The Book Gourmet

Book reviews à la bookworm...The good, the bad, and everything in between.

 

 

Professional Reader Reviews Published

The One You Fight For by Roni Loren

The One You Fight For - Roni Loren

***ARC provided by publisher through NetGalley***

Dr. Taryn Landry had lost her little sister in the Long Acre massacre and watched her family fall apart, so she has one goal in life—prevent school shootings. She's been working her ass off developing a program to implement in schools and she's this close to present it to the school board of her old, now renamed school. She has no time for distractions, no matter how hot the guy might look. Besides, he's blown her off.

Shaw Miller had no other option. He's been living a lie for years, changing his name, his look, creating a new life in order to escape the brand society and media put on him—brother of a murderer. His little brother opened fire on the senior prom in Long Acre fourteen years ago and Shaw's been feeling responsible ever since...Others have held him responsible, just waiting for him to erupt as his brother had. He has no business looking for romance, feeling happy...

These two lost and lonely souls were bound to end up together, but once the whole truth comes to light, will they be able to live their lives together or will preconceptions drive them apart?


This one was rather exhausting. The entire series deals with a tough (and very contemporary) topic, and the stories aren't light and fluffy reading material, but this book made me really tired. I just couldn't read it in one gulp (as I did the others). There was something blocking me, I guess.

And I guess I know what it is.

I didn't really engage with the two protagonists. I didn't really like them, actually. I disliked the pity party they both had going; Shaw with his everybody-hates-me-so-I-don't-really-deserve-a-normal-life and Taryn with her allowing her parents to emotionally blackmail in not having a life at all.
I guess, in the end, these two really deserved each other, having so much in common, but I didn't really appreciate their story and romance.

It was the friendship angle that saved this story for me. Both Shaw and Taryn had friends, steadfast, stubborn friends who tried to make them see reason and didn't take no for an answer, never bailing, but sticking fast and true. Rivers was a nice addition to the storyline, he clicked right in (especially with Kincaid).

I guess the next book will be the final one in the series. Kincaid is the only one left and I'm looking forward to seeing who she'll end up paired with.

The Villa by Nora Roberts

The Villa - Nora Roberts

The Giambelli family is all about tradition, passing the business of winemaking down through generations. Now, it's time for a little change. A merger long in the making, a final business merger augmenting a long personal one.

But someone has a grudge against the Giambellis, especially, or so it seems, Sophia, the PR whiz of the family. But she's not alone, fighting against an enemy, she cannot see yet. There's her grandmother, the matriarch, her soft, yet steady mother finding a new chance at happiness in her own life, and there's Tyler McMillan, someone she grew up with, but has no blood ties...And feels no sisterly feelings for.

Sophia and Tyler must work together, despite their possible misgivings, despite the explosive attraction, to bring about the merger of their two wineries, to bring about the start of a new century for the label and brand, and to discover who is the enemy in the shadows...



This was a usual Nora Roberts book. A well-researched topic with wonderfully evocative descriptions and narrative, a prickly (and a bit too bitchy in this case) heroine who, despite not wanting to be like her father, keeps making (almost) the same mistakes, a deceptively laid-back hero who has enough self-confidence and self-worth to be able to stand back and play Beta (because being Alpha all the time is exhausting), a wonderful secondary romance between two people who more than deserve a happy ending, a great supporting cast of family and friends, and a gripping suspense sub-plot.

I must confess to preferring the secondary romance between Sophia's mother, Pilar, and the new COO, David to the main one between Sophia and Tyler. There was something incredibly sweet and cute between these two people seemingly past their prime rediscovering romance, and I loved seeing how David slowly coaxed Pilar out of her protective, quiet shell.
The primary romance, in comparison, was rather harsh and jarring, mostly due to the heroine's dislikable character...In the end, I didn't really feel the love between the two.

The suspense was great with its many twists, turns and a red herring thrown into the mix for good measure, although the unraveling at the end left me a little perplexed, since it didn't really fit with everything that happened before. The methodical revenge plot simply disintegrated into the ravings of an offended lunatic. Maybe the unraveling of the calculating personality happened because of the financial and business loss, but I'm still quite perplexed.

