Review of “The Truth About Love and Dukes” (Dear Lady Truelove #1) by Laura Lee Guhrke

Guhrke, Laura Lee. The Truth About Love and Dukes. New York: Avon Books, 2017.

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0062469854 | 369 pages | Victorian Romance

3 stars

The Truth About Love and Dukes was a DNF from about a year ago for no real reason other than I wasn’t feeling the characters, but I had heard good things about the second book, so needing to read in order if possible, I picked it up again. And while it was definitely better and more interesting this time around, it still left a lot to be desired.

The pros are that the characters on their own are well-written and fleshed out. They’re not always likable, but they each have redeeming features that make them easy to root for. Henry is typically the antithesis of my favorite hero type, being a stuffy, cynical duke, but his concern for his family, even if it was a touch overbearing at times, is touching, and the way he came to realize that his mother’s happiness was more important than social standing was great. Irene is a spitfire suffragist who does kind of embody the worst stereotypes of feminists at times with her argumentative and managing nature, but I feel like she too was well-intentioned.

But the misfire occurred in pairing these two together. I can grasp that strong personalities can often work together in a great opposites-attract/enemies-to-lovers romance, but I kind of wish more effort was put into making them do so, instead of them spending the bulk of the book alternately arguing and being tempted by their lust for one another (eventually giving in, of course). While healthy sexual desire is often a key component in many a healthy relationship, when their primary feelings for each other are anger and lust, I don’t see how it convincingly translates to lasting love. There were only a few moments where I felt they did have a chance, like when he suggests to her that she should work on her argument for why women should gain the right to vote, and after some trial and error, she convinces him. But otherwise, I found the romance rather weak.

However, this is all just my opinion, and I have seen reviews on both sides of the spectrum for this book. I think if you like some of the tropes in this book, like enemies-to-lovers, a feminist heroine, and an arrogant, but secretly compassionate, duke, then I would recommend this.

Review of “The Devilish Duke” (Saints and Pape#1) by Maddison Michaels

Michaels, Maddison. The Devilish Duke. Fort Collins, CO: Entangled Publishing, 2018.

Paperback | $19.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1984953346 | 390 pages | Victorian Romance

4 stars

Maddison Michaels is a new author from last year I longed to read, in part due to her being one of the Patronesses of the Drawing Room Facebook group, one of several I participate in. And I finally got the chance to, and I am excited to read more from her.

I have spoken exhaustively about my feelings about dukes, especially if they’re a) rakish to the point that women warn young debutantes against being in their presence, and b) jaded about the institution of marriage and/or the concept of love. Devlin, Duke of Huntington (yet another hero given the cringey “Devil” moniker) is both, and some of his cringier moments include when he said he would “try to be faithful” to his wife (as he had never been with a woman long enough to know if he could truly be faithful), while simultaneously being a massive hypocrite about his fiancee being in the company of other men, even in a platonic capacity. I mean, I get the importance of the “heir and a spare” thing and legitimacy, but the excuse that he doesn’t want to be cuckolded the way other women cuckolded their husbands with you makes him look like an ass. Accurate to the period, most likely, but still dickish and not truly considerate of his wife’s feelings.

Granted, he did grow on me over the course of the book, especially since he isn’t your standard born-and-bred duke, inheriting it through a couple of twists of fate (or are they?) and being the product of a scandalous and disastrous union that began as a love match. I love that he actively pursues matters of business and his fortune isn’t completely tied up in the dukedom, making him feel like a modern nobleman, in touch with the changing world.

There isn’t really a lot to say about Sophie, except that she’s a great heroine and one I could root for. I liked how she was very practical on her end when it came to pursuing the idea of marriage, first swearing off it then agreeing due to the advantages it would reap for her charity work with the orphanage.

As for the mystery, it was a well-done, slow-building plot line, which presented connections to Devlin’s past that I found very compelling. The crux of this arc rests on an issue considered sacred for people of the peerage at the time, but one that did have its issues, and I like how the reveal added to some of the existing family dramas that had already been revealed prior.

I would recommend this book to fans of historical romance, especially those who love suspense subplots.

Review of “I, Eliza Hamilton”

Scott, Susan Holloway. I, Eliza Hamilton. New York: Kensington, 2017. 

Paperback | $15.00 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1496712523 | 444 pages | Historical Fiction

4 stars

I enjoyed I, Eliza Hamilton, as it gave me a more in-depth portrayal of the Revolutionary War period and the tensions in the years afterward, the latter of which I had not known before, due to my primary exposure to the period aside from the odd historical novel set in the era being the little I was taught in school that did not make note of Hamilton’s relevance or Eliza’s devotion to him and his legacy.

I loved being introduced to Eliza as a real-life historical heroine to root for, and while she may have had a more traditional role as a wife and mother, I love the devotion she had to her husband even through all the difficulties they faced. And Hamilton himself is a great example of a flawed hero who definitely did not get his due during his lifetime.

