Monday, November 11, 2019

Restless Rancher (Wild Rose Ranch, #2) by Jennifer Ryan

Title: Restless Rancher: Wild Rose Ranch
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Wild Rose (Book 2)
Format: Paperback; 384 pages
Publisher: Avon (November 12, 2019)
ISBN-10: 006285190X
ISBN-13: 978-0062851901
Author's Website: Not Available
Notes: I received an eARC loan from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way affected my review or rating.

To say Austin Hubbard has fallen on hard times would be an understatement. Months ago he'd been living the good life running his family business under his dad and ready to settle down with his girlfriend for the long haul. Then his grandfather had died leaving him the house his mother had grown up in and the land surrounding it. That's when everything went to hell in a handbasket. His father wanted the house and land for reason's Austin couldn't phantom. When Austin refused to sell it to him, he'd been cut off and, without funds, his girlfriend quickly abandoned him. He'd been devastated. Slowly, with the help of his friends, he'd managed to get back on his feet only to be knocked down once again by the betrayal of all betrayals he never saw coming.

Sonya Turner had been passed over for a promotion that by all accounts should have been hers. The promotion was the final step in her plan to becoming partner. The only thing lacking from her repertoire was she lacked that vital piece of male anatomy that would have gained her instant access to the good ole boys club, and there was no way she would be doing anything to change that--if that was even possible these days. So when her sister by choice, Roxy, asked for her assistance in helping her fiance's best friend get his newly inherited ranch sorted out, she'd turned in her resignation without a second thought. The sight that greeted her upon arrival, however, gave her pause for thought. A drunken cowboy passed out on the front porch was not what she'd been expecting. Not one to suffer fools gladly, she grabs a pitcher full of water and gives him the wake up call he so dearly needed.

While you can't always get what you want, Austin's about to get exactly what he needs...
This is the second book of the Wild Rose Ranch series and while you could possibly get away with reading this one as a standalone novel, I don't recommend it. The series is based on a group of four women--Roxy, Sonya, Adria, and Julia--who became a makeshift family due to their similar circumstances--they were all the children of women who worked at a high end brothel just outside of Las Vegas called the Wild Rose Ranch. Over the years they all endured endless scorn, ridicule, and torment due to their mothers' chosen profession. They're all around the same age, and it's their shared situation which made them all stick together and become the tight knit family they are today. Roxy, however, is the glue that binds them. Her story, Dirty Little Secret, is where we're first introduced to these Wild Rose riders, the name the four chose for themselves as they competed in rodeos.

The beginning of this book does not start off painting a picture full of double rainbows and unicorns. If anything, it paints a one the exact opposite--a harsh world filled with cruelty, unfairness, and a smattering of crudeness. Austin, when we're first introduced to him in this book, is not portrayed as a knight in shining armor or the dashing prince charming type. He's in a bad place and he's bitter, mad, and confused by the betrayals he's been dealt. As we start to gain a handle on the situation and come to understand how Austin managed to fall so far so fast, we begin to see more than just a spark of redeemable qualities. He is, as we all are, more than what he appears during his darkest moments.

Sonya is a no-nonsense, smart as a whip, beautiful young women who has hopes and dreams just like the next girl. While you'd think with all the lemons life has handed her she'd be a very cynical individual, she's mainly just a very guarded and cautious person about who she lets into her life. While her first impression of Austin isn't very high, as she works beside him and becomes acquainted with him, and he with her, she gets to know him in a way she wouldn't have otherwise. A mutual respect forms between them which quickly transforms into something more as they give in to their mutual attraction.

Sonya is a shrewd business woman and a forensic accountant by trade. She's been trained to find money, property, or whatever else people are trying to hide within the numbers, and she's very good at what she does. She's seen a lot over the years and has never been accused of wearing rose colored glasses or of being naive, and she is rarely intimidated. Very little surprises her and she doesn't play games, doesn't take crap from anyone, and calls 'em like she sees them. She's exactly what Austin needs and he's exactly what she needs.

The song that kept playing in my head as I read this one was Julia Andrew's song 'Something Good'...

'Perhaps I had a wicked childhood
Perhaps I had a miserable youth
But somewhere in my wicked, miserable past
There must have been a moment of truth

For here you are, standing there, loving me
Whether or not you should
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good'

Overall, I gave this one 4 1/2 out of 5 roses. There were plenty of twists, turns, and heart wrenching moments. The story kept my attention, and maintained a good pace. I liked the dynamics of Austin and Sonya's relationship although it took me a while to warm up to Austin. I liked Sonya, however, from the moment she drenched Austin with water. She made me laugh and smile. We should all have a friend like her. 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 Wild Rose Ranch series:

Monday, October 21, 2019

Total Bravery (True Heroes, #4) by Piper J. Drake

Title: Total Bravery (True Heroes Book 4)
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Romantic Suspense/Contemporary Romance
Series: True Heroes (Book 4)
Format: Paperback; 304 pages
Publisher: Forever (April 24, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1538759535
ISBN-13: 978-1538759530
Author's website:
Notes: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way affected by rating or review.

Raul Sa' is just starting a job with Search and Protect when he gets a call from his best friend's younger sister:

"There's someone--several people--chasing me."

