Review – The Way to the Duke’s Heart by Caroline Linden

The Way to a Duke's Heart (The Truth About the Duke, #3)The Way to a Duke’s Heart by Caroline Linden

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Charles de Lacey, Lord Gresham, is running out of time, running from his responsibilities, and running from love.

Destined to be a duke, Charles de Lacey has led a life of decadent pleasure, free of any care for propriety or responsibility. It comes as a terrible shock to learn that he might be stripped of everything, thanks to his father’s scandalous past. He has no choice but to find the blackmailer who would ruin him—and his only link to the villain is a woman who may be part of the plot…

To save his fortune and title, he vows he’ll stop at nothing—in fact, he’s all too eager to unravel the beautiful, tart-tongued Tessa Neville. She intrigues him and tempts him like no other lady ever has. With only his heart to guide him, and keenly aware that his entire future is at stake, Charles must decide: is she the woman of his dreams, or an enemy in disguise?

A charming and touching end to a The Truth about the Duke series with witty and fun characters you have come to expect. Caroline Linden has created another set of characters that are easy to relate to and have you cheering them through out the entire book.

Charles de Lacey is an unforgiven rake and scoundrel. He has spent the last eleven years proving to his family just how worthless he could be. Now with the issue of his inheritance and title, unceremoniously dumped into his lap, he must solve the problem all on his own, something he isn’t sure he can do.

Tessa Neville spends each day making up for a rash incident in her past. While she wishes she handled the situation differently, she has no regrets over the outcome. She is the last woman to be taken in by a charming scoundrel and is rightly suspicious of Charlie’s attention to her. Her forthright and confident demure is refreshing despite her seeing it as an enormous flaw.

Like the previous novels, Charlie and Tessa teach each other how their perceived weaknesses make them the person each loves. In this series, each heroine and hero and to overcome weakness/flaw within themselves in order find their happily ever after and this couple was no different. But, for Tessa and Charlie, their journey was longer and much harder/emotional. It is hard enough to ask forgiveness of others, but almost impossible to forgive yourself. But it is the journey of discovering that they are more than their past and that they are able to move on that allows them to embrace their future. Ms. Linden does this with emotional and moving scenes, especially with Charlie’s self discovery.

As for Charlie and Tessa together, who ever knew that writing a letter and getting a cup of coffee could be so erotic.

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My Ruthless Prince Review – Gaelen Foley

My Ruthless Prince (Inferno Club, #4)My Ruthless Prince by Gaelen Foley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Inferno Club: To London Society, they’re notorious for their scandalous pursuits. In private, these warriors would risk their lives for king and country. 

His brother warriors fear the Earl of Westwood has turned traitor, but Emily Harper knows this is impossible for the man she has loved since childhood . . . as impossible as a marriage between them could ever be—she, the gamekeeper’s daughter and he, a bold and adventurous nobleman.

Driven by hatred and revenge, Westwood is playing a deadly game of deception, bent on destroying the enemy’s dark conspiracy from the inside, and he’s furious when Emily plunges herself into danger for his sake. Forced into close quarters, their long-suppressed desire explodes into all-consuming passion.

Emily knows her love can save him . . . but Westwood is a man who doesn’t want to be saved.

I finally got to this book (thank you RNG). It is an excellent addition to the inferno club series. Picking up where the previous book left off, Drake has returned to the bad guys. The order is unsure of his loyalties and how dangerous he is to them. Emily, though, is certain that she can bring Drake home, not just to protect him, but to heal him from what he has endured.

Emily is not your typical innocent miss. She is brave, strong, well aware of most of the danger she is in, and steadfast in her love for Drake. Emily is determined not to let him become a truly evil man. She believes that by staying by his side she will always be able to bring him back from the brink. She is no milk and water miss. She is able to track Drake from England to Germany, with little money and knowing none of the languages. She really is perfect to heal a broken Drake. She is able to withstand the darkness within him and steadfast enough to lead him out.

