Review: Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai

Review: Hate to Want You by Alisha RaiHate to Want You (Forbidden Hearts, #1) by Alisha Rai
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance, erotic romance
Series: Forbidden Hearts #1
Pages: 371
Published by Avon on July 25th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

One night. No one will know.

That was the deal. Every year, Livvy Kane and Nicholas Chandler would share one perfect night of illicit pleasure. The forbidden hours let them forget the tragedy that haunted their pasts-and the last names that made them enemies.

Until the night she didn’t show up.

Now Nicholas has an empire to run. He doesn’t have time for distractions and Livvy’s sudden reappearance in town is a major distraction. She’s the one woman he shouldn’t want…so why can’t he forget how right she feels in his bed?

Livvy didn’t come home for Nicholas, but fate seems determined to remind her of his presence–and their past. Although the passion between them might have once run hot and deep, not even love can overcome the scandal that divided their families.

Being together might be against all the rules…but being apart is impossible.

My Review:

If the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet had a love child with the romantic comedy Same Time, Next Year, the result would be Hate to Want You. And while this doesn’t seem like a logical pairing, just like any opposites attract romance, the result is intense – and wonderful.

Hate to Want You, the romance itself, is not an opposites attract romance. Instead, it’s a second chance at love for the Romeo and Juliet of two feuding families. Nicholas Chandler and Livvy Kane grew up together. Then they became teenage lovers.

It all went smash when his mother and her father were killed in an automobile accident, together in a car far from where either of them was supposed to be. In the resultant chaos, his father bilked her mother out of her family’s shares in the very successful chain of grocery stores founded by their grandfathers.

Livvy and Nico were too young to resist the pressures of their families driving them apart. But they also couldn’t stay away from each other. It’s been ten years since that tragedy. They have met in secret, once every year, to feed their craving for each other.

While they have both spent the last ten years living for that one night together, they can’t admit that to each other. But when Livvy comes back to their small hometown to help her mother after an injury, they can’t keep apart.

No matter how much it hurts each time they have to separate. And no matter how ballistic the explosion from both of their families if anyone finds out they are seeing each other.

But ten years is a long time, and the threats that cowed a couple of teenagers have a whole lot less of an affect against 30-year-old adults – even ones as scarred and messed up as Nico and Livvy.

Now that they can’t put half a continent between them, they run into each other at every turn. The more they see of each other, the more often they meet in secret, the more difficult it is to pretend that they ever got over each other, and that neither of them can move on until they deal with the past. Not just their past together, but everything in the past that has driven them and their families apart.

As Livvy’s grandfather used to say, it’s only over if you quit. Ten years ago, they quit. They were young and scared and hurting. In the midst of multiple traumas, it was hard to see a way through that let them stay together, no matter how much both of them wanted that outcome.

But when they quit each other, they also quit themselves. Now it’s time to fight. Not just with each other, but also for each other. Once and for all. For forever.

Escape Rating A: My friends at The Book Pushers highly recommended this book, and now I know why. Hate to Want You was stay up until 3:30 in the morning unputdownable.

The story is a very hot and sexy romance. Unlike tomorrow’s lovely but squeaky-clean book, Hate to Want You pulls none of its punches (or its spankings) inside or outside the bedroom. The hotel room. The woods. Anyplace and everyplace that Nico and Livvy think they are sneaking away to.

But the poignance of the story is in its backstory. Because that long ago scandal and the shitstorm that followed didn’t just break up a pair of teenage lovers, it broke apart two families that had been through everything together and built a business empire on the strength of the bond between them.

All of that is gone, and it’s left heartbreak in its wake. Livvy lost Nico, and that was tragedy enough. But she also lost the rest of his family, who up until that moment had been part of her own. Her own family fragmented, and Livvy feels alone and isolated.

Nico feels like a windup toy. He’s been forced to suppress his emotions in all of those intervening years. Not just what he felt for Livvy, but pretty much everything he felt at all. It took every ounce of his energy and concentration to play the peacemaker between his father and his grandfather – who now hold equal shares in the company while he has none.

Livvy’s return breaks him out of his box, forces him to confront not just the mess of his hollow life, but everything that he has been holding down. And it hurts.

Part of what makes this story so good is that this is not a case of poor little rich boy, where daddy threatened to take away his inheritance if he didn’t toe the family line all those years ago. Instead, daddy was, and still is, an asshole. The threat that Nico knuckled under to all those years ago was much more sinister. If Nico hadn’t given up Livvy, daddy dearest would have disinherited Nico’s little sister, who was only 13 at the time. Evangeline is now in her 20s, and more than ready to get out from under daddy’s neglectful but still oppressive thumb.

It takes Nico a while to realize that he is finally free to act – if he’s ready to step out of his box and take a risk. It takes even longer for Livvy to trust him this time, as it should.

And when she does, it’s absolutely glorious.

One final comment. As satisfying as the romance is, I really want to see daddy dearest get what’s coming to him. Hopefully that will occur in one of the upcoming books in the series, Wrong to Need You and Hurts to Love You. He needs to suffer, and I want to see it.

Review: A Daring Arrangement by Joanna Shupe + Giveaway

Review: A Daring Arrangement by Joanna Shupe + GiveawayA Daring Arrangement (The Four Hundred, #1) by Joanna Shupe
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical romance
Series: Four Hundred #1
Pages: 384
Published by Avon on October 31st 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Set in New York City’s Gilded Age, Joanna Shupe’s Avon debut introduces an English beauty with a wicked scheme to win the man she loves—and the American scoundrel who ruins her best laid plans…

Lady Honora Parker must get engaged as soon as possible, and only a particular type of man will do. Nora seeks a mate so abhorrent, so completely unacceptable, that her father will reject the match—leaving her free to marry the artist she desires. Who then is the most appalling man in Manhattan? The wealthy, devilishly handsome financier, Julius Hatcher, of course….

Julius is intrigued by Nora’s ruse and decides to play along. But to Nora’s horror, Julius transforms himself into the perfect fiancé, charming the very people she hoped he would offend. It seems Julius has a secret plan all his own—one that will solve a dark mystery from his past, and perhaps turn him into the kind of man Nora could truly love.

My Review:

There’s a reason that the “fake engagement” is such a well-beloved (and well-used) trope, and books like A Daring Arrangement are that reason. The story sparkles with wit and sizzles with scandalous heat from the moment that the hero and heroine first strike sparks from each other – when he’s three – or possibly four or five sheets to the wind – celebrating his birthday on horseback inside one of New York City’s best restaurants. She stands on a chair to make sure they are eye-to-eye, and neither they, nor the reader, ever look back.

Lady Nora Parker wants to start a scandal, so that her father-the-Earl will whisk her home to England, and back to the arms of the very unsuitable artist she has fallen in love with. Julius Hatcher wants an entree into the upper echelons of so-called polite society, so that he can discover the identities of the men who ruined his father and drove the man to suicide.

Neither of them expects to fall anywhere near love. Nora is in love with somebody else, and Julius has vowed never to marry. The manner of his father’s death left him with the indelible impression that love and family only leads to obligations and dependencies that can drag a man even further down than he has already fallen.

