Punya Reviews...

An avid reader of Romance novels and her reviews...

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Scandal in Spades

Scandal in Spades - Wendy LaCapra

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It’s been a while since I pretty much gulped down in about 2 days. Let me tell you that it’s a rare occurrence for me nowadays. But Wendy LaCapra’s newest historical romance, book 1 of Lords of Chance series, Scandal in Spades, managed to do just that. I was hooked from the first page till the last. I enjoyed almost every bit of it—the storyline, the characters, the humorous moments and the banters between the H and the h. Lord help me, but I wanted more when it ended. MORE!

Lords of Chance is Wendy’s 3rd series after the Furies (now complete) and Mythic Dukes (ongoing). I’ve been a fan of hers ever since I read the Furies series. To me, she was a rising star in the arena of Historical Romance. Her absence of a year and a half due to personal reason was greatly felt and I personally kept checking for a new release announcement. So I was ecstatic last year to learn that she’s back to writing—with not one but two series!

Lords of Chance is a Regency set series with 3 peers of the realm, 3 Lords who are old friends, as the center of the storyline. They go by sobriquet taken from the cards—Spades, Clubs and Diamonds. The latest, a new addition to that small group came in the form of Lord Markham; Hearts to complete the circle. He’s also the youngest in the group, often jokingly called as the ‘pup’. But unknowing to him, he was being groomed by our Spades for an ultimate purpose. No, nothing nefarious but that didn’t mean it was any less important to Spades’s own existence. In fact, his life has been upside down for a while now and only Markham could solve his problem. At least, that’s what he thought.

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Montana Grit

Montana Grit: Bear Grass Springs, Book Two  - Ramona Flightner

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Montana Grit is the book 2 of Ramona Flightner’s newest historical romance series, Bear Grass Springs. Even though I’ve enjoyed the premise, I have mixed feelings about this one. Will try to explain in my review in the following.

I always talk about Banished Saga, Ramona’s debut series, whenever I review her books. I’m a huge fan of that series and glad that there are a few more installments left before we bid adieu to it. Bear Grass Springs, IMO, is quite different from Banished Saga. Yes, it’s still a clean romance and yes, we still get to know about a family and see them find love one after another but you get your traditional HEA, rather than a Saga where it spans years and includes new characters of new generations. Of course, I’m not comparing the two. I like both styles. In fact, I’m a reader of traditional HEA who has come to love the idea of growing with a family and seeing them grow and expand, becoming their friend in the process.

Book 1, Montana Untamed, introduces us to the MacKinnon brothers Caliean, Alistair and Ewan and their younger sister, Socha. They came to America from Scotland to settle down after they were forced from their lands. Cailean and Alistair arrived first. Eventually, Ewan and Socha joined them. Cailean and Alistair are very successful livery owners, the only one in the small but surely budding town of Bear Grass Springs. They’re well-liked and respected among the people and, alongside Ewan, they’re also well sought after bachelors. Ewan’s skills lie with the carpentry. He’s also earning good. Among the brothers, Cailean the eldest is what I’d call a grumpy bear. Very serious and moody. Alistair, the middle brother, seemed like the one with a sound head on his shoulders. Cool and calm as they say. Ewan is the happy go lucky charmer who can be impetuous at times. His gambling habit is one of those things that his brothers do not approve of. Sorcha is still young and brash, she has her own burdens to bear too as you will read, but her brothers love her all the same.

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Duke of Desire

Duke of Desire (Maiden Lane)  - Elizabeth Hoyt

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All the good things must come to an end. :( Every year for the past 7yrs. I’ve eagerly waited for a new Maiden Lane book. It’ll be so difficult to not have to wait for another new installment, even if the storyline veered away from the original characters. Even if Ms. Hoyt is writing a new series out later this year; even if I’m really excited about it. Duke of Desire marks the 12th installment, the final one, bidding adieu to our much beloved series. Though I still have 2 short stories to read, this is the last full-length novel.

Before I get into my review, starting with quite a bit of discussion on the backstory and how the characters are connected—because trust me they are connected through each-other and through ongoing events—I need to talk about the following...

