Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Retro Review: A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught.

Posted January 11, 2017 by Rowena in Reviews | 44 Comments

Retro Review: A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught.Reviewer: Rowena
A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught
Series: Westmorelands #1
Published by Simon & Schuster, Pocket Books
Publication Date: July 1st 2003
Genres: Historical, Romance
Pages: 438
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Abducted from her convent school, headstrong Scottish beauty Jennifer Merrick does not easily surrender to Royce Westmoreland, Duke of Claymore. Known as "The Wolf"; his very name strikes terror in the hearts of his enemies. But proud Jennifer will have nothing to do with the fierce English warrior who holds her captive, this handsome rogue who taunts her with his blazing arrogance. Boldly she challenges his will . . . until the night he takes her in his powerful embrace, awakening in her an irresistible hunger. And suddenly Jennifer finds herself ensnared in a bewildering web . . . a seductive, dangerous trap of pride, passion, loyalty, and overwhelming love.

***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.

This week, we’re going back to the author that started my love of romance novels, Judith McNaught. I remember this review and all of the fighting commenting we did in the comments. What a lively bunch we are…ha! Oh man, the memories…***

This review was originally posted on May 29, 2007.

Okay so this weekend, while I was in the midst of reading all these books while waiting to read my book book, I did a reread of this book, A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught.

Now in our little circle of friends, this is the book that brings out the claws. I kid you not, we have gotten into some serious fight emails (in ALL CAPS y’all) about this book and the heroine. While some of us think that Jenny was a stupid beeyatch who deserved all the crap that she got, we still think she was redeemable in the end, there are others who think otherwise. They’re the ones that think Jenny should have died a slow death where she was tortured, hanging over a fire pit, being slow roasted.


And as I was reading this book, this past weekend I found myself being just as absorbed in this story as I was the many other times I’ve read this book.

I found myself falling deeper and deeper under the Royce Westmoreland spell and I thought this book was fantastically written. The emotions Judith McNaught envoked in the readers toward the characters, pulled them deep into the story and made them apart of it, made them hate the bad guys (and the good guys) and made them hungry with the thirst of justice (for poor Thor and William) and I’ve got to say that Judith McNaught sure knows what she’s doing when she writes these books.

She’s a master at weaving a world that sparks such interesting topics and discussions. I mean, I’ve never fought with anyone like I did with Izzy and Holly over the whole Jenny thing and I admit to poking fun at them, deliberately provoking them into getting all huffy and puffy about Jenny and her actions.

It’s really fun, to read this book and roll my eyes and get that nervous twitch in my stomach when I knew Jenny was going to do something stupid, like sew the soldiers clothes shut or carve Royce’s face with his own knife, then you know, THE scene where she did what she did to Thor? And then when she hesitated over Royce’s lance when he approached her for her ribbon?


These are the things that made me so angry at Jenny but I didn’t wish Royce ended up with anyone else. I mean, she was stupid but she was very repentant at the end. Yeah, Royce was nearly dead before she got her wits around her to go and put a stop to the slaughtering of her husband, but she DID do it and she truly showed that she did in fact love him with all that she was…

Royce’s speech when he brought Jenny back to his home and introduced him to the servants, sigh I just love it…so much so that I’m going to type it out for you.

Behold your new mistress, my wife. And know that when she bids you, I have bidden you; what service you render her, you are rendering me, what loyalty you give or withhold from her, you give or withhold from me.


Man but this was a good book, a fantastic book and even though Jenny was a stupid ass, I still loved this book and I will continue to read it over and over again because it’s just that great.

Go on, bring on the vicious words for Jenny, I know you’re just dying to say them…LOL.

Grade: 4.75 out of 5

This book is available from Pocket Books. You can purchase it here.


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Review: Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel (+ Giveaway)

Posted January 10, 2017 by Rowena in Reviews | 2 Comments

Review: Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel (+ Giveaway)Reviewer: Rowena
Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel
Published by Simon & Schuster, Atria Books, Emily Bestler Books
Publication Date: December 27th 2016
Genres: Chick Lit, Contemporary
Pages: 368
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For fans of The Nanny Diaries and Sophie Kinsella comes a whip-smart and deliciously funny debut novel about Kate, a young woman unexpectedly thrust into the cutthroat world of New York City private school admissions as she attempts to understand city life, human nature, and falling in love.

