Monday, June 24, 2019

Early Review of Project Duchess (Duke Dynasty #1) by Sabrina Jeffries

Title: Project Duchess (Duke Dynasty)
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Duke Dynasty (Book 1)
Format: Paperback; 400 pages
Publisher: Zebra (June 25, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1420148559
ISBN-13: 978-1420148558
Author's Website:
Notes: I received an eARC loan from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way affected my rating.

The Dowager Duchess of Armitage has just lost her third husband, and is dealing with the loss in the way she knows how, by focusing on a pet project as she works through the pain. Her current project is her niece, the Honorable Miss Beatrice Wolfe. At six and twenty many would say she's firmly on the shelf, but Beatrice's never had a season, and Her Grace is determined to give her one.

Beatrice Wolfe is not intimidated by privileged or entitled men. She's been surrounded by them her whole life. When she meets her aunt Lydia's eldest child, Fletcher Pryde, the 5th Duke of Greycourt (who is said to be richer than God and rumored to run a secret cabal of licentious bachelors) she gives as good as she gets. Not used to being put in his place, Grey finds himself both intrigued and amused by the young woman who can hold her own against him.

The Duke of Greycourt, 'Grey" to his friends, knew one day he'd marry but had decided long ago that love wouldn't enter into the equation of his marriage. He decided he'd marry a sensible woman who'd be content with having a wealthy dukedom at her disposal with no hopes or sentiment for any of that romantic nonsense some young women longed for. He had learned the hard way to guard his heart. When he meets Bea, however, his world starts to tilt on its once perpendicular axis. She he wasn't expecting.
This is the first book in a wonderful new series by one of my favorite authors, Sabrina Jeffries. The series centers around the Dowager Duchess of Armitage's family. She's been married to three Dukes and has given birth to five children, three of which are presently Dukes. Her most recent husband's death is suspicious. Her son, Sheridan, suspects foul play was involved. The main questions that come to mind are who did it and why? But another question that quickly surfaces is was Maurice's brother, uncle Armie, the Duke prior to Maurice taking the title, also a victim? Their deaths were mere months apart, and finding out that answer becomes all the more grave since Sheridan could be the murderer's next victim. Dun dun dunnnnnn... Oh, how I love the drama of it all. *smirk*

Bea and Grey meet at Maurice's funeral. On the surface, Bea and Grey seem very different, but once you scratch the surface, you'll start to notice some parallels. Their childhood back stories hold some similarities. Each was raised by an uncle who didn't have their best interest at heart. While Bea's parents died, Grey was separated from his family for years due to them living in Prussia and the war making travel difficult. Each had to grow up quickly and had no one to rely on but themselves. While Bea did have her brother, Joshua, he soon left for war leaving her to her own devices. He had had no clue as to what was happening or he'd have probably never have left. While Grey didn't have any siblings of his own living with him, he did have his cousin, Vanessa, who made life bearable. As it was her parents, however, who were the ones making his life difficult, he'd never confided the full extent of what they were doing.

I loved the attraction between Bea and Grey which was apparent from their first meeting. The chemistry between them was electrifying and lit up the pages making for a most enjoyable read. What made the romance so difficult was that Sheridan suspected Joshua, Bea's brother, might be the murderer. He is in the immediate line of succession for the family dukedom and that makes him a prime suspect. Sheridan puts Grey in the awkward position of investigating Joshua. Not exactly the kind of position one wants to be in when trying to win a woman over. Plus, if Joshua is the murderer that makes one wonder if Bea is somehow involved in the whole scheme, and with that the plot thickens.

I couldn't help but give this one 5 out of 5 roses. I loved the chemistry, drama, and underlying murder mystery that was nicely packaged in this delightful romance. The characters were fun and multifaceted in a way which makes you want to get to know them better. I loved watching Grey fall for Bea while Bea kept questioning his motives, but could never quite stop herself from falling for him as well. I have to admit, I'm thinking maybe the series name should have been 'All in the Family' as it seems that members of this very unique and diverse family seem to be falling for one another left and right. I absolutely loved the fun and complicated family structure Ms. Jeffries created. It's the only first in a series book I've ever read that truly needed a family tree attached, which the author graciously provided. 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. If you're looking for a book to keep you entertained, you may want to pick this one up.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Early Review of The Highland Earl (Lords of the Highlands #6) by Amy Jarecki

Title: The Highland Earl
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Lords of the Highlands (Book 6)
Format: Paperback; 384 pages
Publisher: Forever (June 25, 2019)
ISBN-10: 153871602X
ISBN-13: 978-1538716021
Author's Website:
Notes: I received an ARC from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way affected my review.

Lady Evelyn Pierrepont doesn't see eye to eye with her father or most nobles. She fancies herself a Jacobite spy and passes information, mostly from her father who corresponds regularly with the Queen, to two gentleman acquaintances. When John Erskine, the Earl of Mar, who happens to be the Secretary of State for Scotland as well as part of the Queen's cabinet makes his interest in her known, she decides marrying him would be another way for her to access information for her cause. What she doesn't figure into the equation is that John is a very good looking man, and her attraction for him is undeniable. She, however, is convinced she'll never fall for the man...

The Earl of Mar is a widower and vows never to fall in love again, but needs a mother figure to look after his two young sons. His family estate is in sizable debt so he needs to marry someone with a substantial dowry who can not only pay off those debts, but provide enough to bring about improvements. When he meets Evelyn he thinks he's found the perfect wife. Not only can she fulfill his two requirements, but she's so different from his first wife, whom he loved. that he thinks falling in love with her will never happen...

