Friday, September 30, 2016

Review: The Haunting of a Duke by Chasity Bowlin

Title: The Haunting of a Duke
Series: Dark Regency
Author: Chasity Bowlin
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: June 13, 2014
Publisher: Chasity Bowlin

Communing with spirits has been both gift and curse to Emme Walters. Now it's made her a killer's target.

Emme knows why the Dowager Duchess of Briarleigh invited her to a house party—to investigate whether the duke, Rhys Brammel, murdered his wife years ago. But Emme never imagined she would fall in love with the brooding duke. Branded by society as a possible killer, Rhys is suspicious of Emme and her alleged "gift."

Then a late night encounter creates awareness of her other, more attractive, aspects. When Emme's life is threatened, Rhys becomes her protector. Emme and Rhys find passion and peril as they join forces to solve the mysteries at Briarleigh.

She made him believe in spirits, but can she make him believe in love?

My rating:

***eBook available for free on Amazon***

The Dowager Duchess of Briarleigh invited Emmaline Walters to a house party to determine whether the duke had indeed killed his wife a few years ago and finally put the rumors to rest. But the late duchess isn't the only ghost in the house, and someone among the living will prove to be the most malevolent creature of all.

I'm having trouble rating this one. The story was great. The suspense, the mystery, the ghosts, the living, good and evil...all mixed up in this historical paranormal with a slight gothic vibe. But there were problems as well. First, it was the flowery prose during the sex scenes, which made me cringe a little. The second was the pacing, also suffering from the overabundance of sex scenes. They were hot and sensual, yes, but they also stopped the flow of the story.
The plot was so intense, with the vivid imagery of the manor and its wordly and non- inhabitants, the malevolent thoughts of the villain, goosebumps rose as the (almost) imminent danger, the intrigue of what would happen next beckoned...and the MCs decided to bang. *record scratch* Then, we were back in the gothic mood, the villain was lurking in the background, peeping through holes, imagining all kinds of dastardly things, then ghosts started to appear with warnings and taunts...and the MCs decided to bang again. *record scratch*

And so it went. The story flowing beautifully, the plot progressing nicely, with good character development, great mystery and suspense, and chilly apparitions, then it stopped dead in its track for some matress dancing, and then resumed.
It was jarring, since the love scenes seemed to be added as an afterthought, either to fill the pages or to...I don't know why. Again, they were well-written, but disruptive to the overall flow of the story.

3½ stars

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Review: Alpha Star by Elsa Jade

Title: Alpha Star
Series: Intergalactic Dating Agency, Big Sky Alien Mail Order Brides
Author: Elsa Jade
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: September 28, 2016
Publisher: Red Circle Ink

He will be lord of his own solar system, but he can’t claim the homeworld until he takes a bride. He needs the right mate to win his mating rings, but choosing one female from among the neighboring systems while slighting the others could start an interstellar incident—and this ex-mercenary starship captain has finally had enough of war. Where in the universe can a runaway cyborg prince find a naïve female willing to risk her life on the dangerous frontiers of space?

My rating:

The matriarch of the clan has bequeathed Sin, the fifth son of a fourth son of an eighth son, a solar system. The only condition to claim said solar system is that he gets a bride. And the easiest way to get a bride is to ask the Intergalactic Dating Agency for help.

Even before they reach Earth, Sin gets the good news. They found his match. And she's perfect for him...But when he goes to meet her, and take her with him onto his spaceship, he realizes Zoe has no idea what he's talking about. And she has no intention of being his bride. She has no intention of even dating him, least of all mating him.

So Sin does the gentleman-y thing (probably for the first time in his life) and leaves. But there's one peculiar thing about a fated match: you don't mess with Fate.

I loved this story. Loved it to bits. It had it all. Sexy hunk of a hero, a spunky heroine, sweet and hot romance, alien tech, fraternal rivalry and a little bit of suspense-driven damsel-in-distress-ing.

