BOOK REVIEW: HEARTBREAKER BY SARAH MACLEAN

the book cover for Heartbreaker by Sarah MacLean
  • STAR RATING:  Four and a half stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 391 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: August 23rd 2022
  • PUBLISHER: Avon
    WHAT SERIES? Hell’s Belles
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? Bombshell
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 4
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Sexual content
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  Literally any of Sarah MacLean’s backlist, particularly the Bareknuckle Bastards series

SYNOPSIS

New York Times bestselling author Sarah MacLean follows her highly acclaimed Bombshell with Heartbreaker, featuring a fierce, fearless heroine on a mission to steal a duke’s secrets…and his heart.

A Princess of Thieves

Raised among London’s most notorious criminals, a twist of fate landed Adelaide Frampton in the bright ballrooms of Mayfair, where she masquerades as a quiet wallflower—so plain and unassuming that no one realizes she’s the Matchbreaker…using her superior skills as a thief to help brides avoid the altar.

A King of Reputation

Henry, Duke of Clayborn, has spent a lifetime living in perfection. He has no time for the salacious gossip that arises every time the Matchbreaker ends another groom. His own reputation is impeccable—and the last thing he needs is a frustrating, fascinating woman discovering the truth of his past, or the secrets he holds close.

A Royal Match

When the two find themselves on a breakneck journey across Britain to stop a wedding, it’s impossible for Clayborn to resist this woman who both frustrates and fascinates him. But late-night carriage rides make for delicious danger…and soon Adelaide is uncovering Clayborn’s truths, throwing his well-laid plans into chaos…and threatening to steal his heavily guarded heart.

Ugh this was so good. I love a Sarah MacLean novel (minus one, but I won’t name names) and Heartbreaker is no different. Take a delightfully stuffy duke who reminded me of Henry Cavill, and the queen of the cutpurses, and mash them together in a road trip of sorts, and you get….well, you get a wild ride of a romance novel. I really, really loved this, and I think it’s in part because I loved the Duke of Clayborn so freaking much. Seriously — I could have inhaled this in a matter of hours if I didn’t have to do my job.

I love, love, love big strong, stoic men who just turn absolutely feral when they meet the love of their life. That’s Clayborn to a T. He does literally everything in his power to make sure that Adelaide stays safe — even when she’s trying her best to keep him safe from her past. He doesn’t care in the slightest where she’s from, as long as she’s his. He’s got a deep voice, he’s big and muscly, has a perfect face, and has a habit of saying, “Hmmm,” when he’s thinking of rather naughty things he wants to do with Adelaide. (Anyone else picturing Cavill now??) The whole of Heartbreaker is a seriously swoony affair.

Adelaide, however, frequently drove me bonkers. She spends a great deal of the novel believing herself to be not good enough for Clayborn. DESPITE him telling her over and over again that he doesn’t care where she was born, who she was born to, or what she’d done in her past. It doesn’t matter to him! He loves her as she is! But she doesn’t take his word for for 99% of the book — so we’re regaled time and time again with paragraph after paragraph of her woe-is-me-ing about this. I could have done with like…80% less of this, personally. But she eventually does figure out that Clayborn is telling her the truth, and well, the rest is history.

There are some seriously steamy sex scenes, too, because MacLean is an absolute master of her craft. You’re in for a treat if you love historicals. I can’t recommend her work enough.

Add to your Goodreads, or order at at the following links:

GOODREADS | BOOKSHOP.ORG | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

ARC REVIEW: TEN THOUSAND STITCHES BY OLIVIA ATWATER

the book cover for Ten Thousand Stitches by Olivia Atwater
  • STAR RATING:  3.5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 288 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: July 19th 2022
  • PUBLISHER: Orbit 
    WHAT SERIES?  The Regency Faerie Tales series
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? Half A Soul
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 3
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Domestic abuse, emotional abuse, misogyny
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske

Thank you to Netgalley and Orbit Books for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

Regency housemaid Euphemia Reeves has acquired a faerie godfather. Unfortunately, he has no idea what he’s doing.

Effie has most inconveniently fallen in love with the dashing Mr Benedict Ashbrooke. There’s only one problem; Effie is a housemaid, and a housemaid cannot marry a gentleman. It seems that Effie is out of luck until she stumbles into the faerie realm of Lord Blackthorn, who is only too eager to help Effie win Mr Ashbrooke’s heart. All he asks in return is that Effie sew ten thousand stitches onto his favourite jacket.