Rule of the day: Never say never.
This is the fifth book of the Lords of the Highlands series and you can read it as a standalone and not feel lost. This was the first book I've read of the series, and I'm curious as to how the books are connected. I may need to do some investigating on my part by reading a book or two more of the series because I truly loved the hero of this story, and it piqued my interest in the others.

I confess, I didn't really become engaged in this story until over halfway into the book. Things seemed kind of dicey between John and Evelyn at the beginning. I mean lets face it, neither was confessing love here, and marrying for what the other can bring to the table isn't exactly romantic. Sparks were flying from the get-go, but whether they'd fan out or ignite into something more seemed rather questionable.

Evelyn starts off seeming to be a smart, strong woman who is attempting to have a hand in her own destiny. To me it immediately became clear she was playing with fire. She's a spy who is very opinionated, rather naive, and quick to judge others. Around halfway through the book an incident proves the 'fire' she's been playing with is a bit too hot for her to handle, and brings into question, at least for me, just how intelligent she actually is. John comes to her rescue, but the potential cost to him and his family to do so is quite steep, and it took quite a bit for Evelyn to win John and me, for that matter, over after that.

John is a father of two young boys and is trying to walk the line between duty, country, and what he believes is right. Politics, at the moment, are a muddled mess and loyalty to the Queen can come into question at the drop of a hat. The Queen's hold on the country is debatable as James is the rightful heir, but Parliament has declared his claim void because according to them he abandoned the throne when he went into exile. Some believe the Queen's reign is not legitimate, while others believe it is. Being on the wrong side of that argument could get you and your family killed, and John is doing his best to keep his feelings on the subject to himself and his family out of harm's way.

Overall, I gave this one 3 1/2 out of 5 roses. It was chocked full of drama, history, and suspense which I absolutely adored. While I loved John from nearly the start, Evelyn had to work at winning me over. Her character disappointed me a bit, and I wished she'd been a bit more cautious in her choices at the beginning. I also wish she hadn't needed a man to save her, but she totally did. Perhaps if I'd read the previous books in the series I'd have been more attached to her from the start, but I had nothing to reference in that respect. I admit the chemistry between these two was phenomenal, and I enjoyed watching them learn to trust and eventually love one another, but that, in my humble opinion, took a little too long in coming. 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 Lords of the Highlands series:

Monday, June 17, 2019

The Lemon Sisters (Wildstone, #3) by Jill Shalvis

Title: The Lemon Sisters: A Novel
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Format: Paperback; 400 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 18, 2019)
ISBN-10: 0062741926
ISBN-13: 978-0062741929
Author's Website:
Notes: I received an eARC loan from the author for review purposes. This in no way affected my review.

Brooke Lemon and her sister had always been close, until they weren't. That started about seven years ago after Brooke was involved in an accident that almost killed her. She pulled away from family and friends to deal with all that had happened. Some of which she's kept to herself, and no one knows about. While her family noticed the change, they had become busy with their own lives and one year turned into another followed by another until nearly seven years had passed. When Brooke's sister Mindy unexpectedly shows up on her doorstep on the verge of a nervous breakdown, the distance between the two will be brought to light, and Brooke will realize all she's missed. She'll also learn when life hands you lemons you shouldn't wallow in the sourness of it all, instead use what's around you and make lemonade or, in Brooke's case, lemon bread.
One of the things I love about Jill Shalvis' novels is that they are rooted in family. Whether that family is by blood or by choice, it doesn't matter. Family, whether it's obvious or not, make up the building blocks that set her books' foundations and, I believe, is part of the secret to her success. That and her swoon worthy characters who are loyal but flawed in a way that makes the two main characters perfect, in all their imperfections, for each other.

This is the third novel in the Wildstone series, and it can be read as a standalone. The books in the series are connected through association with the small town of Wildstone, and not so much by the individuals who live there. I've read the first two stories, and if the characters from those books are present, their role is minor enough that I didn't make the connection.

Brooke is a complicated character suffering from survivor's guilt. The helicopter accident left her with both physical and emotional scars. The woman who once went to great lengths to get that perfect picture became one who is scared of heights and suffers from a bad case of vertigo every time she attempts to get into an airplane. She desperately wants her former life back, but it might just not be the cards for her. Will she need to reinvent herself or can she overcome her fears? Those are the questions she's been considering.

Mindy, is Brooke's older sister and is afraid her marriage may be on the rocks. Her husband is working long hours and she worries he may be having an affair. Part of her fears stems from the fact that after having three kids she knows she's doesn't look as she once did, and is self conscious about her weight gain. Add in the fact a mother's job is never done and you've got the recipe for a major melt down as Mindy is in desperate need of a little "me" time. Hence, the sisters decide to swap lives for a week which will force Brooke to confront her inner turmoil and the man she left behind--Garrett.

I could't help but give this one 5 out 5 roses. I loved the dynamics of Brooke and her sister's relationship. I enjoyed how each needed the other's help, whether they realized it or not, and neither hesitated to have the other's back. Plus, I loved the relationship between Brooke and Garrett, and how they worked through their issues from the past. I also enjoyed the little side story between Mindy and Linc which added an extra dose of romance to an already sweet story. 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 Wildstone series:

Novella that can be read between Lost and Found Sisters and Rainy Day Friends:

Monday, June 10, 2019

Early Review of The Starter Wife by Nina Laurin

Title: The Starter Wife
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Format: Paperback; 352 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (June 11, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1538715716
ISBN-13: 978-1538715710
Author's Website:
Notes: I received an ARC from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way affected my review.