I came to learn about Ms. Hoyt’s books a few years after I discovered Romance as a genre and was binging through some popular authors’ backlists. I don’t exactly remember why I picked up her books but so glad I did! Ms. Hoyt was still a bit of newbie, with 2 short series under her belt but making quite the splash. The first installment of Maiden Lane, Wicked Intentions, was out and waiting for the second installment. But before I could finish the first two series of hers, second book, Notorious Pleasures was out as well. By then I was SO hooked in her writing style and her stories that I was more in the lines of ‘oh goodie! gimme gimme!’ LOL I promptly began the reading of book 1 of Maiden Lane, which also prompted my love affair with this series.

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The Baronet's Bride

The Baronet's Bride (Midnight Quill Book 3)  - Emily Larkin

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The Baronet’s Bride is a novella by Emily Larkin and the final installment of her historical romance series, Midnight Quill. I’ve loved and enjoyed the author’s previous works, and this new installment is no different. It was well-written like them all. In fact, for me, it’s a surprising installment in the series that I didn’t expect to see but was quite delighted when it was released. I’ll try to explain as I go.

Book 1 of Midnight Quill was The Spinster’s Secret. When I read it back in 2013, it wasn’t a series. In fact, the prologue of sort, The Countess’s Groom was published after book 1. But it was written in a way that I was still able to enjoy it, even though I generally like reading my series in order. The connections between both books were nicely done but they were also good standalones on their own. Personally I don’t think you absolutely need to read the prologue before reading book 1, though I’d suggest reading it just for the enjoyment. But The Baronet’s Bride is rather a straight-out extension of The Spinster’s Secret. The h and H of this novella, Gareth and Ceci, were introduced as the secondary couple, and I thought they got their HEA too because they got married within that story. I wanted a bit more of their romance but wasn’t expecting a separate installment. When I think of the publication date of book 1, it obviously was quite a long time coming too.

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To Seduce and Defend

To Seduce and Defend - Deborah Camp

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To Seduce and Defend is my first book by Deborah Camp. It’s a Western Historical Romance I picked up on a whim while checking the author’s backlist on Amazon. I had no idea what to expect, but was really surprised how well-written it was. I can truly say that I enjoyed this one more than I thought I would!

Jennie arrived to Guthrie from St. Louis to stake a claim on the land her recently deceased husband Charles had supposedly bought for them. Like other people searching for a piece of land in this small but surely budding town, Charles came in search of a piece of land to settle down. They didn’t have a lot and Jennie had to be the leader in their marriage because Charles wasn’t up to the task. She was tired of living a tedious life with her in laws and wanted better for their only child, Oliver. When Charles returned, things hadn’t been the same with them until his death by illness a few months later. He said he wasn’t able to buy any land and his distant, melancholy demeanor, Jennie thought, was because he thought he’d failed them. After Charles’s death all she could do was to think of getting away from her in laws. When she found the deed to the land Jennie was thoroughly surprised, but she also saw an escape to a place she’s never been to before.

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Montana Untamed

Montana Untamed (Bear Grass Springs, Book One): Bear Grass Springs, Book One - Ramona Flightner

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Montana Untamed is the first book in Ramona Flightner’s new historical romance series, Bear Grass Springs. I’m always excited to read a new release from her, and this new installment wasn’t any different. I wasn’t surprised to find a great setting and lovely characters, even with some hiccups that frustrated me equally till the end.

I’m a huge fan of Ramona’s Banished Saga series. It’s still ongoing but already has around 8 installments. While reading, I felt that Bear Grass Springs is (or will be) different than Banished Saga. In the Saga, H and h don’t get their HEA in the same book they’re featured it. TBH, Banished Saga has no specific H and h because it revolves around quite a few families; where we met quite a few couples and their ever evolving relationship over the years with new generations welcoming new era. It has always reminded me of Downton Abbey. I read some complaints about the earlier installments where people weren’t too happy not seeing any HEA. Bear Grass Springs is more traditional in that sense because it does mainly focus on one couple and their HEA. I think traditional Romance readers will not be disappointed on that regard.

Set in 1884, the story opens up when we find Annabelle, who moved from Maine in search of her long lost elder sister Fidelia, has just arrived in Bear Grass Springs Montana. Fidelia left home years ago after a spat with their uptight father. Known as the beauty between the sisters, Fidelia had a beau and ran away with him. Annabelle, who is quire reserved and not counted as the beauty with her plump figure, has silently been in support of their father. Even then, she working and making a name as the best baker in her town. The background, throughout the story, was a bit vague since it’s mostly revealed from the sparse mention between Fidelia and Annabelle. All I could garner that after their father died, Annabelle finally felt free enough to search for Fedelia whom he’d much abandoned to her fate. Annabelle has had enough time to ponder and regret her decision. She wanted to make amends badly. A while ago Fidelia had written that she married, or was going to marry, someone in Bear Grass Springs. Annabelle didn’t have a whole lot of info but still, decided to leave her hometown permanently so she could come live with Fidelia. She did however know the name person Fidelia was going to marry.

