SEDUCED BY A SCOT by Julia London

November 15, 2018

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The Highland Grooms, Book 6

From the publisher:

There’s no matchmaking an unruly heart

When a prominent Scottish family faces a major scandal weeks before their daughter’s wedding, they turn in desperation to the enigmatic fixer for the aristocracy, Nichol Bain. Remarkably skilled at making high-profile problems go away, Nichol understands the issue immediately. The family’s raven-haired ward, Maura Darby, has caught the wandering eye—and rather untoward advances—of the groom.

Nichol assuredly escorts Maura toward his proposed solution: an aging bachelor for her to marry. But rebellious Maura has no interest in marrying a stranger, especially when her handsome traveling companion has captivated her so completely. Thankfully, Nichol loves a challenge, but traveling with the bold and brash Maura has him viewing her as far more than somebody’s problem. Which raises a much bigger issue—how can he possibly elude disaster when the heart of the problem is his own?

These were interesting, unusual characters. Thanks to Donald Trump and Ray Donovan, I am familiar with “fixers” but I don’t recall seeing one in the nineteenth century before. And in the #MeToo era, I rather like seeing today’s morals applied in an earlier century. Maura is an independent woman seeking more than a title and a husband. I’m not sure exactly when that change happened in romances, but I know that it did and these historical romances are all the better for it. Although perhaps not as historically accurate? I don’t know, I will leave that to those that research the era.

That said, I wasn’t thrilled with how all the characters were treated. The secondary characters left much to be desired. Despite that, I still enjoyed this fast read.

11/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

SEDUCED BY A SCOT by Julia London. HQN; Original edition (October 30, 2018).  ISBN 978-1335629425. 384p.



KISS ME AT CHRISTMAS by Valerie Bowman

October 29, 2018

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Playful Brides, Book 10

I think I may have read a couple of the books in this series, some of the minor characters seemed somewhat familiar. Bowman takes a very typical plotline in historical romances, the commoner and the royal who can’t possibly marry, and does a terrific job with it.

In this case, Lady Regina has been orphaned at a young age and raised by her uncle. She is firmly “on the shelf” having rejected many suitors as she approaches her thirtieth birthday. Her uncle is dying and it is his final wish to see her married. To that end, she is affianced to a neighboring peer. He is moderately good looking at least, but a snob and a bore and Regina can’t imagine spending her life with this man. But she is a dutiful young woman and makes peace with the decision.

The book opens with Regina visiting a Bow Street Runner whom she met when he was hired to solve the murder of a relative. She was strongly attracted to him, and she decides if she is going to spend her life with a bore, she wants her first time with a man to be her decision. To that end, she visits Daffin Oakleaf, the runner, in his office and propositions him. Badly. She bungles it, he rejects her offer, and she is beyond embarrassed.

But when someone tries to run her carriage off the road, Oakleaf is hired to protect her. Spending all that time together forces them to learn about one another and eventually fall in love. But Oakleaf knows he can’t marry her because of the difference in their stations – or can he?

A delightful romance with some humor, witty dialogue and well developed characters I couldn’t help but care about. Regina was smart and sassy and Oakleaf was dark and damaged. The combination was explosive and made this a really fun read.

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

KISS ME AT CHRISTMAS by Valerie Bowman. St. Martin’s Paperbacks (October 30, 2018).  ISBN 978-1250147523. 320p.



October 26, 2018

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The Gilded Age Girls Club, Book 1

From the publisher:

In the first novel of Maya Rodale’s enthralling new series, an English duke vows to make an American seamstress his duchess…

In Gilded Age Manhattan, anything can happen…

Seeking a wealthy American bride who can save his family’s estate, Brandon Fiennes, the duke of Kingston, is a rogue determined to do the right thing. But his search for an heiress goes deliciously awry when an enchanting seamstress tumbles into his arms instead.

…and true love is always in fashion

Miss Adeline Black aspires to be a fashionable dressmaker—not a duchess—and not even an impossibly seductive duke will distract her. But Kingston makes an offer she can’t refuse: join him at society events to display her gowns and advise him on which heiresses are duchess material. It’s the perfect plan—as long as they resist temptation, avoid a scandal, and above all do not lose their hearts.

This is the first book of a new series and it is terrific. I love the time period, the gilded age in New York at the turn of the last century.

