Author: Holly

Lightning Review: Seduction on a Snowy Night by Madeline Hunter, Sabrina Jeffries

Posted February 26, 2021 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Lightning Review: Seduction on a Snowy Night by Madeline Hunter, Sabrina JeffriesReviewer: Holly
Seduction on a Snowy Night by Madeline Hunter, Sabrina Jeffries
Series: Duke Dynasty #1.5
Publisher: Kensington
Publication Date: September 24, 2019
Format: eBook
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 320
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Holly's 2020 Historical Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
one-half-stars
Series Rating: two-stars

This winter, steal away with the reigning queens of Regency Romance... plus one or two dukes, one heiress, and one headstrong beauty—to a surprise snow storm, the comfort of a blazing fire, and the heat of a lover's kisses...

A CHRISTMAS ABDUCTION by Madeline Hunter

Caroline Dunham has a bone to pick with notorious rake Baron Thornhill—and a creative plan to insure his undivided attention. Yet once in close quarters, she finds herself beholden to their smoldering connection.

A PERFECT MATCH by Sabrina Jeffries

Whisked away from a wintry ball by a commanding colonel, Cassandra Isles struggles with her feelings for Lord Heywood. For he is a man sworn to marry only for money—and Cass is an heiress who will accept nothing less than love.

I only read the first two stories in this novella.

A CHRISTMAS ABDUCTION by Madeline Hunter

Adam, Baron Thornhill gets abducted by a woman. He thinks he’s been abducted as revenge because his cousin put their family’s breeding horses down after illness swept through them. Only, no. It’s actually because he supposedly seduced her sister and got her with child. She plans to force them to marry. Adam is pretty sure he’s never met her sister, but he can’t be sure because he is something of a rake.

The premise of this story was interesting. It started out well but then went downhill when the MC’s started lusting after each other. They’re attracted to each other. Okay, I can buy that. So they keep kissing. How is this a thing? You think he’s a rake who seduced and abandoned your sister. You are literally holding him hostage to marry her, but you let him kiss and fondle you anyway? Gross.

View Spoiler »
 
Rating: 1.5 out of 5 (the .5 for the first few chapters)

A PERFECT MATCH by Sabrina Jeffries

Cass is an heiress who is determined to keep her fortune a secret so she can marry for love. Lord Heywood needs a fortune to restore the property he inherited. He intends to court her cousin, Kitty (also an heiress), but after they spend time together, it’s Cass he wants.

I really disliked the fact that Cass hid her fortune for as long as she did, but more importantly, I disliked how Heywood reacted when he found out about it. I wasn’t loving the story up to that point, and his giant man-tantrum didn’t help matters.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Duke Dynasty

After I read those two stories I was done with this anthology and skipped the Mary Jo Putney. I may go back and read it at some point.

one-half-stars


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Review: Magical Midlife Madness by K.F. Breene

Posted February 24, 2021 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Magical Midlife Madness by K.F. BreeneReviewer: Holly
Magical Midlife Madness by K.F. Breene
Series: Leveling Up #1
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: February 16, 2020
Format: eBook
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Point-of-View: Alternating First and Third Person
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Pages: 376
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

"Happily Ever After" wasn't supposed to come with a do-over option. But when my husband of twenty years packs up and heads for greener pastures and my son leaves for college, that's exactly what my life becomes. Do-over.

This time, though, I plan to do things differently. Age is just a number, after all, and at forty I'm ready to carve my own path. Eager for a fresh start, I make a somewhat unorthodox decision and move to a tiny town in the Sierra foothills. I'll be taking care of a centuries-old house that called to me when I was a kid. It's just temporary, I tell myself. It'll just be for a while. That is until I learn what the house really is, something I never could've imagined.

Thankfully forty isn't too old to start an adventure, because that's exactly what I do. A very dangerous adventure that will change my life forever. I have a chance to start again, and this time, I make the rules.