There weren't as many faux pas due to cultural differences and language barriers as in the previous two stories, and I must say it worked very well without that (unnecessary) repetition. The two leads were awesome, their first encounter funny, and their budding romance cute and sweet as heck, until it went hot. Really hot. Sin was a sweetheart with a merc mentality, but a heart of gold and a code of honor that knocked that merc-mentality out cold when the moment called for it. Zoe was your typical non-believer Earthling, but with a solid head on her shoulders and a sharp mind that didn't let her be blind or in denial for too long. She had her issues (thanks to the brick to the head incident) that held her back for the duration of the story, but it didn't make her whiny or idiotic. She actually came through as pragmatic and a realist, which is a breath of fresh air in a romance. Especially one involving drop-dead gorgeous aliens. ;)
The supporting cast didn't have much of a role, except to propel the story forward with nicely-timed explanations or expository scenes; I still loved Sin's two crew mates, Honey and Ivan, though. I hope their stories are the two remaining ones in this mini series, because I'd love to see more of them.

I loved the narrative style and voice, the pacing was spot-on (maybe the whole thing dragged a little in the second half, during the "suspense" part, but I didn't mind, since I knew the ending was near), the characters were rather well fleshed-out, and the premise worked well. Overall, a great story.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Review: Bond by Tasha Black

Title: Bond
Series: Intergalactic Dating Agency, Stargazer Alien Mail Order Brides
Author: Tasha Black
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: September 26, 2016
Publisher: 13th Story Press

When our otherworldly brothers arrive at last they expect a warm welcome...

Posey Quinn has always believed there was more to the world than what she can see. So when she arrives in Stargazer with her head full of conspiracies and high-end hairspray, she isn’t entirely surprised to learn that instead of donating eggs for tuition money, she is being asked to make an alien fall in love with her, and become an ambassador for humankind. What she doesn’t expect is how irresistible Bond is, and how hard it will be not to lose her own heart to the man who plays her body like a violin.

Bond is on Earth to fill one human female with as much pleasure as she can bear, a mission he’s finding very agreeable. But he’s not here to fall in love. Tasked with using his powers of human seduction to glean what he can about Earth and its inhabitants, Bond knows that if the planet’s resources are worthy and its residents aren’t, his days of pleasing Posey will soon be at an end.

My rating:

Three friends, Posey, Georgia, and Rima are chosen as egg donors and travel to rural Pennsylvania, a town called Stargazer. But not all is as is seems, since the girls are supposed to donate eggs while they’re still inside them, mating and letting themselves get impregnated by three gorgeous aliens, Bond, Rocky, and Magnum (yes, named after Earth’s “heroes”).

This is what you get reading a series written by various authors (especially authors you don’t know). It’s either hit or miss. I loved Cutlass, the first book in the Intergalactic Dating Agency series, and part of a different miniseries in the “larger” one, there wasn’t a thing I even remotely liked about this one.

The characters all acted like children (understandable for the aliens, but utterly unfathomable for the girls), the heroine was strangely fixated on her outer appearance (constantly griping about her BMI), for a book titled after the (alien) hero, the story mostly revolved around the heroine and her three friends, some elements of the plot were idiotic; like fixing the alien ship with honey (???) and the Fall Festival “battle”, the “villain” and the whole “suspense” subplot about Satan worship that degenerated into the let’s-pretend-to-be-members-of-an-old-religious-group spiel was maybe supposed to be funny, but wasn’t, and the romance (if I can call it that) was almost non-existent and completely unbelievable, since we barely spent time with the two leads to get to know them and see what was likable or lovable about them.

Template-y and formulaic, with flat, one-dimensional characters, slow, and with some elements so out of the left field that made the story feel almost like a parody or satire. Unfortunately, it took itself too seriously to garner any laughs.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Review: Talk Sweetly to Me by Courtney Milan

Title: Talk Sweetly to Me
Series: Brothers Sinister
Author: Courtney Milan
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: August 18, 2014
Publisher: Courtney Milan

Nobody knows who Miss Rose Sweetly is, and she prefers it that way. She's a shy, mathematically-minded shopkeeper's daughter who dreams of the stars. Women like her only ever come to attention through scandal. She'll take obscurity, thank you very much.

