Book Review: Amanda Quick’s The Mystery Woman

mysterywomanTitle: The Mystery Woman
Author: Amanda Quick
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Yes / Book 2
Rating: 4 out of 5
My Copy: Advance Reader Copy via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers Program

I’m a fan of Amanda Quick (aka Jayne Ann Krentz) and auto-buy her books. I admit I lost interest in her Arcane series once we reached the conclusion of how Jones & Jones agency came together and she started expanding the Arcane series to include outside associates. I wanted to prep for this review by reading the last 3 books I missed, but decided it would be best to read from a new reader’s perspective without any previous knowledge as most new readers.

Amanda Quick’s The Mystery Woman is the second book in her Ladies of Lantern Street series. If you haven’t read the first book, Crystal Gardens, it’s not necessary to do so. Quick does a good job giving you an overview of what exactly the agency Flint & Marsh specializes in and a brief history of how it was established.

On the night her mentor, Roland Fleming, is found murdered, Beatrice Lockwood is forced to change her identity to hide from the killer. She finds employment at Flint & Marsh, a private agency that specializes in discreet inquiries. Undercover as a paid companion, Beatrice meets Joshua Gage, former messenger to the mysterious Mr. Smith, and helps her foil a kidnapping attempt on her employer. Joshua informs Beatrice that he has been looking for her and needs her assistance in finding his sister’s blackmailer. Little do they know, someone with a more sinister plan is also looking for Beatrice. Will they be able to uncover the identity of the blackmailer or will Beatrice become the killer’s next victim?

The writing is very typical Quick especially with the use of paranormal elements she’s been fond of using these past couple of years. It doesn’t distract a reader and it goes hand in hand with the time period of late Victorian England. The paranormal became popular during the era and there was a demand for people who had the ability to conjure spirits or speak with the dead. It makes sense that she would have a character with some type of extrasensory ability. In this case, Beatrice is a clairvoyant and Ronald Fleming recognized her talent. Joshua doesn’t believe in the paranormal and several times Beatrice reminds him how his intuition has been spot on and therefore is an extension of the psychic realm. Quick once again does thorough research and it shines throughout The Mystery Woman. She incorporates aspects of Egyptology in her plot and again it makes sense, since the Victorians were obsessed with Egypt. As the use of electricity emerged in the 19th century, so did the question of raising the dead. Quick takes advantage of this experimentation and incorporates into the plot. I won’t say exactly what it is, but it goes hand in hand with Egyptian mythology and paranormal ability.

In terms of characterization, one thing that stood out immediately is how much Joshua resembles a previous Quick character. Joshua reminded me of a lot of Tobias March (from the Lake/March series) and both share the same characteristics in terms of an injured leg and having a nephew under his wing. What I really like about Quick is that she gives us strong heroines who aren’t afraid to make a life for themselves. These are no shrinking violets and The Mystery Woman reminded me once again why I’m a fan of Amanda Quick. She also makes you think about the possibilities of science. The whole idea of reviving someone who is dead will leave most readers fascinated and yet horrified. I’m still thinking about it a few weeks later.

If you’re a fan of historical romance mixed with a bit of mystery, I recommend Amanda Quick’s The Mystery Woman. Just be advised, there a few plot holes regarding the mystery, but nothing you’ll lose sleep over.

Book Review: Robin Covington’s His Southern Temptation

southernTitle: His Southern Temptation
Author: Robin Covington
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Yes / Book 2
Rating: 4 out of 5
My Copy: Advance Reader Copy via Entangled Publishing

I’m a big fan of lovers reunited and when I came across the opportunity to review Robin Covington’s His Southern Temptation, I couldn’t resist. I haven’t read the first book in the series, A Night of Southern Comfort, and while I don’t think it’s necessary to read it before reading His Southern Temptation, I think it would help because you’ll be familiar with a lot of the characters mentioned. That being said, His Southern Temptation, is a good a standalone book.

Like any person growing up in a small town, David “Lucky” Landon couldn’t wait to leave and his chance came when he enrolled in the US military. As a former assassin in the military, he’s done things he wishes he could forget. He decides he wants to buy his father’s farm, but before he does, he has one more job to do. He’s hired to find the whereabouts of Sarah Morgan and the case is proving more than he bargained for; no one will talk to him regarding Sarah. Meanwhile, Taylor Elliott is only in town to help pack and sell her family’s house. Thinking an intruder is in the house she holds him at gunpoint and realizes it’s none other than Lucky. The feelings she had for him resurfaces and both must come to grips with what it all means. Will they be able to put the past aside or will they once again go their separate ways?