My one complaint is that I would have loved the novel to have focused a bit more on Eliza’s activism in championing her husband and all the other awesome things she did to fight to keep her husband’s name remembered. This is mentioned somewhat in both the prologue and epilogue, and in some detail in the “Afterwards” section, but I wanted more of a sense of things she did, not just how she observed Hamilton.

That said, I feel like this is an otherwise solid historical novel, and it would be great for others like myself who are just dipping their toes into this era in historical fiction for the first time.

Review of “Career of Evil” (Cormoran Strike #3) by Robert Galbraith

Galbraith, Robert. Career of Evil. New York: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown and Company: 2015. 

Hardcover | $28.00 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0316349932 | 497 pages | Mystery

4.5 stars

Career of Evil is the best in the series yet, with both the most compelling mystery and more development in terms of the characters’ personal lives.

As for the former, I remain fascinated by a career killer, especially when the author decides to give insight into his twisted mind, as Galbraith/Rowling has done here. And once again, there were a number of viable suspects as to who it might be, and the way the reveal was foreshadowed was done incredibly well.

In terms of the latter, I liked that it builds on the relationship between Strike and Robin, with their repeated denials of anything going on between them. And while there may have been some uneasiness concerning Robin’s engagement in the last book, as her arc concerned whether or not she would go through with the wedding in this one, I found myself anxious to know whether she would, and hopeful she would make the right choice. Considering the way things ended in this one, I am incredibly anxious to pick up the next one to see if it gets resolved at all.

I would recommend this book and series to fans of mysteries.

Review of “Moonlight Sins” (De Vincent #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Armentrout, Jennifer L. Moonlight Sins. New York: Avon Books, 2018. 

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0062674555 | 385 pages | Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense

4.5 stars

Moonlight Sins is the first book I’ve read by Jennifer L. Armentrout, and it certainly won’t be the last. I love her writing style and the blend of suspense that kept me guessing and a romance with compelling characters.

While this is yet another in a long line books with playboy heroes, and yet another that makes use of the cringey nicknames like Devil, Lucifer, and Demon in application to the hero and the future heroes (in this case, his brothers), I still found myself drawn to Lucian, in part due to the way he’s written. I love that he’s the charmer of the De Vincent brothers, and he definitely won me over in his interactions with Julia. I was also touched by his concern for his sister’s well-being, as while all the brothers do care about her, there does seem to be an extra layer of concern with him, due to him and Madeline being twins.

I liked Julia as a character dealing with her own past demons, and my one complaint is that, while issues with her ex are frequently brought up, they don’t really come to anything, with the focus being more on the De Vincent family.

As for the mystery, I love the way Armentrout was able to cast an unsettling nature upon the environment of the story, making it so it was hard to know who to trust. And ultimately the reveal of what really happened to Madeline, and what really caused their mother’s death years ago, shocked me, considering the way characters presented themselves to me up until that point, but given all the pieces, it was a reveal that made sense and was well foreshadowed.

I would recommend this to fans of well-plotted romantic suspense stories.

Review of “From Lukov With Love” by Mariana Zapata

Zapata, Mariana. From Lukov With Love. [United States]: Mariana Zapata, 2018. 

Paperback | $18.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0990429272 | 511 pages | Contemporary Romance

3 stars

I had heard that Mariana Zapata’s books were very slow-burn, but in this case, it just felt slooow, and I regret that this was my first impression of her books, given that other readers seem to love her work.

I do think she has some good ideas, and conceptually, I loved the idea of a story about ice skating partners who can’t stand each other and being to fall for one another. And one plus to the longer length allowed more time for Jasmine and Ivan’s relationship to grow in a realistic way, especially as she begins to confront some of the issues in her past, like her relationship with her absent father. I also liked that Zapata managed to create characters who are flawed, but still sympathetic, especially where Jasmine is concerned.

But at the same time, I found the book dragged a lot in places and I don’t remember a ton that really grabbed me aside from the aforementioned positives. Upon finally finishing it, I really could not say what I really felt about it, other than a feeling that it was just kind of…okay. Not horrible, but not what I expected, given how much other readers talked about Zapata’s work in such glowing terms.

That being said, I think readers of slow-burn books might like this, although I do think, that if my experience is anything to go by, this might not be the place to start with Mariana Zapata’s work. However, this is just my admittedly limited perspective.

Review of “Fortune Favors the Wicked” by Theresa Romain

Romain, Theresa. Fortune Favors the Wicked. New York: Kensington Publishing Corp., 2016.

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1420138658 | 314 pages | Regency Romance

4 stars

One of the things I love about Theresa Romain is her ability to create both relatable heroes and heroines that don’t often fall into some of the more troubling tropes of romance, and Fortune Favors the Wicked is no exception.

