The Duke Is But A Dream by Anna Bennett (Debutante Diaries #2)- A 5/5 Star Review!

Anna Bennett is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.  I absolutely loved the previous book in this series, First Earl I See Tonight (see review here ) and had similar feelings for this book.  The Duke Is But A Dream also had adventure, humor, and (of course) romance.  This time it focuses on the headstrong and bold Lily Hartley’s love adventure following memory loss from a bar brawl injury.  This injury brings her and Nash, the Duke of Stonebridge, together in a unique situation that forces them to show their true character.  Even if Lily can’t remember her character, or her own name for that matter.  It then forces the question: Can you truly love someone if you don’t even know who you are?

This is not a simple romance.  All characters are dealing with heavy subjects that are not simply resolved by a true love’s first kiss (sorry Disney, I still love you).  Grief is an ongoing struggle that cannot truly be resolved, just like the void cannot truly ever be filled in reality.  However, this novel does portray how to cope with the grief in healthy ways and that trying to avoid it just makes you stuck and does not honor their memory well.  Abandonment is another issue that is dealt with as there does not seem to be anyone looking for Lily as she is missing and going by the name Caroline (as she does not remember her own name).  Don’t worry, reader, it was a misunderstanding that has a happy ending.

Additionally, this book briefly catches us up with the characters from the previous book in the series, Sophie, Gray, and her sister Fiona.  However, this book could be read as a standalone as it does not rely heavily on previous events.  Probably because Lily does not have any memory of previous events.  I did like the new characters that were introduced and I hope there are more books in the series.  I would love to see a story about Lily and Fiona’s close friend and colleague, Sophie.  I would also love to see a story about Nash’s sister, the bubbly and lovely Delilah.

I would absolutely recommend this book for fans of regency romance novels that have to do with brooding dukes and concerns about the reactions of the ton.  I would also recommend this book for adults as there are graphically sexual scenarios, mild foul language, violence, and alcohol use.

Please note: An electronic Advanced Readers Copy of this book was generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley for free in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you! 

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A Lady’s Virtue (Everton Domestic Society #3) by A. S. Fenichel- A 5/5 Star Review!

Sylvia Dowder, surrounded by shame from a broken engagement, joined the Everton Domestic Society.  This way her twin sister could still have a chance at an engagement this season.  Dumped due to her social status being lower than her fiancée’s, she gets back at the ton by moonlighting as a secret gossip columnist.  This is a creative outlet for her sparky nature to put certain gossipers in their place by calling them out in this column.  Getting a job through the Everton Domestic Society working for Anthony Braighton, the new Earl of Grafton, makes it harder to keep her writing a secret.  What other secrets is she able to keep?

 

Not too surprisingly, I loved this book! I have been a fan of A. S. Fenichel’s writing since the beginning of the trilogy before this series, the Forever Brides series (see my reviews #1, #2, #3, and Bonus).  The first book of the Forever Brides series (Tainted Bride) was about Sophia Braighton, Anthony’s sister.  It was fun to read the interactions between Anthony and his sister Sophia.  It was also fun to see the dynamic differences between the American siblings, Anthony and Sophia, and the rest of the English characters.  I found it very interesting how the author contrasted the character reactions to the new social status of Sylvia’s former fiancée and Anthony Braighton.  What also enriched the plot was how Sylvia and Anthony’s frank personalities brought them together.

 

This book is the third in the Everton Domestic Society series (see my reviews on the earlier here  and here ) but it can be read as a standalone.  There are references to previous characters, however, there are brief background updates for each of them that does not halt the pacing of the story.  I was very excited when a familiar character came into the story and it felt like a party was building with the familiar guests showing up.

 

I would definitely recommend this book for romance readers, particularly those fond of Regency Romances.  The romance is slowly built over situations and time making it more authentic for me as a reader.  I would recommend this book for adults as there are some graphically sexual scenarios.

 

I would not recommend this book for readers who may be triggered or offended by: graphically sexual scenarios, public shaming, alcoholism, parental dominance, or mild foul language.

 

Please note: an electronic ARC of this book was generously provided through the Goodreads Giveaway program.

Adele by Leila Slimani- DNF at 15%-a 1/5 Star Review

DNF at 15%

This book is just not for me. I cannot relate to the main character and I found her to be self-centered with a complete disregard for others’ feelings or any consequences. So far it has only been told in Adele’s point-of-view but it is not an interesting one. She just goes from assessing who she can see herself having sex with on the train to being annoyed by her son’s general existence. It did not seem like the plot was going to be any more than a chronology of emotionless sexual partners.

