Review: The Most Dangerous Duke in London by Madeline Hunter

MostDangerousDuke

Paperback, 304 pages                      Publication: May 30th 2017 by Zebra

ISBN13: 9781420143904                   Series: Decadent Dukes Society #1

Rating:  5*

Adam Penrose the Duke of Stratton fled England for his mother’s homeland of France shortly after his father’s mysterious death. Now, returning to England his reputation as the dangerous duke of dueling in France, precedes him.  Because of some of the rumors in England that a particular family was a source of Adam’s father’s ruination, the Cheswick family reached out to Adam to offer him their beautiful younger daughter as a bride to bind the two families together and avoid any more dueling.

 

Lady Clara Cheswick’s  grandmother (and her brother the new Earl) had arranged a meeting to propose a truce with Adam and to introduce him to his prospective bride to be. Naturally, they offered him the hand of Clara’s much younger sister. However, at first sight, Adam decides that Lady Clara would suit him much more. Unfortunately, Clara’s single purpose in life was to continue to pursue her efforts in creating and publishing a journal she hoped turn into a weekly magazine of sorts.  Of course, Adam

instantly refused the younger daughter’s hand. However, his attraction  to one Lady Clara was hard to deny.   Moreover, what were Adam’s true motivations – ruin his enemies favorite daughter, or discover what transpired all those years ago that led to Adam’s father’s death?

***   I have been a fan of Madeline Hunter for many years and have always found her stories to be full of twists and turns with characters that come alive and are fully fleshed out with emotions and motivations.  I loved Clara right from the start.  Luckily she knew her own worth and because her father had left her extremely well off, she was able to follow her dreams of creating a journal/magazine with essays, recipes, news worthy articles and even gossip…. Probably a forerunner to Good Housekeeping for the discerning woman.

Adam was a wonderful hero who was deeply disturbed by his father’s death and the way his mother had been treated so badly she fled back to France after her husbands death.  It was natural to feel that Adam would want to ruin the family he believed responsible for his father’s ruination and demise, but right from the start the reader understood that Adam would never hurt a woman, but simply wanted to discover for himself the truth of what had caused the rumors and problems.

Bottom line:  This was a fully robust story and I loved the courting that Adam went through to gain Lady Clara’s affection. The sensuality was created slowly with deep feelings and I was engaged right from the very beginning.    Loved this book and can’t wait for the next books in this new series.

Marilyn Rondeau

 

Review: Wed to A Spy by Sharon Cullen

WedToASpy

Publication: May 23rd 2017 by Loveswept ASIN:   B01M6ATB84

Series:  All the Queen’s Spies #1 Rating: 4*

I’m beginning to think that there was more spying done during the middle ages than what goes on today.  Not only spying but assassination plots and betrayals abounded during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary which happens to be the setting of WED TO A SPY.

Aimee de Verris was just a young maiden in love with a charming French courtier but she was banished from the French court by Catherine de Medici.  Aimee was told to join the court of Queen Mary and report back to Catherine any information that would be useful.

Simon Marcheford has been a spy for Queen Elizabeth for many years and wants nothing but to settle down and swears that this is his last mission before he retires.   He is sent to Queen Mary’s court and while he is trying to discover a diabolical plot against Mary she orders him to marry her cousin Aimee de Verris and asks that he discover if Aimee is a spy from the French court.

***  Lots of threads to spin in this mystery of spies, betrayals and planned murders.  Having been watching the TV series of REIGN  I had some knowledge of the different characters and historical significance of what was going on.   However the romance between Aimee and Simon was fresh and appealing in it’s innocence and eventual passion.   After a murder occurred in front of Aimee who happened to be standing close to Queen Mary, Aimee was immediately put in a dangerous spot that pointed to Aimee’s involvement (which obviously was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time).  Here was where Aimee began to see Simon for the wonderful husband, man and protector he became after he rescued and helped Aimee escape Scotland to England.

Bottom line:  The character development was skillfully done, and the slow and sensual attraction between Simon and Aimee was slowly built and cleverly worked to perfection as Aimee discovered the difference between infatuation and true love.   Actually, this was a quite enjoyable read where history and fiction blended beautifully together.

