Review of “Texas Destiny” (Leigh Brothers Texas Trilogy) by Lorraine Heath

Heath, Lorraine. Texas Destiny. New York: Topaz, 1997. 

Hardcover | $5.99 USD (price for 2018 reissue) | ISBN-13: 978-1568654652 | 229 pages | Western Romance

4 stars

When Texas Destiny was announced as the August read in Eloisa James’ Book Club, I was unsure whether I would participate. While I had read one of Lorraine’s books in the past thanks to the book club, I was unsure about her tendency to write more angsty stories, and also had my doubts about a Western story, given that the subgenre was one that never appealed to me. However, I gave it a chance, and while isn’t the best book, being one of her earlier publications, I found the story easy to get into and the characters, for the most part, sympathetic and people I wanted to get to know better.

As the series title indicates, the relationship between the Leigh brothers plays a large role in the book, and I would guess, the trilogy as a whole. I love the dynamics between them, especially Houston and Dallas, since their past fighting in the Civil War, and the misunderstanding that their father’s death and Houston’s injury had on their relationship, with each making assumptions about what the other thinks about them: Houston worrying that Dallas is ashamed that his cowardice killed their father, and Dallas thinking that Houston resents him for saving his life.

I was largely apathetic to Amelia as a heroine. While I can’t deny her courage makes her a great match for Houston, I found it a bit harder to connect with her. While I can admire a heroine who has “grit,” as the book calls it, especially given the hard nature of the setting, it was hard not to see her as a bit of a Mary Sue type of character, and as a result, I really didn’t care for her.

However, now I can’t wait to read the other brothers’ books, especially Austin’s, since he was absolutely adorable in this one, and I can’t wait to see how he ages. I would recommend this book to any other fan of Western romances, or Lorraine Heath, or someone who is interested in trying either, the way I was.

Advertisements

Review of “Season for Desire” (Holiday Pleasures #4) by Theresa Romain

Romain, Theresa. Season for Desire. New York: Kensington, 2014. 

Mass Market Paperback | $6.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1420132458 | 312 pages | Regency Romance

5 stars

While the Holiday Pleasures series was inconsistent in terms of quality, I enjoyed them overall, and liked the concept of a series linked not only by a common cast of characters, but by the Christmas season. And Season for Desire is a sweet conclusion to the series, bringing together new and old characters for a fun story.

Like the heroines of books two and three of her Matchmaker Trilogy, I was initially skeptical about Audrina as a heroine, but Romain managed to win me over by making me understand what motivated her to behave in the way she did. Her family circumstances, being the youngest of five sisters who all had expectations put on them by their father resonated with me, especially when at one point, she expresses the sentiment that all of her other siblings have already done better before her, so she was the “last and worst,” or something along those lines. I also like that Giles struggles with his own sense of self-worth, and the exploration of how Regency society would have diagnosed and treated joint disorders like arthritis, and how it affected the lives of those who had it.

I also enjoyed the secondary characters, especially the reveal about the duke being in love with his fiancee (Audrina’s sister) in spite of any scandals in her family, proving he’s different from her father and most of society. And despite not having a lot of time to develop the relationship, I was also happy that Lady Irving got her HEA with Giles’ father Richard, especially after having gotten to know her over the course of the series.

Review of “Season for Scandal” (Holiday Pleasures #3) by Theresa Romain

Romain, Theresa. Season for Scandal. New York: Kensington, 2013. 

Mass Market Paperback | $6.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1420132434 | 347 pages | Regency Romance

5 stars

After the disappointment of the previous installment, which while promising, lacked consistency in terms of the buildup of the conflict and stakes, this one was much better in terms of establishing obstacles that tested the relationship between Jane and Edmund.

Jane and Edmund are both sympathetic characters, with flaws that made me like them all the more, and I felt the difficulties they faced in entering a marriage of convenience and having these secrets and misunderstandings felt understandable, even if they might not work for everyone. I enjoyed how Edmund’s character was written in particular, portraying himself to the outside world as a kind and good-natured gentleman, but also maintains rigid control over himself, carrying around a private pain in his past that leads him to keep others at arm’s length. I could not help but feel for him as the circumstances that led to him being hurt were revealed, when he was blameless in the matter.

