She was Ellen Burns, and she was going to help destroy the Confederacy.
I'm wait late to the party on this one but, oh yes, do I agree with the majority of you all, this is my highest rated book of the year. Our heroine Elle definitely is the stand-out character, the hero Malcolm was very overshadowed in the beginning but began to shine brighter in the middle and end. Working on behalf of the Union in a ring of spies called the Loyal League, Elle is placed in a southern senator's household as a mute slave to gain and pass on as much information as she can. Malcolm spies for the Pinkerton Agency and is currently posing as a Union soldier. Malcolm is immediately drawn to Elle, a bit insta-lust, but what saves their romance from my personal dislike of insta, is Elle's thoughts and feelings. When they first meet, Elle is a slave and Malcolm a Union soldier but even after their undercover roles are revealed, Elle is a black woman and Malcolm a white man in 1862 America.
[...]one wrong word from him and she would lose her life, whereas his sex and skin color inoculated him from harm at her hand.
I've complained many times about forced angst or conflict in stories contrived to keep heroes and heroines apart, yeah, nothing forced here. The author deeply provides us with Elle's thoughts and emotions about the danger of having feelings for Malcolm. This is shown not only personally, the immediate bodily danger to Elle and the personal stake she has in the Civil War but also outwardly, the encompassing work they are doing for the Union and the importance of the information they have to pass on. In beginning notes I took, I mentioned that the heroine was crotchety, which I appreciated because the heroes always get to be the surly ones fighting the romance and struggled with because of personal thoughts of just accept this sexy awesome dude already. As the story went on though, the author does such an amazing job putting you in the historical context, place, and time, and it becomes felt how the stakes are very real for Elle. This isn't a light falling in love but a hard hand gripping leap of faith.
“Help me to understand,” he said. He was still asking of her when he should be giving, but he didn’t know how else to proceed.
“We don’t want revenge, Malcolm.” She looked at him like he was the densest bastard to ever walk the earth. “We want life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, just like any damned fool in these United States is entitled to so long as he isn’t Black or Red. So you can keep your outrage. All I can do is try to make a difference.”
This didn't have a lot of overall reaching Civil War tidbits dropped in, it is more of an immediate spotlight on how networks of spies could gain knowledge and help their side and one take on how a women in Elle's position could have fallen in love. I don't often mention how a character's emotions and thoughts help set the time period for me but Elle was a huge component for placing me in the story. The clothing, atmosphere, incidentals, and society were all there, too. Tied into the spying for information battle and danger, was some awesome ironclad ships and blockade talk. This may seem like a weird thing to get excited about but this is why I read historicals, to get little nuggets of information to gain knowledge and understanding with a feel of the time.
This was who she was when she was allowed to be free from fear.
Malcolm didn't quite leap off the pages for me, due to spying being a waiting game for info at times there was some slowness, and I would have liked some outer happenings (more big Civil War happenings going on, more of the Loyal League people, structure, and happenings). I know this is first in series, so maybe some information was held back about the Loyal League but in a contrarily way (I complain a lot about first in a series syndrome and how authors focus too much on setting up characters for future books) I could have stood for more character presence from ones that will star or appear in future installments in the series. Secondary characters gave without stealing the show, this "little" line from Mary: “I was just worried, is all,” she said, adjusting the ragged lace trim on Elle’s sleeve. “You remind me of my daughter sometimes. She had eyes just like yours . . . Caffrey sold her down South to pay off a debt. Every time I look at you, I wonder if she gonna grow up to be as pretty as you. And I hope she won’t.”
"I hope she won't", devastating. There was also Timothy, who Elle feared his judgement about her relationship with Malcolm but he informs her that he is part Seminole and a host of other characters that show that "kind" people can participate and be blind to atrocities.
This book made the list of several best of 2017 lists and I completely see why. The historical richness is great, there are some awesome emotional and thought provoking on fire comments/commentary, and the consequences, angst, and attraction between Elle and Malcolm are felt, but read this book for Elle. Her anger and underlining pain give way to such a well of strength; she's the heroine you want to read about, hope you're a little bit like, and inspire to be.
