Punya Reviews...

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

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Once Upon a Maiden Lane

Once Upon a Maiden Lane - Elizabeth Hoyt

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Maiden Lane series by Elizabeth Hoyt has officially ended in 2017 after 12 full-length novels under its belt. The series also got some novellas of secondary characters thrown in between. I’ve been with this series since 2011—which originally started publishing from 2010—and have been following the publication of every book ever since. If you’ve followed or read any of my reviews of Maiden Lane, you’ll know this is one of my favorite series by one of my most favorite HR authors and it hurts to know that a series that has been a part of my life for so long, has finally come to an end. Which I suppose is quite natural, and I believe, probably was for the best because the series had veered away from the original storyline in the recent years.

Once Upon a Maiden Lane is one of the last 2 novellas that bid adieu to Maiden Lane. I bought both but saved them to savor in my leisure when I feel like going back to the Maiden Lane universe. It’s the story of Mary Whitsun, a lesser known character who made appearances in the first couple of installments of the series. I’ll not go to the storyline of the original series because TBH, this novella can be read as a complete standalone. Even in such a short space, the author brilliantly gives you info that you need to enjoy the story but it doesn’t connect to any of the installments as Ms. Hoyt’s books usually do.

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Courting Carrie in Wonderland

Courting Carrie in Wonderland - Carla Kelly

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I bought Courting Carrie in Wonderland last year, not sure why I didn’t read it right away. Carla Kelly’s books are auto-buy for me, and when I saw the cover, I wanted to read this one. Yet somehow I never got around to. So to amend that, I picked it up last week without reading any reviews, as I do for many of Ms. Kelly’s books. Have to wonder again, why I didn’t read it last year cause the story was simply amazing, heart-touchingly so!

TBH, I had no idea what ‘Wonderland’ in Courting Carrie in Wonderland stood for. I thought it was one of those titles with a touch of fancy, maybe the H and h went somewhere they liked calling wonderland? Seems like I was almost correct in that regard. This book is set in the Yellowstone National Park, a place I’ve never heard of (I don’t live in the US), which was known to be the Wonderland. Even while reading I didn’t check out anything in google. I just read on, seemingly trying to figure out the place through our H and h, Ramsay and Carrie’s eyes and Ms. Kelly’s narratives. I’ll be honest that I struggled to picture the Park and it’s specific attractions that were mentioned as they’re known: such as the Old Faithful, the Chittenden Bridge (previously the Melan Arch Bridge), the viaduct that linked the edge of the mountains creating a perilous road and many other descriptions of the scenery, the flora and the fauna. Even then I could tell it was a marvelous place. After I finished I couldn’t wait to find out how those noted areas looked like, and was blown away by the beauty of the Park. I could imagine why Ramsay and Carrie (or anyone for that matter) would love the place and want to stay there. Like, I had this urge to visit Yellowstone ASAP, though that dream may never materialize for me. :(

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Lonestar's Lady

Lonestar's Lady - Deborah Camp

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Deborah Camp’s historical romance Lonestar’s Lady was a surprisingly good read, one that I enjoyed till the end. It had some heart-warming, some funny and definitely sexy moments that kept me throughly entertained. I do believe I’ve become a fan of the author’s writing. :D

Gussie Horton arrives in Pear Orchard Arkansas on a livestock wagon all stinky and dirty and alone in hopes for a better future. After all, she left her no good drunken father, the only family member, to get married. She’s supposed to be the proverbial mail-order bride to a man she’s never met before. But Gussie was desperate for her own life with a loving husband and a family of her own. Most importantly, she was tired of being dragged by her papa from place to place and fending off unwanted attentions from his ‘buddies’ when her papa was unconscious from a day of heavy drinking. So yeah, Gussie wanted out and away as far as possible from that life and this seemed like her only chance.

Gussie didn’t expect a lot, but she’d hoped her would-be groom would at the least be a nice fellow who has his own homestead, an income, and one who doesn’t touch liquor with 10 feet pole. It was very apparent that she was naïve and prone to daydreaming because she presumed too many things, never considering that an exact opposite scenario is a possibility as well. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens when she arrives on the train station and found nobody waiting for her. After waiting for hours, Gussie finally decides to hitch her own ride with what little she had and go in search of her errant groom. Thankfully she knew Bob Babbitt’s address.

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To Marry a Texas Outlaw

To Marry a Texas Outlaw (Men of Legend Book 3) - Linda Broday

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To Marry a Texas Outlaw is the book 3 of Linda Broday’s Men of Legend series. It was my most anticipated installment of the series because of how much I adored the H, Luke. Since being introduced in book 1, I’ve been waiting for his story. Sadly, have to say it wasn’t how I expected it to be.

Much like Bachelors of Battle Creek, the other series of Linda Broday that I read and loved, Men of Legend focuses on a family or a ‘band of brothers’ if you can call them. Even though, the brothers of Bachelors of Battle Creek series weren’t brothers by blood, these Legends brothers certainly are! The first book focuses on Sam Legend, a former Texas Ranger, who was estranged from his family because of the demands his job used to put on him. Houston is his older brother and shoulders the responsibility of the huge Legend ranch called Lone Star. They met Luke, a brother they didn’t know existed, in Sam’s story.

Sam had enjoyed his job as a Texas Ranger until he thought death had finally caught up with him. A pretty terrifying description is given at the beginning of book 1, To Love a Texas Ranger, when he’s almost hanged by a group of outlaws. When he thought he was done for, a known outlaw he’s been chasing, Luke Weston becomes his unexpected savior. Luke has been so elusive that Sam had a tough time tracking him down, unable to catch him even once despite Sam’s expertise. Yet there was this odd game was being played between the two where Luke seems to chase Sam just as much as he did. And they enjoyed it as well. Why, he couldn’t tell. Until the day Luke saved his life, Sam wouldn’t have thought he’s capable of any good deed. Now he’s willing to rethink his opinion of the outlaw.