Our tortured hero is playing a dangerous game with no plan for survival. Drake sees himself as done with this world. His body and mind have been broken and he has nothing left to live for except revenge. In some ways he feels that he does not deserve the purity of Emily’s love because of all the bad things he has done in the name of good. And he is very good at his game. He keeps everyone wondering which side he is truly on through most of the book. Even as the reader, knowing where he lies, there are times he is tempted by the power of the dark side, to try to lead them along a better path by ultimately destroying all the ideals within himself.

I really liked this book because of how well Ms. Foley portrayed the inner turmoil that the characters had to deal with (and not just Emily and Drake). Each had to face unspeakable and egregious acts and decisions, which mirror those many small acts and decisions that a person must face each day. Do we turn a blind eye or do we say something. Do we stand by or get involved. Do we love a person destroying themselves or do we walk away But in the end, the real question is are we strong enough to love and trust a person, to do something we know may lose us everything, in order to uphold the ideals and great good that they stood for. It is the hard decisions that have to be made and how Drake and Emily find a way to survive within those decisions that really make this story.

As for the romance, it is a not a book where the hero/heroine finally fall in love. Drake and Emily have been in love for a long time. They just finally needed the right push to make them act upon it. The threat of death is far greater then the threat of her father losing his job. They both rely on the other’s feelings to get through the desperate situation they are in. Each, in their own way, manipulates the other to try to achieve their goal. It is not the evil manipulation that our lovely bad guys like to play, but rather that subtle manipulation we use everyday to steer our loved ones in a better direction and to keep them safe. In the end, they build the trust needed between the two of them to allow the book to go out with a bang.

I am very much looking forward to the next book (Beau’s) and am very glad to hear that there will be an additional infernal club trilogy to follow after that

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Tarnished by Karina Cooper – Steampunk

Tarnished (The St. Croix Chronicles, #1)Tarnished by Karina Cooper

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My name is Cherry St. Croix. Society would claim that I am a well-heeled miss with an unfortunate familial reputation. They’ve no idea of the truth of it. In my secret world, I hunt down vagrants, thieves . . . and now, a murderer. For a monster stalks London’s streets, leaving a trail of mystery and murder below the fog.

Eager for coin to fuel my infatuations, I must decide where my attentions will turn: to my daylight world, where my scientific mind sets me apart from respectable Society, or to the compelling domain of London below. Each has a man who has claimed my time as his–for good or for ill. Though as the corpses pile, and the treacherous waters of Society gossip churn, I am learning that each also has its dangers. One choice will see me cast from polite company . . . the other might just see me dead

Ever read a book and it just took you awhile to figure out what direction it was going? That’s a good description for the start of this book. Set in Victorian England, this steampunk novel introduces us to Cherry St. Croix, and an entirely different London. With horrible smog, the rich and important have been lifted high into he London sky, while the rift raft and other undesirables remain stuck in the dark misery of the below.

Cherry is a woman with a foot in both worlds. By day she is an unwanted member of the peerage, a madman’s unconventional daughter deemed to be trying to rise above her the below to collect bounties, usually set by those with power.

Cherry is not your typical romantic heroine and this is not a typical romance book. This is ultimately a murder mystery involving a young heroine coming into her sexuality. The romantic elements a both an after thought but also vital to the story. Cherry is a one minded woman, she wants to reach the age of 21 and gain control of her life and fortune. Her background is an interesting one and explains why she is the way she is, untrusting, secretive, both naive but knowing. She is confident in her abilities to the point of over estimating herself. Hence why she spends a good deal of the book having things fall down around her.

Part of this book is watching Cherry finish maturing. She is naive in thinking that she wants to stay alone forever and constantly pushes people away. Even the servants who have cared for her for years she never sees as hers. They are always the spies for her guardian. Likewise, she doesn’t understand and doesn’t want the feelings that go along with her interactions with Hawke (underworld ruler) and The Earl of Compton. Like her persona, she is torn between one world she feels she belongs in and one world where she is the outcast. In either place she must keep secrets and it is these secrets that are slowly tearing her apart.

Cherry is a deeply flawed character. She uses and abuses opium, not necessarily for the high, but rather as an easier way of not having to deal with any emotion, either current or in regards to her past. It is a crutch that allows her to hold herself away from people and the only way she can keep the extreme abuses she has witnessed and endured under her control. The author does an excellent job at expressing both Cherry’s desperation for the relief opium gives her without idolizing the use or making it seem acceptable.

