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

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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.

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

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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.

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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
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Review: The Champion of Baresh by Susan Grant + Giveaway

The Champion of Barésh (Star World Frontier #1) by Susan Grant
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: science fiction romance
Series: Star World Frontier #1
Pages: 348
Published by Susan Grant on May 27th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

RITA-winner Susan Grant is back with an all-new, stand-alone tale of two improbable lovers, their daring secret, and the gamble destined to alter the course of their worlds forever.
A desperate woman in need of a miracle—A bad-boy prince in need of redemption
She was playing with fire...
Jemm Aves battles to keep her dreams alive on a dead-end world. Working for the mines by day, she’s a successful bajha player at night, disguised as a male to be allowed to compete in the colony’s dangerous underworld where club owners will go to extremes to retain the best players. Every win puts her one small step closer to her goal: saving enough to escape Barésh with her family. When a nobleman from one of the galaxy’s elite families recruits her to be a star player for his team, it's because he doesn't know her secret. Her ruse proves to be her most perilous game yet when it puts both their lives—and her heart—at risk.
Prince Charming he was not...
Prince Klark is eager to reverse his reputation as the black sheep of the Vedla clan, a family as famous for its wealth and power as it is for being a bastion of male-dominated tradition. If his bajha team can win the galactic title, it would go a long way toward restoring the family honor that his misdeeds tarnished. He travels to Barésh to track down an amateur who’s risen to the top of the seedy world of street bajha, offering the commoner a chance of a lifetime: a way off that reeking space rock for good. But his new player comes with a scandalous secret that turns his plans and his beliefs upside down. He sets out to win a very different prize—his champion’s reluctant heart.

My Review:

Because I kept conflating this story with the excellent Empress Game by Rhonda Mason, I was kind of expecting that the stakes in The Champion of Baresh would be slightly bigger than they are. And then they actually are, but not quite in the way I thought. And that’s always a good thing. I also kept wondering if this story linked at all to Grant’s Star series. It turns out that it does, but it is not necessary to have read, or to remember in my case, the details of the earlier series to enjoy The Champion of Baresh.

Baresh is a dead-end world, and Jemm Aves has a dead end job – but then all the jobs on Baresh are pretty much dead end, if not downright deadly. Not deadly as in dangerous per se, but deadly as in the working conditions are so totally awful that the job will kill you one way or another if you live long enough, and if you quit the poverty will kill you even quicker.

Think about all the diseases that miners have been proven to get on this planet, and then multiply that by an entire manufactured world that is completely dependent on mining a deadly and necessary ore. That’s Baresh.

And Jemm Aves wants off.

But the only chance she has for getting herself and her family – mother, brother, niece – is to pick up her dad’s old sens-sword and compete in barroom bajha. And the only way to make her way into the bajha circuit, even on a backwater world like Baresh – is to pretend to be a man. Or at least a boy.

The more she wins, the more that the local gangleaders want to tie her down to an exclusive contract. The better she does, the more she earns – and the more dangerous it gets.

Until she’s presented with a once-in-a-lifetime chance to play in the professional leagues. But that’s only possible if she can keep her secret – or find someone else to keep it with her.

Escape Rating B+: In the end, The Champion of Baresh is a love story about breaking down barriers.

The initial barrier that needs to be broken is the custom that says that women can’t play bajha. Think of bajha as a real-life version of the arena fighting video games, with a few changes. Matches are fought blindfolded, and all contestants use the same weapon, a sens-sword that administers a shock rather than a slice. Although there are professional teams, matches are fought one on one. But it’s the combined score of the whole team that leads to the championship.

Of course, the barroom circuit on Baresh is a LOT less formal. There’s only two individuals, and a whole lot of crowd noise. When Jemm, fighting as Sea Kestrel, steps into the ring, she’s the best that Baresh has ever seen. She’s living proof that women can play bajha, and play it well. But she has to compete as a man. Not just because of the social conventions, but because it is way safer for her and her brother/manager if no one knows who she really is.

star princess by susan grantPrince Klark Vedla has a whole lot of barriers to jump over, many of them all by himself. He has to convince himself that this street rat is capable of making the jump to the big leagues, a difficult feat all by itself. Then he has to decide to become complicit in Jemm’s secret, defying not just social convention but his own moral code. He wants to win the Championship for his family to erase the stigma of his own intemperate actions in The Star Princess.

