Publisher: Ballantine

Throwback Thursday Review: Seduction of a Highland Lass by Maya Banks

Posted June 21, 2018 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Throwback Thursday Review: Seduction of a Highland Lass by Maya BanksReviewer: Holly
Seduction of a Highland Lass by Maya Banks
Series: McCabe Trilogy #2
Also in this series: In Bed with a Highlander, In Bed with a Highlander, Never Love a Highlander
Published by Ballantine
Publication Date: September 27, 2011
Point-of-View: Third Person
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 323
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Goodreads
four-stars


Maya Banks, the New York Times bestselling author of romance and romantic suspense has captivated readers with her steamy Scottish historical novels, perfect for fans of Julie Garwood. In Seduction of a Highland Lass, an indomitable Highland warrior is caught between loyalty and forbidden love.
 Fiercely loyal to his elder brother, Alaric McCabe leads his clan in the fight for their birthright. Now he is prepared to wed for duty, as well. But on his way to claim the hand of Rionna McDonald, daughter of a neighboring chieftain, he is ambushed and left for dead. Miraculously, his life is saved by the soft touch of a Highland angel, a courageous beauty who will put to the test his fealty to his clan, his honor, and his deepest desires.

An outcast from her own clan, Keeley McDonald was betrayed by those she loved and trusted. When the wounded warrior falls from his horse, she is drawn to his strong, lean body. The wicked glint in his green eyes ignites a passion that will follow them back to Alaric’s keep, where their forbidden love draws them deeper into the pleasures of the flesh. But as conspiracy and danger circle closer, Alaric must make an impossible choice: Will he betray his blood ties for the woman he loves?

Every Thursday in 2018, we’ll be posting throwback reviews of our favorite and not-so-favorite books.

This review was originally posted on November 29, 2011.

Where the first book in the series had more external conflict, this one has a lot more internal conflict.

Alaric MacCabeis on his way to a neighboring clan to formally offer marriage to the Laird’s daughter, Rionna MacDonald, to secure an alliance, when he’s attacked. All of his men are killed and he’s gravely wounded. He manages to make it to Keeley MacDonald’s cabin on the outskirts of the clan. She’s a skilled healer and is able to save his life. When his bothers, Ewan and Caelen, show up, they decide to keep Keeley since they need a healer in their clan. Not only is Keeley charged with caring for Alaric, but Ewan wants her to attend the birth of his first child.

Keeley was cast out of her clan as a young girl after the Laird made unwanted advances and his wife cried her a whore. She’s been living alone ever since. The idea of being accepted as a healer in a new clan is appealing, but she’s not happy to have been snatched from her home with no choice. The deciding factor in her not fighting her situation is Alaric. They formed a deep bond while Keeley was caring for him.

The problem is Alaric promised to marry Rionna MacDonald. The MacDonald land lies between the McCabe keep and the new land Ewan McCabe (the laird) inherited when he married his new wife. Without the alliance the clan will be divided, not to mention the other alliances they’re working on might be jeopardized. Alaric knows his duty. As much as he wants Keeley, he knows he can’t have her. Not permanently.

Although Duncan Cameron, the villain from the first book, is still a threat in this novel, but the focus is on the internal conflict of Alaric and Keeley being in love but unable to marry. The story could have become bogged down with angst, but Banks managed a good balance between sexy-times, humor and conflict.

Keeley was a practical woman. Her clan threw her out, but she isn’t so hung up on it she’s willing to cut off her nose to spite her face. When Ewan offers her a place with the McCabe clan, she takes it. Her practicality and levelheadedness worked well with the conflict, too. Yes, she wanted Alaric, but she understood what was at stake and what would happen if they risked everything. Alaric also knew his duty, but my heart broke for him. He knew right away that he wanted Keeley and no other, but he also knew he didn’t have a choice.

I think too often in historical novels the main characters throw convention and duty out the window to the detriment of the story. Yes, it happened, but it was rare. I think for a couple to focus more on duty than on love brought a touch of realism.

The story isn’t perfect. There were times when it was bogged down with useless info. The dialogue ran toward cheesy now and again. I also found myself struggling to connect to Keeley in the beginning. Thankfully that didn’t last long. 