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A Husband for Hire

A Husband for Hire (The Heirs & Spares Series Book 1) - Patricia A. Knight

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A Husband for Hire is Patricia A. Knight’s debut historical romance, though not her debut release. She was a  new-to-me author, so I didn’t know what to expect. But the blurb of the story intrigued me and I had to give this novel a try. Have to say, I’m glad I did.

A Husband for Hire tells us the story of a plain-looking and speaking spinster, who is also sole heir to her father’s big stud farm and other entailed properties. Lady Eleanor is the only daughter to the Earl of Rutledge is in a rather big dilemma. Their stud farm is one of the best around and the Crown has an eye on it. Eleanor being the only child has no way of stopping it when anything entailed reverts back to the Crown once the Earl passes away; which maybe sooner rather than later as both of her parents are quite elderly. Eleanor was quite a surprise at a later period in their life and both parents have devoted themselves to Eleanor’s care. The Earl has pretty much trained her to be more like a man (or you can say ‘tomboy-ish’?) with the education to go with it, so Eleanor can run the stud farm without any hitch at all. But now, both the Earl and the Countess’s health is failing. This leaves Eleanor to come to a rather drastic decision, something she never thought she’d have to resort to—husband hunting. No, make that husband purchasing, to make sure everything that belongs to the Rutledge Earldom remains within the family.

Eleanor is in her late 20s. She’s not an attractive woman by the Tonnish standard, being too tall and thin, so she remained unmarried. Plus her work around the farm and the horses quite kept her busy, something she takes immense pride in. And even though she’s got plenty of money to have been married earlier, she hasn’t. What I could garner from the beginning that she’d never even considered this possibility...until very recently. All she knows that she has to bribe or buy (or whatever it takes) to find a husband. That way, when her first son is born, she could petition to make him the heir to the Rutledge legacy to stop the Crown from grabbing what she and her father and their thousands of employees worked hard to achieve.  

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The Scot Beds His Wife

The Scot Beds His Wife (Victorian Rebels) - Kerrigan Byrne

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The Scot Beds His Wife by Kerrigan Byrne was my somewhat eagerly awaited book 5 of Victorian Rebels series. I really liked Gavin, the H’s character from one of the previous installments. Since then, I’ve been looking forward to his book. Unfortunately, it also turned out to be my least favorite book in the series. I’m extremely disappointed in the author’s direction with the story and the characterization of the H and the h. So much so, it took me quite a while to finish it.

The Victorian Rebels series is based on a few Victorian-era bad boys getting their HEAs with women who bring them down to their knees, quite literally. They are a diverse bunch, who’d do anything to survive and protect the ones they love. I was sold on the idea since book 1, The Highwayman that started it all. Kerrigan’s writing was pretty dark and she, throughout the story, took us to places I never thought I’d explore. I.e. book 2, The Hunter. Some really nauseating stuff that were happening, seeing the hero was an assassin. The description of it all weren’t always for the faint-hearted. Nevertheless, I found the stories thrilling and engaging with a few exceptions.

In The Highwayman, we meet Dorian Blackwell AKA Dougan McKenzie and his plight of life in a prison as a youngster. He’s one of the bastard sons of the cruel and lecherous Hamish MacKenzie, now-deceased Laird of MacKenzies. His darkness has seeped into every single one of his sons, doesn’t matter whether they’re legitimate or illegitimate. The only difference was Dougan/Dorian wanted to fight it for the love of his life, Farah. But, as he grew up seeing and experiencing stuff no youngster should, Dougan had already transformed into someone with a blackhole for a heart; with zero conscience to bother him about his deeds. He is called ‘The Black Heart of Ben More’; the reigning king of the underworld for a reason. It was a great beginning to this series that I absolutely enjoyed, though the author is yet to give us a story for Dougan’s ‘opposition’ for Farah’s affection, Inspector Carlton Morley. I dig that guy and hoping he’d finally get his own.

