Review: The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband by Julia Quinn (2017)

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My Rating: 3 stars                                          Read: 3/24/2017

Blurb:

While you were sleeping…

With her brother Thomas injured on the battlefront in the Colonies, orphaned Cecilia Harcourt has two unbearable choices: move in with a maiden aunt or marry a scheming cousin. Instead, she chooses option three and travels across the Atlantic, determined to nurse her brother back to health. But after a week of searching, she finds not her brother but his best friend, the handsome officer Edward Rokesby. He’s unconscious and in desperate need of her care, and Cecilia vows that she will save this soldier’s life, even if staying by his side means telling one little lie…

I told everyone I was your wife

When Edward comes to, he’s more than a little confused. The blow to his head knocked out six months of his memory, but surely he would recall getting married. He knows who Cecilia Harcourt is—even if he does not recall her face—and with everyone calling her his wife, he decides it must be true, even though he’d always assumed he’d marry his neighbor back in England.

If only it were true…

Cecilia risks her entire future by giving herself—completely—to the man she loves. But when the truth comes out, Edward may have a few surprises of his own for the new Mrs. Rokesby.

My Review:

I enjoy a good regency romance now and then, particularly when the dialogue is sharp and witty, and there’s some nice humor in the mix. A few of my favorite regency authors are Tessa Dare, Georgette Heyer, Lisa Kleypas, and Eloisa James. I have not read Julia Quinn before.

This story is a bit unusual in that it takes place in the American colonies during the Revolutionary War. The British occupy New York Town and the heroine, Cecilia, travels there to find her brother, a British soldier, after her father dies and her odious cousin tries to press her into marriage.

I enjoyed the unusual setting of a very early NYC and I learned a few things too. For example, I never realized that the name “Harlem” comes from  early Dutch settlers (named after Haarlem in the Netherlands). I like being taken to new places/times in fiction. And it was interesting to read a regency that didn’t take place in the usual English setting.

The story goes that Cecilia, a British country miss, corresponded with her brother Thomas regularly while he was in the military, and he shared his letters with his friend, Edward Rokesby, an earl’s son. Edward began adding little notes to Thomas’s replies, and Cecilia began adding paragraphs addressed to Edward. Thomas also has a miniature of Cecilia that Edward likes to stare at when he thinks Thomas isn’t looking. So the H and h do have some history, even though they’ve never met in person.

When Edward wakes up in hospital with a head injury, he finds the real life Cecilia at his bedside, and everyone is calling her “Mrs. Rokesby”. He buys into her story that they married. He can’t remember the past three months of his life and surely, sweet Cecilia wouldn’t lie about something like that (Edward, being very honored, can’t even imagine such a thing).  Besides, he recalled he’d developed a tendre for her due to her letters.

This sounds like a charming set-up for a story. However, to be honest, as this lie of Cecilia’s dragged on and on, I had a hard time with it. Yes, she lies about being Edward’s wife initially to get into the hospital to help care for him, since her brother is missing in action and she knows no one else in New York Town. However, once he’s awake and they take up residence in a nearby hotel, the fiction becomes quite ridiculous and, frankly, inexcusable on her part.

Edwards gives Cecilia plenty of opportunities to tell him, even to “annul” the marriage since he can guess it was never consummated. But Cecilia acts like an indecisive ninny and ignores all these opportunities to come clean. Her reasons for doing so did not ring true given how honorable Edward was. He would not have hurt her if she revealed the truth, and he would have helped her look for her brother anyway, especially since Thomas was also his dear friend. Obviously, the true reason the lie is not revealed is because it’s the main hook of the story, and the author wanted to drag it out. But a set-up involving a lie like this is tricky territory and unfortunately, in this case, the author failed to make me buy the reasons for the continued lying and, honestly, betrayal, and therefore Cecilia ends up looking very bad indeed. Let’s just say in terms of strength, honor, and level-headed thinking, she is no Elizabeth Bennet.

I also found the characters a bit flat. Edward is honorable and upright, but not very fleshed out. Cecilia is described as very beautiful, of course, but Edward is apparently devoted to her because she’s “clever”, only this is rarely shown in her dialog and certainly not in her actions. She is supposed to be strong (according to Edward), because she came to New York in search of her brother, but her lying and waffling made it difficult to see her as a strong person. I felt her characterization was very muddled and inconsistent.