While the Duke is from England, he travels to America to find an heiress to save his family from ruin. He feels a tremendous responsibility, and his mother and sisters apparently have no idea what sort of financial straits the family is in – probably because he doesn’t tell them. He is determined to do the right thing, marry a woman with a fortune, he is not looking for a love match. But when he meets Adeline, it turns his world upside down.

Of course there is a case of mistaken identity that adds to the comedy of errors here. The humor is top notch and the characters are charming and fun. The hot sex scenes are also fun.

There is a definite trend in romances for strong, independent female characters and Adeline definitely fits that mold. I loved the references to real women of the time like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, it lends a touch of realism and helps with the suspension of disbelief.

I really enjoyed this read and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

DUCHESS BY DESIGN by Maya Rodale. Avon (October 23, 2018).  ISBN 978-0062838803. 384p.




AN EARL LIKE YOU by Caroline Linden

October 13, 2018

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Wagers of Sin Series, Book 2

From the publisher:

When you gamble at love . . .

When Hugh Deveraux discovers his newly inherited earldom is bankrupt, he sets about rebuilding the family fortune—in the gaming hells of London. But the most daring wager he takes isn’t at cards. A wealthy tradesman makes a tantalizing offer: marry the man’s spinster daughter and Hugh’s debts will be paid and his fortune made. The only catch is that she must never know about their agreement . . .

You risk losing your heart . . .

Heiress Eliza Cross has given up hope of marriage until she meets the impossibly handsome Earl of Hastings, her father’s new business partner. The earl is everything a gentleman should be, and is boldly attentive to her. It doesn’t take long for Eliza to lose her heart and marry him.

But when Eliza discovers that there is more to the man she loves—and to her marriage—her trust is shattered. And it will take all of Hugh’s power to prove that now his words of love are real . . .

The marriage of convenience, one of the most frequently used plot devices in historical fiction, is at the center of this story. But usually there is more involved than the rich girl marrying a peer, or vice versa, because of financial need. There needs to be some drama to help move the story along, and while their circumstances, both the hero and the heroine, were fraught, it still felt like something was missing.

That said, I really liked these characters and was invested in their outcome.  I liked the secondary characters as well, especially Eliza’s father. He was the heavy here and added the real drama to the story.

This was my first time reading this author, and I would definitely read another of her books. Maybe I’ll look for the first book in this series next.

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

AN EARL LIKE YOU by Caroline Linden. Avon (August 28, 2018).  ISBN 978-0062672940. 384p.




THE LADY IS DARING by Megan Frampton

October 11, 2018

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The Duke’s Daughters Series, Book 3

From the publisher:

Five well-bred sisters, one sensational scandal. Now the Duke of Marymount’s daughter Ida is about to find love in the most unconventional way . . .

It was easy for society to overlook Lady Ida Howlett; they found her bookish, opinionated, and off the marriage mart. But little did they know that behind a calm exterior beats the heart of an adventuress, one who, determined to discover her runaway sister’s whereabouts, steals a carriage and sets off on a daring mission. Then she discovers she’s not alone! Bennett, Lord Carson, is inside, and he refuses to leave.

Lord Carson’s plans had always been to find a soft, gentle wife who would run his home and raise his children. Still, he makes a bargain with Ida—he won’t desert her during her mad adventure. He’ll make sure she’s safe, and then find a suitable lady to fall in love with. But when rules (and garments) become discarded during this long, intimate journey, it’s soon clear that this surprisingly daring lady is the woman he’s needed all along.

Another excellent addition to Megan Frampton’s body of work. The characters are brought to life and I found Lady Ida to be a real kick. She is feisty and independent but determined (dare I say it?) to live her best life. Bennett at first appears to be the usual royal stick in the mud, but he is surprised to find hidden depths within himself.

I love stories where characters change and grow, and they both do so here. This is a fast, fun romp and a delightful read.

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE LADY IS DARING by Megan Frampton. Avon (September 25, 2018).  ISBN 978-0062666673. 352p.




A NOTORIOUS VOW by Joanna Shupe

October 9, 2018

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The Four Hundred Series, Book 3

From the publisher:

Joanna Shupe returns to New York City’s Gilded Age, where fortunes and reputations are gained and lost with ease—and love can blossom from the most unlikely charade

With the fate of her disgraced family resting on her shoulders, Lady Christina Barclay has arrived in New York City from London to quickly secure a wealthy husband. But when her parents settle on an intolerable suitor, Christina turns to her reclusive neighbor, a darkly handsome and utterly compelling inventor, for help.

