Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Who Wants to Marry a Duke by Sabrina Jeffries: review

3/5 stars on Goodreads

Who Wants to Marry a Duke by Sabrina Jeffires

When it comes to historical romance, I tend to be set in my ways. I have a couple of favourite authors, like Suzanne Enoch, and I’m reluctant to try new ones. They disappoint too often. I hadn’t read Sabrina Jeffries before, but when I spotted her book at NetGalley, I decided to give her a chance.

Who Wants to Marry a Duke is the third book in a series called Duke Dynasty. Each book tells the love story of one of the siblings of a large family, on top of which there’s a continuous story of a murder investigation. I haven’t read the first two books, but it didn’t matter at all. The characters of the earlier books are introduced well, and the murder investigation doesn’t really kick in until here.

The main couple of this book is Olivia Norley and the Duke of Thornstock, or Thorne. (He does have a real name, but it’s never used and came as a bit of a surprise when I checked the book description just now.) They have a bit of past together. He has been forced to propose to her ten years earlier, but she’s refused. For some reason he’s held grudge for it ever since.

The murder investigation brings them together again. Olivia is an aspiring chemist, beggaring belief in those of us who want some historical accuracy (the book takes place in 1809), but it’s done well enough and I could let it stand. She’s hired by Thorne’s brother Grey to investigate the body of Grey’s father for traces of arsenic. Thorne wants to keep an eye on her, because he doesn’t trust her. But of the two, he’s the one who’s keeping secrets.

Olivia is a forthright character who is curious about everything new, including romance and sex. Thorne is slightly annoying with his hot and cold act, and the grudge he holds seems a little contrived and manufactured for the sake of drama. And when his secret is revealed, the following fight seems out of proportions for the transgression. They make up easily enough afterwards. But they’re a good couple together, Thorne especially grows as a person, and the naughty scenes are satisfying. All in all, a nice romance.

The murder investigation is the weakest part of the narrative and doesn’t really have much of a role despite starting the events. There’s a lot of conjecture about the identity of the villain(s) and their motives, but nothing concrete. The villains aren’t characters in this book, and despite some mayhem caused by them, there’s no suspense. And the murder isn’t even solved in the end.

What made me give only three stars, however, is that the book is one act too short. The last twist, the final push and test of the couple and their love never takes place. It’s even set up perfectly. There’s a probable threat to Olivia’s life, a mirror of an earlier attack, and Thorne rushes in to warn and protect her. But the attack never happens and the book just ends, followed by an epilogue that rehashes the murder investigation, lessening the emotional impact of the last chapter. So, a bit of a let-down in the end. But I liked the writing style well-enough that I’ll likely read the last book in the series, if only to find out who is offing the dukes and why.


Monday, August 10, 2020

Summer reading roundup

I took a few weeks off from this blog for a summer vacation and so haven’t updated anything since June. I didn’t stop reading though. On the contrary. Here’s a quick recap.

False Security by Lindsay Buroker

False Security by Lindsay Buroker continues her exciting UF series Death Before Dragons. In this fifth book, vampires are going missing, including Val’s vampire friend; Val accepts a job as a bodyguard to a tech billionaire, Zav takes her to the realm of elves to see her father, and Val ends up with roommates—and a new house too. For a woman who’s kept people at arm’s length, she’s building a nice new family for herself. Zav talks a lot about vigorous mating, now that he’s officially claimed her, but nothing really happens. There’s a lot of action, like always, and the final battle has bears and naked vampires in it. You don’t want to miss it. (4/5 stars on Goodreads)

Twisted Twenty-six by Janet Evanovich

Twisted Twenty-six is the latest in Janet Evanovich’s long-running Stephanie Plum mystery series. The series has felt tired for quite long now, but here it returns to its old form—to an extent. The stakes are genuinely high, violence has consequences, and humorous incidents don’t dominate everything else. Stephanie takes stock of her life, giving an impression of continuity between the books, which is usually lacking. Lesser side characters, Connie and Stephanie’s parents included, have actual roles. And the ending hints at the same story continuing in the next book. I’m really looking forward to it. (4/5 stars on Goodreads)

