Top Ten Tuesday – Best of 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.  Each week features a different theme and whatever genre you are into, it works!  So this week’s theme is the top books I have read so far in 2015.  I have to say the past month’s worth of top ten topics have been somewhat repetitive, but hey, I am always up for sharing great books with others!

Here are some awesome books I have read so far this year:

hero

Hero by Samantha Young

You REALLY can’t go wrong with this book.  It has all the things I really love – a super hot businessman, quick and smart dialogue, great setting and awesome chemistry.

how to marry a royal highlander

How to Marry a Royal Highlander by Vanessa Kelly

I just read this book and I found it so much fun!  I have a serious crush on Highlanders and this book fed my obsession.  This is the best one so far in the series and I really loved the characters!

hardwired

Hardwired Series by Meredith Wild

I read the first two books a couple of years ago, but recently caught up on the whole series.  This series is like taking the best elements of Fifty Shades and Crossfire and coming up with a unique and interesting concept.  Great series!

taming the rakeTaming the Rake by Monica McCarty

No list would be complete without some love sent to Monica McCarty.  I just adore her books and this Regency one is a departure for her, but not to worry – it’s excellent!

manwhore

Manwhore by Katy Evans

Loved this book and I can’t wait for the net one to come out!  Check out this book and the best part is that there is more to come!

a highlanders passion

A Highlander’s Passion by Vonnie Davis

If you haven’t checked out this series yet, get on it!  It’s got shapeshifters in it, Highland men and awesome sex.

while you were spying

While you were Spying by Shana Galen

I have huge love for Shana Galen’s books.  I have an ARC of her latest and it’s literally killing me that I have so many books to read for a deadline that I can’t get to it yet.  Her series are awesome and this new one is fantastic!

deception of a highlander

Deception of a Highlander by Madeline Martin

I recently found Madeline Martin through Lauren Smith and I am so glad she connected us!  Madeline is an amazing author and a really nice person.  I love her books and I want everyone to read them so they enjoy them as much as I do!  The second book in the series comes out in August!

2acfd-the-gilded-cuff-by-lauren-smith-300x456The Gilded Cuff (Surrender Series) by Lauren Smith

I love Lauren Smith’s books.  Her League series is just awesome and I am despairing that the next one is still a ways away!  I love her gothic novel and her erotic series is just smoking hot!

Hardwired Series

hardwired series

Hardwired Series by Meredith Wild

Overview by Amazon:

Determined to overcome a difficult past, Erica Hathaway learns early on how to make it on her own. Days after her college graduation she finds herself face to face with a panel of investors who will make or break her fledgling startup. The only thing she didn’t prepare for was going weak in the knees over an arrogant and gorgeous investor who’s seemingly determined to derail her presentation. Billionaire and rumored hacker Blake Landon has already made his fortune in software, and he’s used to getting what he wants with very little resistance. Captivated by Erica’s drive and unassuming beauty, he’s wanted nothing more since she stepped into his boardroom. Determined to win her over, he breaks down her defenses and fights for her trust, even if that means sacrificing a level of control he’s grown accustomed to. But when Blake uncovers a dark secret from Erica’s past, he threatens not just her trust, but the life she’s fought so hard to create.

I saw Hardwired on Netgalley and something trigged within me.  I recognized the cover and the series.  I clicked away not entirely realizing that I was getting the first book in the series that was published in 2011.  I started reading and I realized that I have read this book before – and really liked it.  So, I kept reading and reading and reading.  In fact, this weekend I read all four books in the series to date and have pre-ordered the fifth book coming up in October.

This series is a great fit for those who loved Fifty Shades of Grey and Crossfire.  They feature the young ingénue and the billionaire, genius businessman.  Erica and Blake are great characters and the plot is actually much more interesting that the other series.  Blake has a past as a hacker and is now an incredibly successful entrepreneur.  Erica is the one with the damaged past.  She has managed to make her past not define herself or her future.

The cool part about this series is the technology and business element.  I loved learning about tech start-up companies and the Angel network that funds projects.  Blake is at the top of the food chain in the industry and with his help; Erica has the ability to make her dreams come true.  I really liked this part of the plotlines.  I liked how Blake’s experience and knowledge wasn’t hidden away and it was a mystery to the reader what he actually did when he dragged his body away from the luscious form of his lady.