Despite her innate ambition and Summa Cum Laude smarts, Kate Pearson has turned into a major slacker. After being unceremoniously dumped by her handsome, French “almost fiancé,” she abandons her grad school plans and instead spends her days lolling on the couch, watching reruns of Sex and the City, and leaving her apartment only when a dog-walking gig demands it. Her friends don’t know what to do other than pass tissues and hope for a comeback, while her practical sister, Angela, pushes every remedy she can think of, from trapeze class to therapy to job interviews.

Miraculously, and for reasons no one (least of all Kate) understands, she manages to land a job in the admissions department at the prestigious Hudson Day School. In her new position, Kate learns there’s no time for self-pity or nonsense during the height of the admissions season, or what her colleagues refer to as “the dark time.” As the process revs up, Kate meets smart kids who are unlikable, likeable kids who aren’t very smart, and Park Avenue parents who refuse to take no for an answer.

Meanwhile, Kate’s sister and her closest friends find themselves keeping secrets, hiding boyfriends, dropping bombshells, and fighting each other on how to keep Kate on her feet. On top of it all, her cranky, oddly charming, and irritatingly handsome downstairs neighbor is more than he seems. Through every dishy, page-turning twist, it seems that one person’s happiness leads to another’s misfortune, and suddenly everyone, including Kate, is looking for a way to turn rejection on its head, using any means necessary—including the truly unexpected.

This book made it onto my radar when it came through in my email and I immediately added it to my review pile. I took my time getting around to reading it but then Grace over at Rebel Mommy Book Blog reviewed the book and I was super excited to start the book and I’m happy to report that I enjoyed it.

Kate Pearson is our main character and the story follows her and the people in her life from her family, her friends and the people she comes across every day at her new job as an admissions director for Hudson, a private school in New York City. After a disastrous relationship, Kate falls into a deep depression that takes her out of commission for a while and when her sister sets up a job interview for her to kick her out of her funk, Kate goes along with it and is surprised when she finds so much more than a new job. She finds a purpose. She finds a new circle of people that come to mean the world to her.

The book follows quite a few different people. There is Kate, of course, but there is also her sister, her friends, her boss and some of the parents that are trying to get their kids into Hudson. This book was fun and it was interesting but I have to note that in the beginning, it was confusing as hell. At least it was for me. I couldn’t figure out why Chloe’s bit was in first person, while everyone else was in third person, including Kate’s bit since Kate is the main character. It was hard to keep everyone sorted in my head but I continued on and was glad for it because everything was sorted and the story really was a good time.

This book has a bit of everything to make it an enjoyable read. Crazy parents, bratty kids, bad friends, well meaning friends, supportive family members and a sister that thought she knew everything but made me want to smack her upside her head from time to time. Every time Victoria thought something bad about Kate, I wanted Kate to come out on top of something else that would drive Vicky crazy. Every time Silvia Blake came onto the scene, my eyes got bigger and bigger waiting to see what shenanigans she’d get herself into. Angela made me roll my eyes all over the place and Chloe frustrated me but I ended up really liking her. There was much to enjoy about this book. It made me laugh, it hurt my heart but in the end, everything worked out and I was entertained.

This was a good book and I definitely recommend it if you’re in the mood for a fun chick lit book.

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About the Author

Amy Poeppel


Amy Poeppel is a graduate of Wellesley College. Originally from Dallas, Texas, she lives with her husband and three sons in New York City, where she worked in the admissions department of an independent school. She workshopped a theatrical version of SMALL ADMISSIONS at the Actors Studio Playwrights/Directors Unit. She later expanded it into a novel.


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Review: Bad Boy by Elliot Wake

Posted December 6, 2016 by Rowena in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Bad Boy by Elliot WakeReviewer: Rowena
Bad Boy by Elliot Wake
Published by Simon & Schuster, Atria Books
Publication Date: December 6, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, LGBT
Pages: 256
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Vlog star Renard Grant has nothing to prove: he’s got a pretty face, chiseled body, and two million adoring video subscribers. Plus the scars on his chest and a prescription for testosterone. Because Ren is transgender: assigned female at birth, living now as male. He films his transition and shares it bravely with the world; his fans love his honesty and positivity.

But Ren has been living a double life.

Off-camera, he’s Cane, the muscle-bound enforcer for social justice vigilante group Black Iris. As Cane, he lets his dark side loose. Hurts those who prey on the disempowered. Indulges in the ugly side of masculinity. And his new partner, Tamsin Baylor, is a girl as rough and relentless as him. Together, they terrorize the trolls into silence.

