The Soldier and the Spy by Annabelle Greene

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary

A beholden man finds himself falling for the war hero he’s destined to double-cross.

Three hundred pounds for one night of protection. It’s a job offer, but it’s also a ruse. Captain Benjamin Frakes, war hero and de facto head of the Society of Beasts—a club for gentlemen who prefer gentlemen—is tempted to turn it down. But August Weatherby, the sexy, brazen stranger making the offer, has captivated him completely.

August is hardly the flush flirt he claims to be, however. An indebted man, desperate to save his infirm sister, August makes an ideal pawn for a lord eager to bring down the Society of Beasts once and for all. But August’s charge to find evidence against Frakes is at odds with his own virgin desire to entice the captain into showing him the true meaning of pleasure.

As August’s infiltration pushes him deeper into the beguiling world of delights behind the Society’s closed doors, he and Frakes discover new ways to push the boundaries of their own cravings. But with mounting pressure to complete his devious mission, August finds himself torn between the man his heart yearns for and the sister whose life depends on his betrayal.

 

Review

August Weatherby is a desperate man. His sister is ill, his debts are racking up, and he’s got nowhere to turn. Until he has an offer to help ensure his sister would remain safe and fed. He needs to infiltrate the Society of the Beasts and get ahold of evidence against Captain Benjamin Frakes to use for blackmail.

I feel like the best part of this novel was August’s character growth. He was initially a man entirely focused on his and his sister’s survival. He was willing to do everything possible to ensure they make it. As he became more involved with the Society of Beasts and got to know each of the members, things started to change for him. It wasn’t easy to betray the people that he had come to call friends.

I was expecting a little more espionage and action, but this was a little light on what I hoped for. There was a little more action towards the end of the ovel and it pulled me in and had me rooting for both August and Frakes.

Towards the end of the novel, I felt like I was finally able to understand who Benjamin Frakes was. He had been so closed off, and despite the courage he had in war, he was afraid now that he was home.

Okay, so the facts. Do you need to read the first in the series to enjoy this? Nope. Would you benefit from it? Yeah, there’s some background on some of the characters that I feel like would have made things better. Would I recommend this to other readers? If you are a historical romance reader, I’d definitely give this one a go. 

To be released April 20, 2021

Uncharted by Alli Temple

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Five out of Five Stars

Summary

In a world of arrogant nobles and their punishing laws, Georgina will be hanged if anyone discovers she is a spy. But when the wicked prince proposes marriage, Georgina must accept. Refusing would expose the secrets she has delivered to a hidden resistance and forfeit her life. With her wedding day looming ever closer, salvation comes from an unlikely source.

Pirate Captain Cinder is a terror on the open sea, striking fear into hearts wherever she sails. Now she has a new target. The vulnerable Princess Georgina should be an easy mark in Cinder’s kidnapping plot. But the legend of Captain Cinder is more intertwined with Georgina’s own history than either of them expect.

Treacherous storms. A mysterious pirate king. The prince’s unrelenting pursuit. Georgina and Cinder can only escape by following the uncharted course of their hearts. But just as a future together is within their grasp, Cinder’s past threatens to drag them both to the deep.

Review

Georgina, “George” is doing her part in resisting the rule of kingdom. She sneaks messages in the skirts of her dress. It isn’t much, but she’s trying her best to help. Never would she have expected to be married off to the King by her brother. It’s a whirlwind of having new clothes made, jewelry, learning how to be a royal, and a handmaid named Rosie, Georgina thinks she’s lost any chance of having the life she wishes for.

Pirate Captain Cinder’s tales are what parents use to scare their children into acting right. Redheaded and willing to do whatever it takes to man her ship and find her riches.

In an explosion, Georgina is swept from the kingdom and onto a pirate ship. Rosie, devoted to Georgina, sneaks onto the ship. It all comes to a screaming stop when Georgina recognizes Captain Cinder and then finds out all she heard of Captain Cinder may not have been true.

What did I love about this book? Everything!!

Royalty, pirates, and an epic race to keep George out of the king’s hands kept me reading page after page. Cinder was everything a pirate should be. She was hard, powerful, and smart. Everyone on her ship served a purpose. The details of certain jobs on the ship and why they were done, like scouring the deck daily, my inner historian did a happy dance. I felt like I was there on the ship with Cinder and George.

The cast of characters were extremely diverse (which I expect on a pirate ship in my mind). There are lesbian pirates, non-binary pirates, and an island they visit is full of LGBTQ+ residents. Maro, Rosie, and Ender were so much fun. For such a big guy, Ender sure was gentle and kind to Rosie. Maro was a hard first mate, but they were kind to George and Rosie.