Overall this was a satisfying read. I enjoyed the characters and the conflict. Banks has penned a strong second novel for this series.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

McCabe Trilogy

four-stars


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Review: The Thief by J.R. Ward

Posted June 15, 2018 by Casee in Reviews | 2 Comments

Review: The Thief by J.R. WardReviewer: Casee
The Thief by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #16
Also in this series: Lover Unbound, Lover Avenged, Lover Unleashed, Lover at Last, Lover at Last, The King, The Shadows, The Beast, Lover Enshrined, The Chosen, Lover Mine
Published by Ballantine
Publication Date: April 10, 2018
Point-of-View: Third Person
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Pages: 454
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Goodreads
three-half-stars

New enemies rise from the shadows in the next novel of the New York Times bestselling paranormal romance series the Black Dagger Brotherhood.

Having allied themselves with the Band of Bastards, the Brotherhood is committed now more than ever to eradicating the Lessening Society. Recovering from their most recent battle against the last of the lessers, the Brotherhood comes to realize that the fight against their enemies is far from over.

Throe, Xcor’s former second in command, is using an ancient tome to summon a new army engineered by a force more dangerous and evil than the Omega.

And now the brothers of the Black Dagger Brotherhood will be tested both at home and on the battlefield.

I don’t know where to start with this review. I read this book about six weeks ago. My intent was to let it settle in my mind for a few days, maybe a week, then review it. A week turned into one, then two, then I forgot. So I’m trying to think about what stands out in my mind about Assail and Sola, but nothing really comes to mind. They were kind of blah. Or it might be they were blah because V and Jane were so fucking hot. I mean, like, steaming hot.

After a bunch of stuff went down in The Beast (I think), Sola took her grandmother and went on the run. She ended up in Florida where she is constantly on guard. She has enemies and she is never sure if any of them will find her. She has never forgotten the man that saved her life in Caldwell. She thinks about Assail almost daily, though she hasn’t spoken to him in over a year, nor does she plan to. It is with some dismay that she finds his two cousins on her doorstep with news concerning Assail. He is sick and he needs her. Sola turns down their “invitation” to return to Caldwell. She has her grandmother to protect. They barely made it out of Caldwell alive. Then her grandmother confronts her about returning. There is little she can do after that and she soon finds herself at Assail’s bedside. She can’t believe the difference in the strong forceful man she knows compared to the shell of the man in the hospital bed. Though cancer will do that to a man.

Oh yeah, she doesn’t know vampires exist. That will be a problem.

As for V and Jane…they have big problems. Why? Because relationships aren’t all flowers and puppies. They need to be worked on. V and Jane haven’t worked on their relationship at all. They are barely roommates. V is feeling an itch to return to his old life and Jane has no idea. All she cares about is her patients. They are forced to confront their problems when Jane catches V almost cheat on her. It is so heartbreaking that I almost cried. Almost. Seeing these two find their way back to each other was the best part of this book. I loved it. These two made the book for me. Sola and Assail disappeared. It was all about V and Jane. Jane and V. V. Jane. Love.

Lassiter’s secret came out. The war escalates in a dangerous way. I found the book intriguing. When Sola found out vampires existed, I was rolling my eyes so hard I’m surprised they didn’t roll out of my head. Then I started wondering what I would have done if I found out vampires existed. My reaction probably would have been the same as hers. So I tried not to judge. But seriously, her reaction seemed a little overboard. And annoying.

V and Jane. Sigh.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Black Dagger Brotherhood

three-half-stars


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Review: Devil’s Cut by J.R. Ward

Posted February 26, 2018 by Casee in Reviews | 3 Comments

Review: Devil’s Cut by J.R. WardReviewer: Casee
Devil's Cut by J.R. Ward
Series: The Bourbon Kings #3
Also in this series: The Bourbon Kings, The Bourbon Kings, The Angels' Share
Published by Ballantine
Publication Date: August 1st 2017
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 418
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Goodreads
three-stars

In #1 New York Times bestselling author J. R. Ward’s thrilling finale of the Bourbon Kings series, the Bradford family dynasty teeters on the edge of collapse after the murder of their patriarch—and a shocking arrest.

