Heart On Fire- Amanda Bouchet

I am a huge fan of fantasy and paranormal romance, but for some reason, I hadn’t gotten around to Amanda Bouchet’s amazing series until recently. The first two books sat on my kindle, mocking me with their gorgeous Gene Mollica covers for months. And then, I got the chance to read the final book in the series and decided to get to work on these books that I had heard so many good things about… I devoured the first book in a day and told every reader I knew about it. I breathlessly raced through book 2 with its speedy pace and some of the best fighting scenes I’ve ever read. And then, I took a big breath and prepared myself for the end to this glorious story.

The Story-
You must read the other two books first, but just so you know, we are following adventures of mythological proportions of Cat and Griffin. Cat is bad-ass and Griffin is her perfect complement. This is a world with Greek gods, but it isn’t Earth. It is epic.

My Thoughts-
From the first book, I felt so connected to Cat. She is perfectly flawed: over-confident, rash, hot-tempered, loyal to a fault. I love that falling in love didn’t dilute Cat. Sure, Griffin helps to check her here and there, but mostly, he absolutely supports her and who she is. All of these characters, even secondary ones, are so fleshed-out that I was emotionally locked to every battle scene. Some people have had issues with certain parts of this book because of those emotional connections etc. As an English teacher and lover of literature, I felt that the death(s) and other dark scenes were perfectly placed and necessary to the story. Bouchet clearly knows the Hero’s Journey and follows that path in a new and interesting way. And yet, she still provides that HEA we all need at the end of this epic saga.
Do I hope that, at some point, we get a continuation or spin-off of this world featuring a certain someone? Sure. Will I survive if we don’t because this was such an amazing series that was so smartly written that it satisfied both my romance-reader side and my English-teacher side? You bet. Will I read absolutely everything that Bouchet writes in the future? Duh.

The Bottom Line-
Read the series. Let her take you on this journey. Sigh when it’s over. 5 stars

With this Christmas Ring- Manda Collins


I have read Manda Collins before, but was delighted to have a chance to read her Christmas novella. Honestly, this reads more like a novel. The characters are well-developed; the story doesn’t feel shortened or like there was anything left out. It is a perfect historical read for this time of year.


The Story-

Merry made a promise to keep the dying wish of her friend to return her baby to its father. The problem is, the father is cousins with the man she jilted years ago, but still loves. Alex could never understand why Merry ended their engagement, but now that she has come back into his life, he doesn’t intend on letting her get away again,


My Thoughts-

I was a little concerned that the baby plot would make this too sweet for me, but it really didn’t. The Christmas setting was just enough to put me in the holiday spirit without feeling like I overdosed on gingerbread. What surprised me here was how well the characters are developed and how complete the plot felt in a shorter book. Motivations all made sense; there were even great secondary characters rounding out the story. Pacing was great, and it left me with a happy little sigh.


The Bottom Line-

If you enjoy historical romance and want an easy read with a lovely Christmas setting, this is the perfect book for you. The baby stuff is not overdone, so if you aren’t a kid person, don’t be put off. This has enough heat, sweet, and mistletoe to make you smile this season. 4 stars


The Bride Who Got Lucky- Janna McGregor


This is the second book that I have read by Janna McGregor. Her debut novel and first book in this series impressed me with her use of language and depth of emotion in the characters. This time, she brings those strengths to this book and adds a captivating plot with a mystery and revenge. Oh, and feminists! Read on.


The Story-

Emma is desperate to prove that her best friend’s death was not an accident and to make sure the man responsible pays for his sins, but she might get in a bit over her head on this quest for revenge. Nick has something to prove to himself and to society, but whenever he is around Emma, his guard is down and he just wants to protect her. When she sets off on a mysterious scheme, he is compelled to do what he can to keep her safe.