And then there was the supporting cast. Each individual, from family to friends and enemies, each with their own character, personality and goals, and each bringing something special to the table, from comic relief to the key of the mystery.

An intriguing story of legacy and revenge in the winemaking industry.

A Night To Remember by Celeste Bradley & Susan Donovan

A Night to Remember - Celeste Bradley, Susan Donovan

In Wedding Knight Katrina Trapp takes her nervous twin sister's place at the altar, only to find out her sister never had any intentions of marrying Alfred Theodious Knight in the first place...


This was a quick, quirky and funny little romp about a woman switching places with her sister, who ends up disappearing and leaves her in the lurch of being married to a supposed tyrant of a man. But as the two newlyweds come to get to know each other, they also rediscover themselves, and dare we hope fall in love?

I liked the two protagonists, although I felt Katrina was a tad too bratty at times, and I loved how they slowly changed for one another as they got to know each other and developed tender feelings of one another. Of course, seeing how everything was based on a switch, the inevitable twist had to come.
I felt it was resolved a little too quickly, but that's scandal for you.

A lovely little budding romance story.



In Have Mercy Winifred Mackland, having failed to deliver a good manuscript, is packed away on a forced writing retreat by her agent...Who turns out to have matchmaking tendencies...


Quick, funky and hot as hell.

Initially, I felt it was all moving a tad too quickly (even for a short story), but as it moved along, and the two got into their easy rhythm beyond jumping naked into the hot tub on the day they met, I came to love them and their little romance.

The progress and the reservations thanks to Mac's profession, was organic and realistic, and they were super cute and super hot together. Besides, the story made me smile, which is always a plus.

Once Upon a Duke by Eva Devon

Once Upon a Duke - Eva Devon

DNF @ 55%

Mrs. Kathryn Darrell is finally free. Her bastard of a husband is dead and she's free to come to London and finally live. She also cannot wait to experience true passion so she sets her sights on the most unattainable of bachelors, Ryder Blake, Duke of Darkwell.


Put that way, the story sounds interesting, right? Humorous, intriguing, passionate, romantic.

It could've been all that if it weren't for the hero. The man was an ass. An ass who had no idea what he really wanted. An ass that, if you ask me, didn't really love his first wife (it sounded more like gratitude for her sticking with him when his parents died), yet he truly mourned her and blamed himself...And then turned it into an art form. If he didn't let go of her, he didn't have to make an effort and everybody saw him as some sort of tortured figure.

While in truth, he was just an obnoxious asshole who had no idea what he truly wanted and once he discovered it, he chickened out and turned into an even bigger asshole.

You don't want her, fine. Keep clear, not make jealous scenes all over town. Pick a lane and stick to it.

The heroine, mind you, was no better. She also refused to fall in love, because she's been an idiot before and believed her first husband actually loved her, while he loved only her money. But she ended up falling for the aforementioned jerk anyway. She knew what he was like, he repeatedly rebuffed her, yet she kept at it. What the hell? If the guy is an ass, you steer clear, but I guess she just wanted to be the one who won him in the end, the one who changed him in the end.

I didn't feel the love between these two. He was a project for her, she was a fascination for him. End of story. This wasn't a romance, this was a forced-angst-filled slightly sexy story that focused too much on the hero's issues, making him come across as a petulant teenager.

I persevered over the half mark because I kept hoping it would get better. Half-way through, the guy was still a petulant ass, the heroine suddenly developed tender feelings for him (inexplicable and out of the blue, if you ask me), so I threw in the towel.
...And then I took a peek at the end and wanted to slap the woman until her head fell off. No, thank you.

Crave the Heat by Marnee Blake

Crave the Heat - Marnee Blake

***ARC provided by publisher through NetGalley***

Dak Parrish has family issues. That's what he'd jumped at the opportunity to come back to Oregon to fight fires—his father, mother and little brother live on the reservation nearby. While his mother appears not to want to have anything to do with him, his father makes an impromptu visit, blackmailing Dak into helping an arsonist investigator look into suspicious fires...A prickly female investigator that quickly gets under Dak's skin...


Like its predecessor this story also didn't bring much to the table. The characters were bland (although the heroine was slightly too bitchy for my taste), the suspense had its moments, but the final reveal (without much motive behind it, or a worthy resolution) left everything to be desired, the pacing was plodding...

