Tag: HQN Books

Throwback Thursday Review: Unclaimed by Courtney Milan

Posted March 22, 2018 by Holly in Reviews | 2 Comments

Throwback Thursday Review: Unclaimed by Courtney MilanReviewer: Holly
Unclaimed (Turner, #2) by Courtney Milan
Series: Turner #2
Published by HQN Books
Publication Date: September 20th 2011
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 422
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Goodreads
four-stars


Her only hope for survival...

Handsome, wealthy and respected, Sir Mark Turner is the most sought-after bachelor in all of London and he's known far and wide for his irreproachable character. But behind his virtuous reputation lies a passionate nature he keeps carefully in check...until he meets the beautiful Jessica Farleigh, the woman he's waited for all his life.


Is to ruin the man she loves...

But Jessica is a courtesan, not the genteel lady Sir Mark believes. Desperate to be free of a life she despises, she seizes her chance when Mark's enemies make her an offer she can't refuse--seduce Mark and tarnish his good name, and a princely sum will be hers. Yet as she comes to know the man she's sworn to destroy, Jessica will be forced to choose between the future she needs and the love she knows is impossible.

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

This review was originally published on September 28, 2011.

I considered not finishing this book when, more than halfway through, the heroine was still being dishonest about her motives and intentions with the hero. While I’m glad I finished it, I find her actions – both before he learned of her deceit and after – tarnished the story.

Jessica is a courtesan that can’t stand to be touched by men. She needs money to start over somewhere else and the only way she can get it is by ruining the most popular man in England. Mark Turner is supposed to be chaste, but Jessica knows all men have a price. She just has to find his. If she can, she’ll receive enough money from her former protector to start a quiet life elsewhere.

Mark needs a break from the pressure of London and the hordes of adoring fans, so he retires to the country. Which is where he meets the widow Jessica Farleigh. Mark isn’t just chaste – he’s trying to live a chaste lifestyle. That means doing the right thing because it’s right, not because it’s fashionable. He isn’t a hypocrite. He has needs and desires the same as every other man. He’s just chosen not to act on them..because to do so wouldn’t be fair to either himself or the lady in question.

Jessica is wounded. Her life hasn’t been what she expected it would be and things have only gone from bad to worse. She needs an out, and for a woman in her position life doesn’t offer many. I understood that. But I had a hard time connecting with her. Part of the problem is my own hang-up. I can’t stand it when a character keeps a massive secret from his/her counterpart for the entire book. Especially when it’s something that will cause the other person pain. Since Jessica did this – even having good reasons for doing so – I had a really hard time forgiving her.

Aside from that, I truly enjoyed her personal journey. She needed to learn to like herself. It wasn’t always easy, but with Mark’s help she was able to recognize her own worth. I found this personal aspect of her story fascinating.

Mark was..well, honestly, Mark was close to perfect. He wasn’t just pretending to be a chaste man. He wasn’t just pretending to want to do the right thing. He was a flawed man willing to own his mistakes and shortcomings, and to try to overcome them. It wasn’t that he wasn’t flawed, because he was, but he accepted his flaws.

This was a well written historical romance that deals very well with the personal journey of the heroine. But I found it somewhat lacking in the romance. Not that I didn’t believe in the HEA, but I wasn’t invested in them as a couple so much as I was curious about them as individuals.

The romance world needs more heroes like Sir Mark Turner.

3.75 out of 5

e=UTF8&tag=boobin-20&link_code=btl&camp=213689&creative=392969″ target=”_blank”>here or here in e-format.

four-stars


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Guest Review: Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins

Posted January 8, 2018 by Tracy in Reviews | 1 Comment

Guest Review: Now That You Mention It by Kristan HigginsReviewer: Tracy
Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins
Published by Hqn
Publication Date: December 26th 2017
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Women's Fiction
Pages: 384
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four-stars

One step forward. Two steps back. The Tufts scholarship that put Nora Stuart on the path to becoming a Boston medical specialist was a step forward. Being hit by a car and then overhearing her boyfriend hit on another doctor when she thought she was dying? Two major steps back.

Injured in more ways than one, Nora feels her carefully built life cracking at the edges. There's only one place to land: home. But the tiny Maine community she left fifteen years ago doesn't necessarily want her. At every turn, someone holds the prodigal daughter of Scupper Island responsible for small-town drama and big-time disappointments.