Rosie was such a spitfire. She is exactly who you want to be by your side. George got in trouble and she was right there with her. George needed to scheme. Rosie was scheming with her. They were quite the pair and I enjoyed every scene with the two of them.

The chemistry between George and Cinder had and ebb and flow that just felt right. The small jealousy moments and all the times they tried to stay away from each other just made their romance sweeter.

If you are a fan of a fast paced adventure, you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of this one.

Get your copy here

The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary

As Lucy Muchelney watches her ex-lover’s sham of a wedding, she wishes herself anywhere else. It isn’t until she finds a letter from the Countess of Moth, looking for someone to translate a groundbreaking French astronomy text, that she knows where to go. Showing up at the Countess’ London home, she hoped to find a challenge, not a woman who takes her breath away.

Catherine St Day looks forward to a quiet widowhood once her late husband’s scientific legacy is fulfilled. She expected to hand off the translation and wash her hands of the project—instead, she is intrigued by the young woman who turns up at her door, begging to be allowed to do the work, and she agrees to let Lucy stay. But as Catherine finds herself longing for Lucy, everything she believes about herself and her life is tested.

While Lucy spends her days interpreting the complicated French text, she spends her nights falling in love with the alluring Catherine. But sabotage and old wounds threaten to sever the threads that bind them. Can Lucy and Catherine find the strength to stay together or are they doomed to be star-crossed lovers?

Review

Lucy Muchelney isn’t your average lady. She’s worked side-by-side with her father as an astronomer. She picked up most of the work during his declining years, but never signed her name to it when she sent it to the Polite Science Society. Once she arrives in London hoping to translate a French astronomy text for the society, but as a woman, they see her of little value.

Catherine St. Day, Lady Moth, irritated with the good ole boys of the regency era, decides she will fund the project and have Lucy translate the text as she wishes. In the process, the women end up falling for each other. It’s hard not to when you find someone as supportive and encouraging as they are.

While the cover is indicative of the romance aspect of this novel, it was much more than a regency romance. It showed the difficulties of being a woman in the world of academia during this time. It still is to this day, but to have it so forcefully shoved in your face over and over as Lucy and Lady Moth had, it would be discouraging to continue the work they loved.

Lucy was an incredibly bright character that I thoroughly enjoyed. She fought for what she wanted professionally and personally. Even when her brother doubted her and used her success to benefit himself, she was the better person. She was a true academic because she could handle legitimate criticisms and was willing to learn from any mistakes she may have made in her work. That’s was academia is meant to be. Hypothesis and experiment lead to theory.  

Catherine St. Day learned who she could be when Lucy entered her life. Her husband and many of the men in her life put little value in the work she wanted to pursue. She was able to travel and explore different cultures, but her observations only translated into a lady’s art, needlepoint. She was truly talented and as Lucy pointed out, an artist. The detail in her work was so rich I could see her work in my mind while I was reading.

This was an easy read to get lost in. I could hear Lucy and Catherine’s voices in my head during dialogue. I could picture Catherine’s home, their clothing, and London at that time. I would hope to still meet women like Lucy Mulchelney and Catherine St. Day. Women who were willing to challenge the status quo and to live life as they choose.

Get your copy here

 

The Last Kiss by Sally Malcolm

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Five out of Five Stars

Summary

When Captain Ashleigh Arthur Dalton went to war in 1914, he never expected to fall in love. Yet over three long years at the front, his dashing batman, Private West, became his reason for fighting—and his reason for living.

But Ash’s war ends in catastrophe. Gravely wounded, he’s evacuated home to his family’s country house in Highcliffe. Bereft of West, angry and alone, Ash struggles to re-join the genteel world he no longer understands.

For Harry West, an ostler from London’s East End, it was love at first sight when he met kind and complex Captain Dalton. Harry doubts their friendship can survive in the class-bound world back home, but he knows he’ll never forget his captain.

When the guns finally fall silent, Harry finds himself adrift in London. Unemployed and desperate, he swallows his pride and travels to Highcliffe in search of work and the man he loves. Under the nose of Ash’s overbearing father, the men’s intense wartime friendship deepens into a passionate, forbidden love affair.

But breaching the barriers of class and sexuality is dangerous and enemies lurk in Highcliffe’s rose-scented shadows.

After giving their all for their country, Harry and Ash face a terrible choice—defy family, society and the law to love as their hearts demand, or say goodbye forever…

The Review

As a military history buff (I got my Bachelor’s degree in history with a concentration on American history) this is the type of book I have been itching to find. It didn’t romanticize World War I. It showed the horrifying moments that men had to face. We were witness to the emotions, the acts the forced themselves to commit in the name of their country, and the consequences that war has on those brave souls.

