Review of "A Delicate Deception" (Regency Impostors #3) by Cat Sebastian (+ Affiliate News)

Sebastian, Cat. A Delicate Deception. New York: Avon Impulse, 2019.

eBook | $3.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0062820679 | 384 pages | Regency Romance

3.5 stars

I included the first two Regency Impostors books on my “best of 2019,” simply under the series title, with some anticipation that I would be able to talk about A Delicate Deception as highly. However, while I enjoyed elements of this, like the unapologetic queerness of the two leads and the fact the absolutely adorable development of their relationship, other parts fell a little flat.

Cat continues to create such scrumptious male characters. I love the exploration of Sydney’s grief over the losses he’s experienced, and his presentation as grumpy withotu being annoying, a failing in the characterization of many a grumpy hero.

I also like that, in Amelia, he was paired with someone who also was a bit closed-off, and seeing them interact with that in common is interesting and outside the norm, since romance usually tries to play up opposing personalities. My favorite chapters have to be the two consisting solely of their correspondence. While it’s not really the “thing” anymore, if it had been an epistolary work, I would not have objected.

However, the plot meandered, to the point of me struggling to follow it. There are some fun elements, like a bit of family dynamics, and the discussion of Amelia’s historical novels (a bit I also enjoyed in A Duke in Disguise), but there didn’t seem to be a ton of direction for the story overall.

If anything, the characters are amusing and they saved me from being truly bored. Cat Sebastian has rapidly become an autobuy, and one or two disappointments have not put me off an author that frequently writes such entertaining stories. I recommend this if you are a more character-focused reader, and you are ready to become invested in the hijinks of these unique characters, because that alone makes it somewhat worth it.

Also, final note: I recently registered to become an Amazon Affiliate! So, if by chance you haven’t gotten this book yet, and are interested in trying it, I’d appreciate the support.

Buy the book here: https://amzn.to/30pWx2x

Review of "A Duke a Dozen" (The Survivors #6) by Shana Galen

Galen, Shana. A Duke a Dozen. [United States]: Shana Galen, 2019.

Paperback | $14.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1687469892 | 421 pages | Regency Romance

4 stars

After the age-gap relationship where the hero was older in the previous book, it was a nice touch to have an older heroine this time around in A Duke a Dozen. And as has become the hallmark of this series, we get a good balance of some light-hearted moments (although the focus is much more on the romance over the friendship this time around, with the story taking the characters away from London and the Draven Club), emotional reckoning, and a dash of suspense.

While Phin isn’t my favorite of the Survivors (I still have a soft spot for Draven, after the previous book), I enjoyed seeing him trying to reckon with the new expectations, due to the “accidents” the befell his older brothers, leaving him saddled with the title. And while he initially came to Annabel out of suspicion, I love how kindly he treated her, as a contrast to her late husband.

I truly felt for Annabel, however. A bad arranged marriage is nothing new to historical romance, as it wouldn’t have been uncommon during this time period, but it’s the little touches that made her experience unique. The way her husband made her unable to properly experience pleasure was moving, but even more so was the sad fate for her daughter, who was the impetus for her seeking Phin’s help.

The mystery does feel a tad obvious in this one, and, admittedly, I almost forgot it was important with everything else going on, so were it not for the last-minute resolution by the end, I may not have missed that detail

This is another great installment in a wonderful series, and I can’t wait for the next one releasing in just under a month as of this writing. I recommend this to fans of Regency romances.

Review of "The Soldier's Scoundrel" (The Turner Series #1) by Cat Sebastian

Sebastian, Cat. The Soldier’s Scoundrel. New York: Avon Impulse, 2016.

EBook | $3.99 USD | ISBN-13: 977-0062642486 | 336 pages | Regency Romance

4 stars

At long last, I’ve finally went back and picked up Cat Sebastian’s historical romance debut, The Soldier’s Scoundrel. And while I think she’s only improved with time, this one has all her signature charm.

There’s a saying I heard not too long ago that you can make a problematic trope less so by “making it gay,” and while I feel it also requires some nuance to understand LGBTQ+ issues (which Sebastian demonstrates), this is a great case of that maxim proving true. This story follows a gentleman and scoundrel, with a fall into love that works much more than many heterosexual cross-class romances, for getting rid of the double standards, while also exploring the issues facing gay men in this time period.

I loved seeing Jack get past his biases toward the nobility through his relationship with Oliver, making this a great transition from dislike to love that can be hard to get right without either being too far gone to be forgivable or just feeling petty.

This is a strong start from an author who has now become one of my favorite authors. I recommend this for those looking for good LGBTQ+ rep in historical romance.

Review of "The Thief of Lanwyn Manor" (The Cornwall Novels #2) by Sarah E. Ladd

Ladd, Sarah E. The Thief of Lanwyn Manor. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2020.