I really enjoyed Covington’s writing and His Southern Temptation is a fast paced read. In terms of characterization, the characters are interesting and well-written. We find out how long Lucky and Taylor have known each other and the reason why they aren’t together. The differences between their backgrounds are also pointed out, with Lucky growing up on a farm and Taylor being part of a prominent wealthy family. Taylor has some relationship issues. Her parents haven’t had an ideal marriage and she’s afraid of heading down the same path. The constant relationship / no relationship discussion got a bit old especially once Taylor had made her mind. I understand her mother’s point when she tells Taylor she needs to live to her life and basically outlined what she gave up, but at the same time Taylor has had YEARS to think this through. That was my only small annoyance. While there are a lot of secondary characters, you’ll enjoy them. I loved Sheriff Burke and his untimely arrival in three memorable scenes involving Lucky and Taylor. The real standout secondary character is Taylor’s brother, Teague. He’s so stuffy and proper and I can’t wait for someone to come and turn his world upside down.

The mystery of Sarah Morgan plays a minor role and while I was disappointed there wasn’t more to it, I realized after reading, this isn’t about Sarah, but about Lucky and Taylor. While I wanted to give it a three, I debated with the rating. In the end, the romance between Lucky and Taylor is the center of the novel and because of that, I gave it a four.

My favorite quotes:

It was time to channel the late, great Patrick Swayze and take “Baby” out of the corner.

“Maybe what you’re looking for isn’t a place but a person.”

I’ll be going back to read A Night of Southern Comfort and am really looking forward to reading Teague Elliott’s story. If you’re a fan of romance, I recommend His Southern Temptation. Just be warned: it’s a sizzling read. You might need a cold shower or two after.

Book Review: CM Spencer’s Good Intentions

good intentions Title: Good Intentions
Author: CM Spencer
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: No
Rating: 3 out of 5
My Copy: Complimentary copy won via LibraryThing’s Member Giveaway

Victoria Larke vows never to marry a naval officer. She has nothing against them, it’s just that her father was one and was always way from home. Her mother wants her married and settled and her father takes the family to Bath in hopes of her finding a husband. There she meets two gentlemen, David and James. Both are smitten with her, but it’s James that pays the most attention to her; however, business calls him away and he bids Victoria goodbye. Upon his return to Bath he’s shocked to learn Victoria has married his good friend and he proceeds to hide his true feelings from her. Victoria wants James to be happy and makes it her mission to find someone worthy of his love. What ensues is a series of misunderstandings and lets James realize early on what type of woman he’d be happy with.

The writing is good and doesn’t sound too modern. In terms of characterization, it’s well done, but Spencer focused primarily on Victoria and James. At no point could I figure out why David won her heart. David was a patient man especially when a lot of the set ups ended up disastrous. One thing that doesn’t sit well and it is an incident involving Victoria and James. I won’t say what it is because it can be viewed as a spoiler. I did enjoy Victoria’s set ups and remind me a bit of Jane Austen’s Emma where she’s involved in all sorts of matchmaking and yet fails terribly. In each failed incident, I felt bad for James because I thought for sure he’d find his love and when it didn’t quite happen, I felt his disappointment. In this day and age we have the luxury of waiting around and dating until we find our significant other, but in the Regency period you were limited to what you could and couldn’t do. If you were lucky to find someone immediately then good for you and Spencer does a good job detailing the perils of trying to find someone in a period where it was pretty much hit or miss. Often times you could marry someone you thought was a good fit and turns out it isn’t. She did a great job showcasing that and I appreciate it.

In the end, Good Intentions falls flat. I understand the reason to focus primarily on Victoria’s attempt to set up James, but I wanted that “aha” moment. The moment the two protagonists fall in love and live happily ever after and we don’t that get that moment. For a good 60% of the novel, it’s about Victoria and James with Jemma in the background. When we finally get Jemma into the picture, she doesn’t play a major role in her own romance. I still can’t figure out when exactly James fell for her.

If you’re a fan of Jane Austen’s books, you might be interested in reading Good Intentions.

