TO BED THE BRIDE by Karen Ranney

December 13, 2019


All for Love Trilogy, Book 3

From the publisher:

New York Times Bestselling Author Karen Ranney’s captivating series concludes with a tale of opposites whose attraction scorches a trail from the Highlands to the glittering halls of London—and courts scandal at every turn . . .

Politics has introduced MP Logan McKnight to many fascinating people, but the lady he encounters on the lands bordering his ancestral Scottish home outshines them all. Eleanor Craig of Hearthmere seats a Thoroughbred like a queen, knows as much about world events as any of his colleagues—and is engaged to one of the worst men Logan knows. She also seems lonely, so Logan brings her a friend. Thus should their acquaintance end, yet it’s only just begun.

The puppy Logan delivers is every bit as irresistible as the man himself. How could this stranger sense the isolation Eleanor suffers among her scheming, snobbish extended family and fiancé who control her life? It’s even worse in London—until she begins meeting Logan secretly in a secluded park. Their passionate connection frees Eleanor, body and soul. But discovery threatens disgrace—or worse.

Eleanor lost her mother as an infant, and her father as a young child. He leaves her their estate in Scotland with the proviso that her Uncle move there to take care of her. He brings his wife and children, and they remain there until her uncle dies when she is 17 years old. Her aunt immediately moves them all to London, marries a wealthy man, and convinces the solicitor to just allow Eleanor to visit for a month every year.

Eleanor is engaged to Michael, the Earl of Westcott and she really has no idea why he chose her. Her father always stressed how important family is, and she knows her family wants her to marry the Earl. He is a good catch, so she agrees to marry him. But her fiance shortens her visit home to two weeks.

Eleanor returns home, knowing in her heart that she may not be allowed back to visit again. Eleanor and Logan have a rocky start. They meet while she is out riding and finds herself surrounded by sheep. Thinking he is the shepherd, she is condescending to him until she manages to get through. Eleanor doesn’t think much of the shepherd, but Logan can’t get her out of his mind. He gives her a puppy that she really doesn’t want but disappears before she can return the dog. She names him Bruce and I have to say, the best part of the first half of the book was the dog.

There seems to be too much time spent on Eleanor’s thoughts and way too much telling, not showing as the relationship between Eleanor and Logan grows. It seems like she decided to like him after she finds out that he is not a shepherd, but is an MP in the House of Commons, representing his part of Scotland. He is shocked to find out that she is engaged to the Earl of Westcott, an arrogant, selfish man that Logan can’t stand.

This book moved slowly for at least the first half, but the last few chapters made up for it. When Eleanor realizes she can’t marry the Earl and tells him, he refuses to allow her to break their engagement. Her aunt tells her she has no choice, she must marry the Earl, and what happens after that is just shocking. I don’t want to give anything away! Just know that Eleanor and Logan get their happily ever after, despite the enormous obstacles in their way.

While I’m glad they got together, the ending felt a bit abrupt. I would have liked an epilogue or something. All in all, this was just an okay read for me.

12/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

TO BED THE BRIDE by Karen Ranney. Avon (November 26, 2019).  ISBN 978-0062841087. 384p.



THE GERMAN HOUSE by Annette Hess

December 12, 2019

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Announced as her first published book, aside from many screenplays, Annette Hess gives us a memorable, riveting emotional roller coaster of a read. Pick this up and become mesmerized from page one and when finished it will be evident that a major literary force has entered the field with a decided bang.

The action is centered around the 1963 trials in Frankfurt, Germany of war criminals that ran the Auschwitz death camp during WWII. Eva Bruhns is a young woman with only faint memories of the war now two generations behind the world. She is working for a temporary employment agency as a translator when asked if she will fill in for a professional translator that cannot get a German visa in time for the trial’s opening. The trials are scheduled to start shortly and cannot be delayed awaiting the regular translator. Eva takes the job and becomes immersed in a life-changing position lasting several months. The main thrust of the action is her literally coming-of-age due to her work and thoughts as the court action goes on.

