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.

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Review of “Diary of an Accidental Wallflower” (The Seduction Diaries #1) by Jennifer McQuiston

McQuiston, Jennifer. Diary of an Accidental Wallflower. New York: Avon Books, 2015.

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0062335012 | 370 pages | Victorian Romance

5 stars

As of late, I haven’t felt particularly excited for recent historical romance releases, and while there are many from the last year that I have to catch up on and there will be some in the coming months that have me excited, the state of the subgenre with the shortage of releases from go-to authors has been feeling a little stale at this present moment. This led to me seek out an author I had once tried when she debuted, only to inexplicably not pick up another book from her: Jennifer McQuiston. And Diary of an Accidental Wallflower seemed to fit my requirements, as I wanted a hero who was different from the deluge of rakish aristocrats, and was even getting tired of the “relatable” bluestocking heroines, particularly when paired with the former.

And I found myself enjoying this book and cursing myself for not picking it up when it first came out, particularly for the adorable hero, Daniel. While he does have one or two less flattering moments, I love his devotion to his work and how he is confident in who he is and his standing, even when others — even the heroine at first — look down on him. It’s so awesome to see a hero actually doing something with his life rather than wasting his life away.

I had some slight concern as to how Clare might be handled, as she could easily come off as unlikable. And to some, she might be. But I feel like, while she’s cold and snobbish at the beginning, this is very much a story of her growth: finding out the truth about who she is and who her true friends are. And I think it’s unfortunate that in cases where the roles are reversed, and we have ass of a duke (for an example) with a wallflower, people are much more forgiving when he reaches his epiphany (and usually not until the end of the book). With Clare, her transformation felt natural and I could feel her feelings change as she started to fall for Daniel and had the desire to fight to be with him.

The supporting cast is lovely, and I love how it reinforces this idea of family and togetherness, regardless of blood ties and any other domestic difficulties faced over time is conveyed. I was particularly drawn to the connection between Clare and her long-lost relative, and think it’s a shame that the author is currently not writing, as I would love to see his story, much more so than either of the Westmore siblings, especially the brother, as his portrayal here and a sneak peek at the blurb suggests it’s yet another wastrel aristocrat story.

This was a sweet and unexpected historical romance, of a type I wish we saw more of. And I would recommend it to any other historical romance lover who missed it, especially if you love working heroes or stories focusing on the heroine’s journey.

Review of “Forevermore” (Darkest London #7) by Kristen Callihan

Callihan, Kristen. Forevermore. New York: Forever, 2016.

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1455581702 | 318 pages | Victorian Romance/Paranormal Romace

4.5 stars

Forevermore concludes the Darkest London series on a high note. I admit I was rather worried about how Callihan would conclude the series, given how massive the world had become, but the overall arc of the series left me feeling satisfied.

I was surprised at how well having supporting players Augustus and Lena as a secondary hero and heroine worked. They did steal the show a bit from Sin and Layla, but I really enjoyed their storyline and how these characters working behind the scenes in the prior books finally got the spotlight somewhat.

I really like the dynamic that Sin and Layla have, given their past. I feel like some of the other couples have pasts together that have a lot of negative connotations, so it was nice to have a good balance of internal struggles that test each of them with a more loving and believable buildup of the romance between them.

I was generally satisfied with this final entry in the series and am frantically looking for something that can compare. And I will once again recommend pretty much everyone read this series, because even at its less interesting moments, it’s still a great, fast-paced series with quite a bit of character depth.

Review of “Evernight” (Darkest London #5) by Kristen Callihan

Callihan, Kristen. Evernight. New York: Forever, 2014.

Mass Market Paperback | $6.00 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1455581641 | 411 pages | Victorian Romance/Paranormal Romance

4.5 stars

Evernight was much more enjoyable than its predecessor (although I don’t know if anything can top the sweetness of Winston and Poppy in Winterblaze), and I think a lot of it has to do with the history and conflict between Holly and Will. And while some of the ingredients of the book were there that surely meant I could have disliked this book, primarily the fact that even Callihan considers Will an “antihero” (408), and that’s most definitely not my thing, I felt it genuinely worked within the context of this story.

Yet, oddly the trope of an assassin falling for his target is one that worked well for me once before, and Callihan makes it work with equal ease. There is great chemistry between Holly and Will, and while their relationship in this book doesn’t start off in the most auspicious circumstances, I could feel their relationship grow in an authentic way, which I did not feel with Jack and Mary in the prior book. I also like that once again Callihan gives her characters complexity, from Will with the way his dark past is explored to the different facets of Holly’s personality, with her being somewhat cold and distant, but opening up over time.

And now, five books in, I love that the world gets more and more intricate and there are more and more hints for the direction of the last two books, and I’m super excited to get to them. And I will repeat my recommendation from the last few reviews of this series that I recommend these for everyone who loves a good blend of historical and paranormal.

Review of “Shadowdance” (Darkest London #4) by Kristen Callihan

Callihan, Kristen. Shadowdance. New York: Forever, 2013.

