Romantic Reads · stuff I read

Say Yes to the Duke by Eloisa James (The Wildes of Lindow Castle #5)

42448315Summary from Goodreads:
A shy wallflower meets her dream man—or does she?—in the next book in New York Times bestselling author Eloisa James’ Wildes of Lindow series.

Miss Viola Astley is so painfully shy that she’s horrified by the mere idea of dancing with a stranger; her upcoming London debut feels like a nightmare.

So she’s overjoyed to meet handsome, quiet vicar with no interest in polite society — but just when she catches his attention, her reputation is compromised by a duke.

Devin Lucas Augustus Elstan, Duke of Wynter, will stop at nothing to marry Viola, including marrying a woman whom he believes to be in love with another man.

A vicar, no less.

Devin knows he’s no saint, but he’s used to conquest, and he’s determined to win Viola’s heart.

Viola has already said Yes to his proposal, but now he wants her unruly heart…and he won’t accept No for an answer.

Say Yes to the Duke has an almost completely internal plot. Viola, who has awful social anxiety (occasionally bad enough to involve vomiting so she has delayed her debut as much as possible), has fallen in puppy love with the new and very attractive vicar on the Lindow estate, probably because he’s the safest non-related male around. Never mind that he’s got a (terrible) fiancee and potentially equally awful mother-in-law in tow. She also – unfortunately, or fortunately – overhears the Duke of Wynter cold-bloodedly discussing how he would rather propose to her sister Joan (he has “reasons,” they aren’t great). Viola gets up the nerve to tell him off, which makes her immediately intriguing to him. So Wynter sets about trying to engage her interest in him and not the vicar – which is going fairly well until they are caught kissing behind a closed door (at the vicarage no less, because Wynter has decided to lure the vicar back to his own parish). Marriage by special license! But will Viola and Wynter fall in love?

This story is quiet and sweet and delicious. Sometimes, I just really need a book where nothing untoward happens – there’s no unhinged hanger-on, no greedy cousin, no addict mother, etc etc here for distraction – and the entire plot hangs on whether the main characters will fall in love. And if this is also what you’re looking for, Say Yes to the Duke is it. What I also like here are the musings on what makes one part of a family in this book – and by extension some of Betsy’s story in Say No to the Duke. Viola is “not a Wilde” since her father was her mother’s first husband but she’s been raised “as a Wilde” since she was a toddler when her mother married the Duke of Lindow. Betsy is “a Wilde” but out in Society she long felt that her mother’s reputation – having run off with another man, causing the Duke to divorce her and later marry Viola’s mother Ophelia – overshadowed her Wilde connection. By contrast Betsy’s younger sister Joan, the only Wilde who does not share the Duke’s coloring which marks her out as another man’s child, appears to let any worry about her parentage just roll off her back – she is “a Wilde” in all the ways that count (meaning: the Duke has said she’s a Wilde, so she’s a Wilde and woe to anyone who crosses him otherwise).

Some of my favorite Eloisa James novels are the ones where she brings in information from her other life as a literature professor (The Taming of the Duke is a particular favorite for this reason) because we get to see what people did in their communities or in their downtime. Say Yes to the Duke has a minor plot element that turns on one of  Viola’s suggestions to the vicar: putting on a Bible play in the parish – which is not exactly CofE, given that the plays are medieval or Elizabethan in origin and run somewhat closer to the dreaded papistry of Ye Olde Englande (my joke here, not Eloisa’s, but she uses the play to great effect late in the book). There’s also an extremely steamy closet-sex scene which might be the sexiest thing Eloisa has written since the blindfolded chess/sex scene in This Duchess of Mine.

Say Yes to the Duke is out today!

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss but I also have a copy on pre-order on my Nook.

mini-review · Romantic Reads · stuff I read

Rafe: A Buff Male Nanny by Rebekah Weatherspoon (Loose Ends #1)

42900442._SY475_Summary from Goodreads:
All Dr. Sloan Copeland needed was someone to watch her kids. What she found was the man of her dreams…

After a nasty divorce and a thousand mile move, Dr. Sloan Copeland and her twin daughters are finally getting the hang of their new life in Los Angeles. When their live-in nanny bails with no warning, Sloan is left scrambling to find a competent caretaker to wrangle her smart, sensitive girls. Nothing less will do.

Enter Rafe Whitcomb. He’s all of those things, not to mention good-natured and one heck of a whiz in the kitchen. He’s also tall, and handsome, and bearded, and ripped, and tatted, wrist to neck.

