Monday, August 31, 2015

ARC: 291 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Synopsis
In this wonderfully creative retelling of the infamous—and torrid—love affair between Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII, history collides with the present when a sizzling romance ignites in a modern-day high school. 

 Henry Tudor’s life has been mapped out since the day he was born: student body president, valedictorian, Harvard Law School, and a stunning political career just like his father’s. But ever since the death of his brother, the pressure for Henry to be perfect has doubled. And now he’s trapped: forbidden from pursuing a life as an artist or dating any girl who isn’t Tudor-approved. Then Anne Boleyn crashes into his life. Wild, brash, and outspoken, Anne is everything Henry isn’t allowed to be—or want. But soon Anne is all he can think about. His mother, his friends, and even his girlfriend warn him away, but his desire for Anne consumes him. Henry is willing to do anything to be with her, but once they’re together, will their romance destroy them both? Inspired by the true story of Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII, Anne & Henry beautifully reimagines the intensity, love, and betrayal between one of the most infamous couples of all time.


I wasn't too familiar with the original story of Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII, let alone familiar with the author Dawn Ius, so I went into Anne & Henry not knowing what to expect. I have to admit, though, after reading the first chapter, my interest and curiosity was piqued. Anne & Henry became a way for me to learn more about Anne and Henry through reading hints of their past and seeing what their modern selves might've been like if they lived during our time. 

Although I had some issues with the characters and the plot of the story, I still found Anne & Henry enlightening to read as I built some understanding for the characters and their real-life counterparts.
Anne & Henry was told in alternating perspective, and I liked that it was for how different Anne and Henry were as characters. From the very beginning of the novel, it was made clear that both Anne and Henry had their problems and insecurities. They've both made mistakes and have been haunted by them ever since and they both were somewhat dissatisfied with how their lives were at present. Yet, despite their issues and their shared feelings of guilt and loneliness, on the outside, their personalities and social standards were very different. Anne occupied the rash, stubborn, I-could-care-less end and Henry stood at the rich, popular, everyone-bow-down-to-me end. For that reason, I thought that the alternating perspective was appropriate for the story as both characters clearly had some perspective to contribute. I also welcomed it as I always do when reading a book because it gave me the opportunity to get to know each character and develop some kind of connection with them each. Whether or not I thought that I would be friends with them in real life, I was able to sympathize with both Anne and Henry and I hoped that both will reach some peace within themselves in the end. 

However, as I followed both Anne and Henry, I felt that the dual perspective was a bit of a hindrance to the logical flow of the story. Usually when a book is in dual perspective, time, date, and events are ordered just as logically and easily as a book told in only one perspective. For instance, as one character is said to be doing one thing, the other character is found to be doing another thing at the same time, and the time or the length of time that passed between each chapter was always somehow established. In Anne & Henry, though, that logical order seemed to be lacking. Every time I went from one chapter to the next, I felt confused because there was little to no transition from one character's point of view to the other character's point of view and what time or what day it was did not always come up until a few paragraphs or even a page later. Then, I always wondered what might have happened within those long hours or days in between, if Anne and Henry were just too busy to see each other or was such passing of time too insignificant for the story. Obviously, the author is not going to write about every single minute of the characters' lives or the novel will be a million pages long, but there were instances in the story when I wondered what passed between the lapse in time and I wondered why such a gap was made in the first place. I don't quite know how to explain it, but the flow of the story could've been smoother. 

I was also bothered by how instantaneous the attraction was between Anne and Henry. Like my romances to have a gradual development, but in this novel, the deep attraction between Anne and Henry began from the very first page of the book. No matter how sincerely they both tried to show their feelings for each other, for the most part, I was unconvinced of their love. Only toward the end when the two were making some great sacrifices for each other to be together did I somewhat think that their feelings may be true. Still, I could not quite root for them to be together. Also, now that I reflect on it, I imagine that was how the relationship between Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII's must have been: full of passion, full of need, and full of instability and imminent disaster. When their relationship seemed to be heading toward seriousness toward the end, the optimist in me held some small hope for Anne and Henry, but really, their attraction for each other was too instant to be lasting.

It's not going to come as a surprise that Anne & Henry did not end happily, and as much as it broke my happily-ever-after loving heart, I thought the author did a good job penning the ending, especially considering the basis of the story. Throughout the whole novel, I did not particularly like Henry and I more sympathized with Anne. I mean, yes, I connected to both on some level and saw both characters' views, but as far as personalties went, I sided much more with Anne than Henry. Henry was such an overweening jerk, and his arrogance and conceit really came to a head at the end of Anne & Henry. I felt so sorry for Anne: even though she had her moments of brattiness, I understood more where she was coming from. When she was treated so unfairly and unjustly in the end, I felt for her and applauded her for keeping her head up through it all. I imagine--I'm sure--the real Anne Boleyn faced the same kind of persecution when she was sentenced to be beheaded. With that in mind, I thought the author wrote the end very well, not only in retelling Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII's story, but also to express the message of how far people may and will go to get what they want if and when it suits them. Yes, the ending of Anne & Henry was not the warmest or happiest of endings, but it definitely was an eye-opening one that puts into perspective both love and greed.

I wouldn't call Anne & Henry one of my favorite reads of the summer and I did have some issues with it while reading it, but I nonetheless appreciated it and was engaged until the very end. I recommend Anne & Henry to high schoolers who may not have a natural inclination toward reading history texts--this book will surely shed some light on one of history's most infamous leaders/rulers. I also recommend it to anyone who likes their YA history and/or retellings because Ius's Anne & Henry exhibits both the ability to redefine historical figures and discuss the timeless issues of today's society.
Anne & Henry is out in stores tomorrow!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Release Date: August 4, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Synopsis
San Francisco, 1900. The Gilded Age. A fantastic time to be alive for lots of people . . . but not thirteen-year-old Lizzie Kennedy, stuck at Miss Barstow’s snobby school for girls. Lizzie’s secret passion is science, an unsuitable subject for finishing-school girls. Lizzie lives to go on house calls with her physician father. On those visits to his patients, she discovers a hidden dark side of the city—a side that’s full of secrets, rats, and rumors of the plague.

The newspapers, her powerful uncle, and her beloved papa all deny that the plague has reached San Francisco. So why is the heart of the city under quarantine? Why are angry mobs trying to burn Chinatown to the ground? Why is Noah, the Chinese cook’s son, suddenly making Lizzie question everything she has known to be true? Ignoring the rules of race and class, Lizzie and Noah must put the pieces together in a heart-stopping race to save the people they love.



Chasing Secrets was not quite what I was expecting, but I really enjoyed it anyway. 