EBook | $8.99 USD ($15.99 USD Print) | ISBN-13: 978-0785223269 | 352 pages | Christian Fiction/Regency Romance

I received an ARC of this book through Netgalley to read in exchange for a fair review.

The Thief of Lanwyn Manor is the second in Sarah E. Ladd’s latest series, the Cornwall novels, but, as is typical of the author’s style, while there are small connections you appreciate if you read in order, the stories completely stand alone and the characters of book one have almost nothing to do with this book.

And admittedly, I’m kind of glad, as while that first book was ok, it was one of her weaker efforts, and very cliche, while this one is more of a return to form. The constant is that the setting of Cornwall remains beautifully realized, and the story feels atmospheric, while exploring a different nefarious deed that hasn’t been treaded to the point where it’s become a stereotype.

Isaac in particular is great, with his concern for those working in the mine he and his family own. Ladd’s books have slowly begun to focus more on the issues of the working class in this period (an aspect I also loved in her previous stand alone book, The Weaver’s Daughter), and she does so in a way that left me feeling enlightened and reflecting on the issues in comparison to today.

I really enjoyed the romantic tension in this one, especially as Julia grows closer to Isaac, in spite of his brother initially seeming like a more ideal suitor. This also leads to great character development between the brothers as well, especially given Matthew has a connection to the things going on.

There is a mystery, but while Ladd’s build-up is fantastic, as noted with the development of setting in terms of Gothic atmosphere, the reveal is a little underwhelming and predictable, and now that I’ve grown as a reader, I can recognize that as a flaw in many of her books, where it’s less “aha!” when you put the pieces together, and more “but of course it is.”

This is not my favorite Sarah Ladd title, but I still enjoyed it for the most part. I recommend it to people looking for a sweet read that also has a thread of suspense.

Review of "Lady Derring Takes a Lover" (The Palace of Rogues #1) by Julie Anne Long

Long, Julie Anne. Lady Derring Takes a Lover. New York: Avon Books, 2019.

eBook | $5.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0062867476 | 384 pages | Regency Romance

4 stars

I had mixed experiences with Julie Anne Long’s previous work, really enjoying one of the middle books in the Pennyroyal Green series when I first got into romance but not feeling compelled to continue, then being put off entirely by the early books. With Lady Derring Takes a Lover, Long appears to have mastered her craft since those earlier books, as while there is a lot of setup, it’s balanced well with a much more engaging love story.

In terms of that setup, I really enjoyed the friendship between Delilah and Angelique. They begin the book as the widow and former mistress, respectively, of the same man, and while it could have led to animosity, I enjoyed seeing them bond over the poor circumstances Lord Derring left them in. I feel like female friendships aren’t given as much emphasis as male ones in romance, and to have it come from a situation like this is so refreshing.

While the romance takes its time to start, once it does, it’s swoonworthy. I loved seeing Delilah discovering pleasure for the first time, as well as what it means to be cared for. And Tristan, who is usually more contained, is attracted to her almost immediately, allowing him to let his guard down.

The one major plot point I found a little out of place was the mystery. It presents an opportunity for Tristan and Delilah to make contact, as it centers on Lord Derring, but other than that, it feels rather underwhelming. However, I did enjoy how it provided context to the work Tristan does.

This is a great start to a new series from a well-loved author who I’m hoping to give more of a chance going forward. I recommend this to those looking for more historical romances that prominently feature female friendships, especially between unlikely people.

Review of "Misleading Miss Verity" (Regency Brides: Daughters of Aynsley #3) by Carolyn Miller

Miller, Carolyn. Misleading Miss Verity. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2019.

Paperback | $15.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0825445910 | 342 pages | Christian Fiction/Regency Romance

5 stars

Misleading Miss Verity is a bittersweet goodbye to Carolyn Miller’s Regency Brides world, as it seems she’s going in a new direction with her next book. And as such, I’m glad this is a good book to send the series off on.

This story, like many of her books, is rich in character growth. While it was hard to know what to expect from Verity, given her peripheral role as a side character in her sisters’ books, I liked her emotional journey toward growing in faith in God in a way that didn’t feel forced. I also like that she’s independent minded, and despite initial difficulties, finds someone who respects that.

I also enjoyed seeing Anthony adjusting to his new role of laird of Dungally. I thought it was great to see him apply his desire to help people and undo the legacy of carlessness sowed by the previous laird. I love that he was just a good person, and while there was some misleading going on, it was with good intent.

Like all the Regency Brides books, there is a great sense of place, particularly when the characters are in Scotland. She immerses the reader in the scenery, language, and customs, so it feels like you’re there. She also presents something a little bit closer to her home, with some scenes in New South Wales at the beginning, and I think it’s fascinating to see a writer depict the history of their homeland in one of their books.

