Review: Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In the first in Tessa Dare’s captivating Castles Ever After series, a mysterious fortress is the setting for an unlikely love . . .

As the daughter of a famed author, Isolde Ophelia Goodnight grew up on tales of brave knights and fair maidens. She never doubted romance would be in her future, too. The storybooks offered endless possibilities.

And as she grew older, Izzy crossed them off. One by one by one.

Ugly duckling turned swan?

Abducted by handsome highwayman?

Rescued from drudgery by charming prince?

No, no, and… Heh.

Now Izzy’s given up yearning for romance. She’ll settle for a roof over her head. What fairy tales are left over for an impoverished twenty-six year-old woman who’s never even been kissed?

This one.

My Thoughts:

The storyline in Romancing the Duke felt fresh. It was great to read about Izzy fighting for her inheritance and learn how to reclaim what is rightfully hers. I think Tessa Dare does a great job of putting her own twists on some stock romance plots. This book resolves quite nicely in the end and I hope Tessa Dare revisits these characters in a later novel. In addition to the inheritance storyline, Romancing the Duke also focuses on fandoms, their usefulness, and their innate desire to hope. Many parts of this book felt like an ode to fans and to those who love to fully embody a story they love.

I loved Izzy as a heroine. I was impressed by her determination, courage, and, most of all, her imagination. It’s her imagination that makes a twenty-six-year-old woman fear the dark. It’s what made her accept the fantastic stories of knights and devilish rogues. And it’s what made Izzy visit a strange decrepit castle only to discover she’s know the owner, not Duke Ransom. Also, there are some details about Ransom that I won’t get into here because it would spoil a pretty major plot point! The foils between Izzy and Ransom are fantastic and I loved reading their witty banter. I especially loved that they both grew up throughout the course of the story. This is not a one-sided development. Rather, Izzy and Ransom ultimately learn to work together and to help one another.

Additionally, the side characters in Romancing the Duke were very fun! Ransom’s valet, Duncan, was delightfully devoted, competent, and desperate for some real work. The vicar’s daughter, Miss Pelham, is romantic, determined, and easily excited. There is also a local troupe who enjoys re-enacting scenes from their favorite stories. All in all, these side characters liven up the page and attempt to steal the show. Tessa Dare clearly writes great characters across the board, and does not relegate side characters to mere plot devices.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book! Romancing the Duke broke me out of my reading rut. I flew through this story and loved every minute of the ride. There were a few plot twists that I definitely did not see coming. Tessa Dare is quickly becoming one of my favorite romance writers! I also loved one of her more recent books, The Duchess Deal, and you can read my review here. I would highly recommend this book, especially for fans of Julia Quinn.

This book is…

laugh out loud funny

charming

surprising

steamy

a quick read

Publisher: Avon

Genre: romance

Page Count: 370

ISBN: 0062240196

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read Romancing the Duke? What historical romance would you recommend?

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Review: The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare

My Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

When girl meets Duke, their marriage breaks all the rules…

Since his return from war, the Duke of Ashbury’s to-do list has been short and anything but sweet: brooding, glowering, menacing London ne’er-do-wells by night. Now there’s a new item on the list. He needs an heir—which means he needs a wife. When Emma Gladstone, a vicar’s daughter turned seamstress, appears in his library wearing a wedding gown, he decides on the spot that she’ll do.

His terms are simple:

– They will be husband and wife by night only.

– No lights, no kissing.

– No questions about his battle scars.

– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s pregnant with his heir, they need never share a bed again.

But Emma is no pushover. She has a few rules of her own:

– They will have dinner together every evening.

– With conversation.

– And unlimited teasing.

– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s seen the man beneath the scars, he can’t stop her from falling in love…

My Thoughts:

Even though it’s cheesy, this story really gets off on the right foot with its unusual meet-cute. It felt a bit like the pilot episode of Friends, when Ross whines, “I just want to be married again,” and in walks Rachel in a wedding gown! From there, Tessa Dare really capitalizes on surprises, charm, and witty banter. I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of intrigue, mayhem, and plots occurred in this story! Both protagonists are allowed to state their desires and learn to work with one another, not against the other. I thought this story had some fun twists on the “bodice ripper” genre, especially with Ashbury’s perfunctory rules about sex. It was wonderful to watch Ashbury and Emma tear down one another’s walls and fall in love.