As stated,in the first half of the book I really had difficulty
Figuring out where the author was going. There are lots of different and competing elements in the book and the only made sense once you got much further along. There is a lot of background information that needs to be exposed and this does slow the pace of the book down while
you push your way through it. But once into the meat of the story I was easily and quickly hooked.

The plot is slightly macabre with gothic overtones. Those paying attention will quickly pick up on the Jack the Ripper connection, which was very well done. By the end, the story goes through more twists and turns then a figure eight, many are completely out of the blue. And while a few questions were answered by the end of the book, many more were left. Who will Cherry end up with? Who is the other collector? Who tried to steal the new ship? Most readers will find themselves interested enough to look for the next book in the series.

B

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Review: Death Comes to Pemberly

Death Comes to Pemberly
Death Comes to Pemberly by P.D. James
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

As a fan of Pride and Prejudice adaptations and spin off, I have read many of these types of novels. I was unimpressed with this novel, so much that I am not even going to do an in-depth review.  The book simply isn’t worth it.  . I felt the author did a disservice to Austin’s characters. They lacked personality and the entire book was one person after another worrying over something. The characters were bland, uninspired, and unremarkable.

The book also felt very fragmented to me and never allowed me to get into a smooth reading groove. I found the plot to be more like reading a newspaper report of an event rather than a novel. The author made an attempt to play off both pride (Wickham’s, Denny’s and the Colonel’s) and prejudice (everyone’s bias in regards to Wickham) but it just fails.

There are far better adaptations and spin offs than this one. Unless you feel the need to read all of them, take a pass on this one.

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Review: Love and Splendor

Love and Splendor by Patricia Hagan
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

When Dani Coltrane flees to Paris, she leaves behind heartache and pain, and vows no man will ever control her. But then the proud heiress to the Coltrane dynasty meets the dashing nobleman, Drake, and her determination is rocked. Banished from Imperial Russia to roam the glittering capitals of Europe, he has an eye for beautiful art and beautiful women. Dani Coltrane possesses both a painting he covets and a loveliness he can’t resist. Drake is determined to make these treasures his.

From the sumptuous salons of Europe to the fabulous court of the Russian Empire, from the dark cellars of a chateau in Monaco to a deserted, danger-ridden palace, Drake pursues the headstrong and illusive woman. And as his cold obsession turns to soul-searching love, Dani’s resistance melts…until they are swept toward a stunning confrontation with destiny and the triumph of a love dazzling with splendor.

This book caught my interest due to the Faberge plot line. There is not much historical romance based in Russia or around the Romanovs, but it is a time period that I really enjoy reading about. I didn’t realize when picking up the book that it is one of a series, but that did become readily apparent upon reading.

Dani Coltrane is a spoiled nineteen year old reconnecting with her father and stepmother after her tumultuous past. She is suspicious of anyone trying to manipulate her and wants to exert total independence. The problem being she does not understand what independence actually means and she is constantly making selfish decisions in the name of independence. In fact she’s not far off what I imagine many 18-22 year old girls today can act like.

Drake is a Russian playboy, for lack of a better description. He has spent the last ten years or so in exile from Mother Russia and searching for the key to restoring his family honor (by finding the Faberge Egg). He is a womanizer and his moral code is pretty loose believing that behavior is justified so long as the intentions are good. He’s a snake that you want to like because you think he can change and grow up, but deep down you know it’s not true.

The best way to describe this book is Dynasty meets Jerry Springer. The author spends inordinate amounts of time describing how elegant, cultured, and sophisticated this family and their associates are only to have them open their mouths and act completely opposite. Dani can be shrew, demanding, and bratty. You expect Drake to be extremely refined, and at times he is. While other times he’s a complete ass. Both of them are oblivious to how their actions are seen or the havoc they cause, or they are just to rich to care. While atypically,you do not meet the hero until about 15-20% through the book, which was okay given how she presented the start of the story. But from there until about 75% through the book was horrible, three ring circus mess that seemed to go on forever.