Claire Wescott has been married to her husband Byron for a little over two years, and it would seem the honeymoon is over. Lately, he's been acting cold towards her and is working all kinds of crazy hours. But the kicker is he barely touches her which is very unlike the first year they were married when they could hardly keep their hands off one another. When Claire married Byron she knew his first wife had committed suicide. What she didn't know is that he'd been investigated as a person of interest in her death before it was ruled a suicide. Colleen's body has never been found. When Claire receives a strange and mysterious email followed by a call from someone claiming to be Colleen she starts to wonder is she going crazy? Especially after the email she just opened disappears and there is no way to trace the phone call she received. As she starts to lose chunks of time and finds herself blacking out more and more, she starts to wonder what is happening? Is she going crazy or is someone messing with her head, and if so, for what purpose?
This is the first book I've read by Nina Laurin and I'm sure it will not be my last. From the very beginning, starting in the prologue, we're introduced to a full blown psycho, and that's when the questions begin. Who is stalking Byron and his wife? The twists and turns are seemingly endless and the story is reminiscent of other psychological thrillers such as 'Gone Girl', 'Single White Female', and 'Fatal Attraction'. Trying to sort through all the information we're given in order to figure out the who and the why is not easy. I kept trying to solve the mystery before the author unraveled the secrets she was keeping, but couldn't put all the pieces together until the writer wished it. Ms. Laurin did an excellent job of fitting a whole lot of crazy into such a small package.

Byron is in his late forties, but looks younger. He's a beloved professor at Mansfield College who lost his wife nearly 10 years ago under slightly suspicious circumstances. Even though he's remarried, he's kept the house that he and his first wife lived in pretty much the way it was when she was alive. Is this out of sheer laziness, a sense of devotion he still holds for his late wife, or is there another reason? Could something be off with the man?

Claire is twenty years younger than Byron and is an aspiring writer, but so far no publishers have accepted her first manuscript. She loves her husband and desperately wants to start a family with him, but so far nothing is working out as she hoped. She is fighting to save her marriage but, despite her best efforts, it appears to be falling apart. She's trying to understand what is going on with Byron, whom she believes may be having an affair, but has no clue how to get through to him. She's hitting roadblocks at every turn in regards to her hopes and dreams. When she gets an email that mysteriously disappears upon closure followed by a phone call from an unlisted number, each of which suggest they are from Colleen, Byron's first wife, she wonders if she's going crazy because everyone know she's dead, right?

Overall, I gave this one 4 1/2 out of 5 roses. This was such an entertaining and well planned read. The story kept my attention from the first chapter to the last, and was overflowing with suspense while I was bubbling with unanswered questions My mind was racing a mile a minute trying to keep up with everything because there were plenty of twists and turns to make you scratch your head and wonder what the heck was happening? There was a bit of an 'Ick!' factor to the prologue, but I loved the story as a whole. This was by no means a romance, so I'm foregoing my romance rating. I, for one, enjoyed the ride, and would definitely recommend this one to anyone who enjoys psychological suspense novels. It was very well done.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Early Review of Fix Her Up (Hot and Hammered #1) by Tessa Bailey

Title: Fix Her Up: A Novel
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Avon (June 11, 2019)
ISBN-10: 0062872834
ISBN-13: 978-0062872838
Author's Website:
Notes: I received an eARC loan from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way affected my review.

Travis Ford realized his dream of becoming a major league baseball player, but shortly after being a contender for the Rookie of the Year, he experienced an injury that would end his career.  For the past month or so he's been wallowing in self pity and drowning his sorrows in drink. When Georgie decides to pay him a visit, because she can't believe the picture her brother has painted, she does what she does best, makes a pest of herself until he finally realizes it's time to dust himself off and get back in the game of life.

Georgette 'Georgie' Castle has had a crush on her brother's best friend, Travis, since she was little. When she sees how low the man has sunk she feels the need to help him see things are not as dire as he thinks. She also realizes that neither Travis, or anyone else for that matter, will ever take her seriously as a potential girlfriend, business woman, etc unless she makes some drastic changes. When she opens up to her friends about the turmoil in her life, she gains their support and they gain hers. Together they'll start a club for women to help fix their lives by reaching their goals and ultimately obtaining what they want.
This was a sweet, fun, and sexy little romance that left me with a smile on my face and a little extra warmth in my heart. Tessa Bailey is quickly becoming one of my favorite contemporary romance authors. The heat, steam, and sheer chemistry between Travis and Georgie permeates the pages, practically singeing your fingers every time you turn or swipe to the next the page. The sexual tension and attraction keep building until the moment neither can deny their true feelings for the other. There is definitely some swoonworthy scenes in this one.

Georgie is the youngest in the Castle family, and feels a little like the afterthought of the family. I kind of got the impression she was an unexpected surprise, although that is never stated, because she feels she's never found her place within the family. Almost as if the family was already complete by the time she came into the picture. In her quest to get attention as a child, she did whatever it took to make them laugh and eventually was seen as the family clown. She decided to take that consensus and roll with it using the skills she'd honed at home to work as an actual clown for birthday parties and the like. She used the money she made from her one woman business to help pay her way through college. There she earned a business degree she's never actually put to use. Lately, she's not been satisfied with her lot in life. Her dating prospects are null, her family tends to overlook her, and she worries about her business. After one too many disappointments and oversights by those around her she realizes she wants and deserves more. With some encouragement from her friends she realizes she wants to be taken seriously, she wants to be seen, and she wants to expand her business. If she can get Travis to look her way... Well, that would be the icing on the proverbial birthday cake. 

Travis had a much different childhood than Georgie. He grew up in the middle of a parental tug of war. Each parent using him to hurt the other. The Castle family was where he found refuge and solace. A place where he could find normalcy and affection as they treated him like family. As a kid he dreamed of becoming a baseball player for a major league team. He made that dream a reality only to have it taken away before he'd gotten the chance to make his mark on the game. He's at a crossroads and doesn't know what to do next with his life. He feels like a failure and can't seem to drag himself out of his sorrow. Enter Georgie Castle, his best friend's annoying little sister, whom he soon realizes isn't so little any more.  

