Posts tagged “4 stars

Review: THE PRINCE WHO LOVED ME by Karen Hawkins

Disclaimer: Rika’s Musings received an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

What happens when Cinderella meets Karen Hawkins in The Prince Who Loved Me? Well, let’s just say that it involves plenty of classic Hawkins humour, a curse-wielding grandmother, and a prince who redefines the word HOT!

The Blurb:

A handsome, rakish prince who doesn’t believe in true love meets a stubborn lass who will settle for nothing less…In a lighthearted retelling of a classic fairy tale, bestselling author Karen Hawkins gives Cinderella a Scottish twist!

Prince Aleksey Romanovin enjoys his carefree life, flirting—and more—with every lovely lady who crosses his path. But when the interfering Grand Duchess Natasha decides it’s time for her grandson to wed, Aleksey finds himself in Scotland, determined to foil her plans. Brainy, bookish, and bespectacled, Bronwyn Murdoch seems the perfect answer—she isn’t at all to the duchess’ taste.

Living at the beck and call of her ambitious stepmother and social butterfly stepsisters, Bronwyn has little time for a handsome flirt—no matter how intoxicating his kisses are. After all, no spoiled, arrogant prince would be seriously interested in a firm-minded female like herself. So . . . wouldn’t it be fun to turn his “game” upside down and prove that an ordinary woman can bring a prince to his knees?

The Review:

The Prince Who Loved Me was funny, witty, and romantic. I enjoyed reading fairy tales as a child, but Ms. Hawkins’ twist on the classic tale of Cinderella is a fun read for adults. It may not have wicked stepsisters, but a matchmaking (and adorably meddlesome) grandmother leaves plenty of room for some hilarious drama!

Alexsey was a prince after my own heart. He might be a bit of a rake, but he’s a rake who enjoys reading! He seduces Bronwyn’s mind, and that pretty much makes him the sexiest thing since the invention of the printing press. 😉

The stranger’s smile widened into a grin, his teeth flashing white. His bold jaw, forged of raw masculinity and shadows by the lack of shave, indicated a determined character, confirmed by the nose of a caesar. High cheekbones slanted beneath eyes that held the hint of an exotic flare, and his skin was the golden hue of someone who’d spent many hours outdoors.

And now this paragon was walking towards her…

Alexsey was an intriguing characters since the moment of his first introduction, but when he promises to build Bronwyn a library – yes, a library – he pretty much wins over my heart.

“I will give you everything your heart desires. New gowns, a library full of books…”

And Bronwyn was completely deserving of Alexsey’s love. Despite being socially-awkward and a little shy, Bronwyn is surprisingly adventurous and courageous once she’s given her heart. Although both her stepmother and Alexsey’s grandmother erected barriers that may have discouraged any other girl from seeing her lover, Bronwyn’s determination meant she was able to overcome the obstacles. She certainly didn’t let any locked doors keep her trapped for long.

Ms. Hawkins’ also did a wonderful job of juxtaposing Alexsey and Bronwyn’s passionate love story, with the more chaste narrative of “The Black Duke” dispersed throughout the novel, at the beginning of every chapter. The heroine of the story-within-a-story, Lucinda, is more of a wilting violet and her self-afflicted helplessness is a great foil for Bronwyn’s character.

Behind Lucinda, the curtains stirred as a hand holding a knife appeared. With a harsh cry, Sir Mordred leapt from behind the curtains and plunged the knife toward Lucinda. Time froze. The youthful innocent stared in horror as the knife seemed to slowly arc toward her pure, untouched heart! And in that second, balanced so precariously between life and death, she thought of the one man who held that very heart, though he might not know it – brave Roland.

The flowery language that Ms. Hawkins purposefully uses to describe events in Lucinda’s story is a shared source of humour for the readers and the characters in The Prince Who Loved Me, making Bronwyn and Alexsey all the more complex and “real” to the reader.

The secondary cast of characters was equally as interesting as the main characters and there were certainly enough twists and turns in this novel to keep the reader wondering what was going to happen next and who would do what. Two characters in particular – and I won’t say who for fear of spoilage – kept me guessing what their motives were.

Overall, I can say that no one has every written a reinvention of Cinderella quite like The Prince Who Loved Me. Full of a colourful cast of characters and hilarious conflict, it certainly has my vote as a fall must-read with a rating of four out of five.