Mali Siri and her research team were out doing field work when her PI, Principle Investigator, was approached by men in dark suits. At first no one was alarmed thinking they were probably just government officials checking up on their research. The heated conversation that ensued quickly suggested otherwise. When her PI sounded the alarm that the team should disperse, they did, scattering in different directions. Not knowing what happened to the rest of her team and being pursued herself, she tries to contact the one person she knows can help her, her sister. The only thing is the person who answers is not her sister. Apparently, her sister forwarded her calls. Mali will need the help of Raul and the Search and Protect team to get to the bottom of what happened to her team and, if they're still alive, rescue them.
This was the fourth book in the True Heroes series, and the first book of the series I've read. I didn't feel lost, so it can definitely be read as a standalone novel. The novel is fast paced and grabs your attention from the get go. It deals with some very heavy subject matter--human trafficking--and brings to light how close to home the horrific trade truly is. Even if you think it's only a third world country problem, it's not. Human trafficking is pretty much happening right in our own backyards.

Mali Siri is a strong, smart, resourceful, and quick thinking young woman who is trying to make a difference. Her work, and the work of her team, could do a world of difference in changing laws to help the victims of human trafficking from being victimized a second time by the laws that presently exist. Most of the women in the sex trade work out of fear for themselves or their loved ones, not because it's their profession of choice. This book just scratches the surface of human trafficking and the dangers associated with it. When Mari's team is taken, she acts without thinking knowing they were in over their heads. She calls the one person who has always managed to get her out of a jam, her sister.

Raul is a good man with a lot of emotional scars caused by guilt, shame, and self-reproach. In the past, his job made him do things that he's not proud of, but were necessary. He was the person they sent in to extract answers from people, and he was very good at it. Against his better judgment, he gives into the attraction that starts to stir between him and Mali knowing Arin, Mali's sister, will not be happy.

I loved how Raul was strong and vulnerable at the same time. He was afraid Mali wouldn't be able to come to terms with his past, but, in the end, he's the one who needed to come to term with it. I really wish the author would have delved into this a little deeper. It would have bumped this story from a really good story to a truly great one. 

The defining quote of the book which held multiple significance (even though Raul, ironically, didn't seem to realize it also applied to himself) was:

“Whether a person is good or bad can’t be identified by their job title. People aren’t that easy to categorize.”

Overall, I gave this one 4 1/2 out of 5 roses. I loved the dynamics of the relationship, and how Raul let Mali take the lead. I liked how he did not try to shelter Mali or act like she was too fragile to assist in the extrication of her team. He made sure she was included in all the planning and implementation of the rescue attempt. I loved how these two were together. I do wish, however, that the author had delved a little deeper into Raul's past and let him come to terms with it. I believe it would have added another layer to this already wonderful story. Additionally, if Mali had been the one to help him do it, that would have been the icing on the cake for this tale. 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. I definitely recommend this one. Now I need to figure out how to fit the rest of the series into my reading lineup.

Order of the True Heroes series:

Monday, October 14, 2019

Early Review of Hello, Cookie Dough: 110 Doughlicious Confections to Eat, Bake & Share by Kristen Tomlan

Title: Hello, Cookie Dough: 110 Doughlicious Confections to Eat, Bake & Share
Classification: Nonfiction
Genre: Cookbook
Format: Hardcover; 304 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (October 15, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1538748886
ISBN-13: 978-1538748886
Author's website:
Notes: I received a copy of the book from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way affected my rating or review.

Kristen Tomlan has always loved baking, but cookies, especially chocolate chip cookies, have always held a special place in her heart. In 2012 while baking cookies with her friends Kristen asked if they'd like to skip the baking and just split the bowl of dough. They all agreed to, and that was when the spark of an idea entered Kristen's head about creating and selling edible cookie dough. If she and her friends loved it so much it only reasoned others would too. While many think DŌ sprang up overnight (or close too it), Kristen developed these recipes over many years. She also had been running her business online out of her apartment for over a year before renting some commercial space to expand her business. That was when DŌ became more than just a business that sold it's product online. People started showing up on her store's doorstep in hopes of buying some of their doughy goodness. Now Kristen is sharing her recipes, some of which she uses in her store, with everyone in her first, but hopefully not last, cookbook.
When a publisher listed this book as one of the ones I could review, I was like, "You so had me at Hello, Cookie Dough." I had no idea it was written by Kristen or that she was the owner of DŌ. I'd heard about her store on the Today Show and was bummed the store was in New York City and not Tampa. I have always had a weakness for cookie dough, but since warnings started circulating about eating raw cookie dough I've shied away from it. In fact, my kids asked me more than once if it was truly okay for them to eat the raw dough when I asked them to sample some Kristen's wares. Even I had to remind myself it was okay to eat. Ms. Tomlan writes in her book how to make cookie dough safe for consumption. In fact, you can use the procedures she lists to make any family cookie, brownie, cake, or other recipe you may have lying around safe to eat raw too. Please excuse me while I do a little happy dance. I wish she'd published this book years ago. I would have loved to make these recipes with my kids when they were younger. She even includes a recipe for edible play dough. How cool is that? Mark my words, this will be the cookbook to get or give this holiday season. It's just that good.

So I've made seven of the recipes--the signature chocolate chip, peanut butter cookies, cake batter cookies, brookies, brownie cookies, sugar cookies, and Blondies--listed in the book, and have loved them all. There are still many many more I want to make and taste, but I'm trying to pace myself so I don't end up gaining a hundred pounds. In fact, the first question my daughter asked after looking over the types of recipes was, "Is the author a rather large person?" Strangely enough she's not.