I couldn't help but give this one 5 out of 5 roses. I loved how Georgie made Travis suck it up and deal. I liked how her only ulterior motive in doing so was to help him get back on his feet. I also loved how she decided to take charge of her own life, and how people noticed when she did--especially Travis. I loved the humor, and while there where a couple of scenes worthy of an eye roll or two they made me laugh and chuckle so much I couldn't fault them. The heat in this one is off the charts and I loved how the author added a healthy dose of emotional depth to the novel by giving legitimate reasons ,via backstory glimpses, as to why they each ended up the way they did. On the Lisarenee Rating Scale, this one earned a SHOWER rating--a cold shower is necessary (need I say more?). Some books should come with a warning - make sure your significant other is handy or your shower is in working order. lol I HIGHLY recommend this one. 

Monday, May 27, 2019

Early Review of A Rogue by Night (The Devils of Dover #3) by Kelly Bowen

Title: A Rogue by Night
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical Romance.
Series: The Devils of Dover (Book 3)
Format: Paperback; 368 pages
Publisher: Forever (May 28, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1478918624
ISBN-13: 978-1478918622
Author's Website:
Notes:  I received an eARC loan of the book from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way affected my review.

Sir Harland Hayward, is a very multifaceted man. A baron by birth, a doctor by trade, and a smuggler-- not by choice but out of necessity. The latter being something few people know, and he'll do what he can to keep it that way. He's been doing his darnedest to keep his family financially stable in ways that could cost him everything. The fewer who know about it the better.

Miss Katherine Wright has recently come home. Her brother and father are both smugglers by trade, and when her brother gets shot during his latest run she finds herself stitching him up. When the good doctor unexpectedly shows up to help, as if on cue, Katherine immediately goes on high alert. 'Rich men, titled men did not labor in such professions. They did not lower themselves to toil in a field hallmarked by disease and blood and gore. They didn't spend time worrying about people who did not possess an address west of Haymarket, London. And they certainly didn't prowl the back roads of Dover on a night like this when the air was heavy with the promise of rain.' In other words, something doesn't add up about the Baron. and she intends to find out what. Especially as she steps back into the family business of smuggling one last time.
This is the third novel of The Devils of Dover series. You could read it as a standalone, but I don't recommend it. Harland Hayward's story has been woven into the fabric of this series since the very beginning. His sister Clara marries August Fulkner, the twelfth Duke of Holloway, in 'A Duke in the Night'. Likewise, his sister Rose marries Eli Dawes, Earl of Rivers, in 'Last Night with the Earl'. In each of those two novels you'll garner insight into Harland's character, and tidbits into what makes him tick. Family means everything to him and he's loyal to a fault, but despite that, he's haunted with regret. His first marriage all but killed him and rendered him emotionally unavailable.

Katherine Wright is like no woman Harland Hayward has ever met. She's smart, strong, and is haunted by a few ghosts of her own. Using her expertise as a midwife on the field she learned from others and by doing. All the while mastering and obtaining more and more skills and knowledge. A talented surgeon based on skill, but deemed only a lowly midwife due to her gender, she's rather extraordinary. During her years with the military she excelled at her craft and became as good, if not better, than any man who called himself surgeon during the war. Lured into following a man into war by the promise of marriage, she emerged husbandless with emotional scars, and a loathing and distrust for any man carrying a title.

I adored how this couple had the courage to each take a leap of faith and give in to their mutual attraction. I liked how they learned to trust one another after being so deeply hurt in their previous relationships. I'll admit it, I'm a sucker for a happy ending when someone totally deserves it, and this one totally delivered. Add in the fact that Katherine Wright was a woman ahead of her times and Harland admired her for it, and I couldn't help but love this story.

As you can probably already guess, I gave this one 5 out of 5 roses. I loved the drama, suspense, and twists and turns that happened along the way. What I loved the most, however, were the two main characters and all the little cracks and imperfections that made them perfect and deserving of one another. While there may not have been many female surgeons during this time period, I can't help but feel if a woman had the brains and drive to acquire the skills they would somehow find a way to practice regardless as to whether or not they had a piece of paper to prove it. Or perhaps they'd go the route of Elizabeth Blackwell who studied in the US and later came back to England to open a medical college where woman could learn and practice. She also was the first woman to have her name entered on the Medical Register of the United Kingdom in 1861, thereby, breaking down the barriers for other women to enter the field. 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.

Order of The Devils of Dover series:

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Early Review of The Rogue of Fifth Avenue (Uptown Girls, #1) by Joanna Shupe

Title: The Rogue of Fifth Avenue: Uptown Girls
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Uptown Girls
Format: Paperback; 400 pages
Publisher: Avon (May 28, 2019)
ISBN-10: 006290681X
ISBN-13: 978-0062906816
Author's Website:
Notes: I received an eARC loan of the book from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way affected my rating. Any and all quotes used are subject to change and will need to be checked against the final version as they were taking from an Advanced Reader Copy.

Frank Tripp is a self-made man who portrays himself as a New York blue blood, born and bred. Rising up out of one of New York's poorest neighborhoods he's a force to be reckoned within a courtroom. Said to be persuasive enough to sell a drowning man water, he's got the brains to know how to get what he wants and the drive to do whatever it takes to accomplish it. For the past three months his attention has been captured by one of his wealthiest and most influential client's daughter. Something he knows is not healthy or wise and could cost him everything. There's just something about Maime that draws him to her and sparks something inside him he's never experienced before--a burning obsession--that he's doing his best to ignore...

