Tag Archives: 3-stars

Retro Review-A Christmas Return by Anne Perry

A Christmas Return

Title: A Christmas Return

Genre: Historical Holiday Mystery Novella

Author: Anne Perry

Source: Free for review from the publisher

Publisher: Ballentine Books, Nov. 7, 2017

Pages: 179

Rating: 3

Sexy Rating: 0

Violence Rating: 5

Christmasy Feeling: 2

Description from Amazon:

As Charlotte Pitt’s grandmother Mariah Ellison finds herself investigating a long-unsolved slaying, it becomes clear that grappling with intrigue and foul play runs in the family. A festive Christmas package left on Mariah’s doorstep contains an ominous present, sparking memories of a twenty-year-old murder that shattered her friendship with the victim’s widow. Though the gift is a bitter reminder of that tragic time, in the spirit of the season Mariah travels to Surrey in hopes of reconciling with her estranged friend and solving the crime that drove them apart.

On arrival, Mariah joins forces with the murdered man’s grandson, a sleuth in his own right who’s discovered promising evidence as well as a suspect. But Surrey’s picturesque hills conceal dark doings and shocking revelations that could make the holiday anything but calm and bright.

Decked with intrigue and trimmed with Yuletide spirit, A Christmas Return is a holiday treat wrapped in the glorious storytelling talents of the reigning master of Victorian mystery.

**
I must admit that I accepted this book for review when it was first published in 2017 but that year I became very ill and this book slipped through the cracks. Ms. Perry writes a Christmas mystery every year, often with side characters from previous books but they are standalone mysteries.

This is an okay mystery but as a Christmas offering, well…not so much. We pretty much know who the murderer is from the beginning and proving it isn’t much of a task for Mariah and Peter. Why this murder wasn’t solved 20 years before is a mystery to me the reader. Christmas is just a token notion with mentions of a few garlands hung and a Christmas Eve party.

 

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Advance Review- The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

The Escape Room

Title: The Escape Room

Genre: General Fiction/Thriller

Author: Megan Goldin

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, July 30, 2019

Source: Free for review from the publisher

Pages: 361

Rating: 3

Sexy Rating: 0

Violence Rating: 5

Description from Amazon.com:

welcome to the escape room. Your goal is simple. Get out alive.
In the lucrative world of finance, Vincent, Jules, Sylvie, and Sam are at the top of their game. They’ve mastered the art of the deal and celebrate their success in style—but a life of extreme luxury always comes at a cost.
Invited to participate in an escape room as a team-building exercise, the ferociously competitive co-workers crowd into the elevator of a high rise building, eager to prove themselves. But when the lights go off and the doors stay shut, it quickly becomes clear that this is no ordinary competition: they’re caught in a dangerous game of survival.
Trapped in the dark, the colleagues must put aside their bitter rivalries and work together to solve cryptic clues to break free. But as the game begins to reveal the team’s darkest secrets, they realize there’s a price to be paid for the terrible deeds they committed in their ruthless climb up the corporate ladder. As tempers fray, and the clues turn deadly, they must solve one final chilling puzzle: which one of them will kill in order to survive?

**
What a great premise; four despicable people, Jules, Sylvie, Sam and Vincent trapped in an elevator with a gun. That premise alone kept me turning pages. Introduce Sara Hall, their other work team member, in alternating chapters and this is a compelling read. But I became very frustrated with two characters seeming change in personality. I won’t go into detail because of spoilers. I also thought that the ending was too abrupt. There are some unanswered questions. I really feel that this could have been a great thriller but because of some missteps it turned out to be just “okay”.

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Advance Review- Project Duchess by Sabrina Jeffries

Project Duchess

Title: Project Duchess (Duke Dynasty, book #1)

Genre: Historical Romance

Author: Sabrina Jeffries

Publisher: Zebra, June 25, 2019

Source: Free for review from the publisher

Pages: 400

Rating: 3

Sexy Rating: 5

Violence Rating: 0

Description from Amazon.com:

A series of stepfathers and a difficult childhood have left Fletcher “Grey” Pryde, 5th Duke of Greycourt, with a guarded heart, enviable wealth, and the undeserved reputation of a rogue. Grey’s focus on expanding his dukedom allows him little time to find a wife. But when his mother is widowed yet again and he meets the charmingly unconventional woman managing his stepfather’s funeral, he’s shocked to discover how much they have in common. Still, Grey isn’t interested in love, no matter how pretty, or delightfully outspoken, the lady . . .