I would not recommend this book for any reader but I would especially not recommend it for anyone who may be triggered or offended by: foul language, explicitly sexual scenarios, and infidelity.

Please note: an electronic ARC of this book was generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

She Lies in Wait (DCI Jonah Sheens #1) by Gytha Lodge – A 2/5 Star Review

One girl has to tag along embarrassingly with her older sister on a camping trip with her sister’s friends. One night of secrets. One death that will take 30 years to solve. One Detective who knows more than he lets on.

This book was kind of hard to fly through at times. There is a fine line between detailing the setting and overloading on details as filler. However, it could also be the case that the overwhelming amount of details was due to it being the author’s debut novel. It was mostly very heavy on the interactions and operations of the office.

Furthermore, there is a subplot on a newbie detective with an abusive stalker of an ex-boyfriend that forces her to spend the night in a hotel at one point. The main issue with this is: there doesn’t seem to be a point to it. Since this is the first book in a series, perhaps the author is setting up a villain for the next book. Or could it be that the author was trying to humanize the character? There is not a resolution to this issue and it makes the plot a bit sporadic.

Another reason why I did not care for this particular book is because of the alternating narratives. Authors like Liane Moriarty (see review ) can pull off weaving multiple storylines and distinct narratives into one cohesive plot. Unfortunately, this did not happen in She Lies in Wait. Mostly because it starts off solely as alternating narrators of DCI Jonah Sheens in the present and Aurora in the past with chapter separation. Then, the narration switches between a random assortment of characters with only Hanson as a fairly common one with her confusing subplot. Furthermore, some of the other detectives are not established well so sometimes it was confusing on who the narrator was even supposed to be and pretty much muddied the plot.

The final reason why I did not care for this book is because it was almost obvious who the killer was from the early chapters. I had hoped that it couldn’t possibly be that obvious and must be a red herring but I was disappointed.

And so I can’t say that I am eager for the next book in the series. I do give props to the author as it is very hard to get your debut novel published. I would imagine it is even harder if that book is the first in a series. But, for me, this book is not one that I would recommend.

The following things were found in my reading of the book that may be offensive or trigger some readers: violence, drug use, alcohol use, drug abuse, sexual assault, sexually suggestive scenarios, foul language, murder, stalking, and psychological abuse.

Please note: an electronic ARC of this book was generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Mutts and Mistletoe by Natalie Cox- a 5/5 Star review!

Charlie’s least favorite time of the year, the holidays, is the worst it could possibly be this year. Not only did her long-time boyfriend cheat on her, but her apartment is destroyed and she has a concussion as a result of it. Her cousin, Jez, needs Charlie as much as Charlie needs a place to stay peacefully to eat as much chocolate in front of the tv. Jez runs Cozy Canine Cottage, a dog boarding place, out of her country home on several acres in the country. Jez needs someone to look after the dogs while she jets off to the Arctic, Charlie needs a place to stay, sounds like an easy trade. There’s just one teensy, tiny problem: Charlie is a city girl who hates dogs as much as she hates the holidays.

I was at my local library on the hunt for a fun holiday romance book when I came across a recommendation from one of my favorite authors, Sophie Kinsella (see reviews: #1  & #2 ), for this book. I figured, she knew what she was talking about when it came to fun romances as I am a big fan of hers. I was right. Mutts and Mistletoe is a funny romance that will warm a reader from the inside out. Many times I audibly gasped followed by a “Noooo!” or I laughed out loud. It is an engaging storyline with a lovable yet mischievous main character that seems to attract disaster wherever she goes. I loved the tumultuous way in which the relationship between her and Cal, the veterinarian who seems to be opposite of her in every way, grew. This is further complicated when another love interest wedges his way into the house crammed with a growing number of friends of all species.

My favorite interaction was on page 233:

“What do you know about alpacas?” Hugo asks Cal in a jaunty tone.

“They make great sweaters,” says Cal stonily.

It was tough to choose my favorite character in this book as there are several great choices. My top three were: Cal, Charlie’s father, and Malcom-the great dane. Charlie’s father was very reasonable, open-minded, and optimistic-much like my own father- which was endearing and seemed to be very good at stabilizing Charlie. In the end, Cal won my heart as I am sure he will warm the hearts of many other readers, as will all of the animals in this book. Natalie Cox did a wonderful job of assigning each animal with distinctive personalities. She also created a fun winter wonderland in a remote location with situations that would be ridiculous outside of this plot. Furthermore, the vocabulary in the writing is exquisite. There were many times that I had to put the book down to look up words such as “munificence” and “rictus” or I resorted to consulting with my logophile friends.