Sex features heavily between the two.  They have a very robust sex life that starts out vanilla, but eventually reveals Blake’s needs.  It’s kind of like a blend of Fifty and Crossfire.  There are definitely elements of BDSM – all I could think about was that Erica is a lot tougher than Ana.  The sex is copious and amazing like Eva and Gideon from Crossfire.  You’d have to be dead to not be turned on by the scenarios and words that Meredith Wild splashes across the chapters.

Erica was a great character.  I liked how she was so independent and wanted to run her vision.  She has trouble giving Blake the control he needs, but sometimes I wanted her to go to him more and include him in her life.  He was clearly interested and very motivated to support her life.  Erica has a past that I couldn’t even imagine.  She has been alone for so long, that I was happy for her that she had Blake’s normal family to join.

Like most books in this genre, it’s the guy that intrigues me.  Blake was just amazing.  So smart and confident, it was a major turn on.  I kept imagining him as Jamie Dornan, but the character has darker hair.  When Blake laughs, fucks, kisses or is at the boardroom, he is in complete control and it’s so sexy.  He wants to take care of Erica and be her partner in everything.  I don’t know how, but Meredith Wild creates a guy that is everything I want.  His sexual boundaries are pretty intense, but he’s the perfect package, so I’d be down with that!

The secondary characters once again remind me of Fifty Shades, but are better developed and more interested.  Heath is Blake’s brother and Allie is Erica’s best friend and they are also a couple.  I really liked them and they round out the lives of Blake and Erica.  While there is a lot of drama with Erica’s father and then her pseudo mom, it’s Blake’s family that provides the normalcy and consistency in the story.  I really liked that Blake came from a normal and happy family.

This series kept me so entertained that I re-read the first two books and then blasted through the next two this weekend.  I can’t wait to read the next one in the series and find out what happens to Erica and Blake.  This series is a great blend of compelling business, a beautiful love, remarkable sex and two fascinating people.

How To Marry A Royal Highlander

How to Marry A Royal Highlander(Renegade Royals Book #4)  by Vanessa Kelly

how to marry a royal highlander

Overview by Amazon:

Illegitimate yet thoroughly irresistible, the Renegade Royals are leaving behind their careers as daring spies for the greatest adventure of all…

At sixteen, Alasdair Gilbride, heir to a Scottish earldom, fled the Highlands and an arranged betrothal. Ten years later, Alasdair must travel home to face his responsibilities. It’s a task that would be much easier without the distracting presence of the most enticing woman he’s ever met…

After one escapade too many, Eden Whitney has been snubbed by the ton. The solution: rusticating in the Scottish wilderness, miles from all temptation. Except, of course, for brawny, charming Alasdair. The man is so exasperating she’d likely kill him before they reach the border—if someone else weren’t trying to do just that. Now Eden and Alasdair are plunging into a scandalous affair with his life and her reputation at stake—and their hearts already irreparably lost…

I have been following this series for a while now and I have to say that this is the best one yet!  I really, really liked this book!  I found it charming and witty!  Alasdair is a fantastic character and I have been longing to read his story.  Edie has interested me since we met her sister Evelyn in the previous book and now I know her happily ever after.

Alec and Evie met in London in the previous book (How to Plan a Wedding to a Royal Spy), and the sparks flew between the two.  I just knew then that they would be the couple I would be reading about next!  Alec and Evie had an instant and visceral reaction to each other.  It would be hard to call it attraction – more like antagonism.  Alec plays the ‘big, Scottish oaf’ and Evie screeches insults at him.  A promising start, right?

Evie is caught in a compromising situation and must leave London and lay low for a while.  Alec is returning home to Scotland and his responsibilities after ten years away.  He brings Evie and her ‘dragon’ mother with him.  Part of me wanted to call him a coward for hiding behind Evie’s skirts from the situation he needed to deal with, but he’s the kind of man who would never play her false.

