The Scot Beds His Wife (Victorian Rebels #5) by Kerrigan Byrne

I can’t believe we’re already at the fifth installment of the “Victorian Rebels” series. This one is the first to go in a completely different direction with the title (more on that later). I’ve blogged about all the other previous books in the series, but this one links most directly to Book 3, The Highlander, previously reviewed here.

The Scot Beds His Wife front cover (St. Martin’s Paperback/Macmillan)

THE PLOT: Gavin St. James was horribly abused by his father, just as his brother Liam was. But his reaction was to divorce himself from the Mackenzie clan while trying to become self-sufficient by acquiring the property next to his. It belongs to Alison Ross, a young woman who moved to America as a child.

In the American wild west, Samantha Masters has just saved Alison Ross’s life by killing her own husband who, with his brothers, were robbing the train on which Alison was traveling. To repay and help Sam, Alison sends her to Scotland, as Alison Ross, to save Alison’s property from being taken by the horrible Mackenzies. Since Alison left as a child and has no intention of returning, no one will ever know that Sam isn’t Alison. She can use Alison’s identity to safely hide from her husband’s vengeful brothers, and the law, while holding on to Alison’s property.

Gavin assumes he’ll be able to smooth talk, or seduce, Alison into selling him her property. He is stunned by the crass, sharp-shooting, pants-wearing girl who immediately becomes his enemy. But as they clash they’re  fighting their intense attraction. Sam knows she can’t keep her true identity from Gavin forever. And another secret Sam is keeping will surely tear their fragile new love apart.

MY TWO CENTS: If you’ve never read a “Victorian Rebels” book, know this going in: they are not gentle, well-mannered romances. They are gritty and grimy and harsh.They use what some would consider foul language, and there are very little boundaries in the sex scenes, which are quite graphic.

Sam is a very different heroine for Byrne’s “Victorian Rebels” series. Often the heroine is more ladylike to offset the brutality of the hero. But in this instance, the heroine stuns the hero with her swearing, shooting, pants wearing, and other shocking bad-assery. I really liked Sam. Her backstory made her a sympathetic character, and her bravery, quick thinking, and capability made her someone to admire. All of these were more important than the lies about her identity, which she sees as a necessary evil to staying alive.

In contrast to other previous Rebels heroes, Gavin is a little more bad-boy, a little less violently dangerous and damaged. Yes, he definitely still has issues. But butting heads with Sam turns his world upside down, and he starts rethinking all the barriers he’s set around his life.

You get to visit a bit with the characters from The Highlander, and also get to witness what may be the funniest wedding ceremony in romance history. (Someone can disagree…I’d be very interested in comments on hilarious weddings.)

If you’ve been reading the series (and The Highlander in particular), then you’ve already made your peace as a reader with Liam. But Gavin has not, so that adds some interesting tension to the storyline. We also see the setup for the Rook’s story as sort of a framing device here. It’s not really necessary to read the other books before reading this, but if you’re not already hooked into the series, you’ll probably want to check out Liam’s story and go on to the Rook’s, which we don’t see wrapped up within the course of this story.

A note on the title: This is the first title that is longer than two words, the previous books being The Highwayman, The Hunter, The Highlander, and The Duke. Byrne had announced previously that her next books were going to have titles like The Rogue and The Sinner, and then The Rook’s book would be The Savage. I’m not sure why changes were made; maybe because too many romance books already have those exact titles? I don’t mind breaking the pattern so much within the series; see Elizabeth Hoyt’s “Maiden Lane” series…each set of three books within the twelve of the complete series go together. And that’s where I figured we were going when this was announced along with Inspector Morely’s book, The Rogue Takes a Wife.  But it doesn’t look like Morley’s book is up next, again. And I really, really despise this book’s title. First, I hate “beds” as a verb. It’s crass without being as crass as the language used in the book, which I find much more honest. It’s like they couldn’t put **** on the cover, so they used this mamby-pamby synonym instead. Second, I hate that the title is like, “LOOK! This book is about SEX!” It’s really about a lot more than that. I won’t deny that the sex is hot and very earthy, but both characters have had plenty of sex before they ever meet each other. That’s not what this is about. But I guess “The Scot Realizes He Can Open Himself Up to Emotional Connections” isn’t going to grab as many readers.