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: The Bad Luck Bride by Jane Goodger

BadLuckBride-Goodger

The Brides of St. Ives #1

Expected publication: June 13th 2017 by Lyrical Press

ASIN : B01LX89UI9 Rating:  4*

It’s bad enough when a bride waits for a groom who ultimately never shows up for the wedding vows, but when it happens for the THIRD time, said bride now gets dubbed “The Bad Luck Bride”.   Lady Alice Hubbard has had enough – frustrated and subdued Alice returns to her family’s estate in St. Ives and is now determined to accept her lot in life – as a doting spinster.   Although to her great surprise, an old friend Henderson Southwell shows up.  Henderson was not only her deceased brothers BEST friend, but Henderson had been Alice’s secret and cherished love. Henry as only Alice called him, the person Alice had held in her heart since the day she met him.

When Alice’s brother Joseph had died, Henderson was devastated blaming himself for not being with him the night most thought he had taken his life.  Henderson was so upset, he then left directly after the funeral and no one had heard from him until he showed up at Alice’s wedding claiming he was there to ‘stop’ her from marrying.   He knew that her family would never accept him because of his lack of aristocratic blood but somehow he knew that eventually, Alice would be his.

***   THE BAD LUCK BRIDE was a good read with crisp writing and an interesting fun plot that I quickly became immersed in the story.   Alice and Henderson had virtually grown up together since Joseph and Henderson had formed a close bond during their school years.  Henderson was welcomed into the Hubbard household and was treated like a member of the family, but once he showed his attraction to Alice the family gathered round and let him know how inappropriate his intentions toward Alice were.   After all, he was illegitimate with no real claim to any type of aristocratic background.

Naturally, Alice didn’t see it that way but then who shows up but the errant groom who now wants to make amends and beg for Alice’s forgiveness.  What does one do, when faced with following your heart or following the wishes of your beloved family?

Bottom line:  THE BAD LUCK BRIDE was a good start to a new series as I discovered a new author to me.   I enjoyed Goodger characterizations of Alice and Henderson, and actually came to like Alice’s previous suitor who kind of grew on you after a while.  Couple that with a little bit of a mystery regarding Joseph’s supposed suicide and several other accidental deaths and it leant another layer to a very nice romance.

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: Blade Bound by Chloe Neill

Ethan Sullivan and Merit are preparing for the upcoming wedding when an infiltrator to Cadogan House attacks Merit. Initially, they suspect the attacker has mental health issues but later events show them that dark magic is at work in Chicago. Will the rise of a dark sorcerer destroy Chicago?

BLADE BOUND is the 13th and final book in the Chicagoland Vampires series and boy am I sad to see this series end! BLADE BOUND is best appreciated in the context of the series as a whole, particularly since it concludes several ongoing story threads (including the wedding).

One of the things I love about Chloe Neill’s books is the action. Chloe Neill doesn’t waste any time kicking things into gear as the action heats up almost immediately. However, this doesn’t detract from the wedding, which goes about how you would expect a wedding between Ethan and Merit to go. Needless to say, they didn’t need a trash the dress party afterwards!

And what can I say about the characters except that I love them? From the Ombuddies to the Cadogan House vampires to the Red Guards, each faction we’ve met throughout the series has earned a special place in my heart. Yes, Ethan and Merit are the heart and soul of the Chicagoland Vampires but all the supporting characters and factions are just as essential to Chloe Neill’s world. I love that BLADE BOUND truly showcases the diversity of the Chicagoland Vampires population and how working together is the only way to save the town from the sorcerer and her deadly weapon (and just wait till you meet her weapon!).

Finishing BLOOD BOUND is bittersweet as I really am not reading to say goodbye to these characters or the Chicagoland Vampires series as a whole. Thankfully, Chloe Neill’s website indicates a spin-off series is in the works so hopefully we’ll get to see glimpses of Ethan and Merit in those books. Highly recommended!

*copy of book provided through Netgalley

Review: The Bad Luck Bride by Janna MacGregor

BadLuckBride

Series: The Cavensham Heiresses (Book 1) Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages

Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks (May 2, 2017) ISBN-13: 978-1250116123

Rating:  5*

Most of the ton were shocked to hear that the “cursed” Lady Claire Cavensham was about to marry Lord Alexander Hallworth especially when it was apparent that the ball she was intending to announce her betrothal to another Lord, failed to said Lord who sent a note instead.  However, Lord Alexander had an inkling of what was going on and rushed to Lady Claire’s aid.

What left Claire breathless though, was Lord Alexander’s pronouncement of his esteem for Claire and asking that she do him the honor of becoming his bride.   Claire hardly knew Alexander but after three other engagements that all ended in disaster, and now the fourth about to disintegrate, Claire was hardly in a position to refuse.

