A Sinful Deception (Breconridge Brothers #2) by Isabella Bradford

I keep saying that I’m not reading any more new-to-me romance writers, and then I keep doing it anyway. This one pulled me in with its tagline  of “For fans of Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, and Sabrina Jeffries.” Since those are three writers on my auto-buy-as-bound-books shelf, I had to check this out. I’m happy I did.

A Sinful Deception Front Cover (Random House Publishing)

A Sinful Deception Front Cover (Ballantine/Random House Publishing)

THE PLOT: Serena Carew would seem to be a perfect catch in Georgian London. She’s a beautiful, exotic heiress. She is also keeping a huge secret from everyone and believes that this secret will prevent her from marrying. She immediately captivates Lord Geoffrey Fitzroy, but he thinks he only wants an affair with her. Serena naively believes that she can have an affair since she doesn’t plan to marry…but her family isn’t going to allow her to be disgraced.

Geoffrey and Serena find that they have a true love match, but the devastating events of Serena’s past haunts her. One person will benefit most from revealing her secret, and he has absolutely no fondness for Serena.

MY TWO CENTS: I’m so glad that Serena’s secret was out of the ordinary. I won’t say what it is, but thankfully it’s not that she had been ruined or borne a secret child. I do wish the evil uncle had been introduced a little earlier in the book.He seemed almost added in to first get Serena to accept the protection of marriage, and then to cause trouble in the marriage. At first, Serena is surrounded by loving family, and then, suddenly, there’s the uncle.

As far as the “Fans of Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, and Sabrina Jeffries” tagline…I would say that’s a pretty good assessment, with one exception. Those three usually provide a fair amount of humor in their novels (especially Julia Quinn), and there is really no humor in this book. Perhaps there was in the first book, A Wicked Pursuit…I haven’t read it yet, but I could see Gus inspiring a few humorous situations.

I also have to admit, I love Georgian novels. This one is set in 1771. There’s something slightly more decadent about this period than the very polite Regency.

BOTTOM LINE: An unusual heroine; a couple in love throughout the book; a heartbreaking past; a loyal family; a few steamy love scenes. What’s not to love?

TEACUP RATING: Four-and-a-half out of five teacups. I’ll be checking out the other Breconridge Brothers novels.

ON SALE DATE: The book will be on sale in paperback and eformats on February 24, 2015.

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

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The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen

The first Julie Klassen novel I read was The Dancing Master, reviewed here. I liked it well enough to want to read more Klassen, and The Secret of Pembrooke Park was a great follow-up.

Secret of Pembrooke Park Front Cover (Baker Publishing Group)

Secret of Pembrooke Park Front Cover (Baker Publishing Group)

THE PLOT: When the Foster family loses almost all their money, Mr. Foster blames his oldest daughter, Abigail. Abigail had recommended that her father invest in her uncle’s banking firm, which has failed. To make up for it, Abigail has her family use her dowry to fund a season for her younger sister, Louisa…even though Louisa seems to have stolen the affections of Abigail’s childhood friend and crush, Gilbert. In the meantime, the Fosters are offered a temporary home at abandoned Pembrooke Park on the condition that they fix the place up. While Louisa and her mother stay in London, Abigail and her father travel to Pembrooke.

Abigail finds that intrigue abounds at Pembrooke. Why was it so hastily abandoned? What happened to the former owners? Who is leasing it to the Fosters? Is there really a secret treasure room? Who is sending Abigail anonymous diary passages? What does the local parson William Chapman and his family know about the secrets? Why does William’s sister choose to be almost a recluse? And does Abigail really want Gilbert back once he grows disenchanted with her sister, or has she developed real love for William?

MY TWO CENTS: First, let me say that this author gets the very best covers. Love the appropriate clothes, and the colors are striking. LOVE IT.

Second, even though Julie Klassen is a Christian writer, I feel like the reader isn’t overwhelmed with Christian messages; there is an appropriate amount of religion for the time period. While there is more religion in this book than there was in The Dancing Master, that’s kind of a given since William is a parson. Non-Christians who are looking for a clean regency mystery/romance will still enjoy it. Klassen books might even appeal to a broader audience than traditional romances do. I think a lot of people still enjoy a simple romance that doesn’t border on erotica, and this fits the bill.

Finally, there is definitely a gothic element to this book, between the midnight creakings that disturb Abigail, the mysterious cloaked figure, and more than one fire. I would say this is more of a mystery than a romance, as evidenced by the book’s title.

BOTTOM LINE: A bit of gothic mystery, a bit of romance, and not too preachy for a Christian writer. If you’re a fan of Jane Austen, you’ll probably like this book regardless of your religious beliefs.

