‘Come Hell or High Desire’ by Misty Dietz

CHOHD MDSTORY: Torn between dangerous desires…

Framed for a series of brutal murders, rebel-turned-CEO Zack Goldman must go to ground. When he discovers that sexy boutique owner Sloane Swift has a shocking gift—terrifying visions that connect her to his mentor’s missing daughter—he can’t believe her refusal to help him. Nor can he believe he’s actually falling for the frustrating woman.

Their chemistry will either find its perfect equation…

Helping an accused killer ranks low on Sloane’s to-do list, no matter how hot the attraction burns between them. But putting to rest her overwhelming guilt over the missing girl’s fate proves more difficult than she ever imagined…that is, until her heart and conscience begin to align.

…or detonate everything in its path.

As the real killer locks in on Sloane, Zack will stop at nothing to keep her safe. And as they earn each other’s trust—with danger in hot pursuit—they may just lose their hearts in the process…

REVIEW: This story starts off a bit slow as the author is introducing us to the players, but once she does that, we’re caught up in the characters and their lives as well as the mystery surrounding the disappearance of one of their friends.

Ms. Dietz knew her characters well and led us slowly into their inner sanctum so that we’d have the chance to see them as she’d envisioned them. She managed that by developing three-dimensional characters that were down to earth, interesting, fun and entertaining.

As for the plot, Ms. Dietz made sure to keep her audience in suspense until the end while also giving them a sweet and steamy romance. Great summer read! Alpha male, independent woman, mystery, a bit of paranormal, romance & sensuality all converge into this great story. Great summer read!

Melanie for b2b

*Book provided by the author.

‘The Lotus Palace’ by Jeannie Lin

TLP JLSTORY: Chinese historical romance and mystery set in the Tang Dynasty

It is a time of celebration in the Pingkang Li, where imperial scholars and bureaucrats mingle with beautiful courtesans. At the center is the Lotus Palace, home of the most exquisite courtesans in China…  
Maidservant Yue-ying is not one of those beauties. Street-smart and practical, she’s content to live in the shadow of her infamous mistress-until she meets the aristocratic playboy Bai Huang.

Bai Huang lives in a privileged world Yue-ying can barely imagine, yet alone share, but as they are thrown together in an attempt to solve a deadly mystery, they both start to dream of a different life. Yet Bai Huang’s position means that all she could ever be to him is his concubine-will she sacrifice her pride to follow her heart?

REVIEW: This is another one of Jeannie Lin’s well written and thoroughly researched stories that will bring a faraway time and land to all those that love and appreciate romance, mystery and history.

The blurb is sufficient in summarizing the story, but what it doesn’t do is show you, in your mind’s eye, the beauty not just of the characters, but of the places and surroundings they inhabit. When I read one of Ms. Lin’s books, I’m transported into a world of magic only she can show me. She makes me yearn to be there, to feel, touch and see everything that her characters are feeling.

I’m afraid to start reading one of her books because I know I’ll be lost to the world around me and everything I’m supposed to be doing.

You’ll love the plot, the mystery, and the romance. Oh, and let me not forget the dialogue! I just loved the interaction between Yue-ying and Bai Huang!

I would highly recommend this book to all those that would like to read something different, something that’s rich with prose and something that will enlighten the soul. The romance of this book is so…so…romantic, for the lack of a better word.

The only thing that I didn’t like much, were the multiple plots. Now, some of you just might like that [it does offer a lot of action and movement to the story] so that may make you happy.

In any case, this is one book you should have no trouble liking whatsoever!

Melanie for b2b

*Book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

‘The Duchess Hunt’ by Jennifer Haymore

TDH JH1STORY: Simon Hawkins, duke of Trent, is no stranger to scandal. Rumors and innuendo have darkened the House of Trent for decades, and it has fallen to Simon to restore his tattered family name. He lives by a strict code of honor, but when he is called home to investigate his mother’s disappearance, the distinguished duke will tangle with temptation. For there waits the only woman he has ever loved-and the last woman he should desire . . .