All of England knows who Stephen Shaughnessy is. He's an infamous advice columnist and a known rake. When he moves into the house next door to Rose, she discovers that he's also wickedly funny, devilishly flirtatious, and heart-stoppingly handsome. But when he takes an interest in her mathematical work, she realizes that Mr. Shaughnessy isn't just a scandal waiting to happen. He's waiting to happen to her...and if she's not careful, she'll give in to certain ruination.

My rating:

Cute, and sweet with an added layer of seriousness thanks to the topic of race and racial inequality.

Wonderful characters, great story, good pacing. A good coda to the Brothers Sinister series, even if the original "brothers sinister" didn't even make an appearance.

Review: The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan

Title: The Suffragette Scandal
Series: Brothers Sinister
Author: Courtney Milan
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: July 15, 2014
Publisher: Courtney Milan

An idealistic suffragette...

Miss Frederica "Free" Marshall has put her heart and soul into her newspaper, known for its outspoken support of women's rights. Naturally, her enemies are intent on destroying her business and silencing her for good. Free refuses to be at the end of her rope...but she needs more rope, and she needs it now.

...a jaded scoundrel...

Edward Clark's aristocratic family abandoned him to die in a war-torn land, so he survived the only way he could: by becoming a rogue and a first-class forger. When the same family that left him for dead vows to ruin Miss Marshall, he offers his help. So what if he has to lie to her? She's only a pawn to use in his revenge.

...and a scandal seven years in the making.

But the irrepressible Miss Marshall soon enchants Edward. By the time he realizes that his cynical heart is hers, it's too late. The only way to thwart her enemies is to reveal his scandalous past...and once the woman he loves realizes how much he's lied to her, he'll lose her forever.

My rating:

Edward Clark comes back to England as a favor to a friend, to save that friend’s younger brother. That he is supposed to save that younger brother from his own, the one who betrayed him and left him for dead seven years ago, is an added bonus. Revenge, after all, is a dish best served cold.

Little does Edward know that he’ll end up saving someone else from his little brother’s (rather demented, if you ask me) wrath, losing his heart, and gaining an unwanted title in the process.

This was by far the best book in the series (for the better part of the book), then unfortunately lost its momentum and never truly regained it toward the end.

Both the leads were amazing in this one. I loved Edward in all his scoundrel-ly, you-can’t-trust-me, I’m-a-liar-and-a-cheat glory with his heart of gold, principles, and deep-rooted honor, and Free with her free-spirited, stubborn, independent nature, though she still knew her limitations. She had principles, integrity, was whip-smart and didn’t let herself be browbeaten. Which is why her decision to run after learning the truth about Edward came as a huge surprise. She was an elitist (only backwards), she spent years deriding lords, inventing jokes (with her friend) about them, she’s been looking down on them for so long, that she figured being lords defined them. Even though she knew better, she still run, she still thought the worst of Edward, not because she knew who he was (she loved him, for crying out loud), but because of what his title supposedly made him. This is one flaw in Free that cannot be overlooked, and that made her act very OOC.

Other than that, I have absolutely no complaints. The supporting cast was wonderful, as always, it was nice seeing Oliver and Robert in more than cameo roles, and the last scene was hilarious.
The pacing was flawless, the writing spot-on, the baddie got his due, everybody lived happily ever after...Loved it.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Review: The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan

Title: The Countess Conspiracy
Series: Brothers Sinister
Author: Courtney Milan
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: December 17, 2013
Publisher: Courtney Milan

Sebastian Malheur is the most dangerous sort of rake: an educated one. When he’s not scandalizing ladies in the bedchamber, he’s outraging proper society with his scientific theories. He’s desired, reviled, acclaimed, and despised—and he laughs through it all.

Violet Waterfield, the widowed Countess of Cambury, on the other hand, is entirely respectable, and she’d like to stay that way. But Violet has a secret that is beyond ruinous, one that ties her irrevocably to England’s most infamous scoundrel: Sebastian’s theories aren’t his. They’re hers.

So when Sebastian threatens to dissolve their years-long conspiracy, she’ll do anything to save their partnership...even if it means opening her vulnerable heart to the rake who could destroy it for good.