The book has six signature flavors and the author gives suggestions for what you can mix in with them. She also has several desserts that use cookie dough in their recipes like cinnamon rolls, cheesecake, pecan pie, pancakes, and many more. The only recipes that have nothing to do with cookie dough are the ones the author uses to mix in to her cookie dough like caramel sauce and caramel corn. Yum!

I'd like to take a moment to thank the author for listing the brands of the ingredients she prefers to use in her store. Thank You! I cannot tell you how frustrating it is when a cook, chef, or baker on a TV show or in a book says to use something as vague as a 'good chocolate' that melts at a certain temperature without adding 'like this brand...'  Grrrr.... Are we talking Belgium, French, German or is Nestle okay? Hey, I think Nestle is good, but I don't know what temperature it or other chocolates melt at. I'm not a chef, a cook, or a baker. Kristen tells you her go to brands and lists alternatives for the pricier ones or, when possible, a recipe that you can use if you'd rather make your own.

I couldn't help but give this one 5 out of 5 roses. Kristen Tomlan has truly created something special. She includes tips throughout the book and encourages you to play with flavors to make the recipes reflect your own personal tastes. The variety of recipes is wonderful and if you'd prefer to have cookies instead of the dough, you can always follow her instructions on how to cook them. The author even includes a recipe for Doggie Dough, and almost all of the recipes can be altered to be Gluten Free--which is something I will utilize for my husband. Additionally, she includes a recipe to make a wheat flour alternative. I have yet to try it, but will definitely make good use of it in the future. I HIGHLY recommend this one. It was well thought out and is full of recipes made up of doughy goodness that taste wonderful. What more could you want in a cookie dough cookbook? I loved this one and have no doubt it will be one of my more used cookbooks in the future.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Paris Orphan by Natasha Lester

Title: The Paris Orphan
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: Paperback; 480 pages
Publisher: Forever (September 3, 2019)
ISBN-10: 153876489X
ISBN-13: 978-1538764893
Author's Website:
Notes: I received a copy of the book for review purposes. This in no way affected my review or rating. Be forewarned, this book tackles some harsh subjects that are associated with WW II. Rape and other horrors of the war are discussed, so if those types of  subjects don't appeal, you may want to skip this one.

War has a way of bringing out the best or worst in people, and never was it more apparent than during World War II. People died in horrific ways at the hands of other people. Friend turned on friend, family members turned upon other family members. Those who were supposed to be heroes didn't always act heroic. Under the cloak of war people do things they normally wouldn't when the brunt of society is watching. Death seemed to lurk at every turn and in every corner. If you managed to escape the grim reaper it was more out of dumb luck than through brawn or skill. Hell, it seemed, had unleashed its fury upon the earth and decided to stay for a while as it basked in the wake of the chaos and destruction it wrought.

It was during this time that women stepped up to the plate, taking on the jobs their male counterparts would have done if they hadn't been sent to the battlefront. Among those women, a small handful were allowed to go to Europe and report on the war, but they weren't given the access their fellow male war correspondents were. Women, it was thought, were too delicate in nature to be able to handle all the gore and horror that came with being at the battlefront. It was a place they didn't belong and so they were delegated to less dangerous places such as field hospitals and towns that the allied soldiers occupied.

In the midst of all the havoc war wreaked a good luck charm emerged in the form of a young orphan girl. The US soldiers believed a kiss or a hug from the young girl before they left on a mission would bring them luck. Strangely enough, those who didn't get a kiss or a hug tended to be the ones who didn't come back while those who did always seemed to. 'Victorine, who was a small sun bringing light and warmth to a place otherwise bereft of those things.' Victorine became the subject of one of the stories that Jessica May, a model who became a photographer and war corespondent, reported about in Vogue magazine. It is the photograph she took of Victorine that sixty years later will be the key to uncovering a secret that would otherwise never have been revealed.

"To find beauty in war photographs seems heartless. But the landscape of devastation is still a landscape. There is beauty in ruins." ~ Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others
This is a standalone novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. The story is written in third person narrative from four different perspectives and spans four different time periods over sixty years. The main character, Jessica 'Jess' May, is loosely based off of a real life person named Lee Miller. Bits and pieces of events that happen in the book actually happened to Lee. I had no clue there were female reporters or photographers during WW II and this book brings to light those forgotten women and the remarkable work they did. Ms. Lester opens up the novel with a quote by David E. Scherman of Life Magazine whom Lee Miller teamed up with during WW II--"It is almost impossible today, almost fifty years later, to conceive how difficult it was for a woman correspondent to get beyond a rear-echelon military position, in other words to the front, where the action was." While it's now been over 70 years since WW II, this story makes me want to learn more about Lee Miller. She sounds like an amazing woman that people should know about. 

Jess May is a successful model whose career is abruptly cut short due to an unfortunate incident created by her soon to be ex-boyfriend. The situation created immediately makes her persona non grata in the modeling world. Over the years she has dabbled in photography and, at a friend's suggestion, she decides to put those skills to use by becoming a war correspondent. With limited access to the front lines, Jess decides early on to make it her mission to find stories about women who, through the occupation, have done remarkable things. The majority of this book is about Jess' journey during that time period.