Sarah Osborne has spent her life dreaming of Simon’s touch. But dukes do not long for lady’s maids-or so Sarah believes, until a stolen kiss sparks a passion that could be her ultimate undoing. As the couple begins a forbidden romance, a cunning enemy plots to destroy the duke and everything he loves. Now, caught in a blackmailer’s web, Simon faces an agonizing choice: sacrifice his family’s future or break Sarah’s heart.

REVIEW: This is the first of Ms. Haymore’s House of Trent novels.

Sarah Osborne lives in a small cottage with her father, the gardener for Ironwood Park, which is the large and sprawling home of the Duke of Trent. As a child, Sarah was allowed to play on the grounds of the estate but was cautioned by her father to stay away from the House of Trent. 

One day, Sarah falls into a blackberry bush and is rescued by none other than young Simon Hawkins, the Duke of Trent.  He takes her into the house for his mother to minister to her wounds.  She is welcomed by all members of the Trent family. Later, she finds a position as housemaid with them and after as companion to their daughter, Esme. 

After many years of absence, Simon returns to Trent House to fulfill his obligation to marry and settle down.  Simon’s past kindness to Sarah has resulted in a friendship and attraction to one another.  However, as Sarah is not a titled woman, they cannot marry.  Thus, Simon must look for another bride while Sarah’s heart is breaking.

In to it all, enters a devious blackmailer who threatens to destroy their lives unless Simon agrees to his demands.  Torn by wanting to follow his heart and be with Sarah or marry someone else to ensure his family’s security, Simon is an unhappy man.

The novel weaves together the lives of all the members of the Trent family, in addition to scandals involved with each of them.  This was very well written combining their individual stories all together.  I liked the characters of Simon and Sarah as they are intelligent, kind and real. The second novel, ‘The Rogue’s Proposal’ is due to be published November 26, 2013.

Connie for b2b

‘Any Duchess Will Do’ by Tessa Dare

ADWD TDSTORY: What’s a duke to do, when the girl who’s perfectly wrong becomes the woman he can’t live without?

Griffin York, the Duke of Halford, has no desire to wed this season—or any season—but his diabolical mother abducts him to “Spinster Cove” and insists he select a bride from the ladies in residence. Griff decides to teach her a lesson that will end the marriage debate forever. He chooses the serving girl.

Overworked and struggling, Pauline Simms doesn’t dream about dukes. All she wants is to hang up her barmaid apron and open a bookshop. That dream becomes a possibility when an arrogant, sinfully attractive duke offers her a small fortune for a week’s employment. Her duties are simple: submit to his mother’s “duchess training”… and fail miserably.

But in London, Pauline isn’t a miserable failure. She’s a brave, quick-witted, beguiling failure—a woman who ignites Griff’s desire and soothes the darkness in his soul. Keeping Pauline by his side won’t be easy. Even if Society could accept a serving girl duchess—can a roguish duke convince a serving girl to trust him with her heart?

REVIEW: Griffen (Griff) York, Duke of Halford, has put off marrying for as long as he can.  Now, his mother has demanded that he choose a bride from any of the women in Spinster Cove where ladies go to look for a husband.

Pauline Simms is a young woman from the countryside working as a barmaid in Spinster Cove.  She dreams of one day owning her own bookshop.

Thinking his mother will balk at his choice, Griff selects Pauline to be his Duchess.  His mother has one week in London to make her over.  Griff has no intention of marrying so he agrees with his mother that if he and Pauline do not suit, Pauline can return home.  Privately, Griff agrees to give Pauline a thousand pounds to say they do not suit and she can leave in a week.  She agrees knowing she will then have enough money to open her bookshop.  

The resulting makeover attempts, introduction to the members of The Ton and growing attraction between Griff and Pauline are not only humorous but bittersweet as well.

I truly loved how the author delved into the hearts and minds of both Griff and Pauline exposing their secrets to one another.

