Tag: Whitley’s Reviews

Guest Review: One Rogue at a Time and Rich as a Rogue by Jade Lee

Posted August 25, 2016 by Whitley B in Reviews | 1 Comment

Reviewer: Whitley
One Rogue at a Time by Jade Lee
Series: Rakes and Rogues #2
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date: December 1, 2015
Pages: 384
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two-stars

USA Today bestselling author Jade Lee continues her saucy, vibrant Rakes and Rogues Regency romance series with a high-society outsider who may have met his match…

A brown-eyed bastard with nothing to lose

As the illegitimate son of a duke, Bramwell Wesley Hallowsby grew up tough, on the fringes of society, learning to hide his hurt and cynicism with charm and Town polish. He’s carved out a place for himself as a mercenary, serving as bodyguard and general strong arm for the peerage. Bram has nothing to lose… and he’s exactly what Maybelle “Bluebell” Ballenger needs.

Meets his match in a blue-eyed beauty with everything to hide

Maybelle needs a mentor to teach her to speak and act like a lady, so she can claim the place in society she was denied. As they team up to take on the ton, Bram knows she’s hiding something even from him. Despite the deception he sees behind those sparkling blue eyes, Bram wants to believe that Maybelle’s love is no lie. But it seems fate has served him up his just desserts in the likes of this determined damsel.

One Rogue at a Time started off cute enough. I really loved Bluebell’s wit and her ability to turn a situation in her own favor, the relationship she had with the others in her village, and the portrayal of village life in general. They had a nice mix of supportive and “gotta do to survive,” and everyone was very practical about it, and just I loved that place, I wish we’d seen more of it. It was a nuanced attitude that I’m not relaying very well, sorry.

I even liked Bluebell and Bram together at the start. They had some nice banter and cute moments. But then Bram got…well, rapey. He literally straight-up says “I’m going to sex that girl until she’s ruined and her intended husband will have nothing to do with her and then leave.” It was just a really, really disturbing line that gave me so many creeps and the book never quite recovered from that. He went on to force her into kisses and intentionally manipulate and seduce her, and all the while his thoughts on what constitutes a “lie” were…well, extreme is probably too mild a word for it. This guy had issues, and not the fun kind that you can at least pretend will be cured by love. For most of the book he was unacknowledged villain material, and I didn’t like it.

But I kept on with the series and read As Rich as a Rogue, because I was in a Regency mood and it was handy. It had a similar heroine, but Peter was a much better hero, and all around I’m very glad I kept reading. Like Bluebell, Mari is sharp and witty and able to turn things in her favor, and she has ambitions that are period appropriate. I think I liked that most about her character; her logical approach to finding a husband wasn’t demonized. It was recognized that being a wife in that period was a job, or could be if done right, and she wanted to work. So she had to find a husband whose life and career would give her the challenge she needed, and that was a good thing within the book. I love that; it’s an aspect of the time period that doesn’t get appreciated enough.

This book was also practically meta with one theme that’s common in Regency romance: a woman’s passions being suppressed by society but when she lets them out (with the help of the hero) she becomes a more complete person. Which is fine, and I totally get why that’s a popular theme (coughcoughdamnpatriarchy) and I’m not even complaining about it here. Just I was very aware of it on a meta level because it was very, very frankly discussed. So, for me, that was a smidge distracting. Not sure if it would be for anyone else.

Rating: 2 out of 5 and 4 out of 5

two-stars


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Guest Review: A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

Posted August 18, 2016 by Whitley B in Reviews | 3 Comments

Guest Review: A Promise of Fire by Amanda BouchetReviewer: Whitley
A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet
Series: Kingmaker Chronicles #1
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date: August 2, 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 448
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dnf

Catalia "Cat" Fisa is a powerful clairvoyant known as the Kingmaker. This smart-mouthed soothsayer has no interest in her powers and would much rather fly under the radar, far from the clutches of her homicidal mother. But when an ambitious warlord captures her, she may not have a choice…

Griffin is intent on bringing peace to his newly conquered realm in the magic-deprived south. When he discovers Cat is the Kingmaker, he abducts her. But Cat will do everything in her power to avoid her dangerous destiny and battle her captor at every turn. Although up for the battle, Griffin would prefer for Cat to help his people willingly, and he's ready to do whatever it takes to coax her…even if that means falling in love with her.