Further title notes: Byrne had previously announced in an interview on Fresh Fiction (link here) that The Rook’s book would be called The Devil Steals a Bride, and then Morley’s book would be The Thief Takes a Lady. But it looks like those plans have been changed again (see below in Next Up).

COVER NOTES: I had complained previously about this cover being far too much like two other St. Martin’s releases this year. It’s the first one in the series that shows the couple from farther away, showing their full bodies. I think the blue is lovely, and the swatch of Mackenzie plaid at the bottom is a nice touch. I wish we’d seen Sam in something a little less girly…her riding clothes, maybe? Complete with guns?

BOTTOM LINE: A good read with an interesting heroine who is very different from the other Victorian Rebels heroines so far. I was actually more interested in her solo story arc than the hero’s.

TEACUP RATING: Four out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available now in paperback and eformats.

NEXT UP FROM THIS AUTHOR:  The book advertised in the back of The Scot Beds His Wife is The Duke With the Dragon Tattoo. Is this the next “Victorian Rebels” book? The heroine is named Lorelai, who I can’t find in any of the other books. Is it about the Rook (and we all know his real identity, right?) And THEN maybe we’ll get Morley’s book? And then I’m crossing my fingers for a book about Callum and the real Alison. There’s definitely a story there.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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A Talent for Temptation (Sinful Suitors #4.5) by Sabrina Jeffries

Baron Fulkham has been lurking around for most of the “Sinful Suitors” series, but we just met his sister-in-law/spy assistant in Book 4, The Pleasures of Passion, previously reviewed here. This 82-page novella fleshes out the bits of story we got about Meriel Vyse and Quinn Raines in that book.

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A Talent for Temptation front cover (Pocket Star, Simon & Schuster)

THE PLOT: Meriel was married to Baron Fulkham’s brother, but it was mostly a marriage of convenience as part of the spy network. But Meriel felt indebted to her brother-in-law even after her husband was killed in the line of duty, so she’s kept on working for him. She’s now in love with banker Quinn Raines but can’t tell him she’s a spy.

For his part, Quinn is terrified that Meriel won’t commit to him because he’s a boring banker. He sets up a stupid scheme for her to be “kidnapped” so he can rescue her and see her as a dashing hero. But Meriel believes she’s brought this on herself as some part of her current assignment, and she accidentally shoots Quinn.

Now they’re both feeling guilty and trapped by lies. Is there any way to a happily ever after for this couple?

MY TWO CENTS: This is a quick little read that is pleasant and steamy, but doesn’t add a lot to the overall series. If you were intrigued by the snippets about Meriel and Quinn in the previous book, then you’ll definitely want to snag this.

This novella may also offer us a little more insight into the character of Gregory Fulkham. It also serves as a teaser for his book, which will wrap up the series. So essentially it’s a bridge between books that serves up an independent love story.

As far as the series titles go, I like this one much better than “The Secrets of Flirting.” Between the alliteration and the meaning, it fits in better with the other titles. I almost wish they’d saved it for Book 5 and used “The Secrets of Flirting” for the novella.

COVER NOTES: Although I like this dress, it’s apparently held up by magic, so the extreme low cut doesn’t appeal to me. I’m also sorry it doesn’t follow the pattern of the other titles in the series of the hero saucily breaking the fourth wall.

BOTTOM LINE: A fun, quick read clocking in at 82 pages. May add a tiny bit of personality to Baron Fulkham, who will be the next book’s hero.

TEACUP RATING: Three-and-a-half out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available now in eformats.

NEXT UP IN SERIES:  The final book in the “Sinful Suitors” series, The Secret of Flirting,  will release on March 27, 2018.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra (The Mummy #2) by Anne Rice and Christopher Rice

It’s been almost 30 years (YIKES) since I first read The Mummy, or Ramses the Damned by Anne Rice. All that time, the story has cried out for a continuation…and here, at long last, it is! Also, I believe this is the first fiction collaboration by Anne Rice and her son, Christopher Rice, an established novelist in his own right. (I could be wrong about that though.)

SPOILER WARNING: Spoilers for The Mummy, so if you haven’t read it, proceed at your own risk!