My Thoughts-

What a heroine! Emma knows her own mind and what she wants, and will stop at nothing to get it. She is a feminist; she actually reminded me of some Courtney Milan heroines with her intelligence, self-worth, and passion. Sometimes she gets a little stubborn, but isn’t that how real people are? I love how Nick is so completely smitten by her that it changes him and makes him a better man in her presence. My only critique is that I would have liked to see the bad guy get his due in a more drastic, on-screen, fulfilling way, But, I like paranormal where the bad guy usually gets decapitated or something, so maybe that’s just my bloodlust talking. The heat level of this book is very nice for historical; there is one scene in particular that is so sensual and surprising… Don’t be fooled by the blushing bride on the cover. (wink) The character development and the development of the relationship is what I believe McGregor is best at, and she does it so well here. This is not one of those books where you wonder if they are right for one another or if they are only physically attracted to each other. The romance is built like a well-constructed tower to the point where you know they are the perfect fit, and no one else would do.


The Bottom Line-

I am so excited that this new historical writer has answered a wonderful debut with an even more enjoyable follow-up. I will be reading Janna McGregor for years to come, and if you like historical romance, you should too. 5 stars

The Right Kind of Rogue- Valerie Bowman

right kind of rogue

Earlier this year, I discovered Valerie Bowman through her last release “Never Love a Pirate”. I was thrilled to find such a breezy, funny author who has a different tone from most Regency authors today. Not surprisingly, I was pretty excited to read this new entry in the Playful Brides series.

The Story-
Meg has friends in high places, but she doesn’t have much to recommend her: her parents, though part of society, have mountains of debt; she is entering her third season as a wallflower; and, she doesn’t even have nice dresses. When her best friend and a duchess friend decide to sponsor her and give her a makeover to make this “her season”, they don’t know that she only has one guy in mind. Hart never paid much attention to his sister’s mousy best friend until she showed up to a recent ball looking like a princess.

My Thoughts-
While I really enjoyed Meg’s character and the makeover bits with the duchess, I never felt like Hart’s depth of feelings for her was enough. He is constantly thinking about how attractive she is and how he is physically attracted to her, but the emotional/personality side? Not so much. Bowman’s humor is back here in full force, especially with a hilarious silver closet incident. The conflict is a bit meh with a misunderstanding that could simply be talked out dominating the latter part of the book. That being said, I read it in one evening, which speaks to pacing and plot development. I also enjoyed the little Romeo and Juliet nods.

The Bottom Line-
If you are a fan of fun and easy Regency romance, you must read Valerie Bowman. This book is a little breath of fresh air, and I will continue to look forward to each release, despite my small niggles with this book. 4 stars

Tangled in Time- Barbara Longley

tangled in time

I’ve long enjoyed Barbara Longley’s time-travel books, so I was especially looking forward to this one, which is set in Ireland, not Scotland, and is the first book in her new McCarthy Sisters series.

The Story-
Regan can see ghosts, and it is inconvenient. So, she has decided to go to Ireland to see if there is some sort of ancient magic which can help to rid her of this gift. When she meets what she thinks is a ghost needing to cross over, her desires will change. Faelan has been a prisoner of a fae princess for over a thousand years and cursed to remain there until he finds a woman to love. Every year on solstice, he is able to materialize for one day, but when a woman can see him before he materializes, he feels that she is the one.

My Thoughts-
This is so different from most time-travel romances. First of all, the Ireland setting is not just window dressing; it is well-researched and is almost a character in itself. I also enjoyed the paranormal aspects to the story and how they were dealt with. This isn’t just some slippage through time that is never truly explained. Much of the plot is devoted to the couple actually getting to know one another and fall in love; imagine that! I was totally invested in the relationship and believed it, so when the climax came, nothing felt forced, too fast, or like it didn’t deserve the payoff. Much of the story takes place in current day Ireland and feels a bit like the movie “Ghost” which was fun and unexpected.

The Bottom Line-
Longley is my “go-to” author for time-travel and historical paranormal romance. This book went fast and kept me intrigued the whole time. 4 1/2 stars

Third Son’s A Charm- Shana Galen


I’m sure you have experienced it: you are staring at pages that seem to never turn, rereading paragraphs, switching between books in hopes that something will click. It’s a reading slump, and it is where I was before I picked up this book. I have read Shana Galen before and enjoy her writing, so I figured I’d give this book a go. That evening, I got over halfway through the book, and I finished it quickly the next day. Slump defeated, and a wonderful book to recommend!