Dan Hallworth is a Major in the Army. He and Jess meet when she's unexpectedly driven out into a war zone that was thought to be the location of a field hospital. He is one of those rare men who "couldn't care less if you were a woman or a flamingo". Many men of the time would love to see her fail, but he helps Jess throughout the war when he can, not because he's hoping for something in return but because he's an overall nice guy. He cares about others--especially the men under his command--and does all he can to try to keep them safe and feels it personally when something happens to one. He's one of the men that war brings out the best in. He's also easy on the eyes and the women he encounters tend to swoon over him. In the midst of all the chaos, Jess and Dan form an unlikely friendship.

D'Arcy is hired sixty years after the war ended to handle a collection of World War II photographs taken by a photographer whom nobody knows the identity of.  The photographer, known only as I. Durant, was up for a Pulitzer but is rumored to have not won because some thought he or she might have been a woman. As D'Arcy goes through an old box of photos in the Photographer's attic, she discovers a photo she knows all too well--a picture that was highly publicized taken by Jessica May of a young girl during the war. When she turns the photo over she makes a startling discovery--the name on the back of the photo is that of her mother, Victorine Hallworth, and the man in the photo with her is revealed to be Dan Hallworth. Could there be a connection between her, her mother, Jessica May, and Dan Hallworth? D'Arcy has no idea but, as she learns more and more, she is determined to find out.

Victorine is the common link that will cause a carefully stacked house of cards, i.e. a carefully constructed set of lies, omissions, and secrets, to collapse. This is a story about love, loss, selfishness, secrets, lies, and the choices we make. It shows how one singular event can change the direction of more than one individual. It's also a cautionary tale about how actions have 'consequences that nobody could ever imagine or will ever know.' Plus, there's a nice lesson to the story which, ironically, Victorine taught her daughter: "It's my mother's fault I'm not shy," she said. "She taught me to question everything, to say what I thought because sometimes, if you didn't, people died." (...) "She believed holding back was a dangerous thing that could end in sadness."

I couldn't help but give this one 4 1/2 out of 5 roses. This is a novel about "a beautiful young woman who's at the age when she has the whole world ahead of her, when the decisions she makes will  either be the best or hardest to live with in the years to come." It's a story that brings up subjects that were swept under the rug and never properly dealt with. It contains subject matter that is highly relevant in today's #MeTooMovement era, and illustrates just how far women in our society have truly come. It also delves into the extreme ugliness of war. As Jess states in the novel about the concentration camps, "That's why I think people say it can't be true. Because they can't imagine there are worse things. But every time we think that, we find evidence of something worse than the worst possible thing." I loved how the author used the literary device called a foil. It's when an author includes contrasting characters which highlight the character of another character. In this case she used two, one for Jess and one for Dan.  See if you can spot them. The only thing that kept me from giving this a 5 rose rating is because of something that happens at the end that I wish would have been written slightly different. Once you read the book you'll probably have no problem identifying what it is. This was an emotional roller coaster ride of a read that kept my attention from start to finish. It was well written, engaging, had characters which were easy to relate to, and made me feel like I'd taken a step back in time. While there is a romance in this one, I'm forgoing my romance rating because romance isn't the center of this story. I definitely recommend this one, and think that this story and/or the real life story of Lee Miller would make for a great movie. Hollywood should take note of this one.
Notes to keep you in the know:
If this Lee Miller and other female WW II war correspondents intrigue you as much as they do me, you may want to check out the following books:

You may also want to check out The Lee Miller Archives where you can view some of her photos:

Friday, September 27, 2019

When the Marquess Was Mine (The Wagers of Sin #3) by Caroline Linden Blog Tour

When the was Mine by Caroline Linden
Available now at a bookstore near you!

In the game of love…

Georgiana Lucas despises the arrogant and cruel Marquess of Westmorland even before learning that he’s won the deed to her friend Kitty’s home in a card game. Still, Georgiana assures Kitty the marquess wouldn’t possibly come all the way to Derbyshire to throw them out—until he shows up, bloody and unconscious. Fearing that Kitty would rather see him die, Georgiana blurts out that he’s her fiancé. She’ll nurse the hateful man back to health and make him vow to leave and never return. The man who wakes up, though, is nothing like the heartless rogue Georgiana thought she knew…

You have to risk it all

He wakes up with no memory of being assaulted—or of who he is. The bewitching beauty tending him so devotedly calls him Rob and claims she’s his fiancée even as she avoids his touch. Though he can’t remember how he won her hand, he’s now determined to win her heart. But as his memory returns and the truth is revealed, Rob must decide if the game is up—or if he’ll take a chance on a love that defies all odds.

Chapter One

It was to be a bacchanal for the ages.

As Heathercote remarked, a man only turned twenty-nine once. Marlow pointed out that a man also only turned twenty-eight, or thirty, once as well, but they were well used to ignoring Marlow’s odd points of reason, and this one was promptly forgotten.

Heathercote planned the entire affair, inviting the most dashing, daring rogues and scoundrels in London. He declared it to be the invitation of the month, and that he’d turned away several fellows for lacking wit, style, or both. “You mean they aren’t up to your standard of mayhem,” said Westmorland, whose birthday it was, to which Heathercote mimed tipping his hat in acknowledgment.

After a raucous dinner at White’s, they decamped for the theater. The production was well under way when they invaded the pit in search of amusement. By the time the show ended, they had drunk a great deal of brandy, thrown oranges at the stage, and lost Clifton to the company of a prostitute.