The Passion of Cleopatra front cover (Anchor/Random House)

THE PLOT: In 1914, immortal Ramses, former Pharaoh of Egypt, believes the monstrous version of Cleopatra he resurrected to have died in a fiery crash. He has made his beloved Julie, a modern Edwardian woman, immortal, and they’re traveling together around Europe until Julie and Ramses go home to England for their engagement party, being thrown by Julie’s friend Alex. Alex is struggling to get over Cleopatra, whom he truly loved and also believes dead.

Meanwhile, Cleopatra is really on the run with the doctor who treated her after the crash (not that she needed treatment…the Elixir healed her). But Cleopatra still isn’t whole, and now she’s sharing visions of her past with an American author named Sibyl.

The true creator of the Elixir, an ancient immortal queen named Bektaten, is searching for her former prime minister who betrayed her by trying to create his own army of immortals. Now both are on a collision course with Ramses, made famous as “Reginald Ramsey,” and his friends.

MY TWO CENTS: Overall, I enjoyed this book. It had a good narrative flow, unlike some of Anne Rice’s weirder mid-late vampire books which had that strange flow-of-consciousness quality to them. There was a defined story here. I’m not familiar enough with Christopher Rice’s work to really identify how much is his influence (I’ve read and reviewed one of his books here, and remember quite liking it). I felt that the collaboration clearly worked, except for one thing…it was too short at 400 pages and not quite enough story for me.

My biggest problem with that story comes from not enough focus on Ramses and Julie. I certainly don’t mind the continuation and enrichment of Cleopatra’s story, or the introduction of new characters that move it along, such as Sibyl. In fact, the Bektaten/Saqnos story has a certain Queen of the Damned origin story quality to it, and I enjoyed that greatly. That may have been my favorite part. But Ramses and Julie don’t get to do a whole lot other than play a spectator role, or (sometimes inadvertently) get people in the right place at the right time.

So in many ways, I felt like this was clearly the second installment in what is now intended to be a series, with Ramses getting a larger part to play with Bektaten in future volumes. I could be wrong, but that’s definitely the feel I took away.

And I enjoyed this enough to be interested in any future installments. Do I suggest reading it without reading the original The Mummy first? Nope, absolutely not. Does it stand on its own? Not exactly, because it just seems so much like a middle story to me. Read The Mummy, and if you love it (or have loved it for 30 years), pick this one up.

BOTTOM LINE: A long-awaited sequel that read like the second book in a trilogy…but I’m definitely in for the next volume.

TEACUP RATING: Three-and-a-half out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available November 21, 2017, in trade paperback and eformats.

NEXT UP FROM AUTHORS:  I’m not sure if Anne Rice’s 2018 book has been announced yet, but Christopher Rice has book one in a new series, Bone Music, releasing on March 1, 2018. This one sound pretty interesting to me; I’ll put it on my Goodreads list.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Random House’s First to Read program and Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.

A Strange Scottish Shore (Emmaline Truelove #2) by Juliana Gray

This review is going to contain spoilers for the first book in the series, A Most Extraordinary Pursuit, previously reviewed here. If you haven’t read it and intend to, unspoiled, then stop reading right now because this review will VERY quickly reveal the big secret of that book (and the series). Really, if you’re at all interested in reading it you probably already know the twist, but just in case…

All good? Ready to jump in? Are you sure? Okay, here we go.

A Strange Scottish Shore front cover (Berkley/Penguin Group)

THE PLOT: Emmaline Truelove and her employer, Max, the new Duke of Olympia, are traveling to Scotland as the Duke courts a young lady. Of course, they are also investigating the strange chest that was found containing a “selkie suit,” which feeds into her family’s legend. Because more than just a Duke and his former secretary, Max and Emmaline comprise the Haywood Institute for the Study of Time.

After the adventure on the island of Skyros, it’s apparent that Max has some sort of ability to cause time travel, but it’s unclear (at least to the younger Max) how these powers work. He doesn’t understand them and has very little control. But when Emmaline’s kind-of love-interest Lord Silverton disappears, she realizes she’ll take any risk to get him back—even having Max send her whenever Silverton is.

MY TWO CENTS: These books really don’t give you a lot to describe if you want to avoid spoilers! But here’s the big one: This is a time-travel book. Everything that goes on in this book (and the first one) is based on Max’s time-travel powers.

