Review of “Obsession in Death” (In Death #40) by J.D. Robb

Robb, J.D. Obsession in Death. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2015.

Hardcover | $27.95 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0399170874 | 404 pages | Romantic Suspense

4 stars

40 books in with the prospect of only eight more, then having to wait for the next two, and I can still say I am obsessed with this series, in spite of all its shortcomings. So, it is quite fitting in a sense that this one is called Obsession in Death.

And while this wasn’t one of my favorites in the series, it was still great, especially as it presented a new personal challenge for Eve, with the case being concerned with an obsessed fan of hers who takes it upon themselves to make misguided attempts to avenge her to prove her “friendship.” Ultimately, even if the reveal wasn’t that exciting for me, I found the psychology of the killer, in the snippets we got from their perspective the most interesting, which is not surprising, given ho w I’ve often expressed my admiration for how Nora Roberts gets into these twisted people’s heads.

I also really liked seeing the team work together, bringing up people from past cases. Admittedly, I didn’t remember quite a few of them, but it is nice to see more consistency in terms of the connectedness of the series and the characters beyond the core group.

And Eve and Roarke…I fall in love with them more and more as a couple from book to book. And it’s really those little intimate moments, like them having a meal together or their casual banter in between all the intense case-cracking, that make me so happy.

This was a pretty interesting one in the series, and while it wasn’t mind-blowing by any means, reaching book 40 only increases my hype for the books to come.

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Review of “The Golden Hour” by Beatriz Williams

Williams, Beatriz. The Golden Hour. New York: William Morrow, 2019. H

Hardcover | $26.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0062834751 | 468 pages | Historical Fiction

3 stars

I find myself a bit conflicted about The Golden Hour, as I often do when it comes to Beatriz Williams books. I love that she writes books with complex, interwoven plots that can take a while to come together, but sometimes it works better than others. And this is a case where some of the more minute things worked, but I found that while there was some payoff, given the fact that it doesn’t really pick up until the last one hundred pages, I didn’t enjoy it as much as some of her prior books.

Conceptually, the book is great, highlighting a topic I knew nothing about: when the Duke of Windsor served as Governor of the Bahamas during World War II. I had heard about some of his and the Duchess’ more questionable connections during the World War II period and the years preceding it (which are alluded to, but not discussed heavily, in the book), but it was fascinating to find out that he was given another political appointment following his abdication. And the fact that there’s an unsolved murder that occurred during his tenure, which formed one of the more interesting elements of the book once it FINALLY kicked into high gear surely did not help his reputation in that regard.

Because of all this, I found the 1940s chapters compelling, even if there was an incredibly slow build up to the excitement discussed in the blurb, and, adding to my frustration, there were two narratives, a sort of “Before” and and “After” following that period’s heroine, Lulu, which aided in suggesting what would happen on her end, but did not help the pacing.

And while I did like the tie-in with the early 1900s/World War I heroine, Elfriede (who, in typical fashion, also serves as the connection to another of Williams’ books), the ending both confused me and let me down, as if it was meant to be two books. Her narrative prior to that was compelling in its own right, with her own love affair with some tragic undertones and questions revolving around the whereabouts of her beloved, who went off to war. But, aside from the initial familial connection between the two arcs, with Lulu falling in love with Elfriede’s son, I felt the ending which purports to bring it all together was a little too confusing.

This is still a great read, and there were things I really enjoyed, like the historical context and some elements of both story arcs, but perhaps I just picked it up at the wrong time for me when I wasn’t necessarily in the mood for a read like this one. But I would still recommend it, especially to readers who have more consistently enjoyed Williams’ past work, or those who are in the mood for a more complex, multi-layered historical fiction read.

Review of “The Lacemaker” by Laura Frantz

Frantz, Laura. The Lacemaker. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2018.

