Review: To the Duke, With Love

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: To the Duke, With Love
Author: Amelia Grey
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: December 2017
Length: 352 pages
Series?: The Rakes of St. James #2
Genre: Historical, Romance

Sloane Knox, the Duke of Hawksthorn is guardian for his sweet, younger sister. Due to his misguided past as one of the infamous Rakes of St James, Hawk is hoping to avoid the Season by securing a match for her before it begins. He has the perfect gentleman in mind, but for one infuriating―and unexpectedly intoxicating―obstacle: the intended groom’s own sister, Miss Loretta Quick.

Having narrowly avoided her own arranged marriage to an unacceptable nobleman, Loretta is determined that her dear brother―a gentle, good-natured soul―should marry for love. Matching wits with Hawk may be her greatest challenge yet. . .until she realizes it may also be her greatest pleasure. For the young duke’s irresistible charm has not only begun to crumble her stubborn resolve, it has claimed her heart in true love as well.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

This is the second book in the Rakes of St. James series. I read the first book and enjoyed it quite a bit, so I was expecting so much from this next book. It fell flat for me. The obvious insta-lust was so strong, it didn’t even read right in this historical romance setting. I did not get the feeling that the primary couple actually fell in love with one another. “I want you” is not the same as “I love you.” Additionally, there was a great imbalance of financials, which rubs me the wrong way with that type of power play.

Sloane Knox, Duke of Hawksthorn, is one of the three Rakes of St. James who played a prank on a dozen debutantes a decade ago. Following last year’s season and a possible threat to the younger sister of one of the other Rakes of St. James, Sloane wants to bar any such threat happening to his younger sister, Adele, as she makes her debut. Arranging a secret engagement before the start of the season will ensure that Adele comes out successful with a suitor and free of any retribution. In efforts to arrange what Hawk believes is the perfect match, he travels to Mammoth House, set far in the countryside, remote and isolated. Eager to make arrangements with Paxton Quick, a handsome and kind man, Hawk is harshly surprised to find not Paxton, but his sister Loretta at Mammoth House. A confusing confrontation ensues, with lines drawn in the sand and Loretta firmly making her stance that she will do everything in her power to keep her brother from this marriage.

Despite being a drastic act, Loretta was once set up in an arranged marriage herself. It was a business transaction more than a love match. In fact, she didn’t feel anything for the man…and left him at the altar. Following her uncle’s severe embarrassment and ensuing rage, Loretta has been banished to live at the remote Mammoth House, not even allowed to visit the village. She is required to remain at Mammoth House and not allowed to leave and sees her uncle but once a year at Christmastime. Having suffered the repercussions, Loretta only wants her brother to marry for love.

Going against all etiquette, Hawk dines alone with Loretta that night as a massive storm blows in. Midway through, a young urchin is found at the backdoor. Hawk follows him into the storm and brings him back, while Loretta and the other staff nurse him back from the brink of death. Once he revives a little, he is feisty and foul-mouthed.

Hawk is bent on ensuring the match between Adele and Paxton, inviting them to London for a meeting. Going to the lengths to visit the Earl of Switchingham and fatten him up to the idea, Hawk also persuades him to allow Loretta to make the journey. Considering the earl will not be out one penny for any of the travel and it will only be acceptable for both siblings to make the journey, the earl agrees. Getting the responsibility of his nephew off his shoulders will be a welcome change.

Embarking to London, Loretta makes the last-minute decision to bring Farley with them. He needs to be seen by a doctor, but Hawk is cold to the idea and cold to Farley. He sees him as a street rat who will pilfer anything. The two males almost have a burning hatred in their eyes for one another. The boy is quick witted for sure and brings comedic relief and drama to the unfolding story.

The insta-lust is palpable even from the immediate start of the book, and continues on throughout the book. There are a few close calls where they are almost caught, and Hawk makes some pre-arranged tasks for others so that he and Loretta can be alone. Ironically, Adele and Paxton hit it off extremely well and their match seems inevitable.

There were a couple of inaccuracies (dollars in England?) that showed the lesser planning for this second installment. I was looking forward to this second book in the Rakes of St. James series and the insta-love and some of the awkward wording dropped the book significantly from the momentum established with the first book. I’m not sure what to expect with the next in the series.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amelia Grey (aka Gloria Dale Skinner) grew up in a small town in the Florida Panhandle. She has been happily married to her high school sweetheart for over twenty-five years. She has lived in Alabama, Connecticut, New Hampshire and now lives in Florida.

