Tell Me by Abigail Strom
Title: Tell Me
Author: Abigail Strom
Series: Love Me
Pages: 254
Genre(s): Contemporary
Hot Buttons: Death

Shy bookstore owner Jane Finch grew up hiding in the margins of her own life while her vibrant, adventure-loving sister, Samantha, dominated every plotline. She’s made peace with it, unlike Sam’s business partner, Caleb, who’s always nudging Jane to go after what she really wants. Why should she care what blunt, brash Caleb thinks? They’ve never had much in common, except for Sam.

After tragedy strikes, they don’t even have that.

Caleb can’t quite remember when Sam’s little sister stopped being like a surrogate sibling to him and became just…Jane. She’s the most intriguing woman he’s ever met, and so much sexier and stronger than she thinks. On the emotional journey to honor Sam’s memory, the spark they’ve tried to deny becomes an inferno. This journey was meant to be an ending, but will they discover an unexpected new beginning?

I try to avoid stories - even romances - that contain tragedy of any sort. For me, reality should be reserved for real life, not for my books. So I feel like I took a little bit of a chance by choosing this book - but boy am I glad that I took that chance as I really loved this book.

Both Jane and Caleb caught my attention from their first interaction with each other. It was intriguing, sweet and Caleb was just annoying enough to Jane for me to start to root for them almost immediately. I loved how the pair bantered with each other and were almost falling in love with each other before either of them realised it.

Sam’s passing was almost like a shoe waiting to drop. We know from the blurb that it’s going to happen (and thank goodness for that) but it was just a case of when. In the end it was fairly low-key but it did make the book one of two halves. The first half was dominated by Jane and Caleb and focussing on their relationship and their personal hangups. The second half was more complex with more emotions and more difficult conversations and thoughts. Still none too heavy although I was a wee bit emotional when Jane and Caleb went up Owl Mountain. Who am I kidding? - I was bawling like a bloody baby!

I wondered how they would get to their happily ever after and they were made to work for it - but it was so satisfying in the end. As always, I prefer to have an epilogue but the lack of one doesn’t make this book any less enjoyable. There were laugh out loud moments (“I hope a kangaroo kicks you in the head.”), emotional bits, frustrating bits (normally with Caleb being a dumbass!) but they all came together to create a really enjoyable, well written romance with a lot of heart. I would highly recommend this one. 5 stars.

As an aside, I got my review rejected from Amazon for using the word 'dumbass'! *Giggles*


Duke of Desire by Elizabeth Hoyt
Title: Duke of Desire
Author: Elizabeth Hoyt
Series: Maiden Lane
Pages: 336
Genre(s): Historical, Georgian
Hot Buttons: Child Abuse (flashback)


Refined, kind, and intelligent, Lady Iris Jordan finds herself the unlikely target of a diabolical kidnapping. Her captors are the notoriously evil Lords of Chaos. When one of the masked-and nude!-Lords spirits her away to his carriage, she shoots him . . . only to find she may have been a trifle hasty.


Cynical, scarred, and brooding, Raphael de Chartres, the Duke of Dyemore, has made it his personal mission to infiltrate the Lords of Chaos and destroy them. Rescuing Lady Jordan was never in his plans. But now with the Lords out to kill them both, he has but one choice: marry the lady in order to keep her safe.


Much to Raphael's irritation, Iris insists on being the sort of duchess who involves herself in his life-and bed. Soon he's drawn both to her quick wit and her fiery passion. But when Iris discovers that Raphael's past may be even more dangerous than the present, she falters. Is their love strong enough to withstand not only the Lords of Chaos but also Raphael's own demons?

This is an intriguing romance with a hint of a mystery and darkness that I really enjoyed. It takes a strong story and compelling characters to grip me as this book did. I found myself sneaking away to read this as I really just wanted to find out what was going to happen next.