False Value by Ben Aaronovitch

False Value is the eight book in Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch, and it doesn’t let down. I had a brief scare at the beginning that Peter wouldn’t be his usual copper self, but luckily that didn’t turn out to be the case, as he’s undercover. The first part of the book was slightly different than usually, as it was told in alternating chapters in the present and the past to set up the reason for Peter’s latest assignment. Once that was over, the story advanced in the usual meandering manner where the reader isn’t entirely sure what’s going on until it’s all over. There was a bit more Beverly in this book than before—she is pregnant after all—and she is becoming a real person, but the other side characters remain a bit two dimensional. This includes the staples like Nightingale and Sergeant Guleed. There was some mayhem at the end, but Peter managed not to destroy half of London this time round. I’m not sure if I’m disappointed or not about that. (4/5 stars on Goodreads)

Engagement and Espionage by Penny Reid

Engagement and Espionage is a spinoff of Winston Brothers series by Penny Reid and starts a new Solving for Pie series. It features Cletus, the devious mastermind in hillbilly’s body, and his betrothed Jennifer the pie queen, and it’s a mystery, not romance—most of the time. The mystery of strangled chickens wasn’t terribly difficult to solve, but Jenn’s strained relationship with her parents took some work. And the two of them just couldn’t catch a break, mostly because Cletus couldn’t see past his romantic machinations. It was fun and emotional, like Ms Reid’s books usually are. I’ll definitely read the next book. (4/5 stars on Goodreads)

Queen’s Gambit by Karen Chance

Queen’s Gambit continues Karen Chance’s Dorina Basarab UF series. It’s the fifth book, but as the series is parallel with Chance’s other, longer series, it feels like Dory’s been around forever. The book has a promising start: a sneak attack separates Dory and Dorina, giving the latter a body of her own. From there, we follow two separate adventures, as they both try to figure out what has happened, why and by whom, and how to get back together again.

Unfortunately, instead of a proper plot, we have endless battles in both storylines, some of which don’t really have anything to do with the actual aim of the book. And then the book ends without any conclusion to either story. Dory ends up where she began, practically none the wiser, and Dorina’s story ends with a kind of a cliff-hanger.

Of the two stories, I liked Dorina’s better, as she has for the first time a chance to reflect her weird existence within Dory. Dory’s storyline evolved into endless discussion about her marriage with Louis-C├ęsare, which got old after a while. The only good thing I can say about it is that they managed to talk things through and reach some sort of understanding.

This was not my favourite in the series by any means. But these books have had greatly uneven quality before, so I’m not giving up yet. And the way Dorina’s story ended, it gives me hope that the two series will connect properly for the first time in the next book. We’ll see. (3/5 stars on Goodreads)

The Enforcer Enigma by G. L. Carriger

The Enforcer Enigma is the third book in San Andreas Shifters M/M paranormal romance series by Gail Carriger, writing as G.L. Carriger. It’s been a while since I read the previous book, but it felt like coming home, warm and cosy. The characters and the entire pack are coming together nicely and they’re not constantly on defensive anymore, which changes the dynamic of the story.

Perhaps that’s why it felt like the love story of Colin and Judd took a backseat to the main plot. It was a nice mystery plot that was solved really fast, but I really would’ve liked to read more of the lovely pair. That said, the two stories went hand in hand, there were really good moments between the pair and it felt believable all the way. Colin opened up nicely and Judd finally found his home in Colin. On top of that, Trick was a great new addition to the group and I’ll definitely read how it’ll turn out with his bear in the next book. (4/5 stars on Goodreads)

On top of these books, I read a few I’d received free from NetGalley. I’ll write separate reviews of those later.