Amelia has won the coveted Romantic Times award for Love and Laughter, the prestigious Maggie award for best historical and Affaire de Coeur’s best American historical award. She has been a finalist for the Golden Heart and the Holt Medallion awards which are given by Romance Writers of America and numerous other awards. Her books have been sold to many countries in Europe, Russia and China.

Amelia likes flowers, candlelight, sweet smiles, gentle laughter and sunshine.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Goodreads

Advertisements

Review: The Christmas Cowboy Hero

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: The Christmas Cowboy Hero
Author: Donna Grant
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: October 2017
Length: 320 pages
Series?: Heart of Texas #1
Genre: Contemporary, Romance

’Tis the season for ex-Navy SEAL Clayton East to come home for the holidays―even if the mood at home is anything but festive. His father is ill. The East Ranch is in financial trouble. And now it’s on Clayton, the prodigal son, to make sure his family doesn’t lose everything.

Headstrong Abby Harper is like a mother to her younger brothers, who she’s helped raise since she was a teenager. Keeping them in line is no small task while she’s also working toward her college degree. And now that one of her brothers has been arrested for stealing cattle at the East Ranch, Abby is at her wit’s end. But there is a silver lining: Clayton East. He believes in second chances, and is willing to give one to her brother this Christmas. Letting beautiful Abby―and the inescapable longing in his heart―off the hook, however, is a whole ’nother story. Could it be that the woman of this local hero’s dreams has been back at home all along?

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

The Christmas Cowboy Hero is the first book in the new Heart of Texas series. Set in Clearview, Texas, this book focuses on the cattle and ranching industry, a staple of Texas with some long-running, large family ranches.

Clayton East is an ex-Navy SEAL now working in Africa protecting big game from poachers. After separating from the military, he purposefully did not return home to the East Ranch. Being there brings back reminders and is too painful. Shortly before Christmas, he gets a call he can’t keep ignoring: his dad isn’t doing well and the ranch is in trouble.

Upon arriving home, Clayton discovers the East Ranch is a mess. Their accountant has disappeared with essentially all of the ranch’s money. Additionally, someone has stolen a hundred head of cattle, most of which are cows ready to calve. Their prize bull was also stolen.  The total of the theft alone comes to $275,000.

One of the rustlers, a 16-year-old kid, is arrested. Going to the station, Clayton meets Brice Harper, who won’t talk and is obviously scared of something. He also meets Brice’s sister, Abby Harper, whom he instantly is drawn toward. After being informed Brice has never been in trouble before, Clayton has a moment of self-motivated kindness. Believing in second chances and hatching a plan to gain Brice’s trust, Clayton offers Brice a job working at the ranch to work off his debt in lieu of going to jail. Hoping Brice will eventually open up and talk about the theft, it also gives Clayton opportunities to see Abby Harper again.

Abby was only 18 when her mother abandoned her, leaving the guardianship of her two young brothers to her. It’s been eight years and she’s never come back, leaving Abby struggling just to manage and raise her 16 and 14 year old brothers. She works at an accounting firm being paid in the drudges. When she can scrape together enough funds, she attends school part-time to continue toward her accounting degree. They’ve only known hardship and struggle, but there is a lot of love in the Harper family.

After Brice begins at the East Ranch, he is enamored of the work and the people and the animals. Soon, his younger brother Caleb is also tagging along to work at the ranch. While still paying off his debt, Brice is openly welcomed and supported and encouraged to be the best version of himself he can be. With her brothers being at the ranch so long, Abby also ends up spending time there and is introduced to the ranch’s accounting books. After digging through them, she discovers many things about the AWOL accountant and the status of the ranch. Their mutual attraction slowly blossoms into a budding Christmas romance.

Both boys show great improvement under Clayton’s direction. Abby also sees some reprieve in her future with the potential to work at the East ranch with a significant pay raise. Carrying all the burdens of the world on her shoulders, she has been the heart and soul of her family. The mother, father, and sister. Being shown she doesn’t have to do it alone, that she can share her burden, is a glimpse of a life that appeals and frightens Abby. What if she is abandoned again?

The suspense over the missing cattle is an angle Clayton still can’t seem to work out. Brice won’t budge. Abby begins digging around at her office and unearths a possible connection. The disappearance of the accountant is no longer such a mystery, but there is a growing danger as Abby tries to puzzle things out.

For the first time in his life, Clayton opens up about the loss and pain and guilt he feels. This is why he never wanted to return to the East Ranch. That moment of vulnerability changes things between Abby and Clayton.

The characters and down-home feel are what made the story for me. Clayton and Abby both have their flaws, and both come from families you can depend upon in a time of need. Even the cast of East Ranch characters were ones I could connect with. The Easts are the quintessential family. It seems the perfect place to be. Friendly and welcoming, the Texas way.

