Early Review: Layla by Colleen Hoover

Layla by Colleen Hoover
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: December 8th 2020
Links: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover comes a novel that explores life after tragedy and the enduring spirit of love.

When Leeds meets Layla, he’s convinced he’ll spend the rest of his life with her—until an unexpected attack leaves Layla fighting for her life. After weeks in the hospital, Layla recovers physically, but the emotional and mental scarring has altered the woman Leeds fell in love with. In order to put their relationship back on track, Leeds whisks Layla away to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. Once they arrive, Layla’s behavior takes a bizarre turn. And that’s just one of many inexplicable occurrences.

Feeling distant from Layla, Leeds soon finds solace in Willow—another guest of the B&B with whom he forms a connection through their shared concerns. As his curiosity for Willow grows, his decision to help her find answers puts him in direct conflict with Layla’s well-being. Leeds soon realizes he has to make a choice because he can’t help both of them. But if he makes the wrong choice, it could be detrimental for all of them.

Colleen Hoover wrote a paranormal book. About ghosts!

This isn’t actually the first time I’ve read something non-contemporary from her. I’ve read her Never Never series (that she co-wrote with Tarryn Fisher), which I enjoyed. But with Layla, I really had no idea what I would be getting into. I had no idea what kind of paranormal it would be, no idea if it would be a ROMANCE, like a PNR. But as usual with all of CoHo’s books, it’s best to go in blind. And while I wish I could’ve loved this one more, the story was one that had me hooked to its pages with its suspense and mystery.

Leeds and Layla fall head over heels in love from the moment they meet. It is very much instalove between two people who feel an intensely strong connection right from the start. But a few months into their whirlwind of a romance, Layla gets shot by Leeds’ ex and almost dies. He spends weeks helping Layla recover, but ever since the attack, Layla has been different. Leeds can’t explain why or how, but he hopes bringing her to the place they first met and fell in love will wake her back up.

This book is essentially Paranormal Activity, Colleen Hoover style. Which means it’s less scary and more romance. There’s a mysterious ghost haunting the bed and breakfast that Leeds takes Layla to recover. The ghost starts to communicate with him and he thinks he’s going insane (like anyone would, right?). There’s kind of a romance but I wouldn’t call this PNR, where the romance is the focus – just a paranormal, ghost book with a little bit of romance. I sadly never connected with Leeds or Layla, never grew invested in their characters or love story, which is why I can only give this a three star rating. They fall in love so fast, and maybe if we’d gotten more time with them during the beginning of their relationship, I’d feel differently. It was a strange read but I did really enjoy the twist at the end. The mystery/suspense was what kept me reading, though at times I really wanted the story to hurry up so I could find out WHAT was happening. I liked the way the author set up the story, with alternating past and present chapters. Layla is told entirely in Leeds’ POV, which makes sense when you find out the truth at the end.

This wasn’t a bad read, but I did expect a bit more from one of my favorite authors. I wouldn’t be opposed to reading another paranormal book from CoHo – she always knows how to write a story full of twists and turns. I do wish we’d gotten a bit more at the end of this book, maybe an epilogue or something. It ends on a good note, but it did feel abrupt. If you’re curious to see how CoHo tackles a ghost story, I would say give this a try! Especially if you love a good mystery/suspense.


lacey


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Early Review: The Rakess by Scarlett Peckham

The Rakess by Scarlett Peckham
Series: Society of Sirens #1
Publication Date: April 28th 2020
Links: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Meet the SOCIETY OF SIRENS—three radical, libertine ladies determined to weaponize their scandalous reputations to fight for justice and the love they deserve…

She’s a Rakess on a quest for women’s rights…

Seraphina Arden’s passions include equality, amorous affairs, and wild, wine-soaked nights. To raise funds for her cause, she’s set to publish explosive memoirs exposing the powerful man who ruined her. Her ideals are her purpose, her friends are her family, and her paramours are forbidden to linger in the morning.