Effie has heard rumours about what happens to those who accept help from faeries, but life as a maid at Hartfield is so awful that she is willing to risk even her immortal soul for a chance at something better. Now, she has one hundred days – and ten thousand stitches – to make Mr Ashbrooke fall in love and propose. . . if Lord Blackthorn doesn’t wreck things by accident, that is. For Effie’s greatest obstacle might well prove to be Lord Blackthorn’s overwhelmingly good intentions.

Ten Thousand Stitches is just as cute as Half a Soul, though I think I enjoyed it just a tad bit less. (Like almost miniscule amounts less.) To put it simply, I enjoyed Elias Wilder as a hero more than Lord Blackthorn. While I do love a gooey cinnamon roll of a hero, for some reason Lord Blackthorn read as more childish to me, than just pure innocence. Either way, I loved both books.

I thoroughly enjoyed that Atwater’s version of Cinderella actually starred a maid, and not a noblewoman forced down into servitude by horrible happenstance. I also very much enjoyed that Effie was well and truly angry about her position. It is so rare to see or have a historical romance heroine who sees the injustice in her own life, and is PISSED about it. I loved it. I loved her anger, and I loved that she ended up being able to use it to better everyone else’s (and her) life.

Though I had a slightly harder time with the romance in this one, I still very much enjoyed watching Effie and Lord Blackthorn fall in love. Especially since neither one of them appeared to realize that it was happening. I especially adored the scene when they were in faerie, and they were dancing the day away. It was incredibly romantic, and I loved the atmosphere that Atwater wrote in this particular scene. Though, now that I think back on it some more, I’m not even sure Lord Blackthorn and Effie even kiss once? I need more spice than that.

Ten Thousand Stitches is a good entry into the Regency Faerie Tale series, and I can’t wait to jump right into the next one.

Add to your Goodreads, or order at at the following links:

GOODREADS | BOOKSHOP.ORG | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

ARC REVIEW: HALF A SOUL BY OLIVIA ATWATER

the book cover for Half A Soul by Olivia Atwater
  • STAR RATING:  4 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 304 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: April 5th 2022 
  • PUBLISHER: Orbit 
    WHAT SERIES?  The Regency Faerie Tales series
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? Half A Soul
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 3
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Emotional abuse, ableism, child abuse, blood
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske

Thank you to Netgalley and Orbit Books for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

It’s difficult to find a husband in Regency England when you’re a young lady with only half a soul.

Ever since she was cursed by a faerie, Theodora Ettings has had no sense of fear or embarrassment – a condition which makes her prone to accidental scandal. Dora hopes to be a quiet, sensible wallflower during the London Season – but when the strange, handsome and utterly uncouth Lord Sorcier discovers her condition, she is instead drawn into dangerous and peculiar faerie affairs.

If Dora’s reputation can survive both her curse and her sudden connection with the least-liked man in all of high society, then she may yet reclaim her normal place in the world. . . but the longer Dora spends with Elias Wilder, the more she begins to suspect that one may indeed fall in love, even with only half a soul.

Bridgerton meets Howl’s Moving Castle in this enchanting historical fantasy, where the only thing more meddlesome than faeries is a marriage-minded mother.

Half a Soul pushed so many of my buttons in the best way. I love a good historical romance, and when you throw any element of fantasy romance in a book, too? You have my attention. Half a Soul had been recommended to me about a million times recently, by fantastic reviews written by other bloggers, to people just basically shoving the book in my face going, YOU WOULD REALLY LIKE THIS, I PROMISE. Well, you were right, people.

You were right.

I thoroughly enjoyed Half a Soul, and have plans to continue right along on to the next book in the series. How could I not, when this one was so good? I adored Dora, and her practicality, and complete disregard for the societal rules. She did what she wanted to, and rarely let anyone else make her feel bad about it. (I guess that’s a pro to having half a soul? You don’t really care what anyone else thinks.) Vanessa, Dora’s cousin, bothered me a bit as she was so very concerned about fixing Dora, instead of loving her for who she was. But it was Elias that I loved most of all.

Elias is the Lord Sorcier, a young man who was so very Angry with a capital A at society. I loved him. He was uncouth, he was mean, a tiny bit cruel, and well, he was so different than any other romantic hero I’d ever read before. And beneath all that rough, gruff exterior, well, Elias was spending his time trying to help the poorest, most unfortunate children. He is not a bad man, the complete opposite, in fact.

I loved watching these two navigate their blossoming relationship. Neither one of them really let the other get away with anything, which I really liked. Elias and Dora were perfect for each other. Four stars because there was just a little something missing. I’m not sure what, but there you go.