I picked up Chasing Secrets because it was set in San Francisco--I took a trip to San Francisco during the summer and I thought it'd be cool to read a novel set in a city I've actually visited. But Chasing Secrets was set in 1900, so it was really interesting and I had a great time trying to place and picture the sites, trying to imagine what they might look like in 1900, in the novel to what I saw when I visited.

From the synopsis, I thought I was getting a story about two kids, Lizzie and Noah, sleuthing all over San Francisco to uncover the truth about the mysterious plague. Not really. Lizzie was a physician's daughter who would rather go with her dad to visit his patients than to go to the girl's school she attends. She had no friends and she wasn't interested in making friends because she thought she didn't have anything in common with the other girls who seemed preoccupied with clothes, going parties and boys. One day, she found out that Chinatown was quarantined and no one would really come out and say why: not her father, or her rich and powerful uncle who owns a newspaper, or her aunt and older brother. At the same time, the Chinese cook, Jing, who works for Lizzie's family goes missing. Lizzie was convinced that he was stuck in the quarantine, especially after she discovers his son Noah secretly hiding in Jing's room.

Then, it kind of turns a bit into A Diary of a Young Girl kind of situation, where she couldn't tell anyone that Noah was hiding in the attic because someone finds out he'll also be put into the quarantine. He couldn't leave the room and this meant she had to find a way to sneak him food and they had to work out a way to get messages to each other without getting caught. So, Noah was stuck in Jing's room while Lizzie went out to figure out the truth about the quarantine. Tensions were high and racial prejudice abound, and Lizzie will question everything she knows and believed in to get to the truth.

Chasing Secrets was no Spy Kids. Everything Lizzie did to try to learn the truth I believed a girl her age and resources really capable of doing, which I really appreciated. Sometimes in books (especially in middle grade and young adults), a young character would be put in situations and how they'd try to solve their problems, what they did and the resources they used, I wouldn't believe they could do. I would really need to suspend my disbelief. But not in this novel. Lizzie acted and thought things through like a 13-year-old would. 

Even though it didn't really have that big detective/mystery element I was expecting, Chasing Secrets
was still an exciting, engaging read. Lizzie got into scrapes as she tried to figure out what was going on mostly by herself. She was a smart, resourceful and determined young lady. She didn't let anyone stop her from getting the truth. She also grew up a lot in the novel, and this was more of a coming of age story more than anything else. I was also curious to see if there really was a plague. I wasn't familiar with the bit of history the story was based on so I thought at first that the quarantine was a cover up for some sort of political intrigued. That was, until I read the author's notes in the end when I was about halfway through finishing the novel (it spoiled me, so if you pick this book up don't read the author's notes util you're done reading the story).

I liked seeing how Lizzie's relationship with her aunt developed throughout the novel. Her aunt seemed like the typical society mama at first, but the more we learn about her we realize there's more to her than meets the eye. I wanted to know more about her and wish there's an adult version in her perspective. Besides the San Francisco setting, Lizzie's relationship with her aunt was my favorite part.

I didn't really feel a strong connection with any of the characters, but I still very much enjoyed the story. Ms. Choldenko's writing was very readable and engaging and I flew through the pages. I'd definitely recommend Chasing Secrets to students fourth grade and above--if I was teaching this particular point in American history, this would be a good novel to have on hand and use it to show students a different historical perspective. It was a fantastic and fun read with a spunky main character, set in an interesting period in history. The best thing about it was that I learned something new in reading this novel. Win!
Hello everyone,
If you had a chance to read my review of Lady Be Good earlier this month you know how much I really enjoyed it. It was my first historical romance read this year and it kind of made want to read more historical romances (which was my favorite genre before I fell in love with contemporary romance). Well, Meredith next book is Luck Be a Lady (already out in stores!) and it's a companion to Lady Be Good. Actually, it's the fourth book in the Rules for the Reckless series, but it can be read as a standalone.

The hero and heroine in Luck Be a Lady were important secondary characters in Lady Be Good and I am so excited to see how their story will turn out because the heroine was a rich "ice queen" and the hero is a powerful crime lord and they're in a marriage-of-convenience situation.

Romance sizzles between a famous heiress and an infamous crime lord in this fourth sexy novel in the Rules for the Reckless series from the USA Today bestselling author of Fool Me Twice.

The Wallflower

They call her the “Ice Queen.” Catherine Everleigh is London’s loveliest heiress, but a bitter lesson in heartbreak has taught her to keep to herself. All she wants is her birthright—the auction house that was stolen from her. To win this war, she’ll need a powerful ally. Who better than infamous and merciless crime lord Nicholas O’Shea? A marriage of convenience will no doubt serve them both.

The Crime Lord

Having conquered the city’s underworld, Nick seeks a new challenge. Marrying Catherine will give him the appearance of legitimacy—and access to her world of the law-abiding elite. No one needs to know he’s coveted Catherine for a year now—their arrangement is strictly business, free from the troubling weaknesses of love. Seduction, however, is a different matter—an enticing game he means to ensure she enjoys, whether she wishes to or not...



"Hiding from somebody?"

She jumped. Around the corner stepped a familiar figure. Astonishment briefly caught her tongue.

She was not good with faces, but it would take a blind woman to forget Lilah's uncle. He was nature's cruel trick on the fairer sex, the perfect picture of dark, charming, masculine wickedness. Shining black hair, high cheekbones, lips as full as a woman's... That was surely a flaw. But then, he had that brutal jaw and chin to make up for it... and the slight bump to his high-bridged nose, suggestive of some violent fracture in his past.

"Mr. O'Shea." She spoke very stiffly, for she had never liked his effect on her. She herself was counted beautiful, and she had seen what power she could wield when she cared to try. She refused to fall prey to a similar spell.

But what a miserable coincidence to meet him here!

He propped his shoulder on the brick wall and looked her over. "Dressed for prowling, I see. Did you steal that cloak from one of your maids?"

She took a strangling hold on her collar. "It is mine, in fact. But thank you for the insult."

His black brows arched. "Don't think much of your maids, do you?"

She opened her mouth, then thought better of it, and settled instead on a scowl. She had only met him twice, and both times he had looked at her in this smug, infuriating way, as though she were a joke designed for his private amusement. He made her feel... judged and ridiculed, found wanting as a woman.

As though he were in any position to judge her! He was impertinent, boorish, ill-bred, and criminal. She must never forget that, even if at present he wore a black tailcoat fit for a ball.

She frowned at him. He was in fact dressed with ludicrous elegance, with a diamond stickpin at his neck. "I was unaware that Whitechapel required evening dress of his strollers," she said tartly. "Next time I come, I'll be sure to wear a ball gown."