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

ON SALE DATE: The book will be on sale in eformats on November 25, 2014, and in paperback on December 2, 2014.

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

The Marriage Game: A Novel of Queen Elizabeth I by Alison Weir

Everyone knows that Elizabeth I never married. Instead, she wielded her marriageability like a whip as part of her foreign policy for as long as she could. But were there other reasons she avoided making the commitment?

The Marriage Game Front Cover (Random House)

The Marriage Game Front Cover (Random House)

THE PLOT: The book follows Weir’s first historical fiction about Elizabeth, The Lady Elizabeth, and picks up shortly after she becomes queen. Her advisors want her to marry and secure an heir, but Elizabeth is too busy flirting with Robert Dudley and handing him accolades. Robert is already married, but his wife is ailing. Maybe if Elizabeth puts off everyone who wants her to marry a foreign prince, she can have Robert for herself once Amy Dudley is dead.

But does she really want him? Elizabeth was molested as a young girl by Thomas Seymour, and she’s skittish about physical love. She also has the past to influence her: her own mother and a stepmother executed by her father, who claimed to love them both at one time; and two stepmothers dead from childbearing. If Elizabeth chooses a husband, she may lose the power she has as queen to her husband, as husbands naturally hold dominion over their wives. If she bears a son, people may try to overthrow her in order to have a male on the throne.

The book follows Elizabeth from her coronation, through her complicated affair with Dudley and other various suitors, through the years up to Dudley’s death.

MY TWO CENTS: Reading about Elizabeth’s “marriage game” in nonfiction can get a little tedious, but Weir found a way to bring it to life in fiction by bringing Elizabeth’s emotions front and center. And this Elizabeth is extremely complicated by her (again, partly fictionalized) dealings with Thomas Seymour in Weir’s first book. While she longs for love (or, more accurately, adoration) from male admirers, she is completely unable to commit to any one man…physically or otherwise.

One could argue that this Elizabeth is a bit weaker than she should be, since she comes across as being ruled by her emotions instead of her cleverness. What history might see as craftiness in staying in the marriage market as long as she did can be explained by Weir as nerves and changeability.

BOTTOM LINE: Another successful fiction outing from Weir. I don’t know if it’s as good as A Dangerous Inheritance, but she definitely adds dimension to Elizabeth’s story.

TEACUP RATING: A solid four out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Will publish in hardcover and eformats in the USA on February 10, 2015. It’s already available in the UK.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss/Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.

Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller

The subtitle for this book could be “When Kanan met Hera.” It’s a more adult introduction to the Star Wars: Rebels animated TV show.

Star Wars New Dawn Front Cover (Lucasfilm)

Star Wars: A New Dawn Front Cover (Random House)

 

THE PLOT: Once upon a time, Kanan Jarrus was Caleb Dume, a Jedi in training. But then the Clones were given the order to eliminate the Jedi, and Kanan has been in hiding ever since, living a rootless life, getting into bar fights, and not using any Jedi abilities. His most recent home is the mining world of Gorse and its moon, Cynda. But then the Empire shows up in the form of Count Vidian, a cyborg with some interesting motives. Vidian receives word that the Emperor expects him to triple the quota of thorilide mined from Cynda. With the unwitting help of a conspiracy theorist named Skelly, who’s trying to prevent accidents, Vidian decides to blow up Cynda. This will get him the immediate thorilide he needs, eventually screw over his worst rival, and also kill a lot of people and destroy a world. Hera is there to gather info, but once she, Kanan, and Skelly meet and discover what Vidian is up to, they team up to stop him.

MY TWO CENTS: I was looking forward to reading this since I liked the author’s Kenobi so much, but the mining story just didn’t have the same draw for me as the “old west” feel of Kenobi. This is definitely more adult than the show. Kanan joins Hera mostly because he’s attracted to her, which I’m really not getting in the show. There are also nondetailed descriptions of Kanan’s womanizing, drinking, and fighting. Zeb, Sabine, and Ezra don’t make an appearance.

Although the reader knows that Kanan and Hera will survive this adventure, there are no guarantees for their other companions. I found that, and all the explosions, enough of a “danger hook” to keep the suspense level up.

Vidian is an interesting villain, certainly more interesting to me than General Grievous. I’m not sure if we’ll see him again, but I hope we do.

BOTTOM LINE: If you’re watching Rebels and want some background, this book will give you some. However, from the five episodes I’ve seen, reading this certainly isn’t necessary. Maybe I’ll feel differently as the show goes on. If they do more books about the Rebels cast, I would probably be interested in checking them out.

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

ON SALE DATE: The book is available now in hardcover and eformats.

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

 

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