Review: Passion Restored by Carrie Ann Ryan

Passion Restored has all the elements of a great romance with enough plot twists to keep you guessing. Get ready for one heck of a book.

passion-restoredLiz might lose her job as a nurse, so time is strained, money is tight, and sex is nonexistent. The last thing she needs is an attraction to the sexy and adorable, Owen Gallagher. Liz doesn’t expect to see him again let alone find him in her ER room that same evening. All too soon, she’s meeting his family and finding out that she moved next door to the guy! Owen begins a campaign to win her over, and Liz knows her heart might not survive the fall.

Owen is sent for a loop the night he’s hit by a car and ends up in Liz’s ER room. Too bad Liz doesn’t want anything to do with him. Owen has other ideas. He begins a slow battle to wear down her walls and finds that there’s much more to Liz than meets the eye. When lust sidelines Owen, however, he’s more than willing to take the risk. But will Liz?

“You look ready to either cry or start humping the drywall…I don’t know if either one is really workplace appropriate.”

I’ll start by saying that I adored the entire Gallagher family. There are four brothers, and the interactions between them and their wives had me laughing! They all work in the construction business and our hero, Owen, is the guru of post-its and organization. Honestly, he’s a little obsessive-compulsive. I just wanted to cuddle him whenever he went on about making lists and color-coding. And he owns this about himself. There’s also no second-guessing when he makes up his mind to go after Liz. No push and pull. It is what it is.

Liz, quite frankly, works her ass off. Budget cuts mean some of the nurses are going to lose their job, and Liz takes up extra hours so this doesn’t happen. She also tries to stay out of the office gossip. Unfortunately, one of her co-workers has it out for her, and I wanted to take up Liz’s fight! I had so much respect for Liz and when she finally goes off, I had to put my kindle down so I could clap and fist-pump. Luckily, she also has the persistent and attentive Owen to provide some much-needed stress relief.

She’d imagined his mouth on her lips, on her skin before, and yet those dreams had nothing on the real man.

I wasn’t prepared for how dirty the sex was. It caught me completely by surprise, and I am so happy for it! The heat builds and comes to a head so quickly. I’m going to steal one of Liz’s (and Owen’s) words here, but holy hell, was it grand! Dirty talk, anyone? Mix some plot twists in there, and I was on the edge of my seat!

Now, the ending was a little rough. There were some moments that were too abrupt or didn’t seem to fit in with the story. Liz also goes back and forth a lot emotionally. For the most part, though, I simply couldn’t stop reading. The chemistry is spot on, the Gallagher family is to die for, and the one-liners made this book so much fun.

Passion Restored is the second book in Ms. Ryan’s Gallagher Brothers series. If you like it a little rough and rowdy with a close knit and heart-filled group, I highly recommend this one. A thoroughly enjoyable tale!

*Reviewed by Michaelene for the Alpha Book Club. The cross post can be found here.*

Review: If the Duke Demands by Anna Harrington

“Was that how all the Carlisle men saw her? As a silly country gel destined to marry a boring vicar or farmer and spend her life polishing church pews or chasing pigs on a farm?”

Miranda has crushed on her country neighbor, Robert Carlisle, since they were little and he gifted her with a kiss. Her problem? She’s all grown up now, but he’s entranced with another woman. Her solution? Why, dress in a fine and provocative gown, lie on his bed with her masked face, where they’ll make love before she declares herself and her heart. Too bad she ends up in bed with the wrong brother.

30364206Sebastian feels the weight of the dukedom on his shoulders. He’s determined to marry his perfect duchess. That isn’t Miranda with her bold maneuverings and her love of Milton and Shakespeare. No, the part of him that glories in her passion and intelligence doesn’t fit with the Sebastian he is now.

They strike a bargain: Miranda will help him find a suitable wife if he’ll help Miranda ensnare Robert. But damned if Sebastian doesn’t fall for her in the meantime.

