Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Retro Review: The Truth About Lord Stoneville by Sabrina Jeffries

Posted August 16, 2017 by Holly in Reviews | 7 Comments

Retro Review: The Truth About Lord Stoneville by Sabrina JeffriesReviewer: Holly
The Truth About Lord Stoneville by Sabrina Jeffries
Series: Hellions of Halstead Hall #1
Published by Simon & Schuster, Pocket Books
Publication Date: January 19th, 2010
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 392
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four-stars

Hellions of Halstead Hall

They're the scandalous Sharpes, five hell-raising siblings tainted by a shocking family legacy. Now each faces a daunting ultimatum: marry by year's end—or kiss their inheritance good-bye.

In the two decades since a tragic "accident" took the lives of his parents, Oliver Sharpe, the Marquess of Stoneville, has survived the scandal surrounding that fateful night by living as an unrepentant rakehell. And with his grandmother vowing to disinherit him if he doesn't settle down and wed, he plans to fulfill the bargain in true Sharpe style—by bringing home a fake fiancée from a brothel! But his scheme is derailed when he rescues an American beauty in a dire predicament instead.

Maria Butterfield came to London to track down her groom-to-be, who's gone missing, but her engagement won't stop Oliver from getting what he wants: her, in his bed. His rebellious masquerade may call his grandmother's bluff, but it's soon made all too real—by a love that tempts him to be a hellion no more.

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.

Rowena: I love reading old reviews by Holly. She never fails to get her point across a lot more eloquently than I do. I remember putting this book on my TBR a long ass time ago and are you surprised that I never got around to reading it? Ha!

This review was originally posted on February 16, 2010.

Sabrina Jeffries can be hit or miss for me, but I really adored this book.

Oliver Sharpe, the Marquess of Stoneville, is being forced to marry. Though he’s titled, he’s broke and has 4 siblings to care for. Each of them acts scandalously, earning them the nickname the Hellions of Halstead. Their grandmother, determined to have great-grandchildren before her death, has issued an ultimatum: Either they all marry, or they’re all disinherited.

Oliver has no intention of marrying. He figures he can call his grandmother’s bluff by finding the most unsuitable bride ever. She comes in the form of one Maria Butterfield, an American heiress who has come to England to find her missing fiance. Not only is she American, but she’s from common origins and basically alone in the world.

Maria is only in England to find her missing fiance. Now that her father has passed away she needs her fiance to settle the terms of her father’s will. Unfortunately all of her money is tied up in her father’s shipping business, so she’s basically operating on a shoe-string budget. When her cousin is caught out and she’s forced to accept Stoneville’s wild scheme in order to protect them both, it seems like a nightmare; until he agrees to help her find her fiance while she puts on the charade for his grandmother. It seems easy enough…

..but neither are prepared for the attraction and genuine liking they share for one another. Not that anything can come of it, what with Maria having a fiance and Stoneville determined to never marry and become like his parents.

This was such a fun story. I was determined to dislike both Maria and Stoneville in the beginning; her because she’s such a stick-in-the-mud and him because he was so much the rake. They both grew on me, however, and it wasn’t long before I was wrapped up in both of them.

Maria wasn’t really as uptight as she seemed. Once she loosened up and relaxed I really felt like I connected with her. She didn’t let Oliver get away with anything, which I thought was great. I did think she forgave him a bit too easily on occasion, but I was able to move past it.

I really liked Oliver and the way he was with is family. Though he was determined to ruin his own life, when it came to his siblings he really stepped up and did the right thing. The way he was so confused over his feelings for Maria was hilarious.

His guilt over the death of his parents and his subsequent actions didn’t make a lot of sense to me. His mother caught him in a compromising position and lashed out, saying some nasty things to him. Later that evening his parents are discovered in a hunting lodge dead – it looks like she shot him and then herself. Oliver is convinced he’s the reason his mother finally lost it and killed his father. But from then on he went out of his way to act just like his father…which made no sense. If he hated everything his father was and how upset his mother always became, why did he act the same way?

Similarly, the way his grandmother acted about the incident with her daughter frustrated me to no end. Toward the end she talks about it a bit, but for most of the book I was just annoyed with her over it.

Despite that one issue, I really enjoyed all the secondary characters. Especially Oliver’s siblings and Maria’s cousin. They really added just the right amount of silliness to the story. I’m definitely looking forward to finding out more about them as the series continues.

This was a sweet love story with charming characters. I recommend it if you’re in the mood for a can’t-put-down historical romp.

4 out of 5

four-stars


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Review: All I Ever Wanted by Luann McLane

Posted August 14, 2017 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: All I Ever Wanted by Luann McLaneReviewer: Holly
All I Ever Wanted (Heartthrob #1) by LuAnn McLane
Series: Heartthrob #1
Published by Pocket Star
Publication Date: July 24th 2017
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 288
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two-half-stars

From author LuAnn McLane comes the first in a brand new series featuring the sexy Heart brothers: formerly the members of the cult-phenomenon boy band Heartbeat, they’re all grown up and back together for one last reunion tour….