And then Jemm and Klark have to bridge the barrier between street rat and prince-not-so-charming. Two people who have never fallen in love fall for each other, each believing that it can’t possibly work. It takes a wise and somewhat scary old man to get Klark’s head out of his ass on that score.

But as much fun as the romance is in this book, the fun is in breaking down the wall that prevents women from playing bajha. When Jemm’s secret is finally revealed, after a series of stunning victories, the powers-that-be in the sport try to bury everything under the rug, and attempt to keep Klark and his team silent with vague but menacing threats.

Watching Jemm and Klark set their entire sporting world on its ear, by proving that women not only can play bajha, but that they want to play bajha, and that encouraging them to play bajha is good for the sport. In the end the score is Neanderthals 0 and Opening Doors to Opportunity a very satisfying 1.

 

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Review: One Night with the CEO by Mia Sosa + Giveaway

Review: One Night with the CEO by Mia Sosa + GiveawayOne Night with the CEO by Mia Sosa
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance
Series: Suits Undone #2
Pages: 256
Published by Forever Yours on May 3rd 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

"This debut romance sparkles." -- Library Journal (starred review) on Unbuttoning the CEO
TWO TICKETS TO PARADISE
After some disappointing dates, Karen Ramirez has concluded that great sex is for other people. Especially since medical school won't leave her much time for romance anyway. Then she runs into tall, dark, charming, and ridiculously wealthy Mark Lansing--and quickly reconsiders celibacy. Adding to temptation? Mark will be the best man at her sister's wedding and the nuptial destination is sultry Puerto Rico. Now this trip might just be sensory overload--or the perfect chance for Karen to find the groove she's never had.
For CEO Mark Lansing, his perfect match would be smart, sweet, and funny, with long legs and silky hair the color of dark chocolate. In short, someone a lot like Karen. But Mark's looking to settle down, while a relationship is the last thing on Karen's mind. So Mark proposes a plan: he and Karen will use their weekend in paradise to sizzling advantage--before downshifting to friendship. The only problem? Karen is all Mark can think of when he gets home. Now his most challenging negotiation will be for the one thing money can't buy . . .

My Review:

unbuttoning the ceo by mia sosaI loved Mia Sosa’s first book, Unbuttoning the CEO, when I reviewed it for Library Journal last year. So I was very happy to see that she had a second book in the series.

I don’t generally enjoy the “seduced by/married to the billionaire” trope. The overwhelming imbalance of power in the relationship usually throws me out of the story. Unbuttoning the CEO was definitely an exception to that, I think because the power isn’t all that imbalanced.

Ethan was rich, but also stuck in a position where he couldn’t throw all that wealth around. Graciela was supervising his community service, so she actually had a bit more power in the relationship than would otherwise be expected. That Ethan discovers that he is better off as just another tech guy than as CEO adds to the icing on that particularly lovely cake. It’s Ethan’s dawning self-awareness that makes the story so much fun.

One Night with the CEO follows directly from Unbuttoning, in more ways than one. Karen Ramirez is Gracie’s younger sister, and Mark Lansing is Ethan’s business partner. At the end of Unbuttoning, when Ethan steps down from being the CEO of their successful tech company, Mark steps up. He trades the title of Chief Financial Officer for Chief Executive Officer, with all the perks and especially all the headaches that go along with it.

Mark and Karen meet at a club, dragged there by Ethan and Gracie. But in the loud and dark confusion of the club, they run into each other before Ethan and Gracie have a chance to introduce them. In the anonymity of the club they verbally explore their instant attraction, expecting to never meet again after sharing a few intimate secrets and whole lot of very hot flirting. Then Ethan and Gracie crash in, and they discover that they are going to be seeing a lot more of each other than they ever intended.

Ethan and Gracie have dragooned both of them into attending their very quickly arranged wedding – at the Ramirez family compound in Puerto Rico. Sun, fun and infinite temptation on a tropical island, in the midst of a celebration where love will be in the air at every moment. What could possibly go wrong?

Karen and Mark try to ignore their amazing chemistry. They make an incredible effort at being just friends. Because they both know that if they have a relationship, they will not be able to hide it from Ethan and Gracie. And they won’t be able to get away from each other when it inevitably goes south, and not in a good way.