ABOUT THE AUTHOR 
Meredith Duran is the author of eight previous novels, including The Duke of Shadows (winner of the Gather.com First Chapters Romance Writing Competition); Wicked Becomes You (included on the Woman’s World List of Best Beach Reads for Summer 2010), and the USA TODAY bestseller Fool Me Twice. She blames Anne Boleyn for sparking her lifelong obsession with British history, and for convincing her that princely love is no prize if it doesn’t come with a happily-ever-after. She enjoys collecting old etiquette manuals, guidebooks to nineteenth-century London, and travelogues by intrepid Victorian women. Visit her at MeredithDuran.com, or catch up with her on Twitter: @meredithduran and Facebook: AuthorMeredithDuran.


Have you read a book by Meredith Duran? I've read 4 books by her so far (including The Duke of Shadows, A Lady's Lesson in Scandal, and Wicked Becomes You, all of which I rated five stars) and they are all excellent--phenomenal writing and she takes familiar tropes and makes it her own in such a refreshing way. She's one of the best historical romance writers out there in my opinion.

I'll be posting my review Luck Be a Lady on September 9th with a really awesome book giveaway of Meredith's books you don't want to miss.

Happy reading,
Michelle

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Gallery Books
Release Date: August 25, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: The Legal Briefs #2**
Synopsis
A knight in tarnished armor is still a knight.

When you’re a defense attorney in Washington, DC, you see firsthand how hard life can be, and that sometimes the only way to survive is to be harder. I, Jake Becker, have a reputation for being cold, callous, and intimidating—and that suits me just fine. In fact, it’s necessary when I’m breaking down a witness on the stand.

Complications don’t work for me—I’m a “need-to-know” type of man. If you’re my client, tell me the basic facts. If you’re my date, stick to what will turn you on. I’m not a therapist or Prince Charming—and I don’t pretend to be.

Then Chelsea McQuaid and her six orphaned nieces and nephews came along and complicated the ever-loving hell out of my life. Now I'm going to Mommy & Me classes, One Direction concerts, the emergency room, and arguing cases in the principal's office.

Chelsea’s too sweet, too innocent, and too gorgeous for her own good. She tries to be tough, but she’s not. She needs someone to help her, defend her…and the kids.

And that — that, I know how to do.



Sustained is my favorite book by Emma Chase (so far). It was hilarious, fun, funny and had so much heart that I melted. 

Other than Sustained, I've read Tangled, Twisted and Overruled (book 1 in the Legal Brief series) and in every one is the classic Emma Chase hero, the lovable scoundrel. Really, no one else I've can do a lovable scoundrel as well as Emma Chase can. Before Sustained, my favorite was Drew Evans but Jake Becker blew him out of the water. At first I was unsure I'd like him--he slept with a different woman every night and had freakin' had a syphilis scare. Afterwards, he was ranting and raving about having to on at least three dates so that he can be sure the next woman he sleeps with is clean. Jake was a douche, but even before his character grew and evolved we find out that he's not a total douche.

We learn that he was an angry, father-less screw-up kid who was taken under the wings of a judge who helped him turn his life around to become the successful lawyer he was. When the old judge developed Alzheimer's and was put in a home, Jake visited him every week without fail. He loves his mom and had a good relationship with her. When he met Chelsea McQuaid's nephews and nieces, he quickly built rapport with all of them and became a big part of their lives. 

Since we're in his head the entire time, we can see how he grew to care for all of them despite his oft repeated mantra that he did not want anything to tie him down and that his career takes precedence in his life. He really loved the kids and the kids loved him. I love Jake's interactions and scenes with each of the six kids--I had my doubts how Ms. Chase was going to pull off the six kids without them being too much but she did such a great job! She also didn't resort to the typical kid cliches--there were some but not so overwhelming and each kid had his or her own unique personality.

As for Chelsea, she's awesome and I liked her right away--unlike Sofia's character in Overruled who I did not find appealing at all. She had a lot on her plate, with her brother and sister-in-law's sudden death and having to drop everything in her life to take care of six kids ranging from a one-year-old to a 14-year-old. I felt for her and I can imagine myself being in her shoes. But she didn't complain, did the best she could, and she clearly loved her nieces and nephews. I also loved how her relationship with Jake developed. They were able to form a solid friendship before they jumped into the sex, which was very steamy but nothing kinky.

Sustained was such a fun book to read. The plot wasn't anything new and I knew where the story was going to go and how the characters were going to react, but I still wanted to know and see how everything for Jake, Chelsea and the kids will turn out. I was very much entertained by the story, and I had such a grand time reading it. I devoured it in a day because I was so engaged in the story that I had a hard time putting it down. I highly recommend you pick up Sustained. It's one of Emma Chase's best. 

I'm so, so, so excited to read Appealed, which will be about Jake's friend Brent Mason and it's going to be a second chance romance. Eeeeppp!!!

**You don't need to read Overruled to enjoy Sustained.

Read my review of Tangled and Twisted and Overruled.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Favorite Books We Read This Summer

Monday, August 24, 2015 with
Hello everyone,
My summer was over a month ago and Leslie's summer is officially over today. She's back in college and today is her first day of classes. This means we can now do our favorite summer reads post--our favorites out of all the books we read this summer.

Leslie read a total of 18 books. These are the books she gave 5 out of 5 stars to.
I am so happy she finally picked up The Winner's Curse and The Winner's Crime and loved it as much as I did. Now, we're both counting down the months and days until the release of The Winner's Kiss. She also loved To All the Boys I've Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You. She basically inhaled read both books within 48 hours. Since then she's been urging me to pick up the books. Everything Everything and First & Then are not out yet, but according to Leslie they are both AMAZING. She'll be part of a fun superlatives-themed blog tour for First & Then in mid-September. And there's been a lot of positive buzz for Everything Everything and Leslie said it's well-deserved--it's one of the cutest, sweetest, feel-good book she's read since Anna and the French Kiss.
I also read 18 books this summer and even though I didn't read as many 5-star books as Leslie, I did read a lot of fantastic books. The five in the picture above were my most favorite reads. I picked up Beautiful Bastard after avoiding it for so long (the title was a turn-off, it was Twilight fan fiction, a couple of my trusted bloggers didn't like it) but it was WOW!! I ended up loving! So much that I picked up the next two companion books Beautiful Stranger and Beautiful Player soon after and loved them as well. Then, I bought all the full novels by Christina Lauren published because their books are phenomenal--a perfect blend of humor, sexiness, romance, and heart. An Ember in the Ashes was also really, really good. I gave it 4 stars because I didn't absolutely loved it (read my review) but it was such an amazing read. I am dying to read the sequel.