This is a solid historical romance with all its humorous barbs and battles and just the right amount of passion. Miranda is a blend of bold, but shy; innocent, yet brave. She flowers under Sebastian’s attention, and she really needs someone to see her. Especially when all her attempts to capture Robert’s attention fail. It’s her wake up call. Does she want the man she’s loved for years or the one she’s just starting to know?

The best part is how Miranda’s passion and exuberance ignites the Sebastian he has tried so hard to subdue. But when they’re one-on-one, shrouded in an opera box or alone in the gardens, the devilish rogue comes out to play. It made for some scorching scenes.

“Does the opera stir your blood?”

He stared at her profile in the shadows, his gut tightening at the raw pull of her, and confessed, “You stir my blood, Miranda.”

But about halfway through, the pacing stalls out. Miranda always seems to be embarrassed, and she would make a decision regarding Sebastian only to flounder at the last minute. It made her seem wishy-washy, and I wanted her to stand up and tell him to sod off or realize he doesn’t want a straight-laced bride. He wants her.

It would have also helped the pacing with Sebastian’s inner turmoil. Sebastian brings up Miranda’s station and upbringing way too often, and while I can sympathize with Sebastian’s past, I didn’t think it was significant enough for him to hold off as long as he did. The back and forth became repetitive and a good editing would have rounded out the story better.

If the Duke Demands is a great start to this series, and I can imagine the books for the other Carlisle brothers will involve plenty more hijinks. This is a quick, fun read that offers lots of laughs and the feel-good moments I expect in a historical romance.

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*I was given an arc via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This review was cross-posted on Alpha Book Club and can be found here.*

Review: Single Malt by Layla Reyne

4 stars!

A thrilling plot with a cast that made my heart squeeze.

Aidan is still recovering from the loss of his husband and FBI partner when he is assigned a new case. And a new partner. Only his new partner is in the cave – the Cyber department – and he’s attractive to boot.

33296928Jameson Walker, aka Whiskey, loves the anonymity of the cyber world after his high-profile basketball career. That changes when he’s assigned to Aidan and thrust out into the field. Not only does he have to be out in public, he is with the irascible Aidan and the unlikely attraction he feels for the broken man.

But Whiskey’s skills with the computer may be just what Aidan needs to discover who killed his partner and husband. As Aidan slowly begins to fall for his new partner, he has to ask himself if he can let go of the guilt or if it’s too much for him to handle.

Aidan touched my soul in this book. I honestly cannot think of another book that has done that – made me cry so easily and being so aware of how hard my heart hurt. Could I swoon any harder? I didn’t think so, but when Aidan opens up when he finally takes a step towards healing with Walker, Aidan proves me wrong. Sincerity is that man’s middle name, and he has a hard time trusting or letting people in because he doesn’t want to get hurt again. Who could blame him? Losing so many people? So, the moment he lets Walker tiptoe past a defense – even for only a moment – it’s so special to see. And the language is downright poetic at times:

“What color is that?” Aidan asked, putting aside the fact Walker had seen through the disguise he’d worn for three decades.

“Autumn,” Walker answered, voice dropping an octave. “Like a pile of fall leaves back home, right after it rains. Dark brown swirled with brick red and flecks of gold.”

Coffee with a dash of Goldschlager, Gabe used to say. But damn if Walker’s description, spoken in that seductive drawl, didn’t send another flare of desire scorching through him.

Then there’s Whiskey. Aidan assumes the man, with little to no training, won’t be the right fit for the field. Boy, is he wrong! Whiskey can hack into anything and dayum, the skills on this one! He’s the sugar to Aidan’s sour, and he had the right amount of charm and cunning to get the task done. The smarts are high in this one. And the humor!

“English, Whiskey. Translate the technobabble.”

Jamie shot out a hand, snatched the pen from Aidan’s grasp, and broke it in half. “Say ‘babble’ one more time, and I’ll break something else.”

