Posts tagged “review

Review: THE WIDOW’S AUCTION by Sabrina Jeffries

Disclaimer: I received a digital arc of this novella in exchange for an honest review. 

28803825Sabrina Jeffries’ The Widow’s Auction was re-released today, but you may have previously read the story in the Fantasy anthology.

Though Isobel Lamberton, the widowed Lady Kingsley, is confounded by her dealings with the obstinate Justin Antony, Lord Warbrooke, his commanding presence sparks something deep within her. But such romantic thoughts are for naught. For Justin’s political aspirations always come first. And Isobel’s own secret past could damage both of them permanently.

So when Isobel’s friend talks her into participating in a scandalous auction of masked widows at a gentleman’s club, she reluctantly agrees…and soon begins to relish being an object of desire. But none desire her more than Justin, who recognizes the outspoken Isobel in disguise and sets out to teach her a lesson worth far more than money…

I remember reading this novella in the anthology but, even now, years later it has not lost it’s charm. Short and sweet, the novella features two complex, compatible characters – Isobel and Justin – whose interactions are riddled with humour and romance. Though the novella is told in first person, there is a greater focus on Isobel’s character and we see Justin mainly through her eyes. I would have liked to know more about his thoughts, but for the short length of the story, his character was developed quite well. As is the case with most well-written novella’s, the story does leave you wanting more. However, if you’re looking for s quick escape this summer, then The Widow’s Auction is a neat little trip back to the Regency era.

RATING - 3

 

Advertisements

Review: WHAT HAPPENS UNDER THE MISTLETOE

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this anthology in exchange for an honest review.

What Happens Under the Mistletoe is a delightful, Christmas-themed anthology perfect for snuggling up in a warm blanket on a chilly day…or any other day for that matter!

Stunned by the heat of an unexpected kiss on a cold winter’s eve, two strangers from vastly different worlds turn hotheaded principles into burning passion in Sabrina Jeffries’s delightful yuletide story, The Heiress and the Hothead.

In the snowy Scottish countryside, Karen Hawkins’s rakish duke has an unforgettable holiday encounter in Twelve Kisses when the alluring lady he surprises under the mistletoe is not who he expected, but a long-lost love with a score to settle.

In By Any Other Name, Edinburgh is aglitter for Christmastime as Candace Camp sends a curious gentleman in hot pursuit of an intriguing lady in disguise—one who refuses to reveal her true identity, though she fears he has already stolen her heart with his kiss.

In Sweet Ruin, will the festive spirit of the season sweep Meredith Duran’s feisty heroine beneath the mistletoe—and back into the arms of the dashing rogue whose carelessness soiled her reputation and sent her into exile in London?

The book gave me a chance to return to the worlds of Karen Hawkins and Sabrina Jeffries, as well as introducing me to the newer writing styles of Meredith Duran and Candace Camp.

In “The Heiress and the Hothead” by Sabrina Jeffries, we get a closer look at Amanda Keane – sister of Jeremy Keane (from the Art of Sinning). Amanda is the owner of a cotton mill in America and her hero, Stephen, writes about the abuse of cotton mill workers in England. They are electric from the moment they meet and share a kiss under the mistletoe. The amount of history research that Ms. Jeffries packed into the novella is astounding, and yet it does not take away from the pleasure of the romantic elements in the story. The history background enhances the experience for the reader, and adds a sense of realism to the “The Heiress and the Hothead.”

Karen Hawkins’ “Twelve Kisses” is an equally delightful story. The characters Marcus and Kenna are reunited after 10 years and one stolen kiss under the mistletoe proves that these two have some unfinished business. Despite the short length of the novella, Ms. Hawkins is able to inject her signature humour and wit into a Scottish romance.The romance of the two characters is helped along with the aid of a fairy godmother – none other that the Grand Duchess from the Oxenburg series – who will make a fortune of her cupid-esque skills one day.

Candace Camp’s “By Any Other Name” is an entertaining read. It features a case of mistaken identity, but will with a lighter twist. The heroine, Rylla Campbell, sneaks away dressed in her brother’s clothes, who she is searching for. She meets with misfortune when leaving a gaming club during her search and is rescued by the hero, Gregory. It’s love at first sight for the hero – a refreshing change – but it’s not so easy for him to win Rylla’s love in return (an interesting prospect for the reader because it proves to be delightfully entertaining).