Yep, we both have The Wrath and the Dawn as one of our favorites. It might be our favorite book of the year. It's that phenomenal. After we read it (me first and then, because I won't shut up about it, Leslie picked it up), we both had the BIGGEST book hang-over. I dealt with it by listening to the songs Renee Ahdieh listed as ones who inspired her while she was writing the novel over and over and over again for two whole weeks. Then, Leslie and I debated what song belonged in what scene. I still listen to it from time to time just to get back in the world and reminisce about the story. We planned to do a joint The Wrath and the Dawn review but we couldn't because we had no intelligible words worthy. If you haven't read it, just pick it up. You won't be sorry.

What are your favorite reads this summer? Did read and you love The Wrath and the Dawn as much as we did?

Happy reading,
Michelle (& Leslie)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Kathy Dawson Books
Release Date: August 18, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Synopsis
Every October Cara and her family become inexplicably and unavoidably accident-prone. Some years it's bad, like the season when her father died, and some years it's just a lot of cuts and scrapes. This accident season—when Cara, her ex-stepbrother, Sam, and her best friend, Bea, are 17—is going to be a bad one. But not for the reasons they think.

Cara is about to learn that not all the scars left by the accident season are physical: There's a long-hidden family secret underneath the bumps and bruises. This is the year Cara will finally fall desperately in love, when she'll start discovering the painful truth about the adults in her life, and when she'll uncover the dark origins of the accident season—whether she's ready or not.



The Accident Season was one of those books I liked but didn't love. It was a strange read with flashes of beauty and brilliance and shades of darkness, but I felt disconnected while reading it.
I didn't really know much about The Accident Season going in except what I read in the synopsis and I really think that's the best way to go into this novel. Also, it's not easy to summarize it. There were things happening, and nothing really comes together until the very end when we finally get the full picture. It's a magical realism novel so there were elements of strange events that happened that you couldn't quite explain. I often wondered if they were happening in real life or were they all in Cara Morris's imagination or there's actually magic so, in that case, ghosts and monsters.

Cara was telling the story in a first-person narrative and right from the start you can tell there was something off about her. She was supposed to be a junior in high school but she acted younger, less mature than her age. She had a child-like innocence about her, which was opposite from her older sister Alice (who was a year older than Cara) and who was more of an old soul and was carrying a lot of weight on her shoulders. Bea, Cara's best friend, fit right along with the Morris sisters. She's the "weird" girl in school and never without her tarot cards--she consults them every morning because she never wants to be taken unaware. As for Sam, Cara and Alice's ex-stepbrother (his dad and the girls' mom were married and then separated but Sam still lives with them), I felt he was the least fleshed out of the four of them. He was around a lot, but he didn't really show much personality and his character felt removed from the three girls until the last few chapters. Maybe that was intentional because Cara was pushing him away for reasons I don't want to give away. 

But the whole thing between Cara and Sam was actually my favorite bit in the novel. I loved them together. They grew up together in the same house so they were close and had an easy relationship. When they were little, I loved how Sam would always side with Cara and back her up, even though he would leave Alice sadly on her own. I loved all their scenes together. My favorite scene was when Cara and Sam finally talked and told each other what they've been keeping back. It was a long-time coming and I thought that scene was perfectly written. Also, the ending was perfect--there were a couple of unanswered questions but it was very satisfying and appealed to my HEA-loving self. I loved where Cara, Alice, Bea and Sam were by the end.

My least favorite thing about The Accident Season was how the cigarette smoking and drinking was treated. The characters were so casual about it. Well, they were hiding the smoking and most of the heavy drinking from their parents, but for the most part it was so very careless and offhand. There was no real repercussion from the all the heavy drinking and cigarette smoking. I wasn't comfortable with that.

I enjoyed the story overall but there was a disconnect throughout and I couldn't quite get into it as much as I would've liked. The beginning was really exciting, when were learning about what the accident season was and things that happened in the past. But I hit a hump in the middle when nothing was really happening and I lost momentum. Then, it got really good again in the end when all the action was happening--holy crap, that scene with the fire was intense!--and everything was finally coming together. The writing was really good, very lyrical and expressive. There were some lines in there that were so quotable that I wish I had some tabs or a highlighter on hand so I could mark the pages. But there were also times when I'd have to reread a paragraph again because I couldn't quite make sense of it the first time. Basically, The Accident Season was not the kind of book you can just breeze through and be done. It required absorption and reflection, and since I'm always pressed for time, I didn't have that time to just let it all sink in. I think it's the kind of book you need to reread to really get everything.

The Accident Season is not for everybody. But, if you enjoy magical realism, then you should definitely pick up The Accident Season. I think it will very much appeal to you. If you want a different kind of read, one that makes you question what is going on and that is, at times, dark but with strong elements of family, friendship and love, definitely check out The Accident Season. If you're looking for a quick read, then The Accident Season is probably not what you're looking for.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Ten Authors on my Auto-Buy List

Tuesday, August 18, 2015 with
Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
Hello everyone,
I really like the topic for this week's Top Ten Tuesday, which is ten authors on my auto-buy list. I've been meaning to update my auto-buy authors list on my favorites list so this topic is perfect.

I buy a lot of books. I'm one of those book nerds who buy or collect series without actually reading the first book in the series to see if I'll actually like it. So, I might own all the books published by an author, but I don't consider them "auto-buy" because I haven't read any of their books. Authors I consider "auto-buy" are those whose books (2 or more) I actually read and loved and I buy/pre-order their books because I know I'll love them when I eventually--I have a HUGE TBR and I'm a very slow reader--read them.

In no particular order...

Huntley Fitzpatrick. I love her debut My Life Next Door. I love her next novel What I Thought Was True even more. Her third novel, The Boy Most Likely, finally comes out today and I cannot wait to read it. She writes the most amazing, heartfelt contemporary YA with characters are imperfectly perfect.

Miranda Kenneally. Her books are so readable and they have that Southern Americana feel that I love. Plus, they're steamier than the typical YA, which I also love. I've read all of her books (except for Breathe, Annie, Breathe and her latest release Jesse's Girl--I'm just waiting for a chunk of time where I can read each of them in one sitting because Miranda's books are best devoured in one sitting) and Stealing Parker is my favorite.

Stephanie PerkinsAnna and the French Kiss is the quintessential YA contemporary--I compare it to every YA contemporary I've read since and ones I will read in the future. Okay, I didn't really like Lola and the Boy Next Door (mostly because of Lola's character), but Isla and the Happily Ever After is fantastic. Plus, she created √Čtienne St. Clair, who I will love til the end of time.

Jennifer E. Smith. Her books average about 3 or 4 out of 5 stars for me, but I love her books because they are fun, romantic, quick and easy to read. Whenever I am experiencing a reading slump, her books are my go-to for getting me out of them.