It doesn’t take long for the Copelands to invite Rafe into their home. Just as quickly, both Sloan and Rafe find themselves succumbing to a heady mutual attraction, neither of them wants to deny. With every minute they spend under the same roof, this working mom can’t help but wonder if Rafe can handle all her needs…

Rafe is a solid “what if Chris Hemsworth was a ginger with way more tattoos and also real good with kids” fantasy where a genius cardiac surgeon (single mom with twins) needs a nanny in an emergency and this real tall hot bearded dude with excellent references happens to be available. And then they realize very quickly that they’re attracted to each other, like attracted to each other. Then have amazing sex when neither of them have kid duty. Loved it. Plus Rafe’s family is so awesome.

Picked up my copy at The Ripped Bodice almost exactly one year ago and had Rebekah sign it for me because she just happened to be working 💖

Dear FTC: This copy is fucking mine.

mini-review · Romantic Reads · stuff I read

Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie

8880488Summary from Goodreads:
This is New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Crusie’s novel about long shots, risk management, true love, and great shoes. . . .

Minerva Dobbs knows how to work the odds.
Calvin Morrisey always plays to win.

But when they face off, neither one is prepared.
Because when real life meets true love, all bets are off. . . .

Minerva Dobbs knows that happily-ever-after is a fairy tale, especially with a man who asked her to dinner to win a bet, even if he is gorgeous and successful Calvin Morrisey. Cal knows commitment is impossible, especially with a woman as cranky as Min Dobbs, even if she does wear great shoes and keep him on his toes. When they say good-bye at the end of their evening, they cut their losses and agree never to see each other again.

But fate has other plans, and it’s not long before Min and Cal meet again. Soon they’re dealing with a jealous ex-boyfriend, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, a determined psychologist, chaos theory, a freakishly intelligent cat, Chicken Marsala, and more risky propositions than either of them ever dreamed of. Including the biggest gamble of all—true love.

Bet Me has been on my very long Romance TBR forever but Sarah and Jen at Fated Mates finally tipped me over the edge. I loved it. Cal and Min are fantastic and their surrounding group of friends are just a hoot. It’s basically a fairy-tale disguised as a rom-com so that’s a solid intersection of my interests – plus many, many little tidbits in this book have direct correlations to 90s rom-com movies starting with the Julia Roberts Movie Playlist for Diana’s wedding. Even the ending to “the bet” turns out in an extremely screwball rom-com fashion.

I would have been forced to poison all the parents tho, YIKES. Min’s mom is EXTREMELY fatphobic and the heroine has internalized a lot of negative body image so if those things are triggering for you this may be one to skip. But Cal is basically “you’re attractive as fuck just as you are also we should eat good food because eating is pleasure” so I’m down with him. (I also read a review that was really critical about how much chicken marsala is eaten by the characters, especially Min, and clearly that person has never found their absolute favorite food or had their favorite dish at a favorite restaurant ever.)

Dear FTC: I bought a copy of this on my Nook because the library is closed to the public and they didn’t have a copy on Overdrive. (Which, by the way, WHAT ARE YOU DOING ST. MARTIN’S – the ebook is $11.99 and the paperback is $25.99, for a book first published in 2004. This is how you price a book out of circulation. I’m a bookseller – if I get a trade paperback (and the current cover is awful, yo) into the store to sell and it’s priced $25.99 and NOT 1500 pages long or an academic title it won’t sell. Because a romance reader can buy 2-4 books for that price.)

Romantic Reads · stuff I read

Say No to the Duke by Eloisa James (The Wildes of Lindow Castle #4)

40220892Summary from Goodreads:
One little wager will determine their fate—a daring escape or falling into temptation with a rakish lord.

Lady Betsy Wilde’s first season was triumphant by any measure, and a duke has proposed—but before marriage, she longs for one last adventure.

No gentleman would agree to her scandalous plan—but Lord Jeremy Roden is no gentleman. He offers a wager. If she wins a billiards game, he’ll provide the breeches.

If he wins…she is his, for one wild night.

But what happens when Jeremy realizes that one night will never be enough? In the most important battle of his life, he’ll have to convince Betsy to say no to the duke.

I started reading Say No to the Duke as a galley last year and just couldn’t get into it. So I put it aside. I’m glad I did because I think it was a case of “it’s not the book, it’s me” – for whatever reason, it just wasn’t grabbing me and since I don’t get paid to review, I hit pause.

