Tag: Romance

Review: Shadow Music by Julie Garwood

Posted November 19, 2019 by Rowena in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Shadow Music by Julie GarwoodReviewer: Rowena
Shadow Music by Julie Garwood
Series: Highlands Lairds #3
Also in this series: Shadow Music , Ransom, The Secret (Highlands' Lairds #1), Ransom (Highlands' Lairds, #2), Shadow Music
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: December 26, 2007
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 339
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2019 A-Z Reading Challenge, Rowena's 2019 TBR Challenge
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four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

For Princess Gabrielle of St. Biel, Scotland is a land of stunning vistas, wild chieftains, treacherous glens, and steep shadows--skullduggery, betrayal, and now murder. Prized for her exquisite beauty, the daughter of one of England's most influential barons, Gabrielle is also a perfect bargaining chip for a king who needs peace in the Highlands: King John has arranged Gabrielle's marriage to a good and gentle laird. But this marriage will never take place.

For Gabrielle, everything changes in one last burst of freedom--when she and her guards come upon a scene of unimaginable cruelty. With one shot from her bow and arrow, Gabrielle takes a life, saves a life, and begins a war.

Within days, the Highlands are aflame with passions as a battle royal flares between enemies old and new. Having come to Scotland to be married, Gabrielle is instead entangled in Highland intrigue. For two sadistic noblemen, underestimating Gabrielle's bravery and prowess may prove fatal. But thanks to a secret Gabrielle possesses, Colm MacHugh, the most feared man in Scotland, finds a new cause for courage. Under his penetrating gaze, neither Gabrielle's body nor heart is safe.

I read this a couple of months ago and have been really busy so I’m catching up on writing my reviews right now. Shadow Music is the third book in Julie Garwood’s Highlands Lairds series and it follows Ransom, which came out ages and ages ago. While this book is part of the Highlands Lairds series, it can totally be read as a standalone. Reading this book brought back many memories of the other books that I have loved from Julie Garwood and it started an epic Julie Garwood binge readathon. I went back and re-read The Secret and Ransom and just kept right on re-reading all of my Garwood favorites. I enjoyed this book and even though it wasn’t a favorite read of mine, it was still a solid read that even my picky book club friends enjoyed.

Gabrielle’s father is a Baron from England and her mother is a Princess in St. Biel. St. Biel is a small country that has an interesting history that not very many people on St. Biel believe to be true. They believe the story of their homeland is more myth than truth but it’s part of their history and everyone knows it. When the story of St. Biel’s history becomes a real life threat to Gabrielle’s life, this story really heats up. Between being a pawn in King John’s efforts in trying to keep the peace with the Highland Lairds, her betrothed being killed and then coming upon an attack that starts a Highland war, there is much to dig into with this story.

Laird Colm MacHugh is trying to find out what happened to his brother. He is healing from injuries suffered from an attack at a nearby abbey and Colm means to find out what happened and who did this to his brother. He was not expecting to find himself engaged to an English lass who was just outed as a whore. As a favor to his friend, Brodick Buchanan, Colm steps up to protect the young lass and claim her as his. When she accepts his suit and then promptly disappears, Colm knows that he’s going to have his hands full with this new fiancee.

There is a lot going on in this book but I thought that Garwood handled the storytelling really well. I was invested in what was going on with Gabrielle and Colm. I loved seeing them come together in love. I adored seeing Brodick again, hearing about the Maitlands and the Ramsays and even though Brodick brings up what went down in Ransom and got the details wrong (he said that Ramsay’s brother Michael was taken when it was actually Iain’s son Alec that was taken), I still really enjoyed this one. Gabrielle was a great heroine and I really loved her guards. I loved how loyal they were to each other. They didn’t question anything or back down from anyone but Gabrielle and I really loved that. I also really loved seeing Gabrielle run circles around Colm until he couldn’t help but love the heck out of her. There were parts of the book that I didn’t care for, like the constant crap with the two English barons fighting over Gabrielle but I enjoyed the other bits enough that I could overlook them and their shenanigans.

