Twice As Wicked- Elizabeth Bright

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“Twice as Wicked” is the debut novel by historical romance writer, Elizabeth Bright. I have to tell you, I am always a bit apprehensive about reading debut novels but this cover drew me in, and I HAD to read it. Imagine my happy surprise when the book turned out to be better than the cover! This is an excellent and satisfying historical with a great plot and complex characters.

The Story-
Alice Bursnell is mourning the death of her twin sister who died in childbirth. The only clue she has to the father of the child who left her poor sister alone in her shame is a picture in a locket. Her goal is now revenge. She knows who she is after, and she will make him pay. Nathaniel is intrigued by Alice, but begins to suspect her motives when he keeps encountering threats on his life in her presence.

My Thoughts-
I loved this story. The way the mystery is developed and solved is masterful, and I feel like Bright still has some surprises for us in her pocket that will be revealed in the rest of the series. The characters are intricate with complete backstories that inform their motivations. I never once felt like the characters were doing something stupid or random just for the sake of furthering the plot, which is refreshing. Alice, in particular, is wonderfully feisty and intelligent. I completely sympathized with her and her journey. The secondary characters, especially the Duke and Eliza, give a depth to the world (and make me hope for their story).
The Bottom Line-
Elizabeth Bright is a talented new author, and fans of historical romance will love this book. She has a great handle on this time period, and her plotting is original and well-done. “Twice as Wicked” is currently on sale for .99, and that is a total bargain. I recommend it at full price. I will read the future books in this series, and I look for great things to come for Ms. Bright. 5 stars!

The Scot Beds His Wife- Kerrigan Byrne

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I love Kerrigan Byrne and her style of dark historical romance. This book was just as enjoyable, but it has a slightly different tone from the other books in this series. What starts as almost a typical Scot alpha-hero romance, ends up being much more.

The Story-
After going through a particularly harrowing experience in America (I won’t spoil it for you), Samantha goes to Scotland to start over completely. The manor she has moved into is coveted by the one man she promised to protect it from.

My Thoughts-
I was surprised with the beginning in America and thought the American heroine was a refreshing take. She is delightfully spunky. Gavin is pretty much your typical dark, brooding Scot, but he does have a bit more going on upstairs than many of them do. The dark opening of his childhood set me up perfectly for Byrne’s style, but it took awhile for the book to get back around to the repercussions of that scene. I was initially afraid in the first third to half of the book (after the openings) that it was falling into a more “normal” rhythm of a historical romance. I felt like I had read it before. And then, everything changed and the danger ramped up and it became everything I hoped for from Kerrigan. She ties in some things I didn’t expect and brings it to a different level.

The Bottom Line-
Honestly, if someone were dipping their toe in to Byrne’s writing for the first time because they weren’t sure they wanted to start with her darker or crazier books, (which I absolutely love) I feel like this would be an excellent choice. Don’t get me wrong: her fans will still be happy as clams. I just feel like this book will win her some new fans based on the cover, title, and plot. Oh, and by the way, I am sooooo excited for the next book. We get to meet the hero in this book, and just swoon… Definitely one of my fave historical romances of the year. 5 stars

Becoming Bella- Sarah Hegger

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I really enjoyed the first in this series, “Positively Pippa”, so I was looking forward to another fun alliterative tale from Sarah Hegger. “Becoming Bella” did not disappoint as it gave us another hot Evans brother and a heroine to root for. Sexy, home-town romance here! The best of both worlds; you get the heat along with the sweet.

The Story-
Bella is determined to become her own woman and break free of the crush she has had for so long. She has armed herself with a list of things to do for single people at Christmastime, and she is checking it off. Nate, the “former” object of her desire happens to catch Bella in a somewhat compromising position, and suddenly can’t see her as that untouchable little sis-type he has always held at arm’s length.