War forges bonds between those involved. They find their moments of peace, share the bits of joy when they can, and do what they are ordered. It is no different for Captain Ashleigh Dalton, no matter how he has come to think of the men in his company. He blows his whistle and they rush forward greeting death.

During one of those rushes, Ash suffers a devastating injury and by the will of Private Harry West, he is carried to safety. A desperate kiss being the only communication between the two of them. Ashleigh survives, losing his leg, and being sent back home to recover. West continues fighting hoping Ash had survived.

The war ends and Harry West drifts aimlessly in London as he searches for work. He swallows his pride and goes to the man who kept him going during the war. Captain Ashleigh. The connection they formed hadn’t dampened. Seeing each other, all their feelings resurface and intensify. They’re who they chose to be when they are alone with each other.

There was this burning chemistry between Ash and West from the first pages. They understood each other’s needs and how to calm war raging inside. It was as simple as a cup of tea, a few pages from a book, and sitting shoulder to shoulder. West was the only rays of happiness Ashleigh had after the war. Their friendship wasn’t accepted by Ashleigh’s parents or anyone in his social circle. But they found time and a way to be there for each other.

Once they admitted their feelings and acted on them? It was beautiful.

There were moments my heart hurt for them, and times I didn’t want to take my eyes from the pages because I could feel their happiness. I feel like I could go on and on about what I liked about this book, but I would spoil it for ya’ll. I want a physical copy of this book for my bookshelf.

Get your copy here

Spellbound by Allie Therin

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Five out of Five Stars

The Summary: To save Manhattan, they’ll have to save each other first… 

1925

New York

Arthur Kenzie’s life’s work is protecting the world from the supernatural relics that could destroy it. When an amulet with the power to control the tides is shipped to New York, he must intercept it before it can be used to devastating effects. This time, in order to succeed, he needs a powerful psychometric…and the only one available has sworn off his abilities altogether.

Rory Brodigan’s gift comes with great risk. To protect himself, he’s become a recluse, redirecting his magic to find counterfeit antiques. But with the city’s fate hanging in the balance, he can’t force himself to say no.

Being with Arthur is dangerous, but Rory’s ever-growing attraction to him begins to make him brave. And as Arthur coaxes him out of seclusion, a magical and emotional bond begins to form. One that proves impossible to break—even when Arthur sacrifices himself to keep Rory safe and Rory must risk everything to save him.

The Review

Now I’m going to start this review by saying, this is the book that pulled me out of my reading slump. I went quite a while without finishing a book and Spellbound was the one that pulled me back into my happy reader universe. It combined magic with the prohibition era in New York and I fell in love with Ace and Rory (Jade and Zhang were pretty awesome too).

Rory Brodigan is a psychometric, who uses his gift to find counterfeit antiques. He can see into the history of objects. Ace is in need of someone who can see into the history of a magical object. At first, Ace thinks the psychometric might be Mrs. Brodigan, but soon finds that it’s Rory who has this talent. As the pair works together, they become closer and the attraction between them grows.

I found Rory’s talent fascinating and I enjoyed the way the history of the items was portrayed to the reader. Also, Rory’s backstory, very fitting of the time period. Rory was not entirely trusting of Ace at first, but once they learned to trust each other it was sooo good.

It was easy to get lost in 1920s New York, with Ace, Rory, Jade and Zhang. It was refreshing to see that this group of friends weren’t all powerful. They had limits to their powers and had to think creatively to overcome obstacles.

A lot of the romance happened off the page, which was a little disappointing, but I was so into the story line and what was happening that it was okay. So if you’re looking for red hot romance, you’re not going to get it here, but the action combined with the characters kept me entranced in finding out how the story was going to end.

I’m excited to see that this is a series and it’s going to kill me to wait a year to get the next book! But I’ve been recommending this one out to friends and definitely want to get my hands on a physical copy of Spellbound!

Get your copy here!

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

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Four out of Five Stars

The Summary: It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa—a large, silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants—life is about to be transformed, as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.

With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the “clerk class,” the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. Little do the Wrays know just how profoundly their new tenants will alter the course of Frances’s life—or, as passions mount and frustration gathers, how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.

The Review

This was another book that I needed to read for one of my graduate studies coursework. So I’m going to make this as non-academic as I can because I’ll be writing an in depth analysis of this for the rest of the week.

The Paying Guests was the first book I’ve read in full by Sarah Waters and it was definitely one that will keep my reading her work.

