Review: The Lie (The Charade #1) by Stella Gray

Title: The Lie
Author:  Stella Gray
Publisher/Year:  Stella Gray 2/23/21
Length:  390 Pages
Series: The Charade #1

Overview

The world knows Ford Malone as the heir to a real estate fortune. 

But to me he’ll always be my best friend.
The guy who saved me from my bullies back in school.
The man I’ve secretly loved for years.

When he needs me to be his plus one at a family event, I agree without hesitation.

Imagine my surprise when he announces our engagement.

As usual, I’ll play along.

Nothing has to change except the way we behave—the way we touch—in public.

But his private touches change everything.

Soon the crush I’ve hidden for so long is threatening to swallow me whole.

If I tell him how I feel, it could ruin our friendship forever.

But if I don’t, the lie will ruin me instead.

My Thoughts

I’ve enjoyed every other series of the Zoric family and I think that we all were waiting to see how Emzee’s story would play out. We know her as the youngest – the little sister to Stefan and Luka, and we watched how the elder siblings entered into marriages based on contracts and not on love, only to have them turn into more than they ever could have imagined. Each story being more complicated than the last, but we see now that they are all happy, and expecting children of their own.

So fast forward now to Emzee. She’s always been a bit different than her siblings – really a bit goth, a bit of a loner. She’s marched to her own tune, and now that she’s trying to find her footing in the world that her father left in shambles, she’s managed to build a great charity, grow her friendships with her sister in laws, and try to stand on her own two feet. She’s even managed to keep her best friend from High School in her life – and that friend is Ford Malone. The boy who helped keep the bullies away from her when rumors spread as a teen, and now they have this type of friendship that outlasts relationships and trauma of life.

We find ourselves in an interesting situation, where Emzee is at a family event for Ford, his mother’s birthday party and while she’s maneuvering her way around the event raising money for her charity, she quickly finds herself in the crosshairs when Ford’s mother continues to hound him about getting married to his new ex-Claudia and Ford pulls her into the mix. In the form of his ‘girlfriend’.

Yup – so that’s the path this story takes – watching yet another fake relationship come to the forefront. Ford needs his mom off his case and he knows that Em will do anything for him. She’s never said no, and it’s because she’s had a crush on him from day one and he knows it. Emzee always thought she was good about hiding it but nope!

The journey from there out is one where we watch this lie take all sorts of forms. Ford needs Emzee to do all the girlfriend type things, and she needs to do her best not to lose her heart in the process. It becomes harder and harder when there are so many conflicting moments between them. Ford brings Emzee to all these events to play the dutiful girlfriend and then he muddies the water with moments of romance and sensuality. Emzee thinks that at times there’s more and then he does something or says something to remind her that she’s nothing more than a pawn.

The challenge with a lie is that something will either push the lie into becoming true, or something will happen to make everyone get hurt. We watch how both happen simultaneously. There are moments when we believe that both are leaning to each other – that emotions are becoming real, that connections are real, and then the rug is pulled out from under them when secrets come out. The hiccup in all this is that now the relationship has turned into an engagement, and yet another contract marriage is born – where they are going to stay together for a year in order to get Ford’s family off his back,……but what we have come to realize is that the other shoe is going to drop with even more secrets.

Those secrets being another underlying plot line that is a result of what the Zoric’s father did with the family business. You’ll remember in the previous series, we watched how the family learned that their father was involved in trafficking the models and now that the agency has gone clean, apparently there are people who are not thrilled with the lost revenue. Namely the Russian Mafia. They’re after the family for money and the Zoric’s don’t really have that kind of cash laying around.

When Ford’s family somehow learns about the mafia being after Emzee’s family, a deal is put on the table which turns the entire trajectory of our story on it’s head. All the hope that we had for the future is now dashed, and what that means is that there are too many players involved for any type of positive outcome. Now sadly we have to wait 2 more months for book 2 to come out and we’ve literally been left on a ledge that needs pulling back from and I have to wait it out. So….on that note…i’ll find something else to ease my anxiety for the meantime and I can’t wait to see what’s next for Emzee, her family and for Ford. enjoy!

Review: On the Way to the Wedding (The Bridgertons #8) by Julia Quinn

Title: On the Way to the Wedding
Author:  Julia Quinn
Publisher/Year:  Harper Collins 4/25/17
Length:  300 Pages
Series: The Bridgertons #8

Overview

A funny thing happened …

Unlike most men of his acquaintance, Gregory Bridgerton believes in true love. And he is convinced that when he finds the woman of his dreams, he will know in an instant that she is the one. And that is exactly what happened. Except …

She wasn’t the one. In fact, the ravishing Miss Hermione Watson is in love with another. But her best friend, the ever-practical Lady Lucinda Abernathy, wants to save Hermione from a disastrous alliance, so she offers to help Gregory win her over. But in the process, Lucy falls in love. With Gregory! Except …

Lucy is engaged. And her uncle is not inclined to let her back out of the betrothal, even once Gregory comes to his senses and realizes that it is Lucy, with her sharp wit and sunny smile, who makes his heart sing. And now, on the way to the wedding, Gregory must risk everything to ensure that when it comes time to kiss the bride, he is the only man standing at the altar …

My Thoughts

We knew that the series was going to come to an end because there were no more Bridgertons to write about, but i’m sad nonetheless. What we have is a great finale though to the series, and a nice way to tie up the journey that we’ve gone on with the Bridgertons.