With a tough islander mother who's always been distant and a wild-child sister in jail, unable to raise her daughter--a withdrawn teen as eager to ditch the island as Nora once was--Nora has her work cut out for her if she's going to take what might be her last chance to mend the family.

But as some relationships crumble around her, others unexpectedly strengthen. Balancing loss and opportunity, a dark event from her past with hope for the future, Nora will discover that tackling old pain makes room for promise...and the chance to begin again.

Nora Stuart heads home to Scupper Island after she gets hit by a car and then breaks up with her boyfriend.  She needs some emotional downtime and needs her home.  Of course her mother is a pretty unemotional Mainer and her teenage niece is pretty angry at the world so things are a little rough at first.

Nora had been bullied throughout her high school years. She gained a lot of wait, had anxiety issues and acne. She was a good student, however, and won the coveted scholarship to Tufts.  Once she left the island she lost weight and became a different person.  When she returns to Scupper she finds herself fighting herself to become the old Nora.  She’s not about to let that happen.

Nora runs into an old friend, stays away from others and makes new ones.  She tries to come to terms with her life and what she needs emotionally and also deals with her mother and the reasons her father left suddenly when she was in Jr. High.  She also happens to fall in love, but that’s really a side story.

Now That You Mention It is different from other KH books that I’ve read. I thought it was more women’s fiction than romance and that was ok.  Higgins still has a wonderful writing style and she’s a great storyteller so it was still a great book.

I really liked Nora and her quirky, funny ways.  I’m sure it was awkward being back in a town that you had perceived as hating you.  Yes, she pretty much thought the entire island hated her.  She learned that she wasn’t the only one who had changed and sometimes that was even for the better.  I loved that she worked out her relationship with her mother as well as with her niece.  The romance portion of the book was also engaging, just not the central theme of the book.

Overall I really enjoyed NTYMI and definitely recommend it.

Rating: 4 out of 5

four-stars


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Guest Review: A Christmas Affair by Jodi Thomas

Posted October 2, 2017 by Tracy in Reviews | 1 Comment

Guest Review: A Christmas Affair by Jodi ThomasReviewer: Tracy
A Christmas Affair (Ransom Canyon #6.5) by Jodi Thomas
Series: Ransom Canyon #6.5
Also in this series: Sunrise Crossing
Published by HQN Books
Publication Date: October 1st 2017
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 90
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Goodreads
four-stars

Maria Anne Davis was on her way to an exciting career as a chef in Dallas, until a terrible car accident left her blind. Ever resilient, Maria has reinvented her life on her own terms, starting a business out of her home kitchen, selling her jams and jellies to the local grocery.

Maria loves romance novels, and despite her bold spirit, she fears she’ll never have a big love affair like ones her heroines experience. That is, until she realizes how much she cares about the quiet Wes Whitman, the owner of the grocery.

Wes can’t keep Maria’s wildly popular jam on his shelves – just like he can’t keep the fierce, beautiful Maria out of his thoughts. But how could a firecracker like Maria come to love a shy, nervous man like him? Maybe all they need is a grand affair. Wes needs to convince Maria that some affairs last forever, though – just in time for Christmas.

Wes and Maria don’t talk or really interact when she brings her stock in.  He pays her the money owed her and then she leaves.  Wes would like nothing more than to talk to her – and more – but he’s just too shy.  Maria ends up making the first move on Wes, which shocks and thrills him.  Maria proposes an affair – something she wants as her Christmas present.  Wes is happy to oblige but it seems like every time they turn around there are unintentional road blocks being thrown up.  The more Wes thinks about the affair with Maria the more he realizes that he doesn’t want just an affair – he wants it all.

In this novella not only do we get the sweet but whirlwind romance of Wes and Maria but we also get a bit of a story about a 15-year-old boy, Travis Fuller.  His parents are neglectful and social services has now put him into the care of his three great uncles in Crossroads, Texas.  Travis doesn’t plan on being with his uncles any longer than he planned on being with his parents. As soon as he hits age 16 he plans on running away and plots constantly as to how he can do that.