Since Eloisa’s next Wilde installment Say Yes to the Duke is due out this month, I picked this back up. I really liked it. The plot is mostly internal, with both Betsy and Jeremy having to deal with some mental stuff before they can truly come together (Betsy, the internalized misogyny that sexual desire means she’s going to abandon her family like her mother did; Jeremy, his guilt over the deaths of his men in battle and his ongoing struggle with PTSD). They bicker delightfully, especially at the beginning. There is some external plot that feels shoehorned in to tie-up a plotbunny at the end but that’s minimal. The auction scene is a treat.

I would definitely like a book for Aunt Knowe (ok, so her first name is Louisa and the family last name is Wilde and she’s the duke’s twin sister….so if she hadn’t ever married (or married a commoner) she would be Lady Louisa or (at a stretch) Lady Wilde, not Aunt or Lady Knowe. Am I missing something??? She’s a fun character and there’s definitely a story there!!)

Dear FTC: I read a paper galley sent to my store by the publisher but I also had a copy I preordered on my Nook last year (so I could have read that, too, I guess).

mini-review · Romantic Reads · stuff I read

The Virgin and the Rogue by Sophie Jordan (The Rogue Files #6)

43700828Summary from Goodreads:
Continuing her bestselling Rogue Files series, Sophie Jordan brews up a scintillating romance about a timid wallflower who discovers a love potion and ends up falling for a dashing rogue.

A love potion…
Charlotte Langley has always been the prudent middle sister, so her family is not surprised when she makes the safe choice and agrees to wed her childhood sweetheart. But when she finds herself under the weather and drinks a “healing” tonic, the potion provokes the most maddening desire… for someone other than her betrothed.

With the power…
Kingston’s rakehell ways are going to destroy him, and he’s vowed to change. His stepbrother’s remote estate is just the place for a reformed rogue to hide. The last thing he wants is to be surrounded by society, but when he gets stuck alone with a wallflower who is already betrothed… and she astonishes him with a fiery kiss, he forgets all about hiding.

To alter two destinies.
Although Charlotte appears meek, Kingston soon discovers there’s a vixen inside, yearning to break free. Unable to forget their illicit moment of passion, Kingston vows to relive the encounter, but Charlotte has sworn it will never happen again—no matter how earth-shattering it was. But will a devilish rogue tempt her to risk everything for a chance at true love?

The Virgin and the Rogue is a rompy historical kicked off when a prudent, staid young lady (Charlotte) is accidentally given an aphrodisiac by her herbalist sister (it was supposed to help with PMS cramps) and she ends up getting off with her brother-in-law’s stepbrother (Kingston, an infamous rake, who is REAL surprised that this is happening but he doesn’t take advantage of the situation)…who is not her fiance (who is boring and has terrible parents, no surprise there). Oops. Many FEELINGS ensue.

Jordan does take a risk with this book. By giving her heroine Charlotte what is essentially a drug that affects her behavior without her knowledge, this could have gone in very questionable places regarding consent. But since the drug is given to her by her sister – who clearly didn’t intend harm to Charlotte – and Kingston doesn’t act on Charlotte’s advances while she’s under the influence, Jordan keeps the consent for sexual activity in Charlotte’s court. I think it works and unlocks a part of Charlotte’s self and thinking that she had been suppressing for a long time (of course, your mileage may vary so this plot may not work for every reader). Kingston is also a rake trying to reform himself and his image and it works so well opposite Charlotte’s situation.

I have a few installments of the Rogue Files series hanging around, but I hadn’t read any yet, so you can totally read this one if you aren’t current on the series.

The Virgin and the Rogue is out today!

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss.

Romantic Reads · stuff I read

Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai (Modern Love #2)

44148565Summary from Goodreads:
In Alisha Rai’s second novel in her Modern Love series, a live-tweet event goes viral for a camera-shy ex-model, shoving her into the spotlight—and into the arms of the bodyguard she’d been pining for.

OMG! Wouldn’t it be adorable if he’s her soulmate???

I don’t see any wedding rings [eyes emoji]

Breaking: #CafeBae and #CuteCafeGirl went to the bathroom AT THE SAME TIME!!!

One minute, Katrina King’s enjoying an innocent conversation with a hot guy at a coffee shop; the next, a stranger has live-tweeted the entire episode with a romantic meet-cute spin and #CafeBae is the new hashtag-du-jour. The problem? Katrina craves a low-profile life, and going viral threatens the peaceful world she’s painstakingly built. Besides, #CafeBae isn’t the man she’s hungry for…

He’s got a [peach emoji] to die for.

