Spotlight Review: THE DUKE GETS EVEN by Joanna Shupe

January 24, 2023

The Fifth Avenue Rebels, Book 4

From the publisher:

By beloved USA Today bestselling author Joanna Shupe, the fourth installment in the Fifth Avenue Rebels series about a secret affair between a free-spirited heiress and an uptight duke which turns more passionate than either could have imagined. 

A rebellious heiress.

A duke in dire straits.

An anonymous midnight tryst.

To escape the shackles of marriage, Nellie Young purposely ruined her reputation a long time ago. Now she dedicates herself to hedonistic pleasures only, like kissing a handsome stranger in the ocean under the moonlight…

To save his estate, the proper Duke of Lockwood must marry the perfect bride—wealthy, with an unblemished reputation. While in New York he’s the perfect gentleman, and no one knows he’s suppressing his darkest desires. The last thing he needs is another scandal.

Except Nellie sees through Lockwood’s charade, straight to the real man underneath. This uptight duke is far more than he lets on, and she can’t resist him. Their secret affair turns scorching, far more than either expected. And when his beautiful rebel finds an unconventional cause, Lockwood has to decide if he’s willing to sacrifice everything to keep her.

https://amzn.to/3Z2zFEd

I read the first book in this series, The Heiress Hunt, and really enjoyed it. I’m sorry I missed the next two but will go back and read them for sure. This is the fourth and probably the last book in this series.

Nellie Young is the daughter of a railroad magnate who lost her mother way too soon. This is set during the Gilded Age, the boom years of the 1880s in New York City. If you’ve enjoyed the HBO show, The Gilded Age, you will feel right at home here. And here’s a terrific teaser: Teddy Roosevelt makes an appearance.

The Duke of Lockwood is desperate to marry an heiress. His father lost all their money, and all he has left is his home in London and his country home. And a mother who is waiting none too patiently for him to do his duty and marry rich. Unfortunately, the Duke has met and proposed to a few young heiresses in NY, but all those engagements were broken. There are lots more debutants for him to choose from so he isn’t too worried.

Lockwood had a serious illness as a child which left his heart weakened. The doctors prescribe daily exercise, and he chooses to swim. While in New York, he swims in the ocean, usually late at night. The book opens with such a swim, but in this case as he is headed back to shore, he spies a beautiful young woman – could she be a mermaid? As he gets closer she wraps herself around him and he realizes that she is both naked and not a mermaid. Nellie is completely enchanting, at least until she realizes that he is not the man she thought she would be meeting during her midnight swim.

Lockwood is immediately smitten, but Nellie knows who he is and that she is not the demure, scandal-free girl for him. She has been flouting the rules of society since her debut and is quite up front about it. Nonetheless, they keep running into each other and soon enough realize they have this incredible chemistry, so hot it consumes them both.

Nellie is bound and determined to help women learn about their bodies, reproduction, and birth control despite the fact that it is illegal for women to learn such things. It was an interesting parallel to what has been going on in this country since Roe was overturned.

There are many obstacles to overcome before Nellie and the Duke find their happy ending, and fun for us, they maneuver down a scorching hot road to get there. If you enjoy steamy historical romances, you won’t want to miss this one. I loved it.

1/2023 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE DUKE GETS EVEN by Joanna Shupe. Avon (January 24, 2023). ISBN:‎  978-0063045071. 384p.

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NEVER CROSS A HIGHLANDER by Lisa Rayne

January 6, 2023

The Shadow Lairds

From the publisher:

Ailsa Connery has waited three long years to finally escape her enslavement at Stirling Castle and reunite with her clan. But her carefully laid plans are completely destroyed by the arrival of the infamous Highland warrior known as Dubh Mahoun, the Black Devil…who has plans of his own.

Kallum MacNeill’s fearsome reputation has long allowed him to keep hidden his secret double life of freeing enslaved captives across the land. It’s only when he kidnaps a servant lass―quite by accident―that he finds himself facing a wee predicament. He must accompany the lass home or risk her exposing his true identity. It’d be easy enough…if the feisty hellion didn’t fight him at every turn.

