The Trouble with Dukes by Grace Burrowes


The Trouble with Dukes by Grace Burrowes
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (368 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

THEY CALL HIM THE DUKE OF MURDER…
The gossips whisper that the new Duke of Murdoch is a brute, a murderer, and even worse–a Scot. They say he should never be trusted alone with a woman. But Megan Windham sees in Hamish something different, someone different.

No one was fiercer at war than Hamish MacHugh, though now the soldier faces a whole new battlefield: a London Season. To make his sisters happy, he’ll take on any challenge–even letting their friend Miss Windham teach him to waltz. Megan isn’t the least bit intimidated by his dark reputation, but Hamish senses that she’s fighting battles of her own. For her, he’ll become the warrior once more, and for her, he might just lose his heart.

The Trouble with Dukes is like reading a verbal dance. The dialogue is oh, so proper while at the same time conveying all manner of nefarious or sensual intents. Even the villain attacks using proper peerage etiquette. Ms. Burrowes has a deft hand when it comes to writing in this period.

The story is mainly told through three points of view: Hamish, the hero, Megan, the heroine, and Sir Fletcher, the villain. Hamish may not be eloquent in his speech when conversing, but his dialogue in his head flows smoothly. Megan turns out to be a woman who knows her own mind and goes after her prey with single-minded purpose – the hero never stands a chance. As for Fletcher – he has the potential to be redeemed based upon his little sister, but alas, there are circumstances that dictate his course of action. Once I found out the actual facts of the matter, his comeuppance is a foregone conclusion but the way it is delivered is grin-worthy. It inspires a mental ‘fist bump’ of ‘high-five’ and it’s worth reading.

Megan’s family are prominent secondary characters that play significant roles in helping to unraveling the plot and pave the way towards the great conclusion. Their personalities are large and entertaining but Ms. Burrowes kept them in line so Hamish and Megan’s romance remains the focal point.

An interesting twist is who seduces whom. The ensuing sensual hijinks are a delight to read. It also inspires a few chuckles and snickers.

The novel is very well written and entertaining but it may give some readers a feeling of cotton-head in the beginning. What I mean is, the ‘proper’ method of speech between Megan’s cousins sounds contrary to the subject matter yet they have no problems deciphering the issues and making plans to route the villain. I had a very hard time processing the dialogue in the first half of the book as I’m used to very plain speech. Once my brain “re-wired”, I found my reading rhythm and quite enjoyed the story from then on. It won’t surprise me if the book gets higher ratings from other readers, especially if they are accustomed to the Regency style of speech that is employed in this novel. Ms. Burrowes has a solid and well-earned reputation as a storyteller and it’s evident in The Trouble with Dukes.

On the whole, I’m glad I read this novel. I was entertained and charmed by the romance between Hamish and Megan. The final wrap-up leading to their happily ever after is hilarious while at the same time, serious. Want to know the best part about the ending? It’s romantic. Very romantic. It’s exactly what this romance reader seeks and I couldn’t be happier.

Copycat by Kimberla Lawson Roby


Copycat by Kimberla Lawson Roby
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (172 pgs)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Befriending Traci Calloway Cole is the best thing Simone Phillips has ever done. Traci is the kind of woman Simone wants to be-in every way possible. She begins copying her role model. Not because she wants to be Traci. She just wants to be exactly like Traci.

Traci doesn’t worry, though. She knows Simone doesn’t mean any harm and that her mimicry is only sincere admiration. Until she discovers how far Simone’s obsession has gone. It is then that Simone’s entire world begins unraveling, and dreadful secrets from her past are exposed with no warning. Secrets that she’ll do almost anything to protect.

Would you find it flattering if someone mimicked your style, taste and behavior? Once Simone Phillips met her role model, author Traci Calloway Cole, Simone has been doing all she can to be just like Traci.

This isn’t Traci’s first time having a woman to copy her style. Which is what left me puzzled as to why Traci was being so naive to Simone’s behavior. Traci has been through this, and even wrote a book about a lady being a copycat and still didn’t have a clue or insight to see what Simone was doing. Her husband warned her and even her sister who met Simone only once but she was able to see Simone’s fascination with Traci was questionable.

This is a quick read that for a short read had some parts that were too detailed in things that didn’t necessarily contribute to the plot. The dialogue was slow but the plot made it interesting. I was curious how long Simone was going to let this behavior continue before it all crumbled. I love reading about couples and their happiness but the relationship between Traci and her husband Timothy just seemed unrealistic and too perfect.