The setting was familiar and the East family is heartwarming. The characters brought the story to life and kept the pace moving. This was one of my favorite holiday reads and I couldn’t put it down. I definitely want to continue reading the Heart of Texas series.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Born and raised in Texas, Donna has ties across the border in Louisiana. Growing up with two such vibrant cultures, her Cajun side of the family taught her the “spicy” side of life while her Texas roots gave her two-steppin’ and bareback riding. She is never far from her faithful 80 pound dog, Sisko, or her three cats. She can often be found at the movies or bookstore with her children. Or buying makeup. And shoes.

Find the author: GoodreadsWebsite | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Review: The Duke and Miss Christmas

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: The Duke and Miss Christmas
Author: Amelia Grey
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: October 2015
Length: 65 pages
Series?: The Heirs’ Club of Scoundrels #2.5
Genre: Historical, Romance

Crispin, the Duke of Hurst, has never met a woman he couldn’t handle—until he’s hit over the head with a basketful of mistletoe by a young lady who mistakes his intentions. When he gets into a tussle with her—and she can hold her own—Crispin knows he has finally met his match.

Miss Gwen Prim is mortified that she attacked a duke, but even more concerning is the way her resolve melts when she’s near him. She’s never felt this way about a London gentleman in her life. And with the magic of Christmas in the air, she may end up with a proposal she didn’t expect.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

Crispin is the seventh Duke of Hurst and and a member of the Heirs’ Club, a group of young men who become embroiled in scandal. Waiting for the gossip to die down, he join his mother and siblings in America before returning to England and accepting an invitation to the Christmas Ball hosted by his friend, the Duke of Drakestone. While riding to Drakestone, Crispin stumbles upon a young girl named Sybil sitting in the snow. Cutting greenery in a tree, she fell and injured her leg. Crispin arranges Sybil on his horse. In the process, her leg is pressed upon, causing her to cry out. Crispin is suddenly attacked from behind. It is another woman with a basket, who wields it like a madman. Crispin tries to calm the woman and explain he was assisting young Sybil. Refusing to give her name, he calls her Miss Christmas.

Gwen Prim has returned to Drakestone following her season. Heartbroken by her journey into the ton, she flies into action when she discovers her sister being attacked by a strange man. Being the sister-in-law to the Duke of Drakestone, Gwen and her siblings are well-cared for. At dinner, she is shocked to learn Crispin is also a duke and staying at Drakestone. Her utter embarrassment is palpable and she silently cowers in her seat in mortal fear that it will be revealed that she struck a duke.

I liked the characters, both of whom come from large families with several siblings. Gwen is a fiesty redhead who protects her family. Crispin has a humorous, good nature for a duke.

The insta-love reaction to one another rankled. The one issue I had was with the steamy scene. I don’t buy it as a reader. Gwen was just giving narration about the potentials of pregnancy after a single encounter. Knowing the ramifications, the fact that she gives into a single encounter – in the snow – at the end of an outing with her sisters – seemed against Gwen’s morals and out of place.

This was one of the shortest novellas I’ve read. It was constantly moving along and was a funny Christmas read that can be read as a standalone.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amelia Grey (aka Gloria Dale Skinner) grew up in a small town in the Florida Panhandle. She has been happily married to her high school sweetheart for over twenty-five years. She has lived in Alabama, Connecticut, New Hampshire and now lives in Florida.

Amelia has won the coveted Romantic Times award for Love and Laughter, the prestigious Maggie award for best historical and Affaire de Coeur’s best American historical award. She has been a finalist for the Golden Heart and the Holt Medallion awards which are given by Romance Writers of America and numerous other awards. Her books have been sold to many countries in Europe, Russia and China.

Amelia likes flowers, candlelight, sweet smiles, gentle laughter and sunshine.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Goodreads

Review: Christmas at Seashell Cottage

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Christmas at Seashell Cottage
Author: Donna Alward
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: October 2014
Length: 198 pages
Series?: Jewell Cove #1.5
Genre: Contemporary, Romance

It’s Christmas in Jewell Cove, and local doctor Charlie Yang finds her quiet, steady life disrupted by both an abandoned baby in the nativity manger and a real-life mystery man. Sure, she’s always wanted a family of her own, but she didn’t imagine it coming from a baby that wasn’t hers and a man who was more interested in living day by day than making long-term plans…

Ex-SEAL Dave Ricker hadn’t planned on making Jewell Cove his forever home, but the talented and tender-hearted Charlie has him reconsidering his position on settling down. Can a beautiful woman, adorable baby, and a small town full of holiday spirit change his mind for good?