Christina Lauren. This writing duo is my newest addition to my auto-buy list. Since reading Beautiful Bastard a few months ago, I quickly devoured Beautiful Stranger and Beautiful Player right after because the books are like crack. They're addicting and I cannot get enough! Then, I immediately bought the rest of their full novels and I'm hoping to get their novellas soon. Their books are a perfect blend of fun, sexy, and heartfelt.

Nalini Singh. I don't know how Nalini does it, but ALL of her books are gold. You'd think her books couldn't get better, but she always manages to top herself. If you have not picked up her Psy-Changeling or Guild Hunter series, you're missing out. She recently came out with a new contemporary romance series that revolves around a group of rock stars called Rock Kiss and it's fantastic too. Ms. Singh can do no wrong.

Julie James. Ms. James is like the Stephanie Perkins of the contemporary romance world. When she published Practice Makes Perfect back in 2009, to me it felt like she breathed new life into the contemporary romance genre. Her books are funny, witty, filled with fantastic, spot-on, clever banter--reading her books feel like watching the most perfect rom-com. She only publishes once a year and I am always waiting for her new book with bated breath because I know that I won't be disappointed.

Jill Shalvis. Her books are fun, sexy, and funny--Ms. Shalvis has her own brand of humor that I really enjoy. Yes, she has a formula when it comes to writing her books. But it's a formula that works for me. Her books like comfort reads. I know exactly what to expect and I now I won't be disappointed.

Kristen Callihan. Ms. Callihan is another new auto-buy author I added to my list this year. I read Soulbound in February, which was actually the 6th book in her Darkest London book, a Victorian Era paranormal romance series, and I just fell in love with the world she created and her writing. Of course, I had to get and read the previous books in the series, which I did, and I fell even more in love. Then, I picked up the first two books in her new adult series Game On (I'm impatiently waiting for the third to come out later this year) a few months ago and absolutely LOVED both.

Jessica Lemmon. Ms. Lemmon is also a recent addition to my auto-buy list. I read her novel The Millionaire Affair last year and while I liked it, I wasn't terribly impressed. Then, I picked up Bringing Home the Bad Boy, the first book in her new series called Second Chance and holy cow it was 5-star good! Book two was called Rescuing the Bad Boy and it was another 5-star winner--this pretty much cemented the fact that I need to add Ms. Lemmon to my auto-buy list. I'm counting the days until I can get my hands on A Bad Boy for Christmas and I know it's going to be amazing.

*****

There you have it. My 10 auto-buy authors. Yep, it's very contemporary-heavy--what can I say... it's my favorite sub-genre. 

I do want to include a few honorable mentions, which are authors who are not yet added to my auto-buy list because I've only read one book by them (because they're debut authors), or I'm holding off until I read the last book in the series (how they conclude a series may make or break them), or I buy most of their books but avoid some because they contain subject matters that are not my cup of tea, but they made such an impression that I just have to mention them too. They are Marie Rutkoski, Renee Ahdieh, Becky Wallace, Sabaa Tahir, Lorelei James, Elle Kennedy, and Kristan Higgins.

Are any of my auto-buy authors also your auto-buy athors? Let me know! 

Happy reading,
Michelle

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: August 4, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Synopsis
Is she strong enough to trust the most dangerous man she’s ever met? And is he strong enough to let her?

How would I describe myself? Well, I’m Muse Harper. I’m a twenty-something painter who loves red wine, quirky movies, and men with a fatal flaw. But that was before I met Jasper King. He became my fatal flaw. Eight months ago, I had a choice to make—abandon everything I’ve ever known to protect my family, or stay and risk someone getting hurt. I chose the former. My plan was working just fine until I found out my father had gone missing.

That’s when I met Jasper. A bounty hunter with the eyes of a tiger and the nose of a bloodhound, he was supposed to help me find my father. What I didn’t know was that meeting him was no accident. Hunting people isn’t all that Jasper does. And helping me was only part of his plan. I just wish I’d found out sooner, before my heart got involved. But even then, I don’t know if I’d have done things differently.

Now, I have another choice to make—trust the man that I’m falling in love with and hope that he’ll do the right thing, or run as far away from him as I can get.



Strong Enough was the first book I read by M. Leighton. I've heard of her before, of course. I actually have all three books in her Bad Boys series languishing on my bookshelf, but I just haven't had the time to pick them up. I will definitely make time now, because I thoroughly enjoyed Strong Enough and I am dying to read more books by her.
Strong Enough began with an awful, horrible scene. I read this book right after I read Damage Done (which centers around a psychopath) and it felt like I was still reading that book. But this scene gave us an insight to "bounty hunter" Jasper King, because when we see him again he's this hard, dark, dangerous, secretive man. Muse, who hired Jasper to find her missing father, was his opposite. She kept stuff to herself and didn't let herself get too close to many people, but that's because she's trying to protect her dad. But she let's herself feel every emotion and she's friendly by nature. I really liked Muse's character. And even though Jasper was very mysterious and his intentions were unclear, I also really liked him and rooted for him. I loved that we got both of Muse and Jasper's perspectives--I loved knowing what both were thinking and this helped me connect with both characters.

The sexual tension between Muse and Jasper was high from the moment they met. Muse quickly falls for Jasper and Jasper couldn't help falling for Muse too even though he knew he shouldn't. She's really just a pawn, or collateral damage when he's done with his job (which, unbeknownst to Muse, is more than helping her find her missing dad). I really like the romance between Muse and Jasper. I did think their relationship, or their feelings for each other, grew a little too quickly without that much build up. But damn, they were hot together. Like, you need to turn up your AC and get a cold drink ready because the sex scenes were scorching!

Strong Enough was an intoxicating read. I would've liked an extra scene of when Muse told Jasper her happy news in the end. It would've been nice to see Jasper's reaction. This book did have a lot elements that I love to read about: a road trip, the awkward car conversations (they're really fun to read), the inevitable hotel stay and all the tension that comes with that, as well as the dual perspective and a mystery aspect. I also enjoyed Ms. Leighton's writing and I found it very readable--I liked her style and her voice. If like reading about dark, sexy mystery men, relish hot smexy scenes, and enjoy a little suspense and some edge in your romance then I suggest you pick up Strong Enough. The little bit we got of Kiefer Rogan and the unanswered questions about the mystery of who was after the men got me so excited to read the next one (called Tough Enough) in the series. It's coming out in November. Not too long now!

I watch her lush lips part, her breathing already shallow. She’s off-kilter. Just the way I like. “Are you Tracey’s friend?” she asks, finding a coherent thought and clinging to it.

“I am,” I reply, reaching around her to lay the pencil on the desk. The action brings my face to within an inch of hers and our arms brush. I hear the soft gasp of her inhalation.

