Beautiful Stranger by: Christina Lauren

New apartment? Check. Fantastic job with Ryan Media Group? Check. Loyal and loving boyfriend? Not so much for Sara Dillon who fled her Chicago lifestyle in favor of a new start in the city that never sleeps. During a girls night out adventure with long time bestie Chloe, Sara runs into Mr. Sexy himself, Max Stella. Max sweeps Sara off her feet by being the antithesis of her dirt bag ex but is Sara ready for another shot at love? Picking up right where Beautiful Bastard left off, this steamy read is sure to leave you wanting more.

WOW. What else can I say? From their effortless romance to spectacular…uh…physical encounters these two are one of the best in the erotic romance genre. Since dipping my toes in the erotica waters in 2008, Beautiful Stranger was the first novel that did not have a tortured hero or heroine as the protagonist. Neither Sara nor Max had a horrific incident (either rape, domestic violence or abuse) that caused them to be part of the BDSM scene. Even with that aside, Sara and Max’s romance is genuine and adorable in the “you jump I jump Jack sort of way.” Its not the sort of this only happens in fiction type thing but a cutesy yet realistic way. The way that their relationship grows from a friends with benefits into something that is natural – not forced or drawn out – and makes you want to put the book down and grin from ear to ear.

I loved Beautiful Stranger more than its’ predecessor and is probably my favorite in the genre.

4 STARS

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

Reviewed by: Brittany Morgan

Diana Biship and Matthew de Clairmont are dealing with the consequences of their quest for what vampires refer to as the Book of Life or Ashmole 782, according to witches. With Diana’s beloved second mother Emily murdered, the paranormal couple must act quickly and decisively to save themselves and their lives of those they love. But as centuries of secrets from the de Clairmonts continually mount, Matthew must revisit some of the darkest points in his life to complete their quest. And even with Diana’s increasing power and abilities, she still has her own obstacles to overcome in order to become the witch she is destined to be. Magical, enchanting and a true page turner, Harkness’ final installment in the All Souls Trilogy provides a dramatic conclusion to the New York Times best selling series.

Over one year and 30 books later I was happy to sink my teeth back into Harkness’ story of Diana Bishop and Matthew de Clairmont. The characters were as strong willed, judgmental and as devoted to each other as I remember. It took some time for me to recall the nuances of the complex plot line which detracted from the first portion of the text. I would have liked for Harnkess to include more subtle reminders of the first two books in this “The a Book of Life” to help establish a pace. However, once I got fully immersed there was no stopping. I got fully sucked into the story and needed to find out all of the secrets that Diana and Matthew were hunting for so long. I was rooting for them as a couple, and individually when they had to face their past in their own, and wanted to discover the reason why the congregation forbade creature interaction.

“The Book of Life” was expertly written and was full of different allusions and figurative language and elevated the text from a mere paranormal story into a superb read. With numerous themes present ranging from forgoing one’s fears to relying on help from freinds, any reader will find something to relate in the novel. For those who did not read “Discoery of Witches” and “Shadow of Night” I highly recommend doing so before picking up “The Book of Life” to fully appreciate different nuances and the multiple plot lines that Harkness uses throughout the trilogy. I recommend this series to those who like “Twilight” but want something a bit edgier or readers who are a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” and would like a vampire and witch novel.

RATING: 4 Stars

Changeless by: Gail Carriger

Reviewed by: Brittany Morgan

Alexia Maccoon follows her werewolf husband to Scotland to figure out the reason that supernaturals wont change. Along with a brigade of her stepsister, best friend Ivy, scientist Madame Lefoix and maid, Alexia tries to solve the 1800’s latest conundrum. With all of the flair of a Victorian Age tea party, Lady Maccoon confronts a danger directly related to being a preternatural, in more ways than one.

Gail Carriger’s “Changeless”, the second in the parasol protectorate series, picks up the same witty banter of “Soulless”. The novel is fully enjoyable and an imaginative read that challenges the reader to solve the mystery along with Alexia. Her marriage to Conall is the ideal werewolf/preternatural pair –if there ever was one—that features trust, romance, humor and parasols.

For those that adore steampunk, or simply want to try a unique and witty novel, this book is for you!

RATING: 4 Stars

The Favored Child by Philippa Gregory

Reviewed by: Brittany Morgan

Wideacre is ruined. The land is dead, poverty marks the tenants and the Lacey’s have no money or power to change it all. This is the second generation of Lacey’s – Richard and Julia – turn to rule over the estate and try to make it prosper once more. After John MacAndrew returns from India with a large fortune, the family believes that their luck – and more importantly Acre’s – has finally improved. Unfortunately they were all dead wrong.

I am a big fan of Gregory’s first novel in the trilogy, “Wideacre” (see review for details) and the second one does not disappoint. I have read “The Favored Child” three times to date and loved entering Gregory’s version of 1700’s England. I was able to notice things that I did not before about Julia and Richard in an attempt to understand their complex relationship. The author’s utilization of dramatic irony fuels the texts and has the reader screaming for Julia not to make the same mistakes Beatrice did.