Just like the summary notes- we are kicking off this book in an exciting fashion . We are watching Gregory, the youngest boy in the family sprint to the chapel in the hopes of stopping a wedding. We don’t know the background just yet as to who this girl is and what brought him to stop the wedding, but we know that it has to be good – right?

We go back about two months when there’s a party at Anthony and Kate’s country home where Gregory is invited and stops in. What we know of him so far from the other stories is that he’s a bit more outgoing and cynical than his older siblings and he often gives Hyacinth a run for her money because he tries to protect her and he knows that he can get away with more hassle than most. We also watch as he acknowledges that romance and true love are a thing seeing as how all his siblings made love matches ahead of him, so he’s hoping to find his love and knows that he’ll feel this earth moving moment as soon as he sees her.

Which is exactly what happens at this party.

Two guests that are also invited are Lucinda (Lucy) and Hermoine, two friends who are having a pre-season debut here at the country party – as their guardians/parents believe that they need to get a bit polished in smaller events before they make a true debut among the ton.

When Gregory walks in and lays sight on Hermoine and Lucy, he thinks that he’s felt the earth move – that his life has been changed forever. He sees Hermoine across the room and she’s the kind of lady who hast he attention of just about any and every man out there – yet she doesn’t return the attentions at all. She’s in love with a man from back home but of course every man out there thinks that he can change her. Gregory included.

One of the ways that he goes about it is through a friendship with Lucy who’s able to give him ‘good insight’ on how he can try to win Hermoine over by doing the opposite of what every other man has done. Of course we readers know that there’s more to the story than meets the eye and perhaps Lucy doesn’t know what’s best.

Anyhow, we watch how Gregory does his best to win over the woman that he thinks is his true love, all while we watch Lucy gain interest in Gregory, while knowing that she’s been promised to marry another man. Her uncle who’s taken over as her guardian has engaged her to a man who’s destined for power. Everyone tells her that he’ll treat her well, but she herself wants to have a love match too.

We can only anticipate what will happen right? WRONG.

There are so many twists thrown into this one. We watch how Hermoine starts to feel something more for Gregory and we think that he may succeed in what he has set out to do – meaning that she’s the one that he stops the wedding of – as she’s likely gone back to her love from back home. Mind you – he’s not the only one who’s managed to gain her attentions. When Lucy’s brother comes to retrieve her as her uncle wants to have the wedding sooner than later, we see a quick and scandalous interaction between her brother and Hermoine which changes the trajectory of this story completely.

What happens from there is that we see an interesting connection grow between Gregory and Lucy before she’s rushed home. We see fast wedding arrangements made for Hermoine, and again that leads us to a stopping of a wedding back in London.

There are interesting circumstances that brought that wedding about, and blackmail that we love to get to the bottom of. We have professions of love and still the idea that happiness will never come because that’s just not meant to be in this story. We also learn personal secrets about a few characters in this story that make us really enjoy the comedic relief that can sometimes be brought.

It’s an exciting culmination to everything that’s gone on thus far in the series. We watch as the power of family continues to be important and the sway that the Bridgertons have in society truly means something even when they don’t hold the highest title in England.

What’s even better is the 2nd Epilogue although I was almost certain that we would see a slightly different ending and I was almost hopeful for things to end up not as they did, just because I think that the story maybe deserved a new resolution. Regardless, it was a nice way to end the series and now i’m sad to be done with it. On that note – off to find something new to read. Enjoy!

Review: It’s In His Kiss (The Bridgertons #7) by Julia Quinn

Title: It’s In His Kiss
Author:  Julia Quinn
Publisher/Year:  Harper Collins 3/28/17
Length:  298 Pages
Series: The Bridgertons #7

Overview

Meet Our Hero . . .

Gareth St. Clair is in a bind. His father, who detests him, is determined to beggar the St. Clair estates and ruin his inheritance. Gareth’s sole bequest is an old family diary, which may or may not contain the secrets of his past . . . and the key to his future. The problem is—it’s written in Italian, of which Gareth speaks not a word.

Meet Our Heroine . . .

All the ton agreed: there was no one quite like Hyacinth Bridgerton. She’s fiendishly smart, devilishly in small doses. But there’s something about her—something charming and vexing—that grabs him and won’t quite let go . . .

Meet Poor Mr. Mozart . . .

Or don’t. But rest assured, he’s spinning in his grave when Gareth and Hyacinth cross paths at the annual—and annually discordant—Smythe-Smith musicale. To Hyacinth, Gareth’s every word seems a dare, and she offers to translate his diary, even though her Italian is slightly less than perfect. But as they delve into the mysterious text, they discover that the answers they seek lie not in the diary, but in each other . . . and that there is nothing as simple—or as complicated—as a single, perfect kiss.