So Julius is determined not to fall. But he still needs revenge on the men who broke his father and got away unscathed. He sees Nora as a means to that end, just as Nora sees Julius as the means to her end.

But Julius is unwilling to cause the scandal that Nora desperately wants. Now that he’s found his way into the upper crust, he needs to stay there until he’s found what he wants.

Neither of them expects that what they will want most is each other. But the longer their fake engagement goes on, the more they discover that they belong together. Just as someone else tries to tear them apart.

Escape Rating B+: For the most part, this story is an absolute lark. With a raven casting a bit of a shadow near the end. Let me explain.

The best part of this story is the relationship between Nora and Julius. They are both smart people who like breaking the rules. They are absolutely perfect for each other. In a world where most men see Nora as a breakable ornament, and most women see Julius as a handsome devil with an open (and bulging) wallet, in each other they find an equal. They draw sparks from each other both sexually and intellectually, and most importantly, they challenge each other. And they keep up with each other.

And in the best “fake engagement” tradition, they are the last people to realize that their relationship is real, no matter how it got its start.

However, I did find it just a bit obvious that Nora’s lover back in England was bound to show up in New York and do something to break up her relationship with Julius long before he finally appeared. On the one hand, his attempt at breaking them up was even further over the top than I expected, and on the other hand, while I figured out that he was behind some of the nastiness behind the scenes, he went way further, and in a different direction, than I expected.

Nora is a character that I really grew to love over the course of the story. She starts out seeming just a bit selfish, but also very brave. And in the end, it’s her bravery that shines through.

And the bubble and sparkle of A Daring Arrangement has me looking forward with delighted anticipation to the next book in this series, A Scandalous Deal, coming next spring.

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

Giveaway Link: https://goo.gl/qPk2oY

GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Giveaway open to US shipping addresses only. One winner will receive a paperback copy of A DARING ARRANGEMENT by Joanna Shupe. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Avon Romance. Giveaway ends 11/14/2017 @ 1159pm EST. Avon Romance will send the winning copy out to the winner directly. Limit one entry per reader and mailing address. Duplicates will be deleted.

Review: Wilde in Love by Eloisa James + Giveaway

Review: Wilde in Love by Eloisa James + GiveawayWilde in Love (Wildes of Lindow Castle, #1) by Eloisa James
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical romance
Series: Wildes of Lindow Castle #1
Pages: 416
Published by Avon on October 31st 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Lord Alaric Wilde, son of the Duke of Lindow, is the most celebrated man in England, revered for his dangerous adventures and rakish good looks. Arriving home from years abroad, he has no idea of his own celebrity until his boat is met by mobs of screaming ladies. Alaric escapes to his father’s castle, but just as he grasps that he’s not only famous but notorious, he encounters the very private, very witty, Miss Willa Ffynche.

Willa presents the façade of a serene young lady to the world. Her love of books and bawdy jokes is purely for the delight of her intimate friends. She wants nothing to do with a man whose private life is splashed over every newspaper.

Alaric has never met a woman he wanted for his own . . . until he meets Willa. He’s never lost a battle.

But a spirited woman like Willa isn’t going to make it easy. . . .

The first book in Eloisa James’s dazzling new series set in the Georgian period glows with her trademark wit and sexy charm—and introduces a large, eccentric family. Readers will love the Wildes of Lindow Castle!

My Review:

Wilde in Love is the first book in what looks to be a fun new series. So no worries about whether or not to read the previous books, because this is a chance to get in on a treat of a series from the very first page.

It is also a “banter into romance” type of story. And that banter is center stage not merely from the very first page, but actually from the title. Wilde in Love is the title of a ridiculous play, that is frequently discussed, derided and ultimately just about lampooned within the pages of the book Wilde in Love.

It’s also a pun in the sense that while the play of the title is an over-the-top melodrama that fictionalized Alaric Wilde’s adventures into a romance that never existed, the story of the book is all about Alaric Wilde falling head over heels in love with the one woman who has no interest in his fame or fortune.

Not that Alaric himself has much interest in his fame. His fortune is another matter entirely. But Alaric Wilde has finally returned home to his rather eccentric family after years of traveling around the world, and penning best-selling books about his travels.

His return to England is almost a farce of its own, as crowds of admiring and swooning women greet his ship. While his books have become widely read, the play based on his supposed romantic exploits has turned him into the 18th century equivalent of a superstar – complete with the 18th century equivalent of groupies.

And he wants none of it. What he does want is to discover the anonymous author of that ridiculous play, so that he can sue them and have it closed down. Or just closed down. And all the copies burned. And the ashes covered with something permanently destructive, like quicklime. Or acid. Just in case.

Alaric’s homecoming coincides with the celebration of his brother’s betrothal. The month-long(!) house party is the perfect place for hordes of Alaric’s “admirers” to try their best to get his attention, with an eye towards romance, marriage or a notch on their bedposts. Or all of the above.

In the midst of all the chaos, Alaric finds himself attracted to the one woman who doesn’t give a fig about his fame or his fortune. She has plenty of money of her own, and if there is one thing that Willa Ffynche values above all, it’s her privacy.

So even though Willa and her best friend Lavinia have been the toast of the season, the perfectly demure young debutantes who have collected admirers and engagement offers with abandon bears no resemblance whatsoever to the real and rather earthy young women who are their true selves.

And the real Willa is the perfect woman for the rather untamed Alaric – if he can convince her that, in spite of his current notoriety, his adventurous nature is exactly what she needs to match her own.

Escape Rating B+: Wilde in Love is a romp from beginning to end. This is historical romance at the height of its over-the-top-ness. And it reaches those heights because both Willa and Alaric, in their completely separate ways, are more than willing to expose just how ridiculous all of the rules of society really are when taken to extremes.

I liked Willa (and her bestie Lavinia) very much indeed. What makes them so interesting is the way that they both acknowledge that society’s rules must be outwardly obeyed, while dealing honestly with each other. They have a pact to keep up the appearance of being “perfect” debutantes, while always admitting to each other that it is completely an act. Their attitude is quite refreshing, and it exposes a good bit of the seedy underbelly of their society.

Something that Alaric also does, but in a completely different way. He’s been out of England long enough that the extremes of social behavior and society dress are simply things he will not do. There’s a scene early in the book, where he thinks about the whole “stiff upper lip” thing that his brother North is forced to live by, and the degree to which they are both grieving the death of their oldest brother, and admits to himself that the rest of the world does not share this concept of keeping all one’s emotions tightly wrapped no matter what – so that in the end he reaches out and hugs his brother – who for a few brief but necessary moments – hugs him back. It’s a scene that says so much about Alaric, where his true heart lies, and just how high the cost for that stiff upper lip, all at the same time.

The core of Wilde in Love is the developing romance between Willa and Alaric. This is a wooing with words long before it becomes a wooing by deeds. They essentially talk each other into love, into bed, and into marriage with a whole lot of sparkling wit and a shared understanding that the conventions are not quite at the be-all-and-end-all level that society thinks they are.

