Monday, February 1, 2021

Beneath the Keep (The Queen of the Tearling, #0) by Erika Johansen

Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Fantasy/Science Fiction
Series: The Queen of the Tearling
Publisher: Dutton (February 2, 2021)
Hardcover: 448 pages
ISBN-10: 1524742724
ISBN-13: 978-1524742720
Author's Website: n/a
Notes: I received and eARC loan from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my review. Please note this series is not for the faint of heart. Please also note that there is rape, pedophilia, incest, and just about any other vice you can imagine included in this series. If any of those would cause you anguish to read, then this is probably not be the series for you. Also, as I read an eARC all quotes are subject to change and/or removal prior to publishing, therefore, they will need to be checked against the published version. As I bought this one, I'll try to go back and alter what I used, if needed, after doing a quick verification.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

"The stars change. The moon falls. The tide surges, then ebbs. Seventeen Ships went over the horizon, all of them bound for the better world. One ship sank; innumerable sorrows arose. Sixteen ships landed, and the Tearling was born. William Tear fell. William Tear fell. Willian Tear was the True King. The one who saved them all. He fell, and the kingdom fell with him.(...) The harvest. Yes, you will reap. The moon falls, the stars rise. They shift and change! The True Queen Comes! I see her! The queen who will be! The one who saves us all. The queen of spades! The victory of ships! She comes! I see her! I see--"

The kingdom has been suffering from drought for the past two years with no end in sight. Food and water are becoming scarce, and famine is not out of the question. The chasm between rich and poor is wide, and it's no surprise who will survive if things don't improve. The people are beginning to show their discontent, and a new group has emerged causing the current monarchy much grief.  

The prophecy of the "True Queen" is not an new one, but an old one. In order for the prophecy to come to fruition certain things must come to pass. Three individuals will have key roles in making that prophecy come true...

Elyssa is a princess with views very different from that of her mother. She wishes for change.

Lazarus is said to be the greatest fighter in the kingdom and hopes for change.  

While not planned, Aislinn's not going to just sit around wishing or hoping for change, she's willing to sacrifice all for it.

Magic, Sorcery, a kingdom on the brink, and a prophecy about a queen that will save them all...
This is the prequel to The Queen of the Tearling series and, I must confess, I got hooked. I hadn't read the previous books of the series and, after finishing this one, I read them all--one right after the other. The first two chronological books ('Beneath the Keep' and 'The Queen of the Tearling') are my favorites. 'Beneath the Keep' tells the story of The Mace's, aka. Lazarus', story and how he became the man we see later in the series. It also gives us an intimate view into Kelsea's mom's, Elyssa's, life. For those of you that have read the latter books in the series prior to reading this book and think you know everything there is to know about these two characters, think again. There are twists and turns to the tale you'll never see coming. There are also some inconsistencies between the latter stories and this book that I chalk up to the saying once used by Winston Churchill, "for history is written by the victors and framed according to the prejudices and bias existing on their side." In this case, perhaps, it would be more apt to say it's written by those who outlast the others. 

Elyssa is a very likable character who comes across as strong yet somewhat gullible. She wants to make the kingdom a better place for all, but dark magic is afoot. She's hopeful, but also a realist. She hopes to right her mother's wrong, but knows that will not be an easy task. In a way, she reminded me a little of the fairy godmother in Sleeping Beauty whose hands are tied against evil, but does what little she can to alter the outcome for the chance at a better future. 

The Mace, aka Lazarus, aka Christian, is also a very likable character. He's loyal to a fault, wiser than he realizes, and people tend to expect more from him then he does of himself. I loved learning his story and seeing him grow as an individual. He is one of my favorite characters in the series. To endure what he did and turn out the way he does is admirable.

Aislinn rises to any occasion she finds herself in. When things don't go as she wishes and knock her down, she dusts herself off and stands up again--tall. She doesn't wait for someone to rescue her, she rescues herself and others when she can. She isn't perfect, but I could totally understand where she was coming from even if I didn't agree with everything she did.  