Oliver Hawkes reluctantly agrees to a platonic marriage . . . with his own condition: The marriage must end after one year. Not only does Oliver face challenges that are certain to make life as his wife difficult, but more importantly, he refuses to be distracted from his life’s work—the development of a revolutionary device that could transform thousands of lives, including his own.

Much to his surprise, his bride is more beguiling than he imagined. When temptation burns hot between them, they realize they must overcome their own secrets and doubts, and every effort to undermine their marriage, because one year can never be enough.

This is a terrific serie – I love the time period, 1890’s, and the setting, New York City. Shupe writes wonderfully damaged characters and Oliver Hawkes is no exception. Hawkes went deaf as a teenager, and has put up with derision, taunting and worse for most of his life. It has driven him to the point of becoming a recluse, and luckily, he is wealthy enough to be able to afford it. To see how deaf people were treated at that time was appalling, and I appreciated the historically accurate references.

Lady Christina is another messy character, the daughter of abusive parents. Her mother has been demeaning her for all of her life, leaving Christina with virtually no self esteem and the desire to make everyone around her happy. It would never occur to her that she deserves to be happy, too.

This is a marriage of inconvenience, if you will. Of course it leads to a very happy ending but there are dreadful trials along the way. It was a one night read for me, I couldn’t put it down. A wonderful escape that made me (almost) happy to be living in 21st century America.

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

A NOTORIOUS VOW by Joanna Shupe. Avon (September 25, 2018).  ISBN 978-0062678942. 384p.





October 7, 2018

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From the publisher:

This beautiful, illuminating tale of hope and courage is based on interviews that were conducted with Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov—an unforgettable love story in the midst of atrocity.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is an extraordinary document, a story about the extremes of human behavior existing side by side: calculated brutality alongside impulsive and selfless acts of love. I find it hard to imagine anyone who would not be drawn in, confronted and moved. I would recommend it unreservedly to anyone, whether they’d read a hundred Holocaust stories or none.”—Graeme Simsion, internationally-bestselling author of The Rosie Project

In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for over two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.

I find Holocaust books difficult to read so I try and limit them to only one or two a year. I’m sorry I wasted a read on this book.

The story is interesting for sure, as it is based on a true story. In fact the actual subject of the book, the protagonist, writes an afterward. But it is the writing that is most off-putting to me. I believe this is a first novel and it definitely reads like one. There is a lot of telling, not showing, and the dialogue is often stilted. This was surprising, as Morris is a screenwriter so I would think the dialogue would be in her wheelhouse, and the descriptions aren’t great either. At first I thought maybe it was translated, as that can have an impact on language for sure, but I don’t think so.

That said, it has over 20,000 five star reviews on Goodreads, which is one of the reasons I picked it up. While the writing style was not for me, obviously I am in the minority here. Most of the reviews recommend it for book discussion and I can understand that and may, in fact, use it for my book group at the library. I find the best discussions happen when there is disagreement about a book, so maybe.

If you’ve already read it, or plan on reading it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ by Heather Morris. Harper (September 4, 2018).  ISBN 978-0062870674. 288p.




September 30, 2018

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A Band of Daredevil Pilots and the Greatest Prison Break of the Great War

Stories mainly untold about war are those of the soldiers captured on the battlefield and held prisoner until the end of the war they have fought in. Neal Bascomb has written such a book involving British prisoners held in Germany during World War One, their treatment by the German military, their thoughts and dreams and the many and varied attempts at escape successes and recapture.

The amount of research that has obviously gone into the project dealing with events of a century ago is prodigious to say the least. Drawing on documents held by museums, families of the men that lived the experience, and scholarly works as found help to bring to light stories of real people and real events during the War to end all wars.

The first section of the book involves experiences of many men in various prison camps, descriptions obtained by research of the actions involved in the attempts and of course the results. By no means a dry chronicle of old news we have the experience of meeting real young men that had faced the entrance into the horrific experience of modern combat and than being captured and imprisoned. They lived lives of complete and utter boredom in the prison camps as well as facing deprivation of normal meals, and atmospheres of filth and possible brutality at the hands of their jailers.