At first glance Marion 'Mamie' Greene appears to be like any other spoiled beautiful debutante, but there's more to her than meets the eye. She's not concerned 'with dance cards, matrimonial prospects and other society nonsense. ' She speaks her mind and lets 'nothing—and no one—get in her way of accomplishing her goal.' She's smart, funny, insightful, and sees far more than one would think. She also detests her father's attorney, Frank Tripp, because he's a little too smooth and  polished and the one man she can't figure out. The latter of which also intrigues her, but she'll never admit it. The man is overindulged--always getting what he wants, with everyone rushing to do his bidding the moment an order or request leaves his lips. Pair that with the fact he's absurdly good looking, charming, and flirts shamelessly with every woman he encounters while currying favor with the men, and she can't help but dislike the fellow.

For the past year Maime's adopted several families whom she's been giving a hand up. Seeing herself as something of a modern day Robin Hood, she's not above pick pocketing from society's elite to give to those more monetarily challenged. She also uses her considerable skill at the card table to earn coin to aid that endeavor. All things, which if discovered, could ruin her reputation and possibly land her in jail. When Tripp finds her frequenting a gaming hell one too many times in the tenderloin district he can't seem to help himself from using that to his advantage...

'She blinked. “You are blackmailing me into having dinner with you?” 

“Yes, it appears that I am.”

 “Even for you, Tripp, this is a new low. I won’t do it.” 

“You most definitely will.” His eyes darted toward her mouth before he captured her stare once more. “I get what I want, Mamie. Never forget it.”'

Sometimes life doesn't go as one expects, and something as seemingly innocent as a dinner date can change everything...
If you've never read one of Ms. Shupe's stories, you're in for a real treat. She tends to set her stories during the exciting years when America, and New York in particular, were first coming into their own. A time when everything was changing and slowly evolving into the place we now know and love. This series is set in the 1890's when Carnegie Hall has just been built, child labor laws are all but nonexistent, and women still have yet to acquire the right to vote. An era when there is a great divide between how the upper and lower classes of New York society live, and working conditions at factories are atrocious and outright dangerous.  A time when corruption in the police department runs rampant and justice is not always served. In other words, it's a great period to use for the backdrop of a story.

It is during this prosperous and tumultuous time in American history that the Greene sisters find themselves living.  Deemed "Knickerbocker princesses" they are part of Manhattan's elite and the only heirs of their father's--one of New York's most influential and wealthiest men--fortune. Marion (aka Maime) is the eldest of these three fictitious sisters to whom the Uptown Girls series centers around, and is said to be the most responsible. Perhaps the reason for this lies in the fact she's been promised since birth to marry the son of one of her father's oldest and dearest friends. Resigned, but not exactly delighted or enthusiastic about her fate, she's set out to help other woman who are less fortunate then herself and are struggling to take care of their children and make ends meet. Woman during this time had very few rights or options, but change is in the air. This story explores that world in an interesting and unique way that kept my attention from the first page until the very last, all the while reminding me just how lucky we are to live in the time in which we do. The Greene sisters appear to want to make a difference in the world, and I look forward to getting to know them and  reading each and every one of their stories.

Frank Tripp is a multifaceted character that I ended up loving, but not from the very start. His background story gradually endeared him to me as we slowly got insight into his past. He's a very private individual with secrets he hopes will never be revealed. I liked seeing him grow as a person and face his past, but I loved that it was Maime who made him him aspire to be a better person and, in a way, face his demons.

Maime is a strong and compassionate woman who comes from a loving family. She's her father's favorite, but he believes he knows what's best for her and her sisters.  As the eldest she's expected to marry well, and her father wants only the best for her and believes by selecting Maime's husband for her he's ensuring just that. While we get a glimpse into the family dynamic of the Greene household, I kind of wish we'd gotten a bit more. All three sisters, from what we've heard and seen in this first book, appear to be exceptional individuals and that usually implies at least one, if not both, parents are too. I'd love to see what shaped these three individuals into the woman we are presented with. Perhaps we'll get a better look into this family within the next two books. I, for one, am crossing my fingers and hoping.

I couldn't help but give this one 5 out of 5 roses. I adored this couple and the feeling that they were well matched. They brought out the best in one another while keeping each other on their toes. They surprised each other at every turn--each being nothing like they'd first imagined the other to be. I loved the grand gesture at the end, and the mention of one of America's most prominent political figures at the time. See if you can spot who I'm talking about. The story was filled with plenty of drama, romance, and history. A combination I very much enjoyed. 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 one is going on my keeper shelf. I absolutely loved it.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Anything But a Duke (Duke's Den #2) by Christy Carlyle

Title: Anything But a Duke
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Duke's Den (Book 2)
Format: Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Avon (April 30, 2019)
ISBN-10: 006285397X
ISBN-13: 978-0062853974
Author's Website:
Notes: I received an eARC loan from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way affected by review. Also, as I read an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of the book, the quotes I used are subject to change.

"Spinster. Alone. Aberration." Those were all words "polite" society had for Diana Ashby.
Diana 'felt an ever-present hunger. An ambition that she knew most thought improper for a lady. Yet it was a compulsion she couldn't deny. Her ideas were good and she longed to prove herself to those who would scoff at a woman inventor.'

While Diana's family allowed her tinkering, they weren't exactly supportive of her pastime. "A waste of time. It's what her mother called all the hours she spent in her workshop rather that attending to the social calendar. But just because she couldn't study at university like her brother and would never be asked to speak at the Royal Society as her father had, that didn't mean her inventions weren't worthwhile." She was determined she and her inventions would make a difference.