There was no need for the Cole/Lily subplot line at all. It added nothing to the story except making me hate all the characters. Dani for being so wishy washy and such a teen. Lily was just horrendous and I absolutely expected a hair pulling cat fight between the two at some point. But even worse, the author perpetrated the myth that men just can’t control themselves, sexually, around any slightly attractive and willing woman. The only fairly explicit sex scene in the book is Drake’s running dialogue of how much he can’t stand Lily, how much he dislikes her and doesn’t want to do this, how he thinks Dani may be the one, all while he’s pounding away at Lily. Of course, this was a repeat of Colt’s inability to control himself around Lily either, but at least he thought he liked her. If your going to have the hero of the novel be unfaithful, at least let it be for a better reason then he had some slight desire, she was there, and well I just can’t stop myself.

The author gets around to pushing the actual plot of the story in the last 25% of the novel. This entire plot is extremely rushed and ends up being an afterthought in the novel. Also, Dani and Drake finally coming together is so shallow. He tells her his family story and she forgives his lying cheating ways. She does so, in spite of him currently lying to both her and Colt. All in all, the entire romance lacked maturity. It held the flavor that rich and beautiful (or handsome) was all that was needed to make a couple happy. This couple lack any depth and are barely tolerable let alone sympathetic or romantic.

Several times I almost gave up on this book. I started skimming at about 55-60% through just because I did want to know what happened to the egg. I half expected that plot to roll over to another book when it still had not been barely mentioned three quarters through the book. The resulting ending was unsatisfying and I wish I hadn’t bothered reading on. It would have saved me from being disgusted with both couples.

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Review: Skies of Fire

Skies of Fire
Skies of Fire by Zoe Archer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Man made of metal and flesh

Captain Christopher Redmond has just one weakness: the alluring spy who loved and left him years before…when he was still just a man. Now he’s superhuman—a Man O’ War, made as part of the British Navy’s weapons program—and his responsibility is to protect the skies of Europe. If only he could forget Louisa Shaw.

A most inconvenient desire

Louisa, a British Naval Intelligence agent, has never left a job undone. But when her assignment is compromised, the one man who can help her complete her mission is also the only man ever to tempt her body and heart. As burning skies loom and passion ignites, Louisa and Christopher must slip behind enemy lines if they are to deliver a devastating strike against their foe . . . and still get out alive.

I wasn’t sure what to think about this book when I first decided I wanted to try it. I was worried that it would end up being more 1 million dollar man with the girls fainting at the hero’s feat. But I really should have more confidence in Ms. Archer and her stories. Like her previous series (Blades of Rose) she found the perfect balance between the science fictional elements, the time period, and the characters.

If you’ve read her previous books, the character traits found in the hero and heroine are no surprise to you. Louisa (Lulu) reminds me of Astrid from Rebel. She is a completely independent woman, out to prove she needs no one, yet knowing deep down that she’s made the biggest mistake of her life. She is so afraid of giving up her hard fought control that she’s willing to risk her life, her mission, love and happiness to hold onto it.

Christopher (Kit) shouldn’t be described by his implants or special abilities. His ultimate strength is not in these, but rather in his ability to take the risks needed to achieve his goals, even when that goal is the object of his desire.

The story is a classical boy meets girl, girls walks out, boy runs into girl again years later scarred by the loss. But, instead of allowing the pain each feels to control their reactions towards each other, I was glad to see each was able to set it aside and move forward, especially Kit. I git giddy to see adults in romances actually act like adults and understand that people do things for a variety of different reasons and not just to harm the other person.

Beyond the romance, the premise of the book is downright fun. You get a great story choke full of flying ships, bombs, superman type strength and the totally unbelievable presented in a believable manner. Every unbelievable feat shown, whether it be Kit’s super strength or Lulu’s chemistry knowledge, has a specific task in pushing the book forward and avoiding it from bogging down. None of these elements are thrown in just to show off or impress. Which leads to Ms. Archer hitting another home run with this series. For those that liked the Blade of the Rose, this is a must read!

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