Paperback | $15.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0800726638 | 413 pages | Christian Fiction/Historical Romance–Revolutionary War

5 stars

I had never read Laura Frantz before, but I purchased The Lacemaker a while ago due to my interest in more historicals set during the American Revolution, and now finding myself in the mood for the period again after having one of those “I don’t know what to read” moments, I finally picked it up.

And I’m impressed by Frantz’s style. She perfectly captures what I already knew was a tense period and brings it to life, giving me a deeper look at the tense, day-by-day conflicts between the Tories and Patriots, as it built up from a rebellion into all-out war.

This is seen through the eyes of the heroine, Liberty, the daughter of a Tory politician who ends up in the middle of it all. While she is never fully disdainful of the Patriot cause, I loved seeing her grow from being more trusting that the life her father has carved out for her is the best to becoming more disillusioned, leading her to the Patriots.

While the names (given at birth or adopted over the course of the story) for both hero and heroine are a little on the nose, with Noble, it is very appropriate. He is not only dedicated to the cause, providing a fresh lens to explore the side of the Patriots through, but I love his “noble” behavior toward Liberty throughout the book, leading me to fall in love with him just as Liberty did, swooning every time he referred to her as “anwylyd,” the Welsh term for “beloved.”

This book is so richly detailed, but it never feels overwhelming, with it being more about the characters’ growth and the growth of their love for each other first and foremost. It is a must-read for anyone who loves a great historical that sweeps you away, leaving you satisfied at completing a wonderful story, yet still yearning for more.

Review of “Their Perfect Melody” (Matched to Perfection #3) by Priscilla Oliveras

Oliveras, Priscilla. Their Perfect Melody. New York: Zebra/Kensington, 2018.

Mass Market Paperback | $4.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1420144307 | 328 pages | Contemporary Romance

5 stars

Priscilla Oliveras is one of the new authors who I absolutely came to adore last year, so it’s a shame I left Their Perfect Melody, her last release in her Matched to Perfection series, unread for so long. But I’m so happy to be back in her world again, following compelling family-oriented Latinx characters.

I really did not expect Lili to end up where she is now, based on the prior two books, since she always felt like something of a wild-card to me, with nothing really defining her outside the fact that she’s a part of this close-knit family. But it’s clear that experiences that took place in the years since the last two books ended have impacted her, and this conveyed well, and I really liked seeing how that translated into her growth into the victim’s advocate she is at the present time.

And she meets her match in Diego, a police officer, who shares her passion not only for helping others, but also helps to reignite the love of music that has lain dormant inside her for years. They have such a great relationship, and while it’s not without its bumps in the road, especially as Diego’s family situation isn’t nearly as idyllic as that of the Fernandez sisters’, ultimately, there is hope there too.

Oliveras handles some heavy issues with sensitivity, perfectly balancing those topics with the more lighthearted moments. And this is a can’t-miss contemporary romance for those who love multicultural romances focused on family and full of heart.

Review of “Governess Gone Rogue” (Dear Lady Truelove #3) by Laura Lee Guhrke

Guhrke, Laura Lee. Governess Gone Rogue. New York: Avon Books, 2019.

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0062853691 | 372 pages | Victorian Romance

5 stars

Governess Gone Rogue is probably my new favorite in the Dear Lady Truelove series so far, due to the skilled combination of two tropes that I thought had been done to death: the nanny/governess trope a la Mary Poppins, and the woman-disguised-as-a-man trope. And while there are shades of the familiar with both aspects, Guhrke injects something new into the story, making it her own.

Amanda is a wonderful heroine, and I could not help but feel for her when the secrets from her past came out, but admire her determination to continue to persevere, even when confronted with the man from her past who runs into her again and is once again making lewd offers. I love how Guhrke highlighted how uncertain women still were during this time period, especially once their reputations were compromised, along with the double standard of how it had no impact on the man, even if he pursued her.