At first, the death of William Baldwine, the head of the Bradford family, was ruled a suicide. But then his eldest son and sworn enemy, Edward, came forward and confessed to what was, in fact, a murder. Now in police custody, Edward mourns not the disintegration of his family or his loss of freedom . . . but the woman he left behind. His love, Sutton Smythe, is the only person he has ever truly cared about, but as she is the CEO of the Bradford Bourbon Company’s biggest competitor, any relationship between them is impossible. And then there’s the reality of the jail time that Edward is facing.

Lane Baldwine was supposed to remain in his role of playboy, forever in his big brother Edward’s shadow. Instead he has become the new head of the family and the company. Convinced that Edward is covering for someone else, Lane and his true love, Lizzie King, go on the trail of a killer—only to discover a secret that is as devastating as it is game-changing.

As Lane rushes to discover the truth, and Sutton finds herself irresistibly drawn to Edward in spite of his circumstances, the lives of everyone at Easterly will never be the same again. For some, this is good; for others, it could be a tragedy beyond imagining. Only one thing’s for certain: Love survives all things. Even murder.

I’m sitting here reading my reviews of The Bourbon Kings (which I loved) and Angels’ Share (which I also loved) and wondering what the holy hell happened. This series had so much promise. The biggest promise was that it was only three (three!) books. I don’t know how that could get messed up, especially after the first two were pretty spectacular. And hello? That’s coming from one of JRW’s biggest critics. I didn’t just jump into this book, I dove into it headfirst only to come up gasping for air and wondering what the fuck happened between Angels’ Share and now. Even after a week I still have that WTF look on my face and if I had a paper copy of the book, I would burn it.

Devil’s Cut brings us back to the world of the Bradford Bourbon Company and the Baldwine family. It picks up exactly where Angels’ Share left off. Edward, the eldest Bradford sibling has confessed to murdering their father. He did have motive. His father arranged to have him kidnapped when he was on business in South America and didn’t pay the ransom. Edward never fully recovered. One problem with that scenario is that Edward could never have overpowered his father in a million years. It’s laughable. You will immediately pick up on the fact that he’s covering for someone.

Lane and Lizzie are as solid as ever. Lizzie is getting a little worn out and not just because she’s pregnant. What Lane is going through trying to save the family name and business isn’t anything to sneeze at. Lizzie is trying to help him however she can and do her job at Easterly, but it takes its toll on a person. Though she loves Lane, she does miss the days where she went home to her farm and got a little peace from the Bradford drama. However she doesn’t regret her decision to be with Lane. As for Lane, he adores Lizzie and will do anything she wants. Though her pregnancy throws him for a loop, he will do everything he can so he is nothing like the father he had.

Edward is in the pokey for a crime he didn’t commit. There is evidence, but the blind and ignorant detective has a prejudice against rich people and is convinced that Edward is guilty. It is laughable. I mean it’s admirable what Edward is trying to do, but it’s laughable that anyone would believe it. Just as laughable is the person that actually did the deed.

Gin. Ah, Gin. She changed the most from book one to three. In book one, she was most worried about her comfort. By book three, she realized what a disaster of a person she was. She had a daughter with the man she loved and she denied them both the opportunity to know each other. As punishment to the man no less. She didn’t consider her daughter, had never really considered her daughter until now. She has finally realized what a tragedy of a mother she is and seeks to change that by being there for Amelia. The first mistake she needs to rectify? Introducing SamuelT and Amelia. She knows it will damage her relationship with SamuelT beyond repair, but that is a price she is willing to pay. Gin’s journey was fascinating to read. I really enjoyed reading the growth she made as a character.

So what was my problem with the book? Where do I start? Everything was too pat. Edward got out of jail because the person that killed his father was on their deathbed. Seriously, this person was dying and was able to kill? I am rolling my eyes so hard my eyeballs hurt. Bring in Sutton Smythe who was a BBC competitor…she and Edward always had an attraction, even love, but Edward stopped that when he was rescued from South America. He never really recovered. Now in the space of about 2.75 pages he is miraculously emotionally healed and decides he is in love with Sutton and they are going to live happily ever after. Seriously.