Beatrice Wolfe gave up on romance long ago, and the arrogant Duke of Greycourt with his rakish reputation isn’t exactly changing her mind. Then Grey agrees to assist his grief-stricken mother with her latest “project”: schooling spirited, unfashionable Beatrice for her debut. Now that Beatrice is seeing through Grey’s charms to his wounded heart, she’s having trouble keeping him at arm’s length. But once Grey starts digging into her family’s secrets, she must decide whether her loyalties lie with her family . . . or with the man whose lessons capture her heart . . .

**
Sabrina Jeffries is a skilled author. She can bring characters to life so that they breathe air on the page. Her dialogs are always entertaining and she is usually spot on with her research of the era. Thanks to a family tree illustration at the beginning of the book, I could easily follow who all the characters were and their relationship to one another. But the reality of Regency mourning rituals are easily glossed over in this book. Practices of the time would have the family being quiet, sitting with the dead, attending to rituals, not schooling debutantes for a come-out and certainly not dancing.

Grey continually voices complainants of his lack of control when around Beatrice. The reader wants to shout “Just say ‘no’.”. And Beatrice for all her spinsterish ways seems a bit slutty at times. The mystery is not fully solved, so I believe this may be an ongoing thread in a future book.
I was disappointed in this book but I am a fan of this author and I hope that future books in the series correct the irksome issues I found presented in this one.

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Recent Release- Smitten By The Brit by Melonie Johnson

Smitten by the Brit

Title: Smitten By The Brit ( A Sometimes in Love Novel book #2)

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Author: Melonie Johnson

Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks, May 2019

Source: Free for review from the publisher

Pages: 382

Rating: 3

Sexy Rating: 5

Violence Rating: 0

Description from Amazon.com:

English professor Bonnie Blythe expects her life to play out like her favorite novels, especially now that her long-term boyfriend has finally proposed. So when a shocking discovery leads Bonnie to end her engagement, she decides to close the book on love. But the plot thickens when a brand-new character enters the scene—and quickens Bonnie’s heart.
With his brilliant blue eyes, sexy accent, and irresistible charm, Theo Wharton is like a romantic hero straight out of a Jane Austen novel. When fate places Bonnie in England for a summer—conveniently close to Theo—she realizes a hot friends-with-benefits fling is exactly what she needs to start a fresh chapter. Just as Bonnie begins to believe she’s falling in love, an eye-opening revelation into Theo’s life makes Bonnie feel like she’s wandered into one of her favorite books. Will Bonnie have the courage to risk her heart and turn the page with the dashing Brit to find her true happy ending after all?

**
I met Theo and Bonnie in book #1 of this series, GETTING HOT WITH THE SCOT,. They had an undeniable attraction in that book even though Bonnie was engaged to be married. How convenient that several months later Bonnie ends her engagement (not her fault) and Theo is there to pick up the pieces. There were obstacles to their union but all seemed to slickly resolve at the books end. I didn’t love this story. There was too much immaturity about both of the protagonists and side characters. There certainly was plenty of hot sex. This was not a bad book, just not in my wheel house.

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Release Day Review- What A Widow Wants by Jenna Jaxon

What a Widow Wants

Title: What A Widow Wants (The Widows Club book #3)
Genre: Historical Romance
Author: Jenna Jaxon
Publisher: Lyrical. Dec. 18, 2018
Source: Free for review from the publisher
Pages: 352
Rating: 3
Sexy Rating: 5
Violence Rating: 5
Description from Amazon.com:
The widowed Lady Stephen Tarkington, Fanny to her friends, has finished mourning her cad of a husband and is ready to enjoy her freedom. The kind of freedom neither a gently bred miss nor a close-watched wife is permitted: dressing up as Aphrodite for a masquerade, drawing gentlemen away from the party, and hinting at late-night assignations with her dance partners. All is going pleasurably according to plan—until the Roman god Fanny kisses during a masquerade turns out to be Matthew, Lord Lathbury, whose proposal she refused years ago . . .

Lathbury is charming, passionate, inventive, everything Fanny wants in a lover—but unfortunately, he’s on the hunt for a wife. He’s more than willing to use all his wicked skills to persuade her back to the altar, but he can’t wait forever. And now Fanny’s position is more precarious than she once thought. If the tongues of the ton set to wagging, it’s possible no offer in the world will save her from ruin. But does she want to be saved? . . .
**
This book started off with me not liking Fanny, our heroine, and not liking Matthew, our hero. She was just a tad too much the loose woman and he was almost a bully with his insistent marriage proposals. How I managed to stay with the story I’m afraid I can’t say. Actually I kept putting the book aside. But at about the 50-60% mark this story took off with some surprises, action and adventure that made the ending an okay read. Fanny was not totally redeemed but Matthew earned some admiration.
I do think you will have a better feel for this story if you have started with the first two books in the series although this is a standalone book. Characters from the beginning books in the series do play important roles in this book.
Trigger warning: There is an attempted rape in this book.