Another puffed-rice-cake equivalent.

Tempt the Flames by Marnee Blake

Tempt the Flames - Marnee Blake

Ten years ago, the lives of two families imploded. Two men died in a fire, one was blamed for both deaths and friendships crumbled.

Lance Roberts is back in Redmond, Oregon. First, to get his father's old job and second, to uncover the truth about the death of his and his best friend's father, his father was also blamed for. He doesn't really expect a warm welcome, but he also doesn't expect threats and sabotage...Or falling (again) for his ex-best friend's sister who also happens to be his trainer.


I liked the blurb of this book...But that's pretty much all I liked. Let me put it this way. This book was the reading equivalent of puffed rice cakes. Bland, tasteless and odorless.

The characters were bland, the story was bland, the pacing was poor, the suspense lacked any oomph, the villains were one too many, the romance was lackluster at best (I preferred the angst before they got together)...

It failed to capture my attention and I was bored by the time I got to chapter 4. I admit to only skimming the rest of it, because I kept hoping something would click.

It didn't.

The Killings At Badger's Drift by Caroline Graham

The Killings At Badger's Drift  - Caroline Graham

An old lady witnesses something in the woods as she's searching for an orchid. Something so terrible, someone is willing to kill her to keep it hidden. But as soon as the police is involved, thanks to the lady's nosy neighbor, more and more secrets are coming out...


An interesting murder mystery with multiple possible suspects, loads of red herrings and a surprising final reveal.

Unfortunately, it was also very slow with a quite a plodding pace and some of the filler scenes were rather boring and dull.

I much prefer the series, actually, including the characterization of Barnaby and Troy.

Tribute by Nora Roberts

Tribute - Nora Roberts

Cilla McGowan, washed-up star, comes to Virginia to restore her famous grandmother's house. But someone doesn't want Cilla around, determined to do anything to drive her out of town. But she's not alone; her hot and quirky neighbor, Ford Sawyer, a comic book author, is close at hand to help...And to keep her in Virginia.


What makes this book (if you saw the TV movie, the book is way better, even though you know who did it) memorable is Ford Sawyer. He deserves five stars all on his own. I love the guy. What's not to love after all. He was nerdy, quirky, hot, protective, loyal, deceptively laid back and relaxed and so damned in love it made me want to go out and find me a Ford of my own.
Compared to him, Cilla, the heroine, paled and I must say I didn't really know her, not even in the end. It's not every day the heroine plays such a second fiddle to the hero. She was rather formulaic, a pretty standard NR heroine with a chip on her shoulder and an independent streak. But she was rather bland and generic.
Heck, Spock the dog had more personality than she did. The supporting cast was more interesting than she was. I don't know how to explain it, she left me quite cold and disinterested.

The suspense was good, even though I knew who the villain was. If I didn't, the identity would've been a huge surprise, something I wouldn't have seen coming, which is always a plus. The big bad was pleasantly twisted, wearing a perfectly innocuous mask, which made the big reveal that more coldly shocking.

The book started off rather slow and I didn't much care for the flashback/dream scenes, but it picked up the pace toward the end, creating a nice feeling of anticipation. The hero was adorable, the supporting cast provided a nice backdrop to the story and the shop talk, though rather abundant, didn't deter from the overall enjoyment.

Four Weddings and a Sixpence (anthology) by Julia Quinn, Elizabeth Boyle, Laura Lee Guhrke, Stefanie Sloane

Four Weddings and a Sixpence: An Anthology - Julia Quinn, Elizabeth Boyle, Stefanie Sloane, Laura Lee Guhrke

Four young girls, roommates at a boarding school, find an old sixpence in a mattress and decide it would be their lucky charm in finding suitable husbands when the time came...

Something New by Stephanie Sloane (❀❀❀)
Miss Anne Brabourne needs to find a husband and quickly, before she’s banished into the country. She also has a list of requirements and that list doesn’t include either love or passion thanks to the destruction, caused by heightened emotions, she’d witnessed as a child. Anne also gains a strange ally in her husband-seeking quest; Rhys Alexander Hamilton, Duke of Dorset. He’s determined to help her, but he has his own reasons.