This book actually has a lot going for it. Really. The world is interesting, Cat is a great feisty character and it seems like she has a rich past full of secrets to discover. I’m intrigued by her magic and by the history of the world it’s set in. I liked the tone and pacing. It had the makings of a perfect “me” book.

But I just couldn’t get past that opening. Basically, Griffin kidnaps Cat for her magic because he needs her to help him keep his recently-conquored kingdom together. Cat, understandably, does not like being blackmailed and kidnapped and then restrained all the time so she doesn’t disappear. I’m fine with all that, but what I don’t like is how it dragged out. The idea is that Griffin isn’t a “bad guy,” he’s just doing what needs to be done for his kingdom, has good intent, so pragmatic and direct it goes into grey areas, yadda yadda. Fine. BUT. The opening was too harsh, too smash and grab. There was no attempt to get Cat on his side, it was just “Bam, you’re mine, I’ll kill your friends if you keep fighting.” Followed by…nothing. No attempts to calm her down, woo her to their cause, explain things to her, nothing. He was too aggressive at the start and then he followed it up by doing zilch to make up for his (quite frankly) horrible actions. I could have handled it if either half of that sentence had changed. If he’d grabbed her then tried to make nice, or if he’d tried to convince her first and only resorted to force as a last (ish) resort. I mean, he wouldn’t be a hero or anything because kidnapping is still shitty, but at least I could roll along with it.

And Cat, bless her, put up a fight the whole way. Which is great and well she should because she’s been kidnapped and threatened, but that just means that Griffin’s douchery is front-and-center every time I open the book. And that’s really exhausting. It got to the point where my reading time was actually making me anxious. So, nope, DNF.

So close to a really good thing, and I’m sure others will have a blast with it, because it does have a lot going for it. But I just couldn’t get past that initial bit.

Rating: DNF

dnf


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Guest Review: Reckless in Texas by Kari Lynn Dell

Posted August 5, 2016 by Whitley B in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: Reckless in Texas by Kari Lynn DellReviewer: Whitley
Reckless in Texas by Kari Lynn Dell
Series: Texas Rodeo #1
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date: August 2, 2016
Pages: 416
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four-stars

Violet Jacobs is fearless. At least, that's what the cowboys she snatches from under the hooves of bucking horses think. Outside the ring, she's got plenty of worries rattling her bones: her young son, her mess of a love life, and lately, her family's struggling rodeo. When she takes business into her own hands and hires on a hotshot bullfighter, she expects to start a ruckus. She never expected Joe Cassidy. Rough and tumble, cocky and charming, Joe's everything a superstar should be-and it doesn't take a genius to figure out he's way out of Violet's league.

Joe came to Texas to escape a life spiraling out of control. He never planned on sticking around, and he certainly never expected to call this dry and dusty backwater home. But Violet is everything he never knew he was missing, and the deeper he's pulled into her beautiful mess of a family, the more he realizes this fierce rodeo girl may be offering him the one thing he never could find on his own.

The moment I read that the heroine of this was a bullfighter, I knew I had to have it. I had to have it like breathing.  And even though she turned out to be a pickup rider instead of a bullfighter, who cares, hells to the yes for this set up.  I loved so much about the setting for this book: the rodeo minutia, the details about the livestock business, Violet’s job, everyone’s jobs, Violet’s relationship with her family, love for small rodeos while still dreaming of ‘the big time.’  All of it.

But what really killed me was Joe and his High Lonesome.  One of the big draws for me and western romance (or western anything) is how characters can feel so connected to and so in love with a piece of land.  The idea that a place can be part of your history and your heart and your soul and your family.  When that gets written right?  It’s god damn beautiful.  And Joe has that feeling down to a tee, with a dash of aching bittersweetness thrown in.  Is it possible to fall in love with someone else’s love for something?  It should be, because I did.

