PositiveAll About RomanceKate Clayborn’s Love at First is one of those books that you immediately feel has wrapped you up in a warm hug, and in which the characters and their story creep gradually and unobtrusively under your skin and wind around your heartstrings ... this is a beautifully understated but gloriously romantic love story full of poignancy and tenderness featuring fully-rounded, supremely relatable characters with ordinary, everyday lives and ordinary, everyday problems ... Love at First is, quite simply, a delightful love story. It’s not flashy or drama-filled; it’s a quiet, heartfelt and deeply emotional tale in which the romance builds slowly and organically, the character development is incredible yet subtle, and the regard and respect the two leads have for one another – even when they’re on opposite sides – infuse every page.
RaveAll About RomanceIt’s classic Chase, featuring a pair of well-rounded, likeable protagonists, oodles of sexual tension and prose filled with insight, a generous helping of snark and the author’s customary razor-sharp wit. It’s the best historical romance of the year, hands down ... Ashmont and Cassandra are superbly drawn characters who simply light up the pages when they’re together, and the author has done a splendid job of making Ashmont – who could have been hard to like – an endearing character, even when he’s making bad decisions. Cassandra is intelligent, independent, outspoken, and deeply compassionate, and I was impressed with the way she’s shown to be a woman pushing at the boundaries of the conventions that constrain her and trying to make a difference in the world, while still being very much a woman of her time. The author’s subtle but pertinent commentary on the position of women in society is beautifully observed and quite low-key but no less scathing for that.
RaveAll About Romance... a warm, witty and gorgeously romantic romance that captivated me from the very first page and didn’t let me go until the very last. Featuring two superbly crafted and incredibly relatable protagonists, a unique premise and an engaging secondary cast, it’s a fabulous tale of acceptance and self-discovery, of healing and growth, all wrapped up in a beautifully developed , sexy love story ... It’s true that it’s easy to see the major conflict in the story coming a mile away, but that didn’t in any way detract from my overall enjoyment of it, or the impact of the serious issues the author tackles throughout the book. And she addresses all of them – fat-shaming, body positivity, dyslexia, toxic parenting, acceptance and personal growth – in an appealing, totally non-preachy way that feels completely organic and true to her characters ... a fabulous read that works on every level. Olivia Dade explores the dynamics of fandom and social media really well, the chemistry between the leads is sizzling from the start and the writing is sharply focused and insightful. I loved the little snippets of fanfic (and scripts of some of the terrible movies Marcus made on his way to stardom) that were included between chapters – and kudos to the cover artist for properly depicting a luscious, curvy heroine ... deserves to be on every romance fan’s keeper shelf.
RaveAll About Romance... a clever locked-room mystery, and the author keeps us on our toes ... As always, the mystery is clever and well-executed, and I really enjoyed watching ‘the gang’ – Charlotte, Lord Ingram, Mrs. Watson and Penelope – all working together and playing off one another. Even better is the amount of time that Charlotte and Lord Ingram spend together; I know, I know, these are mainly historical mysteries, but Ms. Thomas injected so much delicious sexual tension and palpable longing between the couple right from the first book that I – along with many fans, I’m sure –have been eagerly lapping up even the tiniest signs of romantic attachment between them! ... Thomas deftly makes some very pertinent points about societal injustice in the Victorian era without resorting to lengthy polemics or info-dumps ... I have to admit that I’m getting a little bit frustrated with the Moriarty plotline in the sense that after five books, I still have very little idea what he’s up to in the way of a Master Plan. He’s this nebulous baddie pulling strings somewhere in the wings, and okay, so he’s a master criminal with his finger in many dastardly pies, but even though, at the end of this book, Lord Ingram warns Charlotte that Moriarty must consider her an enemy now, he’s not inspiring the same sense of dread in me that he obviously is in the characters. Again, perhaps that’s my fault and I’ve missed (or forgotten) something important. Even so, Murder on Cold Street is a readable, clever and compelling addition to the series and should definitely be on any historical mystery fan’s Wish List.