By staying with his uncles Travis gets to see that people may be screwed up in different ways but they can still love each other.   When Wes Whitman hires Travis as a stock boy in his grocery, Travis starts to see that life can be different from what he planned.  Not only is Travis then making money instead having to steal things, but he starts to have a sense of worth.  He starts to see life in a different way and I loved that.  Thomas has such a way of wrapping my heart around her characters that I couldn’t help but start pulling for Travis from the first sentence of the book.  I was so happy that by the end that he found a small sense of peace.  He was a good kid and I liked his character a lot.

Maria and Wes were definitely not your typical couple but they were good together.  I do wish they had talked more throughout the story but as it was a novella it still worked.  Sometimes two people just know they’re meant to be together and that’s all there is to it. 🙂

Overall a lovely novella and one I recommend, even if you haven’t read all of the Ransom Canyon books.

Rating: 4 out of 5

four-stars


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Guest Review: After the Dark by Cynthia Eden

Posted March 29, 2017 by Jen in Reviews | 3 Comments

Guest Review: After the Dark by Cynthia EdenReviewer: Jen
After the Dark by Cynthia Eden
Series: Killer Instinct #1
Also in this series: Before the Dawn
Published by Harlequin, HQN Books
Publication Date: March 28th 2017
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 384
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Goodreads
four-stars

In New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Eden's gripping new series, a disgraced FBI profiler must save her reputation by stopping a sadistic killer she knows all too well.

Former FBI agent Samantha Dark was one of the most respected profilers in the bureau, an expert on the twisted minds and dark hearts of the most depraved criminals. But when her own former lover turned out to be the serial killer she was hunting, Samantha's career was destroyed. Blamed for the FBI's failure on the complex case, Samantha fled Washington, DC, for the quiet anonymity of Alabama.

Now an all-too-familiar killer is hunting once again. She can catch the sadistic assassin, but that means putting her trust in her former partner, Blake Gamble. Ex-military, Blake is tough, protective, precise. With her entire life on the brink, she knows he wants her back in the FBI…and possibly more.

But someone else wants her, too. A threat is waiting in the dark, a killer who has set his sights on the ultimate trophy victim—Samantha.

Cynthia Eden has become a pretty reliable author for me. Her books never totally blow me away, but they’re always  very solid, enjoyable reads, and After the Dark was no exception.

Samantha Dark was a genius criminal profiler with the FBI, but she left the Bureau in disgrace after her former boyfriend turned out to be a serial killer. She hides away in a small town in Alabama until her old partner, Blake, comes calling looking for help with a case. Blake had the hots for Samantha from the start, but obviously being partners complicated that attraction, and he never acted on it. Now, he wants her back, both in the FBI and in his own life, but Samantha doesn’t trust herself and certainly doesn’t think she’s good enough for a decent man like Blake. However, she’s the only one who can stop the killer who’s become fixated on her.

I really liked the premise of this book. The idea that a profiler could miss that her own friend was a serial killer was very compelling. Plus, Cameron wasn’t just Samantha’s friend but her past lover and confidant with whom she had shared her deepest, darkest secrets. While it’s not really addressed in the book, it seemed to me that Cameron had probably been emotionally manipulating her for years. He convinced her that there was this darkness in her that only he understood, and even after she’s left the Bureau she still holds on to this idea that she’s got some kind of not-entirely-good core. Couple that with her disgraceful exit from the FBI and it made sense why she would be so reluctant to help Blake and to get personally involved with him. It was a unique twist on a serial killer story I haven’t seen before. I also liked that the case wasn’t quite as simple as it first appeared. There were some big twists and turns, and they made for a fast paced and exciting story.

Blake was kind of a mixed character for me. He was one of Eden’s trademark alphas, bossy and in charge. He is the one who comes to Samantha for help, but then he also tries to edge her out when things get dangerous. That was stupid and unnecessary, I thought. Still, his genuine care for Samantha is clear. He stands up to his boss when his boss doubts her, and he isn’t afraid to go after Samantha once he’s found her again. He insists he too has a “darkness” in him, but I didn’t really feel like that went anywhere. To be honest, this story is more about Samantha and her struggle to overcome her past and her self doubt, which was fine by me.

This was an engaging story with a fascinating heroine, and I’m glad I read it.