This is a great book, and I recommend it to fans of inspirational historical romance.

Holiday Novellas Wrap-Up

In honor finally getting an eReader (Nook Glowlight 3), I stocked up on a lot of eBooks, including free and discounted holiday books. I tried to get to some of the holiday themed ones, in light of not really having much holiday reading prior to Christmas. I also think it solves the issue of how to post and share my novella reviews, since most are too short to justify individual posts. Note that, while most books will be related to the holiday season, there are a few that aren’t for…reasons. 

12/25-The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky by Mackenzi Lee. (Hardcover), 3 stars: Borrowed from the library prior to receiving my Nook, it was one of the short books I squeezed in between Lady Darby 2 and 3. It’s kind of an extended epilogue taking place after The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, and as the title implies, it surrounds Monty and Percy’s first time. It’s fun, and it’s great to see those characters again, but it’s not exactly the most engaging and substantial story. But then again, I didn’t really expect it to be. 

12/25-Miss Compton’s Christmas Romance by Sophie Barnes (EBook), 4 stars: Sophie Barnes is one of my favorite authors, and, despite it being a shorter story, she still more or less shines. With her now firmly finding her feet in self-publishing, it’s nice to see her exploring the world outside the aristocracy, with both Leonora and Philip being such solid, nice working-class people, and one of many books out there that prove you don’t need pots of money to be happy ever after. 

12/26-The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan (EBook), 5 stars: An excellent an emotionally moving prequel to the Brothers Sinister series. While I understood the gist of it from The Duchess War, reading about the crimes committed against Serena by the previous Duke of Clermont was heartbreaking, as was the fact the Hugo is so sweet. Torn between trying to make something of himself through his work for the duke and his growing love for Serena, I was so deeply invested in his arc, and overjoyed when, of course, love won out. 

12/27-The Lady Always Wins by Courtney Milan (eBook), 3 stars: I couldn’t help but feel a little let done by this one, but I suppose it’s my fault for reading this one so soon after The Governess Affair. There’s nothing wrong with this story, but the emotion here is relatively lacking, and it feels like another standard historical romance. Decent for the genre, but we all know Courtney Milan can and has done better. And the fact that it is a standalone probably also does work against it, not giving me any real reason to care about the characters outside the confines of the story. 

12/28-A Kiss for Midwinter by Courtney Milan (eBook), 4.5 stars: A delightful holiday  story set in the Brothers Sinister world, and following Lydia, Minnie’s friend from The Duchess War. And while it’s still not my favorite Milan, I enjoyed this one, particularly for Jonas, the hero. I like that he’s blunt and doesn’t play games about anything, and he’s very matter-of-fact about sex. Not to mention him being in love with Lydia for years. As for her…a friend compared Lydia’s arc to that of another fictional Lydia, in Pride and Prejudice, and what she could have been, and it definitely works, with her being a relatable lead. And this is another Milan story with a lot of depth to the secondary characters as well, such as Jonas’ father who is battling an illness. 

12/29-The Lady in Red by Kelly Bowen, 4: A fun “bridge” novella between Bowen’s last two series, Season for Scandal and Devils of Dover, I enjoyed the focus on art here, with both Charlotte and Flynn having artistic ambitions, bringing them together. This novella grapples with some deep themes in spite of its length, like the risks Charlotte is taking as both a woman and an aristocrat pursuing her passion and the issues of the class divide motivating Flynn to prove himself and rise above his roots, with an additional hint of a past heartbreak with another aristocratic lady to make things interesting. 

12/30-What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? By Catherine Stein (eBook), 5 stars: A novella set in the same world as Eden’s Voice, this is a fun steampunk story set around New Year’s Eve (obviously). And while I had a few issues with EV, I liked this one overall as a nice little nugget that’s a lot less overwhelming tech-wise and plot wise. And the couple fall in love in the New York Public Library, where the hero, William, works as a librarian? This is the story I’ve been looking for my whole life (not literally…but it hits all my sweet spots). 

12/31-New York Engagement by Maida Malby (eBook), 5 stars: A novella published between Carpe Diem Chronicles novels that I missed upon first publication, I made sure to snap it up in time to ring in the New Year (and decade, depending on how you count) with. It was a blast to see Krista and Blake’s engagement and her meeting more of his family (as well as finding out the identity of her own father). Malby’s signature blend of sweetness, scrumptiousness (of course there’s food!), and steaminess is all here. 

Review of "A Pursuit of Home" (Haven Manor #3) by Kristi Ann Hunter

Hunter, Kristi Ann. A Pursuit of Home. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2019.