I couldn't help but give this one 5 out of 5 roses. The story is suspenseful, surprising, complicated, layered, and addictive. I connected with Elyssa on so many levels while The Mace earned my respect. I wish Aislinn played a bigger role in the latter books, but totally understand her importance overall in the series. To anyone who loved the series when it first came out, I would definitely recommend reading this prequel. I really enjoyed it. It is fashioned after the first book, 'The Queen of the Tearling', and fills in some of the holes that were left at the end of the series--including who Kelsea's father really was. I'm foregoing my romance rating because, in my humble opinion, there really wasn't one, although, there is a pair of starcrossed lovers included in it. If you haven't yet guessed, I absolutely loved this tale. In fact, I ended up buying this book and another one in the series to support the author. Yes, I tend to put my money where my mouth is. lol :)  Please note that there is rape, pedophilia, incest, and just about any other vice you can imagine included in this series. If any of those would cause you anguish to read, then this is probably not be the series for you. 
(The below links will transport you to Amazon. Please note these are affiliate links and any sales made through such links will reward me a small commission – at no extra cost for you.)

Order of The Queen of the Tearling series:

Saturday, January 16, 2021

The Worst Duke in the World (The Penhallow Dynasty, #5) by Lisa Berne

Title:  The Worst Duke in the World

Classification: Adult Fiction

Genre: Historical Romance

Series: The Penhallow Dynasty, #5

 Publisher : Avon (January 12, 2021)

Format: Paperback; 416 pages

ISBN-10 : 006285237X

ISBN-13 : 978-0062852373

Author's Website:

Notes:  I received an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Please note that as I read an ARC, any quotes listed are subject to change, they will need to be checked and verified against the final version.

Jane Kent was looking for a life line. All her known relatives were gone--passing from one various ailment after another. After exhausting all her options she was grasping at straws and felt they were all slipping through her hands. As she'd been packing up the house where she and her Great-grandmother had resided, she came across a letter hidden in an old, crumbling chapbook. A letter that might help her find the missing link in her family tree. A link that could find her the one things she needed the most--family. So with a whisper of a prayer, she packed up her meager belongings and made the trip from Nantwich to Somerset County, England. If this didn't pan out she had only three pounds and  a sixpence to her name. As she stood on the porch of an intimidating vast old house, gazing with considerable uneasiness at the massive door of dark knotted wood and the polished knocker which was just a little above her eye-level she knocked and awaited her fate. Little did she know her life was about to change in ways she'd never imagine.

Anthony, the Duke of Radcliffe is a widower with one son. His sister has deemed it necessary for him to marry again to produce a spare to his heir. She believes it's his duty to make sure the long illustrious  line of the dukedom lives on. He, however, has no plans to do so. He'd done his duty once and as far as he was concerned those long and dreadful five years of marriage had extracted more than its fair share of duty from him. If that, according to his sister, made him the "worst duke in the world," then so be it. When he meets his neighbor's great-granddaughter, Ms. Kent, however, he starts to wonder... what if? 

This was the fifth book in The Penhallow Dynasty series. If you haven't read the rest of the series, don't worry. You won't feel lost. Jane is linked to the Penshallows in a rather direct, yet roundabout way. You don't need to know the previous characters or stories to get into this one. It stands completely on its own.

This was a sweet and lovely romance which slowly builds from a budding friendship into something much more. Jane was raised outside London society, and does not feel she's missed much except for the knowing of her grandfather's half of the family. She's the type who'd rather frolic around the countryside in sensible boots than dance the night away at a society ball dressed to the nines. She's also very good at reading people and smarter than most would think despite her lack of a proper education. When her great-grandmother decides to play matchmaker, Jane decides she wants it all, as well she should, and won't settle for anything less than love.

Anthony is not your typical run of the mill type of duke. He was raised to be a second son and was bedridden for several years as a child. He's a bit shy, awkward, and self conscious around others and, truth be told, doesn't really care for polite society. When his eldest brother passed, he wasn't prepared to step into his shoes. His father, however, demanded it. Now, with his father gone, Anthony is determined to live life on his own terms. Marriage isn't part of his plan, but when he meets Jane he starts to warm to the idea of partnering himself with her. He needs, however, to work through a lot of emotional baggage, if that is even possible, before he can fully commit to anyone. 