***   I have to say I feel honored  to have been able to read an advanced copy of THE  BAD LUCK BRIDE by Janna MacGregor.   At 352 pages I was so ensnared that I couldn’t put it down.   Not only was the writing fresh and engaging, but the dialogs, the plotting, and the buildup of such a sensual romance was intoxicating.

This is not to say that Claire and Alex didn’t have issues.  Claire was still reeling over the death of her parents many years back and the powerful tangle of her emotions of that horrible accident haunted  her

still.   Alex on the other hand, felt immense guilt over the suicidal death of his young sister and was bent solely on revenge of the person he held responsible.  Both Claire and Alex had to come to grips with these haunting events that threatened any happiness they might be able to find together.

To me I found this a very powerful and emotional read waiting and hoping that one or the other would finally open up and let the pain flow out to be shared and let the healing begin.  When that happened the love they had each been afraid admitting to would be a most glorious end to such a wonderful story.

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: Carnal Innocence by Nora Roberts

Carnal Innocence

Narrated by: Tom Stechschulte Length: 17 hrs and 55 mins

Unabridged Audiobook Release Date:04-06-12

Publisher: Recorded Books Rating: 5*

In CARNAL INNOCENCE author Nora Roberts has created a mesmerizing tale of madness, murder, and love in a small southern town of the bayou.  Put into play is Caroline Waverly, a beautiful world renowned concert violinist who is still fragile from both a public breakup and private breakdown after witnessing her lover with another.  Caroline, has left the concert circuit escaping to her late grandmother’s home in Innocence, Mississippi.   However instead of the peace and tranquility she expected, she found a town reeling from two vicious and heinous murders. And, if that weren’t enough Caroline discovers a third victim on her property.

Enter Caroline’s devastatingly handsome bad-boy neighbor – Tucker Longstreet.  Big, beautiful with a devilish grin and the sexiest southern drawl ever.  But for some reason, Tucker makes Caroline feel safe even though his reputation for breaking hearts has put him at the top of the suspect list, seeing as how he was connected to each of the murdered women.

***  Lordy, lordy, but I have listened to Tom Stechschulte before and I have to say that NO ONE does sexy Southern drawls like Mr. Stechschulte!  He is a master of making a written hero pop to life as one very SEXY heart throb – just by hearing that rich southern interpretation.   Wow!  And let me also say that the sensuality both actual and implied was steaming all the way through to the very end!

Now mix that with exquisite storytelling by Nora Roberts and you have a perfect combination that will force you to keep listening way into the middle of the night and then turning it back on as soon as you wake up!  Be it children, heroes or heroines, pets, even nasty villains  – Ms. Roberts writes the books that grab you and simply won’t let you go.    Loved every minute of this audiobook, the outstanding performance of Mr. Stechschulte and the entire cast of characters who made this ‘very hard to put down’  and immensely satisfying book!

Marilyn Rondeau

 

Review: The Chosen: A Novel of the Black Dagger Brotherhood By J.R. Ward

The Chosen

Narrated by: Jim Frangione Length: 17 hrs and 32 mins

Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 15 Release Date:04-04-17

Publisher: Random House Audio                                      Rating:  5*

I have waited a long time to finally get the real story of Xcor, leader of the Band of Bastards; convicted of treason against the Blind King and at the end of book 14, was captured and awaiting a brutal interrogation and a most heinous death at the hands of the Black Dagger Brotherhood.    Xcor would never have given in if it weren’t for the promises he made to a sacred female, The Chosen Layla.  She was never his, but she had saved his life and after the life he’d led he knew he’d never deserve someone like her.

Now that Layla has delivered her young twins she finds herself at loose ends and wants something for herself including the warrior she knows who is a good man Xcor.   When Quinn discovers that Layla had been seeing Xcor behind his back – he went nuts and wanted to keep her babies from her.  Devastated by the chasm she had caused  between the young’s biological father and the warrior she loved Layla had to summon the courage to stand up to the only family she has for the only man she has ever loved.    Layla knew Xcor’s heritage and was torn between keeping the secret or revealing that which might divide their world further.