But when a routine Black Iris job goes south, Ren is put in the crosshairs. Someone is out to ruin his life. He’s a bad boy, they say, guilty of what he punishes others for.

Just like every other guy: at heart, he’s a monster, too.

Now Ren’s got everything to prove. He has to clear his name, and show the world he’s a good man. But that requires facing demons he’s locked away for years. And it might mean discovering he’s not such a good guy after all.

I wanted to read this book because I was in the mood for something different and after reading the blurb, this one seemed to fit the bill. I thought it would be interesting to get to know a character that is a vlog star who filmed his transition and shared it on his blog for the world.

It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t all pretty roses and rainbows but I was very interested in Ren’s transition story. In Ren as a person. Getting into the story, I thought that I would feel a lot more for Ren as a person than I did but sadly, I didn’t. The story as a whole was interesting and it was what drove me to finish but Ren as a character was someone that I just couldn’t fully connect with. I’m not even sure why, he just, I don’t even know. He’s a pretty dark character, a character who has been through a hell of a lot but while I ended up okay with him, in the end, I still didn’t fully like him.

I wonder if I had read the other books before this one, if I would have felt different about it all because all of the Black Iris stuff had me rolling my eyes down the street. At first, I didn’t get it but the author did a good job in pulling it all together in the end. Once I was caught up with everything going on, I appreciated the story more so if I could recommend anything, it would be for readers to read Unteachable, Black Iris and Cam Girl.

I will say that Elliot Wake wrote a compelling story that was dark and twisted but necessary. The way that he made the dark and the light stuff in life come together was raw and gritty and that’s probably why I didn’t enjoy this book as much. I’m a fluffy contemporary romance reader at heart and the darkness in this book (and in Ren) was hard for me to get through, so while I’m glad that I gave this book a go, I probably won’t continue with the other books. This has nothing to do with the author or the book and everything to do with my reading preferences.

Grade: 2.75 out of 5

Giveaway Alert

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About the Author


Elliot Wake


Elliot Wake (formerly known as Leah Raeder) is a transgender author of four novels: Unteachable, Black Iris, Cam Girl, and Bad Boy. Aside from reading his brains out, Elliot enjoys video games, weightlifting, and perfecting his dapper style. He lives with his partner in Chicago.


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Guest Lightning Review: Miss Goodhue Lives for a Night by Kate Noble

Posted September 22, 2016 by Tracy in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Lightning Review: Miss Goodhue Lives for a Night by Kate NobleReviewer: Tracy
Miss Goodhue Lives for a Night by Kate Noble
Series: Winner Takes All #2.5
Also in this series: The Dare and the Doctor
Published by Pocket Star
Publication Date: September 19th 2016
Genres: Historical, Romance
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Cecilia Goodhue is a schoolteacher with a past, living with her sister and her husband in a tiny English village. Resigned to a quiet life, Cecilia is surprised when she finds out that her young cousin has run off with a man of no means.

Cecilia had once been a teenaged girl who also fell for a young man’s charms—only to be devastated by his betrayal. Determined to not let her cousin meet the same fate, she heads off to London to but is shocked when her investigation leads her right to the front door of the very man who broke her heart: Theo Hudson.

Together, they reluctantly embark on finding her cousin and returning her to her family. During their searching in London, it soon becomes clear that they both remember their short-lived romance differently and perhaps now, years later, they have a fresh chance at love.

There’s not much to say about the premise of the story as the blurb says it so well.  This was a cute story though. There wasn’t a lot of angst, there wasn’t a lot of drama and it was a sweet reunion story.  Once Cecilia and Theo had figured out that they’d been lied to by their fathers ten years earlier about why the other wanted to marry them, all was well.

Parts of the story were pretty funny and I enjoyed laughing throughout the book.  I haven’t read books 1 & 2 in this series but I didn’t feel that I needed to in order to enjoy this novella.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


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Joint Review: Kill and Tell by Linda Howard

Posted December 7, 2015 by Holly in Reviews | 3 Comments

Joint Review: Kill and Tell by Linda HowardReviewer: Holly and Rowena
Kill and Tell by Linda Howard
Series: CIA Spies #1
Published by Pocket Star
Publication Date: October 1st 2003
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 320
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Romantic suspense superstar Linda Howard’s seductive New York Times bestseller “meshes hot sex, emotional impact, and gripping tension” (Publishers Weekly) into a sizzling, heart-pounding thriller!