(The author notes that some of her characters were based on real life people: Elle was based on Mary Bowser, Malcolm by Timothy Webster, and Robert Grand by Robert Smalls. There was also a reference guide of books the author used for research in the back. Historicals with history! Give me more historicals like this)
Divided up into Contemporary, Historical, and I have no idea (Fantasy usually) here are the lists of some of my friends' top ten favorite books. I tried to query friends that were younger and older than me, who's favorites were the same and different sub-genres than me, and have been reading romance for years and just started. I'm really pleased with the variety of recs that came out of this.
Apologies for how long this took me, whew, it was way more work to get the information organized and formatted in a way that was readable. I also wanted to make it printable for people that didn't want to have to keep returning to my post.
Thanks to everyone again for the time and effort they took to send me their top reads, whether it was 20 books because they just couldn't cut it down to ten or simply author names because they enjoy their whole backlist. Can't wait to dive into this list :)
Contributors to the list (click on names to go to their Goodreads page or BookLikes:
Comments after rec are from contributor.
Not able to Categorize
(Without reading the books, I couldn't decide if they were leaning more Hist or Contemp, usually fantasy or sci-fi in this category.)
Anastasi, Jess - Damage Control (Syfy romance)
Bardugo, Leigh - Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom
Cashore, Kristin - Graceling
Clare, Cassandra - City of Bones series
Clarke, Cassandra Rose - The Assassin's Curse series of 2 books (Fantasy, YA)
Coe, Cara - The Hidden Princess
Coe, Cara - The White Forest
Cook, Nickolas - Alice in Zombieland (romance is secondary in this book but I love Ali and Cole)
Derr, Megan - Tournament of Losers
Devan, Grace - Radiance
Feehan, Christine - Burning Wild (Jake is everything)
Harrison, Thea - Dragon Bound
Harrison, Thea - Kinked
Lane, Jex - Captive
Mafi, Tahereh - Shatter Me
McBride, Belinda - The Tenth Muse
McFarland, Caitlyn - Dragonsworn series of 3 books (NA, syfy/fantasy)
Meade, Rachael - Vampire Academy (plus the series as a whole)
Meyer, Marisa - Cinder (plus the series as a whole)
O'Neill, Morgan - The Thornless Rose (Favorite time travel)
Owens, Robin D. - Heart Quest
Pacat, C.S, - Captive Prince
Peters, Elizabeth - The Vicky Bliss series (Borrower of the Night, Street of the Five Moons, Silhouette in Scarlet, Trojan Gold, Night Train to Memphis, The Laughter of Dead Kings. I enjoy the Amelia Peabody books, but I liked Vicky's adventures better.)
Roberson, Jennifer - Sword Dancer (and sequels) (Scifi/fantasy with an unusual dose of romance and two utterly unforgettable characters.)
Rowling, J.K. - Harry Potter (all)
Saenz, Benjamin Alire - Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (these guys stole my heart)
Shannon, Samantha - The Bone Season (plus the series as a whole)
Singh, Nalini - Angel's Blood (whole series)
Singh, Nalini - Psy Changeling series (there's too many books from the series that I like but each book is always close to 5 stars)
Smith, R. Lee - Land of the Beautiful Dead (Urban Fantasy/Dystopian? Hard to categorize but a story that stayed with me long after I finished it)
Sparks, Kerrelyn - Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon
Spencer, Wen - A Brother's Price
Untamed, JanJan - The Doomsday Papers
Wright, Suzanne - Feral Sins (only this one of the series, the others eh)
(I typically consider this any story taking place from 1950ish to present times.)
