Genre: Romance

Review: The Bastard Billionaire by Jessica Lemmon

Posted February 24, 2017 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: The Bastard Billionaire by Jessica LemmonReviewer: Rowena
The Bastard Billionaire by Jessica Lemmon
Series: Billionaire Bad Boys #3
Also in this series: The Billionaire Bachelor, The Billionaire Next Door
Published by Forever
Publication Date: February 28th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 384
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four-stars

A BILLIONAIRE BAD BOYS NOVEL

Beauty and the Beastly Billionaire . . . Eli Crane is one tough bastard. After an explosion left him injured and honorably discharged from the Marines, all he wants is to be left alone. Yet his brothers insist he take a greater role in the family business. They've hired him ten personal assistants-and Eli sent each one packing as fast as possible. But when beautiful number eleven walks through the door, Eli will do anything to make her stay. Isabella Sawyer's employment agency can't afford to lose Eli Crane's business. Her plan: to personally take on the role of his PA, and secure her reputation with the wealthy elite in Chicago. But this beauty and her hot billionaire bad boy soon find themselves mixing business with pleasure in the most delicious ways. And passionate, stubborn Isabella won't rest until she tames this wicked beast . . .

The Bastard Billionaire follows the last of the Crane brothers on that journey to his happy ending. Eli Crane served in the Marine corps until an explosion sidelined him and killed his friends. He’s living with a shit load of survivor’s guilt and the guilt is turning him into a surly, growly man who doesn’t want to have anything to do with the family business or any of the administrative assistants that his brothers keep sending his way.

The thing about family is…they’re not going anywhere and neither is the company supplying all of the administrative assistants that Eli keeps scaring away. You see, Isabella Sawyer has a business that she’s trying to get on the map and she’s not going to let Eli Crane scare away her biggest client, his family’s hotel empire. So if she’s got to do the job herself, that’s what she’ll do and Eli Crane will not scare her away. She’s just as stubborn and determined as he is and he’s going to find that out for himself, first hand.

The chemistry between Eli and Isa was pretty intense right from the very beginning. Eli’s confusion at not being able to scare Isa away along with the niggling doubts in the back of his mind about not even wanting to send her away was fun to watch. He fought that attraction at every turn but fate has a way of shoving you on your ass to make you sit up and take notice. So yeah, I enjoyed this story a lot.

Isa was a strong heroine who worked hard and loved harder. She wasn’t prepared for Eli Crane. She didn’t want to like him because he was such a big thorn in her business side but there was more to Eli than meets the eye and he was too hot for him to think so low of himself. She wasn’t looking for him but once she found him, she wasn’t sorry. She didn’t back away from her feelings, and I loved that so much. She owned her feelings right from the jump and even when she knew that Eli wasn’t where she was emotionally, she didn’t back away from how she felt for him. My heart hurt and then rejoiced for her because she was pretty awesome.

Together, they were fantastic. I adored seeing Eli’s walls crumble to the ground where Isa was concerned and I really enjoyed getting to know Isa throughout the entire book. This was a fun book with great guest appearances from Eli’s family. They were a fun bunch in the other books and it was great to see more of the same from them in this one. I definitely recommend.

Grade: 4 out of 5

four-stars

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Retro Review: Shadow Music by Julie Garwood

Posted February 22, 2017 by Holly in Discussions, Reviews | 15 Comments

Retro Review: Shadow Music by Julie GarwoodReviewer: Holly
Shadow Music by Julie Garwood
Series: Highlands Lairds #3
Also in this series: Ransom
Published by Ballantine Books
Publication Date: 2008
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Historical, General
Pages: 438
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two-half-stars