When Grady Heart, former lead singer of the cult-phenomenon boy band Heartbeat and eldest of the brothers, decides to bring the group back together for a highly anticipated reunion concert, he doesn’t expect to be met with so much resistance from his brothers. He also doesn’t expect them to hire his ex-girlfriend and ex-Heartbeat choreographer Arabella York to help the band rock some new dance moves.

Back in Heartbeat’s glory days the brooding bad boy fell hard for Arabella; the studious, stable dance teacher tamed Grady’s wild side but her lack of trust in him eventually drove them apart. Although their chemistry burns hotter than ever, Grady tries to keep his relationship with Arabella strictly professional this time around but in his heart, he might just still long to find out what could have been.

Grady Heart and his brothers were a wildly popular teen boy band. They quit performing when their mother got sick. Now that she’s gone, Grady is organizing a benefit reunion concert in her memory. All his brothers are on board, but there’s a problem…the slick dance moves they used as teens just aren’t possible now that they’re adults. Grady wants everything to be perfect since this is such an important cause. Even so, when his brothers suggest they contact their old choreographer, Arabella, Grady refuses. She broke his heart once. He isn’t willing to give her a second chance. Too bad for him, his brothers go behind his back and call her. Faced with the prospect of spending time with the woman who disappeared without backward glance, Grady admits he still isn’t over her. But he’s not going to give her his heart again.

Arabella is in a financial pickle. She opened a string of successful fitness studios, but she got in over her head and expanded too quickly. Now she either needs a serious infusion of cash or she’s going to be forced to take on a demanding partner who wants to rebrand her entire operation. But facing bad boy Grady Heart again after he ruined her for love isn’t high on her list of fun things to do. Still, she doesn’t have much choice if she wants to save her studios. Now she just needs to keep a calm head around Grady. There’s no way she’s going to risk falling for him again. She learned the hard way the rockstar life is not for her.

I really struggled with this book. I like rock star romances and figured a light boy band second chance love story was right up my alley. Sadly the brothers seemed to suffer from Peter Pan Syndrome. Despite all being in their late 20’s-early 30’s, they still acted like teenagers. The heroine was just as bad. Between her refusal to talk things out like an adult and the way she ran every time something got hard, I had a hard time buying that she was an adult with a successful string of dance studios under her.

I really believed Grady cared for her, but I wasn’t as convinced of Arabella’s feelings. She was closed off and ran at the first sign of trouble or drama. Because she didn’t stick with him, despite her saying she loved Grady, I didn’t buy it.

The premise was good, and I enjoyed some of it. I may continue on with the series.

2.75 out of 5

two-half-stars


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Guest Review: Second Chance Season by Liora Blake

Posted August 1, 2017 by Tracy in Reviews | 1 Comment

Guest Review: Second Chance Season by Liora BlakeReviewer: Tracy
Second Chance Season by Liora Blake
Series: Grand Valley #2
Also in this series: First Step Forward, First Step Forward, Second Chance Season
Published by Pocket Books
Publication Date: June 20th 2017
Pages: 336
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four-stars

Return to Liora Blake’s Grand Valley series with Second Chance Season, in which an avowed country boy with a family duty meets an ambitious city girl with even bigger goals and who shows him just what he’s been missing.

Garrett Strickland is unapologetically country, fiercely loyal, and perfectly happy with his job at the Hotchkiss Co-op. Garrett is all about living in the present and not dwelling in the past—even if he was once on his way to a lofty agricultural sciences degree that would guarantee the brightest of futures, only to end up back home when his old man died, leaving behind a debt-ridden family farm that was impossible to keep afloat. After that, it was easy to see why dreaming big wasn’t worth the heartache. And until he crosses paths with a city girl who’s hell-bent on kick-starting her own future, he’s sure that good enough is just that.

Cara Cavanaugh is ready for more from life, even if that means changing everything; including dumping her boyfriend of ten years, turning down a lucrative job at a major newspaper, and leaving behind the upscale suburbs of Chicago where she grew up. Now, she just has to pray that temporarily relocating to the middle of nowhere in Colorado will be the first step in building a career as a freelance journalist—all she has to do is prove she’s got what it takes to make a name for herself. Unfortunately, her tony country day school is as close to “country” as she’s ever been. But when a goodhearted guy who looks like he just stumbled out of a country music video offers to help, she ends up falling hard…and discovering that the perfect story is a love story. And it’s theirs.

Second Chance Season, book two in the Grand Valley series, is a charming, feel-good romance, perfect for fans of Jennifer Probst and Kristan Higgins.