Aaron, Celia - Blackwood
Anders, Natasha - The Unwanted Wife
Ashley, Kristen - Rock Chick (only this one of the Rock Chicks I couldn't get through the rest of her series too repetitive)
Ashley, Kristen - Sweet Dreams (one of her best IMO)
Ashton, Avril - (Watch Me) Break You
Ayala, Rachelle - Playing for the Save
Barry, Emma, & Turner, Genevieve - A Midnight Clear
Black, Incy - Hard to Forget (R. suspense)
Bette, Kimberly A. - Held
Bowen, Sarina - The Year We Fell Down (NA, sports)
Bowen, Sarina, & Kennedy, Elle - 2 recs for Him and Us (LGBT, M/M, NA, sports) (read this twice in four months and am not against another reread)
Brockmann, Suzanne - Get Lucky
Brockmann, Suzanne - Gone Too Far
Carr, K. - Home
Carr, M.C. - Birdie
Carter, Chance - Royal Engagement
Chauhan, Anuja - Those Pricey Thakur Girls
Christine, Lee - In Safe Arms (R. suspense)
Clayton, Alice - Wallbanger (great romantic comedy)
Cole, Alyssa - Let It Shine
Cole, Kresley - 2 recs for A Hunger Like No Other
Cole, Kresley - Dark Needs at Night's Edge
Cole, Kresly - Demon From the Dark
Craig, Christie - Shut Up and Kiss Me
Crusie, Jennifer - (pretty much anything, her brand of romance ensnares me)
Crusie, Jennifer - 2 recs for Bet Me (longtime perennial re-read)
Cullinan, Heidi - Carry the Ocean
Fitzpatrick, Huntley - My Life Next Door
Foster, Melissa - Tru Blue
Frost, Jeaniene - 2 recs for Halfway to the Grave (I wish this series had never ended, whole series)
Frost, Sosie - Beauty and the Blitz
Gerard, Cindy - Into the Dark (R. suspense)
Gerard, Cindy - To the Brink
Gibson, Rachel - Truly, Madly, Yours
Green, John - Fault in Our Stars
Grey, Autumn - Breaking Gravity (naughty but tortured teacher romance, NA)
Griffin, Laura - Beyond Limits (R. suspense)
Haddon, Mark - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Han, Jennifer - To All the Boys I've Loved Before
Harkins, M.K. - Intentional
Harmon, Amy - 2 recs for Making Faces (when I need a good cry)
Harvey-Berrick, Jane - The Education of Sebastian and The Education of Caroline
Hazard, Alessandra - Just a Bit Ruthless
Henry, Lisa - The Island
Higgins, Kristan - Catch of the Day
Hoover, Colleen - Hopeless
Hoover, Colleen - It Ends With Us
Hoover, Colleen - Ugly Love
Howard, Linda - 2 recs for Mr. Perfect (favorite romantic suspense) (although I'm very pissed off at LH at the moment, I couldn't leave this one off the list)
Hype, Jenn - Simply Crazy
Jackson, Brenda - Westmorelands
James, Julie - Just the Sexiest Man Alive
James, Julie - Something About You
Janzen, Tara - Crazy Hot
Jones, Darynda - First Grave on the Right - (I love this whole series, it mostly revolves around the same couple)
Kelly, Brynn - Edge of Truth
Kennedy, Elle - Fragment
Keplinger, Kody - The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend
Kinsella, Sophie - Confessions of a Shopaholic (even if in new installments Rebecca has gotten on my nerves with her refusal to learn from her past I still over the first in the series)
Kinsella, Sophie - Finding Aubrey
Kleypas, LIsa - Smooth Talking Stranger
Lanyon, Josh - Death of a Pirate King
Laurenston, Shelly - The Beast in Him (PNR/Shifter, just funny and one of her best)
Layne, Lauren - Walk of Shame
Llosa, Mario Vargas - The Bad Girl
Loch, Kathryn - Haunted Heart
Lyga, Barry - I Hunt Killers series
Malone, Lily - So Far Into You (chick-lit)
Manning, Sarra - You Don't Have to Say You Love Me
March, Meghan - Beneath this Mask and Beneath these Scars
McAvoy, J.J. - That Thing Between Eli & Gwen
McDonald, Jeanne - Compass
McKenna, Cara - Willing Victim
McKinley, Brooke - Shades of Grey
McLean, Jay - More Than This
McNaught, Judith - Perfect
Nelson, Latrivia S. - Dmitry's Closet (both series)
Nelson, Latrivia S. - Ivy's Twisted Vine
Pace, Pepper - Stranded!