Overall, I gave this novel 4 out of 5 roses. I loved that while Jane was out of her element, she managed to hold her own with the ton, and knew her self worth. I liked how she made Anthony a better version of himself, and I adored the scenes which included Wakefield, the duke's son. There was a ton of humor as well as a nod or two to other books. See if you can find the 'Charlotte's Web' reference. With all the craziness and madness going on in the world, this was just the book I needed. The romance in it simmered for a while before coming to a slow boil. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a FAN rating--the temperature in the room seems to have suddenly gone up a couple of degrees and a fan would be nice. This one left me with a grin on my face and a smile in my heart. 

Order of The Penhallow Dynasty series:
(The below links will transport you to Amazon. Please note these are affiliate links and any sales made through such links will reward me a small commission – at no extra cost for you.)

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Ten Things I Hate About the Duke (Difficult Dukes #2) by Loretta Chase

Title: Ten Things I Hate About the Duke: A Difficult Dukes Novel
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Difficult Dukes
Format: Hardcover; 336 pages
ISBN-10: 0062952633
ISBN-13: 978-0062952639
Publisher: Avon (December 1, 2020)
Author's Website:
Notes: I received an eARC loan from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes need to be checked against the final version as they are subject to change. 

Cassandra Pomfre is not your average Miss. She speaks her mind and does not keep her opinions to herself. Known among the men of the ton as Medusa, deGriffith's Gorgon, and Cassandra Prophet of Doom her marriage prospects are slim, for who wants to marry a shrew? When she interrupts and voices her opinion about an ill-constructed bill which would supposedly "better" the enforcement of the Sabbath (but really doesn't), it's the last straw for her father...

"I had deluded myself that being in Society with other girls would soften you," Papa said. "But Season after Season passed, and you only became more fixed in you ways. I cannot allow you to continue to set set a bad example for your younger sisters. I cannot allow you to continue to distress your mother. (...) I will not give Hyacinth permission to marry until you are wed."(...)"In short, as of this minute Hyacinth's Season is over."

Lucius Wilmot Beckingham, the sixth Duke of Ashmont is one of the three Dukes nicknamed by the ton as Dis-Graces. His ill behavior has gotten him banned from court by the King, banned from Almack's weekly assemblies by its patronesses, and crossed off the invitation lists of all but a very few daring hostesses. His latest disgrace ended with him being left at the alter while his would-be bride ran off with his former best friend. Truth be told, wherever he goes, chaos is sure to follow. So, when he accidentally overturns the carriage Cassandra Pomfre is riding in leaving her stranded overnight at a coaching Inn with no appropriate chaperone, he decides for once in his life to do the right thing...

"Marry Me."

Once upon a time Cassandra would have jumped at the chance to marry Lucius, now, not so much. On the one hand, it could solve both their problems--him needing to marry for heirs and her needing to marry so her sisters will be allowed to find husbands (if they so choose). On the other, it could make her life unbearable. If marriage to her is what he truly wants, he'll have to prove himself to Cassandra, but she's making no promises. One thing is for sure, however, she'll make him work for it because her opinion of him is quite low...

"For this I allot you one point. When you accumulate another five thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine, I shall begin to consider you a tolerable human being."

He takes that to be a challenge and for the first time in his life, Lucius Wilmot Beckingham, the sixth Duke of Ashmont, is willing to attempt to change. Let the games begin for as Lucius sees it, her unintentional challenge is accepted.
This is the second book in the Difficult Duke series by Loretta Chase. If you've never read one of her books, you're in for a treat. You can read this novel as a standalone without feeling you've missed anything vital by not reading the first book of the series, 'A Duke in Shining Armor.' I do, however, recommend you read it later because I truly loved the story. Additionally, we are first introduced to Lucius in that first book, and we see him at one of the lowest moments in his life. It gives the reader a better perspective of what Lucius was like and why Cassandra initially didn't want anything to do with the man.

Cassandra is a strong, smart, and independent woman who comes from a loving and prestigious family. She's the eldest daughter of an Earl, and she has ten siblings. She's also a member of a club which her grandmother helped to found called the Andromeda Society. It's a charitable organization home to a group of progressive like-minded women meant to help women needing rescuing from ‘the dragons of poverty and ignorance.’ Alone they may be somewhat powerless, but together they make a formidable entity. Cassandra, due to skills passed down from her grandmother, is the voice of the group which makes her unpopular among the men of the ton.