Cara has become a freelance journalist and is doing a story on the ag industry in Grand Valley.  She is staying at the home of a friend.  The home used to be owned by Garrett Strickland’s family but he had to sell it after his dad died.  Garrett helps Cara with the little idiosyncrasies of the house when needed and this puts the two of them in close proximity.

Garrett ends up helping Cara with her story as well.  He introduces her to local farmers so that she can have an in.  It’s a huge help to Cara but it makes Garrett happy because he gets to spend more time with Cara.  Soon the two are sleeping together and falling in love.  Cara, however, is not supposed to stay in Hotchkiss and Garrett feels he has nothing to offer Cara as he just works at the co-op.  The pair each have to figure out their lives before they can be together.

This was another great story from Blake.  I loved Hotchkiss the first time around and the second was just as good.  The story was very different from book one and I appreciated that.

Garrett was such a great guy and I loved him to pieces.  He had a huge heart and was raised right.  Though life hadn’t always treated him well he made the best of bad situations.  When he met Cara he had no intention of falling for her but he did lust after her.  I loved that the lust he felt turned into love which made for a great story.

Cara had been floundering.  She’d worked for a big newspaper but she felt stifled.  She went freelance and took the job to do the ag story for a magazine.  She loved it in Hotchkiss.  She felt right in the slower paced lifestyle.  Though she knew she shouldn’t fall for Garrett it happened and she was willing to make the moves she needed to in order to stay with him.  Garrett, however, needed to figure his shit out before they could be together.  I was happy that Cara could help Garrett see where he needed to be.

Overall the story was fun, sweet, sexy and just all-around great.  I definitely recommend this one. 🙂

Rating: 4 out of 5

four-stars


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Sunday Spotlight: Saving Grace by Julie Garwood

Posted July 23, 2017 by Holly in Features, Giveaways | 2 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be  raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

Sunday Spotlight

Saving Grace is one of the first Garwood books I read. I was sucked in from the first page. Johanna’s struggle to find strength in herself, and freedom in a marriage to a wild highlander captivated me.

Sunday Spotlight: Saving Grace by Julie GarwoodSaving Grace by Julie Garwood
Published by Pocket Books
Publication Date: March 1, 1994
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 407
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When Lady Johanna learned that she was a widow, she vowed she would never marry again. Only sixteen, already she possessed a strength of will that impressed all who looked past her golden-haired beauty. Yet when King John demanded that she remarry and selected a bridegroom for her—it seemed she must acquiesce, until her beloved foster brother suggested she wed his friend, the handsome Scottish warrior Gabriel MacBain.

At first Johanna was shy, but as Gabriel tenderly revealed the splendid pleasures they would share, she came to suspect that she was falling in love with her gruff new husband. And it was soon apparent to the entire Highlands clan that their brusque, gallant laird had surrendered his heart completely. But now a desperate royal intrigue threatened to tear her from his side—and to destroy the man whose love meant more to her than she had ever dreamed!

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There’s a lot to love in this book. Humor, depth, romance, action and adventure. Saving Grace has it all.

Favorite Quotes

Johanna was in an abusive marriage before her brother convinced her to marry Gabriel McBain. As a widow, the king would have been able to force her to marry whom he wanted and her brother was trying to save her from another terrible marriage. Gabriel was large and gruff, and Johanna started out very frightened of him. Even so, she had a deep well of inner-strength, and right from the beginning, she challenged him.

“I will try to love you, M’lord, and I’ll certainly honor you because you’ll be my husband, but I don’t believe I’ll obey you much. I’ve found that total submissiveness doesn’t agree with me.”

[…]

“Will you try to obey?” He sounded exasperated. She was so astonished by his attitude she smiled. She wasn’t such a weakling, after all, she thought to herself. She had just stood up to the laird and forced him to negotiate. She wasn’t certain she’d won much, but she definitely hadn’t lost anything. “Yes, I will try,” she promised. “Upon occasion,” she hastily added.

Gabriel’s reaction to her isn’t what she expects. From the beginning, he worries for her health and well-being, though she doesn’t realize it at first.

She was trying to be submissive, Gabriel decided. He thought it was probably killing her.

Johanna constantly tries to impart wisdom to her husband’s followers, but they never understand what she means. Every single time it happened, I laughed out loud.

“I was just thinking about your laird,” she answered. “He’s a complicated man.”

“Aye, he is,” Keith agreed.

“I would like to understand how his mind works.”

“Why?”

She lifted her shoulders in a shrug. “Direct questions don’t work,” she remarked. “Still, there’s more than one way into a castle.”

Keith misunderstood. “Aye, there are two entrances, three if you count the pathway through the cellar.”

“I wasn’t referring to this holding,” she explained. “I meant that there is always more than one way to get what you want. Do you see?”

“But there are still just two entrances to the keep, M’lady,” Keith stubbornly insisted.