My rating:

Sebastian Malheur has been in love with Violet Waterfield for half his life (if not more), but she only wants him for his penis. And not in the way he wants her to want him for his penis.
For the past five years he's been presenting her scientific discoveries as his own, since she's a woman and no one would take her seriously. But now his "celebrity status" has started to chafe. He feels like a fraud, he's at the end of his tether as far as his strange relationship with Violet, and he's had it. He's quitting.

I hated the heroine. Hated her! We've spent half the book in her head, seeing how she thinks herself cold and stone-like, how she has no feelings, that there's just emptiness inside...WITH NOT EXPLANATION AS TO THE REASON WHATSOEVER! And then you expect me to feel sorry for her, empathize, understand her once she finally spilled the beans? Sure, she's had a shitty hand dealt to her, she's suffered through years of spousal emotional abuse, but she also spent HALF THE BOOK emotionally abusing the hero. Tit for tat? I don't think so.

Violet ruined the book for me.

I loved everything else. Sebastian, the hero, was an absolute teddy bear, a martyr in his own right, trying to make everybody around him feel better (no wonder Violet latched onto him, the emotional vampiress that she was), even at the sake of his own happiness, and I really wanted him to be happy. Pity, he chose the wrong woman for that.
The writing, once again, was excellent, though it (and the pacing) suffered due to the insufferable heroine. I liked the absence of politics in this one, though I must say the trial in the end was utterly and completely chauvinistic, and the supporting cast was once again great (I loved Violet's mother).

But, as I wrote earlier. The heroine ruined the book for me. I couldn't stand her for the first half of the book, and though that dislike lessened a little in the second half (thanks to her hero), I really couldn't get into her story.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Review: The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan

Title: The Heiress Effect
Series: Brothers Sinister
Author: Courtney Milan
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: July 15, 2013
Publisher: Courtney Milan

Miss Jane Fairfield can’t do anything right. When she’s in company, she always says the wrong thing—and rather too much of it. No matter how costly they are, her gowns fall on the unfortunate side of fashion. Even her immense dowry can’t save her from being an object of derision.

And that’s precisely what she wants. She’ll do anything, even risk humiliation, if it means she can stay unmarried and keep her sister safe.

Mr. Oliver Marshall has to do everything right. He’s the bastard son of a duke, raised in humble circumstances—and he intends to give voice and power to the common people. If he makes one false step, he’ll never get the chance to accomplish anything. He doesn’t need to come to the rescue of the wrong woman. He certainly doesn’t need to fall in love with her. But there’s something about the lovely, courageous Jane that he can’t resist...even though it could mean the ruin of them both.

My rating:

A loud, slightly rude heiress with a penchant for lace and bold colors, and a quiet, reserved illegitimate son of a duke with his eye on the Parliament...These two opposites meet, and attract, but life isn't a fairytale, love even less so. She vows not to marry, he knows she's the last woman he would offer marriage to. They're unsuitable to each other, so why can't they stay away?

Another lovely addition to this series with a great cast and story, with the political views and struggles of the day wonderfully woven in, great pacing, and a lovely side romance.

I must say, I preferred the side romance to the main one, mostly because I couldn't stand the hero. I absolutely adored Jane in all her lacy, colorful, loud glory, while Oliver was a complete ass. Sure, he was kind, and chivalrous, and good looking, but an ass. Where was the dowager Duchess of Clermont and her umbrella to smack him over the head? Repeatedly. Sheesh. He came to his senses in the end, realized what an ass he was, but it was a little too late for me. Jane was definitely a better person, I would not have taken him back. He didn't deserve her.

Still, a lovely story. With an ass of a hero, but a lovely story nevertheless. I loved the supporting cast (even Aunt Freddy, bless her soul), the political "unrest" brewing on the sidelines, and am looking forward to Sebastian's story. I wonder how he'll get back onto his feet.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Review: A Kiss For Midwinter by Courtney Milan

Title: A Kiss for Midwinter
Series: Brothers Sinister
Author: Courtney Milan
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: December 16, 2012
Publisher: Courtney Milan

Miss Lydia Charingford is always cheerful, and never more so than at Christmas time. But no matter how hard she smiles, she can't forget the youthful mistake that could have ruined her reputation. Even though the worst of her indiscretion was kept secret, one other person knows the truth of those dark days: the sarcastic Doctor Jonas Grantham. She wants nothing to do with him...or the butterflies that take flight in her stomach every time he looks her way.