Lucius is a mess when Cassandra comes upon him, a fact of which she is well aware. She refuses to accept any less than she deserves and, at this point in time, she knows she deserves much better than what he is offering, despite his being a Duke. Lucius likes that she is not intimidated or frightened by him. He likes the way she handles herself when put in a life threatening position. She stands up to others when needed, she doesn't whimper or melt into a puddle of tears, and she isn't faint of heart. She assesses, adjusts, takes charge, and challenges him to do better and use his brain. In a nutshell, he likes what he sees and quickly becomes determined to win her over and prove himself worthy of her.

Overall, I gave this one 4 1/2 out of 5 roses. I loved how Cassandra stuck to her guns and kept Lucius on his toes. It was almost as though Lucius had been sleeping for most of his life and Cassandra woke him up to the possibility of what he could be, and gave him the desire to strive to be all he was meant to be. She brings purpose to his life, and challenges him to be a man worthy of her. His metamorphosis is delightful to watch. I confess, however, with such a large family I would have liked to have seen her brothers mess with him a bit and test his mettle. Perhaps the author thought Cassandra was too independent to do so, but I still would have liked to seen it. Still, I highly recommend this novel. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed.          

Order of the Difficult Dukes series:
(The below links will transport you to Amazon. Please note these are affiliate links and any sales made through such links will reward me a small commission – at no extra cost for you.)

Monday, September 28, 2020

Her Night with the Duke (Clandestine Affairs) by Diana Quincy

Title: Her Night with the Duke by Diana Quincy
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Clandestine Affairs
Format: Paperback : 384 pages
ISBN-10: 0062986791
ISBN-13: 978-0062986795
Publisher: Avon (September 29, 2020)
Author's Website:
Notes: I received an eARC loan from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes need to be checked against the final version as they are subject to change.

Delilah 'Leela'  Chambers, aka Lady Devon, has been widowed and living abroad for several years. She's on her way home, if you can call it that, to Lambert Hall at the request of her stepdaughter, Tori. When the carriage Leela is traveling in throws a wheel, she searches for shelter and a place to stay until her carriage can be fixed. She finds herself on the steps of Black Swan Inn. This was not part of her plan and when she finds there are no rooms at the Inn, things go from bad to worse as a group of men there decide they'd like to take advantage of the situation. Luckily, someone comes to her rescue...
Elliot Townsend, Duke of Huntington, has spent years trying to stay out of trouble and be above reproach, but when he sees men trying to take advantage of a damsel in distress, he can't help but step in... 

Now these two weary travelers find themselves alone in a room with the attraction between them brewing into something undeniable. What could be the harm in one wild reckless night of abandonment?

Well, there's a reason they say no good deed goes unpunished...

"Your Grace... this is my stepmama... Lady Devon." Tori's voice brimmed with buoyant pride as she nervously fumbled through the introduction. "But as you can see...she is hardly ancient. She is more like a sister and one's dearest friend... in a all the world... rolled up into one exceptionally beautiful person."

Elliot stood stock-still, glued to his spot. Escape for either of them was impossible. It was like watching a carriage speeding straight toward he and being unable to leap out of the way. All she (Leela) could do was stand still and brace for disaster.  

Elliot's betrothed is the stepdaughter of the woman he has not been able to get out of his mind...
This is the first book in a brand new series, and the first book Ms.Quincy has written under the Avon label. Excuse me for a moment as I do a little happy dance for I believe I've found another writer to add to my list of favorite authors. *sigh* I will need to search out more of her other books to read. I really enjoyed this one.  

If I had to sum this book up into two words, I would choose devilishly delicious. I absolutely adored this story and the situation that started it all. I was horrified, then mortified, grinning from ear to ear, then shaking my head as I found myself wanting to reason with the main characters, and wishing I could give them advice. The chemistry between Leela and Elliot was so scorchingly hot, I'm surprised my kindle didn't spontaneously combust. This story definitely lived up to the series name of Clandestine Affairs. *grin* 

I couldn't help but give this one 5 out of 5 roses. The characters were multifaceted and relatable. The story kept a pleasant pace, and the plot, in my humble opinion, was fairly genius. There was twist upon twist and turn after turn. Then just when it seemed all happiness was to be lost, the impossible happened--a happy ending. Did I mention I loved this tale?  If you're looking for something to take you away from all the mayhem and chaos the world has been throwing your way, this may be a book for you. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed. This was a lovely escape from reality that I HIGHLY recommend. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Release Day Review of The Empire of Gold (The Daevabad Trilogy #3) by S.A. Chakraborty