In “Sweet Ruin” by Meredith Duran, a story about a bluestocking daughter of a peer and a commoner, we have a tale of epic proportions. The distinct social backgrounds of the characters provides an engaging backdrop for the tale of a a stolen letter and a diplomatic mission. The story is engaging and full of witty banter. However, it’s short length let me wanting more.

I highly recommend this book to those looking for a light holiday read that will leave you with a feel-good mood!

RATING - 4


Avengers: Age of Ultron…A Movie Review

NOTE: This review may contain spoilers – pesky things, really – so read with caution.

I had the privilege of watching Avengers: Age of Ultron tonight and decided to write a quick post about with my “reactive review.”

Though I wouldn’t necessarily say that Marvel outdid itself with the latest installment of Avengers, it was an entertaining film. Avengers: Age of Ultron had the signature humour one would expect from a Marvel film – with Ironman (Robert Downey Jr.) providing much of the comic relief in the film. The film also did a great job of introducing original origin stories for two well-known characters: Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. Another new character, the Vision, also had a spectacular debut. Not to mention, the villain – Ultron – was nothing to sneeze at…

So why did it feel as if something was missing?

Well, something – or rather someone – was missing…and I think (with all the spoilers and discussion going around) we can all guess who…

Loki, of course.

I knew going in that Loki wasn’t going to have a role in the film – Joss Whedon had already discussed that (with his reasons) at length, but I was hoping that another character would make up for the lack…but, alas, it seems that Loki is hard to replace.

Though, I guess he was there in spirit since his staff played quite an important role in the film.

But I also felt that Thor was underdeveloped/underused in this film. (It seems that the Asgardians just couldn’t get a break in this film.)

While its true that Thor plays an important role in discovering the existence of the infinity stone and in the creation of the Vision, he otherwise delegated to action sequences rather than having his own personal narrative. On the other hand, the Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye are heavily explored as characters – which is a refreshing turn of events.

Another refreshing change in the film was Ultron. Despite this film’s villain being a man-made and completely avoidable disaster, Ultron made sure that the heroes had to work to bring him down. He was unpredictable and a force to be reckoned with. Plus, he one-liners were funny. 🙂

Overall, Avengers: Age of Ultron packs a “mighty punch” with its flawlessly executed CGI and cinematography. It was highly entertaining and, judging by the cheer that went up in our theatre tonight, a crowd favourite!

Rika Ashton

(aka Film Critic)


Release Day Review: A VERY LEVET CHRISTMAS by Alexandra Ivy

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

Christmas comes a little early with the release of Alexandra Ivy’s A Very Levet Christmas!

The Blurb:

A gargoyle of Levet’s charm and intelligence should not be facing a solitary Christmas. True, he may appear a little unconventional, not to mention unconventionally little even for a gargoyle. But what Levet lacks in height he makes up for in loyalty, and being banned from the festivities surrounding the Queen of Weres’ new pups is quite unfair.

So when a beautiful Christmas angel begs for help in fulfilling her duties, Levet has nothing better to do than agree. Armed with a magical wand, Levet confronts Damon, a pureblood Were intent on seizing the throne. Challenging the King will put the pups at risk and drive away Damon’s potential mate, Gia. Who better to convince Damon to choose love, not war, than a gargoyle expert in “amour”? With a little magic, and a lot of Levet, this may yet be a truly wonderful Christmastime.

The Review:

Ms. Ivy releases a short, but sweet novella with plenty of Christmas magic and mischief from the resident gargoyle of the Guardians of Eternity series, Levet, the novella’s hero.

The novella was written more along the lines of A Christmas Carol than a romance novel. Damon and Levet are the main focuses of this novel, with Damon playing a very Scrooge-like role with his dislike for Christmas. Gia, on the other hand, is rarely seen in the novel – her arrival in the end more of an afterthought than the main focus. Levet, with a little push from a Christmas Angel, is able to avert disaster and emerge a hero in the aftermath of a battle that never was.

However, despite the fact that the novel was not “romantic” in the traditional sense, readers are able to catch up with Salvatore, Styxx and the rest to celebrate the arrival of the Were King’s pups.

A Very Levet Christmas is a nice, light read that brings with it the joy of the Christmas season…in September!

RATING - 3


Review: ROCK COURTSHIP by Nalini Singh

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

rock courtship cover

Nalini Singh, queen of paranormal romance, has once again delved into the contemporary romance with Rock Courtship (a short novella in the Rock Kiss series) with David and Thea’s story.

The Blurb:

A drummer for the hottest rock band on the planet, David has a single, powerful weakness: Thea, the band’s publicist and the woman who steals his breath away with her every move.