Ashbury and Emma are a delightful pair! I appreciated that Ashbury, who is quite the brooding romantic hero, is given very real reasons for his grouchy demeanor. I loved reading about Ashbury’s attempts to keep his growing affection for Emma in check and his determination to stay away from prying eyes. And then Emma somehow manages to be courageous, determined, and kind-hearted all at the same time. I found her backstory to be believable and heartbreaking, and all I wanted was for her to be happy. And when Ashbury and Emma are happy together? Fireworks appear.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! This was a charming read from start to finish. You’ll be grinning like an idiot and chuckling to yourself the whole way through! This is also a very quick read and is a great book to pick up over the weekend or in between heavier and more emotional stories. I would highly recommend this book, especially if you’re looking for a good place to start with historical romance.

This book is…

laugh out loud funny

a quick read

witty

endearing

sexy

Publisher: Avon

Genre: romance

Page Count: 271

ISBN: 006269720X

Available here from Book Depository.

Have you read The Duchess Deal? What romance novel would you recommend?

I am an affiliate with Book Depository and as such, receive a tiny commission should you choose to click through any of the above links and purchase the book(s). Thank you for supporting A Word is Power!

Review: The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Hi, readers!

Sorry for the lack of a post yesterday and then today’s delayed post. I’ve been working at a super cool literary conference, CCIRA, and my days got away from me. So please enjoy my review of The Wedding Date and I’ll be back to my regular posting schedule next week! Happy Friday, everyone!

My Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A groomsman and his last-minute guest are about to discover if a fake date can go the distance in a fun and flirty debut novel.

Agreeing to go to a wedding with a guy she gets stuck with in an elevator is something Alexa Monroe wouldn’t normally do. But there’s something about Drew Nichols that’s too hard to resist.

On the eve of his ex’s wedding festivities, Drew is minus a plus one. Until a power outage strands him with the perfect candidate for a fake girlfriend…

After Alexa and Drew have more fun than they ever thought possible, Drew has to fly back to Los Angeles and his job as a pediatric surgeon, and Alexa heads home to Berkeley, where she’s the mayor’s chief of staff. Too bad they can’t stop thinking about the other…

They’re just two high-powered professionals on a collision course toward the long distance dating disaster of the century–or closing the gap between what they think they need and what they truly want…

My Thoughts:

I don’t usually read contemporary romances, but this one was so fun! Alexa and Drew’s meet-cute was just sweet enough to make it charming and realistic. I also appreciate that the premise for this book wasn’t too over the top. I think a hefty dose of realism is they key for contemporary romances. And while the plot felt a tad predictable at times, that’s pretty common for romance novels, as part of their charm is always knowing what’s coming next. Alexa and Drew’s conventions felt real, as did their fights and interactions with other people. I think Jasmine Guillory did a fantastic job of crafting a romance novel that felt just fanciful enough, while still feeling like this could happen to you.

I loved Alexa with a passion! Guillory wrote her so well it felt like I was reading about a dear friend. Both Alexa and Drew were witty, smart, and charming. It was great to see them support one another in their careers and actively listen to each other. In my opinion, these are some basic relationship principles that are often overlooked in romance novels. There is often a tendency to focus too much on the romance aspects of the main relationship, as opposed to building a foundation that will allow the central couple to flourish once the novel is finished.

I would also like to take a moment and talk about representation in this book. Not only is this book written by a black woman, but the main couple is mixed race, and Alexa frequently talks about her experiences as a black woman versus Drew’s experiences as a white man. I really respect that Guillory took the time to bring up these important conversations in the book, such as whether Alexa will be the only black person in the room, what happens when men are being racist and sexist, and the importance of men believing women when they talk about their experiences. This seems like such a small thing to bring up, but I’m so pleased that this happened. I think that more books should incorporate these moments that reinforce just how prevalent these issues are. Just because Alexa is the main character in a romance novel doesn’t mean that she’ll never experience racism.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! It’s a fast read, making it a perfect book to pick up over the weekend. I would recommend this book to just about anyone, especially if you’re looking for a great vacation read. This is Guillory’s debut novel but I’m very excited to see what else she’ll write!

This book is…

fun

charming

witty

cozy

heartwarming

Publisher: Berkley Books

Genre: romance

Page Count: 304

ISBN: 0399587667

Available here from Book Depository.

Have you read The Wedding Date? What contemporary romance would you recommend?