I love how this informed his relationship with Jane, who is more open and demonstrative, but also has a tendency toward more reckless behavior, like the gambling incident that leads to the necessity of her marriage to Edmund to begin with. However, while she is immature at the beginning, I love how marriage allows her to grow as a person, including helping to resolve the situation with Edmund’s old adversary.

Review of “The Legend of Nimway Hall: 1750: Jacqueline” by Stephanie Laurens

Laurens, Stephanie. The Legend of Nimway Hall: 1750: Jacqueline. Melbourne: Savdek Management Proprietary Limited, 2018. 

Paperback | $13.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1925559095 | 202 pages | Historical Romance

3.5 stars

Stephanie Laurens is one of those authors I’ve always wanted to read, but thanks to her large, interconnected backlist, and the increasing difficulty of getting older titles, I have largely held off, apart from reading one of her reprinted Traditional Regencies some time ago. But the premise of this series, with novellas in different time periods ranging from 1750 to 1940, following the descendants of Merlin and Nimue, seemed like a promising premise, especially given that it would also expose me to authors I had not read at all, or not read much of, as was the case with Laurens.

I enjoyed parts of the book more than others. I liked the romance and that, despite the shorter length of the book, it didn’t feel rushed. The story is a slow-burn, making the moment when Jacqueline and Richard get together feel worth it, especially considering the conflicts they have to face, including a suitor who is determined to do anything to force Jacqueline into marriage. I  also like that while there is a sense of the lore that will connect the women to their ancestress, it doesn’t feel too overbearing, so I don’t think those who prefer straight historicals to historicals with paranormal or fantasy elements will be too put off by this book.

However, I did find the prose a bit hard to take in at times. It might be due to the fact that Laurens’ writing style is not the sort I am used to, as I have heard others comment on that, but it just felt a little dense, and it didn’t allow me to feel as engaged as I would have liked with the characters. However, I do think this would be a great book for longtime fans of Laurens who are open to her trying something a little different, and engaging in the world she and the other authors have created. Having read and enjoyed some of the work by other authors involved, I will definitely be reading the others currently released, and looking forward to future installments.

Review of “Season for Surrender” (Holiday Pleasures #2) by Theresa Romain

Romain, Theresa. Season for Surrender. New York: Kensington, 2012. 

Mass Market Paperback | $6.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1420128864 | 344 pages | Regency Romance

2.5 stars

I feel bad that I didn’t enjoy this one as much, as Theresa Romain has quickly become one of my new favorite authors. But compared to the other books by her that I have more or less enjoyed in the past, including her debut and the first in the series, Season for Temptation, this one is a bit of a miss.

There are things I enjoyed, like the fact that Alex and Louisa bond over books, and I enjoyed the exploration of both of them as people beyond how they appear to society, including delving into Alex’s past. However, the book felt like it moved at a snail’s pace, with not much of note really happening, and when something finally did, that being Alex’s cousin Lockwood threatening to ruin Louisa after being a boor to her at other points in the story, it wasn’t executed well enough to maintain my interest.

However, another positive is that it does set up the possibility for an interesting follow-up installment with the introduction of Alex’s other cousin Jane and her love interest, Lord Kilpatrick, so I will definitely be reading the next one to see how that pans out.

Review of “Crown of Midnight” (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas

Maas, Sarah J. Crown of Midnight. New York: Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2013. 

Hardcover | $17.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1619630628 | 420 pages | YA Fantasy

4.5 stars

Crown of Midnight is an improvement compared to its predecessor. Despite a slow start, with the first half or so being largely unmemorable, it picked up in the second half, with a number of twists and turns which had been foreshadowed over the course of both books, with an ending that has me eager to begin the next book.