Mark has finally realized that he is looking for someone to spend the rest of his life with. In his early 30s, he is starting to want a partner and eventually a family. Karen is starting medical school in the fall. Her whole family has their hopes pinned on her becoming a doctor. With the grueling schedule she knows she will have to keep, she won’t have time for a relationship. And in her early 20s, Mark is just certain she isn’t ready to settle down.

So they agree to a one-night stand in Puerto Rico. Only to discover that they can’t let each other go. But until they can manage to resolve the differences between them, they also can’t manage to let each other stay.

Escape Rating B: One Night with the CEO was fun, and it certainly reads very, very quickly. But while I enjoyed it, the sparkle that was so terrific in Unbuttoning the CEO just wasn’t there in this story.

Karen is a terrific heroine. The way she is driving herself, her relentless pursuit of a difficult goal is fantastic. There should be more heroines who are as driven as she is, and who don’t give up when they fall in love. At the same time, she has plenty of flaws and insecurities, she just picks herself up and moves on after every setback.

Mark has a ton of issues. He has a whole baggage load of problems with investing in a relationship, because his dad and his mother are such a mess. And he transfers those issues to his relationship with Karen.

They are at different points in their lives, and that’s a real issue when couples have a significant age gap. But what keeps doing Mark and Karen in is the inability to talk about it. As it usually does.

Mark and Karen are great people. The reader wants them to find their HEA. The scene where they meet in the club and tease and torment each other mostly with words was incredibly hot. But there wasn’t anything particular new or different about this story or their relationship.

While I certainly had fun on my One Night with the CEO, after the sparkle of Unbuttoning the CEO, I expected something more.

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

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Review: Beauty and the Bull Rider by Victoria Vane + Giveaway

Review: Beauty and the Bull Rider by Victoria Vane + GiveawayBeauty and the Bull Rider by Victoria Vane
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genres: contemporary romance, western romance
Series: Hotel Rodeo #3
Pages: 144
Published by Lyrical Shine on March 15th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

When Beauty Wants A Baby
Championship bull breeder and former Texas beauty queen Delaney McCall was having a heck of a time finding a daddy for the baby she craved. A failed marriage left her with no desire for another husband, but finding the right stud to satisfy her needs presents a bigger problem that she could have imagined.
And The Bullrider Wants Beauty
After hanging up his spurs, bull rider Zac McDaniel wants nothing more than to fulfill Delaney's dream of having a family. After all, his best friend's ex has been his fantasy for years. Zac, however, has no desire to be seen as just a means to an end. And when Zac insists on doing things the "old fashioned" way, their passion explodes like a bull out of the chute…
Some Bucking Is Bound To Happen
While insisting it's all just a passing fancy, the more Delaney sees the softer side of the rough and tumble cowboy, the harder it is to keep her emotions corraled. Zac, meanwhile, is more determined than ever to prove he's what she really needs, and will do whatever it takes to tear down the mile high fence around her heart…
Praise for Victoria Vane
"Erotic and sexy." --Library Journal on the Devil DeVere series
 "For erotic passion and one-liners, the first book in Vane's new series will satisfy...Vane's latest gets a big yee-haw."  --RT Book Reviews on Slow Hand

My Review:

hell on heels by victoria vaneDelaney McCall has been an important secondary character in the first two Hotel Rodeo books, because she’s an important person in Ty Morgan’s life. But her introduction in Hell on Heels may not dispose readers any too kindly towards Ty’s ex-wife.

It’s pretty obvious in Hell on Heels that Delaney is the source of all too many of Ty’s trust issues when it comes to women, and the breakup of their marriage has definitely made him gun shy of commitments, an issue that Monica spends most of both Hell on Heels and Two to Wrangle dealing with. Or that Ty spends most of those two books working through.

It’s not that Ty ever held a torch. It’s that they never should have gotten married in the first place. It’s much more that Ty was so glad to be out of the marriage that he let Delaney get half his family’s ranch in the divorce – and that she decided to keep it.

It’s a big surprise to Ty when Delaney offers Ty all sorts of inducements, mostly monetary, to give her a baby. He never does let her get into the details, because he is so uninterested as to be pretty close to revolted. He’s certainly doesn’t trust Delaney enough to give her another hold on him, and he would never abandon his own child. And then there’s his relationship with Monica.