Even the ending with Gin was too pat. Lane and Lizzie? That worked because their story has been told over the course of three books. Even Gin and SamuelT’s story has been going on that long. But they’ve been at odds for the length of three books. They can’t suddenly be okay in the last five pages. That does not work for this reader. It just doesn’t. There are other things I don’t want to spoil, but those things didn’t work for me either. And the BIG MISUNDERSTANDINGS? Nothankyouverymuch.

This book was just rushed. A big disappointment after the first two of the series.

The Bourbon Kings

Grade: 3 out of 5

three-stars


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Review: Never Love a Highlander by Maya Banks

Posted December 21, 2011 by Holly in Reviews | 3 Comments

Review: Never Love a Highlander by Maya BanksReviewer: Holly
Never Love a Highlander by Maya Banks
Series: McCabe Trilogy #3
Also in this series: In Bed with a Highlander, In Bed with a Highlander, Seduction of a Highland Lass
Published by Ballantine
Publication Date: October 25, 2011
Point-of-View: Third Person
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 305
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Goodreads
four-stars

In a tale of strong ties and true love, Maya Banks' trilogy comes to its conclusion, as the youngest McCabe brother uses sword and seduction to save his clan - and seal his heart.

Caelen McCabe’s young, reckless heart nearly destroyed his clan. Now, putting family loyalty above all else, he steps up to marry his older brother’s jilted bride and salvage the uneasy alliance between two clans. While beautiful Rionna McDonald is a fit wife for any man, Caelen trusts no woman, especially not this sweet temptress who torments him with white-hot longing.

As the sacrificial lamb in her father’s power game, Rionna will do her duty but vows to protect her heart and her pride from humiliation. Despite everything, though, the heat in Caelen’s touch melts her defenses, and she craves the sensual delights of a husband who guards his emotions as fiercely as his clan. But when the ultimate battle for the McCabe legacy is upon them, Rionna’s true warrior spirit emerges. She will risk the wrath of her father, the fury of her enemies, and her life to prove to Caelen that his wife’s love is too precious to lose.

We met Rionna in the first novel and she played a large part in the second novel. While I think it can stand alone, I would suggest reading the entire trilogy in order.

My heart really hurt for Rionna. She just wanted to be accepted for who she was. It was hard watching her and Caelen find their way with each other. Especially since Caelen was such a man. He would say and do things without realizing the impact he was having on her. It wasn’t that he was cruel, he just didn’t think. That almost made it worse, because his intentions were good. Had he taken the time to explain himself, a lot of heartbreak could have been avoided.

Once Caelen realized how hurt Rionna was, he made a real effort to temper his words and understand her. This is the reason I loved him. Despite his man-like tendencies in the beginning, it wasn’t long before he thought of himself and Rionna as a team. Despite his penis-driven stupidity, I really liked his character. He was a man’s man, but he wasn’t afraid to show his softer side. Is there anything sexier than a man willing to be soft with his woman?

While I enjoyed the story, I did think it was bogged down with too much “Scottish” dialect. Every other sentence started with ‘Tis or ‘Twas. Over time I found myself focusing on that more than on the story. Oddly enough, I didn’t notice this in the first two novels.

I also found the ending to be a little bit cheesy and over the top. Sweet, to be sure, but..maybe a bit too much for the story.

Having said that, I did enjoy the novel. Both characters were interesting and the plot was engaging. It really tugged at my heartstrings.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

McCabe Trilogy

four-stars


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Review: In Bed with a Highlander by Maya Banks

Posted November 3, 2011 by Holly in Reviews | 5 Comments

Review: In Bed with a Highlander by Maya BanksReviewer: Holly
In Bed with a Highlander by Maya Banks
Series: McCabe Trilogy #1
Also in this series: In Bed with a Highlander, Never Love a Highlander, Seduction of a Highland Lass
Published by Ballantine
Publication Date: August 30, 2011
Point-of-View: Third Person
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 351
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Goodreads
three-half-stars

Maya Banks' beguiling new trilogy features three unforgettable brothers risking everything to save their clan and their legacy—and to surrender their hearts to love.

Ewan McCabe, the eldest, is a warrior determined to vanquish his enemy. Now, with the time ripe for battle, his men are ready and Ewan is poised to take back what is his—until a blue-eyed, raven-haired temptress is thrust upon him. Mairin may be the salvation of Ewan's clan, but for a man who dreams only of revenge, matters of the heart are strange territory to conquer.

