November 9, 2019

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The Rogue Files, Book 5

From the publisher:

From USA Today bestselling author Sophie Jordan comes a scandalously sensual romance in her beloved Rogue Files series.

“Deliciously sexy!”—Sarah MacLean, New York Times bestselling author 

An urgent dilemma…

To save her impoverished family, Marian Langley will become a mistress. But she will not be just any mistress. Marian intends to become so skilled, so coveted, that she can set her own terms, retaining control over her body and her fate. Only one problem remains: finding a tutor…

A scandalous solution…

Other men deprive themselves of pleasure for propriety’s sake. Nathaniel, Duke of Warrington, would much rather be depraved. He slakes his desires with professionals who ask nothing of him but his coin. Marian’s proposal—that he train her without taking her virtue—is an intriguing diversion, until their lessons in seduction spin out of control.

And a most unlikely duchess…

When Marian is blackmailed into engagement by a man she despises, Nate impulsively steals her away. Though he never intended to take a wife, he can’t tolerate the idea of Marian forfeiting her freedom to another. But can he bear to give her what she demands—a real marriage?

Jordan writes fun, sexy books and her latest just proves it. This is a terrific series, and each book truly stands on its own.

To continue my questioning of the line between romance and erotica, this book has way more explicit sex than Down Too Deep, which is labeled as “romantic erotica.” The entire plot of this book is about sex. Marian asks the Duke to teach her how to become the best courtesan possible, and that involves lessons in how to seduce a man and the mechanics of sex as well.

Marian is a strong woman who has been left impoverished by the death of her father. She feels responsible for taking care of her younger siblings and is about to lose everything when she finds a way to save them. Is it a spoiler to say that she doesn’t become a courtesan after all? Probably not, because this is a romance so Marian and her Duke get their happily ever after, and that means marriage. I didn’t make up these rules, I’m just imparting them.

This is a really enjoyable read, as are all the books in this series. If you like to read in order, here you go (with links to my reviews, and yes, I’ve actually read them all, and in order!):

1. While the Duke was Sleeping
2. The Scandal of it All
3. The Duke Buys a Bride
4. This Scot of Mine
5. The Duke’s Stolen Bride


11/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE DUKE’S STOLEN BRIDE by Sophie Jordan.  Avon (October 22, 2019).  ISBN 978-0062885432. 368p.




November 2, 2019

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From the publisher:

A young widow restores a dilapidated mansion with the assistance of a charming, eccentric genius, only to find the house is full of dangerous secrets in this effervescent Gilded Age debut novel.

It’s 1875, and Alva Webster has perfected her stiff upper lip after three years of being pilloried in the presses of two continents over fleeing her abusive husband. Now his sudden death allows her to return to New York to make a fresh start, restoring Liefdehuis, a dilapidated Hyde Park mansion, and hopefully her reputation at the same time. However, fresh starts aren’t as easy as they seem, as Alva discovers when stories of a haunting at Liefdehuis begin to reach her. But Alva doesn’t believe in ghosts. So when the eccentric and brilliant professor, Samuel Moore, appears and informs her that he can get to the bottom of the mystery that surrounds Liefdehuis, she turns him down flat. She doesn’t need any more complications in her life―especially not a handsome, convention-flouting, scandal-raising one like Sam.

Unfortunately, though Alva is loath to admit it, Sam, a pioneer in electric lighting and a member of the nationally-adored Moore family of scientists, is the only one who can help. Together, the two delve into the tragic secrets wreathing Alva’s new home while Sam attempts to unlock Alva’s history―and her heart.

Set during the Gilded Age in New York City, The Widow of Rose House is a gorgeous debut by Diana Biller, with a darkly Victorian Gothic flair and an intrepid and resilient American heroine guaranteed to delight readers.

