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!

Review: Wrecked With You (Stark Security #4) by J Kenner

Title: Wrecked with You
Author:  J Kenner
Publisher/Year:  Martini & Olive 5/26/20
Length:  338 Pages
Series: Stark Security #4

Overview

He never wanted a partner. And then she came along.

After more than a decade chasing shadows, Antonio Santos finally has a lead on the hiding place of The Serpent, the elusive villain who kidnapped him as a child and murdered his mother and uncle. But in order for Tony to get close, he’ll need access to an exclusive private island-where he can only enter with a woman on his arm.

Antonio goes to Stark Security to call in a debt … then walks out with Emma Tucker on his arm. A loner, Antonio isn’t interested in having a partner. He just needs a female. But the striking redhead’s skills soon impress him. More than that, her lush body and beguiling self-assurance tease his senses in unanticipated ways. 

A longtime operative with deadly skills, Emma resents being arm candy for someone else’s agenda. But the more she works with Antonio, the more she admires his razor sharp intelligence and formidable prowess. And when the island’s games push them over a sensual cliff, she can’t deny his talents in the bedroom, too.

As passion rises on this island playground full of lust and danger, they both fight the growing attraction between them. But with danger racing toward them from both on and off the island, they soon realize that more than their hearts are at stake. Because unless they can trust and rely on each other, they also risk losing their lives.

My Thoughts

I’ll be honest when I say that i’ve spent too much time away from this series to really remember the guys that we get to focus on. As I eased myself back into this one though I quickly remembered a few things and it reminded me the value of this spin off series. We have yet another story that’s got a dark side in it’s past – on the parts of both of our main characters.

We start off with Antonio the leading man who was a part of Deliverence and now is in between gigs while he follows his quest to get revenge for the man that ruined everything that he had going for him in his life. The man who murdered his mother, his uncle, who kidnapped him and who put him on the wrong path. He’s being recruited by SSA and Stark wants him to be a part of the tea, but he won’t do it until he’s able to get his past resolved. lucky for him though, Stark owes him a favor and with that comes resources and a partner.

Enter Emma – the older sister of Eliza whom we met in the previous installment with Quincy and we get to see more and more why she’s so tough and protective. We know that her backstory with her sister isn’t a good one – they had to do just about anything possible to survive once they got away from their abusive father, and what’s interesting here is that there’s a link to Tony’s story that we don’t learn until the last third of this story.

Emma is being recruited by SSA as well, and we get to see how she’s afraid to lose her freedom from the jobs that she works now. She was part of an off the grid government agency that basically did the same work as SSA and she’s got skills that people need.

They’re teamed together to help Tony find The Serpent – the man who ruined his family and who needs to be taken care of. This quest to find him takes our two leading characters to a resort island that’s all about sex and debauchery and while it’s no surprise that’s the environment that they find themselves in, it’s the entertainment there that keeps this story flowing.

Tony’s only reason to be there is because of someone he met on the dark web who said she has information on The Serpent. so we spend the first bits of time at the resort watching our duo try to track down this woman with information. They get into several interesting situations where they think they’re on the track to the right person and end up with just a good time with nothing to show for it. The hitch to all this though is that we see them develop a deeper attraction towards one another which is inevitable and of course that also means that we have to see if they’re willing to be honest and open up about their pasts for this to become something more.

They quickly find themselves in dicey situations where they are led astray, into a trap, into another trap, multiple people die and then they are back at square one with little insight into what’s what. While they’ve failed their direct mission, we also watch them fail at trust. When intel is shared that makes Tony question everything about Emma, we see that they definitely are too fragile to survive and that means that they go their separate ways. It’s only SSA that brings them around again although the path to discover what is an entirely different story.

True to J kenner form, we get anxiety and fear, vendettas and blood lust, the need for freedom and a desire for control. Add to that some insane chemistry and heat, some great toys to play with at the resort, and a means to open oneself up both figuratively and literally – and well we have an amazing book 4. I can’t wait to get into book 5 and see what’s next for this crew that keeps expanding. Enjoy!

Review: The Duke and I (Bridgerton #1) by Julia Quinn

Title: The Duke and I
Author:  Julia Quinn
Publisher/Year:  Harper Collins 4/28/15
Length:  464 Pages
Series: Bridgerton #1

Overview

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

In the ballrooms and drawing rooms of Regency London, rules abound. From their earliest days, children of aristocrats learn how to address an earl and curtsey before a prince—while other dictates of the ton are unspoken yet universally understood. A proper duke should be imperious and aloof. A young, marriageable lady should be amiable…but not too amiable.

Daphne Bridgerton has always failed at the latter. The fourth of eight siblings in her close-knit family, she has formed friendships with the most eligible young men in London. Everyone likes Daphne for her kindness and wit. But no one truly desires her. She is simply too deuced honestfor that, too unwilling to play the romantic games that captivate gentlemen.