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Montana Maverick

Montana Maverick (Bear Grass Springs Book 3)  - Ramona Flightner

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Montana Maverick is the book 3 of Ramona Flightner’s historical romance series, Bear Grass Springs. A huge fan of her debut series Banished Saga, I didn’t hesitate picking it up when I heard she’s coming up with a new HR set in a slightly different era. Regrettably, have to say that so far I haven’t felt the connection with the stories as well as I thought I would.

Whereas Banished Saga is set in the early 20th century America, Bear Grass Springs is set in the 1880s Montana. It’s also quite different that Banished Saga in the sense that each story ends in your traditional HEA. 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. I love both styles and appreciate the author exploring both routes. Initially, many readers complained about the first book of Banished Saga not having a traditional HEA. But that won’t be an issue with the Bear Grass Springs novels.

Book 1, Montana Untamed, introduces us to the MacKinnon brothers Cailean, Alistair and Ewan and their younger sister, Sorcha. They came to America from Scotland to settle down after they were forced from their lands. The eldest two arrived first. Eventually, Ewan and Sorcha joined them. Cailean and Alistair are very successful livery owners, the only one in the small town of Bear Grass Springs. Ewan’s skills lie with carpentry, which the people of the town appreciated, so he’s been doing good as well. Both well-liked and respected among the people and, alongside Ewan, they’re also well sought after bachelors. 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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Hello Stranger

Hello Stranger: The Ravenels, Book 4 - Lisa Kleypas

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Hello Stranger was the book 4 of Lisa Kleypas’s brand new historical romance series The Ravenels. Even with some ups and downs along the way I’ve been enjoying her return to the arena of historical romance. I’m just glad she’s writing HR again and hoping that she’ll continue to do so for years to come. And TBH I’m simply blown away by this one! Hello Stranger, for me, wasn’t a highly anticipated release like some of the previous ones in the series but... Wow! Ethan Ransom!! I *heart*!!!

First a bit of background, which is how I like to do my review... Set in the Victorian-era, book 1 of the Ravenels is titled Cold-Hearted Rake. It gives you the intro to The Ravenel family, and its two surviving brothers Devon and Weston. The Ravenels are a rowdy bunch who had always had a penchant for self-destruction. They live wild; always drawn to the adrenaline rush and the danger, never bothering to think about the consequences. And they die young too, which has come to be known as the “Ravenel curse”. Devon and West, both have the same bend on self-destruction. They had no title or money but, regardless, Devon didn’t want a title stooped under a pile of debt and a dilapidating country estate on his shoulders. But when his titled cousin, the last direct heir to Lord Trenear, breaks his neck from a fall from horseback, he had no other choice. Now, not only he was bordered with the duties that came with the title, but also Devon found that he’s now responsible for Theo’s 3 younger sisters—Helen, and the twins Cassandra and Pandora. If that wasn’t the worse thing to deal with, he’s also now responsible for Theo’s widow, Kathleen. At first, their relationship was that of oil and water but soon it turned into something else. Devon and Kathleen found themselves in love (which did nothing for me unfortunately), so on and so forth. A family, responsibility and love did change both Devon and West to become more cautious about their lifestyle, spending it on more fruitful ventures. As a result, they finally found themselves with a thriving estate. Devon and Kathleen have married, had a child, their life seemingly fulfilled.

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The Battle Cry and The Berserker

Battle Cry and The Berserker - C.L. Scholey

What a train wreck! I'm sure it was meant to be comical, but everything bordered on such extreme ridiculousness that after 70% I gave up. And I generally don't give up on books so easily. I just didn't feel like going back to this one again. Reminded me of some of those Lynsay Sands historicals I stopped reading for the exact same reason; everything ridiculously over the top, which makes the story absolutely not funny.

I can see I'm in the minority here (from the reviews on goodreads and on amazon) so read at your own risk.

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Solitary Horseman

Solitary Horseman - Deborah Camp

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Solitary Horseman is my second novel by Deborah Camp. So far, I’m really enjoying her voice and the stories she likes to tell. As a huge fan of western historical romances, I can honestly say that it was a wonderful read. Loved the storyline, the characters and pretty much everything in this one.

Solitary Horseman is set just after the American Civil War. You could still see the wounds of the war, in both lands and its people. Just because the war was over didn’t mean everybody settled in peacefully. No, because people were still scared, still letting the viciousness of the war ravaging them. It seemed like there was no escaping it. But even in the midst of this, there were some who were trying to live their lives as best as they could. One of them was rancher Callum Latimer. The war has taken a lot from him, including his 2 bothers and his mother. It’s taken his peace of mind, filling it with PTSD after what he’d witnessed when he was fighting himself but he was trying his best.

Callum’s father, Seth, established the Latimer Ranch which has been very well-known in the area for many years for its size and the quality of its cattle, and they have always been treated as Royalty. Callum and his 2 bother, Maxwell and Harrison, were to be running the ranch once Seth wasn’t able anymore. Well, Maxwell, being the eldest had the privilege to be trained to take the lead. He was much like Seth, big and strong, a leader through and through. Harrison, the youngest, was mostly the goofy one but he was aware of his duty. Callum, in the middle, never felt like a leader but he was strong and able enough to follow Maxwell in any directions. The brothers had a very good relationship and were inseparable... until the war had torn them apart forever.

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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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