She let out a sigh. “Never mind, Keith.”

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About the Author


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It’s no surprise that Julie Garwood became a writer. Growing up in a large family of Irish heritage, she took to storytelling naturally. “The Irish relish getting all the details of every situation,” she explains. “Add in the fact that I was the sixth of seven children. Early in life I learned that self-expression had to be forceful, imaginative, and quick.”

Creating stories was always a passion for Julie, but she didn’t focus on making it a career until the youngest of her three children entered school. After the publications of two young adult books, she turned her interests to historical fiction. Her first novel, GENTLE WARRIOR, was published in 1985, and there has been a steady parade of bestsellers ever since. Today more than 40-million copies of her books are in print, and they are translated into dozens of languages around the world. One of her most popular novels, FOR THE ROSES, was adapted for a HALLMARK HALL OF FAME production on CBS.

Whether the setting is medieval Scotland, Regency England, frontier Montana, or modern-day Louisiana, her themes are consistent: family, loyalty, and honor. Readers claim that it’s the humor as well as the poignancy of her novels that keep them coming back for more. Julie described her goals this way: “I want my readers to laugh and cry and fall in love. Basically, I want them to escape into another world for a little while and afterward to feel as though they’ve been on a great adventure.”

Julie lives in Leawood, Kansas, and is currently working on her next novel.


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Guest Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Posted July 11, 2017 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins ReidThe Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Published by Atria Books
Publication Date: June 13th 2017
Genres: Women's Fiction
Pages: 400
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four-half-stars

From Taylor Jenkins Reid comes an unforgettable and sweeping novel about one classic film actress’s relentless rise to the top—the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.

Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Filled with emotional insight and written with Reid’s signature talent, this is a fascinating journey through the splendor of Old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means—and what it takes—to face the truth.

While this story is definitely not in my usual wheelhouse, someone whose opinion I admire raved about this book, and the premise reminded me of another book I really enjoyed, The Thirteenth Tale, where a famous elderly woman selects a seeming nobody to write the story of her life. I decided to take a chance on it, and I am so very glad I did. 

At the beginning of the book, journalist Monique Grant is getting divorced, is going nowhere in her career, and is not terribly happy with anything in her life. When reclusive, aging movie star Evelyn Hugo asks for Monique, and only Monique, to write a piece about her, she’s shocked but excited. Evelyn promises complete and total honesty, and as her tale unfolds, Monique learns that Evelyn, and indeed all human beings, are more complex and messy than they at first appear.

One of the first questions Monique asks Evelyn is “Who was the love of your life?” While Evelyn doesn’t answer immediately, the question sets the stage for their conversation, and you get a sense that answering that question is one of Evelyn’s primary reasons (but not the only one!) for telling her story in the first place. This isn’t a romance, though there is a love story (several, really). More importantly, the underlying theme of Evelyn’s story is love, which is why I think this book may appeal to readers of this site–who you love, why you love them, how you can love different people differently, what you will do for love, and when love sometimes isn’t enough. We see how Evelyn came from a background with little love and eventually fashioned a life for herself and created a family of people who loved her immensely. It was touching to read about.

Evelyn is a fascinating and richly drawn character. She had a desperately poor and unhappy childhood, but she’s determined to be a star, and she makes it happen through a combination of looks, natural (if unpolished) talent, and no small amount of pure determination. Some parts of her story are downright painful to read about, as she does what she has to do to get ahead, but the most poignant parts of the book are when she does things to protect the people she loves. (The chapter where she talks about her marriage to her third husband is particularly heartbreaking.) Even when she’s protecting others, though, she’s also protecting herself. Evelyn is clear with Monique that she isn’t the “good guy” in her story, that she can be self serving, vain, and cruel. The trick of Taylor Jenkins Reid, though, is that for the most part, you’re on Evelyn’s side through most of the book. You see the reasons for her choices, and it’s hard not to admire her determination and her fierce loyalty for those she loved. Then, she reveals a big secret near the end, and suddenly you’re left questioning, and some of the consequences of Evelyn’s choices become a bit less abstract that they were before. It’s nuanced and complex and fascinating to read.

While Evelyn’s stories vividly bring other characters to life, Monique is not as finely drawn. Her story isn’t fleshed out as fully as I would have liked. Her dissolving marriage was never quite explored and seemed more like a vehicle for showing how much Evelyn inspired Monique than an integral part of Monique’s own story. Monique’s mom is similarly shallowly portrayed and just added a hint of the “flavor” of Monique’s life without much substance. The ending was also rushed. Evelyn finally reveals her biggest secret, and I didn’t feel like there was enough time or interaction afterwards for Monique to process it all.

I found this book both captivating and beautifully written. It wasn’t at all what I expected, but it was a great book for stepping out of my usual genre.

Grade: 4.5 out of 5

*I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

four-half-stars


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