I’d also like to mention the nicknames – Whiskey and Irish. Whiskey is a southern boy and his full name, Jameson Walker, is obviously taken from the smooth, slow burn of whiskey. Then there’s Irish. Hallooo there. I need to listen to the audible for this one! Also, Aidan doesn’t realize until a third of the way through the book that Whiskey leans towards men. It’s hilarious and when Whiskey comes out, Aidan’s flabbergasted – and relieved – because holla! Whiskey knows just when to push Aidan for more and when to pull back. The balance is disarming to Aidan, and I love seeing his walls come down one-by-one.

Single Malt is book one of a three book series, so it does end on a cliffhanger. As such, the external conflict dominates while the romance is slower to build. The FBI cases take the forefront with the death of Aidan’s husband and partner always lingering in the background. It was heavy on the plot-building, but I still found the intrigue high-octane, and I was so invested in the cases. It also allowed them to build a connection, revealing one layer at a time, and it made the impact of the romance all the sweeter.

I’m excited to see how the romance develops further in book 2. Fun, jam-packed with action, and a slow burn. A good start to the series.

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*I was given a review copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

Review: Rough & Tumble by Rhenna Morgan

“I think you’ve already got a clear picture in your head.”
“I’ve got an outline. I want you to color it in for me.”

Jace is the ultimate alpha male. Someone who’s protective; someone who would do anything for those he loves. Abrupt and honest, but able to stand back and allow his heroine to find her own strength and glory in it.

My heart’s still wrenching from the feels in this one.

roughtumbleVivienne spends her weekends saving her sister from one disastrous party to the next. It’s why she hides her own inner wild child, locking that part in one room of the staid townhome she can barely afford. It’s safer that way. That changes the night Callie’s SOS leads Viv to The Den where she faces an adversary who sees beneath her uppity suits and no-nonsense hairstyle. She shoves down the attraction. She’s never going to see him again anyway. Only an event planning opportunity comes up and Jace is behind it, offering her a lot more than business.

Jace takes one look at Viv and knows underneath there is something hot, aggressive, and his. It’s why when Viv agrees to plan some events for him and his brotherhood, Jace makes a bid for her. He prods here and pushes there until he insinuates himself into her life only to find he’s as hooked as she is.

If only Callie’s bad decisions and the enemy out for Jace’s blood didn’t threaten Vivienne’s safety. He’ll do anything to keep Viv, and when he brings her into the fold of Haven, the last thing Vivienne wants to do is leave.

She seriously needed to get a grip on her taste in men. Suits and education were a much safer choice. Manners and meaningful conversation. Not bloody T-shirts, smoky bars and panty-melting grins.

I adored Viv. She’s a smart, strong heroine and with Jace being so bold, she needed to be. The first time they meet, she’s entranced by the big, scowling hunk with the wicked tattoo. But he’s caring too. He handles Viv’s drunk sister and watches over Viv herself. These two were well-matched!

I also like how Viv’s insecurity doesn’t drag the pace of the story down. Viv knows her failings and owns up to them. Years of forcing herself into a mold only makes falling for Jace that much sweeter.

Jace has his own problems in the beginning. He owns other establishments besides the bar, but the bad PR (drug deals and fights) means his name stays out of the others. It made me so angry on his behalf and increased the tension on all sides.

Then there’s his pursuit of Viv. The only way he’ll get his chance with her is if he forces the proximity and boy, does he ever! Jace is honest to a fault, and while he accepts Viv’s distance, he’s always waiting in the wings, urging her to fly.

And then Jace says things like this that batter down Viv’s walls:

I’m not afraid to mix pleasure with my business, but I want to make sure you’re grounded in how much value you bring to the table before I show you how it’s done.

Hot. Dawg. (That’s written in my notes.) I’ve heard my share of lines before, but these are genuine and heartfelt and just so Jace. From the very beginning, he makes sure Vivienne knows the score. How refreshing is this? An alpha male that doesn’t go anywhere near the alphahole category. It sets the tone for the sweet and the smexy with a side bit of kink.

The secondary cast of Haven is to die for as well, and I can’t wait to see these men in action!