Only problem is, Thea doesn’t date clients—or musicians. Emotionally scarred by a cheating ex, she’s not about to risk her heart with a man who has groupies buzzing around him like flies. Even if his sexy smile ties her up in knots.

What she doesn’t know is that David is a one-woman man…and he’s madly in love with her. David’s determined to prove he’s worth the risk, and willing to court her, step by exquisite step. Thea’s about to discover just how long and hard this handsome drummer can play.

The Review:

Unlike the inferno that was Fox’s story in Rock Addiction, the romance that develops between Thea and David in Rock Courtship is much more of a slow burn that coalesces into an forest fire. 😉

The “Gentleman of Rock” well and truly earns his nickname in Rock Courtship. David has been in love with Thea for a very long time, but he’s been a friend to her much longer. David isn’t afraid of love or to love and we see how gentle, caring, and loyal he is as the story progresses. Ms. Singh did an exceptional job with his narrative and he, much more than Thea, was the protagonist of this story. We see a lot more of David than his love for Thea – we learn about his loyalty to his family, and his friends. The story behind the development of the Schoolboy Choir was explored in more detail in this novel and it was a nice, tongue-in-cheek, anecdote of the band’s friendship:

 “I was thinking about the choir tryout.” All four of them had sung flat and off-key on purpose that day, horrified at the idea of being in the choir. “Remember how Noah kept insisting he was a born singer before butchering the entire piece he was assigned?”

Abe scowled. “Fucker was smarter than I was.”

…David laughed… “You almost got yourself busted.”

“Give me a little credit – I’d never tried to sing off-key before. At least I didn’t pull the ‘I come from a deprived neighbourhood and don’t know what a choir is’ routine.”

David grinned at Abe’s reminder. Making an appearance of wide-eyed innocence, he’d asked to sing a Spanish song for his tryout – then dug out the rudest of the many ditties he’d heard on the construction sites when he’d tagged along with his father. “Best part was the way she actually clutched at her pearls when she realized what I was singing.”

“No, man – best part was Fox having that coughing fit because he couldn’t stop laughing, and Noah ‘helpfully’ translating for  the other kids. That’s when I knew we’d all be friends.” 

Reading about all the mischief that the band got up to as young boys almost makes me wish that Ms. Singh would write a novel about their early years…it would certainly be worth the read.

On the other hand, compared to David’s intriguing past, we didn’t learn anything new about Thea’s when compared to what we had already figured out based on the hints from Rock Addiction. Like David, Thea is loyal and confident. She’s someone who can handle the spotlight, but her strength is a front that hides her vulnerability. It isn’t a spoiler to say that Thea’s ex was a douche who left her afraid to trust another man with her heart, but that’s about all we learn about Thea – well, except for the ex’s name…it’s Eric, by the way.

The only real “mystery” in this novel was the content of David’s memos to Thea, which was actually the reason I wanted to badly to get my hands on this novel. Well, needless to say they were hot!

And here’s a snippet of what I mean by HOT:

…I think you’re hot. Extremely, combustibly hot. If I could, I’d keep you in bed for a week running, naked and mine, and I’d still not have enough. I think every part of you is hot, but I’m particularly turned on by your mind and your legs. You should see the fantasies I have of seducing your mind with my words while I stroke my hands over your legs, rub my fingertips along the inner skin of your thighs. 

The memos only getting hotter after that. 😉

I think HOT also describes this novel overall as well. This novel was David’s book more than Thea and he certainly did it justice. It had a sweet central romance and a plot that fit well into the length it was given – nothing rushed or too slow. My only complaint was that Thea came of as a little lackluster when compared to David, and because romance novels rely on both the complete characterization of the hero and heroine, I ended up giving this novel a rating of three out of five. A fun, respectable read!

RATING - 3

-Rika Ashton

P.S: There’s an excerpt of Rock Courtship up on Ms. Singh’s website and to read my review of the first novel, Rock Addiction, check out the Romance Reader at Heart blog. 🙂

© All excerpts in this post are property of Nalini Singh 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.

RockAddiction

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…

View original post 655 more words


Throwback Thursday: The Paid Companion by Amanda Quick

I thought I’d share one of my favourite books by Amanda Quick for this week. I can’t count the number of times I have read and reread The Paid Companion – in fact I’m currently rereading it again – so I wanted to highlight this book is a Throwback Thursday post. Plus, I don’t think I’ve shared too many of Ms. Quick’s novels on the blog – a conscious decision because she is one of my favourite authors and whenever I start talking about a book by an author I adore, I start gushing and fangirling like crazy! 😛

The Earl of St. Merryn needs a woman. His intentions are purely practical-he simply wants someone sensible and suitably lovely to pose as his betrothed for a few weeks among polite society. He has his own agenda to pursue, and a false fiancée will keep the husband-hunters at bay while he goes about his business. The simplest solution is to hire a paid companion.