Alasdair is big and brawny – just how a Highlander should be.  His sensual smiles and smirks were so enticing to read.  He is an extremely likeable character and I enjoyed spending the time reading about him.  He has that natural gregariousness that Scots have when story telling and spinning a yarn.  His flirting and seduction skills are wickedly sharp and Evie is the lucky recipient.

Evie is the tart tongued twin who seems to land herself in trouble.  She manages her mother and family to keep the peace.  What I liked about Evie was that she was refreshingly spirited.  She didn’t apologize for her nature and Alec certainly didn’t want her to as well.  She had a zest and passion for life that was exciting to read about.

Events at the Blairgal Castle are amusing.  Evie’s mother is a revelation and his family is challenging – to say the least.  This book combined the elements of travelling, a house party and a mystery all in one.  I loved the elements of the big castle with the multiple staircases, stag heads and family portraits.  For some reason I couldn’t help but think of Hogwarts when imagining it.

What really drew me into this book (besides the lusty Alec) was the great plot and dialogue.  I found the characters so interesting and I was compelled to keep reading to find out what they would do next!  I have enjoyed this series, but I have to say, this book is a stand out to me!

A Duke But No Gentleman

A Duke But No Gentleman by Alexandra Hawkins

a duke but no gentleman

Overview by Amazon:

In the last opulent days of the eighteenth century, a friendly wager turns into a heated feud that spans decades…and a love affair like none other.

What does it take to tempt a lady…

London, 1792. The Duke of Blackbern and the Marquess of Norgrave are boyhood friends who will still compete at anything. Racing, drinking, gambling, even seduction–until Lady Imogen Sunter crosses their path. Achingly beautiful, and innocent, she has no understanding of the jaded gentlemen who are courting her for favors–of how far they are willing to go to get what they want…

In this game of seduce and destroy?

Fighting for Imogen’s affection should have been no more than their usual spirited rivalry. But when Blackbern discovers his feelings for Imogen have deepened, all bets are off. Norgrave, driven by his own demons, won’t forsake his pride–and with one shocking act of betrayal that threatens Imogen and Blackbern’s newfound desire, Norgrave will set the course for a generation of Regency bad boys who will go down in history as the Masters of Seduction…in A Duke But No Gentleman by Alexandra Hawkins.

Wow.  I haven’t read a book like this is a really long time.  The complexity of the plot was amazing.  This is no simple story.  Emotions are heavy and woven throughout the plot.  It all starts with two scoundrels, Blackbern and Norgrave.  The two are more than rakes.  That would be a tame word for them.  Their exploits are explored in the story and honestly it was a turn off.

While they have shared women and placed many bets, it is one bet in particular that changes everything.  The lovely Imogen comes into their lives.  Blackbern is immediately taken with her.  Something is different about her and his feelings for her.  Norgrave makes a bet about who can take her virginity first.  Blackbern’s first inclination is to turn down the bet.  However, he knows his friend and is aware that if he says no, it would only spur Norgrave on.  In some respects he accepts so that he can keep Imogen safe.

SPOILERS AHEAD….

Imogen and Blackbern spend a lot of time together.  They grow to fall in love.  Blackbern takes her virginity and is making plans for a more permanent situation.  The relationship feels good.  I liked them together.  He brings Imogen out of her shell and she has captured his undivided attention.  I quite enjoyed Imogen.  She was a lovely woman who deserved to find the love she did.  Blackbern was a hardcore rake, but meeting Imogen has changed so much for him.  She is the full focus of his thoughts and attentions.  Never mind the fact that he is a wonderful lover.

But since there was a commitment between Imogen and Blackbern mid-way through the novel, I knew that there would be the ’big misunderstanding’.  I had wondered if she would find out about the bet, if they would be caught or something else?  But what happened was horrible.  Norgrave was always an unsavory character and he is beyond despicable to Imogen.  While many stories have women as the victim of assault, what he does to her has implications for the rest of the story.

As a traumatized woman, Imogen is devastated.  It takes the love of Blackbern and his patience to heal her.  I won’t lie about how difficult this plot line was – I was actually like, “is this actually going there?”  Blackbern seeking his revenge and protecting Imogen made me love him more.

This is not an easy read, but very worthwhile as the love story between the two was one of the most real I have read in a long time.