Title: The Empire of Gold
Classification: New Adult (between YA and Adult)
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Daevabad Trilogy (Book 3)
Format: Hardcover; 784 pages
Publisher: Harper Voyager (June 30, 2020)
ISBN-10: 0062678167
ISBN-13: 978-0062678164
Author's Website:
Notes: I received an eARC loan from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes need to be checked against the final version as they are subject to change.

At first glance, Nahir appears to be an average girl. Take a second glance, and you will probably notice her eyes--they're unnaturally black. If you take the time to take a closer look, however, and really see her, you'll notice there is nothing average or ordinary about her.

Nahir lived on the streets of Cairo from the age of five speaking a language no one else knew or had ever heard. She didn't remember much about her parents or where they hailed from. Living on the streets, she survived anyway she could. She could smell a con from a mile away because she'd used most of them. Six years ago, however, everything changed. While attempting to hold a zar, a traditional ceremony meant to deal with djinn possession, she decided to sing one of the songs in her native tongue (thinking it would sound unusual and eerie) when a disembodied voice responded to  her in that same language--the one no one else had ever known. 

Since that fateful day, her life has been caught up in a series of twists and turns, ups and downs, and life altering decisions. She'd been whisked away to a magical hidden world and discovered djinn, magic, and wonderfully terrifying magical creatures she could never have conceived of were real. She also learned she was somehow a part of it all.

Now, just as Daevabad, the magical city Nahir had been spirited away to, finds itself in the middle of civil unrest, she finds herself back in Cairo faced with another life altering decision--should she stay or should she go back? Yet, the decision is not entirely hers alone. Somehow she and Ali, the djinn prince, were transported to Cairo together, and Ali is not doing all that well.

"Do you know how many times I've had to do this? Forget healing; my specialty should be having my life destroyed and then being forced to rebuild from nothing." (...)

"I'm so tired," she said, her voice cracking. 

"Everything I build gets broken. My life in Cairo. My dreams for Daevabad. I give everything--everything--I have. Only for someone to come along and smash it. It's all for nothing. Nothing."
This is the third and final book in the Daevabad Trilogy, and I am very sad to see this tale end. If you haven't read any of the previous books do not start with this one.  It begins where the last book left off, and the events in each book build upon those in the last. If you don't read the previous books, you'll find yourself utterly lost and won't enjoy the tale as much as you should. That said, I always worry that when the last book in a series comes out that it won't keep up with the momentum and bookish goodness of the previous books before it. I am happy to say this one passed the test and delivered a wonderful and magically delicious ending. I absolutely loved it. While I tried to devour this one in one sitting, it boasts nearly 800 pages, sadly I had to take some time to sleep before continuing through to the end of the saga. If you can manage to hold out to the end, however, your sacrifice will be well worth it.

It's been six years since Nahri was whisked away to Daevabad, and a lot has happened. Her skills as a healer have become stronger, she's gained friends and family, but could it be her forever home? Orphaned at an early age and living off the streets in Cairo she'd never truly felt she fit in anywhere, but Daevabad has been the closest she's ever come. Not all she's experienced in Daevabad has been pleasant. She's been lied to, betrayed, used as a pawn, but she's also grown in so many ways. She's stronger and wiser than when she first arrived, and now, she finally has the chance to decide her own fate. She'll have to do it, however, without her magical healing abilities. For whatever reason, magic is gone, and she and Ali will have to survive using nothing but their wits and resourcefulness. If they decide to return to Daevabad, they'll have to travel halfway around the world just as regular humans would. There will be no shortcuts. 