I absolutely loved both Raphael and Iris. Who doesn’t love a story of a man who is convinced that he is destined to always be in the dark, finding that through the love of a good woman, he can come into the light and live a happy life he’d thought impossible? Raphael was so damaged - poor man - and he just didn’t think he deserved Iris. Iris just wouldn’t give up on him, or their love, and she was strong and feisty while still being vulnerable. Brilliant character. Their love story was believable and that made me root for them even more.

There was also the ongoing revenge storyline about bringing down the Lords of Chaos. They were a vile group of people! We were kept guessing about the identity of the leader of the group - I kept changing my mind about who I thought it was out of the three characters we had. Having said that, I felt I had to suspend belief that Raphael or Iris wouldn’t have been able to guess at their identity - especially since the first scene of the book saw everybody (except Iris) buck naked. Even with a mask, I think you’d know! ;)

The implications (and reality) of child abuse by the Lords of Chaos made me feel physically sick. I’m not berating the book by saying that, as it was a significant part of Raphael’s back story and his reasons for so many of his actions, it was just uncomfortable to think about despite not being written graphically.

I also didn’t like what happened to Raphael’s servant, Ubertino and didn’t understand the reasoning behind it. It didn’t drive the story forward, and didn’t provide a further motivation for Raphael’s drive towards bringing down the Lords of Chaos. I know that it’s a real life situation but I’m honestly not looking for real life when I read romance.

And oh and for goodness sake - British people call it autumn!!

After reading I realised that this is the 12th (!) book in the Maiden Lane series. I’ve not read any of the other books but having scanned through their blurbs, it seems that this book really only connects to the previous book, Duke of Pleasure. Hugh makes an appearance in this book and there is talk of his first wife (a surprisingly loose woman called Katherine) and his current wife Alf. Did this book make me want to read that one? I’m not sure, to be honest, although I’ll admit to being curious. We’ll see.

I really enjoyed this book and it kept me interested from beginning to end. If you’re looking for a hero who is damaged and in need of the love of a good woman - and a good woman who just won’t give up on him - then I would highly recommend this book to you. So very nearly a 5 star read.

This is nothing to do with the author - or the book - but Raphael is scarred on his face - it’s a huge part of the storyline and his character. I’m not sure why the bloke on the front cover (as lovely as he is) does not show that. Bizarre! Still, it’s better than the horrible cover they used for the British version - so bloody boring!


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* I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. *

True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop by Annie Darling
Title: True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop
Author: Annie Darling
Series: Lonely Hearts Bookshop
Pages: 416 
Genre(s): Contemporary, UK
Hot Buttons: /

Verity Love – Jane Austen fangirl and an introvert in a world of extroverts – is perfectly happy on her own (thank you very much), and her fictional boyfriend Peter is very useful for getting her out of unwanted social events. But when a case of mistaken identity forces her to introduce a perfect stranger as her boyfriend, Verity’s life suddenly becomes much more complicated.

Johnny could also use a fictional girlfriend. Against Verity’s better judgement, he persuades her to partner up for a summer season of weddings, big number birthdays and garden parties, with just one promise - not to fall in love with each other…

This isn’t my usual romance novel as I don’t tend to read contemporary romances set in the UK - too close to home and too hard to disappear into a fantasy world that way. I’ll admit that it did take me a while to get into the book, but once it got going, I was hooked. It was smart, rich and, at times laugh out loud funny. And perhaps because it was set in the UK, I felt a connection with the story and the characters.

Verity was a very real character and a true introvert. I loved how she owned her quirks and foibles and, without sounding like a sap, I really admired her, identified with her and looked up to her, despite her ‘flaws’. I could feel her pain and was 100% with her when she wanted to punch Marissa and her friends. I did too - so very much. It was nice to read about someone who went through the same problems as normal people and came out the other side - not unscathed - but still happy.

Much like Very, we didn’t get any insight into Johnny’s feelings as the story was told purely from her point of view. I think I ended up being just as frustrated as she was by not knowing what was going on in that daft, gorgeous head of his. He took a bit too long to stop being foolish but it was annoying realistic in that sense.