Jonas Grantham has a secret, too: He's been in love with Lydia for more than a year. This winter, he's determined to conquer her dislike and win her for his own. It all starts with a wager and a kiss...

My rating:

Doctor Jonas Grantham's presence is a constant reminder of Lydia's humiliation five years prior. She knows he's judging her, mocking her, condemning her with each sardonic smile, each gaze, each spoken word...But in this Christmas season, Lydia will learn not everything is as it's presumed, and some hurts need to be dealt with instead of buried.

I only said I would stop talking to you, he'd written. I never promised to stop loving you.

This. This is what I've come to expect from this author after reading The Governess Affair. Not a plot encumbered with character issues and depression, or so filled with historical politics that the story could barely be categorized as romance. This.

A character study, really, but dealing with sympathetic, realistic characters the reader can empathize with (though the heroine got on my nerves a little), and circumstances and situations that, despite their historical settings, can resonate in our modern times as well.
And romance, a true romance with its share of cuteness, sadness, happiness, and bitter-sweetness. A romance that paints a smile on your face, brings out moisture in your eyes, and makes you sigh happily in the end.

The narrative style and voice never disappoints, the length was just perfect (less likely to bog the story down with ballast and clutter if it's short), and the characters simply shone through.

Loved it.

Review: The Duchess War by Courtney Milan

Title: The Duchess War
Series: Brothers Sinister
Author: Courtney Milan
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: December 6, 2012
Publisher: Courtney Milan

Sometimes love is an accident.

This time, it’s a strategy.

Miss Minerva Lane is a quiet, bespectacled wallflower, and she wants to keep it that way. After all, the last time she was the center of attention, it ended badly—so badly that she changed her name to escape her scandalous past. Wallflowers may not be the prettiest of blooms, but at least they don't get trampled. So when a handsome duke comes to town, the last thing she wants is his attention.

But that is precisely what she gets.

Because Robert Blaisdell, the Duke of Clermont, is not fooled. When Minnie figures out what he's up to, he realizes there is more to her than her spectacles and her quiet ways. And he's determined to lay her every secret bare before she can discover his. But this time, one shy miss may prove to be more than his match...

My rating:

***eBook available for free on Smashwords***


Don’t get me wrong, it was well written, I love Ms Milan’s style and voice. The problem was everything else, really.

It was too long. Definitely too long with obstacle upon obstacle thrown into the MCs path—less is more, and this book had one conflict too many for my taste. And since it was too long, and too damn convoluted, the pacing suffered. It dragged and it got boring, helped by the two main leads.
The woe-is-me, nobody loves me, I’m nothing, I don’t deserve happiness, I’m all alone and depressed got old pretty soon (in the first third of the story, to be precise), and I just couldn’t sympathize with either of them. I know you’re suffering, my heart is bleeding for you (not), now own it, grow a pair, and move on, don’t drag it on and on, using your “issues” to create more and more conflict. Sheesh!
I simply wished someone would come along and slap them silly...Or for a sudden plot twist that introduced the true MCs of the story.
Alas, it didn’t happen and I had to endure. I could’ve DNFd it, I know, but I held out hope, until there was no more hope. And then the book was over.

I loved the supporting cast. The scene on the train with Violet and Sebastian was hilarious, I was a little on the fence about Lydia, but I warmed up to her, and Oliver who was so much like his father (not sire, but father, the man who raised him). And that recounting of the fainting spell in the courtroom with the dowager duchess and her umbrella. She might’ve been cold toward her son, but I loved her in that bit (and the epilogue).

This was all wrong for a freebie, in my opinion. A freebie should be one that entices the reader to read the next books in the series (something along the lines of the “starter” of this series), not something that kicks you in the teeth while you’re already writhing in pain on the ground.

Sorry, but this one was a huge disappointment.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Review: The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan

Title: The Governess Affair
Series: Brothers Sinister
Author: Courtney Milan
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: April 21, 2012
Publisher: Courtney Milan

She will not give up...