Then one day while she was on her way to a scientific lecture Diana came across a man being attacked by footpads. Not one to cower at such a situation, as most women in her position would, she charged the robbers and frightened the men away possibly saving the man's life. Little did she know he'd one day change her life.

Aidan Iverson may not be part of the ton, but he managed to put his stamp on London society. "The highest of London society knew his name, even if they didn't accept him into their circles. His wealth and instinct for profitable investments had earned him infamy. (...)Every penny and pound he possessed, he'd earned. On his own. He'd never taken a loan. He didn't Incur debts. He had business partners, but he never curried favored. Fair transactions. An equal give and take. That's how he lived his life."

That's why when a woman, whose name he didn't know, had saved him it ate at him. He owed this woman a debt and that did not sit well with him. Even more disturbing was the fact he'd found her fascinating, beguiling, and attractive all at once which was probably why he hadn't had the sense to get her name. In the year since their chance encounter he'd thought about her often, but their paths had never crossed until now...

'Forgive me, miss. I didn't intend--" 

"I know!" Diana drew in a shaky breath to keep from barking some more. Her nerves were frayed, and she still hadn't found her notes. "I think it will be all right."

When he stood, the man cast a long shadow, blotting out the light from the colored-glass dome overhead. Diana tipped her head to get a look at him.

Heat flooded her cheeks as she stared.

The stranger. (...)

"You," he said wonderingly. '

This was the second book in the Duke's Den series and it can definitely be read as a standalone. Be aware, however, if the first book is as appealing as this one was you're definitely going to want to get your hands on a copy of it. I was utterly taken in by this one.

Diana is exactly the type of heroine I adore. She's smart, determined, and a woman ahead of her time. I loved the fact that she was an inventor and was trying to live life on her own terms, even if she was on the verge of giving in to her mother's desire for her to settle down and marry. I liked how when most women of her time would be meek, she speaks her mind and tells it like it is. I also enjoyed the reactions she provoked in others and the way Aidan dealt with her. He had a hard time saying no to her.

Aidan was perhaps too good to be true, but I loved him nonetheless. He's smart, good looking, loyal and honest. Given his background, being abandoned at a workhouse as a child, it's surprising he turned out so well. Perhaps that is why he isn't a stickler for society's dictates. I was rather charmed by how when most men were appalled and put off by the way Diana conveyed herself he was fascinated and intrigued. She wasn't someone whom he'd become easily bored with as she surprised him at every turn. Add in the fact he seemed the perfect match for her, and I could do nothing less than love this story.

I couldn't help but give this one 5 out of 5 roses. It left me smiling for days. The characters were engaging. the story was unique, and the romance was swoon worthy and fun. I loved Diana's family and the Shark Tank setup the author incorporated into the novel. I also loved how these two met and slowly fell in love. 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 now need to get a copy of A Duke Changes Everything, the first book in the Duke's Den series.

Order of the Duke's Den series:

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The DNA of You and Me by Andrea Rothman

Title: The DNA of You and Me: A Novel
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Format: Hardcover; 256 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (March 12, 2019)
ISBN-10: 0062857819
ISBN-13: 978-0062857811
Author's Website:
Notes: I received a copy of the book from the publisher. This in no way affected my rating. 

'A gene is a story, with a beginning, middle, and end. It is a long and finite sequence of DNA made up of ATGC nucleotides. The beginning of every gene is ATG, the universal ending TAG, or TAA, or TGA. But what lies in between the beginning and the end is a different for each gene, and encoded in these differences are protein molecules with wide ranging functions.'

Nearly 13 years ago Emily Apell was recruited by McKinnon Lab at the American University of Science Research (AUSR) to research where the the sense of smell comes from. She had lofty ambitions for the future. 'In the brain there's a map of smell. Odors are represented in a pear shaped structure behind the nose called the olfactory bulb, at spatially defined locations that light up in response to smoke, vanilla, grass....' No one knows how the map of smell was formed, but genes are believed to play a key role in guiding olfactory axons to their targets. Emily hoped to uncover the gene associated with the process, but finding it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Such a discovery would launch her or any scientist's career.

An allergy to grass is what piqued her interest in the science behind our sense of smell. She spent most of her childhood indoors, alone, never playing with anyone because of her allergy. She's a bona fide recluse. She prefers reading a book and/or working in a lab to fraternizing with other people, and it shows. She's socially awkward.

Working in the area next to Aedan Doherty and his team, she found herself a little envious of the harmonious relationship the group shared. For the first time in forever she wanted to be a part of such a dynamic. As she saw them laughing and joking, she found one person in particular garnered her fancy--Aedan.

This is a story about science and the hard choices we sometimes need to make to achieve our goals and fulfill our destinies.

'At the end of the day science has nothing to do with luck, but with truth, and the truth does not always make one happy.'
I am having a love/hate relationship with this book and at this point I'm unsure where my rating will fall. I guess I'll start writing and see where my feelings take me, and how everything stands at the end. First of all, let me preface this with a note to the author: My thoughts are in no way a reflection of your writing. I think your skills are good, the idea was interesting, the execution was sound, but the ending, in my humble opinion, well, it kind of sucked and it kind of didn't. Ugh! I'm so conflicted!

The publisher marked this one as exploring the "evergreen question of career versus family, the irrational sensibility of love, and whether one can be a loner without a diagnostic label." I'd say most of that is pretty accurate, but they left out one major tidbit of information that I felt was very relevant--this is a toxic relationship. My mommy senses were tingling and I wanted so much to take Emily under my wing and tell her, "No. Just no." I kept wondering if there is a book out there along the same line as ' Girl, Stop Apologizing: A Shame-Free Plan for Embracing and Achieving Your Goals', but perhaps more in the vein of 'Girl, don't apologize for being smart, own who you are, and don't ever agree to be his doormat' that I could recommend.