This was a solid romance that I enjoyed from beginning to end and even though it’s not my favorite book by Garwood, I’d still recommend it to fans of her other historicals. I really wish she’d write more historicals.

Final Grade

4 out of 5

Highlands Lairds

four-stars


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Review: Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren

Posted November 12, 2019 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina LaurenReviewer: Rowena
Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: October 22, 2019
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 358
Add It: Goodreads
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three-half-stars

As an adventurous send-off to her childhood, eighteen-year-old Tate Jones travels with her grandmother from their small town in Northern California to London. But the vacation of a lifetime is wonderfully derailed by the appearance of two charming Vermont farmers: grandfather Luther and his handsome grandson Sam.

Sam and Tate fall hard and fast. For two glorious weeks, the couple share their hopes, dreams, and secrets. Sam admits he suspects his grandfather is dying and that this could be the last trip they take together, and Tate reveals that she is the hidden daughter of one of the biggest film stars in the world—a secret she’s never told anyone before.

But when Tate is exposed by a crush of cameras and reporters, she knows she's been betrayed by the one person she thought she could trust. She is forced to decide whether she will return to her quiet life or embrace being in the public eye. So when Sam reappears in her world more than a decade later, can Tate forgive the past and rekindle the passion they shared on their magical trip abroad? And does she even want to?

Christina Lauren’s latest addition to their backlist released last month and I couldn’t get my hands on it fast enough. It may have taken me a little bit to get this review written but reading the book? Nah. I read this one as soon as I could. My initial thoughts on this book upon first finishing it were that it wasn’t my favorite book by this fantastic writing duo but it certainly wasn’t my least favorite either.

So Twice in a Blue Moon tells the story of Tate and Sam. They met the summer after Tate graduated from high school and went on a trip to England with her grandmother. Sam, who was twenty-one at the time was there on his own vacation with his grandfather. When the two of them keep bumping into each other and then swap hotel rooms, a friendship sparks between them. They spend a good chunk of their vacations getting to know each other under the stars in London. Tate, who is the daughter of an aging A-List actor is pretty closed off from the world. She lives in a small town in the Bay area with her mother and her grandmother and she lives far away from the limelight of Hollywood. Nobody knows who her father is and she’s kept that secret close to her vest for the longest of times. She remembers the mob that greeted her the last time she was found out and she has no wish to repeat that adventure. There are three people in her life that know who she really is and when she meets Sam, she feels a connection with him that has her opening up to him about things she never speaks about aloud. She falls head over heels in love with Sam and even though she was only eighteen, she knew her mind and she knew her heart and both of them wanted Sam. So when Sam betrays her trust in the cruelest of ways, she leaves him behind and never looks back.

Years and years later, Tate has become a break out star in Hollywood and she’s just signed on to shoot a movie with her Dad. It’ll be their first job together and Tate secretly hopes that they’ll finally forge a bond that’s real and not the smile for the camera’s relationship that they have now. This movie could be a really big break for Tate and she’s stoked to be a part of the film until she comes face to face with Sam. An all grown up Sam that is just as good looking, if not more good looking than he was the last time she saw him.

So this story is told in parts. The first part is for young Sam and Tate. We see them falling in love as young adults in London and their love was super sweet but fun. I really enjoyed the young Sam and Tate. I loved seeing their friendship grow and grow into a love that took them both by surprise and yet I fully supported. A summer romance that they both wanted to try to keep alive when they returned home held so much promise and I was here for it…until Sam does the unthinkable and then I was heartbroken for Tate. I mean, she didn’t trust anyone with that information but she trusted Sam and he did her dirty. So that brings us to part two, when they come together on the movie set of the movie that Sam wrote about his grandparents. They’re both grown adults now and on Tate’s part, there’s a lot of resentment and on Sam’s part, there’s remorse. I thought I’d get a whole lot of groveling from Sam and sadly, we didn’t get that. A huge part of the reason for that was this story was told in first person, strictly from Tate’s point of view. She’s pissed off at Sam (rightfully so) and so that’s what we see. We see glimpses of Sam being remorseful and we see Sam’s apology to Tate but for me, it wasn’t enough. Sam didn’t grovel nearly enough to make up for the giant kick in the teeth he delivered to Tate all those years ago.