He’s not looking for a summer lover…

Adam Anderson is a wholesome, handsome, widowed Scottish architect, with two young children, a business to protect, and an aversion to scandal. He could never, ever afford to fall for Seraphina. But her indecent proposal—one month, no strings, no future—proves too tempting for a man who strains to keep his passions buried with the losses of his past.

But one night changes everything…

What began as a fling soon forces them to confront painful secrets—and yearnings they thought they’d never have again. But when Seraphina discovers Adam’s future depends on the man she’s about to destroy, she must decide what to protect… her desire for justice, or her heart.

I had such high hopes for The Rakess as soon as I saw the title, blurb, AND cover. I mean, just look at that gorgeous, old-school vibes cover! And a female rake heroine? YES, please. I’m all for heroines in historical romances (and romances in general) who are feminist and love sex. I was also excited to be reading my very first Scarlett Peckham book – her historical romances have been on my radar since so many have raved about them. And while the concept of The Rakess is great and exactly up my alley, I had a tough time… reading it. The first half was so boring, it was a struggle to get through. The second half did get a lot better, but I’m so sad this book didn’t live up to my expectations.

Seraphina is as liberal, radical, and scandalous as you can imagine a woman who is feminist, fights for women’s rights, and has lovers and affairs left and right in the 19th century. And I truly loved her for all of that. She’s on a quest to help women in need, while also taking down the powerful man who ruined and smeared her reputation. While in the countryside to write her exposé, she meets Adam Anderson, a gorgeous, Scottish single father she’d love nothing more to spend her nights with. Instead, this rakess falls for him and his two young children.

The idea behind The Rakess is fantastic. It just wasn’t executed well enough for me. There was barely any romance until 60% of the way through the book. The hero is an absolute Nice Guy and while I loved the gender flipping of the rake into a rakess, I never grew to love Seraphina’s character. She spends most of the story drinking/drunk and barely contributing to the romance. I wouldn’t have minded that if she were focusing on the feminist movement instead of the romance, but that also doesn’t progress until halfway through the book. It’s only in the last 40% did I get the kind of story I was expecting when I went into The Rakess, and the book became so much more enjoyable.

Despite not fully loving The Rakess, I’m still very much looking forward to the other books in the series. We have two of Seraphina’s friends who will be getting their romances, who are just as scandalous as this heroine, and I can’t wait to see how they will turn out. Plus, I did enjoy Scarlett Peckham’s writing – hopefully I’ll enjoy her other series more than this book.



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Blog Tour // Review: Angel in a Devil’s Arms by Julie Anne Long

Angel in a Devil’s Arms by Julie Anne Long
Series: The Palace of Rogues #2 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: October 29th 2019
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From USA Today bestselling author Julie Anne Long comes the second book in an exciting new historical romance series, the first since her beloved Pennyroyal Green series.

He has devil’s blood in his veins. At least, that’s always been the legend. How else could the Duke of Brexford’s notorious bastard son return from the dead? The brutal decade since Lucien Durand, Lord Bolt, allegedly drowned in the Thames forged him into a man who always gets what—and who—he wants. And what he wants is vengeance for his stolen birthright . . . and one wild night in Angelique Breedlove’s bed.

Angelique recognizes heartbreak when the enigmatic Lord Bolt walks into The Grand Palace on the Thames, and not even his devastating charm can tempt her to risk her own ever again. One scorching kiss drives home the danger.

But in the space between them springs a trust that feels anything but safe. And the passion—explosive, consuming—drives Lucien to his knees. Now his whole life depends on proving his love to a woman who doesn’t believe in it . . . because his true birthright, he now knows, is guardian of Angelique Breedlove’s heart.

Buy Links:
Amazon • Barnes & NobleiTunesIndieBound

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I was initially excited to read Angel in a Devil’s Arms when I realized the heroine would be a character I met in the first Palace of Rogues book, Angelique! She was the mistress of the heroine’s late husband in Lady Derringer Takes a Lover and I loved the friendship development between the two ladies in that book. They bond together and run an inn, which is the main setting for this follow-up novel. I’d say if you haven’t read the first book, you can go into this one as a standalone.