Everyone’s memories ran a bit ragged after that, with vague recollections of singing in the streets and Marlow casting up his accounts somewhere in Westminster, but eventually they settled at the Vega Club. It was so late, the manager tried to dissuade them from play. Mr. Forbes knew every one of them could wager for hours, and the Vega Club closed its doors at dawn.

But Heathercote persuaded him to let them in and to give them the whist salon all to themselves. “We’ll leave by noon,” he promised, patting Forbes on the chest as he slid a handful of notes into the man’s hand. His words were remarkably steady for a man who’d been drinking for eight hours. Grim-faced, Forbes let them in, where they commandeered the main table and called for yet more wine.

A few intrepid souls followed them from the club proper. Forbes tried to stop them at the door, but Forester recognized one and waved them in. “We don’t mind winning their money,” he said with a hiccup.

They played whist, then switched to loo. One loser was dared to drink off the contents of his full flask in one go, which he did. The room filled with cigar smoke and ribald language, and the wagers grew extravagant. Marlow won a prize colt off Forester. Heathercote wagered his new phaeton and ended up with someone’s barouche. Sackville won the largest pot of the night, and everyone pelted him with markers.

And then one of the hangers-on spoiled it. He had the look of a country fellow new to London, with an arrogant bluster that was initially amusing but eventually turned annoying. He’d played well enough, winning a bit and losing with colorful curses that made the rest of them roar with laughter. But it became abruptly clear that Sir Charles Winston was in over his head when he wagered his house.

Marlow laughed. Heathercote picked up the scribbled note Winston had put forth and read it with one brow arched. “Can’t wager property, Winslow.”

The man was already ruddy from drink, and now he turned scarlet. “Can so! Your fellow wagered a horse.”

“Horses are portable,” said Forester, his Liverpool accent bleeding through. “Houses are not.”

“Houses are worth more!”

“Aye, too much more.” Heathercote flicked the note back across the table. “Markers.”

“I haven’t got any more markers,” muttered the younger man. For a moment everyone focused in surprised silence on the empty space in front of him. None of them had run out.

“Then fold your hand,” Forester told him. “You’re out!”

Winston’s chin set stubbornly. His mate tried to slide some markers toward him, but he angrily shoved them back. “Give me a chance to win it back.”

“All the more reason to walk away, if you’ve lost ‘em all.” Marlow waved one hand, nearly toppling out of his seat. Mr. Forbes, watching grimly from the corner, came forward. “Forbes, Windermere is done.”

“Sir Charles,” murmured the manager. “Perhaps it’s time to go.”

“Not yet!” Winston scowled at them all, shaking off his friend’s quiet attempts to get him to fold.
“Not now, Farley! They got a chance to turn their luck. Why shouldn’t I?”

“Luck is like the wind,” said a new voice. Nicholas Dashwood, the owner of the Vega Club, stepped out of the shadows. “It rarely turns propitiously.”

Winston stubbornly sank lower in his seat. “I deserve ‘nother chance.”

Heathercote slung his arms over the back of his chair. “Well, West? What say you? Shall we let him stay and wager away everything he’s got?”

Lounging in his seat, the Marquess of Westmorland looked up in irritation. “Really ought to go, Winsmore.”

“Wins-less, more like,” snickered Marlow.

Winston sat up straighter in his seat. “Please, my lord.”

“Oh, let him ruin himself,” muttered Forester, shuffling his cards restlessly.

The marquess lifted one shoulder. “Damned if I care.”

“Sir Charles,” said Dashwood evenly, “do not wager what you cannot afford to lose.”

Winston scooped up the scribbled paper and added a line, signing his name with a flourish. “I won’t, sir.”

But he did. Within four hands, he’d won a bit and then lost it all—including the deed. Suddenly he did not look so belligerent or so stubborn. He looked young and quite literally green, staring at the winning hand, lying on the table.

“Should have listened,” said the unsympathetic Heathercote. “Should have left.”

Winston puffed up furiously. “Should have known better than to play with the likes of you!”

“Di’n’t y’know that before you sa’ down?” Marlow’s words slurred together. “Stupid bloody fool!”

“That’s my home!”

“And you risked it at loo!” Heath made a derisive noise. “Idiot.”

Winston was the color of beets. “Don’t call me that.”

Sackville raised one brow. “No? ’S not your home anymore.” He reached out and plucked the scrawled paper from the pile of markers and examined it, although his eyes never quite managed to focus on it. “It ‘pears to be West’s.”

His friends howled with laughter. “He doesn’t need it,” cried Winston. He made a convulsive grab for the paper before his lone remaining friend caught his arm. “He’s got a dozen houses!”

“Set it up as a brothel, West,” suggested Forester. “And give all your mates discounted fees.”

“Free!” yelped Marlow with a wheezing laugh.

Winston drew a furious breath, but instead of continuing the fight he turned and rushed from the room, rather unsteadily; he wrestled with the door, and then almost tripped on his way out, causing more howls of laughter from the table. His friend helped him back onto his feet before the door closed on them both.

“Who invited him?” asked Heathercote in disdain.


“Ballocks,” mumbled Marlow, putting his head down on the table. “Never did. Was Forester.”

Forester made a rude gesture. “I vouched for the other man, Farley.”

“Your friends are all bad ton,” said Sackville.