An Oath Broken

An Oath Broken (the Oath Trilogy) by Diana Crosby

an oath broken

Overview by Amazon:

Lady Sarra Bellacote would sooner marry a boar than a countryman of the bloodthirsty brutes who killed her parents. And yet, despite—or perhaps because of—her valuable holdings, she is being dragged to Scotland to be wed against her will. To complicate the desperate situation, the knight hired to do the dragging is dark, wild, irresistible. And he, too, is intolerably Scottish.

Giric Armstrong, Earl of Terrick, takes no pleasure in escorting a feisty English lass to her betrothed. But he needs the coin to rebuild his castle, and his tenants need to eat. Yet the trip will not be the simple matter he imagined. For Lady Sarra isn’t the only one determined to see her engagement fail. Men with darker motives want to stop the wedding—even if they must kill the bride in the process.

Now, in close quarters with this beautiful English heiress, Terrick must fight his mounting desire, and somehow keep Sarra alive long enough to lose her forever to another man…

I love when a book has really authentic names because it helps me to get into the spirit of the times the story is taking place in.  I think Sarra is such a lovely name!  It certainly matched the character in the book.  Giric was a truly unique name and it helped to keep it foremost in my mind that he was a Scot.

This story deals with a lot of prejudices.  Lady Sarra dislikes Scots, she dislikes reivers and she definitely dislikes having to travel to Scotland in the winter.  Her views directly impact her relationship with Giric.  They are forced together in order to travel to her guardian’s castle in Scotland in order to be wed.  But what is so awesome about ‘on the road’ books is that the time alone pretty much guarantees some steamy nights under the stars.

Sarra starts out pretty uptight and irritating.  She is angry and confused about her future and totally takes it out on Giric.  He is an Earl, but is acting like a Knight in order to earn enough gold to rebuild his keep.  He takes this mission but is soon regretting it as Sarra treats him like dirt.  I really liked Giric.  Although he was a thief in the past, he is a really honourable man and he has a great ability to feel empathy.  He is a very likeable character and I appreciated that the author made him free to share his feelings.  There is none of the usual BS of not saying how he felt until it was too late.

The book has plenty of action, sword fights and subterfuge.  The plot was well conceived and delivered.  Sarra came to be a very likeable character and I found the love scenes to be very hot and touching.  Overall this was a well-executed story that keeps a steady pace.  Check it out!

Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey

Grey:  Fifty Shades of Grey as told by Christian by EL James

grey

Overview by Amazon:

In Christian’s own words, and through his thoughts, reflections, and dreams, E L James offers a fresh perspective on the love story that has enthralled millions of readers around the world.

Christian Grey exercises control in all things; his world is neat, disciplined, and utterly empty—until the day that Anastasia Steele falls into his office, in a tangle of shapely limbs and tumbling brown hair. He tries to forget her, but instead is swept up in a storm of emotion he cannot comprehend and cannot resist. Unlike any woman he has known before, shy, unworldly Ana seems to see right through him—past the business prodigy and the penthouse lifestyle to Christian’s cold, wounded heart. 

Will being with Ana dispel the horrors of his childhood that haunt Christian every night? Or will his dark sexual desires, his compulsion to control, and the self-loathing that fills his soul drive this girl away and destroy the fragile hope she offers him?

The idea of alternating point of view in books is not new.  I have to admit that besides the Crossfire series and Midnight Sun (Twilight), I have not read a ton of books that use this literary device.  With the surprise publication of Grey, I knew that I had to read it.

Of all the Fifty Shades books, my least favourite was the first.  I think it’s because we see Christian before the transformation.  We spend time with a character that isn’t all that nice.  He’s an enigma in the first book, so I think that was why I was so interested to read Grey.  Would the character be further developed?  Would I learn more about his motivations and background?

The answer is yes…and no.  At times while reading this book, I thought that it must have been somewhat easy for EL James to bang out.  The dialogue and plot were obviously identical to the original book.  It’s just interspersed with Christian’s thoughts and emotions.  So what great insights did I glean?

First, I was really surprised at how frustrated and exasperated Christian was with Ana.  He frequently makes comments like, “we are going here again?  Why won’t she let this go?”  From her perspective, Ana views Christian as sphinx like, but now we know that he basically found her annoying.