The illegitimate daughter of the king, Mairin possesses prized property that has made her a pawn—and wary of love. Her worst fears are realized when she is rescued from peril only to be forced into marriage by her charismatic and commanding savior, Ewan McCabe. But her attraction to her ruggedly powerful new husband makes her crave his surprisingly tender touch; her body comes alive under his sensual mastery. And as war draws near, Mairin's strength, spirit, and passion challenge Ewan to conquer his demons—and embrace a love that means more than revenge and land.

I heard quite a bit of buzz about this series being very similar to some of Julie Garwood’s early medieval novels. Since those are some of my favorite books, of course I had to read these. While I would agree there’s much about this book that’s reminiscent of early Garwood, there are also many differences. I felt like a lot of the humor from Garwood was missing. About halfway through the novel I stopped comparing the two and took this book on it’s own merits. Once I did that I really fell into the story.

Mairin Stuart is the bastard daughter of Alexander, King of Scotland. Before he died, Alexander gifted Mairin with an extremely large dowry and put into trust for her firstborn child one of the most coveted pieces of land in the country. The danger to her because of this is great, so she was hidden in a convent at an early age. Though she knew the possibility existed, she still wasn’t prepared when Duncan Cameron burst into the abbey and abducted her. Duncan is the kind of man she’s been hiding from all her life. He wants nothing more from her than a child so he can secure her dowry, then he plans to kill her. On the way to his keep they catch a young boy who is trying to steal a horse from Cameron.

Mairin rescues the boy, Crispin, and they eventually escape, but not until after Cameron beats Mairin severely. Although injured, she does her best to get Crispin home. When they’re found by Cripsin’s uncle, Mairin is afraid she’s swapping one brutal captor for another, despite Crispin’s assurances that his father will protect her.

Ewan McCabe is struggling to keep his clan going after an attack 8 years ago decimated his keep and most of his lands. Though he’s struggling to feed his people, he still has one of the strongest fighting forces in the Highlands. When his son disappears, he fears the worst. His relief when Crispin is returned is great, but so is his need for answers about how he came to be with the woman who is dressed in Cameron colors.

When Ewan realizes who Mairin is, he knows she’s the answers to his prayers. Her dowry will restore the clan to it’s former glory and the land she brings will cement the future for them all. But as time goes on it isn’t her dowry that Ewan is thinking about, it’s Mairin herself. The fiery woman captures his attention and his heart. There are many threats to them, however, and things aren’t easy.

Both Mairin and Ewan were very well written. Mairin is young and innocent, but she isn’t stupid. She knows she must marry a strong man with a large fighting force, because he’ll forever be defending her land and dowry. She’d been working with the abbess to find an acceptable husband, but hadn’t settled on one when she was abducted. I liked that she wasn’t silly or naive, thinking she’d hold out for love. She just wanted a place she could call her own, with a man who would protect her, her future children and offer her respect. Her practicality appealed to me.

I think too often romance novels focus too much on the word love. The angst the couple goes through over one or the other of them not saying that four letter word can be kind of over the top. Banks did an excellent job of showing us that they were falling in love, instead of just having them obsess over the other not saying it.

In the beginning Ewan and Mairin really butted heads over the proper way to run the keep and Mairin’s place in the clan. I found this to be believable and enjoyed the way Banks had them work through their problems. They argued and fought, but at the end of the day they wanted only the best for each other and their people. I especially liked how considerate Ewan was of Mairin’s feelings. Not at first – he is a man, of course – but once he realized his actions were hurting her he did his best to temper that.

That’s not to say they didn’t frustrate me at times. Mairin was stubborn and often silly in her actions. So was Ewan. I was especially annoyed during the first half of the novel.

The outside conflicts were interesting and worked well with the internal conflicts. Banks struck a good balance between the two, though I do wish a bit more detail would have been given to the final resolution. I was left feeling…unsatisfied. Maybe like I was being baited to read the sequel, which annoys me.Especially since it worked – I’m anxious for the next book.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5.

McCabe Trilogy

three-half-stars


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