This was a stunning story. The setting was vivid and I could see the house, the streets and the back garden like a movie playing in my head. I found myself engulfed in Frances and the situation she and her widowed mother found themselves in, needing to take in lodgers in order to pay their bills. Lilian and Leonard Barber had taken rooms at the house and it’s an entirely new experience for them all. They face all the daily rituals that you don’t think about until you faced with it. For instance, passing each other on trips to the outdoor bathroom, hearing coughs, arguments, furniture moving around and interpreting those odd noises coming from the couple upstairs.

Through all this Frances and Lilian take a shine to each other. First they’re friends and seem to be exactly what each other needs to get through the day. They start to bond over Ana Karenina which my nerdy little heart swooned over. Soon those feelings turn into something much stronger. I was entranced with their stolen moments filled with kisses, want and need for each other.

I literally picked this book out of a bag, so I had no clue what was awaiting me towards the end of this book. I did not expect to end up in a courtroom or dealing with the day to day emotional toll a court case will take on a person. I was so happy that Frances and Lilian were together that this BOMBSHELL broke my heart for them. I’m being deliberately vague here because I don’t want to give anything away, but my poor heart.

Sarah Waters has this was of making you feel for her characters and have you just as invested in an outcome as they are. So when things go wrong, it just really freaking sucks and leaves you feeling just as horribly as the characters did.

So, the question here is: should you read it? Yes. This isn’t full on romance. There’s daily life, flirting, a criminal court case and emotions all over the place. But it’s all in the best ways if that makes sense. Will I finally open up Fingersmith and give that one a read? After I finish this paper, you bet cha!

Get your copy here

Christmas Angel by Eli Easton

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary: When John Trent, a dedicated member of the new Bow Street Runners, finds an exquisite carved angel floating in the Thames, he can’t stop thinking about it. He tracks down its creator, a sad and quiet young sculptor. But neither the angel nor the sculptor is done with John just yet. The blasted angel refuses to leave him be, behaving not at all like an inanimate object should.

Alec Allston is resigned to the fact that his love will ever be a river that flows out and never flows in. All he wanted to do was create a special gift so that a small part of himself could be with his unattainable and noble beloved, always. But when the gift keeps showing back up at his shop in the hands of a windblown and rugged thief-taker, Alec will need to reconsider his conviction that love is destined to remain an aethereal ideal.

The Review

Whenever I see any kind of historical M/M book, I snatch up the chance to read them. Add Eli Easton into that mix and that just sweetens the deal. Elia Easton has written their first book in the series of holiday-based romances that are all connected by the Christmas Angel that connects Alec Allston and John Trent.

Allston is a sculptor who has had his heart broken and dedicates his life to his art. That is, until John Trent appears in his shop holding an angel that had been tossed into the Thames. John is a Bow Street Runner on the hunt for justice and wants to return the angel to its owner/creator.  The connection between the two men is obvious and only intensifies the more they see each other.

I’m a stickler for accuracy in historical novels and this one fit the bill. Even the interactions between Allston and Trent were accurate. Oh John Trent, he could sweep any man off his feet. He was kind and took the time to woo Allston with little gifts, walks and talks at his shop.

I absolutely loved the house of misfits that Trent lived in. I think by introducing Allston to his housemates, it gave Allston the courage to go after what he wanted. They’re romance scenes weren’t overdone. Their kisses were sweet and then steamy.

The detail used throughout put you in the time period. I could see the clothes, the expressions and the city around Allston and Trent as the story progressed. My only complaint was I needed more!, especially between Allston and Trent in certain aspects.

Will I be reading and recommending this one out to friends? Oh yes. Go read it now!

Pre-Order/Purchase Link

The Unexpected Infatuation by Sara Dobie Bauer

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Four out of Five Stars

A (Very) Short Story

The Summary: An erotic M/M short from the author of the Bite Somebody series …

In Victorian England, middle-aged Thomas Warwick lives a dull, sheltered life with his wife until his uncle dies and leaves him everything—most notably, an astounding library. The young James Reynolds is hired to catalogue the immense collection while on Christmas leave from Cambridge.

It starts innocently enough with gentle touches and careful smiles. However, it’s not long before James inhabits every waking thought of the conflicted Lord Warwick. Hounded even by lustful dreams, Thomas can’t help but tumble into infatuation. Thankfully, James is only so happy to catch him.

The Review

 

The Unexpected Infatuation by Sara Dobie Bauer is a short story set in Victorian England. Thomas Warwick has lost his spark for life and his wife knows it. When he inherits an amazing library from his uncle, his wife hires James Reynolds to catalogue the collection. She’s away while Thomas spends his time watching James work in his library. There’s something magnetic and exciting about the how much James loves literature. It’s hard for Thomas to resist him. Especially, after he starts to flirt with Thomas.

