Review: Duke of Pleasure by Elizabeth Hoyt

Every once in awhile, a book comes along that reminds me why I fell in love with the romance genre to begin with and where the true meaning of romance comes out: that you’re good enough as you are; that you are accepted as you are; that you are worthy of love.

Just as you are.

Duke of Pleasure by Elizabeth Hoyt is that book for me.

And honestly, I knew before picking up this book that it would go straight to my keeper shelf. Ms. Hoyt always astounds with her remarkable details and depth of feeling. I didn’t expect, however, for this book to have such a profound impact on me.

My Review

imagesInitially, I read the book for Hugh. Readers are introduced to him in the previous book as the King’s acknowledged bastard, and he is a widow with two sons – children who hardly know him. He is an enigma I wanted to solve, and I did adore him. Alf, however, stole the story for me.

This is, quite simply, a coming-of-age story that had me charmed from the very beginning. Alf has spent the last two decades as a boy, and after losing her close friend, has been faring for herself in St. Giles.

The feeling of flight, the happiness she finds in the freedom of jumping roofs as the elusive Ghost, is a big part of her journey, and when she finds that same feeling in Hugh’s arms, she owns it. Alf is the one who saves Hugh in the opening scene, and right away, she makes her attraction to him known. Alf revels in it, even if – or especially because –  she has lived decades as a male. It cements her decision to ultimately help the duke find his attackers.

Hugh, for his part, is the catalyst that helps Alf grow into her womanhood. When Alf’s disguise crumbles and the duke requires the woman, Alf, not the informant boy, she is plagued with doubt, and I love how Hugh took charge. Where’s the courageous Alf? He asks. He needs her to do this, praises her skill and her upbringing, and knowing Alf like he does, she takes the bait and rises to the challenge.

This is, quite simply, a coming-of-age story that had me charmed from the very beginning.

Likewise, Alf brings Hugh to his knees. He is scared shy of love after his wife’s infidelity, and the chasm between Hugh and his children is heartbreaking. Alf’s honesty and forthright nature are exactly what he needs.

And, typical of Hoyt, the heat between these two is there and steaming hot. Alf initiates the intimacy on more than one occasion, and I loved this! Hugh didn’t stand a chance against her, and I loved when the Duke lost his soldier persona – the protector and gentleman – for the lusting man beneath.

And oh, how this girl made even my eyebrows go up a time or two! There is one scene in the book where they must hide in plain sight…and well, I’ll let you read and delight in the how.

There is also a secondary romance featured, and I gasped at the ending. I can never wait for the next installment in this series, but we readers are in for quite a treat!

5/5 Stars!

Duke of Pleasure is hands down my favorite read of the year. Well done, Ms. Hoyt. I have never been more proud to be a woman than I am reading this book. Another absolutely breathtaking and heart wrenching addition to the Maiden Lane Series.

Professional Reader

Review: The Bad Boy Bargain

Sometimes, you just need a cute romance that’s light on the drama, but has just enough oomph to keep you reading. The Bad Boy Bargain by Kendra C. Highley had all that and more.

Faith Gladwell is the consummate “good girl.” She makes good grades. She’s in ballet, and she has a popular boyfriend, Cameron. Or she did, before finding out he was a cheater. Now, with him telling the school she’s an Ice Queen, she is ready to fight back.

30415027Enter Kyle Sawyer. He’s a bad boy player who skateboards and drag races. If only the reputation was true. But Kyle has a bone to pick himself with Cameron so he agrees to Faith’s proposal: pretend to be her bad boy boyfriend. As they get closer however, Faith realizes Kyle isn’t who he pretends to be.

I really wanted a sweet romance, and I am happy to say I got more than I bargained for. Faith is such a sweetheart, but she is also so bold. She was the one who made the moves on Kyle, the one who ended up having more experience, and this led to some great moments!

“But those arms. Who wouldn’t stare at a guy like that attacking greenery with a spade like a knight with a sword? Good gracious…Kyle’s biceps alone were living proof there was a God, and that She loved the world.”

Kyle has his own lawn company, and he is working on Faith’s backyard when they meet. No one knows this about Kyle, that he has such a talent for plants. He keeps it hidden, and the reason for it is so heartbreaking and so important in today’s world.  But for all his sweet ways (and his inexperience with girls) he is more than up for the challenge in dealing with Faith. The boy knows how to flirt.

