Book Review: Her Viken Mates

Book: Her Viken Mates

Author: Grace Goodwin

Viken

This is not my normal reading fare, as you may have noticed from my other book reviews. I am not entirely sure why I picked it up.

Okay, that’s not true. I do know. It was curiosity, plain and simple. It appeared in my Amazon feed, and while I was intrigued, but didn’t buy it. The book then intruded on my consciousnesses during my drive home, and as I had some digital credit with Amazon, I decided to give in to temptation and see what it was all about.

 

Characters

These are flat, one dimensional characters. Expect no growth because you’re not going to get any.

 

Plot

There was one. Somewhere. But it’s even less important than most other romance novels I’ve read. The plot is as one dimensional as the characters, and I’m actually somewhat surprised how contrived it was. I was shocked how quickly characters believed a heroine from another planet who was there as an interstellar bride. There is no real reason for them to do that. Nor is there a reason that the villain would do what they did or give their hand away as they did. But, you know, plot wasn’t what this book was about.

 

Steamy Scenes

This is why you’re reading the book. The novel opens with steamy scenes, and the steamy bits probably take up at least 50% of the story, maybe more. It does include multiple lovers simultaneously, and I have never read anything like it, though I know this is not uncommon in romance. Just uncommon to me. As far as I can tell, the author handled it well.

 

Writing Style

While the writing was just okay, it was relatively free of grammatical and punctuation errors. It was also properly formatted to the Kindle. When she did a jump in PoV, which she did often, she used a new chapter and labeled the chapter with the person whose eyes you were now seeing through.

 

Themes

Despite the fact that this was really just an excuse for steamy scenes, there were some pretty interesting themes running through a book that was mostly steamy scenes. Issues of trust came up time and again, but more than just trust, it was also about consent. This played throughout the book. I was pleasantly surprised by this. There was never even a hint of rape culture in the book, and while rushed, it did let the heroine explore her sexuality without guilt. Rather, her mates encouraged her to explore it.

 

 

 

Book Review: Nothing Like a Duke

BookNothing Like a Duke

Author: Jane Ashford

Status: Don’t bother.

This book was one in a series. It may have been better if I’d read the rest of the series, but I doubt it.

NothingLikeADuke

Premise: I’m sure there is a premise… Woman goes to a house party and the man she loves happens to be there, but she didn’t know he’d be there, and he didn’t know she’d be there. Yeah, I’m still not sure what the story was supposed to be about, and I read the book.

Plot: I couldn’t find one. The hero goes to a house party to forget the heroine for reasons. Didn’t read the other books, so I don’t know why. Heroine goes to the same house party for reasons. I never really figured out why she went. It’s not clear other than she wanted to see the ton, but why she does must’ve been in another book.

While nothing in this book was deep, the part that was very disturbing to me was the way the author treated PTSD. I don’t think she did any research on it, or if she did, it was very superficial.

  • The heroine was apparently captured, tied up, and helpless at one point in an earlier book.
  • We’re told this is a big deal toward the end of the book. We’re never shown her nightmares, her fear of men, her fear of being in tight places (which happens). Even her being caught in a brier bush is told to us from the hero rather than a very deep and dramatic scene for the heroine.
  • The “cure” for this was for her to be attempted to be raped by another man and for the heroine to escape on her own.

I know very little about PTSD. Maybe this would work, or maybe it would deepen her fears. I don’t know. But the way it was handled was not believable to me.

Romance: The hero, Robert, already loves the heroine, Flora, from another book. Flora also loves Robert and has no real reason not to want the romance to happen. I’m not sure why this book wasn’t over in less than 50 pages rather than the 352 it took.

Steamy Scenes: There were none. Not one. So this isn’t where the filler came from to get to the 352 pages.

Imagery: Nothing was ever really brought alive for me. Nothing felt sumptuous or beautiful. So, this isn’t what filled the 352 pages, either.

Characters: There is no character development. Robert starts out as Robert and ends as Robert. We’re told he’s celebrated by the ton, what all gentleman aspire to be. Perhaps we were *shown* that in previous books, but not this one.