Forester’s face tightened. He rose and swung his wineglass into the air in a toast, spilling some. “Thank you all for a most exciting evening, gentlemen.” Pointedly he bowed only to Viscount Heathercote and Lord Westmorland. Sackville repaid him with a rude gesture at Forester’s back.

Heathercote protested, but Forester waved him off and left. With Marlow asleep on the table and Sackville still giggling drunkenly to himself, Westmorland placed his hands on the table, hesitated as if gathering strength, then heaved himself to his feet. “The carriages, Dashwood.”

Stone-faced, the owner left. Westmorland surveyed the table. “Did I win the last?”

“Aye,” said Heathercote with a wide yawn.

“Credit it all, Forbes,” said the marquess. “God above, I’m tired.”

As expressionless as his employer, the manager stepped forward. With an air of distaste, he picked up the deed promise and held it out. “I cannot credit this, my lord.”

West stared at it. “Damn. Right.” He stuffed it into the pocket of his jacket and staggered out into the morning sunlight with Heathercote, never guessing the trouble that wagered deed was about to cause him.

Caroline Linden

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Caroline Linden was born a reader, not a writer. She earned a math degree from Harvard University and wrote computer code before discovering that writing fiction was far more fun. Since then, the Boston Red Sox have won the World Series three FOUR times, which is not related but still worth mentioning. Her books have been translated into seventeen languages, and have won the NEC-RWA Reader's Choice Award, the Daphne du Maurier Award, the NJRW Golden Leaf Award, and RWA's RITA Award. She lives in New England.

Title: When the Marquess Was Mine: The Wagers of Sin
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Wagers of Sin
Format: Paperback; 400 pages
Publisher: Avon (September 24, 2019)
ISBN-10: 006291359X
ISBN-13: 978-0062913593
Author's Website:
Notes: I received an eARC of the book from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way affected my review or rating. As an ARC is not a final version of the book, any quotes I have used are subject to change and will need to be verified against the final copy.

A night of drunken revelry, a wager of a house, an attack by highwaymen, and a little white lie could all lead to Georgiana Lucas' ruin or, perhaps, to her friend Kitty's salvation...

The Marquess of Westmorland is not a saint nor the nicest person in the ton, but he's also not the monster many believe him to be. When he wakes up after a night of celebratory fun, he finds he's won the deed to a house, although he remembers nothing about it. The last thing he needs is another piece of property or another lecture from his mother about it, but when he hears the rumors the fool of a man who he won the house from is spreading, he decides a lesson needs to be learned. So he sets off with the deed to the man's ancestral home with a plan that's just forming...

Georgiana believes there are no redeeming qualities to the Malicious Marquees, as she likes to refer to the Marquess of Westmorland. She met the scapegrace, who would one day become a duke, years ago and if she never saw him again, it would be too soon. But when she finds the louse bloody, beaten, and at death's door she finds she can't leave him to his fate. Osborne House is the obvious choice to take the man to, but Georgiana is unsure how Kitty, the Lady of the house, will receive him if she knows who he truly is. The Marquess won the deed to Kitty's house during a game of cards against Kitty's husband, Charles. Charles believes the Marquess is on his way to kick the occupants of said house out. So in an effort to save the man's life, Georgiana makes the split second decision to say he is someone else. The first name that enters her head is that of her fiance, Lord Sterling. Before she can stop herself,  or think better of it, his name pops out. She figures she'll suffer the consequences of her actions later, but when he awakes things get even more complicated...

"Sterling," he said. At the door, his hand on the latch, the doctor paused. "Why do you keep saying that?"

For the first time, the doctor's smile faded. "Do you not know who that is?" The subtle change to his voice was deeply alarming.

Instead of replying he looked to the woman, who had been tugging the blankets into place but now stopped and raised her head to stare. Her perfect pink mouth formed a circle. Shocked.

"No," he said slowly.

The doctor adjusted his spectacles and came a step nearer. "No?" (...)

"Do you not recognize your fiancee, Lady Georgiana?"

He looked up at her, at her beautiful, fearful green eyes. "No," he said tensely.

"And do you not know your own name?"

"Of course I do," he said. "It's..." (...)

He didn't know his own name. There had been nothing on his lips...

This is the third book in the Wagers of Sin series, and it was an utter pleasure to read. It can be read as a standalone, but be forewarned, you're going to want to read all the books in the series. I somehow missed reading the second book, and now I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of it. I loved this book so much, where do I begin?

First, I loved the amnesia scenario the author set up. At the beginning I feared it might be a historical rewrite of  the movie 'Overboard' because the Marquess was said to be such a despicable character, but thankfully it was not. Our heroine is a sweet, kind, and caring individual who finds herself in the awkward position of having to lie to one of her best friends for an honorable reason--to save the Marquess of  Westmorland's life. What seems like a little white lie quickly escalates, as lies often do, into a web that Georgiana finds difficult to extract herself from. As you can imagine, the lie leads to a whole lot of trouble and a number of awkward and funny situations.

Rob, the Marquess of Westmorland is handsome, smart, and a notorious rogue who tends to look down his nose at people and mock them. He's the heir of the Duke of Rowland, one of the oldest and richest titles in all of England, and he is considered to be one of the most eligible bachelors of the ton. He also happens to be ill-mannered and mean-spirited. Georgiana has witnessed his cruelty first hand and will not soon forget it. When Rob wakes up three days after he is attacked with amnesia, his personality is notably different. Rob appears to not be all she believed him to be, but is that just because of his amnesia, or is she now seeing a truer version of the man? If his memory returns will he go back to being the man she despises? Georgiana finds she likes the new and improved version of the Marquess and finds herself yearning for things she should not.