Paperback | $14.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0764230776 | 380 pages | Christian Fiction/Regency Romance

3 stars

A Pursuit of Home, the final book in Kristi Ann Hunter’s Haven Manor series, feels like such a different book tonally to the other two, and, while part of that could be due to its centering on the character of Jess, who appeared in Hunter’s first book in her prior series, which had an espionage/mystery thread to it, and this book sees a reunion between her and the protagonists of that book, it resulted in the story feeling a bit odd.

A major facet to my diminished interest in this book is the fact that Jess wasn’t a character who made an impact on me the same way she did for others, and when Hunter mentioned bringing her back for this one, I scratched my head. To be fair, you don’t have to have read that previous book to understand it, as the backstory is conveyed well here, but while I find myself usually sympathizing with most heroines, I just found Jess hard to connect with.

Derek is better, in that I at least found him interesting in terms of his scholarly pursuits, and his somewhat awkward personality. I also really enjoyed getting his unique thought process, viewing things as art, including his attraction to Jess.

The plot feels a little all over the place, as while there is a decent amount of intrigue, I found my interest flagging in a way I’ve never felt before with one of her previous books (even the conclusion to her previous series, which I also found uneven). A lot of it just seemed a little half-baked, with too many elements in play at once.

This a case of an author having a lot of great ideas, but stumbling a little trying to bring them all together. There’s elements of a good story in here, and for many it may have worked better, so as always, your mileage may vary. I think if you read Hunter’s previous work, especially if you happen to be a Jess fan, you’ll probably love getting deeper insight into her character and seeing her find her HEA.

Review of "The Bridge to Belle Island" by Julie Klassen

Klassen, Julie. The Bridge to Belle Island. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2019.

Paperback | $15.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0764218194 | 394 pages | Regency Romance/Christian Fiction

5 stars

A new Julie Klassen book is pretty much always a delight, and The Bridge to Belle Island is no exception. Klassen once again blends the elements of period-drama romance in the vein of Jane Austen with the semi-Gothic mystery of the Brontes, with characters I loved from the first pages and a compelling plot that kept me guessing.

Klassen touches on some tough issues in this one, a common theme for her books, this time featuring a heroine with anxiety as a result of grief and fear as the result of several family deaths. I could relate to Isabelle’s sense of feeling secure in her life on Belle Island, fearing the consequences of venturing out as others in her family did. And while she does eventually venture out and face her fears, it’s merely a small step in what is implied to be a long process of reacquainting herself with the world, with the power of her faith and the support of those close to her.

I liked Benjamin’s journey as a character as well, reconciling pleasing his mentor who he feels he’s disappointed recently and the father with whom he’s never seen eye-to-eye. I love his growth to finding out who is more worthy of his trust and respect, in spite of the difficulties.

I found the mystery compelling, especially as there is much more focus on that plot, with the development of the romance feeling secondary at times. While she typically creates heroes and heroines who don’t have any reason to be suspects in the murder, I love her use of misdirection that even had me suspecting Isabelle at one point, along with everyone else. And when the true reason the clues suggested she could be involved were revealed, I was completely shocked, as well as saddened, with how it played into her anxiety issues. And the reveal of the killer was a clever twist I did not see coming, although, in hindsight, it was set up so well.

Julie Klassen has written another winner, and one I recommend to fans of historical romance and mystery.

Review of "Unbound by Celeste Bradley and Susan Donovan

Bradley, Celeste, and Susan Donovan. Unbound. 2011. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2012.

Paperback | $14.99 | ISBN-13: 978-1250032645 | 368 pages | Regency Romance/Contemporary Romance

5 stars

I read Breathless last year, completely unaware it was a sequel/spin-off of another book, because it wasn’t marked as such anywhere (although it does stand on its own). And while I was curious to read Unbound, its more salacious nature did put me off a tad.

However, upon finally picking it up when I was bored, I found myself engrossed in both arcs, although, as with Breathless, the historical arc was the stronger of the two. Given that the story revolves around the question of a how an English courtesan ended up becoming an abolitionist in America, I was on the edge of my seat with all the twists and turns as Ophelia took control of her life.

And while not initially drawn to the mysterious “Sir” (or the character who is later revealed to be him under the mask), that was by design, and I found myself awestruck when I found out his identity, especially as he ended up being a key figure from her previous life. And while you don’t get his perspective, I still found his growth from entitled aristocrat into a champion of women’s liberation and equality for all moving.

Piper’s story hits a bit closer to home in some ways, so I found myself living vicariously through her as she came to discover her own sexuality in the least likely of places. And while I also wasn’t wild about Mick initially, as his side of their past relationship came out, I began to see him as a viable partner for Piper. And I love how it’s another way that the two stories align: while the two women are finding their sexuality, the men they love must grow and evolve to become worthy of them.

This is a surprising dual-timeline romance that has a bit of everything: sweet moments and (very) sexy ones, hilarious and emotional, and of course, a good balance between the interwoven historical and contemporary arcs. I recommend it to all romance fans.