Which fairy tale retelling do you think Ms. Hawkins should write about next? 

Prince Who Loved Me graphic

Preorder through Barnes and Noble, Amazon,or Chapters.

Rika Ashton

(aka Self-Proclaimed Librarian of Oxenburg)

© All excerpts used in this post are property of Karen Hawkins, and may have been shortened to avoid spoilers.


Review – Rock Addiction by Nalini Singh

The book review for Rock Addiction by Nalini Singh is posted over at the Romance Reader at Heart blog! Reblogged here for your reading pleasure…enjoy!

Rika Ashton

(aka Folly’s Paparazzi)

RR@H Novel Thoughts & Book Talk

Love like a Rock Star! A Review for ROCK ADDICTION by Nalini Singh

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

When Nalini Singh first announced that she had an entire new – contemporary – series underway, I was a little apprehensive but also very excited for this unexpected bonus series, starting with Fox and Molly’s story in Rock Addiction.


The Blurb:

A bad boy wrapped in a sexy, muscled, grown-up package might be worth a little risk… 

Molly Webster has always followed the rules. After an ugly scandal tore apart her childhood and made her the focus of the media’s harsh spotlight, she vowed to live an ordinary life. No fame. No impropriety. No pain. Then she meets Zachary Fox, a tattooed bad boy rocker with a voice like whiskey and sin, and a touch that could become…

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Find Out How the Scoundrel Seduces in Sabrina Jeffries Latest!

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher in return for an honest and spoiler-free review.

I was lucky enough to get a copy of Sabrina JeffriesHow the Scoundrel Seduces a few months ago and I didn’t waste any time diving in! Ms. Jeffries has proven herself to be a talented writer of intricately plotted mysteries that can link several novels together. As she did in the School for Heiresses series, where she kept the reader guessing until the very end about who Cousin Michael could be, Ms. Jeffries keeps us turning the page as we try to figure out the motives of this series’ villain and how he will ultimately fall…

The Blurb:

The third deliciously sexy novel in the New York Times bestselling Duke’s Men historical romance series, featuring an investigator who sets out to find gypsies— and unexpectedly finds love.

Investigator Tristan Bonnaud has one aim in life— to make sure that his half-brother George can’t ever ruin his life again. So when the pesky Lady Zoe Keane, the daughter of the Earl of Olivier, shows up demanding that the Duke’s Men find a mysterious gypsy woman, he seizes the opportunity to also hunt for a gypsy friend who knows secrets about George. Tristan doesn’t expect to uncover Lady Zoe’s family secrets, as well… or end up falling for the woman who will risk all to discover the truth

The Review:

Few authors can make a historical setting come to life as well as Sabrina Jeffries and, in How the Scoundrel Seduces, she seems to have mastered the technique. Characters, setting, and language are so well controlled and utilized on Ms. Jeffries latest novel that you really feel the historical context come to life.

And speaking of characters, Zoe is one of the smartest heroines I have read from Ms. Jeffries. The soon to be Countess was a scene-stealer on When the Rogue Returns, but had real moments to shine in this novel. We get to see more facets of her characters as she searches for her parents. Resourcefulness, spunk and humour were some of Zoe’s trademarks – making her the real selling point of the novel.

However, compared to Zoe, Tristan didn’t stand out as much for me in this novel. He was fun and generous, but not the standout character that Zoe was. On the other hand, Tristan had amazing chemistry in his scenes with Zoe. In a romantic sense, Zoe brings out the best in Tristan – now whether Ms. Jeffries intentionally or accidentally wrote Tristan that way is anyone’s guess?

But a character that surprised me was Jeremy Keane, Zoe’s cousin. I didn’t expect to like Jeremy so much, especially considering the fact that he was rarely in the novel, but I adored all his scenes.

With its well-written setting, fun characters, and suspenseful pacing, I recommend How the Scoundrel Seduces to all fans and new readers!


Rika Ashton

(aka Zoe’s Fan Club President)

Release Day Review: THE VIRGIN OF CLAN SINCLAIR by Karen Ranney

Disclaimer: An advanced reviewer’s copy of this novel was given to Rika’s Musings by the publisher in return for an honest review.

The Virgin of Clan Sinclair is the second Karen Ranney book I have read recently, the first was The Witch of Clan Sinclair (book two in this series, while this is book three.) Both books were BIG hits with me and I am fast becoming a Karen Ranney addict.