There is no doubt that the kingdom of Daevabad is in trouble with Manizheh vying to be the kingdom's next ruler. Nahri and Ali have been granted a reprieve from the chaos, but eventually Ali, if not both of them, will need to return. What I liked about the situation in Daevabad is that it mimics life. Someone can seem like they'd be the perfect leader, but until they come into power you truly don't know how they'll handle things. They may have a hidden agenda that will be revealed only after they take control. Promises may be broken. Still, people will follow them because they won't believe the person they believed in is capable of doing whatever it is they do. Some will never be able to wrap their head around it. The story also captures the complex emotions that motivate people to do things they'd never think themselves capable of doing whether that be for the better good or bad. I must say I enjoyed the contrast between Nahri and Manizheh. They found themselves in somewhat similar situations, but handled themselves in very different ways. In many ways I felt they were two halves of the same coin, but, oh, how their perceptions on things varied.

I couldn't help but give this one 5 out of 5 roses. The story started out slow and steady, but consistently gained momentum like a wave until it crested then everything came crashing down. The world building was phenomenal. I felt like I'd stepped into another world that I didn't want to leave. The characters were relatable, complex, and multidimensional. Twists and turns were thrown at you from all directions keeping things interesting and ensnaring the reader under the tale's beguiling spell. If you're looking for a story to escape reality for just a little while, this may just be the trilogy for you. I absolutely loved it, and HIGHLY recommend it. While there is a little romance in this novel, it is not the focus of the story, therefore, I'm forgoing my romance rating on this one. Did I mention I loved this one? lol Definitely in my top 10, maybe even 5 trilogies/series. If you're wondering--Yes, I ended up buying this one. I couldn't help myself. The Daevabad Trilogy is definitely a keeper that would make for an excellent book club discussion.

Order of the Daevabad trilogy:

Monday, February 24, 2020

Early Review of The Bachelor (Duke Dynasty #2) by Sabrina Jeffries

Title: The Bachelor (Duke Dynasty Book 2)
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Duke Dynasty (Book 2)
Format: Paperback; 288 pages
Publisher: Zebra (February 25, 2020)
ISBN-10: 1420148567
ISBN-13: 978-1420148565
Author's Website:
Notes: I received an eARC loan from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way affected by review or rating.

Lady Gwyn Drake is about to have her first season at age thirty. It could all be ruined, however, by a former suitor who's decided to blackmail her. What transpired between the two is partly to blame for why Gwyn doesn't wish to wed. If the secret gets out she, and her entire family by association, could be ruined.

Major Joshua Wolfe is a retired soldier who is currently acting as the gamekeeper for the Armitage estate. As he's seeing to his duties, he comes across Lady Gwyn Drake being threatened by her former suitor. When Joshua informs Gwyn's brother about the incident, Thorn hires him to be her body guard. Joshua, however, soon finds he may be in over his head as he realizes his feelings for Gwyn may be the one thing he can't protect her from...
This is the second book of the Duke Dynasty series. It can be read as a standalone, but I don't recommend that. The series centers around Lydia, the Dowager Duchess of Armitage and her family. She's been married three times, each time given birth to a future heir of a dukedom. With the untimely passing of her third husband, her sons are now wondering if someone is targeting their family or, more specifically, their mother. Perhaps someone with a grudge, like a former suitor, is trying to inflict pain on her. The first novel of the series goes into this more deeply which is why I suggest you read it first. All three of Lydia's former husbands died untimely deaths and now her sons are calling all of them into question. Whether or not foul play is involved remains to be seen, but with each new book the question seems to become more and more relevant.

Gwyn is not like other women of the ton. Once she dreamed of marriage and a family, but that dream was shattered long ago. Something happened years ago that she's still not completely come to terms with. She's smart with no aspirations of marrying, or at least not to any of the men she's met thus far. If she marries she wants it to be for love, but love doesn't seem to be in the cards for her. There is one man, however, she's got a tendre for, Major Wolfe, but every time she tries to flirt with the man he seems to think she's mocking him. She just can't seem to win where he's concerned.

Joshua is handsome former soldier, but has no idea just how appealing he is to the opposite sex. He feels his lame leg paired with his PTSD makes him undesirable thereby making him believe that any dreams he may harbor of love and a family are out of the question. As a coping mechanism, he's distanced himself from others. If Gwyn wants to make a go of it with him, she'll need to break through the thick prickly barrier he's erected.