Now people might be asking how this series compares to Outlander, and here’s what I can tell you: I really don’t know. I’ve never read nor watched Outlander. I know that it involves time travel, which is why I bring it up. I know it’s a very popular romance. I wouldn’t say this series is primarily about romance, so that’s one difference. There are also different eras represented, and from what I can tell, the Outlander characters only travel between the 1940s and 1700s? I know I’m not being a whole lot of help here. If you’re all out of Outlander and want something similar, I’m not sure if this will meet your craving.

I love the framing device in the form of a book written by an older Max who presumably has control of his powers and understands what has gone on in the stories being unveiled in the novel. The story is told in a way that doesn’t quite give away what was going on, but gives you enough of a hint so say, “So WHEN was this selkie lady from, really? And WHEN did she end up?”

Also, although I say this is not primarily a romance (at least not in the way the romance genre is typically formulated), the relationship between Emmaline and Silverton moves forward despite some hemming and hawing in the beginning and her continued reservations that SOMETHING will go wrong and separate them.

Emmaline still talks to ghosts, specifically the ghosts of Queen Victoria and Emmaline’s own stepfather. I’m assuming at some point we’ll learn why Queen Victoria has an interest in Emmaline, but not yet. I suspect it has something to do with biological father.

As far as the pacing goes, I felt that the beginning chapters were slow; it took me a little while to get into it. But once the story was in full swing, it was very difficult to put down. You can’t imagine how this is really going to resolve in any way that is good for the characters. And does it, really? I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book.

COVER NOTES: Love that the cover matches the style of the first book and the e-prequel. I also love that it doesn’t reveal the majority of the book’s setting.

BOTTOM LINE: I’m loving this series and can’t wait to see what happens next. Although this entry seemed a little slow right out of the gate, it really moved the series along.

TEACUP RATING: Four out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available now in paperback and eformats.

NEXT UP IN SERIES:  No announcement that I know of, but hopefully the next entry in the series will be available in Fall 2018 (although sooner would be good!)

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Once a Rebel (Rogues Redeemed #2) by Mary Jo Putney

Once a Rebel is the second book in the “Rogues Redeemed” series, which is also directly connected to Putney’s previous series, “Lost Lords.” This series follows five men who together escaped certain death from Portugal in 1809 (described at the beginning of Once a Soldier, previously reviewed here). This book’s hero is Gordon, first introduced in Not Quite a Wife (previously reviewed here) as Lady Agnes’s only failure at Westerfield Academy. But his real name is Lord George Gordon Richard Audley, third son of the Marquess of Kingston.

Once a Rebel front cover (Zebra/Penguin Random House)

THE PLOT: Richard and Catherine Callista “Callie” Brooke were childhood best friends, a pair of innocent troublemakers completely hated by their horrible noble families. When Callie’s father plots to marry his troublesome daughter off to a West Indies plantation owner, the teenagers run away together to elope in Scotland. But they’re caught, and while Richard’s own father would have no trouble allowing his son to be put to death, Callie makes a deal with her father: she’ll peacefully marry the plantation owner if he allows Richard to live. Richard is therefore transported to Australia instead, but Callie believes he died on the voyage.

Years later, Richard, now calling himself Gordon, is hired to find and save a widow from Washington, DC in August 1814.  The city is about to be attacked by the British, and the family of “Mrs. Audley” wants her brought back to England. It’s not until he’s rescuing her from British soldiers that Richard realizes his charge is actually his childhood friend. But she’s not ready to return to London just yet; she’s sent her surrogate family of former slaves ahead to Baltimore, straight into another battle. Joining them means waiting out the attack of Fort McHenry, and Richard and Callie begin to reconnect and become more than friends. But a few more rounds of danger wait for them. Callie is actually on the run from her stepson, who wants his “stolen” slaves back; and Richard’s family is still hoping they’ve heard the last of him.

MY TWO CENTS: There’s a lot to say about this book. First, it’s mostly a love story about the American national anthem. Francis Scott Key appears as a character (Callie’s lawyer), and he shows Callie and Richard his new poem about the battle of Fort McHenry right after he’s written it. The author even incorporates some of the phrases into Callie and Richard’s own vigil at dawn as they wait for the outcome of the battle…whose flag is flying over the fort? If you’re American and have an iota of patriotism, especially regarding “The Star Spangled Banner,” you will really feel this part. I also enjoyed reading about a piece of history not usually included in historical romance (call me out if I’m wrong here, but I just don’t remember every reading any!)