This is not a romance that develops quickly, so it is good that the surrounding cast of characters is equally interesting – particularly the increasingly contentious sparring match between Willa’s friend Lavinia and Alaric’s best friend Parth. I hope that we’ll be seeing them finally figure out that the sparks they strike from each other have way more to do with love than with the detestation they are both protesting much too much in a future book in this series.

But speaking of future books in the series, Wilde in Love ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. Not that Willa’s and Alaric’s relationship doesn’t come to a marvelous and slightly unusual HEA, because of course it does. But his brother North’s betrothal, the one that was being celebrated at the beginning of the story goes completely sideways. It’s going to take another whole book for that puzzle to finally get itself worked out.

And I can’t wait to read that story in Too Wilde to Wed!

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

Giveaway Link:  https://goo.gl/iEZbPM 
Giveaway Terms & Conditions:  Open to US shipping addresses only. One winner will receive a paperback copy of Wilde In Love by Eloisa James.  This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Avon Romance.  Giveaway ends 11/14/2017 @ 11:59pm EST. Avon Romance will send the winning copies out to the winner directly. Limit one entry per reader and mailing address.  Duplicates will be deleted.

Review: Wildfire by Ilona Andrews + Giveaway

Review: Wildfire by Ilona Andrews + GiveawayWildfire (Hidden Legacy, #3) by Ilona Andrews
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, eboook, audiobook
Genres: paranormal, urban fantasy
Series: Hidden Legacy #3
Pages: 384
Published by Avon on July 25th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Just when Nevada Baylor has finally come to accept the depths of her magical powers, she also realizes she’s fallen in love. Connor “Mad” Rogan is in many ways her equal when it comes to magic, but she’s completely out of her elements when it comes to her feelings for him. To make matters more complicated, an old flame comes back into Rogan’s life…
Rogan knows there’s nothing between him and his ex-fiance, Rynda Sherwood. But as Nevada begins to learn more about her past, her power, and her potential future, he knows she will be faced with choices she never dreamed of and the promise of a life spent without him.
As Nevada and Rogan race to discover the whereabouts of Rynda’s kidnapped husband and are forced to confront Nevada’s grandmother, who may or may not have evil motives, these two people must decide if they can trust in each other or allow everything to go up in smoke.

My Review:

This was absolutely awesomesauce. And I’m also glad that now I know what the series title means. I won’t spoil it for you, but that is one of those things that just didn’t make a whole of sense, until now. And now, well, sister, does it ever!

Wildfire is the third book in Ilona Andrews’ marvelous Hidden Legacy series, after Burn for Me and White Hot. This is a series where the action, the suspense and the romance built on each other, and the worldbuilding gets deeper and more layered, the more you get into the series. Read from the beginning. You’ll thank me later.

The setting for this series is at the intersection where urban fantasy and paranormal romance meet. And have surprisingly wild and wonderfully weird offspring.

Like much of urban fantasy, this is a near-future or same-time-as-ours-but different version of our world. Like most of urban fantasy, this is a version of our world where magic works. Unlike the usual run of the genre, however, the magic in this world works because of science. Think of it as the mad scientist division of magic. Once upon a time, about a century or so ago, some mad scientist cooked up a formula that bestowed magic powers on those who took it. Exactly how it worked and exactly why different powers manifested in different families is still anyone’s guess.

That those powers are passed down genetically is not a guess. Generations of carefully documented breeding can mostly predict what powers will manifest in children of which parents – and what powers won’t. But just like the 50/50 chance that each baby will be male or female, without reference to previous outcomes, an 80% chance that a child will manifest particular magical abilities also means there’s a 20% chance that it won’t manifest the so-called “correct” magic – or any at all.

However, unlike most urban fantasy, there is also a romance at the heart of all this politicking and power-mongering. And it’s mostly a successful romance, admittedly between two extremely stubborn and hard-headed people who push all of each other’s buttons – both the sexual kind and the seriously-needing-anger-management kind.

Connor Rogan is an extremely powerful telekinetic. He’s also a Prime, which means that he is head of his house, House Rogan, and that many of the laws that apply to us lesser mortals don’t apply to him – not just because they are unenforceable but because the collateral damage of making the attempt is just too high.

Nevada Baylor has just learned that her grandmother, the powerful truthseeker Victoria Tremaine, will do anything, no matter how unethical, to capture Nevada and her sisters. Victoria is the Prime of House Tremaine, and her House is dying. Nevada is her best hope of keeping her House intact. Why? Because Nevada is her granddaughter, and has inherited her truthseeking powers in full measure. A fact that Nevada only became aware of at the end of White Hot.

But the reason that Victoria needs Nevada is also the reason that Nevada has options – admittedly options that she was hoping not to have to exercise. House politics and inter-house rivalries make the bloodshed on Game of Thrones look like the proverbial Sunday school picnic. Nevada has never wanted any part of any of it – but now she has no choice. Filing to become a new house, House Baylor, should protect her from her grandmother long enough for the fledgling house to get itself on a stable footing. If they pass the trials for house creation. If they even manage to get to those trials.

Because there’s a conspiracy afoot, as uncovered in White Hot, to remove even the few restrictions that currently impede the houses from doing whatever they want to whomever they want whenever they want. There are those among them who believe that their absolute power gives them the right to rule absolutely everyone and everything.

It’s up to Rogan and Nevada to stop them yet again. Even as the conspiracy threatens to split them apart and kill everything they hold most dear. By any horrific means available.

Cat 7 hurricane, anyone?

Escape Rating A+: I inhaled this book in a day, finishing at about 2 in the morning with one hell of a book hangover. The story was marvelous, and the world it is set in is absolutely fascinating. I want to go back.

One of the things that makes it all so absorbing is the amount of depth in the characterizations and their backstories. The romance, while marvelous, is far from all there is to either Rogan or Nevada. A very big part of Nevada’s story is just how much she cares, not just about Rogan, but about her family, her family’s business, and anyone she decides is part of her team. At the same time, this is also a story where the child is forced to become, if not exactly the parent, certainly the head of household. It’s not so much about the torch being passed as the dropped torch being picked up and run with. The scene where Nevada has to call her mother on a whole bunch of shit is awesome. Not because Nevada’s mother is in any way a bitch or even that she was wrong in the past, just that some of her decisions have had rather unfortunate consequences, and Nevada is the one who is forced to deal with all the crap and pick up all the pieces. Because while her mother’s solutions may have worked in that past, the world has changed, and they won’t work any longer. A fact that Nevada is all too cognizant of but her mother is extremely reluctant to acknowledge.

I also loved that the solution for Rogan’s ex wasn’t for her to find her own man, dammit, but for her to find her own power and finally own it. It’s a much more empowering solution both for her and for the reader than for Rynda to continue to be such a damned princess. It’s always better to rescue your own self.

This series just keeps getting better and better. And I really, really hope it continues, because the ending left plenty of possibilities for future stories in this world, and I want to read them all.

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

Avon Romance is giving away a romance print prize pack, including Hate to Want You, Just One Touch, White Hot and Wildfire

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tasty Book Tours
This review is part of a Tasty Book Tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.