This book just hit all of my cowboy high notes so perfectly, but what about the romance part?  I’m sorry, I can’t, LET’S TALK ABOUT THE RODEO SOME MORE.  Heh, not really, but that really did overshadow the romance aspect for me because I’m just so into it.  And this book really set the scene perfectly for every one that they went to.  Besides, the romance was nothing to write home about.  Not bad, but…typical?  Felt a bit paint by numbers, with the leads being kept apart for, let’s face it, mostly arbitrary reasons.  I was much more interested in Violet’s relationships with her family members and her son and her platonic baby-daddy than I was in her relationship with Joe.  It doesn’t help that Joe’s personality (outside of the above paragraph) never seemed very settled. He kicked off with some misogynistic comments that seemed thrown in just for the sake of genre convention; they weren’t organic to the rest of his character.  And he kept twisting around to make room for this ‘womanizing’ side that I just didn’t believe. He would have been more cohesive without that particular trope, I think.

Rating: 4 out of 5

four-stars


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Guest Review: The Study of Seduction by Sabrina Jeffries

Posted April 1, 2016 by Whitley B in Reviews | 1 Comment

Guest Review: The Study of Seduction by Sabrina JeffriesReviewer: Whitley
The Study of Seduction by Sabrina Jeffries
Series: Sinful Suitors #2
Also in this series: What Happens Under the Mistletoe

Publication Date: March 22nd 2016
Pages: 384
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four-half-stars

A marriage of convenience ignites into a passionate love affair in the hotly anticipated second novel in New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Sabrina Jeffries’s addictive Sinful Suitors series!

When Edwin Barlow, the Earl of Blakeborough, agrees to help his best friend’s impetuous ward, Lady Clarissa Lindsey, in her time of need, he knows he’s in for trouble. He’s been hunting for someone to wed, and she’ll just get in the way. Although captivated by the witty, free-spirited beauty, he fears she’d be all wrong as a wife...if she would even take such a gruff cynic for her husband. Yet he wants nothing more than to have her for his own.

Clarissa has no intention of marrying anyone—not Edwin, whom she’s sure would be an overbearing husband, and certainly not the powerful French diplomat stalking her. But when matters escalate with the diplomat, she chooses Edwin’s gallant offer of a marriage between friends in hopes that it will deter her stalker. She expects nothing more than an amiable union, but their increasingly tempestuous kisses prove more than she bargained for. When her stalker’s vow to expose the lovers’ deepest secrets threatens to destroy their blossoming attraction, will their tenuous bond withstand public ruin, or will Edwin lose all that’s important to him to protect his bride?

I have…things to say. Because this book tackles rape, and it does it very well, but this is a topic dear to me, so it makes me quite wordy.

But first, let’s talk about the whole rest of the book. 😛 I loved Clarissa and Edwin. They had some great chemistry together, their banter was snappy, and they just had this genuine affection for each other that I loved. The fact that they have history and start the book already comfortable with each other helps here, it lets the narrative really delve deeper into their relationship and establish it as something with many layers. (I mean, I like books where the couple meet in the pages, of course, but hot damn do I love me some “already crushing on each other” storylines.)

The story was good, and the stalker was super creepy in the best and worst ways, although I do feel like after the midpoint he…was rather forgotten about by the plot. Clarissa and Edwin just hared off to be shmoopy, which is always fun, but it did feel a bit like a detour into a different novel.

Okay, on to the rape. Like I said, it’s done pretty well. Like, maybe 90% well. The actual event happened in backstory, and the parts in the book focus on Clarissa still dealing with the effects. I loved her so much for presenting us with a strong, vivacious survivor. Not that other portrayals aren’t valid (there are so many ways to respond to that, after all), but Clarissa’s determination to live a full of happy life gave us such a nice alternative to the ‘broken’ survivor narrative. She was presented as someone who had managed to emotionally recover, but she refused to marry because she was not able to get over her fear of sex. (And, to be fair, that was presented partly as a lack of information; she had no idea that consensual sex worked/felt different.)

