The Other Duke (The Notorious Flynns Book 1) – Jess Michaels

If you’re looking for a lot of, er, instruction on the art of lovemaking with such a predictable plot, the only twist is self imposed by NOT believing the plot can be that foreseeable (it’s almost genius)…then go ahead and crack this baby open. This is a mediocre read with underdeveloped side characters, but deeply established main characters.  This was an overall dark read and although I didn’t love this book, I’ll give Jess Michaels another crack!

Serafina McPhee has been engaged to the Duke of Hartholm since she was a child.  An odious and obnoxious man, she’s not even remotely saddened when he meets a sudden death days before their wedding.  Just when she thinks she has escaped her father’s ill conceived marital arrangements, she gets even worse news…she is NOW engaged to the next in line to the Dukedom, a cousin of her former betrothed, Raphael Flynn.  Although Rafe Flynn is a handsome man, she also knows his morals are loose (at best) and that he doesn’t want this wedding to happen anymore than she does.

So in light of an engagement contract that cannot be broken, Serafina and Rafe strike a deal – they will marry and they will have an heir and a spare, but they will NOT live a life together and they will certainly NOT ever, ever fall in love.

As Rafe comes to know more about his new wife’s years of torture at the hands of his cousin, he hopes to help Serefina heal through a formal courtship and plenty of lessons in romance and pleasure.  Soon, he realizes that their burning hot passion has blossomed into so much more, but can Serefina ever allow herself to trust and to love?  And like any good romance…by the time she DOES realize the depth of her feelings, will it be too late?

This is one of those books where I consider the cover better than the pages in between.

The other duke

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Once a Wallflower, At Last His Love – Christi Caldwell

Ok…first of all, I was super excited for this book to come out.  For the duration of this entire series, I’ve secretly pined for the golden god, Sebastian, The Duke of Mallen.  True to form…I got myself overly excited and suffered with a rather lengthy bout of the “let downs.”  Why, you ask?  Well, I love a good Cinderella story, but this one was almost too far fetched for even this hopeless romantic.  I’ll sum it up:  you meet a rather plain and mysterious girl (way below your station), fall almost instantly in love, and make plans to offer for her even though she’s completely penniless, spray painted and then rolled in a pan of scandal sprinkles, and well, you’re a bloody hot and hunky Duke!    Sorry – I wasn’t feeling it, Christi.  (I still love you, girl).  So let’s get to the meat in this sandwich:

Sebastian, the Duke of Mallen has a list…most have been checked off except for one – sire an heir.  Siring an heir is the easy part…but finding the woman to marry and then carry said heir is another issue entirely.  Sebastian has spent his entire adulthood in complete control.  He’s handsome, he’s wealthy and successful, he’s a good and loyal friend, and up until this point, he has managed to avoid all matchmaking mamas.  A romantic, he hopes to find a love match and he’s not terribly concerned with how blue his future Duchess’ blood happens to be (or not be).  One night, he spies an unknown wallflower scribbling notes frantically on her dance card and he’s instantly intrigued.  He’s not even sure why…she’s a rather non descript girl too dark and thin for his liking…but there’s something about her that requires, well, further investigation.

Hermione Rogers hasn’t thought about herself once in the past 11 years.  After a tragic, life altering event changed her older sister’s life forever and not long after, the dear mother passing away, Hermione is tasked as the guardian of her little family.  With her father milling around in his cloud of perpetual grief, the debts are mounting and further scandal is about to send the family spiraling into ruin.  Writing gothic novels under a ridiculously unoriginal pen name, Hermione tries her best to keep the fabric of her family from tearing any further.  Her publisher is ready for her to write her next installment in her wildly popular series, The Nefarious Duke.  Realizing she doesn’t known anything about a duke, she plans to do a little “research.”  It’s perfectly convenient that she’s headed to London for a season in the hopes of finding a wealthy gentleman who can save her family from ruin.  Maybe she will find a Duke to observe in her social circles.  And then the unthinkable happens…oh yes, she finds a duke…a perfectly charming and wonderfully “affable” duke…and it almost seems that he might actually find her attractive, intelligent, and desirable.  She soon realizes that a dark, brooding, nefarious Duke isn’t so interesting after all – no where as interesting as a charming and golden Adonis like Sebastian.

Cute book…slightly under developed characters…far flung plot – but you always get a well written and funny read from Ms. Caldwell.  Not my favorite ever written, but certainly not the worst.  I’ll call it pleasantly mediocre.

wallflower at last his love

The Duke in My Bed (The Heirs’ Club Book 1) – Amelia Grey

On his dying breath, Nathan Prim asked a friend to make him a promise – a promise from his friend to marry his oldest sister, Louisa.  Riddled with guilt, Bray Drakestone reluctantly agrees just to assuage his own conscience for causing Nathan’s untimely and gruesome death.  He never truly intends to make good on his promise.