My Thoughts

I’m still surprised every time I read another installment to this series as it must be such a challenge to write about continuations of the same family story but with new eyes, new personalities and new trials. It seems as though our lovely author Ms Quinn has saved the most dynamic and troublesome for last and that’s what we get with Hyacinths story.

The way that this one is laid out is a bit of tellings us where we are in time and what we may have missed in a blurb at the onset of every chapter. What’s nice about that is that we’ve managed to set the stage and we know from whom’s perspective we’re about to read.

We don’t know much about Mr St Clair – which is the point. What we do know is that he’s got a reputation much like that of Anthony, Benedict or even Simon, but what also comes with that is a dark and troubled family backstory. That’s always the case with the ‘to be spouse’ of a Bridgerton so I was excited to see how that one evolved.

Gareth was the younger son of the Lord St Clair and clearly not the favorite child. It’s safe to say even that his father hated him, had it out for him, tortured him and even disowned him once he hit an age where he would be able to manage on his own. He also told Gareth’s older brother to cut him off, but the brotherly bond is more important than anything. At the same time he was thrown out of the house, Gareth also learns that he’s the result of an affair that his mother has and that his ‘father’ doesn’t even know who his real father is.

At the same time we get to engage in the world of Hyacinth. She’s the youngest of all the Bridgertons and if you’l recall, she was born after her father passed away. She’s always been a bit more independent or strong willed than the others, even more so than Eloise, but at the same time, she does want to find a husband, just that it has to be someone who can match her. She’s been out in society for three seasons and has had a handful of proposals, just none that she wants to take up on the offer.

We watch as their worlds collide from time to time through a relationship that Hyacinth has with his Grandmother Lady Danbury, and how Gareth also dotes on her very much. As a result, they are around each other more and more and come to realize that perhaps they have an attraction even if they irritate one another. If that’s not enough, they have a puzzle that they need the other to solve which continues to pull them together.

Gareth is given the diary of his grandmother from Italy which he needs someone to translate. That’s where Hyacinth’s role comes into play as she’s able to read a bit of Italian and she goes on her quest. What she discovers is so much more than anyone expected. She reads how his grandmother hated to be matched with the man that she married, and how she truly wanted to be anywhere else. She also shares that she received a gift of jewels from her grandmother which she chose to hide because she didn’t want her husband to get his hands on them.

That’s where the bulk of our story takes place – watching as they try to translate and decipher clues that will take them to where the jewels were hidden, in Gareth’s father’s house…and what that means for their reputations and relationship when they are forced to spend so much time together.

They try to be proper and they continue to antagonize one another so much that it’s inevitable that something will happen that may take decisions out of their hands. I enjoyed this one and I enjoyed the discovery of the jewels, even if it wasn’t what we had all hoped for. Were they what was expected? did it meet the thrill of the hunt?

All that’s left now is Gregory’s story and I can’t wait to dive into that one and see how this series resolves. Enjoy!

Review: When He Was Wicked (The Bridgertons #6) by Julia Quinn

Title: When He Was Wicked
Author:  Julia Quinn
Publisher/Year:  Harper Collins 2/28/17
Length:  330 Pages
Series: The Bridgertons #6

Overview

FRANCESCA’S STORY

In every life there is a turning point. A moment so tremendous, so sharp and breathtaking, that one knows one’s life will never be the same. For Michael Stirling, London’s most infamous rake, that moment came the first time he laid eyes on Francesca Bridgerton.

After a lifetime of chasing women, of smiling slyly as they chased him, of allowing himself to be caught but never permitting his heart to become engaged, he took one look at Francesca Bridgerton and fell so fast and hard into love it was a wonder he managed to remain standing. Unfortunately for Michael, however, Francesca’s surname was to remain Bridgerton for only a mere thirty-six hours longer—the occasion of their meeting was, lamentably, a supper celebrating her imminent wedding to his cousin.

But that was then . . . Now Michael is the earl and Francesca is free, but still she thinks of him as nothing other than her dear friend and confidant. Michael dares not speak to her of his love . . . until one dangerous night, when she steps innocently into his arms, and passion proves stronger than even the most wicked of secrets . . .

My Thoughts

One of the greatest things about how our amazing author writes this series is that each Bridgerton has a different personality, a different story and therefore gives us the reader a really good reason to continue on reading. We’ve had a tease of Francesca’s story throughout the series thus far and now it’s time to see how it all played out. While we don’t get the background on how she met and married her John, at least we understand what passed to make her life into what it is now.

Throughout some of the prior books, we learned that Francesca married a Scottish Earl and as a result, spent much of her year in Scotland. She returned to London for the season as was expected, but she spent the first two years of married bliss with her husband. She felt as though she had hit the jackpot with him as they shared intense passion and love, and all the while, she also gained a best friend in his cousin Michael – a man who was as close as one could expect. Michael of course had the same reputation of her brothers, and perhaps why she got on so well with him.

Then that all changed when one day while in London, he complained about a headache, went to bed and never woke up again. There was no rhyme or reason behind it, just that she now found herself mourning the love of her life. What she wasn’t aware of though is that the entire time that she had the company of Michael, her husband’s cousin, someone that was her true confidante -well…he was madly in love with her and had this jealousy that John found her first.

