Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Worth the Wait

Worth the Wait: A Sexy Summer Read (Guthrie Brothers) by [Foster, Lori]

Worth the Wait (Guthrie Brothers #2)- Lori Foster
HQN Books
Release Date: July 25, 2017

Rating (out of 5):

Synopsis: Single dad Hogan Guthrie is getting his life back on track, and working as the “barbecue master” at a local diner is just a temporary detour. He and restaurant owner Violet Shaw constantly butt heads…until one night they end up mingling other parts instead. Hogan thought he had the recipe for happiness all figured out. But loyal, carefree Violet is daring him to trust his impulses…and see just how sweet small-town living—and loving—can be.

Nathan Hawley traded his SWAT team credentials for a sheriff's badge, but a gorgeous new neighbor is shaking up his orderly life. Nathan has a hunch there's more to Brooklin Sweet than meets the eye—but given her caution about getting involved, he has his work cut out for him. Still, there's something about the elusive beauty Nathan can't walk away from—and helping her come to terms with her past might pave the way to the future they both secretly long for.

Single dad Hogan Guthrie has been going through something of an early mid-life crisis. Lori Foster fans first met Hogan in Don't Tempt Me as the brother to main character Jason Guthrie. He was trying to handle discovering his wife was cheating on him, stole their son's college funds, and then dying on the way to meet a lover by moving to a new town, getting a new job, and trying to be the sole parent to a 17 year old son.  In Don't Tempt Me he dealt with everything by sleeping around a lot. Now he's trying to get past his hound dog reputation to convince restaurant owner Violet Shaw that he can be the one for her.  His problem now is trying to get past the bitter view of marriage and commitment his wife left him with, and balance his life with his son Colt's needs.  Hogan's a nice guy with a tendency to put his foot in his mouth when it comes to anything dealing with Violet.

Violet is fortunately willing to give Hogan plenty of rope.  She loves her independence and doesn't want anyone to see her as anything but in control and confident.  When she gets sick and has to lean on Hogan for help, it galls her sense of independence, but helps bring them closer together.  Before either of them quite know it, they are learning to run Violet's restaurant together and starting to fit seamlessly into  each other's lives.  Trouble comes in the form of a stalker to new friend and neighbor Brooklin Sweet.  Violet becomes collateral damage in a twisted attempt at revenge against Brooklin.  Fortunately, Brooklin's neighbor Nathan is not only the town sheriff, but just as personally interested in Brooklin's protection as Hogan is Violet's.

Worth the Wait is a sweet story with plenty of wit and byplay between the characters to keep the chemistry going.  The characters are authentic and strike all the right notes.  Some of the best interactions came between various characters and Colt (Hogan's son). I'm not a big fan of kids but Colt is a mature, almost-adult, sensitive and thoughtful and totally stole all his scenes!  The tempo might have benefitted from making Nathan and Brooklin the main couple instead of Hogan and Violet, since Brooklin is the one whose past is coming back to kill her.  But by focusing on Hogan and Violet, we get to see two strong-willed, stubborn, and independent people learn how to compromise and become one unit.  We also get to see them (especially Hogan) discover that life and happiness don't necessarily mean having a high paying, prestigious suit-and-tie job and ensuring your kid gets into the best college in the country.  It can also mean just doing a job you love, with people you love around to support you, and family happiness coming above all else.

You don't have to have read Don't Tempt Me to enjoy Worth the Wait, although its fun to catch up with the recurring characters. Worth the Wait is a fun, fast summer read full of people who could be your neighbors- and by the end you certainly wish they were!

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Denying the Duke

Denying the Duke (Lords & Ladies in Love) by [Hutton, Callie]

Denying the Duke- Callie Hutton
Scandalous: Entangled Publishing, LLC
Release Date: July 10, 2017

Rating (out of 5)

Synopsis: Four years ago, Alex, a second son, had planned a life together with Lady Patience. However, when Patience was betrothed to his brother, the heir, Alex left his family's estate and joined the military.