Flora learns all people in the ton are people rather than caricatures, but that’s really not a lot of growth, either. We’re told Flora is smart so freaking many times I was ready to scream. And she’s beautiful. And she’s smart. And she’s charitable. And she’s smart.

One of the things I hated most about this book is that so much of it focused on a rivalry between the heroine and another female character over the hero. It started to boarder on the absurd, and frankly, I am tired of the trope. I prefer to see female friendships rather than competition over a man. It was such a blatant competition, the one woman literally called the other her competitor. Yuck.

 

All in, I’d rather do the dishes or vacuum than read this novel a second time.

Book Review: Mine Till Midnight

Title: Mine Till Midnight

Author: Lisa Kleypas

Status: Worth a Read

Mine

 

I listened to this as an audiobook rather than read it. I am still pretty new to listening to books, but I am starting to really like it. The experience is different, and while I still prefer to read rather than listen to books, this is a great way to get some “reading” in while doing boring tasks like cleaning the kitchen or weeding.

 

Summary: After the death of their parents, four sisters are dependent on their older brother who has a promising future as an architect. When the brother loses the woman he loves to scarlet fever, he becomes a self-destructive boar. This is compounded when the deaths of three distant family members drop a “cursed” title and admission to the peerage on this brother.  The story centers around the oldest sister, Amelia. She’s forgone marriage herself to see to her family, keep them together, and keep them safe. She encounters Rohan, the hero of the story, while rescuing her brother from a gaming club.

Plot: Plot is pretty sparse. It’s basically getting Amelia and Rohan together as she deals with the trials of her family. With a suicidal brother, a sister with weak lungs from her bought with scarlet fever, to a kleptomaniac sister, Amelia has her hands full. The fact that the estates that came with the title are falling apart, literally, doesn’t help. There’s enough going to keep the story moving forward and keep Amelia and Rohan together without feeling contrived. I don’t expect more, so this was fine with me.

Romance: It’s pretty standard that he falls in love with her, then must convince her that she wants to give up her independence to be his bride. He has a few issues along the way coming to terms with his feelings, giving up his own freedom as he feels tied down by her world, but he comes to terms with them. No real spoiler here as this is a romance novel, but he gets her to agree to marry him by the end of the book. Some of her objections in the last quarter of the book become annoying, and this was one of the only part that had me rolling my eyes.

Characters: Rohan is half gypsy, so this is a unique spin on any romance novel I’ve ever read. I can tell the author did research on the gypsy people of the time. Or if she didn’t, she faked it exceedingly well. Possibly helped by the fact that none of my history classes even touched on them. War of the Roses? Oh yes. Roma people? Not at all.

Rohan is your typical physically powerful very rich male lead. But the fact that he’s an outcast for his mixed heritage adds a different flavor.

Amelia is your standard pretty spinster heroine who has put independence and siblings first. If you’ve ever dealt with difficult or unruly children, you’ll feel for her. She has personality, but not nearly as interesting as Rohan.

One thing I loved about this book was that woman are shown as friends. The Countess of Westcliff is kind and understanding. As is Lady St. Augustine. So many authors, far too many, in my opinion, show other women as rivals. They discard all notions of female friendship and focus on a very unhealthy rivalry. Always over a man. This author did NOT do that, and I very much appreciated it.

The sisters were kind and snarky to each other, as sisters will be.

Steamy Scenes: These are quite good. Very good. Some worth rereading. This is one of the author’s big strengths.

Use of Imagery: This is amazing. Her descriptive prowess is excellent, and she does it succinctly using terrific metaphors and similes I don’t usually here. She makes things feel sumptuous and sensual. This is a huge strength for this author.

 

All in, this is a good read from an author I had written off after not being able to get through more than a chapter or two of another one of her books. Makes a case for giving an author a second chance. And I never would have if I hadn’t been able to get her audiobooks from the library.

Book Review: A Devil in Winter

Book: A Devil in Winter

Author: Lisa Kleypas

Recommendation: Worth a Listen

I haven’t listened to audiobooks in years. I live to close to work, so it’s not worth queuing one up for the short commute. However, we’ve recently been struggling with a toddler who can climb out of her crib, and who will the moment she’s laid in it. As we’ve been working through these nightly issues, it has meant a lot of time in a darkened room.