This was a cute story. Maybe a tad too short, since both characterization and the plot itself suffered a bit—everything happened rather quickly, feeling a bit rushed. But I liked both main protagonists and especially their matchmaking aunts.


Something Borrowed by Elizabeth Boyle (❀❀❀❀)
Miss Cordelia Padley has invented a fake betrothed to curb her aunt’s enthusiasm of thrusting vicars upon her. But now she’s invited to her friend’s wedding and she’s supposed to bring her man along. The only one she could turn to is the famous Captain Kipp Talcott, her childhood friend. But as she pays him a visit, she discovers Kipp isn’t her Kipp anymore, but Winston Christopher Talcott, the Earl of Thornton. Still, she asks him to pretend to be her betrothed and he agrees, even though he was about to really get betrothed himself.

A sweet story of long-lost childhood friends finding each other again, trying to navigate between old and new dreams and real adult responsibilities, but in the end only one thing prevails—the heart.
I liked the contrast between the slightly flighty heroine and the stuffy hero, they provided a nice balance, complimenting each other rather splendidly. The story moved well, and though the love-story might appear rushed, the fact they were childhood friends compensated for the lack of space and time dedicated to the deeper development of their romance.


Something Blue by Laura Lee Guhrke (❀❀)
Lady Elinor Daventry is determined to save her father no matter the cost. Even marrying a man she doesn’t love. Anything is preferable to her father standing trial for things he didn’t commit. That’s why, six months before, she broke off her engagement to Lawrence Blackthorne, the man who believes all the nasty rumors about her father, determined to ruin him.
Ellie knows the sixpence is her ticket to marriage to the son of the duke, who might sway the peers to believe her father, but Lawrence Blackthorne has other ideas…And steals the coin.

This would’ve been a lovely second-chances story if it weren’t for the heroine and her determination to believe her father no matter what. Even when she had proof, she was still stubbornly in denial. I didn’t like how she treated the hero when he was doing his duty, the man that gave her up in order to seek justice for thousands of men.
I felt she wasn’t really worthy of everything Lawrence did to get her back, and somehow I didn’t really believe her feelings in the end, either.


...and a Sixpence in Her Shoe by Julia Quinn (❀❀❀❀)
Miss Beatrice Mary Heywood is the most pragmatic of the four friends. And the only reason she’s wearing the sixpence in her shoe is to keep her promise to her friends that she’d do so. And then she meets Lord Frederick Grey-Osbourne and all her dreams suddenly come true.

Short, but sweet.

Granted, the romance seemed a bit rushed, but we’re talking about a short story after all. I liked both protagonists, especially Bea, who looked beyond appearances and her enthusiasm was rather contagious. Frederick was a bit bland, at least compared to Bea, and I absolutely adored aunt Calpurnia in all her matchmaking glory.

One Wild Winter's Eve by Anne Barton

One Wild Winter's Eve - Anne  Barton

Lady Rose Sherbourne is quiet, proper and following the rules of the ton. No one would suspect there's anything remotely similar to passion under her placid exterior, but as she embarks on a quest to find out what happened to her mother, she discovers there's nothing more liberating than following one's heart...


I must confess, I much preferred the Honeycote portion of this series than the Sherbourne one. I simply felt there were things missing in the last two installments. Like spunk, spark, humor and passion.

Unlike her sister Rose was much more sedate and proper, but she was too placid, downright vapid at the beginning of the story. She captured my interest once she went rogue and sprung her boyfriend out of jail, but then almost immediately went back to huddling in on herself, fretting and feeling sorry for herself. She didn't appear to have much agency, most of her decisions were based on Charles, the hero.
Who was rather bland himself. I never got to really know him, beside in context of his puppy-like devotion to Rose and he also failed to have anything to do that would make him an individual instead of part of the couple with Rose.

The story only came alive once they were in the company either of Lady Boneville or Rose's family who at least brought some spark to the proceedings.

I liked the suspense sub-plot and would've appreciated it if it was developed a little further and more fully instead of only serving as catalyst to bring Charles and Rose together.