Amiability is not a characteristic shared by Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings. Recently returned to England from abroad, he intends to shun both marriage and society—just as his callous father shunned Simon throughout his painful childhood. Yet an encounter with his best friend’s sister offers another option. If Daphne agrees to a fake courtship, Simon can deter the mamas who parade their daughters before him. Daphne, meanwhile, will see her prospects and her reputation soar.

The plan works like a charm—at first. But amid the glittering, gossipy, cut-throat world of London’s elite, there is only one certainty: love ignores every rule…

My Thoughts

I have to admit that the reason that I dove into this series is because I watched the season on Netflix and the show has me HOOKED. Not only are the characters amazing, the actors beyond attractive, but the hints of what’s happened and what’s to come is intense. We have a cross between Pretty Little Liars meets Gossip Girls all thrown into England in 1812. It’s a must read!

This first book of the series introduces us to the world of the Bridgertons, a family that’s well to do in society in England, and one that has a lot of children that need to be minded once they come of age. This first book focuses on Daphne, the eldest sister of the brood now that she’s of age to be married and her quest to find a husband. Daphne has been in society now for a year and has not secured a husband, partially because she’s got older brothers who want only the best for her and partially because most men for some reason only see her as a friend and not as a lover. She’s beautiful and she’s quick witted and intelligent – all things a man should want, but that’s not the norm back in those days.

Enter Duke of Hastings – Simon. A close friend of Anthony, Daphne’s oldest brother and a man who’s got a reputation that preceeds him. He’s only returned to London now that his father has passed away and he needs to settle loose ends. The challenge though is that Simon has made a vow to his father that he will never marry, that he will never have kids so that the family line dies with him because his father treated him so horribly when he was young.

Daphne’s quest for the perfect love match and Simon’s quest to stay out of the clutches of all society mammas and their daughters who need to be married off gives us the perfect scheme that has been developed. Simon and Daphne will pretend that they are in love, which in turn will make Daphne seem more attractive now that she’s got the attention of the most eligible man alive, and Simon will be free to live his life how he wants.

We all know that this will explode and not in a good or expected way. The way that this always plays out is that they will develop a great friendship and they will start to care for one another. They will become attracted to each other in a way that’s going to cause problems in their polite society. Someone’s heart will get broken, someone’s reputation will get destroyed and their future will be a roller coaster of misery and despair.

What’s nice about this story is that our author Julia Quinn has managed to lead us down all the right paths to see how this will play out from scene to scene, and at the same time be surprised by the new bit of information that we learn at every turn. There are so many dark secrets from Simon’s past that cloud how he sees every situation today that it’s no surprised that he’s damaged. AT the same time, we have come to know that Daphne is a woman who can handle her own, yet there are soooo sooo many things that are so naive and innocent about her that we also watch how that really hampers any chance of her finding a happiness that’s possible in this day and age.

We get a nice bit of closure to this story – not one that was expected but one that works for this series. There are stories that follow for the other siblings in the Bridgerton family, so it was nice to see how it was set up a bit in this first book although it does spoil things a bit for when the next season comes around on Netlix.

ARC Review: Complex by AD Enderly

Title: Complex
Author:  A.D. Enderly
Publisher/Year:  Luminary Media 12/01/2020
Length:  594 Pages

Overview

The sky rains red, the poor are forgotten, governments have failed, and corporations have grown into mini nation-states called Complexes, where people flock to receive the security, shelter, and purpose the outside world can’t provide. The only payment required, buried somewhere in the twenty-thousand-page Terms of Service, is their freedom.

Now just sign on the dotted line…

Orphaned after her father’s death, 18-year-old Val’s focus is to protect her younger sister Kat and heed her father’s final wishes: Never, ever join a Complex. Stay away from them, at all costs, he demands.

But staying away becomes impossible when Kat is abducted, sparking a hunt through a violent megacity primed for revolution, where Val eventually discovers her sister’s disappearance is just a smokescreen. Beneath it lies a motive darker than death and broader in scope than a few lives.

As Val and her allies uncover the truth, they’re confronted with a terrible choice – save Kat, or save humanity?

My Thoughts

It took me a little while to start reading this one and then it took me even longer to finish it but I think there’s some interesting stuff happening in this story. First off I’d like to thank the folks at NetGalley for getting me a copy early even though I didn’t quite get to read it as early as I’d have liked.

We’re thrown into a world of the future, where the construct of society is that people are living in levels and tiers, based on either a social score, or the decision to sign their lives away in a contract to a Complex or Medical organization called Novagenica. No one really understands what the end result of any decision will be but they know that the struggle of life is real and there’s only a hope of what can make things better.