I decided to borrow an audiobook from the library, and this was one of the few available in the romance genre. I’d picked up two other of Lisa Klepas books in the past, and I didn’t get far in either of them as I didn’t much like the characters. I hated the heroine in one and the hero in the other.

But a bad book was better than no book, so I borrowed it without much hope.

I was pleasantly surprised.

The narration was quite good. It took me almost twice as long to listen to the book as to read it, but as speed wasn’t a concern, I was okay with it.

Plot

A wealthy heiress is desperate to escape her horrible relatives. They beat her, starve her, and otherwise abuse her. She has no recourse as she’s a woman and cannot control her fortune herself. As they plan to force her to marry her abominable and disgusting cousin,  she takes action. I overlooked the absolute heartless family. It’s such a trope in books, that you find it even in modern classics like Harry Potter.

The heroine (Evie) steals out of her house and manages to get to the house of one of the most notorious rakes in London. And, one who is about to have his debts called in. So desperate to find an heiress to marry, he had actually tried to kidnap his best friend’s fiancee. (I assume this is all in another book).

Evie proposes to him. Sebastian St. Augustine marries her, gets her fortune so he gets out of debt, and she gets her freedom. She knows he doesn’t love her, or care about her, so she will be able to come and go as she likes.

He agrees, and the rest of the story revolves around them going from a marriage of convenience to one of love, and all of the changes that both of them undergo for that to happen.

 

Characters

There are lots of characters who make an appearance that I believe are from previous books. If I’d read those books, it probably would’ve meant more to me. I didn’t, and it didn’t detract from the story.

Overall, I was pleased with the characterization. Both Evie and Sebastian had upbringings that shaped them. The reconciliation between the two as they fell in love was real. The emotional distance real. This wasn’t something a 5 minute conversation was going to fix.

Evie needed to come to terms with how her own family had treated her and her ability to care for another. Especially a man with such a jaded past.

Sebastian had to come to terms with the abandonment he’d felt as child, and how he’d responded to it.

 

Steamy Scenes

These were quite good. If I had the book in kindle form, I would go back and reread them. Study them for ways to make my own writing better. I may yet open up the two books from this author I have and find the steamy bits.

 

All in, I am glad they had the book at the library and that I gave the author a second try. I may even go back and take a look at the two books of hers I have.

Book Review: To Charm a Naughty Countess

Book: To Charm a Naughty Countess

Author: Theresa Romain

Recommendation: Skip It

NaughtyCountess

Premise: A duke who is deep in debt due to his father’s indulgences needs a wealthy bride to save his lands when creditors come calling. He offers one of the most exalted titles in the land in return for a rich dowry. A rich widowed countess offers to help him. It just so happens that these two are still in love with each other even after the happenings of eleven years ago.

Plot:  Wait, there is one? Oh yes, they love each other. She’s rich. He’s titled. And…it takes a whole book for them to admit to each other their feelings. Yeah, there’s some filler as to why they can’t. Frankly, I started skimming sections looking for the plot. There was none. No murder that needed solving, no werewolves skulking around, not even a previous jilted love interest. Literally, just the two of them getting around to admitting their feelings. For the whole book.

Characters: I didn’t really see any character development on either the hero or heroine’s part. They do eventually get around to admitting to themselves and each other their feelings, but there’s no real driving factor to this.

Romance: The characters were in love with each other at the beginning of the story, though they didn’t yet know it. Or they knew it and wouldn’t admit it. This was fine, but as this was the entire story with no other plot to back it up, it felt thinner than it otherwise would have.

Steamy Scenes: There were two in the whole book. One about half way through, the other at the end. They were good, not enough to save the book, but good.

 

Overall, not a terrible read, but not one I’d recommend either. With all of the romance novels out there, you can find one with more of a plot, or more steamy bits to keep you engaged.

Book Review: Her Highness and the Highlander

Book: Her Highness and the Highlander

Author: Tracy Anne Warren

Status: Worth a Look

This book was isn’t going to knock your socks off, but it’s a nice afternoon read.