I've known so many women over the years who have tried to mold themselves into the perfect woman for the guy they like, and it's such a sad thing to see. Whatever their guy likes they now like, and I'm talking in the extreme. They end up denying who they are and losing a tiny part of their souls in the process. While Emily may not have done this consciously or extensively, you do catch a glimmer of her doing it in the story. I also hate it when a woman lets a man walk all over them, and while Emily figuratively invites Aedan to use her as a proverbial doormat, I couldn't help but blame Aeden. The reason being I very much doubt Emily has ever seen a functional, loving relationship, and I doubt she knows how one should be. See, here is where the love/hate thing comes into play. I love that the author captured this sort of relationship, but hate that by the end the main character doesn't grow a backbone and/or grow as an individual from the whole experience. While Emily did eventually stand her ground, she never seems to realize she deserved better. There is so much material in this that could spark a great book club discussion or motivate someone into writing a self help book on this phenomena. 

I also felt perhaps the book should have been titled The DNA BETWEEN You and Me. Here's my reasoning, what brings Aeden and Emily together and ultimately comes between them is their quest to find the DNA associated with smell. Justin, the head of the lab brought Emily on to light a fire under Aeden and his team. Scientists can be a bit competitive and proprietary when it comes to new discoveries. Many people are trying to find the next big thing that will earn them recognition and get them into the history books. Sometimes the difference between one person and another getting credit for a discovery is just a few days difference, and as another lab is attempting to find the same gene things are tense. Both Emily and Aeden have very personal reasons for wanting to find the gene. So as Justin, their lab head, pits one against the other things get interesting, awkward, and heated.

After rereading parts of the book, looking at the passages I highlighted, and taking some time to reflect, I've decided to give this one 3 1/2 out of 5 roses. I loved all the science, and while my immediate response was outrage for what happens, upon taking a step back I loved the roller coaster of mixed emotions I felt. Plus, after taking a second look at the beginning and end, I realized time tends to soften things. For close to ten years Emily put her feelings on hold and I kind of felt she wanted answers and/or closure.There is a question posed to her and a response near the end of the book that I didn't notice the first time I read that suggests the possibility. What cinched my rating, however, was this passage, 'Whenever I sit down at a scope to observe the olfactory bulbs of mice made in my lab, I often find myself reflecting on the course of people's lives. I see never endings swerved off their paths, reaching places in the map of smell different from those they were genetically predetermined to read, and I think about destiny, and I ask myself if it exists as such. I get to wondering if there's a single place each one of us is meant to arrive at or if there is no such place, and destiny does not exist: we simply make our way as we go along.' I just loved that. Plus, the ending hints, depending on how you interpret it, there may be a happy ending in Emily's future. I'm forgoing my romance rating because by my definition this really wasn't a romance but rather a cautionary tale, and I still wish the ending had been a little different because, I admit, I love indisputable happy endings.

Monday, April 1, 2019

When a Duchess Says I Do (Rogues to Riches #2) by Grace Burrowes

Title: When a Duchess Says I Do
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Rogues to Riches
Format: Paperback; Length: 385 pages
Publisher: Forever (April 2, 2019)
ISBN-13: 9781538728987
Author's Website:
Notes: I received a copy of the book from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way influenced by review.

Once upon a time a woman saw something she should not and ran away. In the midst of her escape, she came upon a crime in the act of being committed. A man was looking at the wrong edge of a knife with his life flashing before him. Never one to keep her head down in the face of danger, she assessed the situation and raised her gun.

Duncan Wentworth was surveying his estate when he came across a pair of poachers. After a miscalculation on his part, he found himself in a lifer-or-death situation. Saved  by a women who no doubt knew how to use a gun, he assesses the lady to whom he owes his life. By no means a fool, although his current predicament might suggest otherwise, he realizes a few things in quick succession. The woman is a Lady, she is most likely the person inhabiting his gatehouse, and she must be in trouble. So he does what any gentleman would, or at least should, do--he extends to her an offer of hospitality and refuge in the form of a job. 

While he doesn't ask, he can't help wondering who or what is she hiding from?
This was the first book I've read by Ms. Burrowes, but it won't be my last. In fact, I've already read the first book of this series as well as another from a different series. I didn't feel lost when I read the books out of order, nor do I feel you need to read 'My One and Only Duke' before this one. I do, however, encourage you to read 'My One and Only Duke'  at some point because it's really good.

From the first page the author immerses her readers into the world she has created, and I felt transported back in time. It took me a little time to catch my footing and acclimate to the speech and mannerisms associated with the time period, but once I did I sat back and enjoyed the ride. As the tale unwinds, I was pulled deeper and deeper into the story as the characters were brought to life and I came to know them. 

Duncan is a bit different from any man Matilda has encountered. He doesn't seem to mind her intelligence, and where others might find fault with it, he seems to appreciate it. He is an old fashioned gentleman through and through, and what he lacks in charm, he makes up for in loyalty. He's also smarter than he's given credit for because he's also humble. Basically, what you see is what you get with Duncan. As Mathilda comes to know the man through living under his roof and reading his journals, she likes what she sees--a man she admires.

Matilda is a bit of a puzzle that Duncan would love to solve. She's intrigued him from the moment he saw her aiming her gun at the men bent on harming him. She's smart, strong, and is definitely NOT a shrinking violet. He knows next to nothing about who she is, and she seems bent on keeping it that way. Despite that, he'll do everything in his power to keep her safe from whatever she is running from. I rather liked that.