Alex returns to assume the title Duke of Bedford when his brother unexpectedly dies. He is unprepared for both his new responsibilities and the reunion with Patience. The horrors of war are a heavy burden, and when he learns that Patience never married his brother, he is stunned.
Patience withstood the bullying of her fiancΓ© and her father for four long years. She refuses to marry Alex just because he's the duke, especially if he no longer loves her. How would that be better than what she has already endured? Promises made in their youth are not enough to overcome the changes life has wrought for them but love can grow and transform, if only Patience could believe that.

Four years ago Alex was a second son, ignored by his parents and bullied by his older brother.  Meeting the 16 year old Lady Patience, Alex feels seen for the first time.  Patience has seen how miserable her mother is in marriage and hopes for better things- things she thinks she has found in Alex.  But when their fathers announce her betrothal to Alex's elder brother Cyrus, their young plans fall apart.  Alex leaves home, joins the military, and doesn't come back until he is summoned four years later.  Both his father and brother are dead and he is now the Duke of Bedford.  To his surprise, Patience had not yet married Cyrus.  But four years can change people, and neither are who they once were,  Can they find their way back to love, or has their chance passed forever?
Although I'm not generally a fan of second-chance romance, the idea for this book really intrigued me.  What if the second chance was not because the two lovers messed up and drove each other apart, but because their parents did?  How could you overcome the obstacles caused by others to reach a happily-ever-after?  Unfortunately, Denying the Duke didn't deliver good answers for me. 
Most of my problem was with Alex.  The ignored second son who goes off to war and comes back a changed and hardened man.  So far so good, that's all believable and makes for good character building.  He's bitter towards his whole family, partly for how they always treated him and partly for engaging his older brother to the girl he's falling in love with.  I might point out that he could have tried to fight for her, but he was young, so I'm still ok with him.  Then he returns home and he loses me.  He ignores Patience at Cyrus' funeral, thinking she's his brother's widow, then finds out from friends that she hadn't married Cyrus.  Patience's title-hungry father immediately suggests Alex marry Patience.  Alex goes from complete refusal to thinking maybe it would be convenient to marry her so he doesn't have to search the Marriage Mart for a wife.  He's in lust with her but, rather like his behavior at the funeral, he rarely tries to see Patience or who she is now.  Until he completely messes up a 'proposal' and she refuses, then she's a challenge.  Even after they get married and start getting to know each other, he refuses to explain  himself, his actions, or share anything with her- while expecting her to do all of that with him.   
I liked Patience- she had a miserable home life with a bullying and abusive father (then add on a fiancΓ© who was even worse) and spent most of her life not being consulted about any aspect of her life.  By the time she and Alex meet again she has managed to hold on to a kind and generous spirit, but she's also sick of being bullied by men and wants to have her own say in her life. She doesn't actually figure out how to do that until she's married to Alex. Then she decides she deserves courting and tells Alex she won't go to bed with him until he's wooed her and they are friends again.  Alex does agree she deserves some romance, but works to seduce her at the same time.
Just when you think there's a chance they can get things right, a traitor from the past starts stalking them.  Alex knows the villain will probably try to get to him through his wife, so he and his friends make sure she's never out of sight. The one thing they don't do to protect her is to tell Patience what's happening.  I was willing to look past Alex's past jerky behavior once he and Patience started finding their footing and it was clear he was somewhat willing to try and be a good husband, but this blew it for me. Patience figures out pretty fast that she's being watched every second and when Alex won't explain why what is she to think but that he doesn't trust her? 
There were plenty of things where a deeper exploration could have improved the plot and the characters. I would have loved to see more between Alex and his family.  Was Alex, the intelligent, serious, polite and kind son, very unlike his father and that was why they couldn't get along? The glimpses you get of Cyrus, even at a young age, certainly suggest he wasn't going to be a good duke- so why didn't their parents  train Alex to handle estate affairs for his brother?  Were his parents literally so stupid and shallow that they only preferred the older brother because he was the heir by accident of birth and ignored Alex until he was the Duke? Did his mother care for nothing but the title, not the man who held it, as Alex asks at one point? When we discover the blackmail Patience's father held over the old duke, there's plenty of room to find out more about the duke, as well as Patience's mother. But we only get glimpses.  We get glimpses of some of Alex's time at war that could help explain why he does some things, and it could have been expanded to better cover why he doesn't tell Patience about the danger she's in.  But we are left unsatisfied with what we get, and my impression of Alex suffers as a result. 
I think one of my big problems with Denying the Duke (besides a completely unlikable make lead) was that it tried to be too many things at once, and so things that could have been explored and made for deeper characters were dropped. Is this a second-chance romance, a marriage of convenience trope, the redemption of a man haunted by war, a woman finding herself, a spy thriller?  Most books can pull off two or even three of these in the same storyline.  A rare few can possibly put them all together into a compelling, deep, and enjoyable storyline, full of engaging characters you like or come to like and cheer towards a happy ending.  Denying the Duke manages to be none of the above, and a rather disappointing read.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Lost Boy

Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook by [Henry, Christina]

Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook- Christina Henry
Release Date: July 4, 2017 

Rating (out of 5):

Caution: Spoilers Ahead!

Synopsis: There is one version of my story that everyone knows. And then there is the truth. This is how it happened. How I went from being Peter Pan’s first—and favorite—lost boy to his greatest enemy.
Peter brought me to his island because there were no rules and no grownups to make us mind. He brought boys from the Other Place to join in the fun, but Peter's idea of fun is sharper than a pirate’s sword. Because it’s never been all fun and games on the island. Our neighbors are pirates and monsters. Our toys are knife and stick and rock—the kinds of playthings that bite.

Peter promised we would all be young and happy forever.
Peter lies.


What if you took the well known story of Peter Pan, the boy who wouldn't grow up, and started asking questions.  What if you thought about what a society composed entirely of young boys would be like?  What if you took the old myths of magic and blood, youth and paradise,  and applied their rules to Neverland?  

The answer would be: you get Lost Boy by Christina Henry.  A fantastic, dark retelling of Peter Pan told from the point of view of Jamie, Peter's second in command, who has lived on the island longer than any boy except Peter.  Jamie, who Peter convinced to go to Neverland where they would be young and free and happy forever. As Peter brings new boys to join them he promises them fun adventures raiding pirates, swimming with mermaids, playing what they want, eating when they want, with no one to tell them what to do.  But someone has to teach the boys to defend themselves in pirate raids, how to hunt food, how to tend wounds.  This is what Jamie does.  He becomes the one who looks after them, who protects them, who shoulders the grief when they die.  Because staying young forever doesn't mean you can't die.  There are pirates, accidents, and wild animals, but there are also Battles- because what do young boys like better than to fight?  

We watch Jamie go from disappointed to disillusioned with Peter as Jamie tries to keep the group safe and Peter considers them replaceable.  Things degenerate (or maybe were always like this and Jamie finally realizes it?) into more Lord of the Flies than happy adventures.  Jamie begins to discover the island has secrets even he did not know, although Peter did.  And Peter, finally fed up with the fact that Jamie looks after the other boys, decides the only way to regain Jamie's love and friendship is to destroy everyone that might get between them.

Lost Boy is a compelling, haunting, and at times chilling story: fast-paced and well-written, you can't put it down once you've started.  Your heart aches for Jamie as he begins to realize the truth, and remember truths he had forgotten from the world before the island.  Lost Boy is both a twist of an old classic, and a brilliant story of self discovery, loyalty, and identity that shakes up all your preconceived ideas and invites you to take a new look at Peter Pan and the boy who became Captain Hook.

Fans of ABC's Once Upon a Time will love Lost Boy, as it reminds us that a villain is only someone who's story hasn't been told yet.  

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review