I do highly recommend it and if we were giving stars here at b2b, this would have been a FIVE star for sure.

Connie for b2b

‘The Arrangement’ by Mary Balogh

TA MBSTORY: Desperate to escape his mother’s matchmaking, Vincent Hunt, Viscount Darleigh, flees to a remote country village. But even there, another marital trap is sprung. So when Miss Sophia Fry’s intervention on his behalf finds her unceremoniously booted from her guardian’s home, Vincent is compelled to act. He may have been blinded in battle, but he can see a solution to both their problems: marriage.

At first, quiet, unassuming Sophia rejects Vincent’s proposal. But when such a gloriously handsome man persuades her that he needs a wife of his own choosing as much as she needs protection from destitution, she agrees. Her alternative is too dreadful to contemplate. But how can an all-consuming fire burn from such a cold arrangement? As friendship and camaraderie lead to sweet seduction and erotic pleasure, dare they believe a bargain born of desperation might lead them both to a love destined to be?

REVIEW: This is the second book of the Survivors Club and it’s Vincent’s story.

The hero is blinded shortly after entering the Napolenanic Wars and while he convalesced, was cared for by his fellow survivors of the war who later formed the Survivors’ Club, a group that meets every year at Penderris Hall in Cornwell, country home of the Duke of Stanbrook, to give each other support while facing life after the war.

Vincent is finally ready to return home and be with his family at Middlebury Park in Gloucestershire, there to be coddled and smothered by his well-meaning mother and sisters. 

He had not been Viscount for very long, so the new-found wealth and the lifestyle that came with it is a bit overwhelming at times and while he appreciates their love and care, he decides to take a trip to Barton Coombs, the home he knew as a child for some quiet time for himself. 

Sophia Fry lost her mother when she was a baby and her father was a gambler whose life ended violently.  From an early age she was forced to live on sustenance in the home of her aunt who lives in Barton Coombs.  The woman resents caring for Sophia and treats her no better than a servant.  Small in stature and rather plain, she is known as The Mouse. 

Vincent and Sophia meet at a party thrown by the town of Barton Coombs in his honor.  When Vincent learns about Sophia’s predicament, he is determined to care for her and thus proposes marriage to her.

This is a novel about two damaged people – one physically and one mentally. The injuries they both suffered have left them deeply scared, and as they find one another, they learn to overcome the adversity they have known and are willing to find good in life as well as happiness.

After they marry and return to his home at Middlebury Park, Sophia’s and Vincent’s love for each other grows. 

Sophia is determined to help Vincent gain his independence in every way possible and with Vincent’s love; Sophia gains her own independence and ability to be his Viscountess in every way.

The sensitivity with which Ms. Balogh wrote this novel expressing the emotions of Vincent as a blind person and the hurt Sophia knew as a child are very well done.

As with her first novel of the Survivors’ Club, “The Proposal,” I was very pleased and look forward to reading more of her books.

Connie for b2b

*ARC Edition received from The Random House Publishing Group.

‘The Silver Lion’ by Lynn Kerstan

????????????????????????????????????????STORY: A deceptively demure beauty. A man of such breathtaking appeal that women compare him to the angels. Can their sensual attraction overcome a veil of secrets that links her to his bitter enemy? Book Three of Lynn Kerstan’s elegant trio of Regency historicals.

Miss Helena Pryce continues her journey through Regency society as an intriguing, modest, and respectable mystery. Confident servant, dutiful secretary, or something far less tame? Her confidence only seems to waiver in the presence of Lord Varden, a worldly bachelor who astounds his vivacious female relatives by deciding to settle down. He’ll marry within the next year. And his intended? The amusingly unsuitable Miss Pryce. She just doesn’t know it.

Can a lowly secretary marry an Earl? And what of his notoriously unpredictable affections? Can she overlook the propriety of society to find her heart’s true desire? Varden finds himself in quite the predicament when his unlikely temptress insists they avoid romantic entanglements and, instead, find the missing Duke of Tallant. His sworn enemy, the man who took away his only love.