I also like that Putney continues her trend from other books of discussing the horrors and repercussions of slavery. Callie’s family consists of two children her husband fathered with his slave mistress (now deceased), and the children’s grandparents. Callie’s husband wasn’t actually cruel and horrible (except for the whole owning slaves things, of course); he didn’t abuse them. (Other than, you know, his mistress not really having a true choice about having an affair because he owned her.) He “meant” to free his children before he died; he just didn’t get around to it. So Callie has taken the teenagers and their grandparents to America, but because they’re still technically the property of Callie’s aggressive stepson, they’re all in danger.

Any disappointment I feel toward the novel is focused on the very polite, mannerly love story between the two leads. We were previously introduced to Gordon as something of an anti-hero, and yet here, most of his wildness is behind him as he’s bought a house and all but given up adventuring; this rescue is kind of his last hurrah. He’s presented as pretty much just a victim of his family. Obviously we know he’s going to redeemed by the end of the book, hence “Rogues Redeemed,” but he was pretty redeemed already…and also was apparently never really much of a bad guy to begin with.  Callie, too, starts out as a bit of a free spirit, and yet she’s burdened with adult responsibilities when we meet her as an adult. I was expecting a love story a bit out of the ordinary for author Mary Jo Putney, but these characters are as sensible and mature as her other characters. They rationally discuss their attraction to each other, and reasonably decide marriage is the obvious choice. There’s really not much of the rebel about these two. Oh, Callie has to defend herself, and Richard eventually performs what basically amounts to an execution, but you can’t blame him too much.

Callie doesn’t even react much to finding out that her childhood friend, for whose death she blamed herself, is alive and well. To be fair, at first she’s overwhelmed by the moment as he rescues her in the nick of time from soldiers. But she falls easily enough into playacting that he’s her husband whom she thought dead. She never really loses her mind or shows a lot of stunned emotions later after the danger has passed. It’s almost…stereotypically British. “Oh, I say, what a jolly good time for you to turn up alive. Well done, you.” (I exaggerate, but…I really wanted her to freak out, faint, keep hugging him, something…and she just doesn’t.)

COVER NOTES: If you’ve read my other entries, you know I want series books to all have matching covers. So of course I love that this cover matches the cover of the first book, only Callie is holding a pistol, her own weapon of choice. I’m not sure the dress is entirely accurate to the period, but it’s pretty and covers most of her body parts, so yay. The detail of the fabric is gorgeous.

BOTTOM LINE: I really wanted this book to be wilder, and Gordon to be much edgier. But I very much enjoyed the historical aspect.

TEACUP RATING: Three-and-a-half out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available August 29, 2017, in paperback and eformats.

NEXT UP IN SERIES:  The preview for the next novel in the series, Once a Pirate, focused on the heroine; but I’m assuming this will be Captain Hawkins’s book since he played a role in Once a Rebel. No date yet, but I’d look for it in Fall 2018. EDIT: The author has announced that the name of the next book has been changed to Once a Scoundrel.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Last Tudor (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels #14) by Philippa Gregory

I loooooove Philippa Gregory novels! Let’s just get this out of the way: they’re not 100% historically accurate (because they’re historical FICTION, people; big difference between that and nonfiction) but they always suck you in and make you feel like you’re in the middle of the action. This one is called The Last Tudor, I think for two reasons: Gregory has finally run through every Tudor who ever existed. She therefore claims this will be her last Tudor novel. One of the working titles of this novel, announced years ago, was The Grey Girls, and that title would have been accurately descriptive.

The Last Tudor front cover (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster)

THE PLOT: The book is presented in three parts, following each of the Grey sisters— granddaughters of Henry VIII’s sister, Mary, who was Queen of France and then scandalously secretly married to Henry’s friend Charles Brandon.

First, we get the story of Jane Grey, the most famous of the sisters, who ruled as queen for nine days after Edward VI’s death. Jane was the legitimate Protestant heir after Henry’s daughters Mary and Elizabeth had been deemed illegitimate. Poor Jane is the victim of her family’s machinations as well as those of other members of the nobility. Jane is married off to Guildford Dudley in an effort to bind the two families together.  Jane wants only to continue her religious studies and be left alone, but she’s forced to become queen, and then abandoned to a terrible fate once the country rises up for Catholic Mary Tudor.