As they make their way to the Highlands, the perils the two must face are surpassed only by their constant sparring. Soon, their heated sniping sparks heat of a totally different kind. The kind that ignites a hunger that could consume them both. Yet the difficult journey is no match for the dangerous secrets they’re about to uncover.

https://amzn.to/3GzAXPR

This author is new to me and I am so glad I found her! This was a historical Scottish romance with a twist – the main characters are people of color. I haven’t come across this, or talk of slavery, in a Highlands romance before and I really liked it.

Ailsa is a light skinned Black woman who was visiting the King with her clan. But as they were leaving, she was captured by the King’s guard and forced into servitude. No one from her clan ever came looking for her and no one in the King’s court would listen to her. She was a free woman of color, but no longer. All the clans were returning for a celebration, and Ailsa saw this as her opportunity to escape back to her clan.

Kallum is a fierce warrior and isn’t too thrilled to be going to this fete, but he needs to compete for his clan. He is a free Black man, and has been accepted as a brother to the laird’s son, soon to inherit the title. What they don’t know is that Kallum is also known as the Shepherd, because he rescues slaves and shepherds them to freedom. No one knows his identity which keeps him safe.

As he is preparing to leave with several slaves in tow, he realizes the princess’s servant isn’t among them, so he goes searching for her. To his surprise, she doesn’t want to go with him, but he takes her anyway. As they journey towards freedom, she is forced to explain why she doesn’t want to go. Kallum is concerned because it seems to him something is amiss in that her clan never came back for her. As they travel together, they fall in love but there are some serious obstacles in their way, not the least of which is the bounty on her head.

The struggle proves worthwhile, however, and Kallum and Ailsa eventually find their happy ending. This was an intriguing story, and a one night read for me. I hope to find more books in this series.

12/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

NEVER CROSS A HIGHLANDER by Lisa Rayne. Entangled: Amara (December 27, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-1649370952. 448p.

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Spotlight Review: CINDERELLA AND THE DUKE by Lydia Drake

January 3, 2023

From the publisher:

Miss Julia Beaumont has exactly one night to find herself a husband…

The Weatherford Ball is the last chance Julia Beaumont has to escape the clutches of her horrid stepmother. Any potential husband will do―rich, poor, even a reasonably well-groomed walrus. But all of Julia’s matrimonial chances are completely obliterated…thanks to the actions of an infuriating and utterly rakish duke.

Gregory Carter, Duke of Ashworth, would never risk his cherished bachelorhood by flirting with marriage-starved debutantes. But one look at the luscious and refreshingly clever Julia, and he simply can’t resist a stolen kiss―scandal be damned. Then just as things start getting deliciously interesting, the lady flees…leaving only a slipper behind.

And it must have been one dandy of a kiss. Because now Julia has proposed to him. After all, the lady needs a husband, and this roguish duke will certainly do. It’s simply a matter of making him the perfect scandalous offer…

https://amzn.to/3Z2zFEd

Julia is the Cinderella in this story. She lost her mother as a young child, her father remarried, hoping to find a good mother for Julia. But when her father dies, her stepmother’s true colors come out and she decides to keep Julia at home as her personal servant. She isn’t locked in the basement, but she may as well be. She isn’t allowed to participate in the marriage mart that the ton favors. That is until her young stepsister makes her debut.

When Julia’s stepmother falls ill, it is up to Julia to chaperone her stepsister at the ball of the season. Julia has no ballgowns, or mice or even a fairy godmother to help make her one. But she does have some gowns of her mother’s, and the ability to sew and make the necessary repairs and alterations, which she does. While at the ball she witnesses the notorious rake, the Duke of Ashworth, called out to fight yet another duel. She gets an idea to rescue him and it works. The duke has determined never to marry as he favors cavorting with the unhappily married women of the ton. But these duels are getting tiresome, so when Julia offers him a way out, he goes for it.

Julia’s idea is for them to marry in name only. That will get all the husbands off his back, and will let Julia escape her stepmother and the life she abhors. The only problem is their chemistry is off the charts. They decide to consummate the marriage, for Julia’s protection, then just live their own lives. Best laid plans go awry when they really fall for each other, but there are roadblocks, always, until they find their happily ever after.