I gave this book 3 1/2 out of 5 roses. It was an entertaining read with moments of brilliance like when Gwyn caught Joshua telling a tall tale full of lies. To me it seemed the only thing truly standing between this couple and a HEA were themselves. I guess that's true to life, and another reason why the phrase, 'sometimes our own worst enemy is our self' rings so true. I confess, however, that I would have liked it a little more if a few additional hurdles had been thrown between this couple. While I thought the blackmail added a nice dash of drama, I kind of wished there had been some additional twists and turns to keep us guessing. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed.

The order of the Duke Dynasty series:

Sunday, February 2, 2020

The Corner of Holly and Ivy (Harmony Harbor #7) by Debbie Mason

Title: The Corner of Holly and Ivy: A feel-good Christmas romance (Harmony Harbor)
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Harmony Harbor (Book 7)
Format: Paperback; 400 pages
Publisher: Forever (October 30, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1538744244
ISBN-13: 978-1538744246
Author's Website:
Notes: I received an ARC from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way affected my review or rating.

Arianna Bell was on the fast track to living her dream of becoming the next Vera Wang and having her bridal store, Tie the Knot, become the next Kleinfeld Bridal when tragedy struck. The night she would forever more dub as 'The Nightmare on Main Street' was the night her bridal shop and all her dreams had gone, literally, up in smoke. Her right hand, which she had used to do intricate needle work, had been burned and injured that night to the point she could no longer use it. While the doctor's and therapists have said they believe she may regain use of it, so far that hasn't happened. Since the fire, Aianna has spent most days self confined to her grandmother's house suffering from depression and pain. She's lost her way and is desperately in need of a new one.

Connor Gallagher fell in love with Arianna years ago, and when she'd broken off the relationship she'd broken his heart. He's since gotten over her, but she still holds a soft spot in his heart. Seeing how much she's suffered how she's been struggling since the fire along with feeling more than a little guilty for being the lawyer to represent her ex during her divorce, he feels a compelled to help her get back on her feet. When he finds out the insurance company still has paid for the claim Arianna filed, he offers to help. He feels it's the least he can do. That decision will change everything.
This is the seventh book of the Harmony Harbor series and, I have to confess, I felt a little lost.The world, as Arianna and her sisters knew it, exploded into utter chaos and mayhem seven months ago. It all revolved around an ex-fiance, a princess, a kidnapping, and a fire which resulted in Arianna losing almost everything. Her business is gone. Her ability to work is also gone. Her spirit is in need of a major overhaul as she's pretty much lost her purpose. Something the previously vibrant, smart, young woman had always had and known before. The contrast between who she was and is now is startling. I HIGHLY recommend you read 'Sandpiper Shore,' the sixth book in the Harmony Harbor series, before you read this one. It reveals a lot of family secrets and delves into the the inner workings and family dynamics of both the Bells and Gallaghers which you'll find useful. Without that knowledge, I felt a bit disengaged from the story. I ended up reading 'Sandpiper Shore' and then rereading 'The Corner of Holly and Ivy.' I enjoyed the novel a lot more when I read it for the second time. So make sure to read 'Sandpiper Shore' first!

I waffled a bit in my feelings for and opinion of Connor. It was obvious he had strong feelings for Arianna, but a little more than half way through something he does didn't sit well with me. Granted, things were complicated by his family pushing him into something, but I felt he handled the situation incorrectly and that irritated me to no end. I could totally understand Arianna's conflicting feelings for him. Some of the sparks and sexual tension flying between the two was reminiscent of those found in Sally Thorne's novel 'The Hating Game.' I loved seeing Arianna regain her spirit and get that spark of life back in her eyes that had previously been missing. It's why I and Arianna were ultimately won over by Connor. He had a lot to do with her finding herself again, and coming out of the depression she found herself immersed in. He knew how to push her buttons and infuriate her in a way to coax her out of the dark place she found herself in.

Overall, I gave this one 4 1/2 out of 5 roses. I love a story where when a character crawls out from what appears to be the depths of despair and comes out stronger for it. While Connor had a hand in helping Arianna find herself again, he made sure he wasn't the center of her world. He wanted the strong, vibrant, and self sufficient woman he once knew back. She just needed a little push in the right direction. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a FAN rating--the temperature in the room seems to have suddenly gone up a couple of degrees and a fan would be nice. I definitely recommend this one, but I cannot stress enough that you need to read 'Sandpiper Shore (Harmony Harbor Book 6)' first.

Order of the Harmony Harbor series:
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