Normally I don't like it when a character ends up leaving her betrothed for another man, but in this instance, Georgiana's fiance, Lord Sterling, seemed to not have time for her. The two have been engaged for 2 years and her brother and fiance still hadn't come to terms over her marriage settlements even though her father had set aside specific funds for her dowry. Additionally, he never seemed to want to be with her. He was always gallivanting around with his friends instead of staying with her at various events and functions put on by the ton. When Rob believes himself to be Georgiana's betrothed, the attention he lavishes on her is in stark contrast to that of Sterling. It makes her question her relationship with her fiance, and that's when things get both complicated and interesting.

I couldn't help but give this one 5 out of 5 roses. I absolutely loved it. It alternated between being serious, funny, endearing, sweet, and sexy. It also had a touch of drama mixed in towards the end which added whole other level to the story. The chemistry between Georgiana and Rob was so strong it practically scorched my fingers with ever turn of the page. It took some doing for Rob to win me over after finding out what had happened between him and Georgiana, but eventually, he did. 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. I HIGHLY recommend this one!

Notes to keep you in the Know:
You may wonder whether or not a person's personality can change for the better after severe head trauma, and the answer is 'yes'. Check out the article entitled 'When personality changes from bad to good" written by Christian Jarrett via the following link:

Order of The Wagers of Sin series:

Buy Links:

Monday, September 23, 2019

Early Review of Christmas with a Cowboy (Longhorn Canyon #5) by Carolyn Brown

Title: Christmas with a Cowboy: Includes a bonus novella (Longhorn Canyon)
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Longhorn Canyon (Book 5)
Format: Paperback; 448 pages
Publisher: Forever (September 24, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1538748746
ISBN-13: 978-1538748749
Author's Website:
Notes: I received an ARC from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way affected my rating.

A year ago Maverick Callahan met a beautiful, sweet, sexy young barkeep and didn't make it back to his hotel until late morning. It had been his last night in Ireland, but he'd wished he'd met her on his first. He'd asked for her information but as it seemed fated they'd never again meet, she'd declined to give it to him. He hadn't forgotten her, though, and still felt like he'd missed out on something special.

When he goes to help his grandmother, Iris, on her ranch, the woman who'd been on his mind for the past year, Bridget, is there. Could this be fate's way of giving them another chance to get things right? Only time will tell, and Maverick plans to make good use of it.
This is the 5th book in the Longhorn Canyon Series, but it reads like a standalone. It is also the 2nd book of the series that I've read, and I confess, now I'm curious about the rest of the books in the series. This was a very fun, sweet, and charming romance that left me in a good mood.

Bridget has had a rough year. Both her grandmother and best friend died within months of one another. When Iris, her grandmother's best friend, offers her a job in the U.S. on her Texas ranch for a month she readily takes it. While Bridget knew Iris and her grandmother were best friends, she had no idea Maverick was her grandson. When she sees him in the photos on the wall, she realizes who Maverick is, the cowboy from the states she'd had a one night stand with in Ireland, and she's grateful he's not there, until he is. Awkward is not sufficient enough a word to describe how she feels when he arrives. She is utterly gobsmacked.

Maverick is equally surprised, but awkward is not the word he'd use to describe his feelings upon seeing her. He's pleasantly surprised by her appearance, but she immediately makes it clear she's not the same girl she was a year ago, and if he's got any ideas about the two of them he can just forget them. She's heard about his 'wild' reputation and she wants no part of it. That, of course, is when the fun begins.

Iris would love to see both her grandsons married. On the plane ride home from Ireland she'd seen Maverick looking at a picture of her best friend's granddaughter. The two friends had talked about how perfect their grandkids would be for one another, but had never managed to introduce the two while Iris was visiting her in Ireland. When she learns her best friend has passed, and her granddaughter doesn't have a place to stay for the holidays, she asks her to come to Texas to help her out after her hip replacement surgery. Then Iris decides to meddle just a little and see what will happen when she asks her grandson, Maverick, to stay and help her with the ranch. The chemistry that Bridget and Maverick experienced in Ireland is alive and well, and Iris hopes it will turn into something more.

I couldn't help but give this one 4 out of 5 roses. It was a sweet and lighthearted romance with a sprinkling of humor mixed in. I loved the chemistry between Bridget and Maverick and the symbolism involved with the missing earring. I know I'm being ambiguous, but I don't want to reveal too much or give away any spoilers. 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. If you're looking for a romance that will leave you with a smile on your face, this may be the book for you.

The order of the Longhorn Canyon Series:

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Early Review of Sapphire Flames (Hidden Legacy #4) by Ilona Andrews

Title: Sapphire Flames: A Hidden Legacy Novel
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Hidden Legacy (Book 4)
Format: Paperback; 400 pages
Publisher: Avon (August 27, 2019)
ISBN-10: 0062878344
ISBN-13: 978-0062878342
Author's Website:
Notes: I received and eARC loan from the publisher. This in no way affected my rating.