Based on the marketing and publisher description of Biller’s debut novel I picked it up expecting a Gothic ghost story with a bit of romance.  Instead, it is a romance with a bit of a ghost story.  Although I was slightly surprised by this, it was hard to be upset when The Widow of Rose House is one of the best romances I have read in 2019.  There are three main storylines at work in Biller’s novel: the romance between Alva and Sam, Alva’s continual battle to recover from the trauma of her marriage, and the haunting of Liefdehuis the mansion Alva is restoring, and Biller does a good job of balancing all three. I loved reading the development of Sam and Alva’s relationship as their banter turned into a deeper emotional connection.  Each of their interactions is truly a delight to read.  Sam was a wonderful romantic lead; intelligent, funny and empathetic.  Alva’s character was equally fascinating.  She is resilient, brave and independent.  I was really rooting for her to get her happy ending with Sam.  In addition to the characters and romance, I also really enjoyed the Gilded Age setting of The Widow of Rose House.  The Gilded Age is not a very common setting in historical romances and each location whether it was the glitz and energy of Manhattan or the desolate beauty of the mansions of the Hudson River Valley was expertly brought to life by Biller. Then, of course, there is the haunting of Liefdehuis.  This ghost story is more creepy and atmospheric than particularly scary, and for the most part the haunting takes a back seat to the romance and character development.  So even if you don’t typically read paranormal stories don’t let that deter you from reading this romance.

A satisfying and emotional romance with an interesting Gilded Age setting and touch of Gothic mystery. I will be eagerly awaiting Diana Biller’s next novel. Highly recommended.

11/19 Caitlin Brisson

THE WIDOW OF ROSE HOUSE by Diana Biller. St. Martin’s Griffin (October 8, 2019). ISBN 9781250297853. 352 p.




October 26, 2019

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The Wagers of Sin, Book 3

From the publisher:

In the game of love…

Georgiana Lucas despises the arrogant and cruel Marquess of Westmorland even before learning that he’s won the deed to her friend Kitty’s home in a card game. Still, Georgiana assures Kitty the marquess wouldn’t possibly come all the way to Derbyshire to throw them out—until he shows up, bloody and unconscious. Fearing that Kitty would rather see him die, Georgiana blurts out that he’s her fiancé. She’ll nurse the hateful man back to health and make him vow to leave and never return. The man who wakes up, though, is nothing like the heartless rogue Georgiana thought she knew…

You have to risk it all

He wakes up with no memory of being assaulted—or of who he is. The bewitching beauty tending him so devotedly calls him Rob and claims she’s his fiancée even as she avoids his touch. Though he can’t remember how he won her hand, he’s now determined to win her heart. But as his memory returns and the truth is revealed, Rob must decide if the game is up—or if he’ll take a chance on a love that defies all odds.

I somehow missed the first book in this series, but I really liked the second, An Earl Like You, so I don’t think they need to be read in order. This one stands quite well on its own, but it is probably more fun if you have some of the backstory.

This is one of the most popular tropes in romance, the amnesia story, yet it feels fresh and fun here. Besides losing his memory, the Marquess of Westmorland also loses his arrogance and cutting sarcasm. Georgiana has felt that cut, so it is with some dread that she nurses him back to health, worrying the whole time if he is going to remember and really tear into her.

These characters really come to life on the pages, getting me invested in their story very quickly, and I couldn’t put the book down. There is a bit of sex, a lot of witty banter, and the requisite happily ever after. An excellent addition to the series that has made me determined to find the first book.

10/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

WHEN THE MARQUESS WAS MINE BY Caroline Linden.  Avon (September 24, 2019).  ISBN 978-0062913593. 400p.



ANYTHING BUT A DUKE by Christy Carlyle

October 11, 2019

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The Duke’s Den, Book 2

From the publisher:

Self-made man Aidan Iverson has seen more closed doors in his thirty years than he’s ever cared to count. As a member of the elite Duke’s Den, he has all the money he could possibly need but the one thing he can’t purchase is true power. If roguish Aidan can’t buy his way into society’s hallowed halls, he’ll resort to a more extreme measure: marriage.

Brought up to be a proper lady, the only thing Diana Ashby desires is to be left alone to the creation of her own devices. But when her dreams are crushed, she must find another way to secure the future of her invention. Knowing his desire to enter her world, Diana strikes a deal to arrange Aidan’s marriage to the perfect lady—as long as that lady isn’t her. She doesn’t need any distractions from her work, particularly of the sinfully handsome variety.

As Diana and Aidan set out to find him an aristocratic match, neither are prepared for the passion that ignites between them or the love they can’t ignore.

In the Duke’s Den, can happiness ever be a winning prospect?

I really liked the first book in this series, A Duke Changes Everything, but I don’t think they need to be read in order. This one stands on its own quite well.

Aidan has had a troubled upbringing, to say the least. But by sheer determination, hard work, and a bit of luck, he is now one of the wealthiest men in London. But he is not of the aristocracy, and soon that becomes his most ardent goal. He wants to be recognized by the peerage, and he figures the only way to do that is to marry royalty. Since so many title holders are broke, it seems like an easy feat. Until he meets Diana.