His knees trembled a little, but his voice was level when he said, “Azalea. They’re beautiful, and while they look delicate, they’re strong if they’re taken care of the right way. They’re perfect for you.”

She held very still. “You think?”

He swallowed hard. Praying she didn’t notice that his hand was shaking now, too, he brushed his lips against her ear, saying. “Absolutely.”

These two really bring back the drama of high school, the demand to fit in, but also the bitter tones of first love and truly finding oneself. Faith needs someone that is into her – someone she can trust – and Kyle is that person. Just like Kyle needs someone to see him for him. The shy boy who only wanted to walk from the shadow of his past.

He also knows Faith has an inner strength, recognizes it and desires it, and the tone was inherent in their interactions.

She dropped down suddenly, bending her knees outward, then she sprang up. He almost let go, surprised by the power of her vertical leap. She was so strong, he had to tighten his forearms and really hang on to keep from losing her.

It burrowed further into youthfulness and hope with the relevance of today’s youth that is so needed. I highly recommend this young adult read, and I dare you not to fall in love with these two.

4 Stars!

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Review: The Legendary Lord by Valerie Bowman

28220720I adore stories set in the wilds of Scotland. Even more so when a reclusive and socially challenged lord takes on a forthright and personable belle of the season. This premise hooked me into The Legendary Lord by Valerie Bowman, and I had high expectations going into this book. Unfortunately, it left me feeling a little bittersweet.

Lady Sarah Highgate escapes from London, having no desire to marry the man her parents chose for her. She seeks shelter in Master Christian’s hunting lodge, having no idea that the owner is Viscount Berkeley, nor that the man would find her in his bedchamber!

As their truths unfold, a bargain is struck. Sarah will help Christian find a wife, and Christian will help Sarah get back to London and salvage her reputation. However, as Sarah teaches Christian the art of attracting a wife, she finds herself on the hook instead. Each must confront their fears as London society – and others’ expectations – threatens to tear them apart.

This story starts with a bang. Christian believes Sarah is a thief, and Sarah believes Christian to be a murderer. Their reactions to finding each other in the secluded residence were hilarious! For Christian, it’s shock and disgruntlement. He had left London to hide from society women only to find that…

“By God, there was a woman in his bed!”

And Sarah? She brandishes a sword she can barely lift, threatening to “cut (him) in half.”

Now, if the story had continued in such a vein, with quips and action and them brandishing swords – if not literal swords, than figurative ones – I would have loved this book. As it was, however, their interactions were lackluster.

They find themselves alone, snowed in, and with lust-at-first sight. It is a prime opportunity to build the tension; however, there were missed opportunities. The first morning after, Sarah finds herself facing Christian with only her nightgown on. But Christian? He shows no reaction to finding her barely clothed.

None. Not even later in his thoughts.

I had to ask myself, so what is the purpose of this?

Not only that, but the Sarah who brandishes a sword in the beginning disappears, and she spends much of the book running or simply kowtowing to her parents, and why? No reason presents itself. Deeper reason were hinted at, especially in Christian’s case, but never delved into or shared with the other. It leaves me unsatisfied.

After the first third of the book, however, the plot picks up, and I loved seeing them both bit by the jealousy bug and confronting their feelings.

What really propelled the plot for me were the secondary characters. I loved them! We are reintroduced to Lucy Hunt (For those of you not familiar with her, I strongly encourage you to read The Unexpected Duchess) and her merry band of scheme makers. It offers the witty 18169925repartee I’m used to seeing in this series, and seeing Christian interact with his rabblerousing friends gave him a little more depth.

While I didn’t see the shy bachelor in Christian, by the end, I was okay with that. What were these society ladies thinking in overlooking Berkeley all this time? Well, their loss is Sarah’s gain! With him, Sarah’s backbone came out full force, and the intimate scenes were steamy enough to make up for the lack of tension earlier.

The Legendary Lord is a fun, light romp that does the Playful Brides series justice. While it missed the mark on enhancing the tension in some parts – ones that would have made this story more poignant – I will continue to devotedly follow this series. A future couple is hinted at, and I just know the next book will offer the emotional-punch that Bowman can deliver.

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*I was given an arc by NetGalley for an honest review.*

Professional Reader