So, if you’re looking for a hot, badass alpha with a heart of gold who listens and challenges and just gets the smart and sassy heroine – you know, mixing a bit of his business with a whole lot of pleasure (ha! See what I did there?) – I’d get that one click finger ready for Rough & Tumble.

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*This was reviewed by Michaelene for the Alpha Book Club, and you can find the cross-post here.*

Review: The Shadow Mark by Mason Thomas

4 stars!

I loved this one! In fact, I didn’t take my first full breath until 20% of the way through this book. After that, maybe only in spurts and gasps. What a ride!

513oa0zdculAuraq Gravestone is journeying to the city, hiding from his fate and past sins, when Kane and his companion, Old Tan, stumble upon him. They agree to travel together when they are attacked. Auraq barely escapes with his and Kane’s life, and he promises Old Tan he’ll deliver Kane safely to the city. If only it could be that easy. The mark on Kane’s forearm is of the Shadow realm, and Auraq must keep Kane safe at any cost. Even when Auraq’s own secrets come to light.

But the enemy is an order of assassins and foes lurk around every corner. Who can they trust? And as Kane’s health deteriorates, will they be too late?

“Friend, I know you not, but the strangest thing, I can see your soul now…It’s a glorious thing to see.”

Auraq is the only narrator in this story. I wanted more of Kane’s insight – his story – but after reading the last page, I understood the importance of making this Auraq’s story.  He’s bound by a sense of duty and loyalty. He takes his vow seriously, and little by little, we get to dissect his character as he fights off one foe for another. I adore his strength. How could Kane not fall for him?

Kane doesn’t have the military training or self-defense skills that Auraq has, but he’s far from a weak character. He’s quite adept at pestering Auraq until he’s let in.

“So, I’m to put my life in your hands without question, but I’m not allowed to know anything about you. That sounds reasonable.”

I simply could not put this book down. Auraq’s personal issues are just as exciting as the mystery of the enemy. When Kane’s health suffers as the mark spreads, the intrigue grows tenfold. It catapults from a cannon and doesn’t slow down until the very end.

Then there are epic descriptions peppered throughout the story:

“He felt empty inside, like a wineskin wrung dry.”

Now, the romance. For the most part, it is non-existent until halfway through. Auraq is outright oblivious to his own appeal, and he almost comes across as an asexual character.  When Kane makes a move, the romance connection finally ignites even though it’s not front and center by any means. I still ended the book with a huge smile on my face.

The Shadow Mark is a fantasy novel that kept me riveted to the page (and that cover! Gah!). If you can overlook that the romance is relegated to the background, I’d give this one a read. Auraq is a hero for the books.

*Originally posted on the Alpha Book Club and cross-post can be found here.*

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Excerpt Reveal: Mack Daddy by Penelope Ward

 

mack daddy release date

 

pwmackdaddybookcover5x8_bw_high-fixedFrom New York Times bestselling author, Penelope Ward, comes a sexy, STANDALONE second-chance romance.

They called him Mack Daddy. No, seriously, his name was Mack. Short for Mackenzie. Thus, the nickname. Perfect, right?

So was he: perfect. The perfect physical male specimen.

At the private school where I taught, Mack Morrison was the only man around in a sea of women.

Everyone wanted a piece of the hot single father of the sweet little boy.

I was riddled with jealousy, because they didn’t know that—to me—he was much more.

They didn’t know about our past.

He’d chosen my school for his son on purpose, because Mack and I, we had unfinished business.

As my friend Lorelai so eloquently put it: “Unfinished business between two people who are clearly attracted to each other is like an eternal case of blue balls.” And I was suffering in pain from my case.

I was still intensely attracted to Mack. I tried to resist him, immersing myself further into a relationship with another man just to protect my heart.

Not to mention, getting involved with a parent was strictly against school rules. But seeing Mack day in and day out was breaking me down.

And soon I might be breaking all the rules.

