Monday, June 24, 2019

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

Title: Project Duchess (Duke Dynasty)
Classification: Adult Fiction
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. 

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