aediva decides to stand-in for her sister to protect her. Svend is not truly a Norman, but he cannot return to his homeland, and he is searching for a home and for a place to put down roots. When he begins to bond with his prisoner, past betrayals remind him to guard his heart.

My Thoughts-

All of the characters in this story are well-developed with realistic motivations and actions.  One of my favorite things about reading books set in a different time period is the chance to learn something about that time. This book accomplished that as I really hadn’t considered the people involved in the Norman invasion of England before.  You visit these big crumbling towers, and it isn’t always easy to imagine the lives of the people who lived there.  Fletcher does a great job of bringing them to life.  My only issue was something near the end that I’m not sure was needed, and that the heat level, while not closed door, is somewhat tame in comparison to many current releases. That being said, I enjoyed this book thoroughly.

The Bottom Line-

Jenni Fletcher has written a very good debut novel, and I look forward to reading more from her.  This historic romance is a fresh departure from our beloved rakes and rogues with realistic characters that breathe life into another time.  It whisked me off to another place and time: a perfect escape, which is exactly the reason I read romance. 4 stars

Buy it on amazon here

 

Conquering William- Sarah Hegger

“Conquering William” is my first book by Sarah Hegger, and is the third in the Sir Arthur’s Legacy series of medieval romances.  I love historical romance, particularly medieval, but usually they don’t really transport me to that time period. Sure, they mention riding horses and having servants “draw baths”, but other than a few basic setting mentions, the stories are like any historical. Thankfully, this one is different. 
The Story

Alice has just married her 4th husband and has low expectations for this match since the others didn’t exactly make marriage an enjoyable state for her. Her plan is to “grin and bear it” until she can conceive a child, then ignore her new husband and carry on. William’s marriage to Alice was arranged for a land deal, but he plans to make the best of it.  Alice’s advisor/keeper (jailer), Sister Julianna, continues to get in the way of his potential happiness. Additionally, the more he learns about his new home, the more he finds that needs fixing. 

My Thoughts

I think that the historical setting really informed the characters here.  Alice is more the product of her environment and raising than a strong, sassy medieval heroine that we often encounter, but she is probably a more realistic representation of women in that time.  It was incredibly rewarding to see William win her over as he emboldens her to take her place in the household.  William is a great character; he is the perfect representation of a pretty boy turned responsible. The only thing that took me out of the book was Sweet Bea and the couple of times she took her anger out on Alice. Perhaps I would understand her personality better if I went back and read her book, but it seemed a little rash and over-reacting. This one quibble is not enough to take away from my enjoyment of this book though, and I had trouble putting it down. The story in this one doesn’t let up and continues to reveal surprises up to almost the last page. The secondary characters enrich the story, and as I’ve said, the setting is completely realized and is the perfect backdrop to tell this tale.

The Bottom Line

If you enjoy medieval romance, this is a must!  It is a true medieval with great characters and a captivating plot that clips right along. There were many well-thought-out, witty moments, and I will definitely read this author again. 5 stars