The author delivered an interesting plot without the use of profanity or erotic behavior. References to church, scriptural quotes are mentioned but weren’t overly preachy. Whether low self esteem and lack of self love or maybe Simone had mental issues… I am not sure which but the subject of losing oneself and thinking if they look like or act like someone else that this would bring about happiness is real. In her past, Simone filed for bankruptcy and lately was been responsible with her credit but then with her obsession with Traci she lost her self identity, her morals and ended up with unnecessary material possessions and building up debt that would take years to get out of. She did all this while losing herself and her fiance.

I enjoyed the pre-marriage counseling session between Simone and her fiancé, Chris. I questioned why Chris was even interested in Simone. Simone has a past that she isn’t proud of. Simone’s past gave some interest to the story because I definitely was wondering what she was ashamed of. Simone has some deep rooted issues and her story and her point of view was sad, but it’s even more sad that she didn’t realize how deep and bizarre her behavior was as she was so rapidly transforming herself into Traci.

Both bizarre and humorous, I’d recommend this story to readers who like stories a little outside the norm.

Man on the Run by Carl Weber


Man on the Run by Carl Weber
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (320 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

It was the night before his wedding, fifteen years ago, that the nightmare began for Jay Crawford–locked up for a crime he never committed. Now, he’s escaped prison and wants nothing more than to clear his name and protect his family. To get justice, he’ll need the help of the three best friends who have always had his back–Wil, Kyle and Allan. But a man on the run requires absolute trust…and Jay may just be setting himself up for the ultimate betrayal.

Jay Crawford has been locked up for ten years for a crime he didn’t commit. He’s recently escaped prison. Will he be able to clear his name as well as prevent the threat bring carried out of something bad happening to one of his children?

This book had me laughing out loud at the facial expressions and verbal conversations that took place. I could actually see the scenes in my mind as I was reading. The scene at the restaurant with Jay dressed as a lady are hilarious. The characters are from previous books by the author. Kyle Richmond is very close with Jay, and then there is Wil and Allen. Their friendship is tested during this book. At the start of the book the men didn’t seem as close but as the story unfolds and events lead to different circumstance and their brotherhood bond gets stronger.

There is suspense, sex and plenty of drama that made this a page-turner for me.

Of course it seems a little unrealistic, a man breaking out of prison and on the run needing his friends to help him for such a long period of time. What I found strange was the author didn’t give any details of how he broke out of prison. Jay Crawford broke out of prison to save his son who he thought was being threaten, but also to clear his name of being convicted of rape. Because of the title, I thought the majority of the plot would be Jay working to prove his innocence but the book consisted of each of the character’s home and work life in addition to their relationship with Jay.

As with the prior novels by the author, it is written in a good writing style, with an entertaining plot. And even though the plot itself was serious, it included humor. I enjoyed the connection between the guys. It went way beyond friendship and more along the lines of a deep brotherhood. The men exemplified true friendship by standing up, believing in and in this case risking their freedom to associate with a friend on the run from the U.S. Marshals. The bond between these four men seems to test the strength of their marriage vows. All that seems good and sturdy turns out to collapse under pressure.

The book has a surprise ending so I can’t really say there is closure. The book is open ended in leaving the story open for continuation. I would definitely make the next book a priority to read, if it is in fact a continuation.

I would recommend to readers that enjoy a fast pace read that has twists and a unpredictable ending.

Nights in Rodanthe by Nicholas Sparks

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Nights in Rodanthe by Nicholas Sparks
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (212 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author Nicholas Sparks comes a tender story of hope and joy; of sacrifice and forgiveness — a moving reminder that love is possible at any age, at any time, and often comes when we least expect it. At forty-five, Adrienne Willis must rethink her entire life when her husband abandons her for a younger woman. Reeling with heartache and in search of a respite, she flees to the small coastal town of Rodanthe, North Carolina to tend to a friend’s inn for the weekend. But when a major storm starts moving in, it appears that Adrienne’s perfect getaway will be ruined — until a guest named Paul Flanner arrives. At fifty-four, Paul has just sold his medical practice and come to Rodanthe to escape his own shattered past. Now, with the storm closing in, two wounded people will turn to each other for comfort — and in one weekend set in motion feelings that will resonate throughout the rest of their lives.

I don’t think I’ve read a Nicholas Sparks novel that’s not packed with emotion and this one was no exception.

This story focuses on two middle aged people whose once perfect lives have seemed to unravel. They’re both divorced and meet by chance at an inn in the seaside town of Rodanthe in North Carolina. There’s a storm brewing and Paul who is a surgeon is there to meet with the husband of a patient who died and who’s holding Paul responsible. Adrienne is just looking after the inn while her friend’s away and soon Paul checks in. What starts out as a casual get to you know you encounter turns into a passionate relationship. But then, Paul’s off to Ecuador to be with his estranged son and Adrienne goes home to her three children and ailing father.