Diana lost the father she adored. He was an inventor, and she seems to have inherited that ability, and is bound and determined to make a success of at least one of her inventions. Her mother, on the other hand, only wants her to marry well. Well enough to support the family, as her father’s bad business decisions has left them not very well off. Diana strikes a deal with Aidan; she will introduce him to her friends in society, if he will finance one of her inventions. It seems like a really good plan, except for the chemistry between Aidan and Diana, which is throwing a major wrench into the project.

I thoroughly enjoyed the second book of this series, and I’m looking forward to the third. Carlyle is a good storyteller, she kept me turning the pages until I reached the happily every after.

10/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

ANYTHING BUT A DUKE by Christy Carlyle.  Avon (April 30, 2019).  ISBN 978-0062853974. 368p.



BEYOND THE MOON by Catherine Taylor

October 4, 2019

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This is a first novel and is a truly remarkable work for anyone, and one that showcases a top tier author with a bright future ahead of her. I have no difficulty calling it a beautifully written book which neatly ties together several interests of the author. She is, by her own admission, a World War One adherent as well as a person that enjoys exploring history for its own sake and a romantic soul.

Lt. Robert Lovett is an officer serving England during the First World War in the trenches of France and Belgium. He is strongly vested in doing his duty by supplying the soldiers serving under him with skilled and patriotic leadership. He is wounded in 1916 and develops hysterical blindness with no physical reason for doing so. He is sent to Coldbrook Hall military convalescent hospital in Sussex, England to recuperate from his wounds. 

A century after Lovett is hospitalized, Louisa Casson, who experienced the sudden loss of her grandmother, the only person she had that had taken care of her as well as suffering a severe fall is confined to Coldbrook Hall. In the century between Lt. Lovett’s hospitalization and today, Coldbrook has been converted into a psychiatric hospital.

Louisa earns herself a status as a patient that can be trusted gets herself into a position that allows her to be let outside the walls of Coldbrook hospital in order to wander around outside. One day while exploring the area she wanders into a section that is old but quite intact. Entering into a room in that area she stumbles on Robert Lovette. Beginning a conversation with him and returning as often as she can, Louisa realizes two things. The first that she is in love with him, and second, that she has somehow slipped back in time to 1916 and the man that she has met is the wounded officer we already saw that was sent to Coldbrook in 1916.

Taylor shows her knowledge of WWI in describing the battles and areas that Lt. Lovett has been involved with. She describes the horrors of being in a trench just a few hundred yards from the enemy with both sides constantly shooting at each other, the dirt, filth, mud, and dead bodies – the horror of knowing that death is all around and could come in the blink of an eye. Her descriptions of possible conversations between the men are very much to the point, and Taylor gives her readers a realistic set of ideas and values in the midst of a world that no human being should be immersed in.

A well-done fantasy that treats a love across time and a period of great horror as factors in describing the levels that the human spirit can rise to.

10/19 Paul Lane

BEYOND THE MOON by Catherine Taylor. The Cameo Press Ltd (June 26, 2019). ISBN 978-1916093218. 494p.


EMPIRE OF LIES by Raymond Khoury

October 2, 2019

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Khoury has built his reputation as a top author on novels with a fantasy spin.  Not dragons, Greek gods, nor any of the many situations built on an unworldly story. All are well done, well written and based on a certain change to the real world.

“Empire of Lies” is no exception. The plot revolves around an alternative to our present world with changes to current reality that could be true if one subscribes to the difference between our world and what is presented. The novel opens in the alternative world postulated by the author.

This is a situation in which Polish King John Sobieski at the head of a combined European army defeated and stopped an invasion of Europe by Ottoman Turks in 1683. The Ottoman army had reached Vienna, were surrounding the city and were about to conquer it and then move further into Europe.  The situation at the beginning of this novel is that something happened to Sobieski and his staff killing them, and the Ottoman invasion succeeded setting up an alternative world stemming from the defeat of the west in 1683.

Kamal Arslan Agha, an officer in the Sultan’s secret police and, based in Paris has begun questioning the situation around him which is becoming more and more autocratic.  He feels that the freedoms guaranteed to the people are becoming eroded with the government becoming a dictatorship.