In the first book, a major complaint was that Ana was the least interesting character.  She appears so malleable and naïve.  Yet, from Christian’s view, Ana has strong opinions.  We learn how she challenges him.  The tense dance they do over the contract and becoming his sub reveals the strength of Ana.  She doesn’t capitulate to him easily and now we get to witness how much that excites and engages Christian.

Christian’s horrible childhood is more deeply explored.  I didn’t feel that it added much to the information already shared.  I feel that I understood enough about the abuse and neglect he experienced as a child without having to know more about it.  However, it was a completely necessary addition to the story and it would have been a glaring omission if it hadn’t been included.

His memories of his previous subs, mostly Leila left me feeling strange.  It was somewhat uncomfortable to read about him reminisce about the good ol’ times with another character.  To hear that he had sex all over his apartment – a space that I have only ever known with Ana, just felt intrusive to the story that I was familiar with.  Obviously I know that 15 women have been there before, but I’m the kind of woman who doesn’t want to sleep on the same side of the bed as an ex, so it stuck out for me.

He is a serious stalker.  The story from Christian’s perspective lets us see how much he observes and follows Anastasia.  He runs by her apartment, he stays in town to be near her, and he tracks her movements.  While this was shared in the other book, it brings more depth to just how much he watches and observes her.

One thing I wished there had been more of was visits with Flynn.  I find this dynamic really engaging and Flynn is able to cut through the bullshit that Christian holds onto.  There is only one scene with Flynn and it was a really key one for me.  I found it very enlightening.

Just like we get to know Kate through Ana’s eyes, it was enlightening to observe the brother relationship between Christian and Elliot.  We learn how instrumental Elliot is in Christian’s life and I really loved how Elliot would text Christian regularly to meet up.  It made Christian seem more normal – that he had friends, hobbies and did just regular ‘guy stuff’.

Another character that is revealed is Ros.  We only meet her in the trilogy when she goes missing with Christian when the helicopter is sabotaged.  However, she is highlighted as a shrewd and successful business woman.  I actually really liked that she would give Christian shit and share her exasperation with him.  It was helpful to see the relationships that he has as they make the character come to life.

So, the sex.  Was it different than the first time?  Yes and no.  It was different because we learn how proud Christian is of Ana and the relationship.  We learn that he is also exploring something new.  We learn about how insecure he is with Ana compared to being in complete control.  I think this puts them on a more equal footing that I realized.  While Ana is new to BDSM, Christian is new to vanilla.  I was actually surprised at how sensual he could be – kissing, cuddling, soft touches.  I guess it surprised me because I don’t really see that as part of whipping and caning.

Did I get to know a new Christian?  I learned more about his motivations, his work life, and his family.  But I feel that the real winner in this story is Ana.  Through Christian’s eyes, she is a stronger character.  I learn how her sass affects him.  I see the brave and beautiful woman that he is captivated by.  Just like the movie version of the book, she clearly comes out on top.

I have no idea if EL James will continue to write more books from Christian’s perspective, but those would be the stories I would really like to read.  I would like to be along with Christian as he transforms and blossoms in the relationship with Ana.  Would I recommend this book?  If you liked the trilogy and the movie, then you will likely find it interesting.  If you have never read the series and are not into ‘the lifestyle’ than it may be a challenge.

A Marquis for Mary

A Marquis for Mary (The Notorious Flynns Book 5) by Jess Michaels

a marquis for mary

Overview by Amazon:

Mary Quinn is almost at the end of her rope. After two years under her sister and brother-in-law’s protection she may soon have to return to her terrible father’s house if she cannot find a husband. In her desperation, she bumps into Edward, Marquis Woodley. Drawn to each other, they are soon thrown into a scandal that leads to an engagement.

But as the pair grow closer and their wedding looms, Woodley’s past and the horrific circumstances of his first wife’s death may keep them from the happy ending that will save them both.

I’ve got to hand it to Jess Michaels.  She can take a novella and make it totally satisfying.  The pace is quick in this story as the main characters Edward and Mary meet and end up engaged very quickly.  It’s not a problem as it allows the reader to get to the sexy time quickly.