Why does Miss Pryce insist he resolve that old animosity before she’ll consider becoming his wife? Can the two of them move on from past secrets to see a future together?

REVIEW: When I read this story I wasn’t aware that it was a part of a trilogy and that this was the last one of the series, but now I’ll make sure to read all of them even though this book left me torn about if I liked it enough to bother with the other books.

Have you ever read a book that was well written and plotted, but still left you feeling somehow robbed of the connection to either hero or the heroine?

That’s exactly what this book did to me!

I liked the fast pace of it, the plot and the mystery; intrigue and dialogue all came perfectly together, yet I felt no chemistry between the hero and heroine, and I’m not sure why. I want to say it’s because I wasn’t there in the first two books of the series where they initially get introduced to the series, but that can’t be it. The author does fairly good job in making sure I’m brought up to speed on the other ‘happenings’.

So that leaves me with characterization of the two main protagonists, Derek Leighton and Helena Pryce. While I thought that Helena was a well fleshed out and three-dimensional, Derek on the other hand felt more like he needed a bit more added to him to feel like a three-dimensional character.

From the start of the story I thought him cold and callous; selfish and uncaring and really hoped that my feelings toward him would change as I kept reading, but alas I came to dislike him even more, especially after bedding Helena, yet admitting his love for another woman. That just rubbed me the wrong way! After that, nothing could convince me that these two should or could be together.

The part I enjoyed, and the reason for me giving this series another chance is the mystery aspect of the story. That was well-developed and executed and kept me reading on.

Because this is the last book in this series, I recommend [if you decide you want to read it] you read them in order, as I should have [The Golden Leopard, Heart Of The Tiger and Silver Lion].

Also, if you’re more into the ‘romance’ of the story, then you might not like it as much, because this reads more like a ‘who done it’ rather than a ‘romance’ book.

Melanie for b2b

*Book provided by publisher through NetGalley

‘Blue Asylum’ by Kathy Hepinstall

BA KHSTORY: Amid the mayhem of the Civil War, Virginia plantation wife Iris Dunleavy is put on trial and convicted of madness. It is the only reasonable explanation the court can see for her willful behavior, so she is sent away to Sanibel Asylum to be restored to a good, compliant woman.

Iris knows, though, that her husband is the true criminal; she is no lunatic, only guilty of disagreeing with him on notions of justice, cruelty, and property. On this remote Florida island, cut off by swamps and seas and military blockades, Iris meets a wonderful collection of residents–some seemingly sane, some wrongly convinced they are crazy, some charmingly odd, some dangerously unstable.

One of these is Ambrose Weller, the war-haunted Confederate soldier whose memories terrorize him into wild fits that can only be calmed by the color blue, but whose gentleness and dark eyes beckon to Iris.

The institution calls itself modern, but Iris is skeptical of its methods, particularly the dreaded “water treatment.” She must escape, but she has found new hope and love with Ambrose. Can she take him with her? If they make it out, will the war have left anything for them to make a life from, back home? 

Blue Asylum is a vibrant, beautifully-imagined, absorbing story of the lines we all cross between sanity and madness. It is also the tale of a spirited woman, a wounded soldier, their impossible love, and the undeniable call of freedom.

REVIEW: It was the book blurb that attracted me to this story because it reminded me a bit of Laura Kinsale’s ‘Flowers from the Storm’ and let me tell you: I LOVED THAT BOOK!

In the case of this book, I wish I could say the same.

It wasn’t bad, but it certainly wasn’t what I hoped it would be.

It left me feeling confused, and rather empty, hollow. It didn’t quite fulfill my expectations of good story telling and the romance wasn’t as passionate as it was applied in the books blurb.

If I had to choose one word to describe this book it would be – depressing. I felt it lacked direction and purpose and despite its fast pace it fell short of the mark: to grab my attention and keep me interested in the world portrayed.

Melanie for b2b

*Book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.