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Review: One Good Earl Deserves a Lover by Sarah MacLean

My Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Lady Philippa Marbury is odd. The bespectacled, brilliant fourth daughter of the Marquess of Needham and Dolby cares more for books than balls, flora than fashion and science than the season. Nearly engaged to Lord Castleton, Pippa wants to explore the scandalous parts of London she’s never seen before marriage. And she knows just who to ask: the tall, charming, quick-witted bookkeeper of The Fallen Angel, London’s most notorious and coveted gaming hell, known only as Cross.

Like any good scientist, Pippa’s done her research and Cross’s reputation makes him perfect for her scheme. She wants science without emotion—the experience of ruination without the repercussions of ruination. And who better to provide her with the experience than this legendary man? But when this odd, unexpected female propositions Cross, it’s more than tempting… and it will take everything he has to resist following his instincts—and giving the lady precisely what she wants.

My Thoughts:

I thought the plot quite intriguing. MacLean does a great job here of building suspense and suspicion around Cross and for what exactly he feels the need to punish himself. Because of the way A Rogue By Any Other Name ends, I already knew the initial premise of this novel. But that didn’t make it any less enjoying! Pippa’s plea for Cross to aid in her research paved the way for plenty of clever jokes and turns of phrase. I also found the ending quite surprising. I won’t give any spoilers, but they were in such a bind that I honestly had no idea how Cross and Pippa would work their way out and end up happily together. But MacLean delivered and the ending was shocking and pleasing, leading to the promised happy ending.

Pippa is fantastic. I was initially worried that she wouldn’t be quite as “odd” as the summary makes her out to be, but MacLean wrote a dynamic character who would be, in fact, odd to society at this time. Pippa is clever, witty, and endearing. So, too, is Cross. I admit that Cross took some time to grow on me. He wasn’t one of my favorite characters in A Rogue By Any Other Name, so I honestly sort of dismissed him the first time around. But ultimately I appreciated his commitment, witty retorts, and love for his friends and family. Also, as this book focused on Pippa, we were afforded a handful of lines and sightings of the happy couple, Bourne and Penelope, from the first book in this series, which I greatly enjoyed.

What really surprised me with this book was that we heard much more from characters who were not wealthy, sex workers, and nefarious social climbers. It was interesting to hear from some of the sex workers, referred to in the book as prostitutes, as many of them seemed to enjoy their lifestyle and the protections that Cross provided. That being said, the sex workers quoted in this novel chose that profession and were not forced into it for one reason or another. So I’m sure that less happy and poorly treated sex workers existed and I’d be curious to hear their points of view. was much more language in this book about marrying because there were no other options, due to disability or a poorer family, and forced marriages. I’m glad that MacLean took the time to include more of these stories in this novel, as these stories were often the reality for men and women during this time. Not every match was a love match, and many were purely for societal gain.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I found this book to be delightful! I enjoyed the dynamic between Pippa and Cross quite a bit, although I do not love Cross quite so much as I love Bourne from A Rogue By Any Other Name (review here and available here). This is a fast read (I read it over the course of two days) and a fun read from start to finish. I would definitely recommend this book, and this series overall.

This book is…

charming

clever

surprising

engaging

funny

Publisher: Avon

Genre: romance

Page Count: 373

ISBN: 0062068539

Available here from Book Depository.

Have you read One Good Earl Deserves a Lover? What romance series do you recommend?

I am an affiliate with Book Depository and as such, receive a tiny commission should you choose to click through any of the above links and purchase the book(s). Thank you for supporting A Word is Power!

Review: A Rogue By Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A decade ago, the Marquess of Bourne was cast from society with nothing but his title. Now a partner in London’s most exclusive gaming hell, the cold, ruthless Bourne will do whatever it takes to regain his inheritance—including marrying perfect, proper Lady Penelope Marbury.

A broken engagement and years of disappointing courtships have left Penelope with little interest in a quiet, comfortable marriage, and a longing for something more. How lucky that her new husband has access to such unexplored pleasures.

Bourne may be a prince of London’s underworld, but he vows to keep Penelope untouched by its wickedness—a challenge indeed as the lady discovers her own desires, and her willingness to wager anything for them… even her heart.