****  Once again, a stellar book to add to Ms. Wards fabulous Black Dagger Brotherhood series.   The more answers that are revealed in these books, the more questions and subplots emerge keeping this series alive and well.   Enter a new deity which seems very evil and new characters begin to come to the forefront where one cannot wait for the next book to be written.   Just as new folks begin to take on life, characters we thought we knew seem to be taking on new persona’s such as our resident fallen ‘angel’  – now what is that all about?

So many directions Ms. Ward can go in with the revelations found in THE CHOSEN –  I personally cannot wait to see what comes next!   And Ms. Ward – Please, Please – help out Assail!

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: Burntown by Jennifer McMahon

Burntown

Print Length: 304 pages Publisher: Doubleday (April 25, 2017)

Sold by: Random House LLC ASIN: B01LZOU9XD

Rating: 4-1/2*

In the small Vermont town of Ashford, one might think it like any other typical sleepy New England town, but there were were people who lived in the shadows amongst the abandoned mills and factories that referred to Ashford as “Burntown”.

Eva Sandeski, known as “Necco” on the street had been a part of this underworld for years from the day the ‘great flood’ had come leaving her and her mother Lily homeless.  Her father Miles had been a professor but more than that he was an inventor of fantastic machines, one of which was purported to have been built off of stolen plans that once belonged to Thomas Edison.  Somewhere in the back of Eva’s mind it was the machine that had gotten Miles murdered.

Necco had been so young and told of this story so many times by her mom that she believed it and when Lily had mysteriously died, and then Necco’s boyfriend murdered, she’s convinced her mother was telling the truth.   One thing Necco did remember was a tattoo on the hand of the man whom she knew was bad ahdn probably was the one who had killed her family – she called him ‘snake eyes’ .  Now Necco had to rely on the group of women her mother had come to who lived off the grid and were known as ‘fireeaters’ to help protect her and guide her to expose the killer.

***  I must say that this was a fully robust novel with lots of twists and turns and plenty of red herrings town into the mix.   And of course, it goes without saying that the characters were extremely colorful and totally unique.   However, as misfits they were they blended well into the story.   From Pru, the cafeteria lady leading a secret life, to Theo who is trying to recoup the money she lost that belongs to a dangerous drug trafficker.

The action initially started slow but as I got deeper into the story, things started to both make sense and even get a little weird, but also quite interesting!   Where I once thought Necco was flying off  the deep end bits and pieces started to come together where it all made sense.   There was a VERY bad man who had a pair of dice tattoo that she named  “Snake Eyes”,   but that was not the only bad guy that was out to silence Necco and what might have been left of her family.

Bottom line:   Hang in through the slow opening.  You will find BURNTOWN just might turn your initial thoughts into a high five for this book!!!

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: The Girl Who Was Taken by Charlie Donlea

GirlWhoWasTaken

Hardcover, 320 pages ISBN13: 9781496701008

Publication: April 25th 2017 Kensington Publishing Corporation

Rating:  5*

Set in the small town of Emerson Bay, Nicole Cutty and Megan McDonald were both high school seniors who disappeared launching a massive investigation and numerous search parties.   Regrettably, there were absolutely no clues left behind.  However, after a couple of weeks, Megan re-emerged after escaping from a bunker deep in the woods.

A year later Megan’s book with an account of her ordeal has been published and now Megan is not only a local hero but now a national celebrity.  Megan’s story is a striking example of survival but it’s missing one thing – Nicole is still missing.   Nicole’s older sister Livia, a fellow in forensic pathology, is expecting that one day, Nicole’s body will show up on her table.  Instead, another body shows up and clues lead Livia on a hunt where the young man appeared to be connected to her sister.

Megan knows more than she revealed in her book which was co-written with the help of her psychiatrist.  And while flashes of memory begin to emerge for Megan the chilling details of who and what  actually happened are beginning to show Megan the true terror of her captivity.

***   Wow, this one kept me on the edge of my seat and was very difficult to put down! Luckily I started THE GIRL WHO WAS TAKEN early in the morning and was finished before I went to bed that night!  Fabulous writing and lots of twists that kept me on my toes which gave me the surprise of discovering who the REAL villain was.

I loved the details Charlie Donlea took the time to describe allowing the reader to see just what the motivating factors were for the actions of the major players in the story.   Also enjoyed the research employed that described some of the tactics and tools used for pathologists to determine how, when and where death occurred.

Bottom line: THE GIRL WHO WAS TAKEN was a terrific read for those who enjoy a high suspense, fast pacing and lots of red herrings tossed in to keep one guessing.   Highly recommended.

Marilyn Rondeau