Once John passed, Michael found that he couldn’t be around Francesca any longer and he heads to India for several years. Over those same years, Francesca tries to figure out who she is now that she’s a widow and alone. We’re then fast forwarded into the future when she’s decided that she truly does want a baby and that means that she has to find a new husband. She’s resigned that she will never have what she shared with John, but she’s hoping for companionship at least. Parallel to that, Michael who is now the Earl of Kilmartin realizes that he’s due to get married in order to maintain stature and the line for his family, so we watch how these two play the game of trying to find someone suitable when we know that perhaps they don’t realize that their mate is right there. (at least Francesca doesn’t – even if her brother Colin does).

It’s a nice dance that we watch between them – they have this love hate relationship where they can’t quite go back to the ease of what they had in the past, but they also realize that they have both grown so much over the years that perhaps what they want is the same but in a different vantage point.

What I really enjoyed about this story are a few things. One, it’s happening the same time that Colin and Eloise are going through their own experiences so we know how those play out by now but we also know what prompts action by Francesca as a result. Two, because Francesca was married before, she’s not deemed an innocent by society so the way that men behave towards her or around her is different and perhaps a bit less gentlemanly. Three – we see the passion amped up quite a bit in this story since there’s something to be said about a lady who has experience. She has that and she takes control in instances and it’s really enjoyable to watch how it catches certain suitors off guard.

I have to say that the more time I spend with the Bridgertons the more that I truly love them and wish that I were in this fantasy 1820s world. There’s so much that a woman of the right stature could gain from society but then again there is the same level of cutting that would make it a catty and horrible place for the wrong type of person as well. I fall in love though with each character a bit more and can’t wait to see what’s next for the youngest two Bridgertons. I wish that we could also get a true story for Violet – the matriarch but I don’t think that’s in the cards based on what’s out yet. So on that note, i’m going to search out book Seven. Enjoy!

Review: To Sir Phillip, With Love (The Bridgertons #5) by Julia Quinn

Title: To Sir Phillip, With Love
Author:  Julia Quinn
Publisher/Year:  Harper Collins 1/31/17
Length:  432 Pages
Series: The Bridgertons #5

Overview

he wrote him a letter…and he stole her heart.

Sir Phillip knew that Eloise Bridgerton was a spinster, and so he’d proposed, figuring that she’d be homely and unassuming, and more than a little desperate for an offer of marriage. Except . . . she wasn’t. The beautiful woman on his doorstep was anything but quiet, and when she stopped talking long enough to close her mouth, all he wanted to do was kiss her . . . and more.

Did he think she was mad? Eloise Bridgerton couldn’t marry a man she had never met! But then she started thinking . . . and wondering . . . and before she knew it, she was in a hired carriage in the middle of the night, on her way to meet the man she hoped might be her perfect match. Except . . . he wasn’t. Her perfect husband wouldn’t be so moody and ill-mannered, and while Phillip was certainly handsome, he was a large brute of a man, rough and rugged, and totally unlike the London gentlemen vying for her hand. But when he smiled . . . and when he kissed her . . . the rest of the world simply fell away, and she couldn’t help but wonder . . . could this imperfect man be perfect for her?

My Thoughts

I do love a sweet story that has Eloise as the leading lady. We know that she’s got more sass and spine than some of the other Bridgetons. and as we watched her best friend Penelope find happiness, we knew that her time was likely to come. Add to that the notion that Epilogue #2 in the previous book teased what was to come, well there was no worry that her story wouldn’t be exciting.

If you’ll think back to the endless chatter around who Mrs Whistledown was, there was thought that it was Eloise since she truly enjoyed to write a lot and was likely more observant than most others in the Ton. Well, she insisted that it was her correspondence that gave her fingers ink stains and when that was proven true, everyone started to wonder who she was writing to. That in itself is the crux of this story.

When Eloise learned of the passing of a cousin, she sent a note of condolence to the husband and that began a year long interesting friendship that was was based in short letter to one another and a growing friendship. This friend is a one Mr Phillip Crane. He’s the father of rambunctious twins (who are 8) and who really need to be tamed. He’s a botanist and a man who enjoys the simpler things in life until of course his older brother passed who was the heir to the family ‘stuff’ and as a result, Phillip now has a whole new set of responsibilities that he didn’t want – and a wife that was due to marry his brother.

There’s a welcome change in the air in the invitation that Mr Crane extends to Eloise. Through their correspondence, he begins to think that any woman who’s still unmarried at twenty eight and who seems intelligent would be just the woman to marry him and take over the tasks of the home and…help raise his kids. He gets a shock when Eloise runs away from London and she arrives on his doorstep…and she’s more beautiful than he could have imagine.

We know that strong willed Eloise has expectations on what her life should be and she’s well bred enough to expect the best. Phillip on the other hand knows none of that stuff and doesn’t even really know how to engage with Eloise in person. Add to that – his kids are monsters and don’t want Eloise there so we spend much of the book watching them terrorize her.