My Thoughts-
I loved both Nate and Bella as well as the lovely secondary characters that populate Ghost Falls. (The next door slutty neighbor lady is wonderfully entertaining!) Their first kiss and subsequent sexy times are sooo hot. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited for a kiss in a book… “Wanting, waiting, needing, dreaming, dying a little inside year after year. It all ripped through her in a wave and Bella lost her shit. Lost. Her. Shit.” Yep. That totally got me. I can’t imagine a more perfect description of someone finally getting that kiss they’ve always wanted. I loved their story. Obviously. The only hiccup I had was the “bad guy” who served to provide another conflict and let Nate act all alpha. If he had been a normal romance bad guy, I could have handled it fine and walked away with no issues. But he got super-scary. I am not normally one with a need for safe spaces and trigger warnings, but he got trigger warning scary. And I had a little trouble coming back from that enough for a satisfying, warm HEA. I was still a little shook.

The Bottom Line-
I loved these characters!!! It went a bit dark for me toward the end, but the story and the connection between these two was hot and wonderful. Again, Hegger captures that perfect mix of small-town romance and sizzling sexy times that make me one happy reader. 4 1/2 stars

Immortally Yours- Lynsay Sands

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I love paranormal romance, especially vampires, so it was pretty crazy that I hadn’t read Lynsay Sands yet. And yes, I am coming in on the 26th book in the famous Argeneau series, but I quickly found that it wasn’t a problem at all. No need to be caught up to understand what is happening here!

The Story-
Scotty has known Beth for over a hundred years, back when she first became a vampire. Only now is he ready to claim her as his life mate, but with her life in danger, it’s proving a little difficult to do that.

My Thoughts-
Sands can write a freaking action scene! I could picture every fight, every detail perfectly. So many times, I have some trouble imagining what is happening, but Sands makes it play like a movie in my head. Scotty is a hottie (c’mon, I had to), and his devotion to Beth is sigh-worthy. This book went super fast; I couldn’t quit turning pages. The best things about this book are the characters, the action scenes, and the pacing. The small quibbles I have are the bad guy (a bit cliche and meh) and the long monologue descriptions of the characters’ backgrounds. I absolutely LOVED those backstories, but I wish I had been able to see them play out via flashback or something. Maybe prologue? I don’t know, but the stores are sooooo good that I hate that they were relayed simply through monologue. Those issues aside, I enjoyed the world of Argeneau vampires and am convinced that Sands is one of the better paranormal writers out there.

The Bottom Line-
Sands is firmly on my paranormal list now, and I plan on going back into her back catalogue for some more Argeneau vampires. Is it terrible that I wish she would write some historical paranormal, kind of a prequel for this series? 4 stars

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

When the Scoundrel Sins- Anna Harrington

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This is my first Anna Harrington! (steadily making my way around to all the Regency Historical authors) I enjoyed Harrington’s different voice and really sympathized with the heroine. Let’s get into it!

The Story-
Annabelle comes from humble beginnings, but has been raised by and lived with an upper-class family since she was a child. Her one chance at a good marriage is ruined by Quinton, a friend who decided to kiss her at exactly the wrong moment. Now it’s years later, and she finds out that she will actually inherit the only home she’s ever known if she can only marry by her next birthday. When Quinton is called in to help weed out would-be gold diggers, the issue is complicated.

My Thoughts-
This is one of those books that, even though I knew who had to end up together by the end, I had no idea how they would actually get there. The obstacles seemed pretty insurmountable. I felt so bad for Annabelle, and the hero, Quinton, took way too long to realize what needed to happen. That being said, the hot moments were seriously hot. Quinton is the perfect callous rogue that is hiding the good guy under a playboy exterior. The characters were well-developed, and that includes some secondary characters as well. They really brought the heart to the story.

The Bottom Line-
I think any historical romance fan would enjoy this, even though the story did take a little while to wrap up. Harrington’s voice and characters bring a different spin to the typical Regency, and I will definitely be reading more books by her very soon. 4 stars!

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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