The Virgin of Clan Sinclair was a nice conclusion to a heartwarming series:

Ellice Traylor has a secret. Beneath her innocent exterior beats an incredibly passionate and imaginative heart. She has been pouring all of her frustrated virginal fantasies into a scandalous manuscript. But when her plans for her future are about to be derailed by her mother’s matrimonial designs, she takes matters into her own hands.

Ross Forster, the Earl of Gladsden, has spent his life creating order out of chaos. He expects discipline and calm from those around him. What he does not expect is a beautiful, thoroughly maddening stowaway in his carriage.

But when Ross discovers Ellice’s secret book, he finds he can’t stop thinking about what other fantasies the disarming virgin can dream up. He has the chance to learn when a compromising position forces them to wed. But can the uptight Earl survive a life with his surprising new wife? And how will the hero of Ellice’s fantasies compare to the husband of her reality?

The Review:

As I was reading this novel, I kept thinking that Ms. Ranney must have written this one about me. Ellice is such a relatable character – with an occasionally overbearing mother (ehem…), wild imagination, sometimes horny (ehem again), and a bit of an introvert unless she’s with friends. This was a pretty close description of me, lol! And her relatability was one of the reasons this book was such a winner with me. Plus all her overly dramatic internal monologue had me laughing out loud!

“Was she taken ill?” he’d say.

“Suddenly,” the doctor said. “She called for you but you weren’t there.” The man turned and looked at Ross, eyes narrowed, mouth firmed. “Where were you, sir, that you denied your wife comfort in her hour of need?”

“With another woman, of course. Her breasts are larger and her hips wider. She didn’t refuse me.”

Did I mention that Ellice is a writer? Her imagination is very creative and comes up with the most unlikely of scenarios.  As for the book that Ellice writes, The Lustful Adventures of Lady Pamela, well that’s where the fun starts.

The hero, Ross, thinks he resembles the Donald – Ellice’s fictional creation from The Lustful Adventures of Lady Pamela – too much and that others will pick up on it which can prove embarrassing for his election campaign…maybe even detrimental. Of course, he’s secretly intrigued by the novel and gets hot every time he reads it, but pretends to be a stickler in front of Ellice.

Ross was an interesting character in his own way. He wasn’t a tortured hero per say, but was getting there – he had the betrayal of his first wife, Cassandra, and his father to overcome. Luckily, however, he didn’t spend too much time moping around and I liked that he didn’t refuse to acknowledge that he loved her when asked by his mother. I was expecting a denial, but he was honest with himself and Ellice.

Honesty was a common characteristic that I enjoyed between both Logan – the hero from The Witch of Clan Sinclair – Ross, and it’s a refreshing change from the usual self-denial cliche, and I hope that the rest of Karen Ranney novels have similarly – though not 100% the same – honest heroes because, yes, I will DEFINITELY be reading more of Ms. Ranney’s books.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Virgin of Clan Sinclair and highly recommend this book to all my fellow historical romance lovers! Four out of five for this one!


-Rika Ashton

(aka Book Reviewer)

Book Review: KISS OF WRATH by Sandra Hill

Disclaimer: An advanced review copy of this novel was provided by the publisher in exchange for an HONEST review. 

I read my first ever Sandra Hill novel over the weekend, and I was immediately stricken with a sense of: “Where has she been all my life?!”

No, seriously…why has NO ONE ever recommended a Sandra Hill novel to me?

But I’m so, so, so glad that I didn’t turn down the ARC for Kiss of Wrath when it was offered to me. I was about to because it was book four in a series and I, at the very least, try to read a series in order. Plus, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to understand all the nuances of the world she’s created, especially since this is book four.

But I really over-thought my decision, in hindsight I feel like I wasted precious time – time I could have been using to start devouring the world of Kiss of Wrath:

No wicked wenches or wild rampages . . . it’s been centuries since Mordr the Berserker was turned into a vangel—a Viking vampire angel—as punishment for his sin of wrath, and he’s been frustrated ever since.

It’s not so bad being stuck in modern-day Las Vegas. What better place to slay Lucipires, or demon vampires, than the original Sin City? But then Mordr Sigurdsson’s mission is expanded to a new assignment: protect lust-worthy Miranda Hart.