Add to your Goodreads, or order at at the following links:

GOODREADS | BOOKSHOP.ORG | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

ARC REVIEW: ALWAYS BE MY DUCHESS BY AMALIE HOWARD

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Thank you to Netgalley and Forever Publishing for providing an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

Lord Lysander Blackstone, the stern Duke of Montcroix, has only one interest: increasing his considerable fortune. After a series of betrayals, he keeps his emotions buried deep. Money, after all, can’t break a man’s heart—or make promises it can’t keep. But when his reputation for being heartless jeopardizes a new business deal, he finds himself seeking a most unusual—and alluring—solution…

Once an up-and-coming ballerina, Miss Geneviève Valery is now hopelessly out of work. After refusing to become a wealthy patron’s mistress, Nève was promptly shown the door to the streets. When she accidentally saves the life of a handsome duke, she doubts the encounter will go any better than her last brush with nobility. But instead of propositioning her, Montcroix makes Nève an offer she would be a fool to refuse: act as his fake fiancée in exchange for fortune enough to start over.

Only neither is prepared when very real feelings begin to grow between them. They both stand to win… but only if they’re willing to risk their hearts.

This was a relatively cute historical romance novel. Nève Valery is a French ballerina down on her luck — she absolutely needs to find someone to hire her in a ballet. She needs money, in order to help pay for her ailing sister’s doctor. Lord Lysander Blackstone needs to prove that he’s an upstanding gentleman who’s settling down in order for another lord to sell him his property. Lysander only wants to buy this lord’s property in order to raze it to the ground so he can build his railroad through it. They have a rather hot meet-cute, and well, they come to an arrangement. Nève will pretend to be his fiancé, and Lysander will pay her big bucks.

This was really extremely slow to start for me. Their meet-cute was steamy, but then it cooled way, way down until I was left wondering where exactly the book was going. There was a solid chunk of the book where nothing really happened. Once it picked back up, however, the book picked up some heat again. Nève and Lysander butted heads a lot — Lysander was rather stoic, and I think supposed to have Asperger’s / be on the spectrum. Nève was bright, and bubbly, and hated that Lysander never really showed emotion. They’re at odds until Nève gets a bit more of Lysander’s history, and then, well, things make sense.

Overall, the book was cute. The supporting characters really stole the show when they were on the screen — I’m looking forward to their books, if they get any.

ALWays be my duchess COMES OUT july 12, 2022.

Preorder at your local indie bookstore, or at the following links:

AMAZON | BARNES AND NOBLE

BOOK REVIEW: LORD OF DARKNESS BY ELIZABETH HOYT

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

That was…certainly a historical romance book. I wanted to like this much more than I did, but there were problems with it.

The main character, Megs, is married to Godric St. John, a man who has a huge secret. (He galivants around the night as a vigilante, protecting the poorer parts of the city.) Their marriage was one of convenience (and born of blackmail), as Megs was pregnant by another man, who died. She lost the baby, and has been living separate from her husband for years. She decides she absolutely must have a baby, and thus, hurries to her husband’s side to seduce him. Godric is quite adamant at the beginning of the book that he will remain impartial to his wife, and that he has no feelings for her. He loves his previous wife, who died of what I assume was cancer. She died over 9 long years, and was in pain the entire time.

This book is really quite sad at the heart of it. There is a lot of death, and a lot of mourning and grief as the characters deal with losing their loved ones.

My biggest problem with Lord of Darkness is that seemingly around half-way through the book, Godric’s feelings for Megs just take a huge FLIP and suddenly he’s in love with her. I did not catch what started this flip, if there was anything at all. It was like…over the course of a page suddenly he couldn’t keep his hands off of her. I’m fine with that if there’s a narrative reason for it! It just didn’t seem like there was.

I picked this book up because someone described it as Hades/Persephone inspired, and I really only saw that at the very, very end, in one particular scene. I was disappointed that there were not more references to one of my very favorite myths.

Ultimately, Lord of Darkness was a resounding meh for me.

BOOK REVIEW: GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE BY DIANA GABALDON

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Outlander series has been going on for a very, very long time. 30 years, in fact. Some would say that its about time the series wrapped up, and honestly, yeah, I think I agree. Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore the characters and the story with all my heart, but sheesh. How much more could possibly happen to this family?

Not a lot happens for the majority of Go Tell the Bees that I am Gone, which I was fine with for a good while. I love the characters enough that I happily read about Claire tending to her bees, or Jamie doing Jamie-things, but after awhile it was a slog. There was no real reason this book had to be over 900 pages long. Every character has their own little plot line in this book, which was nice, but once that plot line resolved, said character basically disappears.