I always say be prepared with a box of tissues when you read one of the author’s works because you’re going to shed a tear at some point in the story. I won’t give away the plot and ruin this story but while you do feel some sadness, I felt the story’s main focus was about taking chances and living for the moment, and holding onto those memories.

If you like a romance with a slightly older than normal couple and a book with a good emotional pull, I’d say definitely don’t miss this one.

Duke of Pleasure by Elizabeth Hoyt

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Duke of Pleasure by Elizabeth Hoyt
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (234 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

IN THE ARMS OF DANGER

Bold. Brave. Brutally handsome. Hugh Fitzroy, the Duke of Kyle, is the king’s secret weapon. Sent to defeat the notorious Lords of Chaos, he is ambushed in a London alley—and rescued by an unlikely ally: a masked stranger with the unmistakable curves of a woman.

IN THE HEAT OF DESIRE

Cocky. Clever. Courageously independent. Alf has survived on the perilous streets of St. Giles by disguising her sex. By day she is a boy, dealing in information and secrets. By night she’s the notorious Ghost of St. Giles, a masked vigilante. But as she saves Hugh from assassins, she finds herself succumbing to temptation.

ONE KISS WILL CHANGE THEIR LIVES FOREVER

When Hugh hires Alf to investigate the Lords of Chaos, her worlds collide. Once Hugh realizes that the boy and the Ghost are the same, will Alf find the courage to become the woman she needs to be—before the Lords of Chaos destroy them both?

I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this story because I just knew it was going to be great. I’m pretty sure this could be read as a standalone read but it’s even better for fans of the series. Why? Because of Alf, of course. After a while we all figured out who, or better yet, what Alf was but to have that character get a happy ever after is a real treat. The fact that the hero is Hugh, who I met in a previous story, is another hook that I’m all too happy not to resist. He is a man with depths.

I can happily say that I’m thrilled with this novel. I liked how Alf was such a strong heroine; she was spunky, mischievous, and skilled with a sword. I enjoyed watching her slowly change from a survivor to a woman in love. There was so much to admire about her character that I think she’s become one of my favorite leading ladies. Her soft heart was in evidence whenever she dealt with the young children in the story. Alf truly touched my heart.

Hugh is a complicated man. His lineage is intriguing, his job is fascinating and for all the power he holds, he is powerless to help his own kids. He doesn’t stop trying, he doesn’t stop loving and the author’s choice of words to describe some of the scenes between them were all heartbreaking and tender.

Duke of Pleasure is an emotionally rich story and is a credit to Ms. Hoyt’s skill as a storyteller. I was wowed.

A word to the wise, this book can also steam your glasses, if you wear them. I chose spicy as the heat level but it was a toss-up. There were a couple of scenes that were quite possibly hotter than a habanero pepper, but it might have seemed that way because I really liked the dynamics between Alf and Hugh; she was innocent, he was not, but, she wasn’t demure and shy, oh no, Alf was pragmatic and a quick learner to the point of enthusiasm. Hugh didn’t stand a chance.

The overall story arc had an exciting and tightly written conclusion and I was so happy that the worst was over … until I read the sneak peek for the next book in the series. Oh my! That one should be very interesting indeed. Guess what I can’t wait for!!

Duke of Pleasure has a perfect happy ever after for two wonderful people and I’m a very satisfied reader. It’s no hardship to recommend this novel to any and all historical romance readers because it’s such an entertaining and engaging read. Once started, I couldn’t it put it down so please leave enough time to enjoy to get the full effect. It’s worth it.

Unspeakable by Sandra Brown

unspeakable
Unspeakable by Sandra Brown
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Action/Adventure, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (449 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Carl Herbold is a cold-blooded psychopath who has just escaped the penitentiary where he was serving a life sentence. Bent on revenge, he’s going back to where he began–Blewer County, Texas…

Born deaf, lately widowed, Anna Corbett fights to keep the ranch that is her son’s birthright, unaware that she is at the center of Herbold’s horrific scheme–and that her world of self-imposed isolation is about to explode…

Drifter Jack Sawyer arrives at Anna’s ranch asking for work, hoping to protect the innocent woman and her son from Herbold’s rage. But Sawyer can’t outrun the secrets that stalk him–or the day of reckoning awaiting them all…

All I can say is wow. From the start this book had me. The characters were so in depth and real that I couldn’t help but be drawn into the story. I normally don’t like to read lengthy books but this one was so enjoyable and wasn’t overly wordy that I am so glad I didn’t let the number of pages prevent me from reading because I would have missed out on a great read.