The characters feel a lot more fleshed out and sympathetic this time around. Despite being almost intolerable at times in the first book, Celaena seemed almost likable at times, and I enjoyed seeing her as both more vulnerable as more of her history before becoming an assassin was revealed, and more “assassin-y,” as, while she was willing to give mercy to innocents and defy the cruel king’s orders to kill his enemies, she proved how capable she was when someone crossed her. And the additional layer about the truth of her heritage adds a new element to the conflict of her story, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next. Both Chaol and Dorian also seem more developed, and I could easily become invested in their friendship with each other, and each of their relationships with Celaena.

Despite my concerns about the way the romantic elements would play out, I am satisfied about that aspect as well, especially as it doesn’t seem as yet to fall into the standard YA love triangle trope. There is chemistry of a sort between Dorian and Celaena, yes, which carries over from the prior book,  but I enjoyed the focus on her relationship with Chaol. Without overpowering the story, their relationship is one where you can see they care for one another, especially when he works to make her feel better when she is feeling down (chocolate cake!).

Review of “Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress” (Matchmaker #3) by Theresa Romain

Romain, Theresa. Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2015. 

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1402284052 | 316 pages | Regency Romance

4.5 stars

Over the course of the Matchmaker Trilogy, while some were better than others, I admired how Theresa Romain introduced secondary female characters who I thought I wouldn’t like, then redeemed them in their own book. This is also the case with the heroine of this book, Augusta Meredith, who was seen in the last book propositioning the Duke of Wyverne to have an affair and was described as having more money than sense. And while I did find myself irritated with her at times, especially with her naivete, her history provides some justification for why she makes some of the decisions she does, so I did feel for her and understand her motivations, even if I wish she were a bit more meticulous when making her plans.

On the other hand, I loved Joss almost immediately upon getting to know him, even if I didn’t really notice him in his prior appearance in the previous book. And I love that his history of having a dishonorable father whose only good deed was marrying his mother in time so he wouldn’t be illegitimate has informed his sense of honor, which makes him a good foil for Augusta. And contrary to the historicals I have often had issues with, where despite them having slept together and there being the risk of a child, the heroine still says she doesn’t want to marry him because he doesn’t love her, I found the role reversal refreshing. I love that Joss wasn’t afraid to confess his love, even if Augusta wasn’t ready to confess her feelings, and that he had the utmost respect for her, even though she didn’t expect it.

 

Review of “Firelight” (Firelight #1) by Sophie Jordan

Jordan, Sophie. Firelight. New York: Harper, 2010

Hardcover | $16.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0061935084 | 326 pages | Young Adult Paranormal Romance

2.5 stars

I am a fan of Sophie Jordan, her historical romances in particular, so in keeping with my plans to broaden my genre choices, she was my first choice for an author to read for the Young Adult Paranormal square for the Ripped Bodice Bingo, especially since, despite some lackluster, and even negative reviews, the premise of a romance about dragons sounded so promising. But while I didn’t find the book horrible, I definitely felt like it’s one of those YA books that’s written for a very specific audience, making hard for older readers to really enjoy it, and a lot of what the story contains has already been done by other, more prominent series.

I can’t really blame Jordan for this, as this was her first foray into the genre, and at the time, the Twilight films were still being adapted, and they likely informed a lot of the tropes of the paranormal subgenre, at least in YA, if not overall. But I could not help but feel that I had read a lot of this before, including the overly angsty, and sometimes annoying, heroine, and the fact that she’s in a forbidden love with a boy who has the potential to kill her. And also, most of the characters, with the exception of Will at points, didn’t seem well fleshed out enough to be sympathetic. There also seems to be the setup for a love triangle (and based on the review of the next two books in the trilogy, it seems like it turns into a square) that sets up even more pointless drama, which have put me off reading further books in the series any time soon.

However, despite the many flaws in this book, Jordan’s skill as a writer shines through, with her prose being one of the things that kept me invested in the book. And amidst the moments of teen drama, the aspects involving the draki are interesting enough that if someone liked that, and didn’t mind the heavy focus on teenage angst, they might enjoy this book more than I did.