Throughout her acclaimed writing career, Julie Garwood has captivated readers with characters who are compelling, daring, and bursting with life. Now one of the most popular novelists of our time proudly returns to her beloved historical romance roots–in a thrilling tale of love, murder, adventure, and mystery set against the haunting landscape of medieval Scotland.
For Princess Gabrielle of St. Biel, Scotland is a land of stunning vistas, wild chieftains, treacherous glens, and steep shadows–skullduggery, betrayal, and now murder. Prized for her exquisite beauty, the daughter of one of England’s most influential barons, Gabrielle is also a perfect bargaining chip for a king who needs peace in the Highlands: King John has arranged Gabrielle’s marriage to a good and gentle laird. But this marriage will never take place.
For Gabrielle, everything changes in one last burst of freedom–when she and her guards come upon a scene of unimaginable cruelty. With one shot from her bow and arrow, Gabrielle takes a life, saves a life, and begins a war.
Within days, the Highlands are aflame with passions as a battle royal flares between enemies old and new. Having come to Scotland to be married, Gabrielle is instead entangled in Highland intrigue. For two sadistic noblemen, underestimating Gabrielle’s bravery and prowess may prove fatal. But thanks to a secret Gabrielle possesses, Colm MacHugh, the most feared man in Scotland, finds a new cause for courage. Under his penetrating gaze, neither Gabrielle’s body nor heart is safe.
A gripping novel that delves into the heart of emotions–unyielding passions of love, hate, revenge, and raw desire–Shadow Music is magnificent gift from Julie Garwood and a crowning achievement in her amazing career.
From the Hardcover edition.

******As part of our 10 year anniversary celebration, we’ll be re-posting old reviews that make us cringe, laugh or sigh all over again.

Man, I love me some early Julie Garwood historicals. She lost me with her romantic suspense. I remember being so excited when she announced she was releasing a new historical. I’m still pretty disappointed it didn’t live up to my expectations. I wonder what would happen if I read it now? I might need to reread it and see if I still feel the same. 

This review was originally published January 8, 2008

This is less a review about this particular book and more my thoughts on the writing of Julie Garwood. Casee reviewed the book here. You can check that out for a plot summary and her thoughts, for they mostly mirrored mine.

Throughout her career, JG has remained a favorite of mine. Well, let me clarify. Prior to Killjoy she was a favorite of mine. Her historicals still call to me on occasion and I find myself picking them up at random, anxious to sink into an old, comfortable story, similar to how I might slip on my favorite sweats after a long day at work, or pop in a favorite DVD if I’ve had a particularly bad day.

But after Killjoy, not only did I think contemps were not her thing, I decided her writing itself deteriorated. The last novel I read by her was Slow Burn. While I enjoyed the basic premise behind it, I was sadly disappointed in the actual writing. Sentences were choppy, paragraphs seemed to bleed together, or go in odd directions that made no sense to me, dialogue was stilted, characters were half formed or one dimensional. I thought the plot was an awesome one, and had it been better fleshed out it had the potential to become her best written novel yet. But instead it fell far short.

After that, I decided not to read another of her contemps. I told myself, and others, that I’d buy her again if she went back to historicals, but otherwise I was done with her. I removed her from my auto-buy list and comforted myself with her old historicals, the ones that got me hooked on romance to begin with.

Then the announcement came. That yes, Julie Garwood, historical legend, would be returning to her roots. Love her older historicals or hate them, you can’t deny she’s a basic staple in romance. I was happy to hear she’d be returning, but somewhat apprehensive. Because although the moment I’d been waiting for had finally come, I was concerned about her actual writing style. The way she wove a story back when was unconventional perhaps, but still engaging. I didn’t think she’d be able to return to that, not after seeing evidence of her decline in her more recent novels.

I’m sad to say I was correct. She may have done quite a bit of head-hopping in her previous novels, but the focus remained on the two main protagonists. In this novel, however, she chose to write in a more narrative style than from one POV or another. So I was constantly pulled out of the story by her glossing over things, or seeming to sum things up. Very frustrating.

I’m also extremely unclear about how they H/H came to fall in love. There was hardly any interaction between the two, and what there was was disjointed and…once again, glossed over. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to her writing. A chapter would start out from one POV or another, and then half-way through she’d jump into a narrative style, summing things up rather than allowing us as readers to follow the progress.

I suppose it would be like me starting a story, in which I use rich, colorful detail and much humor only to say, once you’re engaged and intrigued, “Blah blah, yada, yada, you get what I mean” and then just leave it at that. Frustrating, no?