Scandalous Summer Nights by Anne Barton

Scandalous Summer Nights (A Honeycote Series Book 3) - Anne Barton

Lady Olivia Sherbourne has been in love with James Averill, her brother's solicitor and friend, for a decade, but the man is completely oblivious. She always thought she had time to make him notice her, make him fall in love, but that time is running out. James is on his way to Egypt. For two years. And Olivia finally takes off her gloves and decides to fight dirty.


This series certainly is hit-and-miss. I had in inkling I would particularly like this one, since I found Olivia to be too bratty and self-centered in the previous two books, but I thought that once she got her own book, her own story, she would grow on me.

Well, she didn't. She was a self-centered, spoiled brat for more than half her story, pushing and prodding, demanding to have it her own way, disregarding what others, namely the man she supposedly loved, might want and wish. And once she got it, she still wasn't satisfied. She truly reminded me of a spoiled child who, once she gets her toy, she doesn't want it anymore.
And, unlike the previous two novels, she didn't grow on me, because she didn't learn anything. She still got her way in the end without much suffering. She merely proved that all she needed was a fit and everything will be handed to her.
I would actually pity her hero, but I didn't much care for him either. He was bland a dull, without much character or agency, beyond catering to Olivia, her agenda, and her story. And I didn't buy his about face about her feelings either. It was too abrupt. It would've worked if he was infatuated from the start, but he actually noticed her only once she stopped flitting about him. Which makes him rather self-centered as well, come to think of it. He started pursuing her only once she stopped (at least outright) pursuing him.

In the end, I guess they pretty much deserved one another. And I didn't really buy the romance/love thing. They certainly worked better as friends with possible crushes on one another than lovers. But maybe that's just me and my general dislike of both of them.

I liked the supporting cast, though. Granted, they were relegated to the sidelines mostly, but it was still a pleasure seeing them and getting to know the new additions to the "family".

Once She Was Tempted by Anne Barton

Once She Was Tempted  - Anne  Barton

Benjamin Elliot, Earl of Foxburn, will do anything to prevent his best friend's younger brother from falling into the clutches of a fortune huntress. Which is what Miss Daphne Honeycote seems to be. Because Ben knows she's not the ethereal, innocent beauty everybody sees. Nope, Ben knows very well, what she hides underneath her clothes, because proof of it hangs in his study.

When her mother was ill, Daphne made a choice. She chose to pose for two rather scandalous portraits in order to get the money for her mother's medicine. Now that choice has come back to bite her in the form of the Earl of Foxburn and his blackmailing scheme; leave his friend's brother be or he'd reveal the truth.

But soon Ben becomes her ally, since Daphne has no idea what has happened to the other portrait, and Ben realizes his altruism toward his friend's brother was rather bogus. He wants Daphne for himself.


Yet another wonderfully told story. A little bit darker than the first book, mostly thanks to the hero and his broody, ornery, stubborn self, yet still packing quite a punch, even without the star-crossed lovers theme.

I loved Daphne. She might look all fragile and carefree, but inside, where it counts the most, she hid her worries and her pain, not letting anyone see it, until Ben came along.
Ben became rather annoying toward the middle, with his whining and feeling sorry for himself. I'm all for wounded, brooding heroes, I even adored his brutal honesty, but I couldn't stand his self-pity and pushing people away. And he almost succeeded in pushing the most important person away for good, only to pull his head out of his ass at just the right moment for everything to work out just fine. I wouldn't have minded a little bit more grovelling on his part, though.

The baddie was your regular spiteful asshole with a grudge, the bitch from the first book returned with a vengeance and once again failed to do any lasting damage, the supporting cast was perfectly placed and "proportioned", I was glad for Belle and Owen, I loved the character of Lady Bonneville and I hope to see more of her in the next two books, although I'm dreading the next installment a little, since it features more of Olivia, Huntford's slightly too self-centered sister (I'm growing tired of her droning on an on about her James).

This was a lovely story about self-discovery, courage and changes one is capable of under the right motivation.

Death Is Not Enough by Karen Rose

Death Is Not Enough - Karen Rose

Thomas Thorne is finally ready to confess his feelings for his business partner and best friend of twelve years, Gwyn Weaver (he has no choice, really), but ends up drugged and naked in his bed with a murdered woman by his side.