 

Review of “A Daring Venture” (Empire State #1) by Elizabeth Camden

Camden, Elizabeth. A Daring Venture. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2018. 

Paperhack | $15.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0764218828 | 340 pages | Christian Fiction/Historical Romance

4.5 stars

A Daring Venture is another great historical romance by Elizabeth Camden, and like the previous book in her Empire State series, I enjoyed getting immersed in a bit of history from the early twentieth century, this time following the innovators of the chorine feed system of water purification. Incorporating real, underappreciated historical figures for her fictional characters to rub shoulders with, Camden masterfully recreates the tension that this new revolutionary invention would bring about.

I really enjoyed how this tested the growing relationship between Nick and Rosalind. While I’m not often a fan of stories where one of the characters lies to another, I truly felt Rosalind was in the right in the case, and despite understanding Nick’s skepticism about the project, I was dismayed with his overreaction, and how this led not only to him confronting her and the commencement of the real life legal case, but him throwing all the same sordid accusations that had already been proven false by his prior acquaintance with her back in her face. While I did feel he fully atoned for it at the end, it did lead to me feeling very disappointed with him for a bit, especially given his willingness to pursue second chances with others whom he already knows he shouldn’t trust based on past experiences.

Speaking of which, I really enjoyed how the element with Aunt Margaret trying to continue to bring down the Drakes now that her husband has passed worked into the plot, and I found myself constantly questioning her motives throughout the book up to the very end. When she makes her final, shocking bid at revenge, I found myself wondering if it was just about her willingness to sacrifice herself to see the other branch of the family go down in retaliation for what they did in the last book, or if it was also in part also motivated by some other factors that she discussed when she was playing nice, like the fact that she truly does feel alone. I also long to know more about Eloise and what her story is, to be both ignored by her mother and yet be loyal enough to her to be complicit in her crimes. I hope that her book will shed light on this.

Review of “The Vixen” (Wicked Wallflowers #2) by Christi Caldwell

Caldwell, Christi. The Vixen. Seattle: Montlake Romance, 2018. 

Paperback | $12.95 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1503902251 | 353 pages | Regency Romance

4.5 stars

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Christi Caldwell is an author who continues to interest me when I have the chance to pick up her books, because of the depth she puts into her characterization, and this book is no exception, and in fact this might be one of the most intense I’ve read from her yet (the debate is still out as to whether this is truly her most intense book, given that I’ve only read a handful of them, but the consensus seems to indicate this is the case).

I enjoyed and sympathized with both Ophelia and Connor, especially as a bond grew and lingered between them despite a massive secret about her identity that could have jeopardized any future they could have had. And I also felt this was a nice, refreshing take on Regency romance by casting most of the noble characters aside from those who appeared in Caldwell’s prior books, in a bad light, especially given that the historical romance market is so nobility obsessed. While Caldwell certainly has had heroes or heroines with issues with the aristocracy and the past, and the concept isn’t unique to her, this is one of the few that even shows an initially well intentioned character as not having Connor’s best interests in mind.

I also enjoyed the mystery elements building up to who the child was that Connor was tasked with looking for, and how that tied into his relationship with Ophelia and her own purpose at the Devil’s Den, as well as the reveal of the identity of the man who attempted to assault Ophelia when she was a child, and how that reveal pertained to Connor’s interpersonal relationships. It added not only more suspense to the story, but added to the stakes with each revelation, culminating the final moments where they finally end up together.

However, there are a few issues I did run into while reading the book, and the first is through my own relative inexperience with Caldwell as a reader. She creates intricate worlds of characters that connect across series, and while each book stands alone, I did find this one a bit hard to follow at times as there were things that I wasn’t sure were addressed in either this series or the previous Sinful Brides series where the Killorans first appeared, like the origin of the Killoran surname, if all of these characters in the Devil’s Den are meant to be either the children of Mac Diggory or wards he took in off the streets. It might not bother everyone, but as a detail oriented reader, it did put me off some.