Finding the right candidate proves more of a challenge than he expected. But when he encounters Miss Elenora Lodge, the fire in her golden eyes sways him to make a generous offer.

Her sorry financial circumstances-and dreams of a life of independence-convince her to accept. But St. Merryn appears to be hiding a secret or two, and things seem oddly amiss in his gloomy London home. Elenora soon discovers that this lark will be a far more dangerous adventure than she’d been led to believe. And the Earl of St. Merryn will find that the meek and mild companion he’d initially envisioned has become a partner in his quest to catch a killer-and an outspoken belle of the ball who stirs a bothersome passion in his practical heart.

All of Ms. Quick’s heroines are strong leads with a sense of honour and boundless optimism and Elenora  is no different. Plus, they all get a chance to actively save themselves and the hero at some point in the novel. Left destitute and alone, she finds a way to overcome her situation by becoming a paid companion for old ladies of the ton. Saving her wages, she plans to open a bookshop – a dream I can relate to. 😉

St. Merryn – Arthur – is also a trademark Quick hero. Faithful, relentless and slightly arrogant, he’s a neat foil for the heroine. Arthur balances out Elenora more innocent and optimistic personality, but they also balance out and make up or each other’s weaknesses and they hunt for the villain in the story.

Suspenseful and romantic, The Paid Companion has long been one of my favourites by Amanda Quick.

Rika Ashton

(The Unpaid Writer)


Throwback Thursday: Memoirs of a Scandalous Red Dress by Elizabeth Boyle

For this week’s Throwback Thursday I picked a novel that received both criticism and praise upon it’s release, and, although I wasn’t exactly a critic, Elizabeth Boyle‘s Memoirs of a Scandalous Red Dress (book five) was not my favourite book in the Bachelor Chronicles series.

What if all you have are the memories of a pirate…

…and the scandalous red dress that nearly brought you to ruin? Remembrances of the kisses he stole? Or his seductive, rakish smile as he charmed his way into your bed, stole your innocence and your heart? To proper and respectable Philippa, Lady Gossett such memories are best locked away. At least so she thought until a stranger arrives on her doorstep and offers her a chance to tempt fate once again… to tempt Dash back into her life and quite possibly into her bed…

But the man Pippin loved all those years ago, and the man she discovers are hardly the same. Captain Thomas Dashwell has a score to settle with the now widowed Lady Gossett, the vision in red who has haunted his life for so long — ever since that fateful night when she betrayed him and married another. She’s the one woman he’s vowed to hate until the end of his days… and the one woman he can never forget…

 

I adore all the prior installments of the series and with the intensity that has surrounded Pippin and Dash’s love affair, I wanted a more long-lived conclusion. The prior books, and this one, were so well written that I had really gotten to know the characters almost as if they were real. I DID NOT want a drawn out conclusion set some 20 years later, when Pippin was 40-something and Dash older.

Before I go on, I have to say that there is nothing wrong about a 40-something heroine, what struck me in this novel was that 40-something meant that Pippin had only a few more years to live considering the era this is written in and the fact that people just did not live very long…maybe 20 at most and since Pippin and Dash are reunited so late they would have a very short time together before one, or both, of them died.

And although, I have enough of an imagination and desire to hope that characters are immortal even though a book has ended, this one was so well entrenched in its history that I couldn’t escape the reality presented in the novel. In this case, Ms. Boyle’s spectacular world building worked against her, in my opinion.

On top of it all, this book made me cry – not pretty sobs, but gut-wrenching noisy blobs of water leaking from my eyes – because it was so bloody sad that the characters had wasted so much time. Not to mention Dash’s ongoing alcohol withdrawal – which again was VERY real.

But, as I said, this novel received plenty of praise for its originality, and some people were clearly able to read the novel without reading the character expiration dates between the lines and so its worth an honourable mention as this week’s Throwback Thursday pick.

Rika Ashton

(aka The One Who Could Not Escape Reality)


A Review for Loving Rose: The Redemption of Malcolm Sinclair by Stephanie Laurens

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

As I raved in my review post for The Masterful Mr. Montague, I adore Barnaby and Penelope as a mystery-solving couple, so I started reading Loving Rose: The Redemption of Malcolm Sinclair by Stephanie Laurens – book three in the Casebook of Barnaby Adair series – with gleeful anticipation.