None of his friends believe he did it, but someone obviously has a grudge against him. A grudge so big, they're willing to dig around his past, dredging up painful memories, and putting everybody he loves, putting Gwyn in danger.


This book obviously marks the end of the Baltimore-based books (we're moving to California next with Taylor's adoptive sister, Daisy) and it was lovely seeing all the old friends and faces again. The only two missing were Grayson and Daphne, but they were there in spirit as the others fought against time and death itself in order to figure out who and why was making Thorne suffer and how to stop them.

I've been curious about Thorne since he first appeared on scene and I'm glad he didn't suffer a character transplant in his book as some of the previous seemingly larger-than-life heroes. He was compassionate and loyal, willing and able to do anything to protect those he loved and cared about, and I was glad the tough exterior he was known for was just a cover for the marshmallow-y inside.
It's a real pity about the heroine, though. I didn't like Gwyn. There've been plenty of KR heroines who's gone through what she's been through, but somehow she felt she was different, somehow special and unique, making her way too whiny for my taste. She was also incredibly selfish. Someone wanted to hurt Thorne, but she always seemed to make everything about herself and her feelings.
As the story progressed, and she finally pulled her head out of her ass about Thorne and their relationship, I actually started to like her, only to grit my teeth at her inability just to tell everything up front. I didn't get the secret keeping and I hated she told Thorne the truth about her past only when she feared it would come out anyway.

The suspense also left much to be desired, which is surprising for a KR book. It felt like it was all over the place, the twists and turns making it rather convoluted and disjointed. The main villain was rather disappointing, since he couldn't keep his hands firmly on the reins, but trusted all those other people to do his dirty work. People make mistakes. The more people, the more mistakes. It made him appear weak and quite a caricature, unintentionally similar to the Bond villains of old with much talk and not enough action.
It made the positive ending a given, instead of making the reader tremble alongside the characters.

This book definitely wasn't what I've come to expect from Karen Rose, but hopefully it's just a fluke.

To All the Rakes I've Loved Before by Anne Barton

To All the Rakes I've Loved Before (Honeycote, #1.5) - Anne  Barton

Miss Amelia Wimple is a recluse, refusing to leave the house she lives in with her mother and go out into the ton again after the humiliating incident that happened two years ago on the eve of her would-be engagement. The man who was supposed to propose eloped with another and she and her overbearing mother became laughingstocks. But there's one bright memory from that dreadful night; Lord Stephen Brookes and his kindness toward her.

Now, her mother is off to Bath and Amelia has the house all to herself, but her short life of bliss is rudely interrupted by the man who jilted her bringing the unconscious, severely beaten Lord Stephen Brookes to her doorstep seeking refuge. Amelia, God bless her, decides to hide Stephen until his wounds heal enough that he doesn't scare people...But she might get more in return that she's bargained for.


Another cute and slightly humorous story in this series. Pity it suffered from its lack of length.

I liked the two protagonists; they were both hiding their true selves and only the other could see it. I liked the camaraderie between them, the strange friendship and the blossoming romance. But the latter was so quick and rushed, it failed to be believable. I could see the potential, but it certainly needed a few more chapters to be developed properly...Or, it could've been presented as the blurb insinuated; that Stephen has always had a tendre for Amelia and used the golden opportunity of his stay with her to his advantage.
Alas, the way it was written, it felt like it happened in the blink of an eye, when they barely knew each other. Not a good foundation for lasting love that.

Still, it was an enjoyable read.

The Wicked Wife by Mary Lancaster

The Wicked Wife - Mary Lancaster

Lady Frances Torridon, a new mother, escapes her husband's estate to do something to relieve her ennui and her doubts as to her husband's affections, and seeks refuge with her friend, outrageous widow, Ariadne Marshall. She inadvertently takes the rubies, her husband has given her with her, resulting in her friend making up a wager—they'd go out in disguise and the woman who is recognized, loses her jewels.

Frances's test is the masked ball at his brother's castle in Blackhaven, where no one recognizes her, and where she meets an intriguing stranger with a Russian accent, a stranger that helps her rescuing her sisters and whose help she'll beg when the rubies are stolen. Little does she know the masked stranger is none other than her husband who came running after her, determined to reclaim his wife and her love no matter what.