“Why didn’t you just tell me? You didn’t have to pretend to be a customer.”

Anger. It rushes in to clear away the cobwebs. I can see it in the way her sleepy green eyes start to flash like two fiery emeralds.

“I wanted a few minutes alone with you before you went on guard. Like you are now.”

“Why? Am I being interviewed or something? I thought I was the one hiring you.”

“You are. But I like to know who I’m working for when I take a job like this.”

While the look on her face says she doesn’t approve of my tactic, she’s too curious to let it go. “And?”

“And what?”

“And what did you find out? What do you think you figured out about me in ten minutes of silence?”

I hold her gaze for long, quiet seconds before I speak. I sense how uncomfortable it makes her. I’m used to it. Such directness makes most people uncomfortable, but that doesn’t stop me. Keeping others off balance is always a benefit to me. “I don’t need to interrogate you to learn things about you. Being with you is enough.”

“Yeah, right,” she scoffs, trying for casual.

“For instance, you’re a hard worker who takes her job seriously, even though I don’t think it’s really the job you want to be working. You’re good at this, but you’re not quite at home here, which tells me that this isn’t permanent. You looked sad and distracted when I came in, like you might be missing someone. Maybe that is where home is. And then there’s the fact that you’re trying to hire me. I’d say that accounts for the worried frown I keep seeing between your eyebrows.”

Her mouth drops open for a few seconds before she snaps it shut. “Is that all?” she asks sarcastically, pulling her vest tighter around her middle like she feels naked. I’m used to that, too. No one likes to feel exposed, like their secrets aren’t theirs to keep anymore.

“No, that’s not all, but I doubt you want to hear the rest.”

She eyes me warily for a few seconds before she raises her chin, eyes locked bravely onto mine. “Of course I do.”

She’s courageous. Ballsy. I like that.

“Well, just off hand you have a good eye for color, which makes me think you’re artistic. Artists are usually very . . . emotional. I’d say that when you’re not consumed with concern you have a tendency to throw yourself into the way you feel regardless of potential outcomes.”

“You can’t possibly know that.”

“I can. And I do. Just like I know you wash your hair in something that contains lilac.” Her eyes widen, but she says nothing so I continue, leaning in ever so slightly. “And then there’s the fact that you’re attracted to me. You don’t want to be. You probably even think that you shouldn’t be, but that’s like catnip for you, isn’t it?”

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

E-ARC: 400 pages
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: August 18, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Synopsis
They are the Perfect Gentlemen of Creighton Academy: privileged, wealthy, powerful friends with a wild side. But a deadly scandal is about to tear down their seemingly ideal lives...

Maddox Crawford’s sudden death sends Gabriel Bond reeling. Not only is he burying his best friend, he’s cleaning up Mad’s messes, including his troubled company. Grieving and restless, Gabe escapes his worries in the arms of a beautiful stranger. But his mind-blowing one-night stand is about to come back to haunt him...

Mad groomed Everly Parker to be a rising star in the executive world. Now that he’s gone, she’s sure her job will be the next thing she mourns, especially after she ends up accidentally sleeping with her new boss. If only their night together hadn’t been so incendiary—or Gabe like a fantasy come true...

As Gabe and Everly struggle to control the heated tension between them, they discover evidence that Mad’s death was no accident. Now they must bank their smoldering passions to hunt down a murderer—because Mad had secrets that someone was willing to kill for, and Gabe or Everly could be the next target...



I have pretty high expectations going into Scandal Never Sleeps. Besides the really awesome-sounding synopsis, Shayla Black and Lexi Blake are big name authors known for their very smexy, steamy romances. I haven't read any of Ms. Blake's books but I've read a couple of books in Ms. Black's Wicked Lovers series (the tamer ones) before and enjoyed them. Together, I was sure, they're going to come up with something amazing... and very, very steamy.
Scandal Never Sleeps is the first book in a new series that revolves around a group of six friends called the Perfect Gentlemen. They met when they attended the same private school and all grew up to become wealthy, important men--one of them becoming the current president of the United States. But the sudden death of Maddox Crawford sent the entire group of friends reeling, and it appeared that his murder was actually part of a bigger conspiracy.

My favorite thing about Scandal Never Sleeps was definitely the friendship among the six (or five, now that Maddox was dead) men. They're basically brothers from another mother. They had each other's back and were there for each other--when one was making questionable choices, they called him on it. I really enjoyed the scenes they had together.

Each of the men were also interesting on their own. I already mentioned one being POTUS--that's Zack Hayes. Roman Calder is his chief of staff. Dax Spencer was part of the Navy. Then, there's the mysterious Connor Sparks who's part of the CIA. Maddox and Gabriel Bond were wealthy businessmen. Actually, I found Gabriel to be the least interesting of the six of them. We got glimpses of each of their backstories and current lives (hints for their future books) and I found myself wanting to know more about the other men. Gabriel was a bit overshadowed--I thought his backstory wasn't as compelling as the others.

As for Gabriel's heroine, Everly Parker, I really liked her. She held her own when she with the men and though there were times where I felt she gave in to him too easily, she didn't let Gabriel step all over her too much. But the chemistry between Everly and Gabriel was palpable. I enjoyed them together. Everly found herself in dangerous situations and she could've easily been a TSTL heroine, but before jumping into them she took careful measures for her safety, which I really liked. I also liked that she's a hacker and I think her skill set will probably come in handy in the future books. 

Like I mentioned, authors Shayla Black and Lexi Blake are known for their very steamy romances (they also co-wrote the Masters of Menage series) and they brought in the steam here. However, if you're not really into the hardcore kinky stuff no worries because while the sexy times were very hot, they were pretty tame (which is what I actually prefer in my romances). The limo ride in Times Square smexy time was my favorite.

I also really enjoyed the suspense/mystery aspect of the novel. I had a theory about who was behind the murder early on as clues were found (and I was able to guess correctly), but I was still surprised by some of the twists and revelations of a bigger conspiracy in the end. The mystery wasn't completely solved by end of this novel and we're left with some big questions. Scandal Never Sleeps ended with an epilogue in Connor's viewpoint (he was my favorite of the men--very dark, dangerous and mysterious) and it got me really excited for the next book in the series, Seduction in Session.

Scandal Never Sleeps was an excellent start to the Perfect Gentlemen series. The authors did a great job penning a very compelling mystery that kept me glued to the pages and my heart racing, especially during the final showdown in the end. I love the mix of friendship, romance, suspense, danger and mystery. I am so excited for the next book in the series--this series could only get better from here. Don't let this new series pass you by! 

“What are your plans tonight, Eve?”