The Blurb:

Miraculously spared from death, Malcolm Sinclair erases the notorious man he once was. Reinventing himself as Thomas Glendower, he strives to make amends for his past, yet he never imagines penance might come via a secretive lady he discovers living in his secluded manor.

Rose has a plausible explanation for why she and her children are residing in Thomas’s house, but she quickly realizes he’s far too intelligent to fool. Revealing the truth is impossibly dangerous, yet day by day he wins her trust, and then her heart.

But then her enemy closes in, and Rose turns to Thomas as the only man who can protect her and the children. And when she asks for his help, Thomas finally understands his true purpose, and with unwavering commitment, he seeks his redemption the only way he can—through living the reality of loving Rose.

The Review:

Loving Rose can be termed an original work for Ms. Laurens. This is the first time that she’s taken a villain, Malcolm Sinclair initially from A Taste of Innocence, and transformed him into a hero – Thomas Glendower. And it wasn’t a rapid transformation, but rather well done as most of this novel seems to be about Thomas. This is a romance where the hero is front and centre, which makes it different from the norm. As a reader, we are taken in a journey of transformation and redemption along with Thomas. Rose, who is an important character in this novel, serves as a reason for that change, but it is nonetheless Thomas who carries the weight of this story.

That isn’t to say that the mystery and romance aspects of Loving Rose are not explored or well-portrayed, they are but they are not as important to the story as Thomas/Malcolm’s journey. This novel is a romantic tribute to the hero’s journey of old.

And of course, we get cameos from some old friends and new!

My only quibbles with this novel were that I wanted a more dastardly villain, especially since Malcolm had been such a good villain in his own novel, but a true evil mastermind was sadly lacking in this novel and I also wanted to see Malcolm’s new identity as Thomas Glendower challenged in some way, but it never was to my satisfaction.

Yet, overall this novel was fun enough to make me dread the wait until 2018 for the next one! 😦

For those of you lucky enough to just be starting the Casebook of Barnaby Adair series, you have three amazing novels to tide your over for the next three years. But, of course, Ms. Laurens never sits idle so, while we may not be getting another installment in this particular series any time soon, she is returning to her beloved Cynsters for the next batch of novels. 😀

RATING - 4

Rika Ashton

(aka Book Reviewer)


Strange and Ever After by Susan Dennard: A Review Post

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. And as always, spoilers are handled with extreme caution!

The talented Susan Dennard, author of the Something Strange and Deadly series – which began with the first installment of the same name, if you don’t count the prequel A Dawn Most Wicked – concludes her series with the final installment, Strange and Ever After.

The Blurb:

In the conclusion to the trilogy that Publishers Weekly called “a roaring—and addictive—gothic world,” Eleanor Fitt must control her growing power, face her feelings for Daniel, and confront the evil necromancer Marcus…all before it’s too late.

He took her brother, he took her mother, and now, Marcus has taken her good friend Jie. With more determination than ever to bring this sinister man to justice, Eleanor heads to the hot desert streets of nineteenth-century Egypt in hopes of ending this nightmare. But in addition to her increasingly tense relationships with Daniel, Joseph, and her demon, Oliver, Eleanor must also deal with her former friend, Allison, who has curiously entangled herself in Eleanor’s mission.

With the rising dead chomping at her every move and Jie’s life hanging in the balance, Eleanor is convinced that her black magic will see her through to the bitter end. But there will be a price. Though she and the Spirit Hunters have weathered every battle thus far, there will be consequences to suffer this time—the effects of which will be irreversible. And when it’s over, only some will be able to live a strange and ever after.

The Review:

I’ve been on this “strange and deadly” ride since the beginning and, despite some frustrating turns, I did not want it to end. Ms. Dennard has created a darkly compelling world of complex characters and intricate conflict. And Strange and Ever After was a fitting conclusion for this series.

Strange and Ever After, although I tale of romance at heart – if you’ll excuse the pun, also has enough adventure to keep the most restless of readers turning the page. Where we first got to visit 1876 Philadelphia, and later Paris, we are now taken to the pyramids of Egypt. Of all the worlds we’ve explored in this series, I think Egypt is my favourite – but, really, who could resist mummies and magic?

With enough world-building to make the escapist in all of us happy, I think Strange and Ever After is one very perfect summer read!

RATING - 4

Rika Ashton

(aka Sometimes YA Book Blogger)