Jess Michaels writes steamy books.  I really liked the characters, so joining them in the bedroom (and the garden) was an enjoyable read.  This book is the fifth in the series and it was great to read about characters that have had full length books.  Mary and Edward have been introduced in previous books, so if you have followed the series than it’s easy to pick up the plot, although this book can be read on it’s own as well.

For a novella, it’s really well developed.  There is scandal, steamy sex and blackmail.  All of this packed into a short book, but in a totally believable way!  I read this book after work tonight lounging in the afternoon sun.  It’s a quick and really enjoyable read.

Splendor

Splendor (Inevitable #2) by Janet Nissenson

splendor

Overview by Amazon:

British hotelier Ian Gregson had it all – wealth, good looks, power, and a share in his family’s worldwide, multi-billion dollar luxury hotel chain. His very name was synonymous with sophistication and elegance, and any woman he wanted could be his with just a look. But the only woman he truly desired was strictly forbidden to him for too many reasons to count.

Tessa Lockwood was young, beautiful, and lonely, despite the fact that she was a married woman. Her life had not been an easy one, and the extravagant world she caught glimpses of as an employee of the Gregson Hotel Group was far beyond anything she could ever dream of. She could no more imagine herself ensconced in that sort of luxurious lifestyle than she could attracting the attention of her handsome, debonair boss.

Ian and Tessa secretly long for each other from afar, never daring to reveal their forbidden attraction to the other, until circumstances bring them together in a very unexpected way. And from that point on, nothing will stand in Ian’s way to finally make her his.

AUTHOR’S NOTE – despite what you might be thinking at this point, there is NO cheating in this story – just an incredibly romantic hero who will make you swoon with the way in which he sweeps the heroine off her feet!

I have been through a dry spell lately.  Nothing I read was inspiring me to keep reading.  I was finding myself heartily distracted and unmotivated to read.  This is SO unlike me that I was getting pretty worried that maybe I needed to take a break from reading.  And then I found this book.  It has redeemed my faith and I stayed up until 4 AM reading.

This is a long book.  Even though I read like crazy, I couldn’t finish it in one night.  While this story would be easy to include in the ‘billionaire-ingénue’ trope that is taking contemporary romance by storm.  But that would be underselling this book.  While it does have a billionaire, he is forty, not twenty something.  While there is a young, impressionable woman, she has paid her dues in life.  While there are some complications to the plot, there is not the rapid escalation of life changing events like there are in Fifty Shades or Crossfire.

When I was reading this book, I kept looking at the percentage tracker on my kindle.  I kept wondering when the big conflict and misunderstanding would happen.  But it never really came.  The characters in this relationship spend the majority of the book getting to know one another and the story follows them while they explore their motivations, desires and future.  It’s different than others in this genre.

I really liked Ian.  I love the name as it reminds me of Almost Heaven by Judith McNaught.  He was British (yay), he was older (yessss), he was hot (whew) and he was intelligent (super).  There was not much to dislike about Ian.  He repeatedly told Tessa that he wanted a partnership with her, not to control or dominate her.  I liked that about him.  When I think of Christian Grey, he defines control.  It was refreshing to read about a mature man.  Ian has friends, family and a strong sense of responsibility for his employees.  I found myself respecting this character.

My feelings about Tessa are more complex.  While I definitely felt for the character as she truly has had a terrible hand in life, her evolution had me questioning things.  In other books like this, the lead characters like Anastasia, give up their lives for the men they fall in love with.  While there is nothing wrong with this per se, it’s just something I have trouble relating to.  Another conundrum I had while reading this book (and others like it) is that the female characters are so virtuous and good.  Ian spoils Tessa with designer fashions on a regular basis.  She is constantly telling him to stop and doesn’t want to accept the clothes.  This makes me feel like a schmuck.  I would be thrilled to have the beautiful wardrobe.  I think I came to a realization when I read this book.  I find it harder (not impossible) to relate to women like Tessa because I am a greedy b*tch.  I would not be that self-sacrificing.  I sound so mercenary, but what girl would be happy to keep a Forever 21 wardrobe over being spoiled rotten with luxurious garments.