Magical Midlife Madness is the first book in K.F. Breene’s Leveling Up series, which is women’s fiction rather than her traditional romance. I’m not sure why I haven’t picked this series up before now. I like KF Breene’s writing and always enjoy her stories. I think this one just wasn’t on my radar until recently.

Jacinta recently turned 40 and her whole life changed. Her son went away to college and her husband asked for a divorce – something she felt only relief about. She ends up moving in with her parents, but a single day there makes her realize that isn’t going to work. Lucky for her, her best friend’s aunt is looking for a caretaker for the family mansion, Ivy House. Everyone else finds it creepy and weird, but the one time Jacinta visited as a child she fell in love with it.

Now she’s surrounded by grumpy old people – the strange butler, gardener, and ancient neighbor who can drink her under the table – and trying to deal with some strange goings-on in the town and the house. Most shocking of all? Jacinta learns the house is actually magical and so are the townsfolk..and the house has chosen her as its new Mistress. She’ll have to decide if she’s willing to accept the house’s magic, or if it’s all too much for her.

“I am not going to call you by your full name, I’ll tell you that right now. The lot of you are crazy. I’m not climbing aboard that train.”

“And yet, you just debated on the merits of slitting a perfect stranger from neck to navel versus navel to neck, and decided on stabbing and ripping any way you chose.”

“Yeah. That’s just logic.”

It started a bit slow, but about 1/4 of the way through it picked up. I was really cracking up at some of the antics of Jessie (Jacinta). She was a strong woman who had fully accepted where she was at in her life and I loved that. I also loved how she managed her new life. She accepted that she wasn’t perfect and made mistakes, but she was comfortable with where she was now. She also wasn’t afraid to speak her mind or call out others when needed. I really enjoyed the mature conversations she had with Austin Steele, the undeclared alpha. She makes him think, and he does the same for her. I appreciated that.

“I hear you,” he said softly. “I never put stock in any of that—the taunting about being ladies—but I didn’t see the bigger picture, either. Just like earlier tonight—no one has ever spelled out the dangers women face when a man asserts himself as I did. That blindsided me. So much of tonight has blindsided me. In my life, when it comes to this, I feel like I’ve been…blindfolded in a way. Not blind, because if I would’ve looked, I would’ve seen, but…” He shook his head. “I’m gobsmacked. Thank you. I’ll be more conscious of this going forward.”

There isn’t a romance in this book, which worked well for where Jessie is at in her life. She needs time to figure out other things, and I liked that Breene is giving us that. There could be something here for later books, but right now friendship is at the forefront.

I did think it got a little preachy for a minute with the whole ‘love yourself as you are’ and ‘middle-age is okay’ stuff. I don’t disagree with the sentiment at all, and in fact, love the message, but it came across a little heavy-handed at times. Not so much that I didn’t enjoy the book, but just enough that I noticed it.

“Raise your voice until you are heard. Look however you want, be whoever you want, and demand people pay attention to you. Stop taking what you’re given, and demand the space in life you want.”

If you’re looking for a fun read full of humor, with mature characters who are figuring out the next stage of their lives amidst unforeseen craziness, I highly recommend this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Leveling Up

four-stars


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Review: The Wages of Sin by Kaite Welsh

Posted February 22, 2021 by Holly in Reviews | 2 Comments

Review: The Wages of Sin by Kaite WelshReviewer: Holly
The Wages of Sin by Kaite Welsh
Series: Sarah Gilchrist #1
Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks
Publication Date: August 8, 2017
Format: Audiobook, eBook
Source: Library, Audible Plus
Point-of-View: First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Holly's 2021 Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2021 Historical Challenge, Holly's 2021 New to Me Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Sarah Gilchrist has fled London and a troubled past to join the University of Edinburgh's medical school in 1892, the first year it admits women. She is determined to become a doctor despite the misgivings of her family and society, but Sarah quickly finds plenty of barriers at school itself: professors who refuse to teach their new pupils, male students determined to force out their female counterparts, and perhaps worst of all her female peers who will do anything to avoid being associated with a fallen woman.