RaveAll About Romance... a wonderfully sharp, funny, sexy and grown-up romance between a pair of rival TV presenters who profess to hate each other’s guts, but who, of course, doth protest too much ... a sometimes hilarious, sometimes poignant but always entertaining romance between two characters with scorching chemistry who simply light up the pages. Lucy Parker captures the frenetic behind the scenes energy of live television just as well as she depicted the backstage shenanigans of the theatre scene, and the scenarios she dreams up for the breakfast show are all ridiculously plausible and entertaining ... Nick and Sabrina are multi-faceted, complex characters who feel like real people, and their romance is really well done, the move from animosity to partnership to love evolving naturally and organically ... As always, the writing is top notch, the dialogue sparkles with wit and humour, the pop culture references are spot on and most of all, I love knowing that I can pick up a Lucy Parker book and feel instantly as though I’m in a place I recognise. It’s an idealised version of the London I know and love perhaps, but it’s completely recognisable and the author captures the British idiom incredibly well ... delivered everything I wanted and expected. It’s warm, funny and gorgeously romantic, the characters are rounded and engaging, the writing is terrific and everything about it works on every level. It’s the sort of book that wraps you up in a big cuddle and leaves you smiling.
PositiveAll About RomanceIt’s perhaps not surprising that Dorothea’s narrative is somewhat less engrossing than Ruth’s ... That said, the parallels the author draws between the women in relation to how little control either has over their lives is relevant and nicely done, showing clearly that gender was a great leveller, still the biggest obstacle to a woman having choices, no matter her social or financial status ... beautifully written, and her research has clearly been impeccable. The descriptions of what Ruth goes through – the poverty, the despair, the cruelty – have a visceral impact and make Ruth an easy figure to sympathise with, but they were also a little too gory at times for my taste, and there were elements of unnecessary repetition that didn’t enhance or further the story ... earns a solid recommendation courtesy of its superb writing, strong characterisation and intriguing storylines. The novel’s flaws don’t outweigh its strengths by any means, and anyone looking for a gritty, well-written and well-researched gothic mystery could do worse than give it a try.
PositiveAll About Romance\"... the mystery feels a little less intricately plotted than those in the [previous] books, and it does take a bit of a back seat to the unravelling of Stoker’s backstory – although I’m not going to complain about it, given I’ve been eagerly awaiting that very thing ... the mystery is fun, the dialogue is sharp and witty, and the secondary characters... are expertly crafted. A Treacherous Curse earns a strong recommendation in spite of my quibbles, and I’ve got my fingers crossed for a bit more romance in the next instalment.\
RaveAll About RomanceOne of the (many) things that marks the Lady Sherlock series out as superior to so many other historical mysteries is the incredible amount of character development going on. More layers of Charlotte’s complex personality are peeled back here, and we learn a lot more about Lord Ingram and his unpopular wife ... The story is very cleverly constructed, making excellent use of flashbacks in the latter part to complete the bigger picture ... The Hollow of Fear is yet another tour de force from Sherry Thomas ... A mystery filled with as many twists and turns as any Conan Doyle fan could wish for, a fascinating character study, and an unusual romance, it’s easily the best book of the series (so far) and my only complaint is that I have to wait until next year for another helping.
MixedAll About RomanceLast Night With the Earl is a story about acceptance, forgiveness, redemption and most of all, the importance of looking beyond the surface to find the truth, to the heart and soul of another person. Rose is a very forthright young woman and an extremely talented artist whose fierce championship of beauty in all its many forms makes her an original, insightful heroine ... Ms. Bowen skilfully enables the reader to see many things through Rose’s eyes, and makes some very powerful observations through her PoV ... The story is well written, Eli and Rose are likeable and fully-rounded and their relationship is tender and sensual...a less than excellent book by Kelly Bowen is still head-and-shoulders above many of the other current historical romance offerings out there, and I’m still giving it a cautious recommendation; it’s just a shame the final few chapters were such a let-down.
J L Butler
MixedAll About RomanceThe premise for J.L Butler’s Mine sounded really intriguing, as did the idea of a barrister heroine ... and even though there were a few things about the plotline and central character that made me scratch my head, I was pretty much gripped from beginning to end ... It’s not always easy to believe that Fran is the highly-educated, dedicated professional we’re asked to believe her to be, and there’s no denying she makes some unwise choices.
Martin is described as being handsome, charming and magnetic, but he’s underwritten, which makes it difficult to fully buy into Fran’s obsession with him and thus to understand some of her less sensible decisions. But with that said, her mistakes make her seem more human, more ordinary and relatable somehow; and I was able, in spite of them, to become sufficiently invested in her to need to know how things would pan out ... Mine is an expertly woven, well-paced and intense story, and I enjoyed it in spite of its flaws. The friendship between Fran and her bestie, Claire, feels very genuine, and the author’s depiction of life in a busy chambers and of the London locations all ring very true. I didn’t see the final twist coming, which is always a bonus, and while the characters might not be particularly likeable, I didn’t mind it; their shortcomings make them interesting, at the very least. If you’re looking for an engrossing but not too dark and gory mystery to while away a few hours this summer, Mine might very well fit the bill.