I enjoy books that take place in small towns. Blewer County has a set of interesting characters that kept this book moving. With a prison break, a unsolved murder and a deaf widow the action and thrills are continuous thorough out. Not only did I love the character’s bio I was also in awe of the author’s writing and how the plot was laid out for pleasant reading. The author filled the characters with an incredible amount of detail and liveliness. Some of the context and language may be uncomfortable to some reads. To me it’s not overly harsh context but more so Carl’s character traits and habits being visually displayed in true form.

This book just took my mind to Blewer County; to the people like former sheriff Ezzy Hardge and his commitment to a 20 year cold case. My favorite character is Cora, Ezzy wife and young David Corbett. Each character had a personality and believable qualities that made them so likable and real. Their dialogue added such realness to the scenes.

There were quite a few things going on in the novel but it wasn’t too much. Carl Herbold and his prison mate Myron Hutts have escaped. Jack Sawyer has coincidentally arrived on the farm of Delray Corbett just as word has spread about Carl’s prison escape. Emory Lomax, the towns loan officer is pressing Delray about selling his farm. This unforgettable read delivers perilous danger, soft romance and heart-stopping action.

Skillful storytelling in relaying deaf widow Anna’s voice. I was curious how the author would be able to including a deaf character but I have to commend the author on a wonderful well done job on having a strong sense and talent to carrying this out with success. I am sure once a reader starts reading they will be captivated and won’t be able to put the book down.

This edge of your seat thriller will keep you reading until the last page.

The Killing Forest by Sara Blaedel

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The Killing Forest by Sara Blaedel
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (308 pages)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

Following an extended leave, Louise Rick returns to work at the Special Search Agency, an elite unit of the National Police Department. She’s assigned a case involving a fifteen-year-old who vanished a week earlier. When Louise realizes that the missing teenager is the son of a butcher from Hvalsoe, she seizes the opportunity to combine the search for the teen with her personal investigation of her boyfriend’s long-ago death . . .

Louise’s investigation takes her on a journey back through time. She reconnects with figures from her past, including Kim, the principal investigator at the Holbaek Police Department, her former in-laws, fanatic ancient religion believers, and her longtime close friend, journalist Camilla Lind. As she moves through the small town’s cramped network of deadly connections, Louise unearths toxic truths left unspoken and dangerous secrets.

A compelling, spine-tingling read!

By the time I finished the first chapter, I was outraged at the despicable way mean men had treated one of the men’s son and the woman. Besides all that, they’d done it in the name of a religious rite. I needed some “good people” quick to set things right.

I’d not read previous Sara Blaedel’s Louise Rick novels. I was not acquainted with the characters. But it really didn’t matter. Enough back-story was blended as the plot unfolded to give insight. Louise and Erik, her partner now, are with the Special Search Agency of the police. They are soon hot and heavy after the scary men who did those unspeakable deeds at the huge, old sacrifice tree in the forest. The things they uncover and discover are chilling.

Sara Baedel’s writing style is so realistic, so grim, so graphic at times one shudders and wants to shut the book; BUT how can one stop reading without knowing how these arrogant antagonists get their comeuppance?

Every time Elinor, the old woman in the forest, says, “The wagons are rolling on the death trail,” a foreboding chill ran through me.

While I knew the gods’ names in Norse mythology, I knew little else; so this fictional account was a real eye-opener—enough fact to make the fiction believable.

While the suspense and mystery is afoot, the reader gets to know Louise Rick. She is smart, resilient, determined, and loves her foster son as if he were her own, but carries a load of guilt about the death of her first love, Klaus. How her quilt is eased and how it related to the major plot intrigues.

Sara Blaedel’s characters, especially the “bad” ones, and multifaceted plot make page-turning, breath-holding reading.

Open and Shut by David Rosenfelt

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Open and Shut by David Rosenfelt
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Action/Adventure, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (292 pages)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Defense attorney Andy Carpenter manages to sail through any tough situation whether inside the courtroom or in his personal life. But this all changes when his marriage breaks up and his father suddenly dies, leaving him distraught – and 22 million dollars richer.

A death, a mystery, a courtroom… and a golden retriever!

I’d never read a book by the author David Rosenfelt before. I’m glad I remedied that. I love books with animals in them and this book was gripping. I had to keep going to unravel the mystery as well as to see how the dog fared. Be warned, I’m the type who wants the dog to survive–above all else. If you’re like me, then this book is for you.

I do have to say there were moments when this book seemed like the first novel by a first time author. There was a lot of telling in the beginning and the first half of the book dragged. But I suggest you slog through it. The story is very much worth it.