Review: A Most Unlikely Duke by Sophie Barnes + Giveaway

Review: A Most Unlikely Duke by Sophie Barnes + GiveawayA Most Unlikely Duke (Diamonds in the Rough, #1) by Sophie Barnes
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: historical romance
Series: Diamonds in the Rough #1
Pages: 384
Published by Avon on June 27th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads


He never thought he'd become a duke, or that the secrets of his past would cost him his greatest love...

Raphe Matthews hasn’t stepped foot in polite circles since a tragedy left his once-noble family impoverished and in debt. The bare-knuckle boxer has spent the last fifteen years eking out an existence for himself and his two sisters. But when a stunning reversal of fortune lands Raphe the title of Duke of Huntley, he’s determined to make a go of becoming a proper lord, but he’ll need a little help, and his captivating neighbor might be just the woman for the job…
After her sister’s scandalous match, Lady Gabriella knows the ton’s eyes are on her. Agreeing to tutor the brutish new duke can only lead to ruin. Although she tries to control her irresistible attraction to Raphe, every day she spends with him only deepens her realization that this may be the one man she cannot do without. And as scandal threatens to envelop them both, she must decide if she can risk everything for love with a most unlikely duke.

My Review:

A Most Unlikely Duke is a surprisingly likely source of fun. It takes one of the standard tropes and turns it on its head, then beats it to a satisfying pulp – just as its hero does with any contenders for his bare-knuckle boxing crown.

That is part of what makes this particular duke so very, very unlikely. Raphe Matthews and his two sisters have survived in one of London’s worst neighborhoods, St. Giles. (If that name sounds familiar, St. Giles is also the setting of Elizabeth Hoyt’s marvelous Maiden Lane series. And that’s also a read-alike suggestion – anyone who enjoys the Maiden Lane series will also like Diamonds in the Rough.)

Raphe and his sisters Amelia and Juliette used to be gentry, once upon a time. But when their father died in debt and their mother abandoned them, Raphe and his sisters were forced into poverty. Raphe eventually grew into his work at the dockyards and his career as a bare-knuckle brawler, and now they have a measure of comfort. They’ve adapted to their surroundings, and most people forget that where they are isn’t where they came from.

Until Raphe receives a letter informing him that, due to a quirk of the law and a series of unfortunate events, he is now the Duke of Huntley. It’s a shock. It’s a surprise. It’s not even something that Raphe wants for himself. He hates the gentry and has no desire to become one. But he loves his sisters, and the wealth and power that comes with being a Duke will make their lives much, much easier. And considerably a whole lot safer. And they can all stop wondering where their next meal is coming from – an all too frequent occurrence during their early days in St. Giles.

All they have to do is learn to play the parts that they were born for, but have outgrown and discarded along the way.

That’s where Gabriella Warwick comes in. Lady Gabriella remembers all too well what it was like to be condemned by society, not for something she did, but for something that she is. She has a fascination with insects, and studies entomology in her spare time. Time that she used to have much more of, before her older sister made a scandalous marriage and nearly ruined the family’s social standing. Gabriella’s parents are determined to mold her into the proper young woman she was never quite meant to be, and seem perfectly willing to crush her into submission. She is dutiful but miserable.

When Raphe and his sisters arrive on the scene, she finds Raphe compelling, but it is his sisters to whom her heart reaches out. After the past year she has spent having social lessons drummed into her nearly 24/7, she is capable of teaching them what they need to know to have half a chance in society. And she wants to keep them from suffering the stings of social opprobrium as much as possible.

But spending time with the Matthews sisters necessitates spending time with Raphe Matthews as well. And she likes his unaffected manners as much as he likes the enthusiastic woman who occasionally peeks out from behind the socially polite mask she has been forced to wear.

They discover that they belong together – but only if they can weather the storms that threaten to drive them apart at every turn.

Escape Rating B: The “lessons” trope is one that I’ve always liked. As I read A Most Unlikely Duke I had the feeling that I had read a similar story before – it’s a pretty common trope. Likewise, the device where an unlikely hero is suddenly elevated to the peerage has also been done before. I think what made A Most Unlikely Duke so much fun was the way that those lessons in deportment took place between Gabriella and Raphe’s sisters, rather than Raphe himself. Not that Raphe didn’t need the help, because he most certainly did, but because Gabriella’s fellow feeling was for the young women. Raphe got his lessons elsewhere.

Part of what worked for me in this story was the way that Raphe merely takes on protective coloration, and only but so much of it. He changes his manners, but he never loses sight of the fact that all of the social rules and meticulous etiquette are just so much bunk. He does what he has to, but he never loses himself, and he makes friends because of that authentic self.

And it’s that authentic self that Gabriella comes to love. Not just because Raphe is way more real than the fop her parents want her to marry, but because Raphe loves the person she really is as she is, and not the person that her parents and society expect her to be. Loving Raphe sets her free, where the man her parents chose for her wanted to break her spirit. He’d probably treat his horses better – because he valued them more.

There were any number of times during the course of this story where it kept toeing up to some of the expected traps, but didn’t fall in. There were a few too many occasions where it looked like Gabriella was going to cave in and do what her parents wanted. And when she dithered about it, the story dragged a bit. Her forced engagement to the pompous ass was one of the very low points. While her desire to get out of it without risking further social ruin felt real, it kept things on tenterhooks a bit longer than I would have liked.

But all in all, A Most Unlikely Duke was a fun read for a long day of waiting in airports. I liked the cast of characters, and I’m looking forward to Amelia’s story in The Duke of Her Desire, coming just in time for a cozy Xmas read.

Tasty Book Tours
This review is part of a Tasty Book Tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: White Hot by Ilona Andrews + Giveaway

Review: White Hot by Ilona Andrews + GiveawayWhite Hot (Hidden Legacy, #2) by Ilona Andrews
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: urban fantasy
Series: Hidden Legacy #2
Pages: 389
Published by Avon on May 30th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads


The Hidden Legacy series by #1
New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews continues as Nevada and Rogan navigate a world where magic is the norm…and their relationship burns hot
Nevada Baylor has a unique and secret skill—she knows when people are lying—and she's used that magic (along with plain, hard work) to keep her colorful and close-knit family's detective agency afloat. But her new case pits her against the shadowy forces that almost destroyed the city of Houston once before, bringing Nevada back into contact with Connor "Mad" Rogan.
Rogan is a billionaire Prime—the highest rank of magic user—and as unreadable as ever, despite Nevada’s “talent.” But there’s no hiding the sparks between them. Now that the stakes are even higher, both professionally and personally, and their foes are unimaginably powerful, Rogan and Nevada will find that nothing burns like ice …

My Review:

Welcome to my recap of how I spent Memorial Day. I started White Hot at breakfast, kept picking it up all day long, and finished it at dinner. (Yes we read at the table). But once I started this I just couldn’t put it down. And since it was a holiday, I didn’t. And it was AWESOME!

This is the second book in Andrews’ Hidden Legacy series, after 2014’s Burn for Me. A book which I loved at the time, and then completely forgot I’d read until I picked it up a couple of weeks ago thinking I hadn’t. (Three years is a long time between series entries.) But as soon as I re-read the first page, I remembered that I had read it, way back when.