Two years later, Bray is asked to be the guardian of not only Louisa, but her four younger sisters.  He feels it’s finally time to make good on the promise he made and offers Louisa marriage (secretly knowing and hoping she would never accept).  He is right – but he finds that he is equal parts chagrined and excited over her unexpected pluckiness and independent streak.  Would a match with such a woman be such a punishment after all?

Louisa never intended to accept the marriage proposal she knew would eventually come from the Duke.  She had heard the stories and knew that he was racing with her brother the night of his death – she had also heard the stories of the promise that Bray had made to her dying brother.  Two years was a ridiculous amount of time to wait, but when her uncle hands over her and her sisters’ guardianship to Bray, she finds herself at his mercy and to her disgust, she finds being at his mercy is exactly where she wants to be.  But is marriage to a man incapable of love with a questionable history the man she should trust her and her sister’s futures with?

Can Louisa ever love the man responsible for her own brother’s death?  Can Bray ever give her the love she craves when he, himself, never felt or was given love before?  And can he come to accept not only Louisa as his bride but her gaggle of banshee sisters, as well?

*Deep sigh*  if you’re looking for a vanilla love story…look no further.  I truly couldn’t relate to any of the characters, although younger sister Gwen gave me some hope.  Although spunky, Louisa is annoyingly proper and contradictory and  Bray is sadly broken. Sometimes it seems irreversibly so.  I haven’t decided if I want to give this author a second chance.

duke in my bed

A Viking for the Viscountess – Michelle Willingham

I downloaded this book about two months ago and I put it off and I put it off – I knew I wouldn’t like it and to be honest, I didn’t.  I feel the bile rising in my throat just writing this – I can’t speak it aloud.  It pains me to say such harsh things about one of my all time favorite authors.  I wanted to like it and I tried to like it, but it was an impossible task.  Let’s start here…following are a couple criteria I value in a good historical romance book:

1) historical accuracy – Love is great, but I won’t stand for a book that isn’t historically accurate.  Believe it or not, I don’t read these books for just the love scenes (don’t you dare roll your eyes at me).  Honestly, if I’m not learning, I’m not going to enjoy the book.

2) romance – yes…as stated above, I LOVE, well, “love”!  Give me realistic romances set in probable settings in time periods I’m interested in and I’m as happy as a pig in slop!

3) realistic – see point 2.  I like to think that these romances could have actually taken place or the illusion is ruined.

4) engaging characters – if the characters and I don’t connect, forget it!  Drop the turd and move on!  This is why I never pay over $3.99 for a kindle download.  Nothing gained – nothing lost.

So, with these standards laid out, I tackled a book by a beloved author written on the concept of time travel (insert groan).  This blew Number 3 right out of the water! Why Michelle? WWWWWHHHHHHYYYYY? (weeping and shaking my fist heavenward). It took me over two weeks to read and I have to be honest, this is unheard of for me.  I just couldn’t get into this mystical story about a Viking bound for Valhalla who was unceremoniously dumped in Regency England to redeem the honor of an abandoned Viscountess and her son.  Perhaps because it took me so long to get through, I couldn’t develop a deep attachment to the characters.  They were shallowly developed and with the story so far fetched, I just couldn’t remain interested in the storyline.

But…for those of you who think you might like the idea of a time travel romance, here are the highlights:

Juliana and her young son have been abandoned by the man she believed she legally married, William Arthur, Viscount Hawthorne.  Although believing him dead, she remains faithful to her vows for six long years.  But when she is evicted from William’s estate and her marriage is declared invalid, she is defeated and desperate to prove her son’s legitimacy and regain the home and title her son is entitled to. She needs help – in fact, she needs a hero!

Enter Arik Thorgrim.  Killed in battle, he believes he is on the journey to his reward in Valhalla.  Instead, he finds himself in a strange land somewhat similar to his homeland, but 1000 years into the future.  What awaits him there is a reward indeed in the form of a beautiful woman who tempts him beyond all reason, soothing the harsh and vivid memories of a past love who was unfaithful to him.

Passions are ignited and Arik’s warrior instincts are engaged in his newfound battle to return honor to Juliana’s name.  Both wish to find happiness in each other’s arms, but time is literally running out and what happens when Arik DOES finally get his call to glory in the afterlife?  How can Juliana face further scandal and another broken heart?  And can Arik change the course of his destiny – for a love that transcends time?

Viking for Viscountess

Always a Rogue, Forever Her Love – Christi Caldwell

I am remiss to say it – but I give this book a M…for mmmm…mediocre (at best).  Seriously, I have a little chest pain just writing this because, admittedly, I am a HUGE fan of Christi.  I think it was my own build up that ultimately let me down.  I mean, I was literally foaming at the mouth in anticipation of the book that would capture the story of my favorite rogue, the Earl of Sinclair.  He’s dark, he’s handsome, he’s a rogue that can’t be reformed – or can he?