If you can ignore those issues, the intent of this plot line is a “he thinks we’re married but we’re really not” sexual imbroglio in which the young virgin miss is ensconced in a hotel room with her fake husband and sexy times ensue. This is the aspect of the story that most readers will enjoy, and it was fun enough only I personally found it a bit difficult to get immersed in it when I just wanted to smack the heroine all the time and felt sorry for Edward having his trust so abused.

Overall, this was an interesting regency because of the setting, and the story kept me reading to the end. If you are less picky about realism or truthfulness in your heroines, you may well enjoy this romp more than I did.

Book Links:

Goodreads

Amazon

Review: Sex in the Sticks by Sawyer Bennett (2017)

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My Rating: 4 stars                                          Read: 4/15/2017

Release Date: May 2, 2017

Blurb:

Wake up and feel the wood! In the first of a series of irresistible standalone romances from New York Times bestselling author Sawyer Bennett, a city girl rediscovers love and lust in the Alaskan wilderness.

Valentine French may be the sassiest dating columnist in New York City, but the abundance of metrosexuals in her adopted metropolis is seriously cramping her style. Where are the beefy all-American boys? Hoping to find some inspiration, Val heads to Alaska, where the men outnumber the women fifteen to one and wrestle grizzly bears for sport. Or so she can only imagine. Suddenly the most eligible bachelorette in a town full of horny lumberjacks, Val is writing her best columns ever. But if she doesn’t get her nose out of her laptop, she just might miss out on Mr. Right. Continue reading “Review: Sex in the Sticks by Sawyer Bennett (2017)”

Review: Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens (2017)

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My Rating: 4 stars                                          Read: 3/25/2017

Blurb:

Eleven years ago, Lindsey Nash escaped into the night with her young daughter and left an abusive relationship. Her ex-husband was sent to jail and she started over with a new life. Now, Lindsey is older and wiser, with a teenage daughter who needs her more than ever. When her ex-husband is finally released, Lindsey believes she’s cut all ties. But she gets the sense that someone is watching her. Her new boyfriend is threatened. Her home is invaded, and her daughter is shadowed. Lindsey is convinced it’s her ex-husband, even though he claims he’s a different person. But can he really change? Is the one who wants her dead closer to home than she thought?

My Review:

This domestic thriller about an abusive husband is an interesting but fairly long read. The novel has several times lines and POVs which add interest.

The story is told out of order with flashbacks to the past to follow the development of Lindsey and Andrew’s relationship, from happy newlyweds to the years of abuse and finally to Lindsey’s desperate night flight from the marriage with young Sophie.

These flashback sections are interposed with the story being told in the present (2017), when Andrew has been released from jail and shows up where Lindsey and Sophie now live, on an island near Vancouver. In this present-day section, the POV moves from Sophie, now a teen who wants to know her father and thinks her mom is paranoid and/or exaggering about how bad he was, and Lindsey, who is terrified that Andrew still wants to kill her.

A series of threatening events begin to happen around Lindsey which she is convinced are caused by Andrew, but she can’t prove it to the police or Sophie. But is it really Andrew? Or has he sincerely changed? The reader becomes less sure about who is doing what as the story progresses.

There are some twists and turns and red herrings. I guessed who was behind everything at about 70%, but the ending was still fairly satisfying.

I found the writing unremarkable. There was no attempt at being poetic or literary in its descriptions of setting or tone, and the dialog was very basic. I’ve read some really amazing writing lately, such as Andrew Pryer’s “The Only Child”, so by comparison this style felt flat. However, the writing didn’t detract from the story and it never felt “off”. The motivations, words, and actions of the characters felt on target, even in those of the teenaged girl, Sophie.

But, of course, in a thriller, the main thing is the plotline. I thought the portrait of the marriage was quite good and subtly terrifying. Andrew was less a physically abusive husband (though that happened a few times) than a controlling and threatening one. He did not want his wife, Lindsey, to have other friends, a job or money outside what he provided, and he watched her constantly. He drank and could fly into jealous rages. The parts of the novel that were flashbacks to their relationship were quite disturbing and, unfortunately, realistic.