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Advance Review- Not The Duke’s Darling by Elizabeth Hoyt

Not The Duke's Darling

Title: Not The Duke’s Darling (Greycourt Series Book #1)

Genre: Historical Romance/Mystery

Author: Elizabeth Hoyt

Publisher: Forever, Dec. 18, 2018 (preorder available)

Source: Free for review from the publisher

Pages: 496

Rating: 3

Sexy Rating: 5

Violence Rating: 5
Description from Amazon.com:
Freya de Moray is many things: a member of the secret order of Wise Women, the daughter of disgraced nobility, and a chaperone living under an assumed name. What she is not is forgiving. So when the Duke of Harlowe, the man who destroyed her brother and led to the downfall of her family, appears at the country house party she’s attending, she does what any Wise Woman would do: she starts planning her revenge.

Christopher Renshaw, the Duke of Harlowe, is being blackmailed. Intent on keeping his secrets safe, he agrees to attend a house party where he will put an end to this coercion once and for all. Until he recognizes Freya, masquerading among the party revelers, and realizes his troubles have just begun. Freya knows all about his sins-sins he’d much rather forget. But she’s also fiery, bold, and sensuous-a temptation he can’t resist. When it becomes clear Freya is in grave danger, he’ll risk everything to keep her safe. But first, he will have to earn Freya’s trust…by whatever means necessary.

**
This book gave me head-scratching moments. I just found myself confused about Freya, Wise Women and the Duke’s blackmailer. Like many readers I don’t like “info dumps”, especially in first books of a new series and I’m sure Ms. Hoyt knows that and avoids it, but we are left in the dark for long periods and I would have welcomed some more information about the mystery of Aurelia’s death and also other issues. Coincidences abound, Freya jumps into the Duke’s carriage while out-running bad guys in London and then they are both at the same house party along with another person from their past.

Even though Ms. Hoyt writes well I can’t give this book more than 3-stars. I will read the next in the series because this is a terrific author and I think future books will be better.

 

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Recent Release-Bakra Bride by N.J. Walters

Bakra Bride

Title: Bakra Bride ( Tapestries book #2)
Genre: Erotic Time Travel Romance
Author: N.J. Walters
Source: Free for review from the publisher
Publisher: Beyond The Page, August 2018
Pages: 172
Rating: 3
Sexy rating: 5+
Violence rating: 5
Description from Amazon:

After witnessing a gruesome murder, Jane Smith has watched her life crumble around her. Her only solace is the stunning and mysterious tapestry she discovered at a thrift store. When the image stitched into the tapestry magically comes to life one night, Jane finds herself transported to a mystical Medieval world, where two massive warriors declare their intentions to cater to her every sensual desire.

Zaren and Bador are stunned to realize that the prophecy of the tapestry has come true and brought Jane to them. The brothers willingly accept their duty to indulge her in every possible form of passion. But Jane’s arrival has also attracted the attention of rival warriors, who will go to any lengths to steal her from the Bakra brothers and claim her as their own.

As Jane adjusts to this frightening but enthralling world, Zaren and Bador risk all to protect her—even as they use all their sexual skill, separately and together, to take her to unimagined sensual heights. Because the time for Jane to choose is drawing near, and the Bakra brothers must convince her to abandon her former life—and take one of them as her loving husband for all time . . .

**
Looking for a sexy, erotic romance without BDSM, this is your book. However if you want a good time-travel book then this one falls short. This is typical erotica in that there is a lot of sex in many variations, but it is cloaked in a bit of sappy romance. Zaren is over-the-top in his “love” for Jane. At least Bador seems to have a level head. Jane is having the time of her sexual life so it really leaves little doubt about her staying with the brothers or about which one she will choose for a husband. Little does it matter since she will still get to have sex with her brother-in-law also. This is a good erotic novel if you are tired of women being blindfolded and tied up, none of that here. Jane is a very active participant in all the bedroom romps. The writing is good, I just wish the time-travel part was explored further. The TT premise was a good one but it fell flat.

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Recent Release Review- More or Less A countess by Anna Bradley

More or less a Countess

Title: More or Less a Countess (The Somerset Sisters)
Genre: Historical Romance
Author: Anna Bradley
Source: Free for review from the publisher
Publisher: Lyrical, August 7, 2018
Pages: 252
Rating: 3
Sexy rating: 5
Violence rating: 3
Description from Amazon:

Finding a worthy husband should be simple for three beautiful debutantes in Regency London. But the Somerset sisters have a way of making it delightfully complicated . . .

Violet Somerset has always preferred a library to a ballroom, but to please her grandmother she agreed to one London season. With nothing to show for it but heartbreak, she’s reconciled to spinsterhood. Until a notorious rogue known as the Devil of Dare requests an introduction to her timid, gentle youngest sister, Hyacinth. Violet will do anything to stop the match—even if it means posing as Hyacinth herself . . .