Benedict is a great example of someone who can have a past as a charming rake and adventurous naval officer, but shows a natural evolution into a new focus over the course of this books, without wallowing in self-pity about the fact that he lost his sight. And paired with Charlotte, who ended up seduced by a charming man as a young woman and later becoming a courtesan for a decade, I love how they share this ability to live their lives and not mourn over their lost opportunities.

I did find the plot a bit weaker though, and surprisingly slow moving considering the short length and the attempt to present a suspenseful tone. And while Benedict and Charlotte’s desires were both fulfilled, it did seem a bit strange how the suspense aspect seemed to become less of a focus and it didn’t feel completely resolved. Even knowing about how Hugo and Georgette’s story connects, I felt some things that happened In the village where the Perrys lived got a little neglected.

That being said, I definitely continue to love Romain’s writing style. And if you’re like me, and prefer your heroes to be nice guys rather than alphaholes, then definitely try this one.

Review of “Barbarous” (The Outcasts #2) by Minerva Spencer

Spencer, Minerva. Barbarous. New York: Kensington Publishing Corp., 2018.

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1420147216 |362 pages | Regency Romance

3.5 stars

I enjoyed Barbarous a lot more than its predecessor, in large part due to the much more sympathetic characters. Hugh was one of the more intriguing characters in Dangerous, and I was pleased that he ended up making a great hero. He is strong and dedicated to his profession, in spite of the wounds it has brought him, and he is incredibly caring toward Daphne.

However, the heroine, Daphne, felt a bit inconsistent. Initially, I found her easy to root for as a widow with two sons fending off a lecherous relative, especially since Hugh takes such good care of her and her sons. But as the revelations came out about her past, including how the relative factored into the conception of her son and that they were actually the result of a rape that the earl married her to cover up, I found the way that aspect was developed and foreshadowed a bit underwhelming, especially since I don’t feel that the trauma of such an event as sexual assault was well-conveyed.

I also found myself very confused as to why this story was the second book, as initially I thought it took place simultaneously with Dangerous, given that there’s a cameo by an unmarried Euphemia “Mia” Marlington. However, when I did not see further references to the prior book in this one, I concluded it must be a prequel. It isn’t inherently a bad thing, as it does essentially stand on its own in this case. It did however allow me to further see some of Mia’s character flaws through a different lens, making her more unlikable this time around.

I would still recommend this one to fans of historical romance, especially those who like a bit of suspense.

Review of “China Rich Girlfriend” (Crazy Rich Asians #2) by Kevin Kwan

Kwan, Kevin. China Rich Girlfriend. New York: Doubleday, 2015. 

Hardcover | $26.95 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0385539081 | 378 pages | Contemporary Fiction

4 stars

China Rich Girlfriend is a nice follow-up book. While not as fun as the first, it still has its charms. With all the major characters more or less paired off and married, it definitely felt more like a domestic drama than straddling that line between rom-com and domestic drama that the first one did.

This is both good and bad. I really liked how the shift presented opportunities to look more introspectively at the existing relationships between characters, like the disintegrating-but-still-trying-to-stay-afloat marriage between Astrid and Michael, complicated by her lingering feelings for Charlie, and Kitty Pong (now Katherine Tai) being ingratiated into society.

I also liked that Rachel’s desire to find her father connected her with some new characters who are just as rich and influential, if not more, and just as dysfunctional as Nick’s extended family…once again, if not more. However, aside from Rachel’s involvement with the Bao family and serving as a good influence on young Carlton in particular, I did not find Rachel and Nick as interesting as characters, given that they settle into newlywed bliss pretty early on in the book.

However, it is still a fun book, rife with references and cultural inside jokes, that made for an entertaining read for the most part. I would recommend it to those who are interested in continuing with the Crazy Rich Asians world, and to fans of comedic family dramas.

Review of “The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy” (Montague Siblings #2) by Mackenzi Lee

Lee, Mackenzi. The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy. New York: Katherine Tegen Books, 2018. 

Hardcover | $18.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0062795328 | 450 pages | Historical Fiction

4.5 stars

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy is another winner from Mackenzi Lee. While I admit I prefer the first book, it has a lot to do with the charm of Monty as a narrator. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to love about Felicity and her journey. While it’s been done before in other books, and with perhaps a greater punch, I liked reading about a heroine who was so determined to break barriers and become a doctor in the face of patriarchal objection. And I love the fact that Felicity defining her identity is a major part of her growth, especially with the hints that she’s asexual, without being able to fully articulate that, due to the fact that it wasn’t a term that would have been used at the time.

I also love that, in addition to supporting roles from the ever-lovable Monty and Percy, she teams up with an awesome set of other girls who have unique pursuits of their own. And like with the prior book, the characters’ desires and motivations are molded to examine issues of the time period while also telling an entertaining story, with colonialism being one that I really enjoyed being explored, through the growth of Johanna’s character. And Sim was fabulous in terms of being an awesome kick-ass pirate with some tender edges too.

This is a very good follow-up and a great book in its own right, and one I would recommend to fans of fun(ny), action-packed historical fiction.