Premise: A princess (from a fictional country) and her entourage are attacked on her way from her finishing school to London. She is the only survivor, and in her bedraggled state, no one will believe she’s royalty. She’s far from friends and family, and completely out of her element. A Scotsman on his way home from the Napoleonic Wars takes pity on her, helps her out, and eventually agrees to take her to London. Along the way, they fall on in love.
Plot: It’s pretty thin. We need a reason for the hero and heroine to be together. So, despite the massive battle that killed her entourage, captain of her guard, her uncle etc. no one finds any evidence of it. I guess they must’ve really been on back roads, and the bad guys must’ve had a veritable army to clean up the mess. Oh, no wait, it was one guy that cleaned it up. *shakes head*

I didn’t find it believable. But I suspended disbelief as we couldn’t have good guys finding her if she was going to need the hero to get her to London. Alone, of course.

Romance: They fall in love along the way to London. They’re so in lust with each other, that they need to quickly marry so they can have sex. Par for the romance genre, if a bit unbelievable. The author did try to make the princess seem like she’d be okay giving up her extremely privileged life to live with a commoner.

Steamy Scenes: This is really where the author shone. The steamy scenes were steamy, the prose pretty without getting in the way of what was going on between them. She used none of my automatic close the books words, so we’re good there.

Characters: There is no character development. Not really sure how they would develop as both seem pretty perfect from the beginning. This is your typical romance fare, so neither character is going to grow or develop in the story.

 

All in, a decent read. I finished it on a blustery afternoon, and it wasn’t gripping enough I couldn’t put it aside with ease to make snacks for the kids. At the same time, it entertained and didn’t disappoint with the ending.

Book Review: An Unexpected Wish

Book: An Unexpected Wish

Author: Eileen Richards

Recommendation: Save your time and wash the cat

Wish

I love a good romance. Heck, I like a decent romance.

Unfortunately, this was more like watching the writer play “Barbies” than actually reading a romance.

The entire novel could’ve been condensed into a short story. There wasn’t enough plot to hold up a full length novel, so the author substituted melodrama, lots of running away, and contrived situations to get the page count.

(Spoilers Ahead)

The premise of the novel is a young woman is in dire straights as she attempts to support herself and her sisters on a paltry inheritance left by her mother. Their brother has tossed them out for reasons the author never does a good job explaining (because their father praised Anne’s accomplishments and wanted his son to live up to them? Really? So the son tosses all three of his sisters on the street, with literally just the clothes on their backs when their father dies? Really?)

In a desperate attempt to have enough food and burning fuel to get through the winter, Anne makes a wish for a handsome husband that will provide for her and her sisters.

Low and behold, shortly after making the wish, the rich hero arrives and starts paying all sorts of attention to her.

Let’s state again the heroine and her sisters are on the brink of not having enough food or fuel to get through the winter. We’re talking about starvation or a life of prostitution to survive.

But the heroine decides she can’t possible marry the hero because he loves her only because of her wish. Let me tell you, if I became a New York Times best-selling author because of a wish, I’d take it with both hands and never look back.

What makes this even more disingenuous is that the heroine had no problem marrying her younger sister off to “save the family”.

Frankly, the story should’ve ended with the handsome hero offering for her, and Anne saving the family.

If the author wanted a full length novel, she needed something more to keep the hero and heroine apart. The “oh, he couldn’t possibly love me for real because of I made a wish” held absolutely no water. Let me tell you how much I disliked the heroine after hearing this a dozen or so times, and there were several dozen more times of listening to her say it still to come.

I mean, seriously. This is what she wanted, what she needed, to keep her sisters from starving. To keep them freezing come winter. And to reject it because of superstition?

Most hungry people would marry him and thank the fairies, not throw their “wish” back in the fairies’ face.

Now, enter deadbeat brother who has lost the entire family fortune to gambling (with the hero, nonetheless) and is looking for his sister to part with her mother’s jewels to save him from some very relentless creditors. And, he’s told every hoodlum in London that his sister has these jewels. Of course, there are no jewels or Anne would’ve sold them already.