This was a really fun read and a good way to kick off the new year! The characters were charming and the story more or less believable, with some steamy scenes to keep things interesting. I can only hope that this is the start of a series.

1/2023 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

CINDERELLA AND THE DUKE by Lydia Drake. Entangled: Amara (December 27, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-1649373144. 352p.

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Spotlight Review: HEARTBREAKER by Sarah MacLean 

December 20, 2022

Hell’s Belles. Book 2

From the publisher:

New York Times bestselling author Sarah MacLean follows her highly acclaimed Bombshell with Heartbreaker, featuring a fierce, fearless heroine on a mission to steal a duke’s secrets…and his heart. 

A Tempting Thief

Raised among London’s most notorious criminals, a twist of fate landed Adelaide Frampton in the bright ballrooms of Mayfair, where she masquerades as a quiet wallflower—so plain and unassuming that no one realizes she’s the Matchbreaker…using her superior skills as a thief to help unwilling brides avoid the altar, all while hiding her own scandalous past.

A Powerful Duke

Henry Carrington, Duke of Clayborn, has spent a lifetime living in perfection and has no time for the scandals that arise every time Adelaide ends another groom. His own reputation is impeccable—and the last thing he needs is a frustrating, fascinating woman discovering the truth of his past, or the secrets he holds close. 

A Perfect Match

When the two find themselves on a breakneck journey across Britain to stop a wedding, the duke has no choice but to follow her across Britain on a trip filled with bad weather, bad luck, and a surprising lack of beds. Adelaide soon realizes that this perfect duke kisses like a proper scoundrel, and is turning out to be a thief in his own right…one who won’t stop until he’s stolen her well-guarded heart.

https://amzn.to/3HPI1sA

MacLean turns the Victorian romance genre on its head with this feminist spin and I’m into it! Both of these books stand alone, and I can say this because I read the first book, Bombshell, just over a year ago and honestly didn’t remember many details, yet I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It didn’t feel like I was missing a thing.

The Hell’s Belles are a group of women with a mission to save their peers from disasterous marriages and other of life’s challenges. This book centers around Adelaide, the “Matchbreaker.” She herself was saved from a marriage in which her father was basically selling her to a man she had no interest in marrying, a not uncommon practice in Victorian England. Matches were made, especially among the upper class (the ton) because of financial need, status, or tying together families to amass more power. Not so lovely reasons to get married!

Adelaide is not of the upper class. In fact, her father runs one of the most notorious gangs in London, and she was raised to be a thief and a pickpocket, or “nipper,” and she is one of the best. Unfortunately, she learned the hard way and was imprisoned the first time when she was only 8 years old. She has changed her name and is now under the protection of the Duchess, one of the Belles whose money and influence gives them great latitude to help other women. Unfortunately, this time it is Adelaide who needs the help.

A young woman witnessed her father, a member of the aristocracy, murder a fellow aristocrat. Now he wants her dead. Yes, you read that right. Women were so dispensable in jolly old England! Instead, she elopes with the younger brother of the Duke of Carrington.

The Duke is a confirmed bachelor, and he is happy his brother found someone to love. He fully supports the marriage, but the girl’s father has hired some ruffians to find and kill them both. Adelaide to the rescue, only she has help in the Duke. While their relationship is somewhat adversarial – she steals something he greatly values and the race is on. As they cross England to try and reach the Duke’s brother before the happy couple is killed, Adelaide and the Duke fall in love. He has secrets that preclude him from marrying, and she has major self-esteem issues. But no worries – a happy ending is in store.

This was a fun read and I enjoyed these characters and the story. It was fast-paced and had some humor, along with some heat! If you enjoyed the first book in the series, I think this one was a bit better. If you haven’t read the first one, you can still read this one and it won’t feel like you’re walking into the middle of something. MacLean is a smart writer and does a really good job with series. This book is on many of the best books of the year lists so give it a try!

12/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

HEARTBREAKER by Sarah MacLean. Avon (August 23, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0063243248. 352p.