Miranda’s well-ordered life turned into chaos when she unexpectedly inherited her late cousin’s five children. Now, her cousin’s dangerous husband is about to be paroled, and she needs a miracle to keep them all safe.

That miracle arrives on her doorstep in the form of a very buff, handsome man with a very strange name. Mordr wants nothing to do with a red-haired wench or children. Miranda wants nothing to do with a gorgeous hunk who claims to be a Viking.

As Miranda and Mordr give in to temptation, they must decide if they fit in each other’s worlds—before their enemies close in on them.

The Review:

My thoughts for this novel can pretty much be summed up in two words: “LOVED IT!” But since I know everyone is eager for a little more detail than that, I’ll also say that it was funny, emotional, and heartbreaking. The heartbreak started the second I read Ms. Hill’s dedication for the novel:

This book is dedicated to all those single parents who march on each day with the grueling task of raising children on their own. They understand best the struggle, and joy, ahead for my heroine who becomes an instant mother to not one, or two, but five children.

And this book is dedicated as well to those parents who have ever lost a child. They understand best how my hero’s grief can go on forever.

And to those who enjoy a good love story sprinkled with both smiles and tears. The best kind of all!

I was like, “Oh, s***! This is gonna be a tearjerker!” And I pretty much had tissues on hand. But the novel wasn’t as tragic as I expected. Don’t get me wrong, the hero’s got plenty of trauma in his past, but this novel was also about healing and I totally enjoyed the funny interactions between Mordr and the children, Mordr and his brothers, and Morder and Miranda.

Mordr has a lot to overcome and had difficulty interacting with the children – all of whom have an inclination towards mayhem – after his own children were killed millennia ago along with his wife. The rage and guilt he felt over the deaths of his family is the main reason he ends up becoming a Vangel (Viking Vampire Angel)…not by choice. St. Michael turned Mordr and his brothers into Vangels as punishment for their sins – each of whom is guilty of one of the seven deadly variety, Mordr’s being wrath. The brother’s have been fighting against the devil and his army of Lucipires, who harvest souls before their time.

Ms. Hill gave the novel a well thought out back story, and I liked the different hybrid aspects of the creatures. And Vangels – that is an insanely awesome name. (Kind of reminds me of Kresley Cole‘s Vemons – demon/vampire hybrids.)

And then of course, there’s the novel’s heroine, Miranda. Miranda’s a career woman who does’t want marriage or children, and at first she’s reluctant to take in her five nieces and nephews, but they have nowhere else to go and she ends up giving them a home. But, after two years of living with the children, she needs some serious backup. It took me a while to warm up to Miranda’s character. There’s nothing wrong with her, she’s nice, caring and clearly a good role model, but Mordr was such an overpowering character that it was hard for me to imagine anyone matching up to him. Miranda was eventually able to prove her mettle to me and it was hard not to like her after a certain point in the novel.

Overall, I enjoyed the uniqueness of this storyline. The characters were vivid and relatable, even to someone who’s never been in their shoes. And now that I’ve finished Kiss of Wrath, I can say that I’m glad I started with book four because now I have something to go back and read instead of waiting – agonizingly – for the next installment, Vampire in Paradise.

I give this book a solid four out of five! Best of all, you won’t have to wait very long to read it, Kiss of Wrath releases tomorrow – May 27th…happy reading!


Rika Ashton

(aka The New Vangel Groupie)

The Witch of Clan Sinclair by Karen Ranney: A Review Post

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This book will not be released until April 29th, 2014 and there may be some spoilers in this post. 

The Blurb: 

Logan Harrison is looking for a wife. As the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, he needs a conventional and diplomatic woman who will stand by his side and help further his political ambitions. He most certainly does not need Mairi Sinclair, the fiery, passionate, fiercely beautiful woman who tries to thwart him at every turn. But if she’s so wrong for him, why can’t he stop kissing her? He is completely bewitched.

Mairi Sinclair has never met anyone like Logan Harrison, the perfect example of everything she finds wrong with the world. He’s also incredibly handsome, immensely popular, and impossible to resist. His kisses inflame her and awaken a passion she can barely control.

Can two people who are at such odds admit to a love that would bind them together for life?

The Review: 

I requested a copy of this book from Avon, after a friend of mine raved about how much she loved Karen Ranney’s novel. I’d never read anything by this author, so when I was given the chance I asked for a copy of The Witch of Clan Sinclair. This is the second book of a series that started with The Devil of Clan Sinclair.