I loved how Matilda is both strong and vulnerable at the same time. If need be, she could look after herself. I loved, however, how Duncan takes her in without question and provides her with a reason to stay by offering her the job of editing and rewriting his sloppily written travel journals. He sees her for who she is, and likes what he sees. I loved how he let her tell him her story in her own time, and didn't try to force the information from her. I thought it amusing that she initially felt the invitation he extended to her came with an underlying threat. As I got to know her, I came to realize that her past experiences with men is what led her to believe this. It's the kind of  behavior she's come to expect from men. They almost always tried to try to control her. Reading Duncan's journals allowed her a deeper understanding of the man, and that was rather smart on Duncan's part.

I couldn't help but give this one 5 out of 5 roses. The characters were multifaceted and the story smartly written. I loved the mystery of what Matilda was running from, and how the relationship between Duncan and Matilda gradually grew into something rare and beautiful. I came away from the story thinking no one else would ever do for either of these two. They were a perfect match. 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. I loved it.

Order of the Rogues to Riches series:

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Hard Loving Cowboy (Crossroads Ranch #3) by A.J. Pine

Title: Hard Loving Cowboy: Includes a bonus novella (Crossroads Ranch)
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Crossroads Ranch (Book 4)
Format: Paperback; 480 pages
Publisher: Forever (March 26, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1538727110
ISBN-13: 978-1538727119
Author's Website:
Notes:  I received a copy of the book from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way affected my opinion.

Walker Everett has spent years drowning his pain and sorrow at the bottom of a bottle. When he finally hits rock bottom he decides to enter rehab, and turn his life around at his brother's request. It's not been easy for the cowboy, but he's been taking it day by day, one sober step at a time. When Violet enters his life, there's something about the warm and intriguing young woman he just can't seem to resist--even though he knows he should. Perhaps it's the way she looks at him, not as a person who's struggled with addiction, but as someone who she could possibly like. But if he tells her his deep dark secret would that change?

Violet Chastain is an impulsive, passionate, and beautiful young woman who enters Walker's life in a whirlwind. After finding out her boyfriend is married, she breaks up with him on the way to a job interview and, in order to pay him back for all the feelings of rage, jealousy, and betrayal that have been boiling up inside her during their ninety-four minute drive, she kisses the first man she sees--Walker.

Walker finds himself at a Crossroads. There's something about Violet that makes him to want more. Inspires him to want to be a better man. The question is can he be?
This is the third book in the Crossroads Ranch series. I rather like the theme the author picked for this series--Crossroads. After reading 'Hard Loving Cowboy' I'm curious as to what crossroads Walker's other brothers faced. Additionally, I like the sense of family you get as you read and I'm dying to know what role Walker played in the previous books. This story can definitely be read as a standalone and you won't feel lost, but you'll probably be left wondering about the previous stories.

Walker has a need to find and/or reinvent himself after so many years of drinking. While his main job is working on the family ranch, he makes beautiful furniture which he sells here and there. He also has a hand in the family winery which to me seems like a bad combination. Once Walker wanted more for himself, now he needs to figure out if those those goals and ambitions have changed or if they remain the same. He also has to prove to himself he can stay sober because if he can't do that, then nothing will change. His attraction to Violet only complicates matters.

Violet was a music major until her mother got sick, and she put her career plans on hold to help her family out. To her family is everything, and she likes the close knit group of Walker's. She was only going to apply for a part time position with the winery, but when she finds out about her boss' marital status she quits faster than you can say cheese, and she finds she needs something a little more permanent. Luckily, she finds full time work. and them some. in San Luis Obispo.

I believe things going on in your life can affect how much you like a book at any given moment. It could be something that happened to you in your past or present, it could be something that happened to someone else, or it could be something you experienced while reading a book or watching a movie that tugged at your heartstrings and touched you emotionally. For me it was watching the latest version of 'A Star is Born'. It was a very sad movie and I kept feeling like a giant rain cloud was hanging over this couple, and I kept worrying that Walker would give in to his addiction. Silly, I know, because this is a bona fide romance, but that movie kept lingering in the back of my head. You see, Walker has a drinking problem and I kept fearing he'd go back to his self destructive ways. When he meets Violet, he's only been sober for 2 months. Pair that with the fact that as the book progresses she seems to be the one thing that inspires him to remain sober, and that is not healthy. It's not until close to three hundred pages into the book that Walker states, "If I'm sober for you or my brothers or Jenna, then what does that mean when none of you are around? If I'm not doing it for me, then I'll drink the first chance I get when I know I won't be caught." That was when I let out a huge sigh of relief, and was able to finally let myself truly enjoy the story.

Personally, I wish the author had started this story further into Walker's rehabilitation, but maybe Ms Pine wanted to clearly make a point. Life has a tendency to happen on its own terms, at it's own pace, in its own time, and sometimes things happen when it's most inconvenient. Perhaps the author wanted to stress the fact Walker had to realize he was the only one who could fix things. That he had to want recovery or it might never stick. Let's face it recovering from an addiction such as alcohol is not easy. A person has to choose not to let alcohol control them and has to choose not to drink it by learning how to manage it. Anyone who can kick this addiction or any other has my utmost respect, and I'd love to ask the author why he or she decided to start this story in the early stages of Walker's recovery. It seems a strange choice.

Overall, I gave this one 3 1/2 out of 5 roses. I liked the story, loved the couple, and adored both their families. There were some twists, hurdles, a lot of sweet moments that made my heart go pitter-patter, and a happy ending. Yay!  I so wish I'd read this one before seeing 'A Star is Born'. I know I would have enjoyed it even more. 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 Crossroads Ranch series:

Novellas associated with the Crossroads Ranch series:
(To be read after Second Chance Cowboy)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...