Three months ago, governess Serena Barton was let go from her position. Unable to find new work, she’s demanding compensation from the man who got her sacked: a petty, selfish, swinish duke. But it’s not the duke she fears. It’s his merciless man of business—the man known as the Wolf of Clermont. The formidable former pugilist has a black reputation for handling all the duke’s dirty business, and when the duke turns her case over to him, she doesn’t stand a chance. But she can’t stop trying—not with her entire future at stake.

He cannot give in...

Hugo Marshall is a man of ruthless ambition—a characteristic that has served him well, elevating the coal miner’s son to the right hand man of a duke. When his employer orders him to get rid of the pestering governess by fair means or foul, it’s just another day at the office. Unfortunately, fair means don’t work on Serena, and as he comes to know her, he discovers that he can’t bear to use foul ones. But everything he has worked for depends upon seeing her gone. He’ll have to choose between the life that he needs, and the woman he is coming to love...

My rating:

***eBook available for free on Amazon***

The Duke of Clermont sics his man of business on a governess to whom he apparently promised employ and is now sitting (every day, all day) on the park bench on front of the Duke's London home, demanding compensation for "breach of contract". But not all is as it seems, and Hugo Marshall quickly realizes the Duke was less than truthful, and he has no intention of turning to "darker" methods of turning the woman away...

This is the first book by this author I've read (courtesy of InstaFreebie), and I can honestly say I'm glad I did, since it offered a surprisingly fresh approach to historical romance.
The story was different, not improbable or implausible, because we all know things like that happened back in the day when women lived and died at the whims of men, but becuase I've never read the subject matter in historicals before. It was different, it was fresh, and it was damn nice to read.

The two leads were wonderful, though the heroine's motivations were a bit murky at times, providing a bit of doubt as to her final leap into love. They were fleshed-out, multi-layered, and felt rather real for a fictitious couple from two centuries ago. In comparison, the "villain" ended up more like a caricature than a person, but I guess the length of the story didn't allow more insight. He got his in the end, though, and that's what counts.

I liked the narrative style and voice, the pacing was good, and the epilogue set in Eton intriguing. I'm looking forward to the next book.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Review: Shifter, P.I. by Bonnie Dee

Title: Shifter P.I.
Author: Bonnie Dee

Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: August 29, 2011
Publisher: Smashwords
ASIN: B005K1J2Z8

New Orleans detective, Rick Plazier is hired by a client to look into her possibly cheating husband. In an effort to prove her investigative skills, Rick’s receptionist, Amy Chang agrees to follow the same woman on behalf of her untrusting husband. Working from opposite sides, Amy and Rick uncover much more than a case of faithless spouses. A deadly paranormal society plans to hold an auction of human beings and one or the other of their clients may be a target.

Amy’s disappearance prompts Rick to finally comes to terms with his shapeshifting curse and use his wolf aspect to track and rescue her. But will the pair acknowledge their constant arguing is due to mutual attraction and will they move from bickering into bed?

My rating:

***copy provided by publisher through NetGalley (in Bad Boys After Dark set)***

The P.I. by day and werewolf by three nights every month, Rick Plazier, has a new client. Sexy, sultry blonde Angela hired him to figure out whether her husband is cheating on her. While following the husband, Rick discovers the man's possible ties to a strange cult, one also ties to a dead female body Rick has recently found, bled dry.
But that's only one of his problems. The other is his assistant/receptionist, Amy Chang, the woman Rick secretly adores, but is afraid to make a move due to his wolf-y nature. She's taken on an assignment of her own, trailing Angela on behest of his husband...And disappeared.

At the beginning, it looked like this would be the second (and last) good story in this set. It was funny, and funky, had two great leads who kept it interesting by bickering and secretly mooning after one another, a great possibility of suspense...But the mystery ended up being a little too off for me with the whole auctioning humans to the paranormal society, and the first person POV (jumping from Rick to Amy and back) quickly became annoying.

It had possibility. By cutting back the paranormal elements, using the suspense in a more human "setting"...It definitely had possibility. Keep the tension between the leads without the HEA and there's a possibility for a series. But possibility isn't enough.