Nicholas Balfour, the Earl of Dare, is enjoying the life of a rake far too much to take a wife. But he must keep his promise to his grandmother. He’ll simply choose the meekest bride he can find, install her at his estate, then carry on as before. Hyacinth sounds perfect—until he discovers that her sweet demeanor hides the tongue of a viper and the mind of a bluestocking . . .

As Violet’s ruse threatens to unravel, however, she may find the tables turned. Soon she may have no choice but to tolerate her handsome fiancée—or fall in love with him . . .

**
Violet is a bluestocking and Nick is a rake, the combination is ripe for angst and witty repartee, which Ms. Bradley delivers. There are scenes that lead the reader to laugh out loud. Even though I did enjoy much of this book I could not help but think that every scene with Nick and Violet was a bit over-the-top. This is a stand alone book and #2 in the series. Not a badly written book just not my cuppa tea.

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Recent Release Review- Cottage By The Sea by Debbie Macomber

Cottage By The Sea

Title: Cottage By The Sea: A Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Author: Debbie Macomber
Source: Free for review from the publisher
Publisher: Ballentine Books, July 17, 2018
Pages: 352
Rating: 3
Sexy rating: 3
Violence rating: 4
Description from Amazon:

Annie Marlow has been through the worst. Rocked by tragedy, she heads to the one place that makes her happy: Oceanside in the Pacific Northwest, the destination of many family vacations when Annie was a teenager.

Once there, Annie begins to restore her broken spirit, thanks in part to the folks she meets: a local painter, Keaton, whose large frame is equal to his big heart—and who helps Annie fix up her rental cottage by the sea; Mellie, the reclusive, prickly landlord Annie is determined to befriend; and Britt, a teenager with a terrible secret. But it is Keaton to whom Annie feels most drawn. His quiet, peaceful nature offers her both comfort and reprieve from her grief, and the two begin to grow closer.

Then events threaten to undo the idyll Annie has come to enjoy. And when the opportunity of a lifetime lands in her lap, she is torn between the excitement of a new journey toward success and the safe and secure arms of the haven—and the man—she’s come to call home.

In this heartwarming tale, Annie finds that the surest way to fix what is damaged within is to help others rise above their pain and find a way to heal.

**
Since this is only the second book that I have read by this author, I hesitate to be too dismissive, but this book was not a good fit for me. That said I’m sure there are those readers who would genuinely like this story. The melodrama is a bit over the top with all of the characters having serious devastation in their backgrounds. There was little to be happy about in anyone’s life until the very pat ending. As expected the dialog was well written and the characters well developed. But this story was just “okay”, although I found it depressing.

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Review- The Battered Body by Ellery Adams

The Battered Body

Title: The Battered Body (Supper Club Mysteries book #5)
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Author: Ellery Adams
Source: Free for review from the publisher
Publisher: Beyond The Page, May 2018
Pages: 328
Rating: 3
Sexy rating: 0
Violence rating: 5
Description from Amazon:

Librarian James Henry and the supper club will have more than enough food for thought trying to count calories and catch a killer . . .

Reluctantly visiting humble Quincy’s Gap to create a special wedding cake, celebrity chef the “Diva of Dough” is not nearly as sweet as her delectable confections, and it’s just a matter of time before she alienates everyone she meets. When her corpse is discovered, covered in cake batter no less, there are more than a few locals who think she got her just desserts. And despite their own distaste for the woman, James and his friends know they have to rise to the occasion and solve the murder.

With clues and suspects few and far between, the supper club members realize that catching the culprit will be anything but a cake walk. And when a second victim turns up dead, they’ll have to quickly discard any half-baked notions about the killer . . . before they all get iced.

**
This is my first book by this author. I really like to read a good whodunit especially in the “Cozy Mystery” genre because although there is usually a murder there is not an abundance of gore. This was book #5 in the series and it did standalone. We do meet characters from previous books and there seems to be an ongoing storyline. At times I did want to know more about characters from previous books so my recommendation is to start this series from book one for a more immersive experience. But you will not be lost if you start with this book.

You will like James and his friends who help local police deputy, Lucy, solve crimes. Lucy is also James’ on-again-off-again girlfriend. The victim had many enemies so figuring out the murderer is some work but saying that, I did wish for an earlier and more detailed introduction to the criminal. I thought the 24 year-old twins who worked at the library were rather immature and I didn’t understand that immaturity. Perhaps that was explained in a previous book.

I recommend this book with some reservations. I think it can be enjoyed more fully if the series is started from the beginning. For me coming in at book #5 it was only just “okay”.

 

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