Tessa has a terrible past.  She is married when she meets Ian, but don’t worry.  There is no cheating in this book.  It takes a long time for things to work so they can be together.  Once they are, I loved that Ian took care of Tessa.  He was so kind and careful with her.  It was kind of fun to see the guy be the one so worried about screwing it up.  Tessa has no family and very little friends.  While Ian becomes her whole world, this wouldn’t be different if she had dated someone else.  Tessa isn’t a perfect character – she is beautiful, fit and considerate, but she also is outrageously shy and insecure.

Tessa and Ian have great sex.  It’s like the honeymoon phase of a relationship.  It was so funny how Ian worried about the fifteen year difference and upped his protein intake in order to keep up with her.  Not to give a lot away, but Tessa is very inexperienced, despite being married.  I really liked seeing her blossom under Ian’s care.  While the sex is frequent, it helped to bind the characters together for me.  I liked seeing Tessa become confident in her body and sexuality as the story progressed.

Great secondary characters complete the story.  The employees at the hotel and Tessa and Ian’s friends provide a good context for the characters.  I liked Ian’s parents and of course Mrs. C was just awesome!

This was a great book.  I was surprised that there wasn’t the big misunderstanding that I was expecting, but now I am so glad.  It was a very romantic and heady story about two people falling in love.

Never Resist A Rake

Never Resist A Rake by Mia Marlowe

never resist a rake

Overview by Amazon:

Can he fool his new family?

John Fitzhugh Barrett, surprised to learn he is heir to a marquessate, is determined his new status won’t mean giving up his freedom. But as families from all over England descend upon Somerfield Park for the shooting season, their unmarried daughters are lining up to bag the newest trophy buck-him.

Or is he only fooling himself?

John’s instinct for self-preservation inspires him to divide his attentions between a scandalous young widow, and the safely ineligible Rebecca Kearsey, daughter of a destitute baron.

The charade gives John the illusion of controlling the game but when he loses his heart to the beautiful Rebecca, all bets are off.

The strength of this book is in the deep character development the author explores.  Marlowe digs deep into the motivations, emotions and feelings of her main characters.  John and Rebecca are thrown together on a journey that tests their limits and society.

John was born on the wrong side of the blanket and raised by impoverished gentry.  He finds out as a young man that his parents were actually married and the marriage was not properly annulled.  He is now the heir of the Marquessate.  His whole life has changed in a blink of an eye.  What I liked about the development of this character is that he struggles with this new life.  He heads to London and falls in with a rough crowd.  He makes bad choices and you feel the resentment bubbling up inside of him.  I felt for John, even when he was being surly, because even though he has been deemed legitimate, he is still an outsider.

It is his relationship with Rebecca that saves him.  She is like his lifeline.  They meet under the most outrageous circumstances and it ignites a friendship that quickly turns into more.  I really liked Rebecca.  She knew her station in life and was awed by the overwhelming attention by John’s family.  When her friend Freddie starts to change, I felt so bad for Rebecca that she didn’t see herself as worthy.  I enjoyed how Rebecca was interested in astronomy and was helpful to John.  Of course, she has motivations to do so, but I couldn’t fault her for wanting the connection to help her family.

This was a deep story that really delves into the relationship between families, lovers, friends and servants.  It was an interesting story to read that was a little different than most historical romance novels.

Top Ten Tuesday

Well, I have had my toughest week since starting this blog.  Work has been a nightmare, my four year old has suddenly decided he wants to be my baby again, I’ve been decorating cookies like a fool and I have had my first DNF (did not finish) book in likely 10 years. This book has made me SO unmotivated to read.  Every time I open up my kindle app, this book stares at me and I feel so much guilt, I had to walk away.

So this week’s theme for the Top Ten Tuesday was something to cheer me up.  It’s my list of top ten books to read this summer.  In Toronto we have not had a great spring and summer is taking it’s sweet time getting here.  So dreaming of laying by the pool with a great book is sustaining me until the warm weather is consistently here!

Here are my top books for this summer:

an indecent invitation breaking a legend simmering ice the bourbon kings release me the heat of the moment the art of sinning hardwired

grey

one kings way

What books are on your list?  I think I have a great mix of contemporary, sport, spy and historical to keep me company when I can grab some quiet time!