Still reeling from her mother’s recent death, Karen Whitlaw is stunned when she receives a package containing a mysterious notebook from her estranged father, whom she has barely seen since his return from the Vietnam War decades ago. Then, a shocking phone call: Karen’s father has been murdered on the gritty streets of New Orleans.

For homicide detective Marc Chastain, something about the case of a murdered homeless man just doesn’t add up—especially after he meets the victim’s daughter. Far from the cold woman he expected, Karen Whitlaw is warm and passionate. She is also in serious danger. A string of “accidents” have shaken Karen to the core and forced her into the protective embrace of the charming detective she vowed to resist.

Together they unravel a disturbing story of politics, power, and murder—and face a killer who will stop at nothing to get his hands on her father’s secrets.

Holly: Linda Howard is a master at making implausible scenarios work. Her books should be ridiculous, considering the far-fetched plots, but instead they’re engrossing and exciting. This book has a lot of controversy surrounding it based on the actions of the hero. Unfortunately for me, the implausibility wasn’t as easily overlooked here as in some of her other works.

Karen is a nurse who lost her mom within the last year and just got a call that her estranged father is dead. She hasn’t seen him in years and has very few happy feelings about him, but still. He was her father and needs to be taken care of. She flies to New Orleans to identify the body and make final arrangements.

Marc Chastain is the detective in charge of her father’s case. He’s made some assumptions about her based on the way she first reacted to the news of her father’s passing, her actions since she arrived in town and the fact that her father was living on the streets at the time of his death. Marc firmly believes the old and mentally ill should be cared for by their families, not abandoned. His assumptions about Karen and her actions cause him to act very reserved toward her at first. He’s polite, but she easily senses his dislike for her.

The problem is, Karen isn’t at all what Marc assumed. He quickly realizes that, but the damage is done…she sensed his dislike and has been subconsciously reacting to it. In order to make headway with her before she goes back to her life, he pushes her faster than he normally would have, trying to tie her to him before she leaves the state.

What did you think of the set-up? Karen getting called to New Orleans to deal with her father’s body and Marc’s reaction to her?

Rowena: It’s been a long time since I read this book and one thing that jumped out at me at every turn in this last re-read was how fast everything happened. From the time Karen’s dad died to the time Karen lands in New Orleans, meets Detective Chastain and the both of them fall in love with each other, it was a matter of days. It was a lot harder for me to swallow this time around but I’m not going to lie, I still liked the story as a whole. Haha, I’m weird.

Holly: That’s the thing about Howard. If I think about the plot and creepy hero behavior too much, I know it wasn’t okay. They fell in love in a matter of days and she moved her whole life to be with him? He decided within hours of meeting her that she was the only one for him and moved heaven and earth to tie him to her? CREEPY. And works. It totally works.

Rowena: You’re right. ​The first time that I read this book, I didn’t bother with the details much. I was swept up in the romance of it all. Falling in love with someone in such a short time seemed romantic but I don’t know, this time around I picked up on things I hadn’t before…and I’m kind of bummed about that. Because if you let yourself get bogged down in the details, the romance that you were swept up in falls flat on its face.

Do we even want to get into the little detail with Chastain and the condom? How about the Criminal Minds unsub thought processes that Chastain had while falling in love with Karen? Or Karen’s decision to move her entire life from Ohio to Louisiana for a man that she fell in love with in a matter of days? The same guy with the condom.

Let’s do it. Let’s get down in the details. Let’s talk about all of those details. Where do you want to start?

Holly: With the condom, of course. Let me sum up:

Chastain realizes there’s more to Karen than he originally thought and decides he wants her. Not just for sex, but …for always? So after her father’s funeral he invites her back to his place for dinner. They settle on the terrace with sandwiches and cookies after he changes into jeans and she takes her hose off.

After some time (does it say how long in the book?) he puts on some music and asks her to dance. ..then dances her right into his bedroom and he bones her.

Not that big a deal except for 1) she was clearly in a vulnerable place having just buried her father and 2) he didn’t pause to put a condom on. Why? BECAUSE HE WAS ALREADY WEARING ONE. When he changed into jeans he put one on…and kept it on the whole time they were on the terrace (which later he throws out as proof of how much he wanted her).