An attraction to a man wasn’t something he thought he’d ever experience. He gives in to that desire and his wife finds them. Only she doesn’t react as he would have expected. She approves. Seeing the fire light up Thomas’s eyes is what she wanted and knew James would do that.

It was branded as an erotic short story but it was erotic. That didn’t bother me at all though. I really enjoyed this. I think if Sara Dobie Bauer were to expend on this story or write something similar I would buy it without hesitation. I like the way she writes and how fast I was able to find a connection to the characters.  I wanted more of this story and I didn’t want it to end. That’s always a good thing.

Freedom With You by Alice Winters

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Three Stars out of Five

Summary: Life isn’t easy being a Native American in the 1800s.

Ashkii has lived most of his life alone. He is a Native American living a world that doesn’t accept his beliefs, his culture, or his ideas. In order to blend in, he has been forced to give up everything that made him who he is. Still, he struggles to find a place in this world. When an opportunity arises for him to prove himself as a horse trainer, Ashkii realizes that this might be the only place left for him, especially when he is accepted by the man that owns the ranch.

Life is perfect for Ryland. His ranch excels with the constant flow of cattle and horses. His days are spent herding cattle and caring for his land. But Ryland has a secret that could ruin his life. In such a suppressing time, Ryland’s beliefs are not accepted. Together, Ryland and Ashkii begin to search for what truly matters in life, even when it is against everyone else’s beliefs. Together, they can begin to understand what truly makes each of them unique.

 

The Review

Freedom with You by Alice Winters was okay. If you’re looking for something historically accurate, this is not the book for you. As a history buff there were a lot of things that bothered me as I read. BUT if you’re looking for a quick read and don’t care about any of that. Go for it.

The premise was great, but when it was executed it wasn’t so great. The relationship between Ashkii and Ryland started out a little predatory and felt nonconsensual through about half of the book. Ashii had to sleep with Ryland to keep his job because as said so many times throughout the book, who would believe an Indian over a white man?  Yes, I know this is true of the time but the line became extremely repetitive. There were no flirty looks, no words exchanged, it was just Ashii went to sleep in the barn and sex.

There was also a shift from language patterns from the 1800’s and then modern day use of sarcasm with a non-native English speaking character. He would have picked up on it but not as quickly as he did. You could sneak in a few one liners here and there but it didn’t feel realistic. That bothered me a bit.

There were a lot of little story lines going on and some of them didn’t get resolution or were fixed too cleanly to be real. There were a few times I got lost in who all the ‘he’s were. At times I would think Ashkii was speaking and it would be Ryland. I had to go back and read sections several times to get the flow of dialogue.

I think with a few more books under Winters’ belt there will be excellent stories to read from her. Would I recommend this one? No.

Callum’s Fate by Dianne Hartsock

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Three (point five) out of Five Stars

Summary: In 1780, Scotland, following a harsh year of drought, Callum Mackenzie is forced from his father’s farm in the hopes of finding work.
But as fate would have it, Callum is lured onto the moors by the will-o-the-wisp. Lost in the dark, he falls into enchantment, encountering faeries and nymphs, until he stumbles into the arms of a licentious Barrow-Wight who lays claim to his soul.
Hearing his silent pleas, Donal sends Liam the gruagach (faery) to rescue Callum and bring him to his farm, a place of refuge from the Fae. Callum is happy working on Donal’s farm, slowly falling in love with the beautiful, silver-haired gruagach. Yet there’s something wrong in the nearby forest….
Despite Donal’s warnings, Callum is lured into the forest and becomes tangled in its magic, easy prey for the Barrow-Wight. Will Liam be able to strike a deal with the Barrow-Wight to save Callum’s life, or has Callum found his last resting place instead?

The Review

After reading Callum’s Fate by Dianne Hartsock I find myself still wondering what really happened to put poor Callum in the position he landed in.

The summary led me to believe there will be a more in depth story line when it comes to the fae, the folklore and Callum’s journey, but that’s not quite what I got.  It was definitely an easy plot to follow with sex from page one until the end.

It did throw me when Callum and the Wight ended up together but I found myself fascinated and kept reading. I couldn’t help but want to know what else Callum was going to encounter. I wanted to read more about the secondary characters’ story line, Donal, Sean and their wife (Just saying I’d totally buy that book).

I did expected more of a story line than the sex scnese. That being said, I liked what I read. It was inventive and at times it felt like this could have actually been a series of dreams Callum experienced.

If you’re looking for a hot, not exactly human, sex scenes then this is for you. If you’re looking for a hearty plot, this isn’t for you.

Available for purchase November 27, 2017 via NineStar Press.