I will say that I adored all of the side characters. Tate’s best friend Charlie was the bomb. I love me a loyal bitch and Charlie was that and more. I loved how fiercely she had Tate’s back and I was really hoping that her and Nick would become a thing. I really adored Nick and wished that his part was a bigger part of the story. I felt like the biggest thing about the movie that Sam wrote was the relationship between his white grandmother and his black grandfather. Nick’s reasons for wanting to do the movie hit me in my feels and I wanted more from that so I was bummed when it was such a small part of the book. Also, the whole thing with her Dad felt displaced. Like, it didn’t really fit in with everything else in the book. I wish that was dropped and that Tate hadn’t wasted so much time and energy into trying to forge a bond with her Dad that he just did not seem to want to reciprocate. I felt like she was too old to still be chasing after her father’s affection. When all of that was said and done, I was completely underwhelmed.

This book was a lot more serious than other Christina Lauren books. It’s not the rom=com books that we’ve come to expect from Christina Lauren like Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Dating or My Favorite Half-Night Stand. I enjoyed the first half a lot more than I enjoyed the second half but overall, the story was solid and I’m glad that I finished it. I’m looking forward to the next one from Christina Lauren for sure.

Final Grade

3.5 out of 5

three-half-stars


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Review: We Met in December by Rosie Curtis

Posted November 6, 2019 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: We Met in December by Rosie CurtisReviewer: Rowena
We Met in December by Rosie Curtis
Publisher: Harper Collins, William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Point-of-View: Alternating First
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 400
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three-half-stars

Following a year in the life of a twenty-something British woman who falls hard for her London flat mate, this clever, fun, and unforgettable romantic comedy is the perfect feel-good holiday read.Two people. One house. A year that changes everything. 

Twenty-nine-year-old Jess is following her dream and moving to London. It’s December, and she’s taking a room in a crumbling, but grand, Notting Hill house-share with four virtual strangers. On her first night, Jess meets Alex, the guy sharing her floor, at a Christmas dinner hosted by her landlord. They don’t kiss, but as far as Jess is concerned the connection is clear. She starts planning how they will knock down the wall between them to spend more time together.

But when Jess returns from a two-week Christmas holiday, she finds Alex has started dating someone else—beautiful Emma, who lives on the floor above them. Now Jess faces a year of bumping into (hell, sharing a bathroom with) the man of her dreams…and the woman of his.

Jess has finally done it. She’s stepped away from the comforts of the life she lived with her ex-boyfriend and made the move to London, where she finally went after her dream job. She’d never be able to afford to live in London on her own so when her college roommate offers her a room to rent in the mansion that she inherited from her late grandmother, Jess has nothing standing in her way…so off she goes to London to start a new life. As nervous as she was about this major life change, on her first night in her new house, Jess meets Alex, one of her roommates that she immediately feels a connection with. She has such high hopes that her and Alex have the chemistry to make a go of it that she leaves for a week-long ski trip with her best friends with a happy heart. But when she returns, she finds out that Alex is actually seeing another of her roommates, Emma, and Jess has to let go of the fantasy she’d been rocking and settle into a platonic friendship with him.

The premise of this story was what caught my eye at first. I’m a sucker for the one that got away trope and boy is this one of those stories. Jess was a charming female lead and I was really invested in what she was going through all throughout the book. My heart was bruised right along with her when she returns from her ski trip to find Emma sneaking out of Alex’s room. Every single time that she went to bed with her earplugs in because she did not want to hear anything, I sighed sadly along with her. But as bad as I felt for her, there were times when I wished she would have spoken up, both her and Alex, to be honest, because there were too many missed opportunities. All of those missed opportunities slowed the book down for me. I spent quite a few chapters, annoyed that they both made such huge life changes because they wanted to feel something, to make a difference and yet when it came to opening up about their feelings for each other, they just didn’t.