Even though the first book proved to be too much for some readers, I still would recommend “The Favored Child”. The second installment in the trilogy is not plagued by an incestuous relationship that filled the pages of the first book. The continuation of themes is evident in “The Favored Child” and will come to fruition in the final book: “Meridon”.

The Wideacre Trilogy still proves why it is one of my favorite book series.

RATING: 5 stars

Brava, Valentine by: Adriana Trigiani

Reviewed by: Brittany Morgan

Gianluca made his intentions clear to Valentine in Capri yet it was not meant to be. While attending her grandmother’s wedding in Tuscany, Valentine comes face to face with Gianluca once again. Their simmering romance ignites once again as the couple embark in the uncharted territory of a long distance relationship. Valentine’s work life stability is not much better as her grandmother names Valentine’s brother, Alfred, partner the family shoe company. As life continues to throw curve balls at Valentine, she can either step up to the plate or never reach her full potential.

I did not realize that this book was a second in a series and I have to commend Trigiani on providing background information in the story so readers understood the context. I read this novel via audio book and it was one of the better ones that I have listened to. I enjoyed the narrator and her various accents for the English, Spanish and Italian characters.

“Brava, Valentine” is a classic tale of a character maturing over the course of the story and developing into who they are supposed to be by the last page. The problem that Trigiani and ultimately Valentine ran into is that she is in her 30’s and acts with the maturity of a teenager. The highlight of the novel was Valentine’s quirky family that anyone could find some relatable aspect with.

In short, this book was underwhelming at best. Trigiani tried to do too much in a relatively short novel and bit off more than she could chew. There were too many subplots, undertones and social concepts that she tried to employ but it came off as sloppy. The protagonist Valentine was far from likeable and even verged on pathetic on several dozen instances.

 

RATING: 2 Stars

The Duke by: Gaelan Foley

Reviewed by: Brittany Morgan

Robert Knight, the Duke of Hawkscliffe, is determined to solve the untimely death of his forbidden love and will stop at nothing to figure out the truth. During his quest for vengeance Hawkscliffe, stumbles upon one of London’s most renowned courtesans, Belinda Hamilton, who he enlists to help him. At the risk of scandal, his political career, family name and his heart, Hawscliffe is unaware of the lengths he is willing to go for the ones he loves and the ones he thought he loved.

Gaelan Foley’s “The Duke” is unlike any other historical romance book I have read from the quality of writing, plot structure and even the time period. This Regency Romance covered all emotions that top tier historical romances have from extreme happiness, sadness, love and betrayal yet Foley executed it superbly. Belinda and Hawkscliffe came alive off the page and I was truly rooting for them and their happiness. My favorite aspect of the book was the complex plot structure that utilized political undertones and multiple outside character story lines. Foley defied historical romance stereotypes that often plague the genre, such as an unplanned/forced wedding or unexpected pregnancy, and blazed a path for an enjoyable and steamy read.

I devoured the novel and could not put it down at home, work or late at night. I recommend this read for readers who like historical romance books but want something unique.

RATING 5 stars

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Reviewed By: Brittany Morgan

Diana Bishop is not like the other professors at Yale University. Besides her unruly hair, obsession with working out and her unheard of tenure, Bishop is a witch. The Bishop line – which is traceable as far back as the Salem witch trials –is one of the most famous and renowned in the witch world. As Diana recognizes her family’s historic and important past, she refuses to utilize her magic and associate herself with other witches and wizards. While Bishop is working on a keynote speech for a conference she unknowingly calls upon a mysterious manuscript that has confused the supernatural species, witches, daemons and vampires, for centuries. The only way to discover the content of the manuscript is for Bishop to fulfill the destiny and be the witch her family knew she could be, but will she want to?

“A Discovery of Witches” by Diana Harkness is not “Twilight”. Yes, there are vampires and other supernatural creatures however the similarities stop there. Harkness distances herself quickly from the new supernatural craze immediately and demonstrates how she is a step above the rest. Most of the books of this genre I have read in the past have been watered down with simple diction and little to no figurative language. “A Discovery of Witches” is truly a well-written book. Furthermore, Harkness fully explains every detail of Bishop’s magic and the other supernatural creature’s abilities.

Vampire and witch novels are a guilty pleasure of mine. I love seeing authors put their own spin on the traditional vampire and witch stories. Harkness has done a great job infusing her own spin to make the vampires and witches in the novel unique. The author was able in infuse her award winning wine blog into the text by having vampires be excellent wine connoisseurs.

I really enjoyed reading “A Discovery of Witches” and I could barely put the book down. Even though there were many characters in the novel, Harkness does a great job showcasing quirks in the characters so the reader and differentiate between them. The plot did not feel too drawn out, which can often happen in books that are over 500 pages, and moved at a good pace. I am definitely looking forward to reading the other books in the All Souls Trilogy.

Recently, Warner Brothers Pictures has purchased the rights to convert all of the books in the trilogy into movies and they are working to create a script.

RATING: 4 stars