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Christmas in Boston

Christmas in Boston (A Banished Saga Short Story)  - Ramona Flightner

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A very short and sweet Christmas story for the fans of Banished Saga. Christmas in Boston takes place after book 3.5 and 10 or so years before the current books are set (there's a jump in time in book 4, Tenacious Love) but it's written in a way that you can enjoy it whether you've already read the series till the latest installment or you're somewhere in the middle of it.

But Christmas in Boston is NOT recommended until you've read Undaunted Love (PART TWO) because of the connected incidents. The story tells us about one of our favorite characters and McLeod brothers' uncle Aidan, his long lost love Delia, and their daughter Zylphia's first Christmas together. Even in these few pages, there are surprises and revelations that'd melt your heart. If you've already read till book 3.5 then this story will fill in some of the voids and make you smile in pleasure. :) If not, then I highly recommend you dive into this series ASAP!

To recieve a free copy of this and other short stories containing snippets in the lives of Banished Saga's favorite characters, sign up for Ramona's Newsletter.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year 2018 to all my booklikes friends. May this year brings you much joy and happiness!

 

Kinda late...

Dear booklikes friends, I've been under the weather for the better part of December, even before that, haven't really been in the right mindset to read and review books. The only thing I did was to work on my blog tour posts. I know I have some pending reviews and what's been bugging me the most is that I haven't been able to post those reviews. But I plan to be back very soon and post reviews as I feel the new year calling me. In the meantime, hope you all, who celebrate, had a happy Christmas! 

 

SPOILER ALERT!

A Mistress To Remember

A Mistress To Remember (Birds of Paradise Book 3) - Eliza Lloyd

My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts...

A Mistress to Remember is the third book of Eliza Lloyd’s Birds of Paradise series. I stumbled across this series in 2015 when it wasn’t yet a series and read book 2, The Darkness in the Marquess of Dane, which pretty much blew me away with how good it was! It was also the first book I read by the author so I was very impressed and wanted more!

Since I read the series out of order, an anomaly for someone who will do anything to read series in order LOL, I’m not quite sure about the concept of the title Birds of Paradise. But I know that the theme of a mistress is quite prevalent. In a way or the other, the heroines of this series were mistresses to the heroes before they became romantically involved. Book  1, Another Lover, which I read after book 2, was too short and rushed for my liking. The h was a legendary courtesan with ‘terms and conditions’ on her services that also required an exorbitant amount of money. The H, a known rake, wanted to make her his for a long time with an intensity. So finally, when the opportunity arrived, he snatched it up right away....... Well, I just wished there were more background on the H and h like the later installments in the series, more fleshed out characters too. It felt like I was missing something, that the H and h had shared some private moment or something that was never quite revealed. I’d still recommend it as the famous H of book 2, the Marquess of Dane, makes a very short appearance there.

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The Lost Letter

The Lost Letter: A Victorian Romance - Mimi Matthews

My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts...

The Lost Letter by Mimi Matthews is a sweet Victorian romance novella. I was really intrigued by the blurb so I gave it a try. This being the author’s debut, I had no idea what I was getting into, yet was pleasantly surprised by the story and the characters. However, in the end, it did feel like the story had not been delivered to its full potentials.

The Lost Letter opens up as we’re introduced to our h, Sylvia. Once a shining star on the Ton’s sky as the glorious “Miss Stafford”, she’s now serving as a governess to a merchant family who are decidedly down the social ladder. The family is kind to her but her fall from grace had been no less painful when her over-the-top gambler father committed suicide to escape the tremendous debt he’d amassed. He was a selfish SOB, didn’t even think of his only child. He left her to the buzzards to pick at her. Sylvia had a rough year trying to come to terms with both her peer of the realm father’s sudden demise and her diminished social status, which meant she had no prospect of marriage any longer. Which also meant she’d be living out her life as a spinster, and the most honorable job would be of the position of a governess. That too, if anyone deigns to give her a job. Sylvia is grateful to her employers for taking her in when she thought there was no one to help her.

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Discovering Miss Dalrymple

Discovering Miss Dalrymple (Baleful Godmother Historical Romance Series Book 6) - Emily Larkin

My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts...

Discovering Miss Dalrymple is the book 6 of Emily Larkin’s intriguing Baleful Godmother series. I’ve been following this series since book 1, and to tell you the truth, despite having a bit of a hiccup in the beginning of it, I have come to love this series. This latest installment was no different with a storyline of the usual flair of magic and it’s lovely characters.