There were some good parts. When the POV was written from either the hero or heroine, I was drawn into the story. Unfortunately, those parts were few and far between, and when they did happen, they didn’t last long. The basic premise was also a good one, and classic Garwood. Sadly, the point of the plot was lost somewhere in the muddle of switching from one writing style to another, the jumping between characters and places (i.e., from the Barons in England to the clans in the Highlands to the heroine to the hero to the guards of the heroine to her father back to the barons to the king of England, etc, etc) and the mass amount of inconsistencies presented.

A lot of the reviews I’ve read for this book said the Priests provided a lot of comic relief, but I didn’t really see that. Sure, there were some amusing parts, but I think I assumed they played a bigger part in the overall story (with actual read time, I mean) and that just didn’t seem to be the case.

I’m sure I’ll end up buying her next book (assuming she continues to write historicals), just to see if she somehow improves…hmm, or perhaps that’s not the right word. Regresses into her old writing habits? Goes back to being the Garwood I knew and loved? I’m not sure. I have a feeling I’m going to be sorely disappointed when (if) that time comes, however.

On a related note: Ange, The Romance Groupie, posted about this book on Saturday. I mentioned my disappointment in the overall writing in the comments, and she responded with this:

Actually, I’ve noticed that many of the popular authors appear to be going down in the quality department. I’m wondering if it’s the editors, publishers, etc. that are ruining it. It just seems strange that so many great authors have gone bad in the last year or so. Is it just me? Are you seeing this trend too?

I thought about it some, and yes, I have to agree. Some of my favorite authors have seriously declined in the last few years. Could it be because of the publishers or editors? Or is it just simply something with them personally?

Regardless, I’m disappointed.

Even though I said this was less a review and more my thoughts on JG’s writing as a whole, I’ll still rate the book:

2.5 out of 5

You can buy it here in hardback or in eBook format here. When I bought it from Books on Board, they were offering a $5 cash-back incentive, bringing the total book price down to $9.95. I’m not sure if they’re still offering the promotion, but you could email them to see.

two-half-stars

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Review: Pretty Face by Lucy Parker

Posted February 21, 2017 by Rowena in Reviews | 2 Comments

Review: Pretty Face by Lucy ParkerReviewer: Rowena
Pretty Face by Lucy Parker
Series: London Celebrities #2
Published by Carina Press
Publication Date: February 20th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 264
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four-stars

Highly acclaimed, award-winning author of Act Like It Lucy Parker returns readers to the London stage with laugh-out-loud wit and plenty of drama

The play's the fling

It's not actress Lily Lamprey's fault that she's all curves and has the kind of voice that can fog up a camera lens. She wants to prove where her real talents lie—and that's not on a casting couch, thank you. When she hears esteemed director Luc Savage is renovating a legendary West End theater for a lofty new production, she knows it could be her chance—if only Luc wasn't so dictatorial, so bad-tempered and so incredibly sexy.

Luc Savage has respect, integrity and experience. He also has it bad for Lily. He'd be willing to dismiss it as a midlife crisis, but this exasperating, irresistible woman is actually a very talented actress. Unfortunately, their romance is not only raising questions about Lily's suddenly rising career, it's threatening Luc's professional reputation. The course of true love never did run smooth. But if they're not careful, it could bring down the curtain on both their careers…

This book is approximately 96,000 words

One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you're looking for with an HEA/HFN. It's a promise! Find out more at CarinaPress.com/RomancePromise

Pretty Face is the second book in Lucy Parker’s London Celebrities series and it was another winner in my book. I adored Luc. I loved Lily and I really, really loved their romance.

Lily Lamprey’s soap opera career is coming to an end and she’s looking forward to moving on from the homewrecking role she’s been playing for far too long. She’s young and she’s got the rest of her life and career ahead of her but not a lot of people think she’s got what it takes to really make a go of it in the theater world.

Luc Savage is renovating an old West End theater and he’s producing the first play that will debut in the new space and at first glance, Lily is not what he’s looking for in any role on the play. Her voice is all wrong for the theater and not even threats of investors pulling their funding is going to stop him from doing what he wants but that all changes when he meets with Lily and gives her a legit shot. Not only can he see her bringing life to one of the key characters in the play, but he can also seeing her being a star in the theater world.