A century and a half ago, the Osiris serum was discovered by scientists which unlocked a person's magical abilities. The serum was given to soldiers so that wars could be won, but scientists didn't comprehend what they'd truly done until much later. The serum was locked away, but the damage had been done because it was soon found that magical talents could be passed from parent to child. The world, as we knew it, was changed forever as a restructuring of power occurred. Money no longer guaranteed power, influence, and prestige in this magically oriented new world, rather, one's magical abilities did. For with the power of magic, one could acquire the rest.

Talents varied among people, but each person who gained magical abilities from the serum showed potential toward one specific type of magic. Among the varying classifications, ranges of talent were soon noted, and magic users were categorized into five different ranks: Minor, Average, Notable, Significant, and Prime. The highest and strongest being Prime. Soon magical dynasties, as the most powerful of magical families came to be called, were broken into Houses and attempted to manipulate and enhance their family's magical potential by arranging marriages which would bring about the most gifted and talented of offspring. Certain magics, it was found, complimented one another and had a high potential of producing offspring with stronger and greater magical abilities. Still others, when their magics were mixed, were found to be incompatible and produced offspring with no magical talents whatsoever.

Three years ago the Baylor family had undergone the trials to prove that their family possessed at least two Primes, and were granted permission to declare themselves a House. The family talents were verified by the Panel of Prime judges, and their records were sealed, so no on outside the trials could find out what the family talents were. Being a new house, they were granted the courtesy of immunity from attacks by other houses for three years. That reprieve is about to expire, and that is when the fun (I say in jest) will begin.

Catalina Baylor has recently taken on the position of head investigator of her family's business--Baylor Investigative Agency. A position her sister, Nevada, held until she married into another House. The firm specializes in small-time investigations, but lately, since their house was declared, a new clientele has emerged with more difficult and magically inclined cases. Catalina's just been asked by Augustine for a favor. He wants her to help him stop Ragnar Etterson, a Prime, from committing suicide by jumping off the top of a building. Catalina has a talent which has deemed her a siren because she can call people to her and make them love and become obsessed with her to a disturbing level. That means once she unleashes her power Ragnar will do anything she asks just to please her. The question is, can she reach him in time?

Two days ago, Ragnar's mother and sister died in a fire. He is not taking the loss well. What Catalina has yet to discover is that the deaths are very suspicious, and are most likely the result of a feud between houses. When she realizes which family Ragnar is a part of, she'll become embroiled in something that could get her and her family killed. The Baylors owe Ragnar's family a debt and will do all they can to get down to the bottom of what happened, and do all they can to keep the two remaining siblings safe.
This is the fourth book (fifth story--there is a novella, Diamond Fire, you should also read) of the Hidden Legacy series. I highly recommend you don't jump in the deep end with this one if you've not read the previous books. There is a lot of history between characters as well as family dynamics from the previous stories that will be missed if you do. You'll most likely feel a bit lost. Plus, the other stories endear you to the Baylor's because you'll know what they've been through, what they've dealt with, and how far they've come. Additionally, you'll miss out on seeing each of the Baylor family, especially Catalina in this book, come into their own because you won't have witnessed their transformations. At the very least, read the novella. It is not to be missed, and gives you an idea of what you're in for. Side Note: If you haven't read the novella, but have read the first three books, read the novella. It gives you a frame of reference as to why and how Catalina changed so much.

Usually when a series changes main characters after having several books I tend to get upset. That was not the case with this one. Perhaps this had something to do with the novella, Diamond Fire, where Nevada voices the prologue, but Catalina voices the rest of the novella. All I know is that I was all in from the beginning, and loved seeing how Catalina had become a strong and confident young woman. While she is still finding her footing, the expression, "You've come a long way baby!" whispered in my head. She understands what she's up against and will do what she needs to to accomplish it. Family is everything to her, and she'd do anything for them even if that means selling a bit of her soul.

Alessandro Sagredo was a real surprise. While there was no doubt he'd be Catalina's love interest, he was a twist I never saw coming. He is so very different from who I knew him to be, or rather thought I knew him to be. Everything I thought I knew about him was wrong. I loved learning a little of his back story, and look forward to learning even more about him. I loved how he always had Catalina's back and he's so much more than just a pretty face. We quickly learn, he's a multifaceted character with many secrets and layers.

The mystery of what happened to Sigourney Etterson and her daughter kept me glued to the pages from start to finish. There were twists and surprises at every turn. The story had depth and layers to it which Catalina had to uncover one secret at a time in order to unravel the mystery of it all. Drama, suspense, and questions abound as what is being hidden comes to light.

I couldn't help but give this story 5 out of 5 roses. The world the writing team of Ilona Andrews has created is fun, complex, complicated, and dangerous on a grand scale. The mystery kept me guessing but unable to solve whodunit until all was revealed. I love when that happens. I enjoyed the romance that is slowly blossoming between Alessandro and Catalina. I loved how the Baylor women make their men work for their favor. I also loved how almost everything isn't all what it first appears to be. It's like one giant puzzle box that once one puzzle unfolds, another is unearthed. On the Lisarenee Romance Scale, this one earned a BLUSH rating--at the beginning stages of romance where something is just starting to be stirred. Like many urban fantasy stories, this romance will take its time to increase in intensity and come to full bloom, and I can't wait for when it does. I HIGHLY recommend this series. I love where Ilona Andrews is taking us! It was so good.

Order of the Hidden Legacy series:

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