As we all know, during the 18-teens, a single lady cannot be with a single gentleman without a chaperone, and when Eloise’s family discovers this fact, they force a marriage, faster than anyone’s comfortable with.

We then spend the remainder of the story watching how the dynamic shifts again and again. There are trade offs that everyone has to make and there are fears that there’s never going to be trust, kindness and love. To date, all of the Bridgerton marriages have been true love matches and that’s all that Eloise hopes for. I don’t think that’s in the cards here, and it’ll be a wonder if a companionship is something that can come along too.

In any event, we get a resolution to the strong willed Eloise and in the epilogue we see what the future holds for Phillip’s daughter. It’s a nice introduction to an extended story and I kind of wish that we got to have more of her tale. Now i’m off to book 6 which I believe is Francesca. We know from past books that she’s married to a man from Scotland and that he passes fairly soon after their wedding – so i’m intrigued to see that story develop and evolve. enjoy!

Review: Romancing Mr Bridgerton (The Bridgertons #4) by Julia Quinn

Title: Romancing Mr Bridgerton
Author:  Julia Quinn
Publisher/Year:  Harper Collins 11/24/15
Length:  432 Pages
Series: The Bridgertons #4

Overview

Everyone knows that Colin Bridgerton is the most charming man in London . . .

Penelope Featherington has secretly adored her best friend’s brother for . . . well, it feels like forever. After half a lifetime of watching Colin Bridgerton from afar, she thinks she knows everything about him, until she stumbles across his deepest secret . . . and fears she doesn’t know him at all.

Colin Bridgerton is tired of being thought of as nothing but an empty-headed charmer, tired of the notorious gossip columnist Lady Whistledown, who can’t seem to publish an edition without mentioning him. But when Colin returns to London from a trip abroad, he discovers nothing in his life is quite the same—especially Penelope Featherington! The girl who was always simply there is suddenly the girl haunting his dreams. When he discovers that Penelope has secrets of her own, this elusive bachelor must decide . . . is she his biggest threat— or his promise of a happy ending?

My Thoughts

We have watched Penelope walk around the edges of society for years and now we see what her life has become now that she’s twenty eight and apparently a spinster. Her mother has decided that she’s going to remain unmarried and will care for her at home in her old age. Lucky for Penelope, she’s got her best friend Eloise Bridgerton who’s the same age and who has decided that she will not marry and will remain a spinster with Penelope.

The challenge of course is that Penelope’s been harboring this crush on Colin, Eloise’s brother since they were teenagers, knowing that she was never clever enough or beautiful enough to catch his attention. They have great banter and are good friends, and as they’ve both gotten older, they’ve found that they value each other in a new and deeper way, but still, there’s no returned love or emotion from Colin much to Penelope’s dismay.

What we have throughout this fourth installment is a story of watching people dance around each other, knowing that sometimes a friendship and close family bond is more important than anything else – and at times that sort of relationship leas you down paths that you didn’t even think about. Self discovery, realizing that you’re more comfortable in your own skin than you knew, and had more to offer society than anyone else gave you credit for.

We see Penelope’s wit and intelligence in full force in this storyline – we watch how Lady Danbury brings out the best in her – how she’s unafraid to speak her mind and have opinions which endears her to the older lady quite well. We also watch as Colin questions what value he can bring to society now that he’s of age. His eldest brother runs the family line his next eldest is an accomplished artist. Colin travels and keeps journals of his travels, but he’s unsettled.

It’s sweet when you think about it – watching how they each bring light to the other’s lives. If there’s a chance that romance can also come with it, then great, but what we see is a different sort of development since their foundation is unique to the other Bridgertons.

There’s also the story of who Lady Whistledown is and who’s going to unmask her. Penelope and Lady Danbury lead the conversation on this one with Eloise chiming in, but no one is quite sure who the writer is. We watch that story unfold as well, wondering who’s going to figure out the secret and then fearing the reaction of the Ton.

I can’t wait to see what comes next though since we do see Eloise go missing at the end of this story and we know that there are secrets being kept. I’m excited at where the 2nd epilogue takes us and will dive straight in to see how that story came about. Again – this fourth book will make for a great fourth Netflix season, so here’s to hoping it gets renewed!

Review: An Offer From a Gentleman (The Bridgertons #3) by Julia Quinn

Title: An Offer from a Gentleman
Author:  Julia Quinn
Publisher/Year:  Harper Collins 8/25/15
Length:  416 Pages
Series: The Bridgertons #3

Overview

BENEDICT’S STORY

Sophie Beckett never dreamed she’d be able to sneak into Lady Bridgerton’s famed masquerade ball—or that “Prince Charming” would be waiting there for her! Though the daughter of an earl, Sophie has been relegated to the role of servant by her disdainful stepmother. But now, spinning in the strong arms of the debonair and devastatingly handsome Benedict Bridgerton, she feels like royalty. Alas, she knows all enchantments must end when the clock strikes midnight.

Ever since that magical night, a radiant vision in silver has blinded Benedict to the attractions of any other—except, perhaps, this alluring and oddly familiar beauty dressed in housemaid’s garb whom he feels compelled to rescue from a most disagreeable situation. He has sworn to find and wed his mystery miss, but this breathtaking maid makes him weak with wanting her. Yet, if he offers her his heart, will Benedict sacrifice his only chance for a fairy-tale love?