Grade: 4 out of 5

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

four-stars


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Guest Review: Miracle on 5th Avenue

Posted December 21, 2016 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: Miracle on 5th AvenueReviewer: Jen
Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan
Series: From Manhattan with Love #3
Also in this series: Sleepless in Manhattan, Sleepless in Manhattan, Sunset in Central Park (From Manhattan with Love, #2), Miracle on 5th Avenue
Published by HQN Books
Publication Date: November 29th 2016
Pages: 384
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
Goodreads
four-stars

It will take a Christmas miracle for two very different souls to find each other in this perfectly festive fairy tale of New York!
Hopeless romantic Eva Jordan loves everything about Christmas. She might be spending the holidays alone this year, but when she's given an opportunity to house-sit a spectacular penthouse on Fifth Avenue, she leaps at the chance. What better place to celebrate than in snow-kissed Manhattan? What she didn't expect was to find the penthouse still occupied by its gorgeous—and mysterious—owner.

Bestselling crime writer Lucas Blade is having the nightmare before Christmas. With a deadline and the anniversary of his wife's death looming, he's isolated himself in his penthouse with only his grief for company. He wants no interruptions, no decorations and he certainly doesn't appreciate being distracted by his beautiful, bubbly new housekeeper. But when the blizzard of the century leaves Eva snowbound in his apartment, Lucas starts to open up to the magic she brings…This Christmas, is Lucas finally ready to trust that happily-ever-afters do exist?

It’s the final book in Sarah Morgan’s From Manhattan with Love series! I really enjoyed the first two books in the series, and this book was a sweet, Christmas-y conclusion.

This time, the story focuses on hopeless romantic Eva. She’s always been the bubbly, loving, and idealistic one in her trio of friends, with whom she co-owns an event planning business in Manhattan. Her beloved grandmother (her only family) died a year ago, though, and while she has the love of her best friends, the experience has left her lost and reeling. Throughout the books, Eva has befriended an elderly woman who sometimes hires them for small jobs, and when the woman hires her to decorate her grandson Lucas’s penthouse for Christmas while he’s out of town, Eva jumps at the chance. Of course, he’s not actually out of town, and a snowstorm (and stubbornness on both their parts) forces them to spend some quality holiday time together. To say Lucas is different than Eva would be a serious understatement. He writes gritty best selling crime novels, and he’s a widower. He’s dark, distrustful, angry, and completely unhappy, until Eva starts chipping away at his armor. Seeing the two come together was lovely.

In Book 1, I was afraid Eva was just going to be the flighty, silly best friend, but that’s not what she turned out to be at all. She is optimistic and romantic, but she’s not naive. She didn’t exactly have an easy life, but she chooses to look at the positive. I admired her spirit and perceptiveness. She is excellent at reading people and reaching out in a warm and genuine way, a talent she certainly uses on Lucas. For instance, while the snow storm and the job from Grandma serve to get the two in the same place, the REAL reason Eva stays is because she senses Lucas’s alarming despair and pain, and as a caring person Eva can’t ignore that. She quietly starts propping him up before he even realizes it. Lucas, on the other hand, is a miserable SOB. Again, I thought I knew what to expect–sad widower can never love again–but things turned out to be a bit more complicated that they first appeared. While Eva learns some things about herself and life, Lucas is really the one who goes through a major transformation in this book.

I really loved Eva and felt good about her romance, but it’s hard to avoid the fact that she serves as a bit of a manic pixie dream girl here. Lucas is the one wallowing in despair, but Eva swoops in to feed him, bring holiday cheer to his apartment, and challenge him to see the beauty in the world. In some ways that all makes perfect sense, because Eva is so filled with love and caring everyone around her can’t help but be swept into her circle. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have minded a little more focus on Eva and her own challenges. Her history wasn’t one-note–I would have liked to see that explored a bit more. I also wanted more time with her friends. Unlike the previous books, we don’t spend nearly as much time with Paige, Frankie, and the guys, and I missed that.

Still, if you like sweet contemporaries with funny dialogue and some good sexytimes, I don’t think you can go wrong with this series or this book. It’s not overly Christmas-y, but it has a nice little sprinkling of holiday magic if you’re in the mood for that, too. It certainly hit the spot for me.

Grade: 4 out of 5

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

four-stars


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