This was a sweet story of a second chance at love when that love is presumed to be lost. It was lovely reading of Frances and Alan, husband and wife who are a little more than strangers to one another, even after a year of marriage and how they get to know one another and the other's feeling for themselves as they learn the "magic" of communication and the skills of letting go of misconceptions and rules in order to listen to their hearts and instincts.
The two spent most of the story apart, but the feelings for one another were palpable, despite the misgivings and doubts, so it was a wonderful experiencing the story alongside them.

Sure, they had to work against pretty mighty forces in the form of an overbearing, controlling mother-in-law and a fake friendship, but they persevered and once they started actually talking and once Torridon let go of his rigid control, it was all smooth sailing.

This story also featured a reunion of sort of previous protagonists, showing us glimpses of what is going on after their own HEA's...And the war is finally over.

A lovely ending to the series, though I'm a little sad to leave Blackhaven. Now, I only have to wait for Dr. Lampton to get his second chance.

When She Was Wicked by Anne Barton

— feeling amazing
When She Was Wicked  - Anne  Barton

Nothing is more important than family for Anabelle Honeycote. She's willing to do anything to save her ailing mother, even extort money from unsuspecting members of the ton. Anabelle's job as a seamstress doesn't bring much money and her mother's medicine is expensive, not to speak of rent or food...She has no other option. Still, she has rules; she never blackmails someone who cannot afford it, she only does it once per person, she never reveals the secret and she never socialized with her "victims".

But the fourth time everything unravels. Not only does her mark, Owen Sherbourne, the Duke of Huntford, lie in wait and catches her, he literally imprisons her in his home as a personal seamstress to his two younger sisters.

Soon a strange relationship blossoms between the mark and extortionist, a relationship that somehow blurs the lines between their opposing social standings and make them dream of possibilities that aren't meant to be. Not only can a union between a duke and a lowly seamstress never be, no matter their feelings and wants, Anabelle has a secret that might ruin her star-crossed romance with Owen and destroy her friendship with his sisters forever.



I loved this story so much, I don't know how to write an adequate review. I guess it's all still so vivid in my mind, but I have to write something, or I might just burst.

This was yet another impulse buy for me, but boy am I glad for it. I started reading without much expectations beyond hoping it wouldn't suck.

Not only it didn't suck, it blew me away!

The characters were so well-developed and depicted so vividly, I felt like they were in the room with me and we were old friends. Every scene was painted so masterfully, I felt like I was watching a movie, experiencing what the characters did, seeing what they saw, feeling what they felt, laughing and crying alongside them.
Not many authors can make me tremble with excitement with each scene they write, but I can safely say, Ms. Bennett is one of them.

I rooted for Anabelle and Owen despite the cards stacked against them, I loved Owen's sisters as much as he and Belle did, I suffered with them, despaired against the odds alongside them...It's such a cliché to say that two characters are perfect together, but Belle and Owen fit. They were both layered characters with hidden depths, both wearing masks in their lives, masks that only the other could see behind and embrace the real person underneath the persona of the duke and the seamstress.
Their strange relationship and budding romance were beautifully portrayed, and the conflict stemming from the social chasm between them was heartbreaking in its realism. But I loved the fact they came from two different ends of the social spectrum and how they both learned (but especially him), that nothing is more important than love and one's happiness.
And yes, the scene at the ball made me sniffle. It was just so perfect.

The supporting cast offered a lovely backdrop to the main story, from creating the opportunity for Belle and Owen to actually meet, offering support, friendship, care and family ties, to throwing obstacles in their path (the little perfect would-be duchess was so delightfully mean, it was a pleasure to discover her true nature and in the end cackle at her metaphorical demise).

This book was a real pleasure to read, literally unputdownable (I read it when I was supposed to be doing something else), I kept turning the pages, wanting to see what happens next, hoping against hope for a happily ever after. Yes, it's a romance story, so a HEA is pretty much a given, but the fact I trembled anxiously, the fact that I had doubts, speaks to the author's skill. She was able to transport me back in time, she made me fall in love with Bella and Owen...I was invested and I loved every second of it.

Thank you, Anna Bennett/Anne Barton!