Lucien is the bastard son of a Duke and a black mark on the family. After his father married, he turned to ignore Lucien and his mother, focusing on his new wife instead. This leads to Lucien acting out and stirring scandal and gossip for the Duke’s family. In this way, Lucien’s character is similar to Angelique’s. Both have shameful pasts they want to move on from, and they help and lean on each other to do so.

I liked Angelique and Lucien, but I never really fell in love with them or their story. I struggled with this book the same way I struggled with the first – Julie Anne Long’s writing/storytelling is just too wordy and slow for my taste. It took a while for me to become interested in the story, which wasn’t all that exciting given Lucien’s revenge plot.

I wish I could’ve loved this more, but I think if you’re a fan of JAL’s style of writing, you’d have less problems with it than I did. There is going to be a third book but I’m not eagerly awaiting it like I was when I finished the first book.


lacey

Reading Order: The Palace of Rogues series

#1 ~ Lady Derring Takes a Lover: My ReviewEbookPaperback • AudibleGoodreads
#2 ~ Angel in a Devil’s Arms: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads

about the author button

USA Today bestselling author Julie Anne Long originally set out to be a rock star when she grew up (and she has the guitars and fringed clothing stuffed in the back of her closet to prove it), but writing was always her first love. Since hanging up her guitar for the computer keyboard, her books frequently top reader and critic polls and have been nominated for numerous awards, including the Rita, Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice, and The Quills, and reviewers have been known to use words like “dazzling,” “brilliant,” and “impossible to put down” when describing them. Julie lives in Northern California.

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Release Day Review: Dreams of 18 by Saffron A. Kent

Dreams of 18 by Saffron A. Kent
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: October 10th 2019
Links: Ebook • Goodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review

“You don’t go around kissing your best friend’s dad, do you?
Even though that’s all you ever dream about.”

Violet Moore is in love with a man who hates her.

Well, to be fair, she kinda deserves it.

On her eighteenth birthday, she got drunk and threw herself at him, causing a huge scandal in their sleepy suburban town.

Now everyone thinks she’s a slut and he has disappeared. Rumor has it that he’s been living up in the mountains of Colorado, all alone and in isolation.

But Violet is going to make it right.

She’s going to find him and bring him back.

No matter how cruel and mean he is, how much he hurts her with his cold-hearted and abrasive ways, she won’t give up.

And neither will she think about his tempting lips or his sculpted muscles or his strong hands. The hands that she wants on her body, touching her, feeling her skin…

The hands that make her want to forget everything and kiss Graham Edwards – Mr. Edwards, actually – again.

Because you don’t go around kissing your best friend’s dad, do you?

Even though that’s all you ever dream about.

I really wanted to love this one more! I love age gap and forbidden love in my romances, so I had high expectations going into this, despite it being my first Saffron A. Kent book. And this book was HOT – no denying that. It delivers on all the taboo and forbidden-ness that I was hoping for. But the romance itself was lacking a bit in the development side. It was very much instalove, which I personally don’t mind. But in this case, I needed something MORE to make me believe in this couple, especially with how different the main characters are.

Violet first meets her new, older next door neighbor when she’s 16. She’s a loner but becomes best friends with Graham’s son, who’s in the same class as her. Nothing happens with Graham except a buildup of fantasies and lust until she’s 18, when she kisses him on her birthday, which ends up spiraling both their lives out of control. Violet is sent to a mental institution and Graham moves across the country. 10 months later, Violet shows up on Graham’s doorstep wanting to make things right… and Graham wants nothing to do with her.

If you love asshole, surly heroes, Graham is your man. I was really interested in seeing how Violet would break down his walls and get him to warm up to her. Violet is cute and quirky, but has a huge anxiety disorder that makes it difficult for her to go out. She only ever feels safe with Graham, which I thought was so sweet. Graham took a while for me to warm up to, just because he is SUCH a huge jerk to Violet. I got a little tired of it after a while, but I did love how alpha and possessive he was around Violet.