The Baleful Godmother is a Regency-set series based on female characters who have special “gifts” or powers. But if you want to start from the very beginning, you can with The Fey Quartet. These are a set of novellas listed as “prologue” to this series. Set in Medieval-era England, the prologues explain exactly how our unique heroines come to inherit their “gifts”.

Books 1 and 2, Unmasking Miss Appleby and Resisting Miss Merryweather had something common in them apart from Baletongue, our dubious Fairy Godmother. Heroines of both of these books, Charlotte and Anne AKA Merry (respectively), were bestowed their gifts at the age of 25, which I thought was THE age they were supposed to have their wish fulfilled and 2. They were cousins so the stories were linked that way. However, the h of book 3 Trusting Miss Trentham, Letty, has had her wish fulfilled at 21. “Why” is explained in this installment as the h, Eleanor or Nelly, had her wish fulfilled at 23. The women, who were originally granted a wish each, were sisters, and our heroines simply descended from a different sister each, hence the age of their wish fulfillment differs from one another. Therein lies the uniqueness of this series, you never know to which direction the author is going to lead you. An element of surprise is always there.

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Meet A Rogue At Midnight

Meet A Rogue At Midnight (Midnight Meetings Book 4) - Gina Conkle

My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts...

Meet A Rogue at Midnight by Gina Conkle is book 2.5 of her historical romance series Midnight Meetings. Even though the books have been published with quite a bit of gaps in between, I enjoyed this series so far. A new installment was a long time coming and so glad I finally got to read it!

Midnight Meetings is rather themed on the popular fairytales. Book 1, Meet the Earl at Midnight, was about a reclusive Earl whose face became somewhat disfigured from an accident. A nerd by heart, Edward wasn’t meant to be the heir but fate led him to become the Earl of Greenwich when his elder brother died suddenly. Our h, Lydia was ‘given’ to him in exchange of a debt of her slimy step-father. One night from her comfy bed, Lydia finds herself doing something she wasn’t even dreaming of; in a MOC with a stranger. An Earl no less! Edward, who was leaving for a scientific voyage very soon, needed to marry ASAP to ensure an heir for his legacy and this was his hasty solution. Not that he didn’t like Lydia, oh no! He was smitten from day one, though he was never good at showing his feelings. So, after a bit of push and pull and some misunderstandings, Edward and Lydia find their HEA. Though I found the middle of the story a bit slow because of the above mentioned push and pull, I loved how it all came together in the end.

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Her Duke at Daybreak

Her Duke at Daybreak (Mythic Dukes Trilogy) - Wendy LaCapra

My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts...

Wendy LaCapra's triumphant return to the HR writing is a lovely story full of love and yearning. Her Duke At Daybreak, is a novella and the first in her new Historical Romance series, Mythic Dukes.

It’s been 2 yrs. since I’ve read and loved Wendy’s debut the Furies series. So when I recently learned of the upcoming release of a new novella, I was beyond thrilled. I’d say the wait was worth it. Wendy didn’t disappoint cause I loved it to bits! :) I generally have what I like to term as “the novella syndrome” with a short story, where it feels like something is missing or everything is rushing fast towards the end. Very few authors can pack any type of emotional punch in those short few chapters, let alone build any satisfactory connection between the main characters. Even though I would've loved a few more chapters just to enjoy Ash and Alicia together, IMO Her Duke at Daybreak was perfect as it was.

Duke of Ashbey is our typical ‘angsty’ Duke. He lives mostly as a recluse because of a so-called curse and the bad name on his family due to a murder that happened years ago. Ashbey, whose nick name is not known (at least I can’t remember he was called anything other than Ash) always wears a façade of dark and somber. Even his mistresses would leave unsatisfactory even if he was a generous benefactor. Not because he was bad in bed, quite the opposite in fact, but because they thought he’s incapable of any emotional attachment. Not even a little bit of affection. His long deceased wife Rachel would vouch for it cause she seemingly couldn’t stand his presence. A MOC, Ash wasn’t married for long before his marriage was in shambles. Rachel judged him based on the bad name attached to his family, believing in the curse. She made sure he knew how much she despised him before dying in a fire that killed his father too. Another reason why Ash believed himself cursed without any salvation.

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