Park, Jessica - Flat Out Love
Phillips, Susan Elizabeth - Dream a Little Dream
Phillips, Susan Elizabeth - 2 recs for Kiss An Angel
Phillips, Susan Elizabeth - Match Me If You Can
Powell, Liz - Hunted
Rai, Alisha - Hate to Want You
Reed, Jamie - Burning Emerald
Reed, Jamie - Fading Amber
Reed, Jamie - Living Violet
Reid, Penny - 2 recs for Beard Science
Reid, Penny - Neanderthal Seeks Human (when I need that touch of awkward/funny)
Rinyu, Beth - Thursday Afternoon
Robbs, J.D. - 2 recs for In Death series (because- Roarke! futuristic)
Romig, Aleatha - Consequences (whole series)
Roux, Abigail - Divide & Conquer
Schlosser, Jamie - Outcast (The Good Guys)
Scott, Kylie - Play (Rocker, for those times I just want to laugh)
Shalvis, Jill - Lucky in Love
Shalvis, Jill - Rainy Day Friends (new favorite)
Shalvis, Jill - Simply Irresistible
Sheehan, Madeline - Unbeautifully
Sheehan, Madeline - Undeniable
Sheridan, Mia - Stinger
Singh, Nalini - Rock Hard
Sjoberg, Lori - Grave Vengeance (paranormal)
Smith, Maureen - The Swede
St. Pierre, Raven - The Complete Free Falling series
Swain, Shea - The Awakening of the Halo
Swain, Shea - The Binding of the Halo
Swain, Shea - Chained to the Devil's Son
Thompson, Nancy S. - Stirred
Thorne, Sally - 4 recs for The Hating Game (new favorite)
Turner, Twyla - Chasing Day series
Untamed, JanJan - The View From the Bottom
Ward, J.R. - 2 recs for Dark Lover (favorite PNR)
Ward, J.R. - Lover Awakened
Webber, Tammara - Easy and Breakable
Young, Samantha - On Dublin Street (again I adore the series however the couples change each book and Joss and Braedon are my favorite)
Zabo, Anna - Just Business
Zapata, Mariana - Kulti (it took a long time for me to fall in love with this one but once I did there was no stopping it)
Zapata, Mariana - The Wall of Winnipeg and Me (when I need that slow burn)
(I typically consider this any story taking place from dawn of humans to 1940ish)
Anderson, Catherine - Summer Breeze
Ashley, Jennifer - The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie (just love it so much)
Austen, Jane - Persuasion
Austen, Jane - Pride and Prejudice (I know, I know--but--Mr. Darcy!--Classic)
Brockway, Connie - Bridal Favors
Brockway, Connie - The Other Guy's Bride
Bronte, Charlotte - Jane Eyre
Canham, Marsha - Through a Dark Mist and In a Shadow of Midnight
Cleeton, Chanel - Next Year in Havana (women's fiction)
Dare, Tessa - Any Duchess Will Do
Dare, Tessa - Romancing the Duke
de Blasis, Celeste - The Tiger's Woman (MY FIRST HISTORICAL ROMANCE! I will NEVER forget it. It's bodice rippery, but back in the day I devoured this book-several times.)
Donati, Sara - Into the Wilderness
Duran, Meredith - The Duke of Shadows
Enoch, Suzanne - England's Perfect Hero
Garwood, Julie - The Bride
Garwood, Julie - For the Roses
Garwood, Julie - The Gift (funny and sentimental choice.)
Garwood, Julie - Ransom
Goodman, Jo - Sweet Fire
Graham, Winston - Poldark series (The 1970s BBC production of Poldark, with Robin Ellies, Angharad Rees, Ralph Bates, Jill Townsend, Clive Francis, Kevin McNally
Making Poldark, by Robin Ellis
Poldark's Cornwall, by Winston Graham
I can't rave about these enough. I watched half of the first episode of the recent BBC remake with Aidan Turner and was completely turned off. Graham served as an advisor to the 1970s version, and it was much more faithful to the books. And I'm sorry, but Aidan Turner is NOT Robin Ellis!!!!!!!)
Gracie, Anne - The Perfect Stranger
Grasso, Patricia - Desert Eden
Gregory, Lisa - The Rainbow Season (Both of these books featured ordinary people living ordinary lives, rather than dukes and kings and pirates)
Guhrke, Laura Lee - Conor's Way
Heath, Lorraine - Always to Remember (favorite western historical)
Heyer, Georgette - Cotillon
Hoyt, Elizabeth - Duke of Sin
Hoyt, Elizabeth - To Seduce a Sinner
Hunter, Madeline - The Charmer
Ibbtoson, Eva - A Countess Below Stairs
James, Eloisa - This Duchess of Mine
Johnson, Susan - Sinful
Kelly, Carla - Marrying the Captain
Kennedy, Kris - Claiming Her
Kinsale, Laura - The Shadow and the Star
Kleypas, Lisa - 3 recs for Devil in Winter
Kleypas, Lisa - 2 recs for Love in the Afternoon
Kleypas, Lisa - Marrying Winterborne
Kleypas, Lisa - Mine Till Midnight
Kleypas, Lisa - Secrets of a Summer Night
Kleypas, Lisa - 2 recs for Tempt Me at Twilight (basically the whole Hathway series is my favorite!)