But his own reaction doesn’t stop him from telling his best friend Zac McDaniel about Delaney’s offer. Zac is retiring from the bull riding circuit and takes a job managing the ranch that Ty just inherited. Ty thinks that he’s making a joke, but Zac’s been interested in Delaney from the minute that she, Ty and Zac met, seven years ago.

He’s willing to give Delaney the baby she wants, but what he wants is Delaney, any way that he can have her. It’s up to Delaney to figure out whether what she wants is a baby…or a life.

Escape Rating B: I liked this one a whole lot more than I expected. Plots that revolve around babies are just not my cup of tea.

But in spite of the way that Zac gets back into Delaney’s life, this isn’t his story, and it isn’t really a story about the baby. This is Delaney’s story, and that’s what made it work for me.

From Ty’s perspective, Delaney seemed originally immature, and later just plain vindictive. Of course that’s not the whole story. (And not that Ty wasn’t just as immature at the time, only in a different way.)

When we get to know Delaney from her own point of view, we see something completely different. Her marriage to Ty was a mistake from day one. They were both too immature, and Ty wasn’t ready to settle down. But Beauty Queen Delaney wasn’t so much looking for a man as for a way out of the scripted and controlled life her rich parents shoehorned her into. Marrying Ty got her out from under their overbearing thumbs, so when the marriage inevitably failed she took and kept half his family ranch. While there was some desire for payback, it was mostly out of a need to have her own space and her own life, one where Delaney and only Delaney made the decisions and had the control.

Running the ranch and starting a bucking bull breeding program keeps Delaney intellectually and physically challenged in a way that her old life as a debutante did not and could not. She is fulfilled on those fronts, but she’s lonely. She’s a woman in what is still a man’s world, and she has no friends and no one she can rely on.

It seems like she decides to have a baby not because her biological clock is ticking all that loud, but because she wants someone to love. And from the way she approaches the process of getting that baby, it seems as if she is also a bit interested in someone she can control. Not in any terrible sense, just that the baby will be dependent on her, where the man she makes it with will certainly have a mind of his own.

There’s almost a feeling that she is approaching the creation of her own baby with all the same scientific know-how, and using much of the same process, that she is using in the breeding program for her stock. She has a plan, and she intends to stick to it. And it originally involves turkey-basters all the way around.

Zac throws all of her plans out the window. He’s willing to help her with her baby-making project, but he wants to do it the old-fashioned way. Delaney has learned not to rely on anyone, but Zac is being helpful when needed without impinging too much on Delaney’s independence. He respects her, and he also cares for her. He’s all in, but she’s reluctant every step of the way.

This is Delaney’s story because she’s the one who changes. She doesn’t give up her independence, but she does let Zac in to share the load…and to bring a much needed dose of spontaneity and fun into her life.

It makes for a fun story. And what looks like a fitting conclusion to this fun and sexy contemporary western romance series.

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

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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 ~~~~~~

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

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Review: Burning Bright by Megan Hart, KK Hendin, Stacey Agdern, Jennifer Gracen + Giveaway

Review: Burning Bright by Megan Hart, KK Hendin, Stacey Agdern, Jennifer Gracen + GiveawayBurning Bright: Four Chanukah Love Stories by Megan Hart, KK Hendin, Stacey Agdern, Jennifer Gracen
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: Hanukkah romance, holiday romance
Pages: 400
Published by Avon Impulse on December 1st 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
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This December, take a break from dreidel spinning, gelt winning, and latke eating to experience the joy of Chanukah. When you fall in love during the Festival of Lights, the world burns a whole lot brighter.
It’s definitely not love at first sight for Amanda and her cute but mysterious new neighbor, Ben. Can a Chanukah miracle show them that getting off on the wrong foot doesn’t mean they can’t walk the same road?
Lawyers in love, Shari Cohen and Evan Sonntag are happy together. But in a moment of doubt, he pushes her away—then soon realizes he made a huge mistake. To win her back, it might take something like a Chanukah miracle.
When impulsive interior designer Molly Baker-Stein barges into Jon Adelman's apartment and his life intent on planning the best Chanukah party their building has ever seen, neither expects that together they just might discover a Home for Chanukah.
All Tamar expected from her Israel vacation was time to hang out with one of her besties and to act like a tourist, cheesy t-shirt and all, in her two favorite cities. She definitely was not expecting to fall for Avi, a handsome soldier who’s more than she ever dreamed. 