When he is called on to investigate a stranger appearing naked on the banks of the Seine and brought to a hospital, Kamal learns a strange secret which the Sultan wants to keep secret. He begins an investigation of this secret aided by his sister-in-law Nisreen, who is an outspoken civil rights lawyer. The two are caught up in the secrets of the enlarged Ottoman Empire and find themselves learning about the real circumstances of the battle of 1683, traveling through the empire and learning about a concept of time that is unknown to most of the world.

Very well written, ensuring that the reader will finish the book in one sitting this novel is Raymond Khoury at his best.

10/19 Paul Lane

EMPIRE OF LIES by Raymond Khoury. Forge Books (October 1, 2019). ISBN 978-1250210968. 448p.


Audio CD


September 28, 2019

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The author brings out a book set in Europe during the early 13th century. Her painstaking research into material available from sources based on actual writings of the pertinent characters is quite evident. The period is shortly before the time of the Italian Renaissance and heralds later events that gave rise to major art, sculpture and literary breakthroughs. It was a period that still promoted crusades attempting to capture Jerusalem, opening it for journeys, thereby many worshipers. In spite of the invasions Christians, Muslims and Jews lived side by side all over southern Europe freely intermingling with each other while avoiding the wars going on around them.

Michael Scot, a young monk, has the fortuitous luck to meet Charles II who is the Holy Roman Emperor while both are young men. Michael has become interested in translating the work of Aristotle and Charles charges him with doing these translations a full-time job. The thought is to regain via the translations the knowledge lost during the centuries since Aristotle lived. Michael travels and works in centers located in both Italy and Spain. His findings include information that gives rise to advancements in medicine among other disciplines that move these forward.

Unfortunately during his work Michael incurs the ire of some clerics that feel that translations taken from Arabic are blasphemous and should not be used in full-time publication of the work. Charles does continue to protect Michael and the work he is doing which allow publication and circulation of his findings after his death. This is a novel involving people that lived and worked in, period. The author has put words in the mouths of the individuals described. There is, of course, no way to divine actual conversations, but these are set up so that they reflect Mac Donald’s efforts to tell the story of a man that actually lived, worked and contributed to the advancement of knowledge during his lifetime.

The principal persona are as fleshed out as is possible at this later date. I’m sure that we will see more novels from Elizabeth Mac Donald in the future, and if they are set in the past, will show as much actual research as this one did.

9/19 Paul Lane

A MATTER OF INTERPRETATION by Elizabeth Mac Donald. Fairlight Books (September 5, 2019). ISBN 978-1912054701. 323p.



September 26, 2019

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When faced with huge problems that appear insurmountable the tendency among many people is to blurt out, “well really what can one person do.” And that often becomes the response to the matter, and no further effort is expended.  Ms Clayton’s latest book tells the true story of one woman that did something and many many children benefited by having their lives saved through her efforts.

The events portrayed take place in Germany, Austria, Holland, and England in the few years just before the initiation of hostilities in World War II. Vienna, Austria is a good place to live if one has the income.  There is fun, culture, fine family life and the means to assure the well being of one’s family.  The good life comes to an end when Hitler, who has come to power in Germany forces a plebiscite in Austria which indicates that they will side with Germany in the event of war with other countries.  The agreement is policed by the entrance of Nazi troops that change the landscape immediately for Austrians.

Stephen Neuman, the son of a wealthy and influential  Jewish family and a budding playwright, and Zofie-Helene, a Christian girl whose mother edits an anti-Nazi newspaper, are friends.  It also appears that life taking its course will find them marrying when old enough. The two are used by the author to illustrate what happens to the good life in Vienna and subsequent events.

Hitler sends Adolf Eichmann to supervise the shift in Vienna, and he quickly initiates Nazi policies.  Repression of Jews, Gypsies and Gays become a reality in the once happy country of Austria.  These groups are quickly prohibited from enjoying the normal rights of others with jobs, businesses right to own property denied them.  Eichmann initiates plans to get these groups out of Austria but purposely makes it almost impossible for them to travel outside.

In the darkest period of this time, Truus Wijsmuller a member of the newly formed Dutch Resistance, begins risking her life to get children out from the Nazi sphere of influence.  When England passes a law to take in at-risk children from the German Reich she gets up the nerve to approach Eichmann to get permission to start sending out children.  He agrees imposing almost impossible conditions, but Tante (Aunt) Truus as she begins to be known to the children manages to start with a group of 600 children sent to London. The author’s description of this trip, the anguish of parents sending out children that they may never see again, the children devastated at being torn away from their families and the lives they lived to enter the unknown cannot fail to stir emotion with any reader.