On the personal side, Eva is awaiting and expecting her suitor Jurgen Schoormann to ask her father for permission to marry her. Jurgen is the son and heir of a wealthy family who works in the family business and has ideas that a wife should be subservient to her husband. Doubts about the wisdom of marrying Jurgen enter her mind. In addition, due to facts coming out at the trial, Eva begins to question her mother’s and father’s silence about what they did during the war. Where were they and what did they do? And why is it never discussed?

Hess does not excuse the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis but does bring up via her characterizations the possibility that orders were followed since death or imprisonment could be the price of disobeying commands. The complexity of the mental anguish involved is not possible to understand without the experiences of people caught in an insurmountable conundrum with no way out of the situation without suffering something horrible. Does she make her case? Read the book and decide. If nothing else take part in a superb literary experience.

12/19 Paul Lane

THE GERMAN HOUSE by Annette Hess. HarperVia (December 12, 2019). ISBN 978-0008359867. 336p.



THE ALMANACK by Martine Bailey

December 11, 2019


Bailey has given her readers a veritable cornucopia of ideas and well-researched facts set in the England of the mid 1750s. The author has painted a picture of another era with all the problems, ideas, dirt and filth present in that day and age.

Tabitha Hart has left her home in the town of Netherlea to seek her fortune in London. There she made a passable living as a lady of the street until her mother sends her a message to return home because she is dying. When Tabitha reaches her mother’s house she finds that the lady has already passed away and under mysterious circumstances. She finds and opens her mother’s almanack, which at that point in time is a book that many people rich and poor buy each year to help them with their year-round planning.

As an aid to finding out what happened, the author has prefaced every chapter with a riddle taken from almanacks of the time as well as a daily message advising what is expected to happen each of the days. This practice opens up additional customs of the era under discussion as well as providing an idea of how people thought and behaved.

The novel is indeed a vibrant picture of another time and makes it possible for today’s readers to allow themselves to slip into that era and enjoy an interesting read.

12/19 Paul Lane

THE ALMANACK by Martine Bailey. Severn House Publishers; First World Publication edition (May 1, 2019). ISBN 978-0727888631. 304p.



THE ROGUE TO RUIN by Vivienne Lorret

December 10, 2019

Misadventures in Matchmaking, Book 3

From the publisher:

The Bourne Matrimonial Agency has one rule:

Never fall in love with the client.

Which shouldn’t be a problem when one’s faking an engagement to the rogue across the street . . .

Ainsley Bourne needs the family business to succeed. But one obstacle stands in her way—Reed Sterling, the huge, handsome, former prize fighter and owner of the gaming hall across the street. His scandalous customers scare off all her marriage-minded patrons, and since the devilish brute has no intention of relocating, she sets out to ruin his unsavory establishment. Yet when a vile suitor from her past reappears, Ainsley hastily claims an attachment to the first man who comes to mind . . . Mr. Sterling, to be exact.

Reed doesn’t know who is more surprised by Miss Bourne’s declaration. She clearly hates him, and he’d never admit their arguments simmer with unrequited attraction. Something about the pleading look in her eyes calls to Reed, and against his better judgment, he quickly plays the part of the besotted fiancé.

Pretending to be in love requires a convincing charade. But with each tantalizing touch and every scandalous kiss, Ainsley starts to wonder if Reed was ever really the enemy at all.

This author was new to me. The book started out slowly; in fact, I started it and kept putting it down until I got about a quarter of the way through. Then I read it the rest all the way through and ultimately enjoyed it. The plot was fairly predictable, the ever-popular trope of enemies to lovers, and it worked. There was also a bit of suspense. Ainsley had been betrothed to another man, and she ended it because he was abusive. He remarried, but when his wife died, he came looking for Ainsley again. And was not very pleasant, to say the least.

Reed was a great character. He is a commoner who made a fortune by fighting, boxing of sorts I suppose. But while he has retired from the ring, there are opponents who still wish to fight him. He is also thoughtful and smart, and very intuitive about people in general, but especially about Ainsley.