My Thoughts

I can’t wait to see how all these books transform into a new series on Netflix. There’s so much great description of what live is like among the Ton and I think that the Bridgerton family itself allows for even more entertainment.

We met Benedict through each of the first two books. He’s the second eldest, so he doesn’t get the responsibility that Anthony has, but he has the desire and interest of every single lady of marriage age and their mammas. Like his older brother, he’s not ready to settle down and does what he can to avoid the women in society. Until a masquerade ball at his own home – where he sees a lady that takes his breath away, and makes him feel sparks. He knows that she’s special yet he doesn’t know who she is.

Backing up a minute though, we actually start our story with our leading lady – Sophie. In those times, it was an embarrassment to have a child when you’re not married, or not to force to marry, yet here’s Sophie. She’s a ‘bastard’ – ghastly word of course, and that means that she’s never going to have much of anything except a soiled reputation. Her father is an Earl who does what he should but to the barest amounts by taking her in and making sure she has an education. Aside from that, he stays far away and really doesn’t do much to give her any love or emotion. IT’s when her father marries a lady that has daughters about Sophie’s age that she think her luck is about to change, but it won’t be for the better.

This Is the start of what I like to relate to Cinderella. Essentially, Sophie’s stepmother is the evil step mother who makes behave like a servant. From the moment they lived together, Sophie was lesser and that meant that Arminta, her step mother would go out of her way to ensure that Sophie had nothing, that her daughters weren’t nice to her and that Sophie knew that she was unworthy. When her father passes though, Arminta is forced by the will to take responsibility for Sophie until she’s 20 unless she wants less money to live off but that again means nothing good for Sophie.

Our story really takes shape on one evening during the season when Sophie’s step sisters are trying to find their matches. There’s a masquerade ball that they are attending and that means that Sophie has to work over time to make sure they look their best. The servants and maids in the house know that Sophie deserves more than what she’s been given, and once the others leave for the ball, they help Sophie transform into a mystery beauty and she’s given the chance to enjoy one night out as well.

If there’s such a thing as love at first sight, it seems like these two may have found it. There’s an immediate connection, a chemistry and a draw that makes it relationship goals for everyone. They are easy to banter and yet they don’t fear the usual rules about reputation. Sophie enjoys her time with Benedict in a way that makes him feel special since no one ever really is able to tell the difference between the Bridgerton boys.

One night of enjoyment turns into years of misery. Sophie is forced to flee her house when her step mother throws her out and that takes her down a path of being a low paid servant where ever she’s able to find a job. Benedict spends years searching for his mystery girl and never finds what he’s looking for. It’s one night at a dull party out in the country that Benedict comes a cross a woman who needs his saving, and that puts them on another path that they aren’t ready to see the end.

We watch how they dance around each other – how Sophie knows immediately that she’s remembered their night together, but Benedict doesn’t seem to realize that she’s the masquerade girl. She’s depressed about this but there’s nothing that she can do since he also thinks his mystery girl is a lady of society. Even though they are of different classes, we watch how they start to develop an interested bond and friendship, even if the motives that start it weren’t always pure.

Benedict takes Sophie back to london with him and gets her a job in his mother’s home, but things don’t end up rosy even here. We watch how secrets are unraveled, how emotions are high and how there’s another shoe that will drop since we’ve not yet seen the last of Sophie’s family.

This story takes us on a path that’s a bit less pure than all the others – where there were clear points that everyone knew was respectable to stop, and to stay away from one another, these two seem to feel as though those rules don’t matter. Be is that Sophie thinks that she’s not good enough for it to matter, or the notion that Benedict is a man and that means for him it doesn’t matter anyway. The resolution to it all is a round about but very enjoyable conclusion. The first epilogue gives us closure and the second gives us a foreshadowing of what’s to come for the others in the family. So…we all know what that means. I’m off to find book 4! Enjoy!

Review: My Beautiful Sin (Fallen Saint #2) by J Kenner

Title: My Beautiful Sin
Author:  J Kenner
Publisher/Year:  Martini & Olive 1/26/21
Length:  372 Pages
Series: Fallen Saint #2

Overview

Everything Ellie thinks she knows is about to change.

Despite his dangerous past, billionaire Devlin Saint finally has Ellie Holmes in his life—and in his bed. Yet shadows still cling to Saint, obscuring his dark secrets and the confidences he swore never to reveal. 

An investigative reporter, Ellie is certain the man she loves hasn’t told her everything. And when she starts receiving anonymous warnings about Devlin, she vows to investigate. Soon it becomes clear that Devlin isn’t the only one with things to hide, and the more Ellie learns, the more she realizes that loving Devlin is dangerous.

His touch is her sin…

My Thoughts

We spent the first installment of this series watching as Ellie was trying to find the answers to all the questions that changed the trajectory of her life through the death of her parents, her uncle….what ended up sending her down a path of self destruction, especially as the boy that she loved up and left her. Fast forward several years and she’s found him again, although he’s not the same man, he dangerous and he’s got secrets, yet what we saw from them is that they are both willing to accept each other at face value since there’s a once in a lifetime love that’s between them.