Of all of the characters, I loved Tara, the dog, the best. I could see her and loved when she showed up on the scene. There was one particular scene that angered me, but it concerned the choices of the human characters. I also enjoyed the character of Laurie, although I wished she’d have grown more of a backbone. Still, I rooted for her.

The main character of Andy…he left a little to be desired for me. I liked him as a lawyer and how he grew through the story. But his immaturity at times grated on my nerves. He needed to go through this journey to grow in his maturity, but also to come to grips with who he is.

There were plenty of twists and turns I never saw coming. Between courtroom antics, lies and Andy’s past coming back to haunt him, I had to keep reading to know what would happen next.

If you like a good mystery with eclectic characters, then this might be the book for you.

At First Sight by Nicholas Sparks

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At First Sight by Nicholas Sparks
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (277 pgs)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

There are a few things Jeremy Marsh was sure he’d never do: he’d never leave New York City; never give his heart away after barely surviving one failed marriage; and never become a parent. Now Jeremy is living in the tiny town of Boone Creek, North Carolina, engaged to Lexie Darnell, the love of his life, and anticipating the start of their family. But just as his life seems to be settling into a blissful pattern, a mysterious and disturbing e-mail sets off a chain of events that will change the course of this young couple’s relationship. How well do we really know the ones we love? How do we handle the inevitable doubts, fears concerning parenthood, and stumbling blocks that are sometimes placed in our way? Continuing the story of the young couple introduced in Sparks’s bestselling True Believer, this novel captures all the heartbreak, tension, romance and surprises of those who are newly wed. An astonishing tale about the love between a man and a woman and between a parent and a child, At First Sight is about endings that bring new beginnings . . . tragedies that lead to unexpected joy . . . and, most of all, the magic of everlasting love.

I’ve been lucky enough to review three books by one of my favorite authors and this is the final of the three. It’s a sequel of sorts to another one of Mr. Sparks’ books, True Believer. I haven’t read that book so don’t worry if you haven’t either because you’ll still get into the story of At First Sight.

This is another highly enjoyable read peppered with characters you can’t help liking. Jeremy is the fish out of water and Lexie is the small town girl with a zest for life. Unlike other Nicholas Spark books, these two people are already in love, expecting a baby, and about to be married when the story begins. So where’s the conflict you ask?

It’s in the form of an e-mail that Jeremy receives from an anonymous person that has him questioning his relationship with Lexie and his upcoming marriage to her. It had me wondering where the plot was going and I found myself turning the pages to see how things worked out for these two characters.

I won’t give away the plot but let’s just say there was lots of relief for me but then the ending, which I also won’t give away, is a heartbreaker. I didn’t see it coming and as I read the last ten pages, tears were sliding down my face. The author certainly knows how to pull on your emotions and one of the reasons I enjoy his books so much.

If you love a good romance with some quirky characters and a tearjerker of an ending, don’t miss this one.

A Bend in the Road by Nicholas Sparks

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A Bend in the Road by Nicholas Sparks
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (341)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Miles Ryan’s life seemed to end the day his wife was killed in a hit-and-run accident two years ago. As deputy sheriff of New Bern, North Carolina, he not only grieves for her and worries about their young son Jonah but longs to bring the unknown driver to justice. Then Miles meets Sarah Andrews, Jonah’s second-grade teacher. A young woman recovering from a difficult divorce, Sarah moved to New Bern hoping to start over. Tentatively, Miles and Sarah reach out to each other…soon they are falling in love. But what neither realizes is that they are also bound together by a shocking secret, one that will force them to reexamine everything they believe in-including their love.

Once again get out your hankies for this wonderful Nicholas Sparks story. This one is a love story, a mystery, and one about doing the right thing even if it’s going to cost you everything.

The story begins with Miles Ryan who lost his wife to a hit and run driver and now is raising his son, Jonah, all by himself. He’s still grieving and another person who’s trying to start life over again is school teacher Sarah who’s recovering from a divorce.

Both of these people are wonderful characters and as the story unfolds you follow along as they slowly fall in love. However, as always, the road to true love is never smooth. The person who hit and killed Miles’ wife was never caught and it’s become somewhat of an obsession for him to find out who was responsible.

Weaved through this story is a first person account told by the guilty party about what happened the night of the accident.

The story takes a wonderful turn when someone is arrested and offers information about who killed Miles’ wife and gradually things begin to fall apart for Miles and Sarah. From there on in, the story is a roller coaster of emotions. I did have a slight inkling who the guilty party was but it was still a page turner to see how everything played out and if Miles and Sarah would have their happily ever after.

If you love a good romance, small town setting, and a splash of mystery, I’d say definitely read this story.