Roger and Brianna are in the book for the first….half? And then they fade into the background. Same thing happens to Ian and Rachel. It’s weird to have these characters who are SO IMPORTANT in the other books basically get shoved to the side to do almost nothing. Hell, Brianna, Roger and Ian all are POV characters in other books, and while they do appear as POV briefly in GTTBTIAG, it’s just that — briefly. Why make them so important in prior books only to basically ignore them now?

Wasn’t there supposed to be some big prophecy thing with Brianna’s kids? When’s that coming back?

I did enjoy seeing Claire come into her powers. I read the scene with the baby twins twice over because it was so beautifully written, and so heart-wrenchingly tragic. As a new mom, any scene involving a baby was extremely hard for me to read. Any reference to Faith almost physically hurt. I cried more than once reading GTTBTIAG. Diana Gabaldon is an expert at pulling out emotions.

HIGHLIGHT FOR SPOILERS REGARDING JAMIE:

When Jamie’s “death” scene happens, at no point was I actually worried he was going to die. I get the feeling if either Claire or Jamie do kick the bucket in this series, it will be at the very end of the next book. Because of that, this “death” wasn’t particularly suspenseful. I figured that no matter what happened to Jamie, Claire would bring him back. I was right.

I think the next book is supposed to be the last, and for that I am grateful. It’s time to wrap up the Outlander series.

ARC REVIEW: A CARIBBEAN HEIRESS IN PARIS BY ADRIANA HERRERA

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Thank you to Edelweiss for providing an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

Paris, 1889

The Exposition Universelle is underway, drawing merchants from every corner of the globe. Luz Alana Heith-Benzan set sail from Santo Domingo armed with three hundred casks of rum, her two best friends and one simple rule: under no circumstances is she to fall in love.

The City of Light is where Luz Alana will expand Caña Brava, the rum business her family built over three generations. It’s a mission that’s taken on new urgency after her father’s untimely death and the news that her trust fund won’t be released until she marries. But buyers and shippers alike are rude and dismissive; they can’t imagine doing business with a woman…never mind a woman of color.

From her first tempestuous meeting with James Evanston Sinclair, Earl of Darnick, Luz Alana is conflicted. Why is this man—this titled Scottish man—so determined to help her? And why, honestly, is he so infuriatingly charming?

All Evan Sinclair ever wanted was to find a purpose away from his father’s dirty money and dirtier politics. Ignoring his title, he’s built a whiskey brand that’s his biggest—and only—passion. That is, until he’s confronted with a Spanish-speaking force of nature who turns his life upside down.

Evan quickly suspects he’ll want Luz Alana with him forever. Every day with her makes the earl wish for more than her magnificent kisses or the marriage of convenience that might save them both. But Luz Alana sailed for Paris with her eyes on liquor, money and new beginnings. She wasn’t prepared for love to find her.

A Caribbean Heiress in Paris is a LOVELY REFRESHING take on the historical romance genre. This book does not shy away from actual history like many historical romances do. There’s no forgetting or dancing around the truth of where these royals/nobles/titled people get their money. Not in this book. It is very clear right from the start that this is a book steeped in actual history. There are, of course, some liberties taken, but nothing that would diminish from what atrocities actually occurred.

Luz Alana, the Caribbean heiress herself, is an absolute joy. She is heir to a rum distillery and has big plans on how to expand her business. Unfortunately, no one in Paris wants to do business with her because she’s a woman. However, she stands up for herself, is sassy and strong-willed throughout the whole novel. Her friends are equally entertaining — I look forward to their books in the future!

Evanston Sinclair, Luz’s love interest, is the heir to a dukedom, and a rather stubborn alphamale type. Like most historical romance love interests, if we’re being honest. However, it works here. He’s not overly broody, and not overly in-control. He lets Luz do her thing *except for two instances*. Evan is Scots, but unfortunately, you really don’t see as much of that as I’d personally like. Every now and then the brogue comes out but I like my Scots particularly broguey, I guess.

Both Luz and Evanston both have problems that could be solved by getting married. They enter into a “business relationship” that equates to a marriage of convenience for both of them to get what they want. Of course, things get hot and heated quickly and it turns into a real romance. Their chemistry is completely undeniable. I was totally into it right from the start — it’s believable and steamy. The love scenes are extremely hot, and extremely detailed. No fading to black here.

A Caribbean Heiress in Paris is a hot, steamy ride from beginning to end, steeped in history that feels real and authentic.

Four huge stars.

A Caribbean Heiress in Paris comes out May 31, 2022.

Preorder at your local indie bookstore, or at the following links:

AMAZON | BARNES AND NOBLE