When sex got involved, things went a little downhill for me. It’s filthy, with a TON of dirty talk, but there’s just sooo much sex that the romance wasn’t at the forefront anymore. I wanted to see Graham and Violet fall for each other outside of sex, but we didn’t get much of that.

I enjoyed SAK’s writing, but the story itself wasn’t for me. Apparently this book connects with Medicine Man, so maybe if you loved that one, you might enjoy Dreams of 18 too. But even though I didn’t love this book, I definitely want to read more from this author!


lacey


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Blog Tour // Review + Excerpt: When the Marquess Was Mine by Caroline Linden

When the Marquess Was Mine by Caroline Linden
Series: The Wagers of Sin #3 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: September 24th 2019
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In the game of love…

Georgiana Lucas despises the arrogant and cruel Marquess of Westmorland even before learning that he’s won the deed to her friend Kitty’s home in a card game. Still, Georgiana assures Kitty the marquess wouldn’t possibly come all the way to Derbyshire to throw them out—until he shows up, bloody and unconscious. Fearing that Kitty would rather see him die, Georgiana blurts out that he’s her fiancé. She’ll nurse the hateful man back to health and make him vow to leave and never return. The man who wakes up, though, is nothing like the heartless rogue Georgiana thought she knew…

You have to risk it all

He wakes up with no memory of being assaulted—or of who he is. The bewitching beauty tending him so devotedly calls him Rob and claims she’s his fiancée even as she avoids his touch. Though he can’t remember how he won her hand, he’s now determined to win her heart. But as his memory returns and the truth is revealed, Rob must decide if the game is up—or if he’ll take a chance on a love that defies all odds.

Buy Links:
AmazonBarnes & NobleBAMBook DepositoryIndieBound

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So this was my first Caroline Linden book! I was intrigued by the amnesia plot and had to give it a try. I’ve been wanting to read one of her books for a while, and I’m glad to say I liked this one. There were a couple things I struggled with but I enjoyed the main characters and am curious about the previous two books in the Wagers of Sin series. If you’re going into this as a standalone like I did, you won’t miss anything even if you haven’t read the others in the series.

There’s something about amnesia romance plots that get me so invested. I HAVE to find out how the character with amnesia regains their memories and what happens when everything is revealed. In When the Marquess Was Mine, Robert loses all memory of who he is after an assault to the head. He’s taken in by Georgiana, who knows exactly who he is – the cruel, arrogant Marquess of Westmorland. But to save his life, she lies to her friend’s family and pretends he is her fiancé, who coincidentally shares the same name. When Rob awakens though, he’s not the insufferable man Georgiana expects. Rob’s charming, sweet, and very much into Georgiana.

Rob and Georgiana have a sweet and slow romance. There’s plenty of longing and tension between them, though the lies about Rob’s identity puts Georgiana in a sticky situation. I adored Rob and was thankful that he had quite the personality change because of his amnesia. No longer is he the mean, callous man who would make terrible remarks about others. He’s a lot more honorable, kind, and shows so much adoration and affection for Georgiana. I loved how determined he was to win her heart!

The main characters and the romance were the highlight of this book for me, but it was everything outside of it that had me struggling. We’re introduced to a heap of characters in the beginning, many who are involved in the gambling aspect of the story that doesn’t come up again until the end, which felt pretty overwhelming. The plot surrounding the gambling fell flat for me and the mystery towards the end felt like it came out of the left field. I was also really looking forward to Rob recognizing and atoning for who he was in the past (his cruelness) but that was never really discussed even after he regained his memories.

Overall, I’d say this was a good intro to Caroline Linden’s books for me. The pacing of the story was slow for me, but I liked the writing and the characters and am really hoping we get stories for Rob’s brothers!


lacey

Now here’s Chapter One from When the Marquess Was Mine! ❤

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Chapter One
1819

It was to be a bacchanal for the ages.