Desperate for a proper education, Sarah turns to one of the city's ramshackle charitable hospitals for additional training. The St. Giles Infirmary for Women ministers to the downtrodden and drunk, the thieves and whores with nowhere else to go. In this environment, alongside a group of smart and tough teachers, Sarah gets quite an education. But when Lucy, one of Sarah's patients, turns up in the university dissecting room as a battered corpse, Sarah finds herself drawn into a murky underworld of bribery, brothels, and body snatchers.

Painfully aware of just how little separates her own life from that of her former patients, Sarah is determined to find out what happened to Lucy and bring those responsible for her death to justice. But as she searches for answers in Edinburgh's dank alleyways, bawdy houses, and fight clubs, Sarah comes closer and closer to uncovering one of Edinburgh's most lucrative trades, and in doing so, puts her own life at risk.

An irresistible read with a fantastic heroine, a beautifully drawn setting, and fascinating insights into what it was like to study medicine as a woman at that time, The Wages of Sin is a stunning debut that heralds a striking new voice in historical fiction.

I chose this audiobook because the narrator, Mary Jane Wells, is lovely. I was browsing the audiobooks she’s narrated on Audio Plus and came across this one. I thought the blurb sounded interesting, and I’ve been in the mood for gothic mysteries lately. This novel is set in the Victorian era.

Sarah Gilchrist was sexually assaulted by a peer, and therefore “compromised”. As a result, she’s been sent to Edinburgh to live with her aunt and uncle while she attends medical school. She, and a handful of other girls, are the first female students studying to become doctors. Their plight is difficult, but Sarah loves medicine and truly wishes to help those in need. She volunteers her time at a low-end clinic for prostitutes, which is where she meets Lucy. Lucy, a young proustite, is pregnant and very upset about it, but Sarah sees a lot of herself in Lucy and can’t stop thinking about her. This is why she’s shocked and upset when Lucy’s body turns up as a dissection specimen a few days later. They claim Lucy committed suicide, but things don’t add up and Sarah begins to investigate. Her main suspect is none other than one of her professors, but as she gets deeper into her investigation, the more she realizes she may be in danger as well.

I enjoyed the narration, and the story was told well, but the main character, Sarah, made a lot of questionable decisions. She was forced to spend time in a Sanatorium after her attack because she kept blaming her attacker. Plus, the novel was extremely dark and depressing. Just when I thought things couldn’t be any more bleak, we’d be hit with another sad, sorry fact about the fate of women and their lack of rights in the 1890s.

I appreciated the strength of character it took for Sarah to stay on her current path, despite (or perhaps in spite of) the misfortunes she suffered in the past. But her blithely following said path without a thought to her safety or the consequences of her actions was frustrating. I wasn’t surprised by any of the revelations, but I did enjoy Sarah’s surprise, so I guess there’s that.

Though I enjoyed parts of this, I don’t believe I’ll continue with the series. Sarah didn’t endear herself enough for me to want to read more books from her point of view.

3.25-3.5 out of 5

Sarah Gilchrist

three-half-stars


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Sunday Spotlight: The Accidental Fiancé by Christi Barth

Posted February 21, 2021 by Holly in Features, Giveaways | 2 Comments

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

Sunday Spotlight: The Accidental Fiancé by Christi BarthThe Accidental Fiancé by Christi Barth
Series: Love Lottery #1
Publisher: Tule Publishing
Publication Date: February 23, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Add It: Goodreads
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Is it the chance of a lifetime or his biggest mistake?

When former hotel manager Alex Kirkland, his sister and their best friends pooled their money for an unusual lottery prize—a historic, dilapidated inn on the Maryland shore—as a last-ditch attempt to escape rotten circumstances, they never expected to win. But they’re all looking for a fresh start and a second chance, so Alex convinces everyone to move in and repair the building in time for the spring wedding season.

Sydney Darrow never planned to return to her hometown. But her family needs her and Sydney can endure anything for 90 days—including making sandwiches and serving coffee with a smile until she returns to her jet-setter career. When her grandma mistakes a handsome customer for the “fiancé” Sydney created when she thought her grandma was on death’s door, well...Sydney will do anything to keep her spirits up during treatment. She can persuade him to keep up the charade for a few months, right?