There are some obstacles along the way to happily ever after. Even marriage doesn’t resolve everything. I liked those twists and that is what kept me turning the pages for sure. I will look for the earlier books in the series. Ainsley has two sisters who are married, so they probably had their stories told in the earlier books. Since I haven’t read the earlier books, I don’t know if they should be read in order or if it doesn’t matter. These characters are fairly closely aligned, so it might have been the little knowledge I was lacking that made the beginning of this book so slow. I will find out!

12/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE ROGUE TO RUIN by Vivienne Lorret. Avon (July 30, 2019).  ISBN 978-0062685520. 400p.



THE BELLS OF HELL by Michael Kurland

December 9, 2019

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A Welker & Saboy Thriller, Book 1

“The Bells of Hell” is a novel set in New York City in 1938. It loosely is a story involving the IOS, which is a probable precursor of the OSS, in its own right the organization that became the CIA. War clouds were appearing all over Europe with Hitler turning Germany into a militarized police state. The emphasis by the fuhrer was to set up many groups – Jews, Gypsies, Catholics, Negros and others deemed non-Aryan as scapegoats to be ostracized by Germany as unworthy to be members of that society. In addition, Germany arranged a plebiscite in Austria to determine if that country would be willing to join in whatever aggressive activities were dictated to them by Hitler.

The situation in New York was that Nazi groups were openly working to push the United States into joining Germany in the war against their perceived enemies. They were also working to cast dispersions on any prominent members of the Jewish faith. Kurland is quite vocal in his writing critiquing J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, for his stance at the time of the novel on seeing only communists as enemies of the U.S. German bund activities were not important to him.

As the story opens, Otto Lehman is arriving by ship from Germany and is kidnapped as he debarks and is killed. Andrew Blake, a homeless man, sees the murder and in being questioned indicates that the killers were speaking German. Consequently, Jacob Welker who was then president Franklin Roosevelt’s own counter-intelligence agent is brought to New York to question Blake. As a result of the talks, Welker recruits Andrew Blake as well as Lord Geoffrey Saboy, who is the cultural attache for Great Britain and his wife, Lady Patricia, to help him with investigating whatever the Nazis are planning, beginning with the murder of Otto Lehman.

The author’s style is light, a bit tongue-in-cheek, making the novel an interesting read. It is written well enough to recommend it’s reading although not nearly an all night draw. The characters drawn up with the beginnings of an organization such as the CIA in the background are interesting enough to certainly warrant looking for future novels by Michael Kurland.

12/19 Paul Lane

THE BELLS OF HELL by Michael Kurland. Severn House Publishers; First World Publication edition (December 3, 2019). ISBN 978-0727889690. 256p.


MY FAKE RAKE by Eva Leigh

December 6, 2019

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Union of the Rakes Series, Book 1

From the publisher:

In the first book in Eva Leigh’s new Union of the Rakes series, a bluestocking enlists a faux suitor to help her land an ideal husband only to be blindsided by real desire…

Lady Grace Wyatt is content as a wallflower, focusing on scientific pursuits rather than the complications of society matches. But when a handsome, celebrated naturalist returns from abroad, Grace wishes, for once, to be noticed. Her solution: to “build” the perfect man, who will court her publicly and help her catch his eye. Grace’s colleague, anthropologist Sebastian Holloway, is just the blank slate she requires.

To further his own research on English society, Sebastian agrees to let Grace transform him from a bespectacled, bookish academic into a dashing—albeit fake—rake. Between secret lessons on how to be a rogue and exaggerated public flirtations, Grace’s feelings for Sebastian grow from friendship into undeniable, inconvenient, real attraction. If only she hadn’t asked him to help her marry someone else…

Sebastian is in love with brilliant, beautiful Grace, but their bargain is complete, and she desires another. Yet when he’s faced with losing her forever, Sebastian will do whatever it takes to tell her the truth, even if it means risking his own future—and his heart.

Leigh introduces a new series with a Quasimodo type plot. And it works!