Stephen and Zofie-Helene are members of this first group and followed until they enter the system established in England to take care of these children. This includes finding them homes with families that consider adopting them.  A very powerful book set in a world gone mad and one that has no problem in getting the reader to finish it in one sitting.

9/19 Paul Lane

THE LAST TRAIN TO LONDON by Meg Waite Clayton. Harper (September 10, 2019). ISBN 978-0062946935. 464p.



HEIRESS GONE WILD by Laura Lee Guhrke

September 24, 2019

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Dear Lady Truelove, Book 4

From the publisher:

Dear Lady Truelove,

My ward is driving me crazy. I have to marry her off and get her out of my life. There’s just one problem…

When Jonathan Deverill promised a dying friend he’d be guardian to the man’s daughter, he envisioned a girl in pigtails and pinafores, a child he could leave behind in some finishing school. Problem is, his ward is actually a fully-grown, defiant beauty whose longing for romance threatens to make his guardianship a living hell.

New York heiress Marjorie McGann wants a London season and a titled husband who can help her spend the Yankee millions she’s inherited, and she thinks her new British guardian is the perfect person to help her find him. But Jonathan has no intention of letting his friend’s fortune be squandered. Under his watchful, protective eye, Marjorie finds romance hard to come by . . . until one fateful night when her own guardian’s devastating kisses makes her wonder if the greatest romance of all might be right in front of her.

Lady Truelove is the name of a Dear Abby type column in a newspaper in London. Jonathan Deverill was supposed to run the paper, but after vehement disagreements with his father, his sister took it over. Jonathan was disowned and left for the New World.

Jonathan becomes a millionaire in America, along with his business partner. But when his partner dies, he returns to England to check up on his new ward. And a romance begins. However, Jonathan has no desire to ever get married. When his father disowned him, his fiancee dumped him as well, breaking his heart and souring him on marriage. But his ward, Marjorie, is stunning and their attraction is instantaneous and sizzling. On the other hand, Marjorie has led a very sheltered life. Being raised in a school since the age of seven, she knows nothing of the world outside its doors.

Marjorie is a great character, innocent and rebellious. I couldn’t help but root for her to find her happy ending, and in Jonathan’s arms, she did. I loved this lasted entry into a terrific series.

9/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

HEIRESS GONE WILD by Laura Lee Guhrke.  Avon (September 24, 2019).  ISBN 978-0062853714. 384p.



THE FIFTH COLUMN by Andrew Gross

September 21, 2019

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Andrew Gross’s latest novel is a well-done story dealing with falling and subsequent redemption. The book takes place in New York City during a period just prior to the U.S  entering World War II. Europe is ablaze with war with Great Britain, and France was confronting a German military machine set to overrun them. Feelings are running high in the U.S. with than president Franklin Roosevelt trying to keep the country out of the war.  There are groups of pro-Nazi sympathizers pushing an agenda for America to enter the war on the German side and others favoring the Allies.

Charles Mossman is a young man with little or no political agenda who is in the position of just losing his job teaching at the university level and also facing the end of his marriage.  He is in a bar getting drunk, across the street from a pro-Nazi rally in Madison Square Garden in Manhattan when several pro-Hitler men draped in Swastika flags and drunk enter the bar.  Charles gets into a fight with them and in a drunken wild swing accidentally kills a young man standing close to the melee.

Sentenced to prison for one count of accidental homicide, he serves two years and is released into a situation with no prospects for a job due to his prison record and his wife not wanting him around. The only bright spot is that his wife does allow him visits to Emma, his daughter twice a week. They live in a section of New York City with many people showing support for Hitler. In the course of his visits Charles meets neighbors Trudi and Willi Bauer living across the hall from his family and develops a feeling in his gut that these people are not the Swiss they claim they are but secret Nazi sympathizers.

Gross, in a mesmerizing chain of events, tells the story of Charles’ actions and results with what he knows and what he finds out. The attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entrance on the side of the allies in the war is a well-described background to the story. Certainly a compelling all night read, “The Fifth Column” continues the author’s sequence of excellent books.

9/19 Paul Lane

THE FIFTH COLUMN by Andrew Gross. Minotaur Books (September 10, 2019). ISBN 978-1250180001. 336p.