You can guess where this is going. The brother must be redeemed, but the path to his redemption is unbelievable. One minute he’s willing to sell his sister to the hero for his “get out of debt” free card, and the next minute he’s suddenly willing to go to India and work off his debt to the hero. Nothing I saw created that change. Just sorta, yep, we need a happily-ever-after ending, so he’s gotta change.

Not even the “twist” ending was believable.  Why would Cecil Worth bother with the whole use of the Fairy Steps in the first place to trick Anne into thinking she was getting a wish? Anne had no suitors. If he was suddenly interested in her because of the jewels, he had no need to go through with the ruse. Never explained, and makes no sense given his character. But, you know, the plot needed a villain and a plausible explanation for the wish.

Speaking of plot, it mostly consisted of lots of running from here to there for the heroine as she goes from dodging one suitor to another. Seriously. Let’s run away to the Lodge. oh no, hero is there. Let’s run back home. Oh no, brother is there. Let’s go for a walk in the woods. Oh no, other suitor is there. Ugh. I think fifty percent of the book was the heroine running around for “reasons”.

There’s the obligatory steamy scenes towards the end, but they’re as cardboard and unbelievable as the rest of the story.

The writing itself is okay, but the use of line break to denote a change in point-of-view or scene are non-existent. Pulled me out of what little story every time there was one. The dialogue can also get pretty awful. Here’s an actual excerpt from the end of the book, as we discuss for the 100th or is that 1,000th time that the hero might actually love her:

“You think he loves me?”

John nodded. “When you were taken, he went still. He was icy calm. But his eyes burned. It was clear that someone he cared about deeply was in danger.”

Oh yeah, then there was my least favorite romance trope. The heroine being kidnapped. And because its snowing, her captor totally doesn’t give chase when she slips into the forest after getting motion sick. But, you know, the hero is totally just going to pay a ransom when he can find her footprints in the snow. *eye roll* The author must’ve been getting to the end of word count and didn’t want to spend much time on this.

All in, I walked into this book looking for a bit of pleasure reading. Some book candy while my kids watched a movie on Friday night. I wanted a fun romance, maybe some good steamy scenes, and a happily-ever-after. I got the HEA, but that was about it.

 

Book Review: Swamp Team 3

Book: Swamp Team 3

Author: Jana Deleon

book2

(No Spoilers)

This is the fourth book in the series, and I’m not sure how long the series is planned to go. I’ve seen up to at least nine books.

I will give you fair warning. If you can’t overlook grammar and punctuation issues, this author is not for you. I realized after reading this book so closely to the other just how much I was over looking. Comma splices abound. Consider yourself warned.

I’m starting to think I’m not much of a series person. While the author does a great job of not rehashing the previous books, and this book can stand alone, I felt like it was missing something.

The story still revolves around Fortune Redding hiding out in in Sinful, Louisiana, because she has put a price on her head and a leak in the CIA. She’s been befriended by the Geritol Mafia, senior citizens Gertie and Ida Belle, who are former counter intelligence operatives and leaders of the Sinful Ladies Society. One of Fortune’s new Sinful friends has her home set on fire and is being stalked.

Yes, you get your usual hijinks, although those are starting to become less funny. A wet tee shirt contest? Really? I was also a little leery on the way the author treated the stalker. I’ve done zero research on stalkers, and even so, I found it hard to believe.  Still trying to figure out how Fortune survived as a CIA assassin given some of her antics and choices.

I also needed more to sell me on Fortune and the gang getting involved in solving the arson attempt. For some reason, this felt more disingenuous than in previous books. Why couldn’t Carter solve this? Why are they getting into the middle of a police investigation? In the other books this is more clear. In this one, it feels more like “my friend is involved, so hey, I can’t trust the law”. Carter even points out all the foolishness they went through and risks they took were for nothing when he already knew what a suspect was doing because, you know, that’s the first person he investigated, too. And he can do it lawfully.

The romance moved along a little, but as a reader of romance novels, this is moving so slowly that it might as well be non-existent.  Book four, and we’re still no closer to knowing any of Fortune’s backstory or what’s happening with the CIA. We are seeing some change in the heroine. Seeing her develop real friendships and have real feelings for the people in the town.