I did like Jess’ character. I liked that she was finally living the life she had always dreamed of and I really loved the relationship between her and her grandmother. I even understood why she didn’t speak up at first about her feelings for Alex because things between him and Emma messed that up but after all of the time that they spent in each other’s company and growing closer and closer, I just wish she had thrown her feelings out into the open and let Alex deal with them. I didn’t need the complication of another person thrown into the mix to make things interesting for me. I wanted them to figure out how to be together without all of the extra people.

I also liked Alex though there were plenty of times that I wanted to smack some damn sense into him. Every time that he hooked up with Emma, knowing full well he didn’t return her feelings, made me want to knee him in the balls but when he finally gets his head out of his ass, I rejoiced because it was a long time coming. I liked his walks with Jess and seeing their friendship really grow and blossom into such a beautiful friendship and I loved seeing them grow into their feelings for each other. There’s a lot to enjoy in this book. From the roommates, to the friendships that developed and fizzled out, to the family support and the romance between Alex and Jess, there’s great stuff here but the slow moving middle pushed my enjoyment into the 3 stars section instead of the 4’s. Still, if you’re looking for a slow burn romance between roommates, give this one a go.

Final Grade

3.5 out of 5

three-half-stars


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Review: Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore

Posted October 31, 2019 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Bringing Down the Duke by Evie DunmoreReviewer: Rowena
Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore
Series: A League of Extraordinary Women #1
Publisher: Penguin, Berkley
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 356
Add It: Goodreads
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four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

A stunning debut for author Evie Dunmore and her Oxford Rebels, in which a fiercely independent vicar's daughter takes on a duke in a fiery love story that threatens to upend the British social order.

England, 1879. Annabelle Archer, the brilliant but destitute daughter of a country vicar, has earned herself a place among the first cohort of female students at the renowned University of Oxford. In return for her scholarship, she must support the rising women's suffrage movement. Her charge: recruit men of influence to champion their cause. Her target: Sebastian Devereux, the cold and calculating Duke of Montgomery who steers Britain's politics at the Queen's command. Her challenge: not to give in to the powerful attraction she can't deny for the man who opposes everything she stands for.

Sebastian is appalled to find a suffragist squad has infiltrated his ducal home, but the real threat is his impossible feelings for green-eyed beauty Annabelle. He is looking for a wife of equal standing to secure the legacy he has worked so hard to rebuild, not an outspoken commoner who could never be his duchess. But he wouldn't be the greatest strategist of the Kingdom if he couldn't claim this alluring bluestocking without the promise of a ring...or could he?

Locked in a battle with rising passion and a will matching her own, Annabelle will learn just what it takes to topple a duke....

After reading the blurb to this book, I was curious but not all that sure that I would actually read it. I’m glad that I gave this one a chance because it was a smart romance with complex characters that I really came to love. I really struggled with the hero early on but I’m glad that I stuck with the story because not only did I warm up to Sebastian, but I really came to love him and Annabelle together. Evie Dunmore wrote a lovely story for these two and she set up the next book just right because I’m all in for that one. I can’t wait to jump into that one.

Our heroine, Miss Annabelle Archer is a fiercely independent woman who fights extremely hard to get into the University of Oxford and she’s one of the very few women that are selected to go to school there. She takes that very seriously because her success in school is her ticket out of the life that she’s living now. She’s poor and all alone in the world except for a cousin who uses her as an unpaid Jane of all trades. She cleans, she watches his kids, she’s a lady’s maid to his wife and Annabelle has to scheme to go to school because her cousin can’t afford to send her and wouldn’t spend the money on her even if he could afford it. So when Annabelle gets a scholarship to go, she makes sure that she’s there and she makes sure that she does what she is supposed to do to keep her scholarship. What does she need to do, you ask? She needs to support the women’s suffrage movement and she needs to find some support amongst the males in England.