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THE DUKE’S ACCIDENTAL BRIDE by Eva Devon

August 5, 2022

From the publisher:

Never trust a rake to find you a husband…

Lady Jaqueline Peabody is extremely vexed. Her nemesis, the Duke of Stone, has just ruined her life by matching her sister with a perfect gentleman. Except the gentleman in question has little in the way of income. With the family fortune in tatters, it means Jacqueline is tasked with marrying well—and must bid adieu to her dreams of a lovely spinsterhood with her pianoforte.

James Haven has a respectable title and a rogue’s reputation. After all, love and passion can lead only to disaster. While he’s eschewed marriage for himself, he enjoys great success with matching London’s most eligible ladies and gentlemen. So if Jacqueline needs a wealthy husband, he’ll find her one. Love need not apply!

Only, James is having the devil of time finding the perfect husband for the spirited female. And certainly not because he’s falling for Lady Jacqueline, who heats his desire and dares to stand slipper-to-boot with him. Ridiculous. But, when scandal erupts, Jacqueline’s hopes for the perfect husband might be replaced by the perfect rake…

https://amzn.to/3QlB6Zb

Jacqueline, or Jack as she is known to her family and friends, is newly on the marriage mart. She has been studying pianoforte in Vienna, but when her father dies penniless, she must return home. Their next-door neighbor and her brother’s best friend, the Duke of Stone, has arranged a match for her sister, but she is marrying a vicar, which will do the family no good. It falls to Jack and her brother to marry money and fill the family coffers again.

The Duke of Stone loves matchmaking, a rather unusual hobby for a Duke, but no one can argue with success. All the matches he’s made are thriving and happy. But Jack isn’t happy that she will be forced to marry to save her family, and reverting to her wild childhood ways, she wears her brother’s clothes and climbs the tree outside the Duke’s window, launching herself into his private rooms.

The Duke is mesmerized by the very nature and spirit of this young woman who he used to play with as a child. Now he’s like to play with her again, but he cannot. The Duke’s parents had a terrifying marriage, and his father descended into madness before passing away. Sure he will inherit that madness, he is determined not to marry and certainly never to fall in love. Until he meets Jack again and she completely upends his life.

This was an enjoyable read and a quick one. I would have liked to see more character development, but there is enough angst to get me invested. The happy ending is guaranteed, of course, and it was fun getting there.

8/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE DUKE’S ACCIDENTAL BRIDE by Eva Devon. Entangled: Amara (August 1, 2022). ASIN: ‎B0B1BWCZ4T. 280p.

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Spotlight Review: THE GUNSLINGER’S GUIDE TO AVOIDING MATRIMONY by Michelle McLean

July 26, 2022

Gunslinger, Book 2

From the publisher:

At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, desperate-to-retire gunslinger Adam Brady has exactly two rules. And one of them is never, ever get married. So he’ll be danged when his dreams of permanently avoiding the bounty hunter on his tail in Desolation, the only town where notorious men like him can find respite, comes with one helluva string attached. The town has a new rule: gunslingers welcome―if they get a job…or marry.

Without realizing it, Adam stumbles into a big town wedding and accidentally marries Nora Schumacher, a sassy-mouthed mountain of a woman with legs as long as his wanted poster. So what’s a gunslinger to do but get himself unhitched and find a job. Any job. Except Adam keeps getting fired, one odd circumstance after another. And he’s running out of options.

Desolation was supposed to be his safe haven. Except, he’s not only running from his past but from the irresistible woman he married. And worse, he’s finding that he rather likes the enticing, if damnably independent, wife of his. But some men just aren’t the marrying kind. Only, if he leaves, his own life won’t be worth living. If he stays, he puts the lives of his newfound family and the woman he loves on the line. So much for Desolation being the answer to all his problems.

https://amzn.to/3RXNJeK

This is a very funny book that is sort of anomaly, at least in my reading experience; it’s an historical cowboy romance. All the other cowboy romances I’ve read are contemporary, featuring a lot of rodeo stars or ranch hands or ranch owners. This book is set in the Wild West, and features gunslingers, which you don’t hear much about anymore. 

Adam is on the move, trying to escape his past. He’s quick with a gun, so successful at his past occupation, but he’s tired of it. All he wants to do is settle down somewhere and feel safe. When he stumbles into the small town of Desolation, he starts to think he found his place. Much to his surprise, the sheriff is a former gunslinger himself, and he has instituted some rules for the people in his town. They need to either be married or find a job within the first thirty days of arrival, or they need to go.