Author’s note – Told in alternating points of view, Mack Daddy is a full-length standalone novel.

 

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MACK DADDY EXCERPT

Copyright © 2016 by

Penelope Ward

 

 

It was the evening of our monthly PTO meeting. On the agenda was to designate the volunteers for several fundraisers that would take place in the spring.

Setting up the refreshments and a coffee urn in the hallway outside of the classroom, I couldn’t wait to get this over with so that I could go home, get into my pajamas, and relax. It was always exhausting to have evening commitments when the workday ran so late to begin with.

A deep voice from behind startled me. “A keg would be much more fun, wouldn’t it?”

I turned around to find Mack standing there, holding a box of chocolate chip cookies from the supermarket.

“What are you doing here?”

He placed the cookies on the table. “This is the parent and teachers meeting, isn’t it?”

“Yes, but…” I hesitated, not even knowing what to say.

He finished my sentence. “But I’m not supposed to be included in that group?” Mack snapped his finger. “Oh, I’m sorry. I thought PTO stood for ‘pissing teacher off.’ My bad.”

“Well, if that were the case, you might be in the right place.”

“This is the right place for me tonight.”

“This meeting is for serious participants.”

“I’m serious about the teacher. Does that count?”

“No.”

“Actually, in all seriousness, I’d also like to help. It’s the least I can do after crashing your school year. I really would like to be as involved as I can in Jonah’s education. That’s the truth, okay? Getting to spend time with you is an added benefit.”

What could I say? He had just as much right to be here as anyone else.

“Just be aware that this isn’t the right place to be joking around or distracting the other attendees, for that matter.”

“I don’t plan on distracting anyone but you.”

“Yeah, well you have quite the fan base here. We have a very strict agenda to adhere to.”

He moved in closer and just stared me down for a bit. The contact caused my skin to prickle and my nipples to harden. “Don’t worry,” he said as he looked down, seeming to notice that my nipples were piercing through the fabric of my shirt. “Your points are well noted, Miss O’Hara.” He wriggled his brows. “I’ll see you inside.”

I hated that he knew he was having an effect on me. If my body had this kind of response now, what would have happened if he’d actually done more? Spontaneous impregnation? Some things just never change, and my reaction to this man was an example of that.

A long table sat in the middle of the spare classroom where we held the meeting. There wasn’t a single man in the room besides Mack. He was like the centerpiece.

I took my seat at the end of the table. “So, shall we get started?” Looking down at my list, I said, “First on the agenda is the book fair. We need to elect someone to be in charge of it and coordinate the volunteers.”

Mack raised his hand.

“Yes?” I asked.

“That sounds like it’s right down my alley. I’d like to volunteer to run the book fair.”

“What makes you want that task? It’s a lot of responsibility.”

He thought about it for a moment then said, “I write children’s books. I think I’d be a perfect fit.”

“That’s a good point,” one of the women said. “He might be the perfect fit.”

I’m sure you’re thinking he’d be the perfect fit, alright…in your vagina.

“Okay…but I hope you know that there is a tremendous amount of work that goes into organizing that particular event. It takes place over the course of an entire weekend. You have to place orders with the bookseller, do inventory, delegate tasks, and arrange for an onsite food vendor because many people just come for the food. Ultimately, the food is the bait.”

“I can bait people. I’m a master baiter.” He paused. “I mean…I can handle it. I’ll get a shitload of people to sign up.”

An attending nun gave him a dirty look for his use of foul language.

He cleared his throat, seeming to regret his choice of terminology. “I’ll get people to attend. Don’t worry.”

“I’ll put your name down as a possibility. We’ll take a vote at the end.”

“Thank you.”

Looking around the room, I asked, “Is there anyone else here who is interested in taking the reigns on the book fair?”

Not a single person budged.

One woman said, “No, but I’ll be happy to help Mack with whatever he needs.”

I’m sure you will.

Mack nodded then offered a smug smile. “Thank you.” He then took a bite of his cookie and winked at me.