Jamie is a great counterpart for Amanda, given his own wild past and current efforts to carve a political career for himself. While there is the obligatory bit of character growth when he begins to really spend time with his sons and consider what they really need. While he is still grieving for his wife at the beginning of the book, I feel like it was a natural progression to him falling for Amanda and seeing her important as not just a nanny, but as someone he loves and wants to spend his life with.

There are also a few great scenes from the boys’ perspective, and it just helped me to love them even more, especially given the parallels, with them originally writing to Lady Truelove seeking a new mother, and later visiting the newspaper’s offices to seek her out in person to seek help in getting Amanda back. And their antics in between, while often naughty, are incredibly endearing.

This is a delightful, slow-burning historical romance, with a great mix of humor and heart. I would recommend this to other historical romance fans, even if you haven’t picked up a Laura Lee Guhrke book before.

Review of “Festive in Death” (In Death #39) by J.D. Robb

Robb, J.D. Festive in Death. New York: G.P. Putam’s Sons, 2014.

Hardcover | $27.95 USD | ISBN-0399164446 | 389 pages | Romantic Suspense

4 stars

Festive in Death is another enjoyable installment in the In Death series, with a reasonably interesting case. It’s always fascinating when it’s not so black-and-white, and the victim is kind of a awful person as well, leading to the uncovering of much more complex and deep motivations behind the killing, as well as exemplifying the true nature of the job of being in the police force of doing your best work to solve a case, no matter who the victim is.

And of course, an In Death book is not complete without some great interactions between the cast, this time surrounding the holiday season. There’s a tender moment near the end between Eve and Roarke with a callback to their first Christmas together that elicited an “awww!” from me, and more “fun” surrounding the holiday season, including some silliness with a mall Santa. Not to mention Eve once again out of her element planning a huge Christmas party…

This was a more or less enjoyable installment, although Eve being Eve with her awkwardness does start to wear a little thin after so many books, and I feel like she could use more character growth. But other than that, it continues to be great and I continue to attest that it’s worth it to take the plunge and pick up the series if you haven’t.

Review of “Rogue Most Wanted” (Cavensham Heiresses #5) by Janna MacGregor

MacGregor, Janna. Rogue Most Wanted. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2019.

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1250295996 | 371 pages | Regency Romance

5 stars

I didn’t know what to expect from Rogue Most Wanted, since Lord Will Cavensham did not make the strongest impression in prior books, aside from one particularly fiery scene between him and Emma in The Bride Who Got Lucky. But I was pleasantly surprised with him in this one. While he is in no way a “rogue” as the title suggests, that only makes him even easier to fall for, especially as he finds himself falling in love again while still recovering from the damage wrought by a long-ago heartbreak.

But Thea is who really had me excited, given that I was aware of some female peeresses, but hadn’t seen many of them represented in historical romance. I wholeheartedly rooted for her to succeed in claiming the earldom and taking charge of the estate she loved so much, and my heart broke for her when she contemplated marriage to her rival to not only preserve her claim, but save her tenants as well.

On that note, I love that MacGregor really did her homework when it came to the nuances of inheritance law. I feel like lots of writers shirk doing serious research, and readers don’t care, because they are under the impression that history is boring. However, MacGregor manages to blend history and fiction masterfully, leaving me, a Regency reader who had thought she had studied the period extensively and as a result came to view some Regency romances with cynicism, learning something new not only about that, but about the more minute societal details as well.

This series just gets better and better, and I can’t wait for the next book (or two?) for what’s coming next. I know Avalon and Devan’s book has already been announced, and the way they interact with each other in this one already gives me high hopes (“Lady Warlock!” xD) I also hope that the writer of the Midnight Cryer gets what’s coming to him soon, given that all his ridiculous scribblings made me wish some sort of suit for slander would be in his future…and MacGregor has announced he’ll have his own book, so I’m equally excited there!

Review of “Rebel” (Women Who Dare #1) by Beverly Jenkins

Jenkins, Beverly. Rebel. New York: Avon Books, 2019.