The Story:
Ewan is the muscle of a gambling hall, but his prestigious past as part of an elite task force in the Napoleonic Wars and the fact that he is the third son of an earl sets him apart from most men in his position. When he is offered the job of bodyguard for the daughter of a duke, he is not interested until he learns that he might have the chance to thwart the plans of his slimy cousin, Francis. Lorrie just wants to elope with Francis, but with her new bodyguard, it may prove impossible.

My Thoughts:
OMG. I LOVED this book. The hero is stoic, tortured, strong, just swoon…. I really loved him. Lorrie is delightful and entertaining without being annoying. She begins a bit immature, but grows up and listens to reason. There are no conflicts based on misunderstandings; the story flows so naturally and quickly. The antagonist is not some moustache-twirling man that shows up toward the end of the book, but is carefully built, and his decisions and actions are completely believable. I guess what I am saying is that this book is masterfully crafted. Pacing, character, setting, conflict: it all just works exactly right. Ok, yes, I am an English teacher in my day job, but I can assure you I was not thinking of these things as I was reading. It’s just that when it was over and I enjoyed it so much, I started trying to pick apart exactly what it was I thought did it for me, and it turned out to be everything. By the way, the sex scenes are also hot, perfectly-placed, and not rushed. Ok, rave almost over.

The Bottom Line:
I read a lot (A LOT) of Regency and historical romance, and this is my favorite one that I have read in at least 6 months. I plan on buying a hard copy to have; I enjoyed it that much. And while everything worked perfectly for me, I still cannot pinpoint why. Perhaps it is Ewan’s vulnerability; maybe it is that I see myself in Lorrie; maybe it’s that I loved the secondary love story that proves that second chances can pay off. Once in awhile, you come across a book that just clicks with you and makes you happy. This was that book for me. 5 HUGE stars!

The Scandalous Flirt- Olivia Drake

scandalous flirt

This is my first book by Olivia Drake and is the fourth in “Cinderella Sisterhood” series which is focused on fairy-tales. You don’t need to be familiar with the previous books to enjoy this one, and I found it a fast and fun read!

The Story-
Rory was cast out of society years ago when she was caught in the middle of a tryst with a man that she didn’t know was married. She’s been living quietly and happily with her aunt in the country. When a fairy godmother-type meddler remembers her and decides to gift her with some suspicious slippers, she is thrown back into the society which turned their back on her. Lucas remembers Rory. In fact, he had a hard time forgetting her all these years. But when that vivacious woman who captured his heart all that time ago shows up on his doorstep, everything will change.

My Thoughts-
I liked Rory and the plot, but I found the hero and the build of the romance to be slightly lacking. I didn’t entirely believe his feelings for her, and the romance just kinda happens in the midst of this mystery they are unraveling. I didn’t feel that wonderful “ooh, they have so much chemistry, how is this gonna unfold?” feeling that I do with really captivating romance. That being said, I enjoyed the mystery sub-plot. I found the reveals to be fun and suiting.

The Bottom Line-
I would read another book by Olivia Drake and would just hope for a more intriguing couple. I liked the heroine quite a bit, and obviously, Drake has a talent for weaving a tale. The fairy-tale retelling part of it is just enough to not hit you over the head with it and still be a fun “aha”. 4 stars

The Cowboy Christmas Hero- Donna Grant


Today we are welcoming a new reviewer to the mix! Nicole is fairly new to romance and loves anything with a great story.

This is my first book by Donna Grant. This was short, cute, and followed the typical romantic line: two people with tragic backgrounds who don’t want to be healed and want to shut out the world for their self given responsibility.

The Story-

Abby is raising her younger brothers who are a handful. When one gets arrested for stealing cattle, she doesn’t know what to do next. Clayton is home to save his family’s ranch, but ends up making a deal that might save him too. 