Mass Market Paperback | $8.00 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1455520817 | 446 pages | Victorian Romance/Paranormal Romance

3.5 stars

Shadowdance is, unfortunately, at least in my opinion, the weakest in the series so far. I will give Callihan some props, however, as her plotting remains engaging and kept me turning pages, finishing the book within hours of starting it, in spite of some of the lackluster elements, and I love the growing intricacy of the world of the series.

What I am more conflicted on is the hero and heroine. I feel like Jack and Mary both had a lot of potential, but did not live up to expectations. I feel like they were decently fleshed out, particularly Jack with his own dark past, but I just didn’t personally care for either of them, or find that trajectory of their relationship worth rooting for, given some of their past baggage, not to mention that it just didn’t feel like a natural progression from them being at each other’s throats to falling into lasting love. Passion, I can buy, but I don’t know if I see them lasting in the long-term.

In spite of the slightly weaker entry, I do still feel like the series is progressing in a great way overall. And while I’m not sure I’d recommend this one specifically, at this point, given how much is set up book by book, I discourage any newcomers to the series to skip this one (or any) books, and will repeat my recommendation of the series for anyone who loves a good blend of historical and paranormal.

Review of “Winterblaze” (Darkest London #3) by Kristen Callihan

Callihan, Kristen. Winterblaze. New York: Forever, 2013.

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1455520794 | 430 pages | Victorian Romance/Paranormal Romance

5 stars

When I first started the series, Poppy and Winston’s book was the one I was looking forward to, because it had the most compelling conflict to me, at least of the series thus far. And it did not disappoint, making it my favorite in the series so far.

“Marriage in trouble” is a trope that can go either way for me, because of how it is navigated, and I feel like Callihan does it with grace, showing that, in spite of the challenges Winston and Poppy faced that tore them apart at the end of the prior book, there is still a love between them, and they’re willing to fight to be together, and I love that. Their personalities were also both wonderful. While Poppy, much like Daisy in the prior book, was a character I was unsure about, I loved seeing her dedication to her work with the SOS, and how she defies the expectations of the time for women. And while Winston initially feels betrayed and worries for her, I love how he ends up being unconditionally loving and supportive.

I also love how there are some deeper secrets about both Winston’s past and the Ellis family that have to be negotiated, and I enjoyed getting insight into both. I also loved seeing the little flashbacks to when Winston and Poppy first fell in love, even though there were obstacles against them.

I now can’t wait to grab the rest of the books in the series, as there seems to be a lot of setup for those in this one. And, so far, I would recommend anyone interested in trying the series to at least try this one.

Review of “Moonglow” (Darkest London #2) by Kristen Callihan

Callihan, Kristen. Moonglow. New York: Forever, 2012.

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1455508587 | 412 pages | Victorian Romance/Paranormal Romance

4.5 stars

Moonglow continues the trend started by the first book of pretty much blowing me away. Now more immersed in this world and seeing Callihan finding her feet a bit more as a writer, I feel like there is a marked improvement in the story overall, continuing to build on the atmosphere of Victorian London in a beautiful and immersive way.

The first book left me a bit unsure about how I would like these characters, particularly Ian, who plays the role of antagonist in Firelight. However, I actually found him a more complex and lovable character than Archer. Despite not really being into the whole werewolf/shifter element of paranormal romance, I really love how he was written to be protective of Daisy in the face of danger, and also the dynamic of respect and trust that builds between them. It is such an antithesis to what I had heard about other shifter series, where the heroes are more “alpha” to the point of being possessive and animalistic. Ian has strength, but it he is also a good man at heart, which I feel like Daisy really needs, knowing her past in a loveless marriage.

Daisy took longer to warm up to, but I did feel like she ended up having great development, due to her finding her freedom somewhat after being trapped in her loveless union, and I could ultimately see that she, like her sister, has an inner strength and power that makes her a perfect match for Ian.

In short, I do feel this series is ultimately living up to the hype, even though I can see why some people would consider this one and Firelight somewhat weak entries, in keeping with a new author, and anticipate that Callihan will fully come into her own by the next book. And, in spite of any (minor) flaws, I recommend anyone who’s been deterred by warnings of such to give these a chance. You may be surprised.

Review of “Firelight” (Darkest London #1) by Kristen Callihan

Callihan, Kristen. Firelight. New York: Forever, 2012.

Mass Market Paperback | $5.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1455508594 | 384 pages | Victorian Romance/Paranormal Romance

4 stars

Firelight (and by extension the entire Darkest London series) has been on my TBR for a decent amount of time, but it’s only when I started following romance book blogger and BookTuber Elisabeth Lane of Coooking Up Romannce that I was compelled to pick up this series and make a serious go of reading it. And while I went in with what I would consider reasonable expectations, especially considering it was Callihan’s debut, I ended up being blown away.

One of the things I enjoy is when an author can convey the atmosphere of the setting, and that is one of the initial draws to this series, with its dark, gritty, somewhat Gothic feel. She also manages to craft a suspense plot that kept me on the edge of my seat, constantly questioning characters’ intentions, as well as seamlessly interweaving paranormal elements, in this case, immortal demons, with a Victorian world. While it does have a lot of setup, given it is a first book, I won’t hold it against the book too much, given that it still felt very well-paced.