Koen, Karleen - Through a Glass Darkly
Krahn, Betina - The Book of True Desires
Krahn, Betina - The Last Bachelor
Ladd, Sarah E.
Laurens, Stephanie - The Promise in a Kiss
Leigh, Susannah - Wine of the Dreamers (I'm not much into time travel/reincarnation,but one was slightly different. Similar, in a way, to Anya Seton's The Green Darkness. I haven't read it in a long time, maybe 20 years, so it's due to be taken off the shelf again.)
Lindsey, Johanna - Gentle Rogue
London, Julia - The Perils of Pursuing a Prince
Long, Julie Anne - The Secret to Seduction
Mathewson, R.L. - Truce
Matthews, Mimi - The Lost Letter
Marai, Sandor - Embers
Marillier, Juliet - Daughter of the Forest
Mastretta, Angeles - Lovesick
McNaught, Judith - Once and Always
Mederios, Teresa - Thief of Hearts
Morsi, Pamela - Courting Miss Hattie
O'Connell, Ellen - Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold
Osborne, Maggie - The Promise of Jenny Jones
Proctor, Candice - Beyond Sunrise
Putney, Mary Jo - Dearly Beloved (This one is controversial. A lot of readers hate it because of how it starts, but I loved it)
Quick, Amanda - Dangerous
Quinn, Paula - Laird of the Mist
Quinn, Julia - The Duke and I
Quinn, Julia - 2 recs for Romancing Mr. Bridgerton
Rasheed, Lelia - Cinders & Sapphires
Raybourn, Deanna - A Spear of Summer Grass
Shupe, Joanna - Magnate
Simmons, Paullina - The Bronze Horseman series
Smith-Saxe, Coral - Enchantment (absolutely delightful, one of my all-time favorites AND it has one of the most gorgeous covers EVER)
Spencer, LaVyrle - Hummingbird (Though I had some issues with Hummingbird, I loved the laugh out loud humor. Both of these books featured ordinary people living ordinary lives rather than dukes and kings and pirates)
Stewart, Mary - The Ivy Tree (favorite vintage)
Tavares, Miguel Sousa - Equator
Thomas, Sherry - Ravishing the Heiress
Untamed, JanJan - The Magnificent Miss Broadway
Wallace, Bill - Buffalo Gal
Westcott, Jan - The Hepburn
White, Leslie Turner - Lord Johnnie
Woodwiss, Kathleen - Ashes in the Wind
Yerby, Frank - The Saracen Blade
He’d always prided himself as a friend and ally to every man who sought equality, but was that true? Or had he imagined himself a savior instead?
She was quiet for a long while, struggling against her warring emotions. Their brief contact had felt good, and somehow right, but anything further was out of the question. It was simple as that. It angered her that he could speak of the possibility of more so casually. But of course he could; for men like him, an infatuation with a black woman would be seen as a lark. But the ways it could ruin her were endless.
Thank you to Hilda for the recommendation!
This is listed as YA and NA, which made me a little nervous along with our characters being in high school. LOL, is all I have to say to that. Granted, I did not got to an uber rich school but this story and characters did not read like a YA, more NA. I constantly had to keep reminding myself that they weren't even in college yet, I think they read like 26ish or so.
Very angst-y (she strips to pay her mother's doctor bills at age 15), very sexy times (heavy petting all over the place), and very drama (suicide mother, secret parking lot fighting, surprise inheritance, I want you but can't have you). Basically, this was soap opera cracktastic drama that I inhaled. When it was all over, a cliffhanger!, had me running to get the second in the series but giving some time and distance, I feel a little empty from it but it did entertain while I was in the moment.
Some soap opera, some Cruel Intentions, and some brewing under the surface mystery. Get yourself a bowl of popcorn and wine and give yourself over to the moment. Just be prepared for a cliffhanger.
Thanks to Quirky Omega for the recommendation!
Fluffy and goofy skimming romance that was a fun little escape. He plays baseball, we get some pitches thrown to the catcher and first baseman, she's a flight instructor, we get some sexist pilots not wanting to learn from her, and a whole lot of '80s movie quotes/references with some quick cute romance. Secondary characters bring a little tiny bit of angst but this is mostly cute non-taxing escapism.