What kind of a creeper lures a grief-stricken woman from a different state back to his place and then puts a condom on hours(?) before getting her into bed? That’s some serious premeditation right there.

Rowena: I don’t think they say how much time passes but dude, it was a while. He sat there through their food, their conversation, their drinks and then danced with her and the whole freaking time, he was WEARING A CONDOM!!!! How did that shit not tear? He wasn’t wearing basketball shorts or loose fitted pants, he was wearing FREAKING JEANS!!!

I mean the creep factor is pretty high that even Karen took notice of it. The premeditation of the whole thing (See? That Criminal Minds unsub mentality) made me squirm and not in a good way. I don’t think I would have had the same reaction as Karen.

What about you? Would you have slept with him after you found out that he was wearing the condom the whole time? How many of us would have actually done it?

Holly: Well, to be fair (and if I remember correctly), she didn’t realize about the condom until after she’d slept with him. Right? She was so caught up in the moment it wasn’t until the next morning she realized what he’d done. .and she hightailed it out of there as soon as she could sneak away. Then she goes back only because someone is trying to kill her and she knows he’s the only one who can help.

I can see why she went back. I can even see why she thought she was in love with him. But it was under such intense circumstances and over such a shirt period of time, I don’t know that I believe it’s Wuv, Twu Wuv forever and ever amen.

Rowena: Oh yeah, you’re right. She was caught up in the moment and then she fled. And then she went back. Maybe that’s why I’m still single because I wouldn’t have gone back. I would have freaked myself out over him wearing that condom the whole night and cut my losses and probably would have died at the hands of the guys that killed my Dad and were trying to kill me. I would have been like, “Peace out, world” because….eww.

Holly: Same. I can get swept up in the romanticism of the moment while reading, but in real life? Dude was a creeper, straight up.

Which is why Karen’s decision to move her whole life there was so hard to take. Going to Marc when people were trying to kill her? Okay. It was an extreme situation. Her options were limited and she didn’t feel like she had anywhere else to go. But to stay afterward? Forever? When they’d only known each other a matter of days? Erm…

Rowena: Yeah, I don’t buy it.

I can see her going to Marc for protection. That made sense because he has the experience to keep her safe but the whole moving her entire world to Louisiana with condom dude, I don’t care how hot he was…that doesn’t make sense.

I guess it was hard for me to accept Karen’s decision to move in with Marc so soon because I couldn’t help but think that he was such a weirdo with the way he thought about things. So clinical and precise and…low key deadly. Reading his POV of the things as they’re happening really did remind me of being in the head of the killer in an episode of Criminal Minds.

So why the hell did I like this book, even after all of that? Maybe I’m the weirdo. LOL.

Holly: Well, that’s the thing. That’s what makes Howard such a fantastic author. Because in the moment, it totally works. I had the passing thought while reading that it was a little unbelievable, but it was just a passing thought. I was wrapped up in the drama and excitement of them being chased by killers and trying to solve her dad’s murder. I was wrapped up in the romance. Because it was romantic. This intense, charming, southern man falls for you in a matter of days, and you return those feelings? Oh, and did I mention he was effing hot?!?! Sign me up!

Then it’s like waking up from a dream. In dreamland all kinds of things make sense, but then your head clears and all you can think is… what the actual fuck just happened?

Rowena: Yep. To all of that.

While there were things that brought me up short, I still read the entire thing and had a smile on my face when it all ended. I’m not sure if it was the ridiculousness of the story or because in the end, I really did like the two of them together. Whatever it was, Linda Howard did write an entertaining story full of romance and action.

I especially liked seeing John Medina again. Seeing where we first met him and then knowing what’s in store for him in the future gave me the feels. happy sigh

Holly: I didn’t like Medina’s book. It’s one of only a few Howard novels I’ve only read a couple times and never go back to. I actually think this book was the beginning of the end of my undying love for her novels. Open Season, All the Queens Men and even Mr. Perfect were so frustrating to me.

Rowena: I liked it. I remember being one of the few that did enjoy it. I used to re-read that book a lot. Those were the days. I know that if I re-read it now, I wouldn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I did before so I doubt I’ll do a re-read. Keep the memories alive and all that. 🙂

This was a 3 read for me. It was ridiculous and yet it was still fun. You?

Holly: The same I think. On the surface it was an intense adventure. Upon further consideration it was a pretty creepy romance.

Final Grades

Holly: 3 out of 5
Rowena: 3 out of 5


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