Grace’s father is not well, and all he asks of her is to marry before he dies. The dutiful daughter is a scientist and has found most of the men on the marriage mart have little patience for a woman with a thought in her head. Ah, the good old days. Nevertheless, she has picked out a man she feels would make a suitable husband, as he is also a scientist and they have much in common. Unfortunately for her, he thinks of her as a colleague and pursues other women to find a bride.

Grace’s good friend Sebastian is talked into playing a rake, the theory being that once another man takes interest in her, her intended husband-to-be, will come running. Sebastian’s friend, the Duke, likes the idea and with his help, turns Sebastian into a rake, turning young ladies’ heads all over London. Including Grace.

You can tell what will happen next, and it is a fun read to see it all play out. I’m looking forward to the next book in this new series. This one was a terrific read

11/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

MY FAKE RAKE by Eva Leigh. Avon (November 26, 2019).  ISBN 978-0062932402. 384p.



TASK FORCE BAUM by James D. Shipman

November 30, 2019

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The novel is a war story and a very good one. It has all the action, movement, and planning of other great war novels. One big exception is the fact that it is a true incident occurring in the month prior to the cessation of hostilities with Germany.

General George Patton commanding the troops in the area described makes a determination that his army is within striking distance of a POW internment camp. For reasons known only to him, Patton sends a small armored force to take the camp, free the prisoners and bring them back to the American side. The general is under the impression that the camp is a relatively small one holding about 300 prisoners and they can be liberated by sending a force of about 500 men with several tanks to work their way about 50 miles into German-held territory and accomplish the mission.

The captain commanding the force, Abraham Baum, tries to argue that it would be easier and faster to send a division size force with accompanying tanks to make the raid. General Patton disagrees, stating that he has intelligence that the camp is held by only a few troops and sends off the raiding party as originally planned. Baum’s group immediately runs into trouble when the German force turns out to be much larger and better equipped than thought.

Shipman paints a well thought out and researched story of the actual fighting around the expedition and the German troops both stationed in the area as well as those guarding the camp. There is bravery and a willingness to sacrifice on both sides. Soldiers are killed and wounded. There is a maniacal sargeant involved in guarding the prisoners. The anguish felt by men that cannot leave the front to return home to face an emergency there is well described. And, of course, the constant fear of death or devastating wounds is always with the soldiers on both sides.

The question of what Patton had in mind when he ordered an undersized force into a situation that becomes almost impossible is brought out as well as the reactions of the Americans when they realize that they are in over their heads, but cannot give up and turn back. There are no heroes but certainly many people just willing to do their duty. Task Force Baum is a novel that you cannot leave until finished, and certainly the work of an author whose books should be sought out as he writes them.

11/19 Paul Lane

TASK FORCE BAUM by James D. Shipman. Kensington (November 26, 2019). ISBN 978-1496723864. 304p.




November 24, 2019

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The setting for this novel is occupied France during World War II. There is an active resistance movement by the French that is working every way; they are able to do damage to the Nazi occupation army.

Paul Ricard is a novelist and not involved with the resistance movement until one day fate intervenes. A man fleeing from Gestapo troops is wounded by them and dies, but manages to hand off a document to Paul who is walking by. The document, when examined, looks like a blueprint for a military weapon and Paul makes the decision to try and deliver it to the resistance movement for transport to England. While doing so he becomes completely embroiled into the activities of the resistance.

Paul gets involved with more and more dangerous activities as he is integrated into the work of the French underground. He is finally tasked with traveling through the escape route set up to get people out of France. His job is to find weak points in this system and he does so. While involved with the work he meets Leila, who is a professional spy. They not only work together but enter into a romance.

The novel is a quick read and sufficiently interesting to please most readers who peruse it. Alan Furst has a long history of presenting his readers with interesting and varied novels. Many of his books deal with spies and espionage and “Under Occupation” follows along successfully with the same theme.

11/19 Paul Lane

UNDER OCCUPATION by Alan Furst. Random House (November 26, 2019). ISBN 978-0399592300. 224p.



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.