That was a loaded question. Her current plan included going to a lonely apartment where she could worry about her future and try to figure out if someone had murdered her friend. She could be alone with her fear and doubt . . . but she didn’t really want to. “I was getting ready to leave. What about you?”

“So was I. I thought I’d get some dinner before I called it a night. I don’t think the food here is going to be any good. Giovanni’s is one block over. Italian might be nice. I can promise you won’t have any trouble getting a glass of wine there.”

“You’re asking me out?” It was a little surreal. She saw much more attractive women still in the bar. Why had he chosen her? Maybe he liked a curvier girl. Some guys did.

His face settled into a polite mask. “I don’t know that I would call it a date.”

“What would you call it, then?”

He stepped closer, into her personal space. “Eve, I want to be honest with you.”

Eve. She wasn’t Everly to Gabriel. Which meant that he didn’t expect her to be a good, polite girl. She didn’t have to be shy about what she wanted.

She stood a bit taller and met his beautiful blue eyes. She could see the five‑o’clock shadow darkening his jaw and wondered what it would feel like to brush her fingertips over his face, to run her thumb across that full bottom lip of his. “Honesty is good.”

She wasn’t being entirely honest with him, but it didn’t matter. They were sharing a moment out of time. She wouldn’t see him again. She didn’t even know his last name.

“I’m looking for an escape tonight. I can find it in the bottom of a bottle or I can take you out of here and try to make us both feel good. Why don’t you let me buy you dinner and plead my case?”

He was asking her to sleep with him. A one-night stand. She’d never had one. She’d slept with two men in her whole life, and they’d both been her boyfriends. Sex had been all right, but something about the look in Gabriel’s eyes told her this would be far better.

He wanted to escape. She wasn’t sure from what, but she glimpsed a world of worries and sorrow in his expression that drew her. She understood loss and longing. She knew what it meant to need a few hours of escape. Hadn’t she been wanting that herself?

A single memory pierced her in that moment. Two days before he died, Maddox had shaken his head over her nonexistent dating life. He’d tried to persuade her to let him set her up on a blind date, but she’d said she didn’t have time. She’d needed to get some reports done and go through the purchase orders on the new hard drives and security systems. He’d rolled those piercing eyes of his.

You need to live a little. Your whole life can’t be spent behind a computer screen. Life is often about taking risks. Sometimes you have to leave yourself to figure out who you really are.

She didn’t have to be herself. Not tonight.

“Kiss me.” The words were out of her mouth before she could stop them. She was never bold or brazen when it came to men. She’d never demanded anything sexually of a lover, but she wanted Gabriel to kiss her. She wanted to see if that spark she felt translated to something truly physical.

She expected some discussion, and when he hesitated, she was more than willing to admit that she’d been hasty. Everly was about to shake her head and try to laugh the incident off when he cupped her face and his body brushed hers. He tilted her head up and his mouth descended.

Soft. His lips were soft on hers. Gentle. He moved with predatory grace. His fingers sank into her hair, and her hands seemed to naturally find the lean muscles at his waist. Even through his crisp dress shirt, she could feel the heat of his body. It practically poured off him and into her, warming her skin and making her come to life.

He was gentle, but Everly knew precisely who was in charge. His lips locked onto hers, leading her. A little tug on her hair told her which way he wanted her to move.Everything about him—scent, taste, feel—made her melt. She forgot where she was, forgot that they were in public. The noise of the bar receded until all she could hear was her own heart beating furiously in her ears. Nothing mattered at all but the feel of his body under her hands, the masterful way he moved her.

“Is that what you wanted, Eve?” He breathed the words against her mouth. “You wanted to see if I can kiss? I can give you more. I don’t simply want to kiss your lips. I want to strip you down and find out if you’re as sweet and soft everywhere as you look. I want to run my tongue over your skin until I memorize how you taste. I want to kiss you so long and hard that you’ll forget you were ever kissed before.” He lifted his head up and dragged in a breath. “So what do you say? Will you have dinner with me?”

She swallowed. His words made everything but her need fall away. “It’s not dinner I’m interested in anymore.”

Posted by arrangement with Berkley Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Shelley Bradley, LLC and DLZ Entertainment LLC, 2015.


About the Authors
Shayla Black is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than forty sizzling contemporary, erotic, paranormal and historical romances. Shayla has received or been nominated for the Passionate Plume, the Holt Medallion, Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence and the National Readers Choice Award. She lives in Texas with her family. Visit her online at shaylablack.com, facebook.com/ShaylaBlackAuthor

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lexi Blake began writing at a young age, concentrating on plays and journalism. It wasn’t until she started writing romance that she found success. Lexi lives in North Texas with her family. Visit her online at LexiBlack.net.

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Monday, August 10, 2015

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: July 21, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Synopsis
22 minutes separate Julia Vann’s before and after.

Before: Julia had a twin brother, a boyfriend, and a best friend.

After: She has a new identity, a new hometown, and memories of those twenty-two minutes that refuse to come into focus. At least, that’s what she tells the police.

Now that she’s Lucy Black, she's able to begin again. She's even getting used to the empty bedroom where her brother should be. And her fresh start has attracted the attention of one of the hottest guys in school, a boy who will do anything to protect her. But when someone much more dangerous also takes notice, Lucy's forced to confront the dark secrets she thought were safely left behind.

One thing is clear: The damage done can never be erased. It’s only just beginning...



With its creepy cover and vague synopsis, I went into Damage Done expecting something dark and twisty. It was definitely dark, but not very twisty.
I had a theory early on about what actually happened in the band room, to Julia, and to Julia's twin brother. There were glaringly obvious clues. While my theory wasn't one hundred percent on point, it was close enough--hence, not a twisty read for me.

It was also hard for me to be emotionally invested in any of the characters. The story was told in Lucy/Julia's first person POV and you know right away there's something off about her. She would think these strange things (for example, she wants to bubble wrap someone and shove them in a trunk to keep them safe--WTF?), she's very manipulative and takes pride in being a very good liar. Her twin brother was supposed to the psychopath in the family because he was the one who shot eleven people in the band room and she painted herself as the "good" twin, but you're left to wonder if there's more of her twin in her than she wants to admit. I was just waiting for her to snap so I couldn't get behind her. The other characters were her new best friend Alane and Michael, the boy she was attracted to. I didn't want them to die, but I was convinced they were sitting ducks.

However, even though I kind of guessed the end and I wasn't emotionally invested in the characters, it didn't stop me from reading this book deep into the night. Damage Done was a riveting read, no question. The clues were there and I wanted to know if I was right. I wanted to see what will happen to Lucy/Julia in the end and how she will come out of it. What will happen in the final showdown when the truth finally comes out? Will Lucy/Julia finally snap? I was very much engrossed in the story.