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0062861689 | 373 pages | Historical Romance–Reconstruction

5 stars

After finally reading some Beverly Jenkins books earlier this year, I was excited to see what she would bring to the table with this new release, Rebel, especially given the very bold series title, “Women Who Dare,” and an incredibly exciting premise.

And, of course, Jenkins delivers, presenting two compelling leads. Valinda is the standout of Rebel, who is teaching a class of freedmen and women, placing her in a position that subjects her to the injustices that are rife against Black people in Reconstruction-era New Orleans. Drake LeVeq is a worthy counterpart for her, in his own work for the Freedmen’s Bureau. And while their relationship is one that is kind of insta-lust-y, it is still such a beautiful story, and one where I found myself rooting for them every step of the way.

I also continue to love how dedicated Jenkins is to her research, recreating the tense atmosphere of the times in a way that left me feeling like I had learned a lot more about it than I ever had in any classroom lecture.

This novel is a gem, and Beverly Jenkins continues to prove why she’s essentially a rock star in the romance community, solidifying my desire to read more of her books in the future. And I recommend anyone who hasn’t read this one (or any Jenkins books) to pick this one or any of her historicals up if they want a good blend of education and entertainment.

Review of “Concealed in Death” (In Death #38) by J.D. Robb

Robb, J.D. Concealed in Death. New York: G.P. Putam’s Sons, 2014.

Hardcover | $27.95 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0399164439 | 402 pages | Romantic Susoense

4 stars

Concealed in Death is another great book in the In Death series, and I was immediately intrigued at how this one was set apart from the others with the discovery of a long-concealed set of bodies, a setup that has never been seen before in the series. And the additional layer that ties them to a home for troubled teens added a connection to both Eve and Roarke’s pasts that I thought was great.

It was also nice to see a deeper side to Mavis, who I often forget led a bit of an unconventional lifestyle prior to becoming friends with Eve. Other cases have touched the cast in such beautiful ways, and to see how Mavis was connected to this one shows how much she also struggled, providing a greater sense of satisfaction to her current state of happiness, in a similar way that Eve’s current life with Roarke does for her.

While this one is a bit slower and more contemplative than the average book in the series, it suits the type of case they’re working with this time around, although ultimately it left the conclusion feeling a bit anticlimactic, wrapping up a little too quickly. However, it is still a fairly solid book, with plenty of great moments.

Review of “Midnight on the River Grey” by Abigail Wilson

Wilson, Abigail. Midnight on the River Grey. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2019.

Paperback | $15.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0785224129 | 323 pages | Christian Fiction/Regency Romance

4 stars

I was excited to get around to Midnight on the River Grey, given that I really enjoyed Abigail Wilson’s debut novel. And while I enjoyed this one marginally less than the first, I still found it a pretty solid read overall.

The characters took a bit longer to grow on me this time around, especially Rebecca, since I wasn’t really sure what to think of her. But she and Lewis endeared themselves to me over the course of the book, as both let their walls come down. Lewis admittedly took a bit less time for me to get attached to, which is funny, as we’re never in his head, but despite the doubts sowed by other characters, he is always presented in his interactions with Rebecca as a good person who is trying to do the best he can.

As a heroine, Rebecca was much more immature than Wilson’s prior book’s naive heroine, and while her motivations for not wanting to marry had interesting, due to a perception of inherited madness, the reveal of the true source of her mother’s madness further highlights this. I mean, I know it was common for women to be kept somewhat ignorant in that period, but even the way the reveal was addressed suggested that she should have known. Nevertheless, I still admired her for her bravery and determination to solve the murders.

On that note, kudos to Wilson for a well-crafted mystery with an ending that I did not see coming. Like her previous effort, she had me suspecting everyone, and when the answers were revealed, my jaw dropped at the unexpected nature of it, yet how it all made sense with the clues planted earlier in the book.

This was a delightfully fast-paced and suspenseful read, only further cementing Abigail Wilson as one of my new favorite authors. And I once again recommend this to fans of romantic historical mysteries.