But when Alex agrees to play along, will they both fall for their own fiction?

Excerpt

Alex’s expression morphed into straight-up solemnity, like he’d slipped on a mask. “The four of us have no incoming income until we get this inn running. Damn straight I’m all about the bottom line.”

“I guess I can add practical to your list of traits.” Which she appreciated. It was the people who pretended not to care about money but pinched every penny in secret that were difficult. Hiding things—anything, big or small—never turned out well.

In a tone drier than Death Valley, Alex said, “That is just what every man longs to hear during a proposal. That practicality came in ahead of good looks and sex appeal.”

“I didn’t say that.” Did he truly not know that he smoldered with sex appeal? That he could be the man in a cologne/watch/champagne ad? It was actually endearing that he needed a bit of an ego stroke. “Alex, you’re suavely handsome. Your smiles are rare, and all the more potent because of it.”

Those icy eyes widened in…disbelief? Appreciation? Hard to tell. But then he dipped his chin. “Nice to hear. Was that so hard?”

“I didn’t realize you needed a bit of flirting to consider this favor. It seemed…forward to lead off with cataloging your physical traits.”

“Forward?” A huge belly laugh rolled out of him. It was warm and contagious, even though Sydney knew it was aimed at her. “You just proposed after a grand total of ten minutes of conversation, over two days.”

Men had a tendency to be so darned literal. “I’m not proposing for real. I’m asking for your help. You will, in no way, be obligated to follow through into a fake marriage.”

“Then where does the line get drawn?” Alex braced a hand on the back of the couch and leaned forward. He leaned in so close that his breath warmed her ear. “How interesting does this get?”

For a moment—okay, three—Sydney let herself enjoy the closeness. The heat pumping off him through the waffle-weave shirt onto her chest. The brush of his biceps against the back of her head. How their knees pressed together. It was all intimate and on the edge of…something. She just wasn’t sure what.

Love Lottery

Giveaway Alert

We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

Sunday Spotlight: February 2021

Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!

About Christi Barth

Christi Barth Author Photo

Christi Barth earned a Masters degree in vocal performance and embarked upon a career on the stage.

A love of romance then drew her to wedding planning. Ultimately she succumbed to her lifelong love of books and now writes award-winning contemporary romance, including the Naked Men and Aisle Bound series. Christi can always be found whipping up gourmet meals (for fun, honest!) or with her nose in a book. She lives in Maryland with the best husband in the world.


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Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Posted February 17, 2021 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-GarciaReviewer: Holly
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Narrator: Frankie Corzo
Publisher: Del Rey
Publication Date: June 30, 2020
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Point-of-View: First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Horror
Pages: 304
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Holly's 2021 Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2021 Historical Challenge, Holly's 2021 New to Me Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-half-stars

An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic aristocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets. . . . From the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow comes “a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror” (Kirkus Reviews) set in glamorous 1950s Mexico.

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemí’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

Mexican Gothic was one of my most anticipated books of 2020. I loved the cover and blurb, and I was very anxious to get my hands on it. I requested a copy from the library and it took ages for it to come available. I ended up with the audiobook. I enjoyed the narrator, though I did think the audio was kind of slow. I eventually listened at 3x speed and that worked better for me.

This is a slow-burn horror novel. The first 3/4 slowly built the mystery and introduced us to the characters at High Place. I didn’t necessarily find this to be scary, but there was a definite creep factor that had me anxious to see what would happen next.

I didn’t take me long to figure out what was going on, and I eventually became impatient for Noemí to figure it out (and the end was a little over-the-top). Still, I was pleasantly surprised by the strength of some of the characters, like Noemí’s cousin and a few of the others, and I enjoyed the story overall, even if it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

While not quite the creepy gothic I was anticipating, I did enjoy this novel and look forward to reading more from the author in the future.

3.5 out of 5

three-half-stars


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