There’s a huge age difference between the hero and heroine in this one. The hero is 40 and the heroine is 26 but that didn’t matter to me. The romance between the two of them worked well and that’s a credit to Parker’s writing style. There was so much going on and so many road blocks in between the two of these guys that something as small as the age difference just didn’t matter. I liked getting to know Lily and Luc on their own but I adored the two of them together.

They both had lives apart from each other but they were pretty drawn to each other and I liked that. Holly and I were talking just last week about how we’ve been noticing that romance novels these days have the hero and the heroine in each other’s pockets for the entire book. There doesn’t seem to be a lot going on in their lives apart from each other and we miss the couples of old, who had friends and family that were a part of their lives and their stories but that wasn’t the case here. Luc had his family and stuff going on with them whereas Lily had her best friend and family and her own stuff going on with them.

All in all, this was another fabulous read by Lucy Parker and she’s cemented her name on my radar and I will definitely be reading more from her. This was an entertaining novel about two completely different people who came together and made sense. Their love grew with passing page and I was completely on board with their feelings, their passion and their story. It’s a definite recommended read from me.

Grade: 4.25 out of 5

four-stars

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Guest Review: Only a Duke Will Do by Tamara Gill

Posted February 17, 2017 by Tracy in Reviews | 1 Comment

Guest Review: Only a Duke Will Do by Tamara GillReviewer: Tracy
Only a Duke Will Do by Tamara Gill
Series: To Marry a Rogue #2
Published by Entangled: Select Historical
Publication Date: February 20th 2017
Genres: Historical, Romance
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four-stars

Without a Season, Lady Isolde Worthingham captured the Duke of Moore’s heart at a country dance. But on the eve of her wedding, a scandal that rocked the ton and sent her fleeing to Scotland alone and unwed, leaves her perfectly planned future in a tangle of disgrace and heartbreak.

Merrick Mountshaw, the Duke of Moore, loathes the pitiful existence he portrays to the ton. With a scandalous wife he never wanted, who flaunts her many indiscretions, life is a never-ending parade of hell. When the one woman he loved and lost returns to London, he knows he can no longer live without her.

But vows and past hurts are not easily forgotten. Love may not win against the ton when a too proper lord and lady play by the rules.

Isolde and Merrick are so excited to get married.  He saw her on the dance floor at a country dance a year ago and knew that she was the one for him.  He wants nothing more than to get married to Isolde and start their life together.  Unfortunately Isolde’s friend is a jealous bitch and finds a way to drug Merrick and make sure that Isolde finds her in his bed.  The little bitch then goes on to force Isolde and her family to watcher her marry Merrick the next day while Isolde’s heart breaking.

Five years have passed and Isolde, who has been living in Scotland at a family property, decides that it’s time to face life again.  She knows that she may run into Merrick and her bitch of a friend who’s now his wife, but she decides that she wants to get married and have a family.  She knows that she can never love a man like she loves (yes, she still loves him) Merrick but she can be comfortable with a man and will be happy to have children.

Isolde doesn’t plan on having such strong feelings about seeing Merrick again but she’s determined to ignore her feelings and move on.  Many men are interested in Isolde, including Merrick’s best friend.  Merrick and Isolde obviously still love each other very much and both were betrayed horribly but as much as they love each other how can they ever be together when he’s still married to the evil bitch duchess.

This was a great story of love and betrayal.  The sadness and angst was heart-wrenching and I totally understood the pain that both Isolde and Merrick felt.  We only got to see Isolde and Merrick as a couple for a very short time at the beginning of the book before it all went to shit but in that short amount of time the author did a great job of showing us how much the couple loved each other. It was so sad to see them separated.

Merrick was a great character.  I really liked him.  He had been wronged so badly but despite that he was a great father to his son.  His wife was, of course, an evil witch but he couldn’t leave her because she threatened to spread rumors about their son.  He wouldn’t allow that to happen so he stayed miserable.  I had to give him props for his love for his child and putting him first.  He was a strong man and I really liked him.