There was something essential and elemental to watching a man perform physical labor, something that hit her as hard as a horse kicked. Instead of an explosion of pain, though, warmth blossomed inside, a flame that somehow unfurled in her belly.
Fascinated, she watched a droplet of sweat quiver at the base of Mr. Crosby’s neck until it slipped into the furrow that delineated his spine and slid down to the waistband of his breeches. For some reason, that inner flame fed on the sight and grew hot enough to scorch.
Thank you to Shanelle for the recommendation!
Started off really good with a rock and hard place heroine and dark, cold, mysterious, but standing up for her hero. Has a historical feel with setting and clothing but dialogue is modern. The world building was shaky at times and there were little contradictory things (hero has short cropped hair and then hair reaches his collar and bangs in the face) throughout. Heroine grew to be TSTL with her decision making and forced lack of seeing a character for who he really was, eye-rolling. This is first person from the heroine and I again missed any insight from the hero.
Something interesting here but felt a raw and unrefined.
Seri stared into Prince Graeme’s coldly polite eyes and wanted to laugh. Revered and beloved by all, except her cold-as-a-statue betrothed. “I am Vidari,” she protested again, the objection sounding hollow even to her own ears. “I am not Athoni. By your own laws I cannot be a citizen, much less royalty.”
“The laws of the One God are irrefutable, even by royalty themselves,” Prince Graeme interjected. “I am afraid that choice is not an option.” His flat words sounded so final.
A frightened whimper slid past her teeth. “I want to go home.”
His polite, cold smile never faltered. “You are home.”
Thanks so much to Paige Bookdragon for the recommendation.
I'm 35yrs old, so I don't think I always mesh well with YA because I'm simply just older. When I was in my early teens I remember reading "Say Goodnight, Gracie" and "Don't Die, My Love", I cried and threw myself into the sadness of it all. Now some of the issues I can't help but be "ugh, get over it", "hahahahha, together in complete love and happiness from freshman year to forever" (I know it happens don't @ me), and just the general over indulgence, and scared of the newness, are kind of missed by me.
This is all first person from the heroine which is also hard for me because I like insight from other characters. I found myself more interested in the grown-ups issues, lol. I also thought some real tough issues were glossed over, there were two teen pregnancies portrayed as great gifts instead of giving them the levity they deserved, and we had a bit of a boy's love is a cure all and the key to happiness.
The ending was rushed with bombardments of events, events that felt completely contrived and manipulated for emotion; the whole "so tragic its beautiful" syndrome that has some calling Rome and Juliet a romance when it is two early teen kids killing themselves. The writing is captivating at times but manipulated emotion isn't real to me, boys and babies don't cure depression or act as a cure all, and I missed having a pov from Finn. I think I've just passed these types of books on by.
Just finished sorting all the recs got into Contemp, Hist, & Fantasy/Para/I haven't read book so I don't know time period to put in. This took waaaaay longer than anticipated. Going to alphabetize, clean up the list and then you'll have all the burst your tbr recs. Soon, my friends!
For my comments and quotes while I read, a way more in depth look at my thoughts, Buddy Read The Flesh and the Devil
The beginning of this was really enjoyable, there was a great eerie Gothic tone that had mysteries and villains seemingly in the shadows everywhere with our young, extremely sheltered heroine Juana betrothed to a lunatic. Unfortunately, the mysteries and villains get wrapped up perfectly quickly and a lot of things happen disappointingly off-screen.
The middle introduces new villains but again, dealt with pretty quickly and from there things kind of meander into an unceremoniously mellow with added too perfect bow moment ending. The romantic relationship between the leads started off with some heat, spark, and burn as they clashed but then in Bodice Ripper fashion the hero rapes the heroine (the author clearly writes this as rape with minimal Juana foggily in her mind thinking her body could be responding) and with not a lot of emotional growth/connection featuring later in the story between the two, I lost their beginning chemistry.
The author did a fantastic job of setting the place and time, there was some inserted political talk, but my favorite was Juana's personal growth. Juana goes from being a, purposefully, sheltered naive girl to a solid capable woman and the author did a wonderful job showcasing all the bumps in the road it took her to get there.