Adam doesn’t want a wife. He’s had some bad experiences and with the wanted posted hanging over his head, he doesn’t want to endanger any woman. But when he arrives in town, he finds himself in the midst of a crowd, and somehow he ends up married to Nora, the tall, good looking woman standing next to him. He refuses to sign the marriage certificate though, but the preacher says he’s married in the eyes of God, and isn’t sure how to go about ending things.

Nora needs a husband, although just temporarily. Ever since her mother passed away, her father has become a drunk. He takes all the money that Nora earns and drinks it away. He’s sold off part of the farm they live on, and she is afraid he will lose it all in a poker game or sell it off. She inherits the farm but not until she turns thirty, several years off, or gets married. Hence her need for a husband.

Meanwhile, Adam tries very hard to find a job. But the townspeople are all about helping Nora, so every job he gets turns into a disaster and that is the basis of all the humor in this book, and it’s pretty funny. But the more time he spends with Nora, the more his feelings for her grow stronger, and for her as well. But when his nemesis, a marshall, shows up, Adam knows he needs to get away but before he can, Nora is captured.

There is some suspense here, but mostly a lot of laughs and a bit of sex. This is a really fun read and a fast moving story. I did read the first book in the series, Hitched to the Gunslinger, but it is not necessary. These books stand alone and can be read in any order. I enjoyed them both, and hope another book is in the works.

7/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE GUNSLINGER’S GUIDE TO AVOIDING MATRIMONY by Michelle McLean. Entangled: Amara (July 26, 2022). ISBN: 978-1649372123. 368p.

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Spotlight Review: A MATTER OF TEMPTATION by Stacy Reid

July 5, 2022

From the publisher:

Miss Wilhelmina “Mina” Crawford is desperate. Having been ruined in the eyes of society years ago for one foolish, starry-eyed mistake, she spends her days secreted away at her family’s crumbling estate, helping her brother manage the land but not able to truly live life the way she’s always dreamed. When her brother admits to just how dire their finances have gotten, she takes it upon herself to procure employment…but the only one who will even consider the scandalous idea of a female secretary is the brilliant, ruthless, and infuriating Earl of Creswick.

Simon Loughton, the Earl of Creswick, needs help if he wants to finally pass the reform bill he’s been championing for years and secure the vote for England’s most vulnerable constituents. Too bad help comes in the form of a woman with breathtaking nerve, fiery red hair, and a sense of humor to match.

Now temptation―disguised as a lovely, clever-mouthed devil―lives and works under Simon’s very roof. And Mina finally feels as though she’s truly living life to her wildest dreams. But even the most incendiary of kisses can’t incinerate Mina’s past…or the shocking secret that could ruin them both.

https://amzn.to/3yqzupZ

Mina is a strong female protagonist in a sea of weakness. Orphaned, she and her twin brother are close; so close, that when he foolishly challenges the Earl of Creswick to a duel, she takes his place and bests the heretofore unbeaten swordsman. Astonished to realize he was beaten by a girl, the Earl offers her a job as his secretary in a time when women just didn’t do that sort of thing. Desperate for the money, she agrees but quickly they become very close, which irks him to no end.

Theirs is a bumpy relationship at first, but as they get to know one another, things start changing – except while the Earl knows of her reputation, there are still secrets she has yet to share. The Earl is being pressured by his family to marry, and he is so uninterested he tells his grandmother to pick anyone she likes and he’ll marry her. Until his feelings for Mina overtake his logic.

This was a fun read, with lots of witty banter, well developed characters, some hot sex, and interesting politics of the time. I found myself completely engrossed in their world, and had a good time while there.

7/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

A MATTER OF TEMPTATION by Stacy Reid. Entangled: Amara (June 28, 2022). ISBN: 978-1649370969. 400p.

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DESPERATELY SEEKING A DUCHESS by Christi Caldwell

May 27, 2022

All the Duke’s Sins, Book 2

From the publisher:

What happens when an impoverished duke with a reputation for being a rogue collides with a strong-willed heiress who wants to explore the world? An unlikely friendship…and unexpected passion.