Once Ellie came to the self realization that she couldn’t live without Devlin, and that she was willing to accept that he had secrets, that he was dangerous, we also watched her realize that she owed it to herself to find answers. The challenge though is that those answers would likely lead her to uncover information that she wasn’t ready to process and that Devlin really didn’t want her to know. He was willing to let that be the situation, but then he also felt that he owed it to allow Ellie to see every part of him.

What unfolds in this second installment is a story that’s quite the roller coaster for EVERYONE involved. We know that Ellie’s best friend and cop Lamar doesn’t like Devlin and doesn’t trust him. When he’s brought into the circle of trust to learn who Devlin truly is and what he’s done, that really puts pressure on everyone because we don’t know what the fallout will be. We know that as a cop, Lamar is bound by law to do the moral thing, but that would mean hurting Ellie and that’s something that would come at a price.

Along with that story line, we watch Brandy, Ellie’s best friend live her life. We learned about her past and how it’s prompted hesitation with men, how she’s never quite been able to get over being raped and the circumstances that fell afterwards, but we see the thriller author Christopher show patience and caring and we have hopes for the future for them.

That’s Ellie’s side of things – we also get to see how Devlin’s side of the house responds to the budding romance and how they are now so intertwined. We know that Anna has her story with being part of Devlin’s past and how she’s now a safe space with Devlin. No longer a threat to Ellie and we watch how that friendship helps Ellie get to the bottom of all her questions. There are things that Anna seems to be tied to and information that she has about Devlin’s past that make her uncomfortable, but how that plays out is anyone’s guess.

Then there’s Ronan – the guy that rubs Ellie the wrong way on so many levels, and a girl named Reggie that she can’t quite place but feels that she should. Seeing the two of them makes every situation that more uncertain and that’s not good for anyone’s livelihood.

Throughout this book we watch the roller coaster that is Ellie and Devlin’s relationship. We watch them fight tooth and nail to get answers and find their way to be happy together but we also watch them self destruct and do whatever they can to push each other away. There’s someone who’s trying to scare Ellie away from Devlin we think, threatening her with the notion that he’s not sharing everything with her and while she knows he isn’t, she’s not plussed by it. But when someone tries to kill her, several times, there are more questions than answers behind who’s doing what. Add to that a data breach from Devlin’s company and everyone’s on edge.

Unexpected information is uncovered, and paths that we thought would lead to answers lead to more questions. Everyone that we thought was on the right side isn’t and those that we were willing to forgive their sins were potentially not worth it. At least we have heat and passion between some of our couples to help glue this story together and where we net out at the end of this second book is a place that we hoped we’d never get to. When too many of the wrong secrets are revealed to the wrong people, we know that NOTHING good can come out of it. I’m worried for what this means for everyone and who’s going to survive the rest of the story. So on that note, we have to wait until May I believe before we see the resolution and I don’t know how i’ll wait. Enjoy!

Review: The Viscount who Loved Me (The Bridgertons #2) by Julia Quinn

Title: The Viscount who Loved Me
Author:  Julia Quinn
Publisher/Year:  Harper Collins 4/28/15
Length:  400 Pages
Series: The Bridgertons #2

Overview

From New York Times bestselling author Julia Quinn comes the second novel in the beloved Regency-set world of her charming, powerful Bridgerton family, now a series created by Shonda Rhimes for Netflix.

1814 promises to be another eventful season, but not, This Author believes, for Anthony Bridgerton, London’s most elusive bachelor, who has shown no indication that he plans to marry. And in all truth, why should he? When it comes to playing the consummate rake, nobody does it better…                          –Lady Whistledown’s Society Papers,April 1814

But this time the gossip columnists have it wrong. Anthony Bridgerton hasn’t just decided to marry–he’s even chosen a wife! The only obstacle is his intended’s older sister, Kate Sheffield–the most meddlesome woman ever to grace a London ballroom. The spirited schemer is driving Anthony mad with her determination to stop the betrothal, but when he closes his eyes at night, Kate’s the woman haunting his increasingly erotic dreams…

Contrary to popular belief, Kate is quite sure that reformed rakes do not make the best husbands–and Anthony Bridgerton is the most wicked rogue of them all. Kate’s determined to protect her sister–but she fears her own heart is vulnerable. And when Anthony’s lips touch hers, she’s suddenly afraid she might not be able to resist the reprehensible rake herself…

My Thoughts

The bar was set so high coming off of the first book in this series, and seeing the dynamic of Simon and Daphne take their story to intense heights. That all being said, we were already familiar with Anthony and the kind of man he seemed to be….so we knew that this second installment would keep us entertained.

The eldest child in the Bridgerton family carries an insane weight on his shoulders. He’s not just the man of the house and the one who the title and wealth and responsibility falls to but he’s the protector of his mother and his siblings and he only wants the best for them. His father’s death really was too much for him to handle and in fact because Anthony always wanted to be just like his father, he has this notion in his mind that he can never surpass what his father accomplished in life and therefore will die at the same age. That being said, he’s continued his rakish ways, and decides that he will never marry for love since that’s just something that he won’t be able to match what his father and mother had.