His look, the way his entire face tightened in hungry, appreciative lines made me feel like something more, made me feel like I deserved to be worshiped and maybe even loved. If that was how he looked at his girl, then I never wanted to be anything else.
Cyrus Warner had just as many control issues as I did, which was why we both liked to test the other’s limits and neither one of us liked to fail.
This was pretty different from the usual Crownover stories I have read and I not only applaud the author for trying something new but I really enjoyed it.
Mostly first person from heroine's pov, she's a bit cranky, has some trust issues, and been burned but I liked her tough cookie act up against our hero. Hero's a cool, straight-shooter, sexily self-assured, and wary of love cowboy who wears motorcycle boots. They played off each other well and had some hot scenes (who knew campground showers could be such a scorching sex setting).
Hero's brothers with heroine's bestfriend feature heavily, they're stars of the next books in the series and worked great to add and round out the story. There's some mystery/action/suspense that will keep the pages turning. I thought the last 1/3 or so of the ending was slowed things way down and there were even some sex scenes I started to skim, I felt like the story dragged on a bit too much and the action and danger our characters found themselves in got fantastical and instead of feeling sad/worried, it lost me.
Otherwise, this was a great something different and I'm definitely going to continue reading in the series.
Lost the Gothic feel but a new villain has risen up and hoping for a strong finish.
For comments and quotes - Buddy Read The Flesh and the Devil
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
When his godfather leaves his house to him, Hartley's reputation gets banded about in less than complimentary terms. Feeling shunned, Hartley finds himself losing servants and becoming a bit of a shut-in.
Sam just wants to see his brother and his friend Kate finally get married and when he learns Kate fears a scandalous painting of her becoming public knowledge, he sets out to find it for her.
When Hartley and Sam meet, the spark is instant but circumstances, emotions, and life are going to give them a bumpy road.
Hartley went utterly still as he contemplated how thoroughly ruinous this was going to be for both of them.
Second in the Seducing the Sedgwicks, a series following along the Sedgwick brothers, this book focuses on Hartley, the brother who is deeply conflicted about how he sees trading sexual favors with his godfather for money to help his family. He doesn’t like to be touched and has a little bit of a prickly personality. Maybe because Sam was such a strong character but Hartley didn't leap off the pages for me. He's pretty self-contained and we do get a couple scenes with two of his brothers that highlight his personality but overall, he didn't grab me.
There was no reason for Sam to be thinking of Sedgwick at all, in fact. He wasn’t even that handsome unless you had a liking for fragile-looking men with fussy clothes.
Sam was the character that shone the brightest to me, he's a strong character but in the most gentle of ways. He has a similar shy, hidden aspect of his personality like Hartley, which due to their sexuality in their place and time is a necessity, but he also has rise to the front proclivity for, simply, caring. It is not an overdone martyr syndrome but no thought, generous, and loving way he makes his choices. The way he acts, responds, and encourages Hartley, is what make this story shine and will fill your heart.
And while only a fool would believe that a kitchen table supper between a rich man, a black boxer, and a three-legged dog could be the beginning of something good, maybe Sam was more foolish than he thought.
The writing showcased here is good and the ease of conversations and interactions between the main couple and secondary characters is the escape into fictional worlds above average quality that will suck you into the world. The first in the series, It Takes Two Tumble, I thought did a great job with the emotional growth in the lead's relationship, here I found that aspect lacking in the beginning. Hartley and Sam's sexual relationship develops pretty quickly, the emotional layers were a ways behind and as a consequence, I found their romance lacking. The sexual play scenes start very early and then when they do have a more solid emotional connection, I thought their sex scene was a bit short and abrupt and didn't deliver the impact (Hartley overcoming his touch issues) I was wanting to feel. The ending did provide some wonderful simple talking between Sam and Hartley that I wish had replaced some of the earlier sex scenes as I felt this showed their attraction and closeness more.
Nobody should have that kind of power over anyone, no matter how much money they had or if they had a title in front their name.
This story is heavily about relationships, the outer story and catalyst for getting Sam and Hartley together involving paintings is made to seem important only to be casually pushed to the background for most of the story and then a little rushed importance at the end. The secondary characters are superb (love Alf, Hartley's sort of valet) and add immensely to the story and world. This is one of the more realistic fiction romances with social issues realistically playing a role. If you're looking for a lot of action or adventure, this wouldn't be it but if you want sweet and aching emotion, you'll want to dive in.