This story is written in books, although I don’t know that the books really make any sense or difference. Instead though we also get chapters that are each through the eyes of a different character, one who has a unique circumstance or role in society and we watch how it all slowly converges as we get to the end of this one.

We know that there’s a group of people who want complete control.

we know that there’s a virus that’s being developed to limit the population or potentially restructure the population in a way that will create a better more thriving society.

There’s also an aspect of AI that we see come to a head in a way that we all fear, even in current day.

There are groups of people who’s stories are more intertwined throughout this book. We see Val and Kat who are sisters who don’t have the same view on life and that just smells like disaster coming. Kat’s kidnapped and it makes everyone realize what’s important. The quest to find Kat leads Val to Trevor who becomes not only an integral part of the story but a love interest.

Trevor leads them to an organization that has a connection to tech and a desire for more power and that in turns leads them to their doom.

Dramatic yes, but I think that’s what this story is setting us up for. The thought that when you’re power hungry, bad things happen. When you are selfish bad things happen, and when you allow tech to gain too much strength, bad things will happen.

What’s interesting about this story though is the way that it ends. There’s a scene and a conversation that one of the main characters has with a ‘pastor’ of sorts, someone who’s proposition in life is that the idea of tech leads only to bad things, well, in that convo, there’s something interesting that happens. There’s a shift, a change in reality, and then the last note in the story is the notion that there’s more to come – and that someone like this pastor is the one who can help enact the change……driven by AI.

So…I left a lot out because frankly, there’s so much going on in parallel paths in this story that i’m not sure which story line is the most important. I’m also not sure what the real plot or point of this story is either – there’s just a lot of paths that merge and separate, bringing things to a head and then blowing them up. All in all, i’d have to say that this wasn’t My favorite book, but I know that there are folks out there who will love it for the ideas of what the future can look like if we don’t take precautions now. Enjoy!

Review: The Camp (The Chateau #2) by Penelope Sky

Title: The Camp
Author:  Penelope Sky
Publisher/Year:  Hartwick Publishing 1/5/21
Length:  329 Pages
Series: The Chateau #2

Overview

She betrayed me. 

After everything I did for her. 

Now I’ll have to suffer the consequences of that mistake. 

But then I’ll get the revenge that I deserve. 

My Thoughts

We have the continuation of Magnus and Raven’s story and we know that it’s going to be insane. When we left them in the end of The Chateau, everything was blown up in their faces. Literally.

We saw a really tender and sweet relationship develop between these two in the first book and only had the best things to hope of their future. Magnus protected her from everyone in the camp, managed to help her escape and even managed to get her free from the camp forever. Raven though, had more on her agenda now than ever. The strong willed woman that she is, we knew that she’d never settle for just her freedom which resulted in her return to the camp to liberate all the women, to set it on fire and get everyone out. What happens though is almost the unthinkable.

She loses her freedom and is recaptured. Her sister Melanie has to go back to Fender (which may or may not be a bad thing). Magnus gets crushed under a burning building and Raven saves him. But life has once again returned to the misery of the Camp and Raven’s life has now gotten so much harder. Magnus hates her. Wants her to suffer now that he’s lost the respect of the guards, and his brother is beyond angry and what’s transpired.

This second book as a huge theme of redemption in my mind. Mangus has to find a way to get back into better standing with his brother. We learn more and more about their past and how they came to their current empire, and we learn that as he reveals more and more to Raven.

Which of course mans that Raven’s managed to get back into his heart again. Like there was ever a question right? She takes a knife in the stomach for him when one of the guards comes after him and that endears him a bit more to her and we watch from there as he realizes that she’s not acted with malice in any of this but instead doing what she felt was necessary. That in itself gives her a bit of redemption in his eyes and we get to see what that can evolve to.

Magnus claims Raven as his and as such, she’s got protection in the camp. He takes her with him when he goes back to Paris each month and we see how their lives turn into something more. Something with a different tone and purpose. He slowly realizes that she’s only there for him. She’s got no other motive and not other intentions and that’s what slowly builds trust. But with trust comes and ultimatum, one that really proves to be impossible for Magnus to uphold.

In this story, we see so much transpire. Magnus comes to terms with what they’ve done, and pushes his brother to change his ways. Fender is driven by greed and a need to always have more that he makes decisions that Magnus tries to sway him away from. Decisions that have catastrophic impact and the world they know will be changed forever.

There’s marriage, love, death, despair and maybe a glimmer of hope in this story and it’s really sweet. We also get this story entirely from Magnus’ perspective whereas the first book was from Raven’s. I think that’s a really good way to extend the story a bit more – a way to see how things are far from black and white. At the end of this story, we see that there’s a third book coming out, I believe now from Melanie’s eyes. That’ll be a nice change since her experience was intensely different from that of Raven and Magnus. I can’t wait for that one to come out. Enjoy! I