This book was definitely a slow burner. I loved how the progression of Very and Johnny’s friendship almost meandered along although there were significant milestones that were so small but so huge at the same time. It was lovely to watch the pair. And frustrating at times, too!

I normally prefer my romance books with a decent amount of sex in them. This didn’t have that and honestly, it didn’t need it. No, really - I didn’t miss it.

There were little Jane Austen quotes and titbits littered in the book which were fun to read. And the ending…I think I might have swooned. *Sigh* Definitely a re-readable moment.

I finished the book last night and I still find myself reaching for my kindle to read more about the lives of Very and Johnny. Because it took me about a week to finish the book - and also through the skill of the author in bringing the characters to life and making them feel like very real people - I feel like I know them and I’m going to miss them!

This book was a surprise to me. As I mentioned, it’s not my usual type of book but true love and bookshops? - I just couldn’t resist - and I’m so glad that I didn’t. The only reason for not giving this book the full 5 stars was because it took me quite a while to get into it (and only when I did did I realise it was set in London rather than a cute little village somewhere!). There was a lot of detail throughout the book but in the first few chapters I just wanted Very and Johnny to meet (and meet again) and get the love story started! The other reason is that I could have done with a bit more grovelling from Johnny at the end. It wouldn’t have worked with the way the story played out but I still wanted it.

I’m now off in search of Posy’s story (The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts) and (hopefully) any future stories with this same set of friends. The level of detail and richness of their stories means I must have more in my life! Add to that, I really found this story up-lifting. Even if this isn’t your usual sort of romance, I would recommend this book to you. Give it a shot - I know you won’t be disappointed. 4 stars.


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* I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. *

The Lonely Hearts Bookshop Series:

A Talent for Temptation by Sabrina Jeffries
Title: A Talent for Temptation
Author: Sabrina Jeffries
Series: Sinful Suitors
Pages: 68
Genre(s): Historical, Regency
Hot Buttons: /

Widow Meriel Vyse is stunned speechless when someone tries to abduct her on her way to a ball. Fortunately, Quinn Raines, her secret beau, shows up to foil the attack. Unfortunately, as the two of them are struggling with her abductor, Meriel accidentally stabs Quinn with a knife.

Unbeknownst to Meriel, Quinn set up the fake abduction so he could play the hero and win her hand in marriage. But now that his plan has gone disastrously awry, can he convince her that he's still the man for her?

You don’t always feel completely satisfied with a short story due to its length - but this one does feel like a complete tale. This is because we join the love story after our couple - Quinn and Meriel - have met and fallen in love. Not that either of them are prepared to admit that just yet. Or have consummated those feelings. More fun for us as we get to read all the good bits packed into a short space!

I loved the premise for this story - it sounded hilarious - but I’ll admit to being a tiny bit concerned that Quinn might be a little bit of a wet blanket if he needed to woo someone with subterfuge and machinations. I shouldn’t have worried. Quinn was a nice, strong man who had just gone to bizarre lengths to win the woman he loved away from the other man that he feared she may love more.

Meriel was a no-nonsense, strong woman with worries about her worth and her past that gave her a true-to-life roundness to her character. I loved her. Together, she and Quinn were adorable and I was rooting for them to work things out. Especially after their time together in the parlour! Plus, extra marks for the name Quinn. It’s up there with Nick, Matt and Finn as my favourite hero names of all time!

The other thing this story did was really whet my appetite for the next (and last) in the Sinful Suitors series dealing with Baron Fulkham (who also appears in this story) - The Secret of Flirting. When he remarks that he has neither the time nor the inclination to fall in love I laughed. Ha! Little do you know what Ms Jeffries has in store for you, Gregory!

Anyway, A Talent for Temptation is a short read that will take you less than an hour. Despite that it’s sweet and satisfying and if you’re a fan of Sabrina Jeffries, the Sinful Suitors series or just enjoyable historical romance stories, I would highly recommend this book to you. 5 stars.

This is book 4.5 in Jeffries’ Sinful Suitors series but can be read as a standalone story.


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* I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. *

The Sinful Suitors series:

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