The final section of the book is a description of the breakout of prisoners from one of the worst of the camps: Holzminden situated about 150 miles from Holland than neutral and the planned destination of the escapees. Twenty six prisoners fled the camp at one time making it the largest escape attempt up until that time. Details of the plans, the coordination and the results are presented and make the breakout real to any reader of the book.

I must indicate that the book is nowhere near the dry tome that it might thought of as being. The young men had real lives and certainly went on from their captivity to life after the war. There is chronicling of some of them, including several that went on to present their experiences to groups of soldiers and airmen destined to take part in World War Two. The point is made that the accounts presented helped to sharpen the escape attempts of these men in their turn.

9/18 Paul Lane

THE ESCAPE ARTISTS by Neal Bascomb. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (September 18, 2018).  ISBN 978-0544937116. 336p.




September 22, 2018

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Girl Meets Duke Series, Book 2

From the publisher:

He’s been a bad, bad rake—and it takes a governess to teach him a lesson

The accidental governess

After her livelihood slips through her fingers, Alexandra Mountbatten takes on an impossible post: transforming a pair of wild orphans into proper young ladies. However, the girls don’t need discipline. They need a loving home. Try telling that to their guardian, Chase Reynaud: duke’s heir in the streets and devil in the sheets. The ladies of London have tried—and failed—to make him settle down. Somehow, Alexandra must reach his heart . . . without risking her own.

The infamous rake

Like any self-respecting libertine, Chase lives by one rule: no attachments. When a stubborn little governess tries to reform him, he decides to give her an education—in pleasure. That should prove he can’t be tamed. But Alexandra is more than he bargained for: clever, perceptive, passionate. She refuses to see him as a lost cause. Soon the walls around Chase’s heart are crumbling . . . and he’s in danger of falling, hard.

I love Tessa Dare and this is a really good example of why. Her writing is crisp, the dialogue is fast and funny, the pages fly by and the characters come to life on the page. Dare takes things even further by making her heroine half-mestiza Filipino. Diversity is a wonderful thing and I am happy to see traditional authors expanding their horizons from the of-so-white world of Regency England. Many authors create strong female heroines that behave in ways that are completely out of character for the time period, so why not mix up the races, too. The point is not belabored by any means, but just is. And it works.

Another excellent addition to Dare’s body of work.

9/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE GOVERNESS GAME by Tessa Dare. Avon (August 28, 2018).  ISBN 978-0062672124. 384p.





September 18, 2018

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School for Dukes, Book 2

Did you know if you pre-order a book from Amazon, they will have it at your door on publication day?

From the publisher:

If adventure has a name…it must be Lady India Rochester. The intrepid archaeologist possesses a sharp blade and an even sharper knack for uncovering history’s forgotten women. Unfortunately, she has one annoying weakness: the dangerously handsome Duke of Ravenwood. Former best friend. Current enemy. And the man who dared to break her heart.

Daniel Bonds, the Duke of Ravenwood, is a thrill-seeking antiquities hunter who only plays by one rule: Never fall in love. He’s in it for the fortune and glory. At least that’s what he wants the world to think. He’s sworn to hide his tangled web of secrets, especially from the one woman he cares about and will protect at any cost.

But when a priceless relic is stolen from the British Museum, the rivals must align forces. Racing to recover the stolen antiquity and avert an international disaster? All in a day’s work. Avoiding their buried feelings? More and more impossible. For love is about to become the greatest treasure of all.

This was more a tale of intrigue than romance, but neither premise was fulfilled. Lady Danger, a fabulous nickname, is undoubtedly one of the strongest yet least believable characters in a historical romance. I think I’ve just read too many of these to buy her story. She takes a lover because she wants to. She is an archaeologist traveling the world unaccompanied by any sort of chaperone, and her brother is a duke. She has a marriage contract with the Duke of Ravenwood that she has no desire to fulfill. Or does she?

The Duke is a spy, a rather unlikely one at that. His reputation of being an incorrigible rake is a fabulous disguise, but when it comes to his childhood friend Indy, all bets are off. If he can’t keep his distance from her, he is a goner and in this book, they are thrust together until they figure out how to get to their happy ending.

There is a pervasive feeling of suspense throughout this story, with multiple bad guys and danger lurking around every corner. Despite the feminist heavy handedness, which is certainly odd in this time period, I did enjoy this book but I would have liked it more had it been more believable.

Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

FOR THE DUKE’S EYES ONLY by Lenora Bell. Avon (September 18, 2018).  ISBN 978-0062692498. 384p.