My Thoughts:

I thought the plot was quite engaging. I quite enjoyed the arch of the fallen hero, attempting to regain what he lost. Within this particular story, I especially appreciated the numerous references to Lucifer, hell, and angels. I thought it added an additional layer to this book. I was more interested in Bourne’s attempts to repair his relationship with Penelope than with his attempts to regain his lost property. Bourne and Penelope went through just the right amount of hurdles and made up just enough times to make this a very satisfying relationship.

The characters in this story are fantastic! From heroes, villains, and hilariously awkward side characters, I think MacLean did a great job of making this world come to life. Bourne is, without a doubt, a star. I actually teared up at some of his heartfelt confessions. He is devilishly handsome and complicated and I adore his relationship with Penelope, who is equally fantastic. She has such tenacity, strength, and humor. I honestly wish she were real because I think we’d be great friends!

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book! I already put the second book in this series on hold at the library. I was very pleasantly surprised by this book, even more so because I picked it up on a whim at the library! I think it’s important you know that I actually delayed the blog post I originally scheduled to go live today in order to publish this review as soon as possible. This book is just that good! This was my first book by MacLean but it will certainly not be my last.

This book is…

delightful

sexy

surprising

intriguing

engaging

Publisher: Avon

Genre: romance

Page Count: 386

ISBN: 0062068520

Available here from Book Depository

Have you read A Rogue By Any Other Name? What’s your favorite pleasure read?

I am an affiliate with Book Depository and as such, receive a tiny commission should you choose to click through any of the above links and purchase the book(s). Thank you for supporting A Word is Power!

Review: A Duke in Shining Armor by Loretta Chase

My Rating: 2/5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Not all dukes are created equal. Most are upstanding members of Society. And then there’s the trio known as Their Dis-Graces.

Hugh Philemon Ancaster, seventh Duke of Ripley, will never win prizes for virtue. But even he draws the line at running off with his best friend’s bride. All he’s trying to do is recapture the slightly inebriated Lady Olympia Hightower and return her to her intended bridegroom.

For reasons that elude her, bookish, bespectacled Olympia is supposed to marry a gorgeous rake of a duke. The ton is flabbergasted. Her family’s ecstatic. And Olympia? She’s climbing out of a window, bent on a getaway. But tall, dark, and exasperating Ripley is hot on her trail, determined to bring her back to his friend. For once, the world-famous hellion is trying to do the honorable thing.

So why does Olympia have to make it so deliciously difficult for him . . . ?

My Thoughts:

I enjoy reading romance novels. Really, I do! I find them to be a wonderful example of escapism. I typically read historical ones and delight in reading about elaborate wardrobes, outdated codes of behavior, and the eventual union between two headstrong individuals who swore they would never get married. And yet, when I read A Duke in Shining Armor, I found myself quite disappointed.

The characters are uninspired. Our hero, Ripley, is supposed to be a despicable arrogant man. Spoiler alert? He’s charming, confident, and borderline boring. The plot is slow going. It took FOREVER for Ripley and Olympia to arrive at their destination with about 500 unnecessary speed bumps along the way. Considering that this book’s book is a runaway bride, there’s absolutely no running or real sense of urgency. And the romance doesn’t even sizzle! It took far too long for Ripley and Olympia to kiss, thus robbing this reader of any enjoyment.

I think my biggest issue with this book is that it felt remarkably rooted in patriarchal norms and standards. And yes, all historical romance novels are purely based on their setting, but this one actually contained a duel. An honest to god duel over a woman occurred because each man had to defend her honor. To make matters worse, the duel wasn’t even exciting. The whole thing was eye-roll inducing. This book also feature a considerable amount of language surrounding the notion that there exists a certain kind of woman who can tame a man. This idea is inherently sexist because women do not exist to be gatekeepers for male behavior. What’s even more troubling is that this book presents that idea as reasonable.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I thought this book was mediocre. It was by no means bad, but it also wasn’t great. This was my first book by Chase and I don’t think I’ll continue with more of her work. As such, I would not recommend this book.

This book is…

slow

patriarchal

easily skimmed

lackluster in the description of romance

forgettable

Publisher: Avon

Genre: fiction

Page Count: 400

ISBN: 0062457381

Available here from Book Depository.

Have you read A Duke in Shining Armor? Do you enjoy reading romance novels?

I am an affiliate with Book Depository and as such, receive a tiny commission should you choose to click through any of the above links and purchase the book(s). Thank you for supporting A Word is Power!