With the internet on the hunt for the identity of #CuteCafeGirl, Jas Singh, bodyguard, friend, and possessor of the most beautiful eyebrows Katrina’s ever seen, comes to the rescue and whisks her away to his family’s home. Alone in a remote setting with the object of her affections? It’s a recipe for romance. But after a long dating dry spell, Katrina isn’t sure she can trust her instincts when it comes to love—even if Jas’ every look says he wants to be more than just her bodyguard…

Welcome to The Bodyguard: Extreme Pining Edition.

Seriously, this book needs a Whitney Houston soundtrack.

Girl Gone Viral is a very (very) slow-burn romance with much mutual pining between a woman with severe anxiety/panic disorder (with maybe a little agoraphobia/PTSD) and her bodyguard/head of security (who is ex-military and definitely has PTSD). So much pining. All the pining – and that possibly awkward she’s-been-his-boss-for-years thing. Kat and Jas are two of the nicest, sweetest cinnamon-rolliest people (even though Jas could probably break you in half) who totally deserve each other. What I really liked in this book is that Rai gave them each some personal issues that couldn’t be solved by talking about their feelings and tackling the #cafebae issue. Kat has an awful, awful dad while an incident from Jas’s military past comes back to haunt him. That makes their romance very true-to-life. You don’t get to deal with one issue at a time, you have to juggle it all at once, the good and the bad.

Now, if you’ve read a lot of Rai’s previous books, Girl Gone Viral has a much lower “steam” level by comparison. No sexytimes until about 60% through the book and even those are much less in-depth, shall we say. It fits with Kat and Jas, though. They’re sweet and thoughtful and very private characters. They are not Livy and Nicholas from Hate to Want You, secretly hooking up once a year for ten years and having raw, can’t-get-you-out-of-my-system sex, or even Jackson and Sadia from Wrong to Need You who are also “extreme pining edition” but real dirty-talkers. If you like shagging early and often in your romances, be prepared this one’s going to be mild.

Girl Gone Viral is out today!

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss.

Romantic Reads · stuff I read

Duke Darcy’s Castle by Syrie James (Dare to Defy #3) – a blog tour review with Austenprose!

Duke Darcy Castle by Syrie James 2020

Lance Granville, the Tenth Duke of Darcy, was none too happy to give up his career in the Royal Navy to inherit the family title, complete with an ancient castle he needs to renovate. When an architect arrives on his doorstep, Darcy is astonished to discover that she’s a woman.

Kathryn Atherton has one goal: to become the first woman architect in Britain. Marriage doesn’t figure in her plans. Despite the odds, her schooling is behind her. Now she needs experience. When she’s sent to a small tidal island in Cornwall to remodel a castle, the last thing Kathryn wants is to be attracted to its roguishly handsome owner.

Kathryn is determined to keep things professional, but the sizzling attraction between her and the duke quickly blazes out of control. When Darcy learns that Kathryn is an heiress whose fortune would save St. Gabriel’s Mount, he wages the most important battle of his life: to woo and win the woman who’s captured his heart. But (in an homage to Austen), the Duke’s first proposal is so Darcyesque, he is refused. In any case, duchesses can’t be architects. And Kathryn has worked too long and too hard to give up her career for anyone….

Kathryn Atherton, architect, is sent in her boss’s stead to a tidal island off Cornwall to consult on the renovation of…a castle! She’s almost a licensed architect, almost, the first in Britain, and this will certainly be a boost in her career. She arrives at St. Gabriel’s Mount to meet the Duke of Darcy, who not only answers his own front door but also mistakes her for the new schoolteacher in the village.

Lance Granville has been the Duke of Darcy for only a few weeks after the sudden death of his elder brother. The duchy is drowning in debt, the estate drastically reduced and mortgaged, and Lance really doesn’t have the time (or money) for an architect to renovate the castle. Especially if said architect is a woman. He would much rather escape back to his Navy command. But Miss Atherton is talented and persuasive so Lance agrees to let her remain for the agreed three weeks to develop the renovation plans (although he really has no intention of putted the scheme in to action).

Soon enough, Lance learns that Kathryn is a richer-than-rich American heiress, with a proposed dowry to the tune of seven figures in American dollars. If he marries her, her dowry will not only save the duchy but put the village to rights. So Lance proposes – badly. Kathryn a) does not intend to give up her career to swan around as a duchess and b) she will only marry for love. Lance is chastened – his grandmother puts it in perspective for me – but determined not to give up. Although he isn’t exactly forthcoming about the duchy’s financial woes, an omission that will come back to haunt him later.