And even three years later, once I began White Hot all the details I needed from Burn for Me came flooding back.

The world of Hidden Legacy has everything I love about urban fantasy, or any story that is not quite the world we know. Things are similar, but not the same, and the ways that the world differs from ours are solidly built and all make sense.

And the characters are all terrific. And that’s true whether they are terrifically good like Rogan, Nevada and her family, or terrifically bad like the villains. And while the villains are a bit bwahaha evil, they are not JUST bwahaha evil. They are arrogant and smart and have a deep and scary agenda.

Part of the underlying theme of this story and this universe is the classic about power corrupting and absolute power corrupting absolutely. The Primes have tremendous amounts of magical power, and society has warped itself to cater to their whims and their desires. If only because mundanes aren’t capable of standing in their way.

There’s even a law that lets law enforcement beg off when the Primes battle each other, because there realistically isn’t any way for them to bring the Primes to account. They are literally above the law, because they make enforcement impossible.

And, as we see in the story, that kind of power makes them a little, or in some cases a lot, less human. It’s that lessening of humanity that Nevada Baylor fears, not just in “Mad” Rogan, but also in herself. Because Nevada knows that she is a monster that even the other monsters fear. If she lets herself lose track of her humanity, she could be an evil beyond nightmare. So she clings to normalcy by her fingernails, hoping that if she whistles loudly enough past the graveyard, the monsters won’t drag her inside.

But it’s much too late for that. The vultures are circling, not just Nevada, but also the family that she loves. And the only ally she has who might just be powerful enough to help her fight back is the one man who seems to want to drag her into his world and under his thumb by any underhanded means he can find.

In order to fight the devil she must uncover, she has to dance with a different devil, and possibly even become one.

Escape Rating A+: My second A+ of the year. Things are definitely looking up!

I swallowed this book in a single day – or perhaps wallowed in it over a single day. Or both. I didn’t let it go until I finished, then read the preview of the next book and almost dove right back in. (Wildfire is coming out at the end of July, and thank goodness I have an ARC!)

This is a world where magic works. And it’s even codified scientifically!

The way the families works reminds me a bit of the Psy in Nalini Singh’s Psy/Changeling series. While the Primes in this series do not cut themselves off from human emotion in the same way that the Psy did with Silence, they have certainly cut themselves off from their humanity in the broader sense. And they have also banded together into large, wealthy, power-hungry and self-protective family corporations, that seem to operate similarly outside the law.

But the way that the two align most closely, and a way that affects this and future stories in this world, is the way that children are created. Not that there are artificial wombs or anything high-tech, but that the Prime families marry and breed their children in order to produce more powerful Primes. There is a sense that children may only be valued for their magic potential and not for themselves.

Nevada is a powerful argument against this idea. Her family is everything to her, and she is everything to them. They are all valued for who they are and whatever it is they contribute, whether that is through their magic or just their skills. And they are all loved. It’s the love of her family that gives Nevada her greatest strength, and is also her greatest weakness.

And that’s where Connor Rogan nearly pushes her away. He’s a very powerful Prime, and in the first book, it was clear that they were not equals, and that the lack of equality was not in any way that could be easily fixed. But in White Hot, Nevada grows into her own powers, which are formidable – or will be when she’s finished training them.

But in the meantime, her desire to stay normal as long as possible and her need to retain her independence run headlong into Rogan’s need to protect her weaknesses. Because, whether either of them is willing to admit it or not, she’s his weakness.

If I go on, I’m going to start fangirling. I loved this book, and am just itching to dive into Wildfire right now. There is a lot to love in this series. The story is deep, the stakes are high, the hero and heroine are oh-so-wrong and oh-so-right for each other, often at the same time, and it’s the heroine’s journey that carries the story.

But there’s one scene I can’t get out of my head. It’s when they use two ferrets and a badger to steal a computer hard drive from an estate on security lockdown. The animal heroes are straight out of twisted Disney, and break the case wide open. Then they come back for cuddles!

Cuddle up with Burn for Me and White Hot. You’ll be a warm and ecstatically happy reader.

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

The Andrews are giving away a print copy of Burn For Me to one lucky US entrant on this tour.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

TLC
This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.

Review: From Duke Till Dawn by Eva Leigh + Giveaway

Review: From Duke Till Dawn by Eva Leigh + GiveawayFrom Duke Till Dawn (The London Underground, #1) by Eva Leigh
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical romance, regency romance
Series: London Underground #1
Pages: 384
Published by Avon on May 30th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Eva Leigh launches a seductive new series that sizzles with the dark secrets of London’s underworld...
Years ago, the Duke of Greyland gave his heart—and a princely sum of money—to a charming, destitute widow with unparalleled beauty. After one passionate night, she slipped from his bed and vanished without a trace. And just when he’s given up hope of ever seeing her again, Greyland finds her managing a gaming hell. He’s desperate to have her… until he discovers everything about his long-lost lover was a lie.
In truth, Cassandra Blake grew up on the streets, picking pockets to survive. Greyland was a mark—to be fleeced and forgotten—but her feelings for the duke became all too real. Once he learns of her deception, however, the heat in his eyes turns to ice. When her business partner absconds with the gaming hell proceeds—leaving unsavory investors out for blood—Cassandra must beg the man she betrayed for help.
Greyland wants compensation, too, and he’ll assist her under one condition: she doesn’t leave his sight until her debts are paid. But it’s not long before the real Cassandra—the smart, streetwise criminal—is stealing his heart all over again.

My Review:

Eva Leigh is also Zoe Archer, and I absolutely love Zoe Archer’s action/adventure/historical and occasionally paranormal and/or sci-fi romances, so I’m all in for her historicals. One of the things she does best is write unconventional and truly kick-ass (sometimes literally) heroines and fit them into the setting she has created.

And that is absolutely true in From Duke Till Dawn. While the Duke in the title, Alex Greyland, really, really truly needs to have the stick up his ass surgically removed, swindler Cassandra Blake is just the woman to do it. After all, she’s done it before. It’s just that the operation didn’t “stick”, because she couldn’t either.

The story here is a combination of opposites attract with a heaping helping of personal discovery. And once it gets out of the gate, it’s marvelous.

These are two people who never should have met. Or at least not met with any honesty at all between them. Cassandra is a high-class swindler. Or rather, she is now. She started out as a child in debtor’s prison, because that’s where her dad ended his days. Once he died, she lost even that dubious roof over her head, and has been making her way, mostly alone, ever since.

That’s how she met Alex Greyland. She conned him out of 500 pounds, rather a princely sum during the Regency. She pretended to be a proud but impoverished gentleman’s widow, cheated out of her portion by unscrupulous relatives. Alex fell for the story hook, line and sinker, while also falling for the proud and beautiful young widow.

From Cassandra’s perspective, Alex should have been just a mark, to fleece and forget the minute she scarpered away. Instead, she fell into his bed, and made the mistake of letting him into her heart. By the time she ran, it was too late for both of them.

When they meet again, Cassie is still playing the proud but impoverished widow, this time as the hostess of an exclusive gaming hell. But just as Alex discovers her secret, her whole world crashes around her. Her partner has left her high and dry, stealing all the money the hell has collection and leaving her to face all the employees and, even more dangerously, all of their underworld backers.