Sebastian Devereaux is the Duke of Montgomery and he’s on a mission to get back everything that his father squandered away. It’s taken him years but he’s put a huge dent in the list of properties that his father lost and one of the last remaining properties is the big one, the one that he won’t rest until he gets back and the Queen of England gives him an almost impossible task in exchange for…that property.

Things get interesting when Sebastian and Annabelle cross paths. They’re at cross purposes but the chemistry between them burns hot. I wasn’t a huge fan of the way that Sebastian treated Annabelle at first and boy did I connect with the way that Annabelle handled that meeting at Sebastian’s house because I would have done the exact same thing. Sebastian’s attitude was obviously the attitude of the aristocracy and was completely in line with how I figured all the Dukes from that time acted but it was still hard to take at times. I wanted to kick him in the balls more than a few times throughout the book but boy does he win me over by the end of the book. I really enjoyed seeing him and Annabelle fall in love with each other and I just enjoyed the way that we saw them fall in love. It wasn’t instantly, it was done really well and I appreciated Evie Dunmore’s efforts in showing us how their friendship grew into the love they shared in the end.

I also enjoyed the secondary characters and am looking forward to reading Lucie and Tom’s book. This book was a good one and I think everyone should give it a try because it’s smart, the characters are a fun bunch and the romance between Sebastian and Annabelle was delightful and steamy. You can’t really ask for more. I definitely recommend.

Final Grade

4 out of 5

A League of Extraordinary Women

Untitled #2

four-stars


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Review: 10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston

Posted October 24, 2019 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: 10 Blind Dates by Ashley ElstonReviewer: Rowena
10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 336
Add It: Goodreads
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four-stars

Sophie wants one thing for Christmas-a little freedom from her overprotective parents. So when they decide to spend Christmas in South Louisiana with her very pregnant older sister, Sophie is looking forward to some much needed private (read: make-out) time with her long-term boyfriend, Griffin. Except it turns out that Griffin wants a little freedom from their relationship. Cue devastation.

Heartbroken, Sophie flees to her grandparents' house, where the rest of her boisterous extended family is gathered for the holiday. That's when her nonna devises a (not so) brilliant plan: Over the next ten days, Sophie will be set up on ten different blind dates by different family members. Like her sweet cousin Sara, who sets her up with a hot guy at an exclusive underground party. Or her crazy aunt Patrice, who signs Sophie up for a lead role in a living nativity. With a boy who barely reaches her shoulder. And a screaming baby.

When Griffin turns up unexpectedly and begs for a second chance, Sophie feels more confused than ever. Because maybe, just maybe, she's started to have feelings for someone else . . . Someone who is definitely not available.

This is going to be the worst Christmas break ever... or is it?

What a fun book this turned out to be. I haven’t read too many books by Ashley Elston but I’m going to need to change that because if her other books are anything like this one, I’m all in. This book features Sophie who thought she’d be spending the holidays with her longtime boyfriend but ends up being dumped and spending the holidays with her big ol’ family instead. She shows up to her grandparent’s house and she’s heartbroken so in an effort to cheer her up, her family members set up her on blind dates, ten of them to be exact, and when she doesn’t completely hate the first date, she figures, why not?

Sophie really grows into herself over the course of this book and it was a lot of fun to be a part of her journey. As she learns more and more about herself, and as she grows closer to the family members that she drifted apart from, I grew to adore her more and more. She wasn’t perfect and there’s some shadiness going on that I thought was handled well by the author but overall, this book was a fun, holiday young adult romance. I’m super glad that I read it. It was a fast read, it was a fun read, and I closed the book with a giant smile on my face so needless to say, this was a successful reading choice and I am going to Goodreads right now to check out Elston’s backlist for more goodness to read. I really enjoyed the emphasis this book put on family relationships and I definitely recommend this one.

Final Grade

Grade: 4 out of 5

four-stars


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