Book Review: Toni Aleo’s Taking Shots

takingTitle: Taking Shots
Author: Toni Aleo
Genre: Contemporary Romance / Sports
Series: Yes / Book 1
Rating: 3 out of 5
My Copy: Purchased

Let me start off by saying, I’m a HUGE hockey fan (Dallas Stars!) and as a reader I’m aware of sports themed romance plots; however, I had no idea there were hockey related plots. It just never crossed my mind and when I came across Toni Aleo’s Taking Shots, I knew I had to read it immediately.

Eleanor Fisher has spent the last six years thinking no man would want her after her ex-finance treated her like dirt. She’s insecure about her about weight despite losing the weight she gained due to an illness. Elli is a former Broadway actress, but now she has a thriving career in Nashville as a photographer with a successful business. Her uncle, Bryan Fisher, owns the Nashville Assassins and hires her to take the team photos for the upcoming NHL season. She catches the eye of Captain Shea Adler and he’s quickly smitten, but she can’t believe a hunk like Adler would be interested in her. They both quickly fall in love, but will Elli’s insecurity threaten their happiness or will it be an outsider?

I liked Taking Shots and there are some swoon worthy moments. I LOVED the birthday surprise Adler organizes for Elli. Two words: Netherfield Ball. Yes, Elli is a big fan of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and even introduces Adler to the book and film. I really liked that he was open to the idea of reading Austen and took the time to actually read the book. Adler quickly adopts Elli’s dog and that was super nice to read. A majority of the plot does center around their families. I feel for Elli because she doesn’t have an ideal family, but Adler’s family totally makes up for it.

As for the writing, it is my understanding there were issues with the first edition of Taking Shots in terms of grammar, but I still found errors. I believe a lot of it has to do with the way Aleo writes: writes the way she talks. I can’t say for sure how she talks, but I’m making the assumption because some authors do write the way they talk. It doesn’t necessary distract a reader, but it does pull you out of the story from time to time.

I debated with the rating and in the end decided on a three. It would have been a solid four had Aleo edited some of the mundane portions such as the daily routines. I understand Elli’s insecurity with regards to her weight, but it was just annoying to read page after page about her weight issues. Adler was supportive and come on, if the hockey player I crushed on and was a HUGE fan of was interested me, I’d be throwing my off clothes right away and not be worried about this or that. Sport fans are familiar with the groupies and hockey players aren’t immune to the attention lavished on them by puck bunnies. So when there’s an incident with Adler and a puck bunny, I don’t know why Elli gets angry about it. It’s almost as if Adler never could catch a break. He had to constantly “prove” he loved her and when he tells her he does, she doesn’t say she loves him until 15% is left of the book. Additionally, Elli kept a lot of secrets regarding her ex-finance to that of her family’s background. I’m not sure why Adler was still interested in her especially since she kept so much hidden.

My favorite quotes:

Whoever coined the phrase ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder,’ was an idiot.

“Jeez! I thought you said you were just gonna set up the tree? It looks like Santa shit Christmas in here”

Despite a few hiccups, I’m going to read the entire series and see how Aleo’s writing progresses. I do appreciate the enthusiasm she brought with regards to hockey. As I stated, I am a hockey fan and could easily associate with the feelings regarding the game and I think non-fans will be able to appreciate the game a little more.

Book Review: Melissa R Smith’s Touch of Silver

touchofsilverTitle: Touch of Silver
Author: Melissa R Smith
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Yes / Book 3
Rating: 5 out of 5
My Copy: Review Copy via Author

Melissa R. Smith’s Touch of Silver is the eagerly anticipated sequel to Legacy. It can be read as a standalone if you don’t mind not knowing the back story; however, Smith does an excellent job keeping readers up to date without bogging down the reader in history. A new reader can easily read this book without too many spoilers.

Touch of Silver picks up where Legacy left off; months have passed since Roman and Devani last saw each other. She’s a prisoner at work with her all actions being reported to London and the Militia. Devai is surprised when Echo gets in touch and requests for her to change her work shift. Unaware of the reason, she reluctantly agrees and later that evening, she comes face to face with Roman. He explains he hasn’t stopped loving her and wants them to be together, but Devani resists because she knows London is watching and she wants to protect Roman. When an attempt is made on Devani’s life, she goes to Roman seeking his protection. Touch of Silver shows us the lengths a son will go through to keep his father’s legacy pristine and to hide a horrific secret.