I would recommend this book to adult readers looking for a fun holiday romance. I would also recommend this book for animal lovers, particularly of dogs, wolves, and alpacas. Fans of the English countryside, or small towns in general, and of winter snow will also enjoy this book. There were only suggestions of sexual scenarios and there is a big scene of birthing puppies which is why I did not recommend it for an audience younger than adults. I do not remember any foul language or violence but that is not to say that there was not any in the book. If there was, it was not enough to stick out in my mind.

 

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton-A 5/5 Star Review!

Aiden Bishop awakens in an unknown forest with only one name resonating in his mind-Anna.  He does not know where he is, when it is, and he does not even know his own name.  The only thing he knows is that he has to get out of here.  Fast.

As he later discovers, he cannot get out of Blackheath until he solves the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle repeating the same day in a different body.  The clues will be given to each character and the events cannot and should not be changed.  Meanwhile, danger lurks in the shadows, in every corner, and not everything is what it seems.

Although the main character, Aiden Bishop, has to inhabit 8 individual bodies, the storyline remained the same and details from previous perspectives bring clarity to the mystery.  Not only does Aiden have to figure out who murdered Evelyn Hardcastle to save his own life, he also has to figure out how to save the life of both Evelyn and Anna.  This is made more difficult as there are others who are also trying to escape and manipulate him to advance their chances.  There is also the issue that the more bodies that Aiden resides in, the more voices and characters compound his psyche.  As if that was not complicated enough, he also has to do all of this while protecting his hosts from being prematurely murdered by The Footman who is stalking him and ready to pounce at any moment to shorten his day and thus reducing his chances of solving the murder and escaping.

All of these factors intertwine into a fantastic plot with surprises, mystery, and an epic finale.  I would recommend this book for all adult mystery readers.  It is very fast-paced and I felt myself rooting for Aiden and Anna through their many obstacles.  I loved the small details that became big clues later on in the story.  The fact that this is Stuart Turton’s debut novel is incredible!

Conversely, I would not recommend this book for readers who may be triggered or offended by the following: arranged marriage, murder, revenge, death, graphic violence, and suggestions of rape.

Please note: An Advanced Reader Copy of this book was generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

First Earl I See Tonight (Debutante Diaries #1) by Anna Bennett-A 5/5 Star Review!

In order to protect her family, Fiona must do something unconventional: propose to an Earl.  Not just any Earl, but the angry and recently single from an engagement Earl Ravenport.  Also, their marriage needs to happen in a matter of weeks in order to save her family.  Who would possibly say no to that?

This book was fantastic! It had romance, humor, adventure and an especially heartless villain.  It also tested loyalties among the characters as well as how far one is willing to go for the ones they love. Easy and fun to read with the narratives alternating between Fiona and Gray.  It was especially hard to put down around the 75-80% mark where all of the tiny details sprinkled along the way turned into a storm (literally) of chaos where I just kept saying “no no no no no no”.  This was the part of the book that I think was the best!

Favorite character was Earl (“Gray”) Ravenport because the author was able to slowly reveal his warm, funny, and charming personality.   Initially he comes across as defensive and distant (often described in the book as “cold”) but through interactions with his grandmother and Fiona he finally warms up.

Furthermore, I enjoyed the use of the Fortress in disrepair like Gray was after his broken engagement to Lady Helena.  Yet with his grandmother as his main motivation and Fiona’s help he was able to get a lot of progress on restoring it, and himself.  It reminded me a little bit of Beauty and the Beast, without the animated furniture, in that Belle’s love for Beast was able to restore the castle (and Beast) to it’s original beauty.

Lastly, I really appreciated the use of the relationship between Fiona and her sister Lily, as well as the relationship with Gray and his grandmother.  I am fortunate enough to be very close with my sister, just as Fiona and Lily are close.  I am also fortunate to be very close with my grandmother whom is well-loved by everyone she meets, just like Gray’s grandmother.  I hope the next book in the series is about Fiona’s sister, Lily, as it seemed to have set up a conflict that could continue for her that I would like to see resolved.

I would recommend this book for adult readers who enjoy romance, especially regency romance, the strong bonds of sisterhood, and the restorative power of love.

On the other hand, I would not recommend this book for readers who may be offended or triggered by the following: graphic violence, foul language, suicide, blackmail, betrayal, gambling, prostitution, and sexually explicit scenarios.

Please note: an electronic ARC of this book was generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley for free in exchange for an honest review.