 

 

 

Jeans Teaser

 

 

Penelope Ward is a New York Times, USA Today and #1 Wall Street Journal Bestselling author. She’s a fifteen-time New York Times bestseller of twelve novels.

Having grown up in Boston with five older brothers, she spent most of her twenties as a television news anchor, before switching to a more family-friendly career. She is the proud mother of a beautiful 12-year-old girl with autism and a 10-year-old boy. Penelope and her family reside in Rhode Island.

 

Connect with Penelope Ward

Facebook Fan Group | Facebook | Website |Twitter | Instagram

 

ARC Review: Hard Wired by Santino Hassell and Megan Erickson

I have adored this entire series and Hard Wired (Can we all admit that Hassell and Erickson’s title game is on point?) follows this pattern. Hold on to your angst meters, ya’ll. Things are about to get complicated!

33642764Ian is at FallenCon to do his drawings as Cerise (the emo, playboy artist) and meet his Twitch mod team as Cherrycakes (the cheery blonde-haired girl.) And then, downplay the fact that he’s not the cheery blonde-haired girl the other mods expect. His plans are shot to hell when he looks up and locks eyes with Jesse Garvy. The same Jesse that Ian has been crushing on hard.

This was supposed to be my unveiling. The day I finally stopped hiding behind an anonymous avatar and let everyone in Kai’s channel know about the other side of me. But I’d hoped…that somehow Jesse would know on his own.

To tell or not to tell? Ian chokes back the confession. The problem? Jesse is as sweet and charming offline as he on it, and Ian ends up ravishing the blonde surfer babe against a wall.

Now, what?

Jesse is fascinated by Ian with his tattoos and his black hair and his complete and utter talent. When Ian gives Jesse his first experience with a guy? He’s all in. If only he didn’t find Ian – aka Cerise, aka Cherrycakes -are all one and the same.

This story tore out my heart while slowly rebuilding it piece by agonizing piece. Ian hides behind Cerise, and when we learn the why of it, it wrecked me. He needs it to feel safe. When Jesse wants Ian to be Ian, he bolts. I wanted to give Ian a big hug at the same time I wanted to kick his hiney into gear and tell him to go get his man!

The split personalities of Cherrycakes/Cerise/Ian did confuse me at first, and I believe focusing on two personas might have uncomplicated the story a bit. That said, this is a key part of Ian’s character. This crippling, social anxiety is something he deals with every day. Without them, the story would have lost some of its magic.

There was no such thing as identifying someone by their fucking soul, but it was easy to trick yourself into thinking such things were possible when you lived your life primarily within the pages of manga, fanfic, and original slash.

Then there’s Jesse. He’s one of the most forthright and charming individuals I’ve come across in a romance novel. While he can’t stand up to his parents (who take advantage of his sweet soul), Jesse has no issues taking Ian to task. I was actually surprised by this because I, too, bought into Cerise’s outgoing personality. But that’s not Ian, and I love that Jesse became the aggressor. I didn’t expect him to be, and part of that is because he is so self-conscious. Jesse lacks the confidence to start his own Youtube channel (his dream) and almost sabotages himself. He wants to move to LA with his cousin, instead of working at a surf shop and bailing his parents out of debt.

I haven’t seen another series or book in romance tackle the gaming community so well and so succinctly, and while I am not caught up on all the players and how streaming works, the background is given in such a way that I understood the gist of it. It interested me enough that I even looked up Twitch and watched a few streams. Side note: it’s quite fascinating! Props to the authors on that!

This in-depth look into online and offline communication added another layer to this book, and boy, can these two make use of communication! Um…also? Phone sex, anyone? 😉 It also gave the opportunity to develop Ian further as a character. He has to draw the line between his online persona and the Ian he saves for Jesse.

While the romance portion is front and center, I found that the emotional, individual journeys were the primary focus for me. We see how they each heal the other, together. It’s relatable; it’s heartbreaking; it’s an essential part of them both.

That is a version of romance I think we can all relate with and strive for.