Lord Archer is a compelling hero, and a wonderful twist on the broody alpha hero, a trope that normally drives me insane in the standard historical. I love how, while there is a lot of mystery as to what he truly is for most of the book, there is this sense that he has some real issues and they are not necessarily of this world, not to mention evoking some of what readers love about some other classic broody and/or cursed heroes, like (most obviously) Beast from Beauty and the Beast, as well as Phantom of the Opera and Batman.

I am a bit more conflicted regarding Miranda. On the one hand, I’m glad she proves to have her own strength, and not be a standard damsel in distress, as might be expected in a Gothic-leaning story. But that did not translate to her being overly complex, and while I don’t think that subtracts over-much from the story, given the amount of space devoted to Archer’s issues, she did feel a bit harder to relate to as a result.

I think this book is indicative of a what I hope is a great series. And I would urge anyone who hasn’t picked it up yet to do so, especially if you like romances that cross genres, with a mix of historical, paranormal, and suspense.

Review of “This Scot of Mine” (The Rogue Files #4) by Sophie Jordan

Jordan, Sophie. This Scot of Mine. New York: Avon Books, 2019.

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0062463661 | 344 pages | Victorian Romance

3 stars

This Scot of Mine has a premise that has a lot of potential…but it was unfortunately not executed well. However, one of the good points was the characterization and the dynamic between Hunt and Clara. While it could have gone all wrong, and even predicted it going wrong, due to the fact that they each had some big secrets that they were keeping from one another, I did like that it didn’t take until the end for it to come to the fore, and that the potential ramifications of the curse was something they tried to navigate together.

However, this resolution of that conflict, and the book sometimes describing long stretches of time passing led to my interest in the book flagging. There just wasn’t much of a plot to speak of in the second half. And I’m not sure if I’m the only one, but I found the wording of the curse, and how it was meant to be broken super confusing. There is an attempt to establish some of the mechanics of how it works, with the mention of the ways his forebears met their end, but I just didnt’ really get how the curse was broken this time. This was only one of the things that was left rather vague, with her ruination not described in detail, beyond the fact that she apparently faked a pregnancy to get away from her awful fiancee.

I’m also beginning to wonder how long this series will go on for, especially as there’s a cliffhanger (in the tradition of this series) setting up the next book, which is about Clara’s uninspiring friend, Marian. I will probably read it to see what happens and if it is any better, especially that since I do hope that Clara’s sister, Enid, will still have a book in the future, and how it will be handled.

However, I feel like this book could have used some improvement in terms of pacing and further clarification in terms of plot elements, as a lot of it felt a little too rushed. I do still think it is worth checking out if you like a fun historical romance, but I’m not sure if it is one I would enthusiastically recommend.

Review of “Devil’s Daughter” (Ravenels #5) by Lisa Kleypas

Kleypas, Lisa. Devil’s Daughter. New York: Avon Books, 2019.

Hardcover | $26.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0062890702 | 264 pages | Victorian Romance

5 stars

Devil’s Daughter is a return in a few different ways for Lisa Kleypas: she revisits many of her beloved characters from the Wallflowers series, but on a more personal level for me, it’s a bit of a return to form for her, especially after the divisive misfire that was Hello Stranger, which I would even argue is almost skippable, but for West’s involvement, which is saying a lot as someone who prefers to read in order.

That brings me to one of the major reasons I adored this book. West himself is a character I loved from book one, and is one of the main things I still remember about the series, only having read each book once. And part of it is the way he is a character who has evolved into a better person from the wastrel he was before. West for me strikes the perfect balance between becoming a better person on his own and the needing someone to lean on after having been through such tough times. This can be hard path to walk without it seeming like the woman changes him purely through love, which I’ve often found unrealistic, so I appreciate the way he was written to be different.

I did not know what to expect from Phoebe, given that she was Evie and Sebastian’s daughter, and that’s the main thing that defined her prior to my meeting her as the heroine of this book. But I ended up really warming to her when I saw what Kleypas’ intent with her was. I loved that she was a caring soul, but the situation she’s left in in the wake of her husband’s death has left her a little out of her depth. I find that such an interesting dynamic, especially in terms of how that led to the beginnings of Phoebe and West’s relationship.

The one who stole the show for me, however, was Sebastian, formerly Lord St. Vincent, now Duke of Kingston. I vaguely remember some lovely scenes with him and Evie in their prior appearance in Devil in Spring, but I loved seeing them play a more prominent role, especially given the parallels between Sebastian’sand West’s respective pasts. There’s a lovely scene between Sebastian and West where West makes his claims that he’s not worthy of Phoebe, but Sebastian gives him the most amazing pep talk, and it’s everything I could have asked for and more.

This was, in short, my favorite book of the Ravenels series, capturing the magic both of the returning Wallflower characters and providing a satisfying HEA for my favorite character. This book is a must read for any Lisa Kleypas fan, and I would recommend this (after having read the Wallflowers and the other Ravenels books, with or without Hello Stranger) to anyone who loves a wonderfully nuanced, yet funny historical romance.