I’ve been lucky enough to read Smith’s previous work. Touch of Silver has surprised me because it shows how much she’s grown as a writer and I do believe readers will enjoy her latest piece. The writing is engaging and witty. I loved the moment Roman meets with Devani and when their reunion is interrupted by Bethany knowing Bethany can make her life hell he says, “Say the word and I’ll drain her.” Touch of Silver is also heartbreaking. When Devani and Roman see the evidence Jake Daniels went to protect, you’re filled with heartache. The way Smith sets up the scene, as you read, you can feel it as the scene progresses. Echo’s disbelief at what she sees to Roman’s reaction will leave you emotionally drained. Then there’s London and what he orders the members of the Militia to do. You can feel his desperation at the lengths he’ll go to get what he wants. I don’t know what his fate is with regards to his appearance in a future book, but I hope the Sects get a hold of him.

Most of the characters from Legacy are featured and Smith goes into a more detailed background with regards to characterization. We get to know a little more about Tracy and I was surprised to find she was related to someone Devani knows. I really liked how Smith set up the prejudices people have against Sanguines. She also shows us the differences between the territories and we’re introduced to Phillip Trahan, the Elder in New Orleans. Oh Phillip! What an interesting character and I’m sure most readers will be left wanting more. The writing is engaging and detailed. One of my favorite scenes involves Echo playing Angry Birds:

“I can never get the silly boomerang bird to work right.” Echo was sitting on the count next to me. A magazine was in her lap, but she was playing Angry Birds on iPad instead. “I want to trade him in for that big red bird, now that sucker can break through anything.”

In the end, I loved Touch of Silver. Be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster. Please note: do not begin this book in the evening; otherwise you’ll experience a sleepless night because you won’t be able to put it down.

Book Review: Jessica Lemmon’s Tempting the Billionaire

temptingTitle: Tempting the Billionaire
Author: Jessica Lemmon
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Yes / Book 1
Rating: 5 out of 5
My Copy: Purchased

The romance genre is oversaturated with billionaire plots and even though I had my doubts, Jessica Lemmon’s Tempting the Billionaire was a pleasant surprise.

Crickitt Day is down on her luck and needs a job. Hoping to chase the blues away she agrees to a night out with her best friend Sadie. While at the bar Crickitt breaks down into tears as she takes stock of her life and what she’s lost. Across from Crickitt is Shane August and his cousin Aiden. Shane reluctantly agrees to go out with Aiden to help him get back into the dating scene. Aiden quickly zeroes in on Crickitt and seeing her tears assumes she’ll be easy to seduce; however, Shane takes one look at Crickitt and his heart stops. He’s interested in her and convinces Aiden that Crickitt’s friend is where his interest lies. When Shane begins to talk to Crickitt, she confesses she needs a job and acting on impulse he hands her his business card. She’s hesitant about the job interview and in fact turns down his offer, but reconsiders when he interviews her a second time. Both are clearly attracted to each other and Shane tries to set up guidelines of how to go about their relationship, but Crickitt doesn’t want what he’s offering. Realizing he can’t give her what she wants, they both agree to maintain a professional relationship. When Crickitt’s ex-husband calls her, Shane believes she’s gone back to him and what ensues is a beautiful story about a man and a woman realizing what true love is.

What I really liked about Tempting the Billionaire is the fact Shane is normal. He wears cargo pants and isn’t flashing his cash telling the whole world “oh look at me! I’m filthy rich!” When he does, it’s to help people who need it. He’s also not going around showing up where Crickitt is or demanding to know her whereabouts. Nor is he showering her with endless gifts. He’s not interested in buying her love, but rather he’s more interested in getting to know her. Shane does have some issues that are rooted in his past as a child. It’s easy to understand his reluctance at falling in love because he witnessed firsthand what it did to his father and he wants to spare his children the heartache he experienced. The scene in which he realizes he can’t live without Crickitt was the best. It’s also refreshing to read a book where the two protagonists are aware of their sexual attraction and have an adult conversation about what to do about it.

Some people think Crickitt is a doormat but I disagree. You have to take into account her past. Most people enter relationships with some baggage and what she has is normal for a woman who is divorced. Remember she’s only known one man and spent the past eleven years catering to him. Besides she’s perfectly able to stand up for herself and knows what she wants. When Shane takes off to distance himself from her, she had one of two of options. The first was to continue to work for him as his personal assistant or quit and leave him hanging. Instead she took the initiative and became the face of August Industries when Shane didn’t care.