The only way for Cassie to escape with her life is to turn to Alex, the one man who knows who and what she really is, even if he hates her for it. He can protect her long enough for her to find her missing partner and get out from under the life-threatening situation he has left her in.

But Alex finds it impossible to hate the one woman who has ever made him feel, and Cassie can’t keep herself away from the only man who has ever known her as she truly is. It’s a dangerous game they are playing – with the underworld, and with each other.

And it can only end in heartbreak. After all, not even a duke can defy society and marry a criminal.

Escape Rating B+: It takes a while for this one to get going. When they meet again, Alex is still playing the lovelorn duke, and Cassie pretending to be the poor but proud widow. Alex, of course, truly is lovelorn, even if he can’t admit it, but Cassie is anything but who she is pretending to be.

What I wasn’t expecting, but should have, is just how much the book changes, and for the better, when Alex discovers Cassie’s secret. At that instant, he naturally feels betrayed, as well as incredibly angry, but for the first time in the story he stops listening to the voice of his father in his head telling him how a duke is supposed to behave and just lets himself feel what he actually feels, and not what he thinks he should.

And that’s what makes the book. Cassie is who she has always been, the difference is that she can finally let someone else see that person. But for Alex, the revelation is that he finally gets a handle on who he is and what he wants, rather than what he should do or what he should want. The longer he is with Cassie, the more out-of-his-element situations she throws him into, the more of himself he discovers.

The other thing that Cassie does for Alex is pull the blinders from his eyes. He’s never stepped outside his own extremely privileged world. He honestly does want to help people and make the world a better place than he found it, but he has no idea what will really help or how difficult the situation really is for those less privileged than himself.

As she always does, this author has created a very unconventional heroine who still manages to feel a part of her time and place, along with a hero who needs her to be exactly who she is. I can’t wait for the rest of this series.

While I wait, I’m going back to finish the author’s Wicked Quills of London series. I loved Forever Your Earl, but the rest got sucked into the “so many books, so little time” vortex. As much as I enjoyed From Duke Till Dawn, I’m happy to check out Scandal Takes the Stage while I wait for my next trip to the London Underground.

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

Eva is giving away 5 paperback copies of From Duke Till Dawn to lucky entrants on this tour
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tasty Book Tours
This review is part of a Tasty Book Tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.

Review: The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean + Giveaway

Review: The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean + GiveawayThe Rogue Not Taken (Scandal and Scoundrel, #1) by Sarah MacLean
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical romance, regency romance
Series: Scandal & Scoundrel #1
Pages: 384
Published by Avon on December 29th 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

LADY SOPHIE'S SOCIETY SPLASH
The youngest of the infamous Talbot sisters scandalized society at the Liverpool Summer Soiree, striking her sister’s notoriously philandering husband and landing him backside-first in a goldfish pond. And we thought Sophie was the quiet one…
When she finds herself the target of very public aristocratic scorn, Sophie Talbot does what she must to escape the city and its judgment—she flees on the back of a carriage, vowing never to return to London…or to society. But the carriage isn’t saving her from ruin. It’s filled with it.
ROYAL ROGUE'S REIGN OF RAVISHMENT!
The Marquess of Eversley was espied descending a rose trellis—escaping an irate Earl and his once-future countess. No lady is safe from Eversley’s Engagement Ending Escapades!
Kingscote, the Marquess of Eversley, has never met a woman he couldn’t charm, a quality that results in a reputation far worse than the truth, a furious summons home, and a long, boring trip to the Scottish border. When King discovers stowaway Sophie, however, the trip becomes anything but boring.
WAR? OR MORE?
He thinks she’s trying to trick him into marriage. She wouldn’t have him if he were the last man on earth. But carriages bring close quarters, dark secrets, and unbearable temptation, and suddenly opposites are altogether too attractive…

My Review:

When I started compiling my Best of 2015 lists, I noticed that I hadn’t read a lot of historical romances this year. Not merely that there weren’t any on my “Best” list, but that I hadn’t picked up more than a handful to read at all. Plenty of historical fiction, and LOTS of historical mystery, but very few historical romances.

So when the opportunity to get this book for a tour came up, I decided that a revisit to the Regency and its aftermath was in order. And now that I’ve come back from that journey, as much as I enjoyed this book, I understand why I’ve been turning away from historical romances in general.

I prefer romances where the heroine and the hero are relatively equal. Possibly not in social standing, but in intelligence, action and agency. She has to have something, be something, more than a pretty face and nubile body willing to swear undying devotion in order to be interesting as a character.

On of the things I liked about Eva Leigh’s Forever Your Earl is that she found a way to give her heroine independence and agency that wasn’t so anachronistic as to be completely unbelievable.

I’ve also discovered that I really dislike the artificiality and ridiculous lack of mores of the ton. I can understand a desire for material comfort (can’t we all) but I can’t seem to let go of my willing suspension of disbelief enough to understand why anyone would want to join this set of complete fakers.

I will try to get down off my soapbox now.

As I said, I really did enjoy The Rogue Not Taken, and I think it is because the rogue in question, and also the road that Sophie Talbot travels down with him, are unexpected. That road sets them both loose from society and its expectations. Even though Sophie knows that her temporary freedom is just that, temporary, she has still come to the conclusion that whatever time she manages to steal from the expectations of society is totally worth it.

The beginning scene of the book displays just how little agency that Sophie, her sisters, and upper class women in general, have in that society. She catches her brother-in-law the Duke in flagrante delicto at a house party with a woman other than her pregnant sister. And when Sophie verbally lays into him to defend her sister’s honor, he is the one who society follows. He’s a duke and she’s an upstart. It doesn’t matter that she is right and he is an ass and boor and a cad. He’s quality and she’s not and that’s it.

And her sister is just supposed to quietly bear it all, and no one except Sophie ever defends her. While one wants to stand up and cheer for Sophie, the way that it all fell to her and then on her feels uncomfortable for 21st century readers. Possibly historically accurate, but squirmy-wrong.

Sophie’s story is all about her escape. In one decisive moment, she decides to go back to the place she used to be happy – her childhood home. If her only way of getting there is to buy a footman’s livery and masquerade as the Marquess of Eversley’s footman, so be it.

What I enjoyed about this story was their journey, because they are outside society. Eversley initially doesn’t want Sophie around, and disparages her, often unintentionally, at every turn. But the sparkle of her unconventional personality, and just the simple way that she attracts trouble like a magnet, keep him amused. It isn’t that she is pretty, although she is. It’s the way that she approaches life and moves past roadblocks that has engaged his attention like nothing has in years.

Kingscote Eversley is having fun, and doesn’t want it to stop.

Sophie Talbot is having freedom, and she doesn’t want it to stop, either. While she is often a bit naive about the amount of danger that a young woman can bring down on herself by traveling alone, she is determined to reach her destination with as little help as possible. King finds himself protecting her without being overbearing about it. She needs a bit of looking after, and he needs someone who rushes into new experiences with eyes and mind wide open.

That they fall in love with each other, while inevitable, wasn’t half as much fun as their journey to get there.