If I have one complaint about the book it’s that it felt quite long. There was a period in the book, from about 50% to 80%, after a certain character is removed, and before the final climax began, that really dragged for me and felt redundant. It slowed the “thriller pacing” quite a lot and became more of a slog than a page-turner. It’s too bad that hadn’t been tightened up as it might have been a 5 star read otherwise. But then the ending picked back up again and I enjoyed the rest of the book.

Overall this is a good solid read if you like domestic thrillers.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing an ARC for review.

Booklinks:

Goodreads

Amazon

 

 

Review: The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld (2017)

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My Rating: 5 stars                                          Read: 3/21/2017

Release date:  September 5, 2017

Blurb:

A haunting, richly atmospheric, and deeply suspenseful novel from the acclaimed author of The Enchanted about an investigator who must use her unique insights to find a missing little girl.

“Where are you, Madison Culver? Flying with the angels, a silver speck on a wing? Are you dreaming, buried under snow? Or—is it possible—you are still alive?”

Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight-years-old by now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as “the Child Finder,” Naomi is their last hope. Continue reading “Review: The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld (2017)”

Review: The Only Child by Andrew Pyper (2017)

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My Rating: 5 stars                                          Read: 3/18/2017

Release date: May 23, 2017

Blurb:

The #1 internationally bestselling author of The Demonologist radically reimagines the origins of gothic literature’s founding masterpieces—Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Dracula—in a contemporary novel driven by relentless suspense and surprising emotion. This is the story of a man who may be the world’s one real-life monster, and the only woman who has a chance of finding him.

As a forensic psychiatrist at New York’s leading institution of its kind, Dr. Lily Dominick has evaluated the mental states of some of the country’s most dangerous psychotics. But the strangely compelling client she interviewed today—a man with no name, accused of the most twisted crime—struck her as somehow different from the others, despite the two impossible claims he made. Continue reading “Review: The Only Child by Andrew Pyper (2017)”

Review: The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books by Martin Edwards (2017)

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My Rating: 5 stars                                          Read: 3/16/2017

Release Date: Aug 1, 2017

Blurb:

This book tells the story of crime fiction published during the first half of the twentieth century. The diversity of this much-loved genre is breathtaking, and so much greater than many critics have suggested. To illustrate this, the leading expert on classic crime discusses one hundred books ranging from The Hound of the Baskervilles to Strangers on a Train which highlight the entertaining plots, the literary achievements, and the social significance of vintage crime fiction. This book serves as a companion to the acclaimed British Library Crime Classics series but it tells a very diverse story.  Continue reading “Review: The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books by Martin Edwards (2017)”

Review: The Devil’s Triangle by Catherine Coulter and J.T. Ellison (2017)

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My Rating: 5 stars                                          Read: 3/16/2017

New Release 

Challenges:

  • Cloak & Dagger Challenge

Blurb:

FBI Special Agents Nicholas Drummond and Michaela Caine have a new mandate as the government’s Covert Eyes, assembling a handpicked team of top-notch agents to tackle crimes and criminals both international and deadly. But their first case threatens to tear the fledgling team apart when the enigmatic thief known as the Fox reappears with a plea for help.

Master thief Kitsune has stolen the staff of Moses from the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul, and now that she’s delivered, her clients are trying to kill her. On the run, she asks Nicholas and Mike to help her discover the true identity of her clients and stop the threat against her life. Under strict orders to arrest the Fox and bring her back to New York, the Covert Eyes team heads to Venice, Italy, to meet with Kitsune, and finds nothing is as it seems. Kitsune’s secret clients are the Koaths, a family descended from Moses himself, who will do anything, anything, to find Ark of the Covenant and wield its power, as their long and bloody history can attest. To execute their plan, they’ve spent years perfecting a machine that can control the weather, manipulating worldwide disasters that spin the entire globe into chaos. Continue reading “Review: The Devil’s Triangle by Catherine Coulter and J.T. Ellison (2017)”