My Thoughts-

The thing that kept me reading was the heroine’s relationship with her younger brothers. The girl had become a mother figure to the boys. Instead of the boys becoming resentful, they wanted to take over the role of protectors which I thought was sweet and wanted to see more of. However, enter the hero of the love story, and he becomes the physical male role model. At this point, I got tired of how everyone wanted to protect their female whether she was lover or sister. I get tired of too much me Tarzan you Jane stuff. Also, I understand this is Texas and I’m sure their weather patterns are just as sporadic as ours here, but who the hell would have sex on a picnic blanket the week before Christmas? It’s like there were plenty of jackets in the beginning of the book, it’s too cold to ride a horse without one, freezing rain at one point, and they are having sex outside completely naked. Pneumonia was not mentioned.

The Bottom Line-
I would read something else by this author, but maybe would skip the last two chapters just because the proposal and wedding were the least interesting parts of the story. On the other hand, I want to ride a horse now…or at least pet one. 3 1/2 stars

Duke of Desire- Elizabeth Hoyt


I have enjoyed all of the Maiden Lane books to this point. Hoyt has a way of combining the sweeping saga of a historical romance with the dark and edgy in a way that suits my tastes perfectly. So, you know I was excited to read this final entry in what is certainly one of my favorite series ever. A perfectly tortured hero and smart, no-nonsense heroine make this one memorable.


The Story-

Iris is kidnapped by the evil group that has terrorized a number of people in the past few books. Fortunately for her, she has an ally and savior in an extremely unlikely source…Raphael, the Duke of Dyemore. Raphael is expected to take his father’s place in the nefarious Lords of Chaos, but he has other plans. Saving Iris turns into something he didn’t expect, but it isn’t going to stop him on his quest for revenge.


My Thoughts-

I cannot decide whether I prefer Raphael and his tortured, brooding nature or Iris and her openness and unfiltered love. I think it is Iris, and here is why: she doesn’t make any of his issues about her. She is confident in herself and who she is, and she just loves him. There’s no drama where she derides herself or gets upset with him over his issues. Hoyt is masterful at sticking with the main conflict and just deepening it, rather than sprinkle it with lots of little conflicts to lengthen the story. Her focus allows her to deepen, not only the conflict, but the characters as well. They live and breathe instead of existing only to fall in love and finish the story.


The Bottom Line-

If you love historical romance, and this would be your first Maiden Lane book, you can certainly follow along and enjoy it. There is enough backstory that you will not feel left out. Be prepared for a darker world with darker subjects than most historical romance, but that darkness allows for such satisfying payoffs. If you are already a fan, you’re gonna love this one as well. I can’t wait to see what she does next. 5 stars

The White Lily- Juliette Cross


The imaginative Vampire Blood series has just gotten better. This clever Snow White retelling is (so far) my favorite book of the series. Brenna and Friedrich are so hot together, and there are twists you will definitely not see coming.


The Story-

Brennalyn Snow is a school-teacher and has adopted 7 children. She is also a secret supporter of the underground “Black Lily” movement. While trying to gain information about the local vampire duke’s loyalties, she unknowingly stumbles into his weekly selection of women who wish to be bleeders for the duke. Friedrich was intrigued by Brennalyn from the moment he met her, but her secrets make him want to know the woman behind the teacher facade in a way that surprises even him.


My Thoughts-

This story does an excellent job on building on the background from the previous books, but also deepening the world so that we have a greater grasp of the ramifications of the evil we’ve been introduced to. Again, the fairytale component is dealt with a light hand, never on the nose or what you’d expect. Cross is exceptionally good at adding the appropriate level of darkness and danger to her plots. Although you know it has to have a HEA, it is, at times, very difficult to figure out how exactly that will happen.

As someone who has struggled with infertility, I connected with Brennalyn and loved the emphasis on her personhood as a woman and how it is not inherently connected to being a natural mother. And, can we talk a minute about Friedrich? His character brings Cross’s sexy level to a new stratosphere. But, it is totally appropriate to the story and doesn’t feel forced or shoehorned in.


The Bottom Line-

If you like paranormal, historical, or fairytale retellings, I wholeheartedly recommend this series. It continues to get better, more dangerous, and more suspenseful, book by book. I cannot wait to read the final book in the series, but will be sad when it is over. 5 stars