The second and longest part of the book follows Jane’s middle sister, Katherine, who has none of Jane’s serious nature. While she’s eager to be named Mary Tudor’s heir to the throne over Elizabeth, all she really wants is love. Mary ends up naming Elizabeth next in line anyway. Mary dies, making Elizabeth queen, and perhaps Katherine is now the volatile Elizabeth’s heir. But vain, jealous Elizabeth doesn’t want any courtiers paying more attention to the next-in-line than they do to her. She also craves all male attention, not allowing her ladies-in-waiting to marry because it would mean a man chose someone over her. In her never-ending manipulative game-playing, Elizabeth refuses to make Katherine her heir. She’s focused on romancing Robert Dudley but refusing to marry and bear her own children, which would diminish Katherine’s claim to the throne. Katherine finally decides to marry her true love in secret and worry about punishment later. But circumstances conspire against her, and she ends up paying a steep price for defying Elizabeth.

The last part focuses on Mary Grey, the youngest of the sisters and a person of small stature (she was referred to as a dwarf in Elizabethan times). No one pays much attention to Mary; everyone assumes she won’t marry and provide a possible Tudor heir to the throne. Gambling on her unimportance, Mary secretly marries her true love as well. Unfortunately, her love story is no happier than her sister Katherine’s.

MY TWO CENTS: Strangely enough, I have never been as much of a fan of Elizabethan fiction as I am of stories of Henry VIII’s court. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because so much of the action relies on Elizabeth’s mercurial temperament. You might admire Elizabeth’s ability to keep everyone dancing on the edge of a knife—never actually making decisions; always keeping people guessing or changing her mind. That ability may have helped make her a great queen, but it does make for tiresome reading after a bit. Her paranoia, her jealousy of any man’s admiration of any other woman over her, is in complete opposition to her extreme intelligence and cunning. (Or was the paranoia just a manifestation of the cunning?)

To an extent, that colored my reading experience of this novel, but that is not to say I didn’t enjoy it. There is always a danger when reading historical fiction that you’re not going to stay engaged when you know what’s coming. That’s especially true when you know the outcome isn’t going to be a happy one. But that did not happen with this book. I couldn’t put it down, even though I knew it wasn’t going anywhere satisfying to the characters.

I have to admit, I found Jane as written a tiresome character. There was absolutely no fun to her at all, just extreme religious piety and a cold disregard for her sisters. So frankly, I was glad to get her story out of the way immediately, even though her shadow lingers over her sisters for the rest of the story. Somehow, I still managed to care what happened to her, and did feel bad when she realized, at the last minute, that she really didn’t want to die. In those last moments, she was finally more like a teenage girl than a robot.

I enjoyed Katherine’s story much more, inasmuch as anyone can enjoy the story of someone who lives most of her adult life locked away from her husband and children and then dies at age 27. Although Jane’s perspective of Katherine was of a silly girl, Katherine seems much more accessible to the reader. Yes, she can be silly, but she also shows many more human emotions than Jane. She loves her pets. She falls deeply in love and risks everything for it. In her naivete, she just honestly didn’t think Elizabeth would punish her for very long, much less forever. Katherine has absolutely no allies or parental figures after her mother dies, so you sympathize when she doesn’t even know for sure if she’s pregnant because no one has told her how to tell. A great part of the book is Katherine not giving up hope that Elizabeth will release her from captivity. Feeling that hope from Katherine’s point of view carries the reader along, even when her hopes are dashed time after time. It’s when Katherine finally realizes that she will never, ever be free that the story switches to Mary’s perspective.

I like Mary, the most practical of the Greys, except for one thing: having witnessed what happened to her sister, mostly because of Elizabeth’s jealousy, did she honestly think she would get away with a secret marriage herself? Did she really believe she wasn’t risking her freedom? But maybe that was the point. Maybe having lost her father and one sister to the executioner, and another sister to prison, she was willing to risk everything for even a short period of love.

This book overlaps somewhat with some of Gregory’s other novels: The Queen’s Fool, The Virgin’s Lover and The Other Queen. There was quite a bit about Robert Dudley and Mary Queen of Scots in this book.