My Review:

In the avalanche of holiday romances that arrives every November and December, I seldom see anyone like myself. Why? Because there is a dearth of Hanukkah romance in the middle of all the Christmas. And just like the heroines in this collection of Hanukkah romances, I’m Jewish. It was beyond marvelous to read romances that reflected some of my experience, where the cultural background is the one that I remember from my own family. So for that alone, this collection is a marvelous collection of Hanukkah lights.

But these are also terrific love stories, and anyone looking for something slightly different in their holiday romance will certainly find someone and something to love in this bunch of treats. Or bag of chocolate Hanukkah gelt.

My favorite story in the book is the first one, Miracle by Megan Hart. It’s a love story, and it is also a story about finding your own path, even if it is not the one that other people think you should follow. So it’s a story about growing up and breaking away. Ben has moved to Harrisburg, PA of all places, in order to get away from his ultra-orthodox religious community back in New York. While it is impossible to grow up in the U.S. without some exposure to popular (and Christian) culture, Ben’s community in NYC was as isolated in its own way as the Amish. Popular culture was something forbidden, and something that happened very much on the outside of the insular and insulated community. But when the girl that Ben was supposed to marry falls in love with his best friend, Ben takes the opportunity to escape a life that doesn’t fit him. He wants to travel, he wants to experience the entire world, and he doesn’t want to take over his father’s kosher grocery store chain. He isn’t sure what he wants for his life, but he wants a wider world than the one he has experienced so far.

In Harrisburg, he meets Amanda. While Amanda is also Jewish, she has grown up in the wider and predominantly Christian world. In Amanda’s life, while she is proud of being Jewish, she has also experience some anti-Semitism and has the experience of being a minority where most people she meets are different from herself. Ben often seems critical because she does not act the way that he was brought up to expect “good girls” to act, while at the same time he is definitely attracted both to her and the adaptation to the world as a whole that he craves. When his father shows up at his doorstep in an attempt to guilt Ben into returning home, Ben is caught between the life he had, and the life he wants with Amanda.

In both A Dose of Gelt by Jennifer Gracen and A Home for Chanukah by Stacey Agdern, while the details in the stories are different, the theme is the same. In both stories, the couple are negotiating the shift from friends and lovers to lovers and partners. And in both cases, there is a huge bump in the smoothness of that road. In Gracen’s story, Evan and Shari have been lovers for several months, long enough for both of them to think seriously about the future. But they are both lawyers, and Evan in particular is a divorce lawyer. He has soured on marriage so much that he isn’t sure he will ever want to enter that institution for himself. When he brings Shari home for the holidays, his unwillingness to ever marry runs headlong into his family’s desire for him to settle down with Shari, and Shari’s coalescing thoughts that someday she would like to marry and have children, and that she would like her someday with Evan.

The relationship between Jon and Molly in Agdern’s story is much newer than the one in A Dose of Gelt, but hits similar rocky shoals. Jon invites interior designer Molly to turn his empty apartment into a place he will feel at home – but when he comes back from a business trip and sees what she has done, he feels invaded and exposed, and pretty much shoots the messenger, meaning Molly. It takes a lot of appropriate groveling and some very pointed nudging from Jon’s family and Molly’s friends to get Jon to see the light. Or lights.

KK Hendin’s story, All I Got, gave me a bit of trouble. I liked the happy ending, but getting there was a bit confusing. Tamar returns to Israel for Winter break, and meets a handsome soldier. She falls in love, but keeps her feelings to herself, knowing that she has to return to the U.S. to fulfill her college scholarship. That handsome soldier, Avi, finds a way to follow her to the States, so he can discover if what they feel for each other is real. The story is told from Tamar’s first person perspective, with lots of inserted quotes from either her friends or from others who have written about the experience of traveling to or living in Israel. The quotes are fascinating, and Tamar’s story is lovely, but for this reader they didn’t blend together well.

Escape Ratings:
Miracle by Megan Hart: A-
A Dose of Gelt by Jennifer Gracen: B
A Home for Chanukah by Stacey Agdern: B+
All I Got by KK Hendin: C+

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

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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.

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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.

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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.
 
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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.
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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.