For me, I think the best thing is to take a break from the series for a while. These are not deep thought books. They will not withstand too deep of an analysis, and the more of them I read, the more my brain starts processing patterns and can’t simply relax and enjoy the book candy. It starts analyzing and dissecting, and these books can’t stand up to that. That’s okay. It’s not what they’re meant for. They are meant to be funny and an easy read on a rainy Saturday.

Book Review: Swamp Sniper

Book: Swamp Sniper (Book 3 of the Miss Fortune series)

Author: Jana Deleon

Book1

(No Spoilers)

I’ve been working through this series, and I have to be careful to not devour them too quickly. Not sure how many books there are, but it’s nice that each is a contained story. At this point, you don’t need to have read the first two books to understand what’s going on or to enjoy the third installment.

The author does a nice job of writing a series. You get snippets of what happened in the past, but it’s no more than a few paragraphs sprinkled throughout the book.

This is a series, so the romance is moving at a snail’s pace. As is the back story on Fortune, the story’s protagonist.

This is a mystery novel, but with a lot of humor. Think Janet Evanovich. Starting to raise a brow, though, as this is the third murder investigation in as many weeks for the heroine. Looks like Sinful is getting to be more dangerous, per capita, than New Orleans. Unless, of course, my suspicion is correct about who the leak at the CIA is that put Fortune in sinful…

Fortune has been stashed in the backwater, rural Louisiana town of Sinful while the CIA tries to ferret out the leak that sold her out to some very bad men. While there, she’s befriended by some of the locals, including the Geritol Mafia. The premise of this book is that Fortune’s friend, Ida Belle, is accused of murdering Ted through poisoned cough syrup (moonshine).

Ted had been running against Ida Belle in the mayoral race, but that’s not a reason to kill anyone in Sinful. No motive is ever established as to why she’d want ted dead, but the real issue is the poison used to kill Ted happens to be the gopher killer that resides in Ida Bell’s shed. The story lost a little believability for me that there would be a solid case against Ida Bell as everyone knew the poison was there, and it wasn’t exactly locked up. Lots of people also had access to the cough syrup. But, I suspended disbelief as Gertie and Fortune try to prove Ida Belle’s innocence.

Carter, the deputy sheriff, doesn’t think that Ida Belle is the killer, but Sinful wants an arrest and so does the prosecutor. Of course he doesn’t want Gertie and Fortune investigating, and that adds to the hijinks.

This story is written in the same vein as the first two. It’s a fun, easy read. I appreciate that a lot. While I sometimes doubt how effective of a CIA assassin Fortune actually was, she doesn’t do anything I’d deem too stupid. I also appreciate that the author keeps the female characters strong and mostly competent. I love the cast of characters in this story, and even the secondary characters have a great deal of personality.

A good, easy read to make you smile and that you can finish in an evening.

Book Review: Lethal Bayou Beauty

Title: Lethal Bayou Beauty

Author: Jana Deleon

Series: A Miss Fortune Mystery

lethal

No spoilers in this review.

This is what a book series should be.

The book stands alone, and there is very little rehashing from the first novel in the series. There’s a tiny bit of forward progression with the main character and her issues with her family, but not a lot. I didn’t expect a lot as this is a series.

The characters we fell in love with in the first book are back in the second, with a few more thrown in. While some of the characters were really archetypes, I didn’t care because they were so much like people I have known in my life. The author really did live in a small Southern town.

Again, this is a series, so while there is a love interest, things are moving along slowly. As I would expect.

The story revolved around our heroine, Fortune, getting embroiled in a small-town murder and singled out as the prime suspect. She knows she didn’t commit the murder, and so does the local deputy, but it’s not enough to stop the local gossips or lynch mobs.

The book has the usual hi-jinks of the Geritol Mafia and is a fun read. You’re not going to get Game of Thrones level intrigue here, and that’s okay. I can read it, enjoy it, and not get nightmares. I will say it has a happy ending, so need to worry on that account.

I love the strength and foibles of the characters, and I love the fact that there are numerous strong female characters in the story.

The characters all  stay true to themselves. There is never a point where I feel like they’re being forced along by the author.

The plot resolves itself well, and it feels natural. No dues ex machina or author god to force things along.

A good story, and a fun way to spend an afternoon.