Edwin was a dear, very respectful and supportive and patient. Even when he had no idea why Clarissa was enjoying his kisses one minute and fighting him the next, he didn’t get aggressive, and when all the info came to light and he was great. The very best part? Zero victim blaming from anyone in the book. The second best part? HYMEN MYTHS! Oh thank heaven, a book finally points out that hymens don’t 100% always have to tear.

Some scenes were really hard to read, though. When Clarissa has a flashback (as happens multiple times in the book)? It’s very vivid. When her stalker is stalking it up? His attitude and his behavior and his speech just made my skin crawl. These sections, though, were supposed to be hard to read, so A+ for that.

But then…well, then we get to the other 10%. For all I loved a lot of the points here, a few things really bothered me. Like, Edwin was great to Clarissa…but only after she came clean about her past. I feel like, given what we find out about him, he should have been able to guess sooner. But more than that, I’m really uncomfortable with “you have to meet my standard, regardless of how hard that is for you, before I’ll support you.” He knew enough at that point to treat her right without forcing her to tell him the details of the most traumatic event of her life. And they had a great conversation afterwards, but the book could have reached that point a bit more…consensually.   Second, the veneration of man-on-top sex. I get the value in facing one’s fears (it’s a trigger for Clarissa) but the book attributed all kinds of other, “yay we’re a real couple now” meaning to her finally being comfortable with that position.

Third, I wanted the stalker to just be a stalker. He was so thoroughly “entitled dude just destroying lives because he feels like he’s owed.” There are jerks who just lash out because they feel slighted, logic be damned. The book felt like he needed a rational reason. Made for an exciting ending, but eh.

Again, most of the book was really great. I really don’t want to take away from that fact by drawing out its flaws. On the other hand, whenever a book comes so close to 100%, I feel like these sorts of discussions are even more important. Not to disparage the books (let’s face it, ‘right’ wouldn’t be right for everyone anyway), but because they are going to generate thoughts and discussions and it’s important not to let things slip under the rug.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

four-half-stars


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Guest Review: How to Deceive a Duke by Lecia Cornwall

Posted March 28, 2016 by Whitley B in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: How to Deceive a Duke by Lecia CornwallReviewer: Whitley
How to Deceive a Duke by Lecia Cornwall
Published by Avon
Publication Date: November 27th 2012
Pages: 384
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two-stars

Lecia Cornwell wowed readers with her historical romance debut, Secrets of a Proper Countess, which Publishers Weekly called a "seductive read." This hugely talented author has launched an enchanting new series with How to Deceive a Duke, a captivating Regency romance featuring a lady who stands in for her runaway sister as the Duke of Temberly's bride—a deception the duke will exact a passionate price for from his new wife!

Writing in the tradition of bestselling authors such as Lorraine Heath and Elizabeth Hoyt, Lecia Cornwell is sure to satisfy fans of sensual and smart historical romance.

This book started off great, I loved it so much. I especially loved so many things about Meg. But then, about halfway through the book…it became pretty clear that what you see on the summary is about all the book has. Once the deception/wedding night goes down, the rest of the book just sort of flounders around aimlessly, grasping at subplots.

It’s a shame, because that first half is so good. It has, hands down, the best virgin sex scene I’ve read in this genre. Meg was getting married out of desperation, but also from the start she was eager and curious when it comes to marital relations. And on the night in question, she, ah, carried on with the curiosity. ^_~ I loved her mix of ‘learn-by-imitation’ and naivety.

Nick…Nick had some interesting potential. I really loved the internal conflict set up for him – he was a layabout wommanizer but after going off to war and growing up he finds he’s chaffing under his old reputation. He gets himself in a lot of trouble by churlishly assuming everyone else is assuming things about him. That’s a fun set up to play with. But he…just was way too mean to Meg at the start for it to be just a bout of peeves, as the book wants to imply. And then after the wedding, he only got worse and worse, treating Meg like crap and even abandoning her! (For the war, but still! You don’t! Go to war! Without! Telling! Your WIFE! Who you supposedly love by this point!)

So, yeah, Meg will always be one of my favorite heroines, but I wish she’d been given a better book to play in.

Rating: 2 out of 5

two-stars


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