Cailin Audley doesn’t fit in with Polite Society. A life spent among the working class taught her to value her independence in a way no newfound fortune or glittering ballroom could ever erase. When a major misstep sees the new heiress whisked away to the English countryside, Cailin soon realizes the vexing lengths her family will go to see her settled.  But having risked her heart once before, Cailin has no interest in the men of the ton—especially not the frustratingly charming Duke of St. James.

Courtland Balfour, the Duke of St. James, devoted brother and notorious rogue, despises what he must become—a fortune hunter. But with the ducal coffers drained by his late, spendthrift of a father, Courtland knows his duty lies at the altar and he will do anything to ensure a future for his siblings. Just his luck that the one lady who could make this new fate bearable, who enflames him like no other, is the one woman who wants nothing to do with him or his title.

But when an act of desperation inadvertently lands he and Cailin at the heart of another scandal, Courtland knows better than to waste his chance. Surely he can convince Cailin to love him?

“Packed with familial warmth and peppered with humor…An endearing romance.”—Kirkus

https://amzn.to/3z2CUku

I didn’t read the first book in the series, or the prequel novellas, and that really felt like a disadvantage here. Cailin is one of four illegitimate children of a duke. Their mother, his mistress, apparently never told him that she had children.  I guess he visited her so infrequently that he never noticed her pregnancies? I found that a bit odd, but maybe I should have read the earlier books, so that’s on me.

Courtland is the elder identical twin, so he inherits his father’s title and properties. Unfortunately, his father was a terrible person and basically left his family in severe debt. Things are so bad there is talk of debtor’s prison. His twin, Keir, has a very well paying position with another Duke, Cailin’s father. When he asks Keir to try and persuade his children to come visit, Courtland offers to go in his stead, as he more charming than the very serious Keir and has a better shot of getting them to agree. Instead, he is shot at and beaten by Cailin and her brother, so returns home without them. 

Keir loses his job because of Courtland and Cailin, and things are not looking good for the family. Courtland knows he needs to marry an heiress, but every time he and Cailin are together, their chemistry just leaps off the page. 

So the storyline was a bit confusing for me at times, but I got enough of the gist of it to see where it is going. I didn’t love Cailin, but I liked Courtland a lot, which was a surprise to me. There is no rush to romance here, and the ending felt a bit muddled to me as well. I didn’t love this book (obviously) but I did like it enough to go back and read the first one before passing judgement. 

5/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

DESPERATELY SEEKING A DUCHESS by Christi Caldwell. Atria Books (April 5, 2022). ISBN: 978-1982190484. 336p.

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Spotlight Review: THE GOOD LEFT UNDONE by Adriana Trigiani

May 17, 2022

From the publisher:

AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

From “a master of visual and palpable detail” (The Washington Post), comes a lush, immersive novel about three generations of Tuscan artisans with one remarkable secret. Epic in scope and resplendent with the glorious themes of identity and belonging, The Good Left Undone unfolds in breathtaking turns.

Matelda, the Cabrelli family’s matriarch, has always been brusque and opinionated. Now, as she faces the end of her life, she is determined to share a long-held secret with her family about her own mother’s great love story: with her childhood friend, Silvio, and with dashing Scottish sea captain John Lawrie McVicars, the father Matelda never knew. . . .

In the halcyon past, Domenica Cabrelli thrives in the coastal town of Viareggio until her beloved home becomes unsafe when Italy teeters on the brink of World War II. Her journey takes her from the rocky shores of Marseille to the mystical beauty of Scotland to the dangers of wartime Liverpool—where Italian Scots are imprisoned without cause—as Domenica experiences love, loss, and grief while she longs for home. A hundred years later, her daughter, Matelda, and her granddaughter, Anina, face the same big questions about life and their family’s legacy, while Matelda contemplates what is worth fighting for. But Matelda is running out of time, and the two timelines intersect and weave together in unexpected and heartbreaking ways that lead the family to shocking revelations and, ultimately, redemption. 