AUDIO NOTE: If you enjoy audiobooks, I highly recommend listening to Gregory’s Plantagenet and Tudor novels in audio format. Bianca Amato has been the reader on many of Gregory’s books, and I enjoy her performances greatly. I’ve had this on pre-order on Audible for months and will enjoy listening to it even after reading it.

COVER NOTES: This cover is pretty bland; just some golden Tudor roses over a silhouette of the Tower of London. Probably better than trying to show all three protagonists. Plus, the typical historical fiction “headless” woman has already been done on Alison Weir’s novel of Katherine Grey, A Dangerous Inheritance.

BOTTOM LINE: Not my favorite Gregory book, but still a very good read. If you’re a fan of Gregory’s, you’ll gobble this up. If you’re not already a fan, I wouldn’t recommend starting with this one.

TEACUP RATING: Four out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available in hardcover, eformats, and audio on August 8, 2017.

NEXT UP FROM THIS AUTHOR: I think we’re finally, FINALLY, getting the fourth and final book in the “Order of Darkness” series! Just this week, the title Dark Tracks has shown up on Amazon, with a release date of March 6, 2018. I don’t know what Gregory has planned after that now that she’s finished writing about the Tudors, but I’ll be watching to find out.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Wendy Darling: Shadow (Wendy Darling #3) by Colleen Oakes

I have thoroughly enjoyed the “Wendy Darling” series, which also included Volume 1: Stars (previously reviewed here) and Volume 2: Seas (reviewed here). How did Shadow finish out the story?

Wendy Darling: Shadow front cover (SparkPress)

THE PLOT: Volume 3 picks up where Seas left off. Wendy has returned to the Lost Boys, trying to make Peter believe she loves him and gain his forgiveness for leaving. She needs to be there long enough to get information from Tink and steal Peter’s pipes, both needed to control the Shadow, the destructive force behind Peter’s power.

 Her task is complicated by the capture of Booth, her gentle true love from London, thanks to her combative brother John. With Booth under Peter’s control, Wendy has to fight for his release from Neverland along with the freedom of both her brothers.
Alone with Peter, without the aid of her friend Captain Hook or much assistance from a hostile Tink, Wendy will have to rely on herself to rescue her loved ones and free Neverland from Peter and the Shadow.

MY TWO CENTS: First, let me say that this book has a lot more action than Volume 2 did. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Seas, but it was a lot of setup and building toward the climax. Now that we’re here, stuff is happening. In contrast to Seas, Hook’s role here is fairly limited. We do get a big dose of Peter, who was mostly missing from Seas.

Of course, we knew all along that this is a more obvious Wendy coming-of-age story than the original Peter Pan. This Wendy is in her late teens and already had a love interest before Peter. Peter makes no secret of what he wants from Wendy.  We definitely see a more adult Wendy emerge in this volume; she’s grabbing adulthood, and the responsibilities that come with it, with both hands.

Wendy is mostly released from Peter’s thrall now, especially with the reality of a captured Booth staring her in the face. While she has a battle plan, there’s a part of her that will take whatever happiness she can just in case it doesn’t work out.

I also found that this book wasn’t very predictable. I had a pretty definite idea of how things would play out, and I was wrong quite a bit. I wonder if other readers would agree with me, or do you see this ending coming?

COVER NOTES: I’ve mentioned before how very much I love these covers. I was wrong in thinking that we might see Wendy’s face on this final cover, but I don’t have a problem with that. I much prefer “faceless” covers that leave the details to the reader’s imagination than a model who doesn’t match my idea of the character. We do, however, get Wendy standing strong for the first time, which is appropriate. I’m buying a set of these books to have the matched set in hard copy because I think they’re worthy of my precious limited shelf space.

BOTTOM LINE: I really liked this whole series, and found Shadow fairly unpredictable. I’m really gratified when the series finale doesn’t trip the finish line. I would recommend this series to fans of fairy tale retellings.

TEACUP RATING: Four-and-a-half out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available in paperback and eformats on July 18, 2017.

NEXT UP FROM THIS AUTHOR: The third book in the “Red Queen” series, War of the Cards, will be released November 7, 2017. I really need to start reading this series.

Note: Review is based on ARCs provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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