*I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Opinions are 100% mine. Hard Wired is book 3 in the Cyberlove series and can be read as a standalone (although, I would recommend reading them all. They’re AWESOME!) Hard Wired releases February 7th.*

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ARC Review: The Lawrence Browne Affair by Cat Sebastian

30226770Cat Sebastian has done something for the romance genre with The Lawrence Browne Affair – and in particular, this historical period – that few have done in the market thus far. It has added diversity that’s needed while giving us all the essential elements of a great romance. I am so happy I found this one!

Lawrence and Georgie are the perfect match right from the beginning. I simply can’t resist a broody hero, but Lawrence is more than that. He’s sequestered himself alone, living in a broken down home, and thinking he’s mad simply because he desires men. How can you not just want to hug this man? This sweet person who doesn’t understand how amazing he is?

Don’t worry. It’s Georgie to the rescue. He’s funny, snarky and brutally honest. He made this book for me! In one scene, they are working on Lawrence’s experiments – yes, Lawrence is super sexy smart and handy too! – and Georgie sends him a message. Two words, and Ack! The tension killed me. I just wanted to shout, “Atta boy, Georgie! Get your man!” And when Lawrence reins in his ghosts and throws around his brute strength and title…watch out!

Their story is the perfect mix of sweet and spicy, and any book that makes me sigh in happiness is a 5-star read for me. It’s books like these that have me so excited for the historical fiction genre as a whole as much as it cements my love for them.

I highly recommend this one!

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ARC Review: The Duke by Kerrigan Byrne

4.5 stars!

Byrne is an author who delivers stripped-down characters – pitting their best selves against their own darkest parts. This book doesn’t back down from controversy, from the raw and gritty, from the vulnerable and damaged.

From behind the elegant veneer of the illustrious duke, cousin to the queen, herself, peered the eyes of a predator. Calculating. Hungry. Lethal.

thedukeCollin Talmage, Duke of Trewyth starts as a soldier in this story, newly gaining the title after the loss of his father and brother, and he’s floundering, looking for salvation. He finds it for the night in Imogen’s bed.

Imogen Pritchard is in protection mode. Her father left their family swimming in debt, and Imogen strikes a deal with their debtor. She’ll waitress in his establishment as Ginny as long as he doesn’t sell her companionship for the evening. Her luck runs out the night she meets Trewyth. He’s gentle and compassionate that night – sharing his burdens – and it stays with her.

Years later, Trewyth shows up at a hospital – the hospital where Imogen works as a nurse. He has been tortured, left with one arm and narrowly escaping death. Imogen’s premonition about his condition saves him, but Trewyth didn’t want to be saved. Nor does he recognize his nurse. The pain Imogen feels when he wakes up and hates her tore me apart. And what she loses in the process…

Both of these characters are so damaged; not just physically, but mentally and emotionally, and my heart bleeds for them both. Trewyth changes, likens himself to an animal, and his only saving grace in all this is his night with the mysterious Ginny.

This beast was no longer dormant within him, but prowling beneath the surface of his skin, wanting to mark his territory.

There is also the added conflict of someone being after Imogen, but I thought the story simply didn’t need it. These two are so broken as individuals that seeing them heal each other – slowly and with each resisting to the end – is enough.

Every second I held my breath wondering when Imogen will reveal herself and what Trewyth would do when her identity came out. The charade goes on a little longer than I anticipated, but it kept me on the edge of my seat!

That being said, the tension between them is on point. Though Trewyth likens himself to a base animal, Imogen sees beneath the veneer, and her reaction always surprises Trewyth. You can’t scare her, Duke!

This story stuck with me and Byrne is on my auto-buy shelf – right next to Julia Quinn and Lisa Kleypas – because of it. Any lover of historical fiction with a taste for a darker romance should pick this one up. Stat!

*The Duke is the fourth book in Byrne’s Victorian Rebels series, but it can be read as a standalone. I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Opinions are 100% my own*

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