While Damage Done wasn't the best YA psychological thrillers I've ever read, it was still quite the page-turner for me. I really enjoyed the writing too--it was very readable and helped me to keep turning the pages. I will be on the lookout for more books by Ms. Panitch in the future. In the mood for a psychological thriller that will keep you reading into the night? Pick up Damage Done.

Friday, August 7, 2015

#STAYPECULIAR Awesomeness + Tote Bag Giveaway

Friday, August 7, 2015 with
Labels:
Hello everyone,
Happy Friday! I have a fun post and giveaway today. I posted my review of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children a while back and I really, really liked it. I liked it so much that I did another post of 10 reasons why you should read Miss Peregrine. I haven't read Hollow City yet, but hopefully I will soon and I'm excited for Library of Souls (which has my favorite cover in the series).

I don't know if you've heard about the #STAYPECULIAR Tour and sweepstakes Quirk books is currently running. If not, check it out!

It's a great sweepstakes to enter especially if you're like and author NEVER come to your area or anywhere near your area. And how awesome would it be to go to one of the tour cities?! I've never been to any except for NYC.

Basically, all you have to do is to post a selfie of yourself in your most peculiar costume, post it on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube, Vine, or on your blog with the with the #StayPeculiar hashtag. Then, visit http://www.quirkbooks.com/los and enter your selfie link on the form. There's already some really fun entries if you search #StayPeculiar in all the social medias. 

As a bonus for checking out this post, you can enter to win a fun #StayPeculiar tote bag! To enter, just enter your info in the form below. The giveaway end on 8/21 and it's US only.

Happy reading,
Michelle

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Pocket Books
Release Date: July 28, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: Rules for the Reckless #3
Synopsis
Catching the Lady Red-Handed
Born to a family of infamous criminals, Lilah Marshall has left behind her past and made herself into the perfect lady. Working as a hostess at Eveleigh's, London’s premier auction house, she leads a life full of art, culture, and virtue. All her dreams are within reach—until a gorgeous and enigmatic viscount catches her in the act of one last, very reluctant theft.

Chasing One Red-Hot Passion
Christian “Kit” Stratton, Viscount Palmer, is society's most dashing war hero. But Kit’s easy smiles hide a dark secret: he is haunted by a madman’s vow to destroy anyone he loves. When his hunt for the enemy leads to Everleigh’s Auction Rooms, he compels Lilah to help him. But one tempting touch may be their undoing—for what Kit needs threatens all Lilah holds dear, and losing her may destroy Kit.



A couple of weeks ago I found Lady Be Good waiting for me at my door and I immediately picked it. I don't really know why, because these days I prefer contemporary romance. Lady Be Good was actually my first [non-paranormal] historical romance read this year! But maybe it had to do with the fact that it's by Meredith Duran. I knew I couldn't go wrong picking up a book by her.
Meredith Duran is one of the best writers (romance or otherwise) out there in my opinion. I've read four books by her so far (including Lady Be Good) and she continues to impress me with her prose, characters and intricate plot line. I am so glad I picked this book up, because it served to remind me how much I do enjoy a good historical romance and how much I miss reading them.

The plot revolved around Christian “Kit” Stratton, Viscount Palmer, who was a celebrated war hero. An old enemy, Bolkhov, followed him back to England because he wanted revenge against Kit by going after Kit's family members. Kit suspected that Bolkhov was behind his brother's sudden death, so he needed to find Bolkhov and stop him once and for all. Enter Lilah Marshall. She worked as a hostess at Everleigh, an auction house, and Kit sort of blackmailed her (after he caught her stealing from her employer) into helping him with her employer's sister Catherine Everleigh, who recently had contact with Bolkhov.

Lilah left behind her criminal past to become a perfect lady. She worked as a hostess at Everleigh. But her uncle threatened to expose her if she didn't help him steal a few letters from her employer. When Kit caught her stealing, she had not choice but to do what he demanded, which was to spy on Catherine. But as Kit and Lilah spend more time together, they couldn't ignore their undeniable attraction for each other...

Admittedly, it did take me about a third of the novel to really get into the story and for me to really care for Kit and Lilah. The beginning was slow and nothing really happened. But the writing was really good so I kept reading. By the time I hit the midpoint, I was so totally engrossed in the story that I didn't want to stop reading. Kit and Lilah's characters grew on me and I rooted for them until the end. By the time I finished reading the last page I was sad to see them go.   

As with the three other books I've read by Ms. Duran, Lady Be Good was pretty dark. Not only because the plot revolved around finding a man (albeit a bad one) in order to kill him, but it had this dark, atmospheric feel to it. I pictured dim, cobbled alley ways when the characters were in London and an old estate filled with shadowy corners lit only by candlelight inside and outside was a perpetually overcast sky. That is what I see in my head whenever I read a book by Ms. Duran--not the glittering ballrooms of the ton of the typical historical romance--and I love that she's able to take me there. It adds a freshness or uniqueness that I am only able to find in her books.

Another thing I really enjoyed about Lady Be Good was how fully fleshed out Lilah and Kit's characters were, as well as the secondary characters. Lilah and Kit were both likable but they felt human. They both have their faults and and weaknesses, but they are also strong and capable in their own way. I understood why they made the choices that they did. I especially enjoyed Lilah's character arc (she started the novel hiding who she was and single-mindedly trying to became a perfect lady) and how she grew by the end of the story.

I am really hoping to get my hands on Luck Be a Lady, the companion novel to Lady Be Good and features "ice queen" Catherine Everleigh and Lilah's uncle Nick O'Shea, a crime lord. They played important roles in this book so we got to know them quite a bit, but I really want to know more. They'll be an interesting pairing.

Lady Be Good is not going to be for everybody. Although there were flashes of humor in this novel, if you prefer lighter, fluffier historical romance like Julia Quinn's novels then look elsewhere. But if you like darker historicals kind of like Elizabeth Hoyt or Jennifer Ashley with intricate plots with a darker tone, then I recommend you also pick up Lady Be Good or other books by Meredith Duran. 



ABOUT THE AUTHOR 
MEREDITH DURAN is the author of eight previous novels, including The Duke of Shadows (winner of the Gather.com First Chapters Romance Writing Competition); Wicked Becomes You (included on the Woman’s World List of Best Beach Reads for Summer 2010), and the USA TODAY bestseller Fool Me Twice. She blames Anne Boleyn for sparking her lifelong obsession with British history, and for convincing her that princely love is no prize if it doesn’t come with a happily-ever-after. She enjoys collecting old etiquette manuals, guidebooks to nineteenth-century London, and travelogues by intrepid Victorian women. Visit her at MeredithDuran.com, or catch up with her on Twitter: @meredithduran and Facebook: AuthorMeredithDuran.