Enter Kate – our leading lady in this story. Kate has her own sad story that’s helped make her into the amazing woman that she is today. Her mother passed when she was three, and her father remarried. She’s been lucky thus far since her step mother Mary has always considered Kate to be one of her own children, and treats her the same as she treats Edwina, Kate’s younger half sister. When Kate’s father passes as well, all the stress of finding good matches for both Kate and Edwina falls to Mary, and we watch the impact that it will have on their journey into London’s society.

Edwina like Daphne the year before was decided to be perhaps the diamond of the season – the most beautiful girl looking to find a husband. That bodes well for her and essentially means that Kate will come second fiddle if even that to all the suitors given that Kate is attractive as well but not to the same standards apparently that the rest of the ton see.

Kate’s wit, her humor and her intelligence make for some interesting scenes with the various men in society and when Edwina proclaims that she will not marry anyone who Kate doesn’t approve, that now redirects all men to Kate to get her blessing. Very hard feat to accomplish I must say.

The story from here on out is one that’s completely and thoroughly entertaining. We get to see the spark and passion come rom Kate as she banters with all suitors for her sister, primarily the persistent mr Anthony Bridgerton, and to any reader, we see the sparks fly between Kate and Anthony, even if the banter between them shows a complete non-attraction.

We watch how they come to spend more and more time together and how they realize that their paths and stories are more similar than ever imagined. We know that Anthony still hast his notion that he will never be in love, similar to how Simon said he’d never marry, have children etc, but we also know that the right person will change all that. It’s sweet to see how this story evolves and how the twists and turns and scandals that force it to happen make the story all that more dynamic.

I think that there’s something to be said about following your heart and hoping that there will be a favorable outcome. If you stop to think the impact that this union would have to Edwina for example, you’d wonder where that would leave her and in what emotional state. It’s nice to see that our author set that one up for us so that we get a sense of closure on that part as well. So…all in all a great story that gives us more of the Bridgertons that we love, and makes me even more excited for season 2 on Netflix. Enjoy!

Review: Destroyed With You (Start Security #5) by J Kenner

Title: Destroyed with You
Author:  J Kenner
Publisher/Year:  Martini & Olive 12/15/20
Length:  334 Pages
Series: Stark Security #5

Overview

Former sheriff Winston Starr doesn’t think about the past. That dark day when he lost the sweet, innocent woman he’d loved, dead because of his mistake in a mission that had gone horribly wrong.

Now an operative with Stark Security, he’s left Texas behind, focusing only on his work and closing his heart to love even as his soul screams for revenge against the scum that killed his Linda. When old friends reveal new evidence, Winston learns that not only is Linda alive, she faked her death in the ultimate betrayal.

But things are not as Winston believes, and he soon finds himself on the run with the woman who ripped his heart out. Now, the only thing stronger than his rage is his desire for the woman who destroyed him.

My Thoughts

We loved Winston for all that he did for Emma in the past when they knew each other and we now that his past is haunted. There are things that he’ll share and parts of himself that he’ll keep closed off because he’s lost too much in his life – as is the case it seems with everyone who’s in the SSA world. We know that he went under cover for SOC to take down the Consortium and in doing that he lost his wife. Linda was killed in a car bomb and that broke him more than he could have ever fathomed.

So fast forward a few years when Winston gets a call from his old boss at SOC with some interesting information. Linda isn’t dead – and she’s actually an assassin. This means that everything that Winston though he knew about life and her was a lie, and while he didn’t reveal who he truly was to her, he eels that her lies betray even more.

This story takes us on the journey that Winston takes to not only find the truth but to give himself some sort of resolution and closure to what he considers to be one of his biggest mistakes ever.

What they both come to find is that nothing is what it seems. They both believe that they are working assignments for the good guy but quickly learn that perhaps no one is good -everyone is dirty and can be bought for the right price. They go on the run to find answers, knowing that it means they’l have to spend time together and hopefully reveal the truth of what their pasts truly was and figure out what that means for their future.

They played each other in the past and they play each other now still. There’s a huge question of who’s going to get hurt in the crossfire and who’s going to come and save them. Because the first part of the assignment takes them to Texas, we see Noah come back into the mix a bit. The tech whiz who haw more tricks up his sleeve than any one else out there. We also know that Emma will play a role here again as well since she was close with Winston over the years and even knew Linda.

They go from Texas to LA, and are forced to kill, lie, cheat and break into a vault all in the hopes of getting answers. We all know where this is going to end up, but what we get in the meantime Is a story of fact finding and finding a path back. I think that it’s really sweet how they slowly let their walls down but still have so much fear of what the other can do to hurt them again. There’s a chemistry that’s undeniable between them and while it’s just for this assignment that they agree to let things play out, it at least come out in a hot and steamy manner.

And in true J Kenner form, we have an intro to our new leading couple for the next book – Reny a new agent for SSA and Abby who’s Nikki’s partner for her tech firm. So all that in hand, i’m excited for the next installment of this series. Enjoy!