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:
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