Escape Rating B: I liked Sophie a lot. Just as Sophie does, one comes to like King Eversley as the journey goes on. I’ve discovered that I hate the ton and all it represents, and I enjoyed this story a lot more when it was far divorced from the society from which it sprang.

The Rogue Not Taken comes to a nice but conventional ending. I found the journey much more unconventional, and therefore much more fun than the destination. And I loved that King was proven completely and utterly wrong. Sophie was definitely not the “unfun” Talbot sister after all.

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

VT-RogueNotTake-SMacLean

Sarah and Tasty Book Tours are giving away a paperback set of her complete Rule of Scoundrels series to one lucky U.S. commenter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

TLC
This post is part of a Tasty Book Tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.

Review: Cat Bearing Gifts by Shirley Rousseau Murphy

Review: Cat Bearing Gifts by Shirley Rousseau MurphyCat Bearing Gifts (Joe Grey, #18) by Shirley Rousseau Murphy
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, large print, audiobook
Genres: cozy mystery, mystery
Series: Joe Grey #18
Pages: 320
Published by Avon on August 27th 2013
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

In this latest entry in Shirley Rousseau Murphy's award-winning series, feline P.I. Joe Grey and his four-legged cohorts are plunged into a nightmarish mystery.
On the way home from visiting their friend Kate Osborne, tortoiseshell Kit and her elderly housemates, Lucinda and Pedric Greenlaw, are hurt in a terrible car crash. The accident is terrifying enough, but then two dangerous men steal the Greenlaws' Town Car, making off with a secret hoard of jewels and gold—a gift bestowed from Kate's newfound treasure. A badly shaken Kit hides from hungry coyotes in the forested hills above the highway, waiting for Joe, Pan, and their human companions, Ryan and Clyde Damen, to rescue her.
Back home in Molena Point, yellow tomcat Misto, discovering a faded photograph of a child living fifty years ago, becomes lost in his memories of that past century—while Joe Grey and his tabby lady prowl an abandoned stone cottage where they've discovered two men hiding. The cats smell mildewed money and soon smell human blood, too. Though the cats know more than the thieves about the unique items stolen, their investigation is still in trouble as they claw their way to justice.

My Review:

cat on the edge by shirley rousseau murphyUsually I would say that anyone who likes feline sleuths will not just love Joe Grey, but could start anywhere in his series. Although the whole thing is so much fun that starting with Cat on the Edge makes for a lovely bunch of binge reading.

However, while I definitely enjoyed this entry in the series, I don’t think it is a good place to start. Too much of the action in this one is dependent on events in the past, and on people who have been introduced in previous books. Also, unusually for the series, the focus is very much on the humans in this one. The cats take a back seat (sometimes literally) as crisis after crisis strikes their human families, and everyone rallies round to protect the most vulnerable and find the guilty parties.

Many of the events in Cat Bearing Gifts were set up in Cat Telling Tales (reviewed here). An acquaintance of Ryan’s from art school barges into Molena Point demanding free room and board for herself and her two daughters based on a short and not all that friendly relationship from several years back. Ryan packs Debbie and her two girls off to one of the houses that she and Clyde are rehabbing. While Ryan knows that Debbie won’t lift a finger for upkeep on the rent-free house, everyone involved feels sorry for Debbie’s younger daughter Tessa, who is bullied by her sister and her mother nearly to the point of abuse. Tessa is being watched out for by Pan, one of the intelligent, talking cats, and everyone is trying to find a better solution for her than either her mother or Child Protective Services.

cat telling tales by shirley rousseau murphyDebbie’s mother Sammie was found murdered underneath her own house in Cat Telling Tales, but Sammie left her little bungalow to her friend Emmylou. Emmylou and Sammie were two of a kind, tough older women who lived alone and independently and took care of themselves and kept themselves mostly to themselves.

But Sammie’s brother Byerly wanders back to Molena Point several months after Sammie’s death. Byerly calls himself a hobo. He’s a wandering vagrant who has always touched base with his sister but never returned home to live. He’s also easily influenced and manipulated, and he returns to Molena Point with his ex-con friend Vic. With Sammie dead, Byerly and Vic break into a neglected cabin on the property and begin a mini-crime spree.

Vic also fences the stolen goods that Debbie shoplifts.

But the mini-crime spree turns maxi when Vic and Byerly cause a hit and run accident on the road from San Francisco back to Molena Point. They wreck their old truck, total a semi, and drive Pedric and Lucinda Greenlaw off the road. Vic beats up Pedric and Lucinda, and steals their car.

catswold portal by shirley rousseau murphyAnd that’s where the case really begins. Because little Kit is a witness to the original crime, and wants to make sure Vic gets his just desserts the minute she is rescued. And because the Greenlaws’ car is concealing all the mysterious, magical and valuable treasures that their friend Kate brought back from the dying world on the other side of The Catswold Portal.

A lot happens in this story, and at first it seems almost all bad. While Vic and Byerly thankfully don’t have the tools to discover the treasures concealed in the doors of the Greenlaws’ Lincoln Town Car, Vic has more than enough ambition (although not much sense) to take his possession of the big car and its keys and turn them into an invasion of the Greenlaws’ home as well as license to commit even more crimes as he hides the car all over Molena Point and tries to plot his way out of the town and his life as a hobo.

But the first thing he has to do is get rid of his injured partner Byerly. And the second thing he has to do is get one last score out of the disgusting Debbie. And last but certainly not least, Vic has to find a way to dodge the pursuit of all of the cats who are suddenly following him everywhere in town.

In the end, no one ever manages to get the better of Joe Grey, Dulcie, Misto, Pan and especially, Kit.

Escape Rating B+: Cat Bearing Gifts is quite a bit darker than many of the stories in this series. It is sad and scary to see the Greenlaws, who are fit and feisty but definitely in their 80s, brought down, even temporarily, by a nasty piece of work like Vic. There’s a certain amount of fear on the reader’s part, and definitely on Kit’s, that some of the damage may not be recoverable, or may cause lasting infirmities.

Kit is certainly forced to acknowledge that her chosen humans are elderly and that she will lose them someday in the foreseeable future, even if that day is not today. Kit discovers that one of the flaws of having human intelligence is that it means a little cat is able to see the awful stuff that’s coming. She is not happy about it, and neither are we.

Because Pedric and Lucinda are in the hospital recovering for a lot of this book, the humans are rightly taken up with that crisis. Everyone rallies round, but everyone is also too busy to pay attention to what the cats are doing. And the cats themselves are naturally distracted. They all care for the Greenlaws, and are worried. There’s also a certain amount of necessary deception on the part of both the cats and the humans to sneak Kit into the Greenlaws’ hospital beds, very much against medical orders.

So everyone is distracted and no one has the time or the energy to get together and compare notes about the strange doings the cats witness surrounding Vic, Byerly, Emmylou’s house and Debbie’s shoplifting. Everyone knows a piece of the puzzle, but there is no opportunity to put the pieces together.

While this was an interesting way for the plot to take care of what sometimes seems like feline omniscience, all the events that they watch are very sad and go on quite a while. The reader will want Debbie to get her comeuppance long before it finally does. And as is often the case where the detectives are very scattered, more than a few bad deeds occur because the puzzle pieces just don’t come together in time.