As Heathercote remarked, a man only turned twenty-nine once. Marlow pointed out that a man also only turned twenty-eight, or thirty, once as well, but they were well used to ignoring Marlow’s odd points of reason, and this one was promptly forgotten.

Heathercote planned the entire affair, inviting the most dashing, daring rogues and scoundrels in London. He declared it to be the invitation of the month, and that he’d turned away several fellows for lacking wit, style, or both. “You mean they aren’t up to your standard of mayhem,” said Westmorland, whose birthday it was, to which Heathercote mimed tipping his hat in acknowledgment.

After a raucous dinner at White’s, they decamped for the theater. The production was well under way when they invaded the pit in search of amusement. By the time the show ended, they had drunk a great deal of brandy, thrown oranges at the stage, and lost Clifton to the company of a prostitute.

Everyone’s memories ran a bit ragged after that, with vague recollections of singing in the streets and Marlow casting up his accounts somewhere in Westminster, but eventually they settled at the Vega Club. It was so late, the manager tried to dissuade them from play. Mr. Forbes knew every one of them could wager for hours, and the Vega Club closed its doors at dawn.

But Heathercote persuaded him to let them in and to give them the whist salon all to themselves. “We’ll leave by noon,” he promised, patting Forbes on the chest as he slid a handful of notes into the man’s hand. His words were remarkably steady for a man who’d been drinking for eight hours. Grim-faced, Forbes let them in, where they commandeered the main table and called for yet more wine.

A few intrepid souls followed them from the club proper. Forbes tried to stop them at the door, but Forester recognized one and waved them in. “We don’t mind winning their money,” he said with a hiccup.

They played whist, then switched to loo. One loser was dared to drink off the contents of his full flask in one go, which he did. The room filled with cigar smoke and ribald language, and the wagers grew extravagant. Marlow won a prize colt off Forester. Heathercote wagered his new phaeton and ended up with someone’s barouche. Sackville won the largest pot of the night, and everyone pelted him with markers.

And then one of the hangers-on spoiled it. He had the look of a country fellow new to London, with an arrogant bluster that was initially amusing but eventually turned annoying. He’d played well enough, winning a bit and losing with colorful curses that made the rest of them roar with laughter. But it became abruptly clear that Sir Charles Winston was in over his head when he wagered his house.

Marlow laughed. Heathercote picked up the scribbled note Winston had put forth and read it with one brow arched. “Can’t wager property, Winslow.”

The man was already ruddy from drink, and now he turned scarlet. “Can so! Your fellow wagered a horse.”

“Horses are portable,” said Forester, his Liverpool accent bleeding through. “Houses are not.”

“Houses are worth more!”

“Aye, too much more.” Heathercote flicked the note back across the table. “Markers.”

“I haven’t got any more markers,” muttered the younger man. For a moment everyone focused in surprised silence on the empty space in front of him. None of them had run out.

“Then fold your hand,” Forester told him. “You’re out!”

Winston’s chin set stubbornly. His mate tried to slide some markers toward him, but he angrily shoved them back. “Give me a chance to win it back.”

“All the more reason to walk away, if you’ve lost ‘em all.” Marlow waved one hand, nearly toppling out of his seat. Mr. Forbes, watching grimly from the corner, came forward. “Forbes, Windermere is done.”

“Sir Charles,” murmured the manager. “Perhaps it’s time to go.”

“Not yet!” Winston scowled at them all, shaking off his friend’s quiet attempts to get him to fold. “Not now, Farley! They got a chance to turn their luck. Why shouldn’t I?”

“Luck is like the wind,” said a new voice. Nicholas Dashwood, the owner of the Vega Club, stepped out of the shadows. “It rarely turns propitiously.”

Winston stubbornly sank lower in his seat. “I deserve ‘nother chance.”

Heathercote slung his arms over the back of his chair. “Well, West? What say you? Shall we let him stay and wager away everything he’s got?”