Isolde was pretty damned strong as well.  To have to live with the betrayal of her best friend and then the man she loved.  Not fun.  Despite it all she wasn’t too, too bitter and I liked her a lot as well.

Overall the book was really good and one I recommend.  If you don’t like highly angsty books then you might not like this one but if you do then this will be right up your alley.

Rating: 4 out of 5

four-stars

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Review: Dungeon Royale by Lexi Blake

Posted February 16, 2017 by Casee in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Dungeon Royale by Lexi BlakeReviewer: Casee
Dungeon Royale by Lexi Blake
Series: Masters and Mercenaries #6
Also in this series: Love and Let Die
Published by LLC
Publication Date: February 18th 2014
Genres: Romance, Romantic Suspense, BDSM
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four-half-stars

Broken by betrayal, one woman holds the secret to his redemption…

An agent broken

MI6 agent Damon Knight prided himself on always being in control. His missions were executed with cold, calculating precision. His club, The Garden, was run with an equally ordered and detached decadence. But his perfect world was shattered by one bullet, fired from the gun of his former partner. That betrayal almost cost him his life and ruined his career. His handlers want him to retire, threatening to revoke his license to kill if he doesn’t drop his obsession with a shadowy organization called The Collective. To earn their trust, he has to prove himself on a unique assignment with an equally unusual partner.

A woman tempted

Penelope Cash has spent her whole life wanting more. More passion. More adventure. But duty has forced her to live a quiet life. Her only excitement is watching the agents of MI6 as they save England and the world. Despite her training, she’s only an analyst. The closest she is allowed to danger and intrigue is in her dreams, which are often filled with one Damon Knight. But everything changes when the woman assigned to pose as Damon’s submissive on his latest mission is incapacitated. Penny is suddenly faced with a decision. Stay in her safe little world or risk her life and her heart for Queen and country.

An enemy revealed

With the McKay-Taggart team at their side, Damon and Penny hunt an international terrorist across the great cities of Northern Europe. Playing the part of her Master, Damon begins to learn that under Penny’s mousy exterior is a passionate submissive, one who just might lay claim to his cold heart. But when Damon’s true enemy is brought out of the shadows, it might be Penny who pays the ultimate price.

Another hit on the books for Lexi Blake! By now I’ve read almost every book in Blake’s Masters and Mercenaries series. Dungeon Royale is my favorite of the bunch. I don’t know why exactly, but I’m going to take a leap and say it’s all Damon Knight.

So Damon was shot by his double agent partner at the end of Love and Let Die. It happened right after he realized that Baz was the leak and he was working for The Collective. He fully expected to die, but was found just in time. Damon feels defeated and betrayed when he thinks of Baz; he can’t believe his partner of ten years was not only a traitor, but that he also tried to kill him.

When Damon returns to SIS (MI6) seven months later, he is told by his superior that he will have to take a desk job. The bullet went into his lungs and they had to remove a part of one so he would live. Damon doesn’t know what he will do if he’s not in the field and convinces Nigel to give him a chance to prove himself. What seems like an easy peasy mission turns into something more when The Collective is involved.

Penelope Cash has worked at SIS for years. She’s watched Damon from afar, but never approached him nor does she intend to. Still dealing with the loss of her mother, Penny has shut down. When Nigel and Damon call her in and tell her she’s needed on the mission, she is hesitant. It’s a BDSM cruise and she is far from the kind of girl that would get into that lifestyle. Or so she thought.

Are there really BDSM cruises? I just have to ask.

Damon handpicked Penelope because she was the only one that appealed to him. He soon realizes how perfectly innocent she is. He also realizes that Penelope is far from vanilla, she just doesn’t know it. Damon takes it upon himself to teach her that submitting is nothing to be ashamed of.

The BDSM of this series is really good. It’s all about meeting the needs of your partner, not one partner dominating the other anywhere but the bedroom. Damon was so damaged when this book started. It was fun watching him fall for Penelope. I really loved Penelope too. There is only one person that can handle Damon and that’s her. She just has to show him that he deserves to be loved.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

four-half-stars

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