As a long-time reader of this series, I was glad to see the pieces finally connected between The Catswold Portal and Joe Grey. As someone who is fascinated by the relationship among the cats, it was really interesting to see the argument between Kit and Pan. While it is obvious that they are mates, they feel both in the human and the cat sense. Their argument about goals and purposes and futures was very human, but the motivation behind it was very cat. As was the resolution.

cat shout for joy by shirley rousseau murphyI’m looking forward to a happier story in this series in the next book, Cat Shout for Joy. Joe Grey and Dulcie are having kittens!

Spotlight/Excerpt: Scandal Takes the Stage by Eva Leigh + Giveaway

Spotlight/Excerpt: Scandal Takes the Stage by Eva Leigh + GiveawayScandal Takes the Stage (The Wicked Quills of London, #2) by Eva Leigh
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: historical romance, regency romance
Series: Wicked Quills of London #2
Pages: 384
Published by Avon on October 27th 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Eva Leigh’s smart and sexy Wicked Quills of London series continues, with a playwright and a Viscount . . . together they may create a scandal worthy of the stage, but can their love last after the final curtain falls?
Successful playwright Maggie Delamere has no interest in the flirtations of noblemen like Cameron, Viscount Marwood. She once paid dearly for a moment of weakness . . . and vows to rebuff the wildly persistent—and irritatingly handsome—scoundrel at every turn. But when pressure to deliver a new play hampers her creativity, an invitation to use his country estate as a writer’s retreat is too tempting to resist...
For years, Cam has admired Maggie’s brilliant work, and he can’t pass up the opportunity to discover if the beautiful, mysterious playwright is as passionate and clever as the words that flow from her quill. He’s never offered a lady his bed without being in it, but if it means loosening Maggie’s pen—and her inhibitions—he’ll do exactly that.
But soon Cam’s plans for seduction become a fight for Maggie’s heart. He’s more than the scandalous, carefree rake society believes him to be . . . and she’s the only woman who has ever noticed.

Tasty Excerpt Banner

 

Both Ashford and his wife were elegantly attired for a night out. Lady Ashford, in particular, glowed in blue. Though she was a countess, she prided herself on being a working woman. Yet Cam felt certain that the substantial sapphires around her neck and hanging from her earlobes were placating gestures to her husband. Ashford tried to spoil her at every turn.
The couple stood unfashionably close. Ashford had his hand on the small of his wife’s back.

After kissing Lady Ashford’s gloved knuckles and giving his old friend’s hand a shake, Cam said wryly, “I’m older than I thought, since I’m certain that my eyes are failing. This can’t be Lord and Lady Ashford actually leaving their home. Joining those of us who haven’t found wedded bliss.”

“It’s not our fault that the female population of London considers you an irredeemable rogue,” Ashford said.

His wife smiled warmly. “To women, his reputation acts as a lure, not a deterrent.”

“And yet they’ll find themselves sorely disappointed,” Cam noted, clasping his hands behind his back. “Because this piece of beefsteak is not for sale at Smithfield market.”
Ashford shook his head. “Don’t tell your father. He comes to me almost once a fortnight, despairing of you ever finding a wife.”
Cam rolled his eyes. His father was also Ashford’s godfather, and ever since his friend had married, the efforts to see Cam settled and applying himself to the business of getting an heir had redoubled.

“So much labor,” Cam said with mock sorrow, “and for so little an outcome.”

“You are determined to remain a dedicated bachelor, then?” Lady Ashford pressed, ever the journalist. She used her matching blue fan to cool herself against the oppressive heat in the theater.
“I have a younger brother,” Cam noted. “He has three qualities in his favor that I do not.” Holding up his hand, he enumerated each aspect on his fingers. “One: he has already taken a bride of suitable lineage and fortune. Two: they have produced a child. And third: he has no compunction about assuming the role of Marquess of Allam should anything happen to me.”

Shrugging, Cam said, “There are no obstacles to me continuing to live my life as I so desire it. Free of entanglements.” Free of disappointment.

His parents had a remarkably happy marriage. Whilethey didn’t show affection in public the way the Ashfords did, at home, it was another matter. His mother and father were devoted to each other, brushing hands, exchanging looks, even—God help him—sequestering themselves in the middle of the day in the bedchamber.

It hadn’t been a love match, but it had become one, and Cam knew things like that occurred rarely. What had happened with a seasoned rake like Ashford was the exception, about as common as finding a pearl in an apple.

The only place where love happened consistently was on the stage. It wasn’t meant for the real world. Not meant for him. He’d only find disenchantment if he tried for what couldn’t be.
Which is why he always kept his amorous encounters temporary.

Enter to Win a
Print Copy of FOREVER YOUR EARL
and a $25.00 eGift Card to choice Book Seller

 

FOREVER YOUR EARL
The Wicked Quills of London Book One
Eva Leigh
Released Sept 29th, 2015
Avon Books
Eleanor
Hawke loves a good scandal. And readers of her successful gossip rag live for
the exploits of her favorite subject: Daniel Balfour, the notorious Earl of
Ashford. So when the earl himself marches into her office one day and invites
her to experience his illicit pursuits firsthand, Eleanor is stunned. Gambling
hells, phaeton races, masquerades…What more could a scandal writer want than a
secret look into the life of this devilishly handsome rake?
Daniel
has secrets and if The Hawk’s Eye gets wind of them, a man’s life could be at
stake. And what better way to distract a gossip than by feeding her the scandal
she desperately craves? But Daniel never expected the sharp mind and biting wit
of the beautiful writer, and their desire for each other threatens even his
best laid plans.
But
when Eleanor learns the truth of his deception, Daniel will do anything to
prove a romance between a commoner and an earl could really last forever.
 
BUY NOW

 

SCANDAL TAKES THE STAGE
The Wicked Quills of London Book Two
Eva Leigh
Releasing Oct 27th, 2015
Avon Books

 

 
Successful playwright Maggie Delamere
has no interest in the flirtations of noblemen like Cameron, Viscount Marwood.
She once paid dearly for a moment of weakness… and vows to rebuff the wildly
persistent-and irritatingly handsome-scoundrel at every turn. But when pressure
to deliver a new play hampers her creativity, an invitation to use his country
estate as a writer’s retreat is too tempting to resist…
For years, Cam has admired Maggie’s
brilliant work and he can’t pass up the opportunity to discover if the
beautiful, mysterious playwright is as passionate and clever as the words that
flow from her quill. He’s never offered a lady his bed without being in it, but
if it means loosening Maggie’s pen-and her inhibitions-he’ll do exactly that.
But soon Cam’s plans for seduction
become a fight for Maggie’s heart. He’s more than the scandalous, carefree rake
society believes him to be… and she’s the only woman who has ever noticed.
BUY NOW

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

EVA LEIGH is the pen name of a RITA®
Award-nominated romance author who writes novels chock-full of smart women and
sexy men. She enjoys baking, Tweeting about boots, and listening to music from
the ‘80s. Eva and her husband live in Central California.