Lounging in his seat, the Marquess of Westmorland looked up in irritation. “Really ought to go, Winsmore.”

“Wins-less, more like,” snickered Marlow.

Winston sat up straighter in his seat. “Please, my lord.”

“Oh, let him ruin himself,” muttered Forester, shuffling his cards restlessly.

The marquess lifted one shoulder. “Damned if I care.”

“Sir Charles,” said Dashwood evenly, “do not wager what you cannot afford to lose.”

Winston scooped up the scribbled paper and added a line, signing his name with a flourish. “I won’t, sir.”

But he did. Within four hands, he’d won a bit and then lost it all—including the deed. Suddenly he did not look so belligerent or so stubborn. He looked young and quite literally green, staring at the winning hand, lying on the table.

“Should have listened,” said the unsympathetic Heathercote. “Should have left.”

Winston puffed up furiously. “Should have known better than to play with the likes of you!”

“Di’n’t y’know that before you sa’ down?” Marlow’s words slurred together. “Stupid bloody fool!”

“That’s my home!”

“And you risked it at loo!” Heath made a derisive noise. “Idiot.”

Winston was the color of beets. “Don’t call me that.”

Sackville raised one brow. “No? ’S not your home anymore.” He reached out and plucked the scrawled paper from the pile of markers and examined it, although his eyes never quite managed to focus on it. “It ‘pears to be West’s.”

His friends howled with laughter. “He doesn’t need it,” cried Winston. He made a convulsive grab for the paper before his lone remaining friend caught his arm. “He’s got a dozen houses!”

“Set it up as a brothel, West,” suggested Forester. “And give all your mates discounted fees.”

“Free!” yelped Marlow with a wheezing laugh.

Winston drew a furious breath, but instead of continuing the fight he turned and rushed from the room, rather unsteadily; he wrestled with the door, and then almost tripped on his way out, causing more howls of laughter from the table. His friend helped him back onto his feet before the door closed on them both.

“Who invited him?” asked Heathercote in disdain.

“Marlow.”

“Ballocks,” mumbled Marlow, putting his head down on the table. “Never did. Was Forester.”

Forester made a rude gesture. “I vouched for the other man, Farley.”

“Your friends are all bad ton,” said Sackville.

Forester’s face tightened. He rose and swung his wineglass into the air in a toast, spilling some. “Thank you all for a most exciting evening, gentlemen.” Pointedly he bowed only to Viscount Heathercote and Lord Westmorland. Sackville repaid him with a rude gesture at Forester’s back.

Heathercote protested, but Forester waved him off and left. With Marlow asleep on the table and Sackville still giggling drunkenly to himself, Westmorland placed his hands on the table, hesitated as if gathering strength, then heaved himself to his feet. “The carriages, Dashwood.”

Stone-faced, the owner left. Westmorland surveyed the table. “Did I win the last?”

“Aye,” said Heathercote with a wide yawn.

“Credit it all, Forbes,” said the marquess. “God above, I’m tired.”

As expressionless as his employer, the manager stepped forward. With an air of distaste, he picked up the deed promise and held it out. “I cannot credit this, my lord.”

West stared at it. “Damn. Right.” He stuffed it into the pocket of his jacket and staggered out into the morning sunlight with Heathercote, never guessing the trouble that wagered deed was about to cause him.

Reading Order: The Wagers of Sin series

 

#1 ~ My Once and Future Duke: Ebook • PaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#2 ~ An Earl Like You: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#3 ~ When the Marquess Was Mine: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads

about the author button

Caroline Linden was born a reader, not a writer. She earned a degree in mathematics from Harvard University and worked as a programmer in the financial services industry before realizing writing fiction is much more exciting than writing code. Her books have won the NEC-RWA Readers’ Choice Award, the JNRW Golden Leaf, the Daphne du Maurier Award, and RWA’s RITA Award, and have been translated into seventeen languages around the world. She lives in New England.

Website • Twitter • Facebook • Goodreads


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