Duke Darcy’s Castle is a very sweet romance between an architect and Modern Woman and a brand-new duke (he used to be in the Navy). The romance is medium-steamy, with a lot of good, feminist sentiment about working women and women’s roles (I did love Lance’s grandmother quite a lot who is in Kathryn’s corner from the get-go). The plot trips along very neatly – with a couple of fun interludes where the couple gets to interact with each other – and ties up nicely, but the tension between hero and heroine didn’t quite pay off to my satisfaction. It felt unbalanced in a way – he had to prove he wasn’t a twerp or out for her money (which, lets be honest, would this love story have happened had he not learned she was worth seven figures?) while she had to decide that adding a ranking title to her fortune would unlock many doors for her as an architect who also happened to be woman. Lance’s first “Darcy-esque” proposal was excellent. The setting of a castle on a tidal island – based on the real-life St. Michael’s Mout – was quite unique.

Duke Darcy’s Castle is the third book in the Dare to Defy series, which follows three unconventional American heiress sisters. I haven’t read the first two books, Runaway Heiress and Summer of Scandal, but I was able to get the gist of the connections easily enough so don’t worry about getting caught up before reading this one. The sisters do make an appearance in Duke Darcy’s Castle but the plot doesn’t spoil any of the particulars of their books.

Dare to Defy series James

AUTHOR BIO:

Syrie JamesAuthorPhoto2012SYRIE JAMES is the USA TODAY and Amazon bestselling author of thirteen novels of historical, contemporary, and young adult fiction and romance. Her books have hit many Best of the Year lists, been designated as Library Journal Editor’s Picks, and won numerous accolades and awards, including Best New Fiction by Regency World Magazine (the international bestseller “The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen”), and the national Audiobook Audie for Romance (“The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte”, also named a Great Group Read by the Women’s National Book Association). Los Angeles Magazine dubbed Syrie the “queen of nineteenth century re-imaginings,” and her books have been published in twenty languages. A member of the Writer’s Guild of America, Syrie is also an established screenwriter and playwright who makes her home in Los Angeles. An admitted Anglophile, Syrie has addressed audiences across the U.S., Canada, and the British Isles.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS | BOOKBUB

Duke Darcy’s Castle was released on ebook from Avon Impulse on February 25 – the mass market paperback will be released March 24, 2020.

I’m participating in a blog tour with Laurel Ann at Austenprose! See the Austenprose review and a schedule for other features and reviews.

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss

mini-review · Romantic Reads · stuff I read

Hot and Badgered by Shelly Laurenston (Honey Badger Chronicles #1)

35603257._SY475_Summary from Goodreads:
It’s not every day that a beautiful naked woman falls out of the sky and lands face-first on grizzly shifter Berg Dunn’s hotel balcony. Definitely they don’t usually hop up and demand his best gun. Berg gives the lady a grizzly-sized t-shirt and his cell phone, too, just on style points. And then she’s gone, taking his XXXL heart with her. By the time he figures out she’s a honey badger shifter, it’s too late.

Honey badgers are survivors. Brutal, vicious, ill-tempered survivors. Or maybe Charlie Taylor-MacKilligan is just pissed that her useless father is trying to get them all killed again, and won’t even tell her how. Protecting her little sisters has always been her job, and she’s not about to let some pesky giant grizzly protection specialist with a network of every shifter in Manhattan get in her way. Wait. He’s trying to help? Why would he want to do that? He’s cute enough that she just might let him tag along—that is, if he can keep up . . .

I started Hot and Badgered back in January and had a hard time getting into the book. The plot is very over-the-top (VERY) and just kept adding more characters and more and more different types of shifters (so. many. shifters, good lord.). I really needed multiple family trees to keep it all straight. But the plot didn’t really seem to be going anywhere for a long time. Plus, the sexytimes do not appear until very late in the book. I don’t require banging on the first page, but for a “sexy shifter romance” this was very much a family novel about two sets of siblings caught in a revenge plot and far less a paranormal romantic suspense, imo.

All that said, Hot and Badgered was a very funny book in places (there is a scene where the two older sisters use the youngest’s shifter ability to get them out of a tight spot and it is both weird/icky and an absolute HOOT). Laurenston can write a humdinger of a one-liner. Also, stress baking which becomes a minor plot point in its own right. I might try one of Laurenston’s Crow novels next.

Dear FTC: I purchased my copy of this book.