Lemmon’s characters are believable and flawed. Her writing is engaging and witty. If I had been reading this book out in public, everyone would have seen the HUGE grin on my face. I had so much fun reading this and adore it immensely.

Some of my favorite quotes:

Women may throw themselves at you like live grenades, but the rest of us commoners have to come out of the trenches and hunt.

She looked at it a beat before taking it. “Crickitt.”
“Like the bug?” He flinched. Smooth.

Her mother pulled her to one side. “You stay as long as he needs you, you hear?”
Pimped out by my own parents. “Yes, Mother.”

I’m not ashamed to say I read this book in a day. I kept insisting I would only read one more chapter and just kept going. If you’re looking for a book with lots of sexual tension that will make your heart beat, this is the book for you. Heck if you’re just looking for a good fleshed out romance this is your book. There’s a side romance between Sadie and Aiden and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in book 2, Hard to Handle.

Book Review: Ashlyn Macnamara’s A Most Scandalous Proposal

prop Title: A Most Scandalous Proposal
Author: Ashlyn Macnamara
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Yes / Book 1
Rating: 3 out of 5
My Copy: Advance Reader Copy via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers Program

Julia St. Claire doesn’t believe in falling in love because nothing good can come of it. She’s witnessed firsthand the heartache and destruction that accompanies unrequited love. Her sister, Sophia, on the other hand, has spent the past five years pining for Earl of Clivesden, but he only has eyes for one of the St. Claire sisters. When Benedict Revelstoke, a long time friend of the St. Claire family, learns of Clivesden’s true intentions towards Julia, Benedict makes every effort to keep her away from Clivesden and in the process discovers that he loves her. Julia rejects Benedict until she’s betrayed by her father and suddenly she makes him an offer he can’t refuse.

The story is interesting, but lacks in depth characterization. Julia is a bit one sided and I was trying to understand her, but couldn’t. Sophia is a bit more interesting and the one I cared about the most. As for the men, Highgate’s personal history was interesting and you could feel the pain of his past. George Upperton, Benedict’s best friend, was personally one of my favorite characters and every time he made an appearance on the page, I smiled. In terms of Benedict, it would have been nice to read his gradual interest in Julia turn into love. Instead it happens overnight and there’s no hint of him having had these feelings prior nor are we given the exact moment he realizes he loves her. That “aha” moment is crucial to any romance plot because readers are on the same journey as our protagonists and if we don’t have it, then I feel we miss out on something that’s expected.

The writing is good and there are some funny moments. I particularly liked the scene between Highgate and Sophia discussing Pride and Prejudice. I loved how both of them were able to describe people they knew as characters. At one point, Sophia tells Highgate his sister, Lady Wexford, resembles Lady Catherine de Bourgh because she looks down on Sophia and her family. My favorite quote describing Highgate’s personal thoughts regarding his sister is: “He’d always thought their father would have made a sound investment in buying her a commission-preferably in India.”

Ultimately what makes this a three and not a solid four, are the different narratives that made my head spin and in the end, we didn’t get the one that really counted, that of Clivesden. What drives him to seek Julia instead of Sophia? While Julia assumes it’s because she’s perceived as a cold fish, I wanted to know more about him. We aren’t given much in terms of his personal history other than how he came into the title and he’s known to sleep around. In hindsight, I can see why he picks Julia because she is not attracted to him. Although Sophia’s heart is engaged, in the end, he would have made her life miserable, I doubt she would have grown to realize this had he showed any interest in her. Knowing Clivesden’s history, I doubt he would have cared for Sophia’s feelings and he’s not the chivalrous sort. Ultimately, Macnamara does a good job handling the shift in narratives, but wish she would have them drawn them out more. In the end, we have two romances taking place and despite the fact Sophia’s is secondary, her romance was the strongest. I wish Macnamara had focused on Sophia and Highgate’s romance primarily because it outshined that of Julia and Benedict.

Ashlyn Macnamara’s A Most Scandalous Proposal is a good debut and despite a few hiccups, I’m looking forward to reading more of her work. If you’re looking to try a new author, I recommend Macnamara.