Jonathan Tidemore, the Earl of Sinclair (or simply and aptly named, Sin) has won a tidy sum at the gaming tables throughout his life.  What he didn’t realize, however, was that his latest winnings came with some baggage in the form of a fiery female hell bent on getting her beloved Rosecliff Cottage back!  Lost at the hands of her worthless and desperate brother, this cottage is more than a possession to Miss Juliet Marshville – it’s the loss of her independence and her memories of a life centered around her father, unconditional love, and family pride.

Desperate, Juliet decides to meet the man who won her childhood respite and demands that he return her cottage to her.  Jonathan sees an opportunity…one for his sisters and one for him.  His spirited sisters are on their 5th (or is it 6th?) governess and they need a strong willed and respectable replacement.  Jonathan makes an offer to Juliet – if she can turn his sisters into proper ladies of the ton, she can have her cottage back as compensation.  Meanwhile, Jonathan plans to make Juliet an offer of his own…as his mistress.  Who has, or could, ever turned him down?  What he fails to realize is that Juliet has already turned down equally reprehensible offers and although attracted to Sin, refuses to debase herself for a moment’s pleasure.

Will Sin ever realize that the lovely miss right in front of him is worth far more than a fleeting affair?  And once he does, will he ever feel worthy enough of her love?

rogue

To Tempt a Viking – Michelle Willingham

So true to form, after reading a turd, I turn to the constants in my life.  This time, it was Michelle.  I read a review on Good Reads about this book and it infuriated me – something about “when I feel like reading something ‘mindless,’ I turn to a cheesy romance novel.”  I’m sorry – mindless?  Girlfriend – I’d go toe to toe with you ANY day of the week and I GUARANTEE I’d clean your clock when it comes to history AND romance for that matter! You give me either category and I’m gonna’ get all Alex Trebek on your mangy ass and I’m talking Double Jeopardy stuff here, sister.  Ok…I’m calming down and you need to stick with me here.  I’m passionate for a reason.  This book is a very interesting and historically accurate look at Norse, Irish, and Dane history with a lovely little romance intertwined for good measure.

Enter Elena, wife to Styr…attacked on the shores of Ireland, the couple become separated.  Fortunately, before capture, Styr asks his best friend, Ragnar to protect his wife at all costs.  This isn’t a difficult task for this loyal warrior, for he’s loved Elena from afar since his childhood.  He would follow her to hell and back, but he would never let her know how deep his emotions run.  After being taken hostage, escaping the Danes, and then finding themselves stranded, they fight their attraction and feelings of hopelessness as they both realize that the chances of Styr surviving and finding THEM alive are slim to none.

Return he does…but forever changed.  When Elena realizes her troubled marriage was far worse than she ever imagined and her husband has found a love they themselves had never shared, she is willing to let him go.  But keeping Ragnar is another issue altogether, for he never feels adequate, constantly battles feelings of betrayal to his best friend, and worries that he’s nothing but a substitute – someone to fill Elena’s cold bed.

Elena has found renewed purpose in her independence from her husband and a realization that everything she’s ever wanted was right there all along.  It touches on divorce, self esteem, child abuse, autism, adoption, and acceptance.  What is mindless in that?  Beautiful tale – took awhile to get there, but well worth the read.  I may or may not have made my bed one handed so I could read my kindle in the other.  😉 Yeah – it was THAT good.

tempt a viking

What a Lady Needs for Christmas – Grace Burrowes

First and foremost, I’m a Grace Burrowes fan…but I screwed up on this one.  Apparently, this book is part of a rather lengthy series (which I can honestly say that I don’t recall any of the characters, so I don’t think I read ANY of the books leading up to this one and if I did, well, they were obviously not very memorable).  Basically – I threw myself into this book (which seemed like a side story better left unwritten), it was literally cluttered with all of these existing characters that I clearly should have been familiar with, and I got completely mired.  You know when it takes me THREE weeks to read a book – there’s a problem, Houston!  So here goes…

So we have the annoyingly dull Lady Joan Flynn.  To avoid a scandal, she hastily abandons her family’s estate in the Highlands.  She may very well be pregnant so she needs a husband…and by Christmas if at all possible.  She leaves by train and happens upon a mister named Dante Hartwell, whom she had met once at a ball.  He’s ambitious and intriguing and apparently, he’s just as desperate as she is.

A widowed mill owner with two children in need of a refined mother and he in need of aristocratic connections for investors, Dante feels like he’s gotten the better part of the bargain.  So she might be pregnant to another man and he’s only known her a couple of days on the train?  Well, those are just minor details for this desperate dude.  Even the love making was lackluster.  I’d like to pretend that at least one of these characters enthralled me, but alas, I’m not prone to lying.  So their hasty marriage of convenience becomes something more…yada yada yada…nada good book, gals.  Sorry.  I still love ya’ Grace.

What a lady needs