“Trigiani conveys the beauty of Italy, the hardships of war, the taste of family recipes, and the enduring love of family.”—Library Journal (starred)

“[An] immersive saga. . . . A celebration of family and a paean to the power of storytelling.”—People, “Book of the Week”

https://amzn.to/37StqwZ

Trigiani gives us another gem; three generations of women, their stories interwoven from 1929 through World War II through present day, from a small village in Italy to Scotland and the expulsion of “Britalians”, history comes alive on the page, as does the food, the family, and the scenery.

Trigiani is one of my favorite writers and favorite people! She is so full of life, and her exuberance carries over on her pages. bringing every story she tells to life. Sadly, she is not on a book-a-year schedule; in fact, it’s been about four years since her last book, Tony’s Wife. In that review, I said “reading Trigiani is an immersive experience into Italian family life and food and love,” and that tradition continues here, with the Cabrelli family.

Matelda Cabrelli is nearing the end of her life, and wants to share her life and her mother’s life stories with the next generations. They are a family of jewelers, but they are working class – the sell the jewelry they make to the upper classes. Matelda’s mother, Domenica, starts the story with her life in a small village where she became a nurse, and met and married first a Scotsman, then her childhood best friend. she really wants to share her life stories with her granddaughter, Anina, and we all get drawn in.

This book has a slow start, but quickly becomes unputdownable. The descriptions of the locations, and especially the food, are exquisite. But it’s these women who invaded my life and my dreams and will be staying with me for a long time to come. I don’t want to give anything away – one of the treats of reading a Trigiani novel is watching events unfold and lives change. Don’t miss it.

5/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE GOOD LEFT UNDONE by Adriana Trigiani. Dutton (April 26, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0593183328. 448p.

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HIGHLAND JUSTICE by Heather McCollum

May 6, 2022

Sons of Sinclair, Book 3

From the publisher:

As the new chief of Clan Mackay, Gideon Sinclair knows the importance of maintaining order at any cost. To keep the conquered clan in line, Gideon must mete out ruthless justice or risk losing their precious new peace. But from the moment he meets Cait Mackay―aye, from the moment the sweetness of her lips captures his―all of Gideon’s careful objectivity is well and thoroughly compromised.

Cait knows that kissing the brawny Highlander is a dangerous game. It was bad enough she picked his pocket to feed the children in her care, but sometimes a desperate woman must disguise her crimes any way she can. Only her act of deception has made things worse… Because one kiss with the Highland’s most brutal chief leaves her breathless and out of her depth.

Now Gideon must choose between his duty and his heart when his lovely thief is accused of treason against the king himself.

Each book in the Sons of Sinclair series is STANDALONE:

* Highland Conquest

* Highland Warrior

* Highland Justice

https://amzn.to/3Fmj1Wx

I read the first book in this series, Highland Conquest, but somehow I never got the second book. So here I am, reviewing the third and I have to say it’s true, they definitely stand alone. And they are so good!

This series is set in Scotland during the 1500s, so a fascinating time period. This book begins each chapter with a rule of law that was used during that time and I found those so interesting, and each law explained ties into the story. The main characters are Cait, a beautiful young widow, and Gideon, one of the sons of Sinclair. They were raised as the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and Gideon is the Horseman of Justice. He makes the laws, and he enforces the laws, determining each suspect’s guilt or innocence. But when he meets Cait, everything changes.

Cait was married off when she was 15 years old by her father, to settle some debts. Her younger sister Willa was part of the package deal. But her husband was a cruel man, and told her she didn’t conceive because she’s a cold woman. She believes that until she meets Gideon.

Cait loves babies, and she takes in any children that need a home. Gideon is impressed with her good heart, and there is a strong attraction there. But when her oldest child, Jack, is accused of heinous crimes, Gideon must decide between helping Cait with her child, or the helping James, the King of Scotland, as ordered.

I really enjoyed this story and this time period. I haven’t read much set back then and I find it so interesting. These characters really touched me, and now I have to backtrack and try to find the second book in the series that I missed. If you like historical romances with some steamy sex, this is a good one.

5/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

HIGHLAND JUSTICE by Heather McCollum. Entangled: Amara (April 26, 2022) ISBN:‎ 978-1649370761. 400p.

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