The story is set in 1872, but I don’t think it can be defined as a Victorian romance, because it takes place in Edinburgh. The novel’s heroine, Mairi, is a very strong-willed character and a strong advocate of women’s rights. She meets the hero, Logan, when she is refused entry to a lecture she wants to attend. Why? Because she is a woman. Saying she was happy is an understatement, and she’s only more outraged when Logan also refuses to let her enter.

Logan has never thought much about women’s rights before – and, really, why would he? This story is pre-women’s lib and he’s a man. But he is fascinated by Mairi and her strong opinions on the subject. Plus, he’s in a great position to be an advocate of the movement as both Lord Provost and a politician. He is also a proven supporter of reform, so he is open to the idea of women’s rights – which in a romance hero, is a great quality.

And, our hero is not willing to lose his chance at love despite his earlier desire for a more conventional wife. Logan’s pursuit of Mairi, which leads to plenty of verbal sparring matches, also proves how well suited they are to one another. Although, Mairi is reluctant to trust Logan with her heart – especially after a bad experience with a former suitor – she slowly comes to understand Logan. Logan, for his part, remains steadfast and charming throughout the novel. Ranney embodies character chemistry in the relationship between Mairi and Logan.

Both Logan and Mairi are strong, like-able characters and their story is told with a poignancy that I have read in the works of very few authors before and I give The Witch of Clan Sinclair a rating of 4 out of 5.


Rika Ashton

(aka Book Critic)

A Review of The Masterful Mr. Montague by Stephanie Laurens

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and, as always, be wary of spoilers.

The Blurb:

Montague has devoted his life to managing the wealth of London’s elite, but at a huge cost: a family of his own. Then the enticing Miss Violet Matcham seeks his help, and in the puzzle she presents him, he finds an intriguing new challenge professionally … and personally.

Violet, devoted lady-companion to the aging Lady Halstead, turns to Montague to reassure her ladyship that her affairs are in order. But the famous Montague is not at all what she’d expected – this man is compelling, decisive, supportive, and strong – everything Violet needs in a champion, a position to which Montague rapidly lays claim.

But then Lady Halstead is murdered and Violet and Montague, aided by Barnaby Adair, Inspector Stokes, Penelope, and Griselda, race to expose a cunning and cold-blooded killer.who stalks closer and closer. Will Montague and Violet learn the shocking truth too late to seize their chance at enduring love?

The Review:

I’ve been waiting for another Barnaby Adair novel for what feels like ages now, so when I first read the blurb for The Masterful Mr. Montague, I was a little disappointed. Not because it didn’t seem to hint at an interesting story line, but because the mention of Barnaby and Penelope and the gang seemed like an after thought. After reading the blurb I thought the novel would focus more on the story between Violet and Montague, but once I read the book I was pleasantly surprised to find out I was very, very wrong. 🙂

The novel’s got a nice balance between the Barnaby and Penelope romance and mystery angle, and the budding romance between Violet and Montague. We get to see how Penelope and Barnaby are adjusting to married life, but they are the same mystery pursuing couple as they were in Where the Heart Leads (the first Casebook of Barnaby Adair novel). We also get some Cynster action in this novel, and while I did miss seeing Devil Cynster, I was happy to catch-up with the Cynster ladies.

The mystery elements in this novel were well-developed. There didn’t seem to be an obvious suspect, so it was great working alongside the characters to figure out the identity of Lady Halstead’s killer. Every time I felt like I got close to figuring out the killer, I was thrown for a loop – in a good way!

The romance between Violet and Montague was also pleasant and sweet, but for me personally Barnaby and Penelope stole the show. And then, of course, there was Stokes and Griselda…Griselda stood out a lot more in this novel than the previous one, and we get to know her character more slowly.

I know I’ve made a lot of references to Where the Heart Leads, so I know the obvious question now is: Can this be read as a standalone? Yes, absolutely! The characters are reintroduced in this novel for new readers and, though for me the experience of having read the first novel made me appreciate this one all the more, the story is self-contained.

Overall, I give this novel a solid 4 out of 5 for being an unpredictable read while, at the same time, letting me catch up with much-loved characters!


Rika Ashton

(aka The ARC Devourer)