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

Charlie Yang is relatively new to town. She defied her parents and accepted a small town doctor position. Growing up an only child and brushed off by her parents, she wants more from life than the living to climb the career ladder. With hopes of joining in the community and being accepted in an insular small town where everyone knows everyone, Charlie is struggling to be seen as anything but the town doctor.

Dave Ricker also recently moved to town after putting his Navy SEALs life to rest. Stuck in the in between and wanting to be near his young daughter, he’s taken a job working at the boat docks. Unbeknownst to him, Charlie spends many of her lunch breaks watching the new guy at the docks. She dreams of having the life she didn’t growing up: an adoring husband and family. Love.

In an effort to fit in more with the townspeople, Charlie and Dave both volunteer to help decorate the town for Christmas. They decide to meet for the annual tree lighting ceremony. Being the two outsiders in the town, they decide to band together at this town event. Despite Dave’s fear of commitment, they agree to a no-strings attached arrangement. With a plan to meet up with Charlie’s boss and some other townies, their night is thrown off-course after walking past the manger scene in front of the church. The plastic baby doll Jesus Charlie placed there just days before is gone. In it’s place is a real baby.

To fill her own void, Charlie agrees to foster the baby for a few weeks until the investigation is concluded. Trying to care for a newborn while maintaining her full-time doctor status eventually takes its toll.  In the meantime, the newcomer’s romance slowly starts to unfold. Together, Charlie and Dave care for this little Christmas miracle. But Charlie is not a no-strings, no connection girl. She pushes for more. Being relationshipaphobic, Dave retreats. Alternately, the two continue this strange mating dance of freaking out on one another and changing their minds. The continual cycle felt childish and manufactured to create a dramatic upheaval.

Being a short novella, the pacing was fairly quick and consistent. Charlie’s character was flushed out fairly well and developed. Her childhood has played a major role in her life and her emotions. On the other hand, Dave’s character is glossed over and lacking in that character background. His story and his personality were underdeveloped and a disservice to his character and the storyline.

There was a resolution to the mystery of where the mystery baby came from. Named Daniel by Charlie and Dave, Charlie is able to help the young mother set up and get on the right track.

I fell in love with the town of Jewell Cove and I was falling in love with the story and the characters until the manufactured drama turned up. It was like watching a high school couple fight about being together and then break up, and then fight about not being together and get back together, and then fight about not being together and break up again. I feel like something got lost a little somewhere in there and wished it had only happened once. It dampened my enjoyment of the book overall.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

marti-corn-photography-donna-alward-h-r-1600While bestselling author Donna Alward was busy studying Austen, Eliot and Shakespeare, she was also losing herself in the breathtaking stories created by romance novelists like LaVyrle Spencer, Judith McNaught, and Nora Roberts. Several years after completing her degree she decided to write a romance of her own and it was true love! Five years and ten manuscripts later she sold her first book and launched a new career. While her heartwarming stories of love, hope, and homecoming have been translated into several languages, hit bestseller lists and won awards, her very favorite thing is when she hears from happy readers!

Donna lives on Canada’s east coast with her family which includes a husband, a couple of kids, a senior dog and two crazy cats. When she’s not writing she enjoys reading (of course!), knitting, gardening, cooking…and is a Masterpiece Theater addict.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: My Lady Governess

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Sock Monster
Author: Elise Clarke
Publisher: Escape Publishing
Release Date: December 2017
Length: 200 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Historical, Romance

One knight, one runaway heiress, one rollicking romance: A breath of fresh air in Regency romance!

Proud and haughty, Lord de Waare is almost as medieval as his castle…until he accidentally abducts a governess, who turns out not to be a governess at all, and who shows this knight that his heart is not as armoured as he thought.

A girl with a dangerous past, Marina would happily disappear again, but since de Waare won’t let that happen, then the least he can do is help her clear her name. But moving back into society is dangerous for her and for the stern man she’s coming to love. She knows the rules of honour and society, and she won’t allow de Waare to compromise the principles that define him.

But de Waare didn’t become the Crusader by accepting defeat. Faint heart never won a fair lady, and de Waares always win.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

Marina Frome takes her role as governess to her three charges seriously, but she is not one to cower to a bully. When Lord de Waare – among others – are invited to stay at the Kemp household while Lady Kemp preys upon her first daughter’s future husband and said daughter simpers like a fool. Marina sees the writing on the wall and intervenes in this plotting mama’s scandalous act, and winds up being abducted from her own residency by Lord de Waare himself – drunk, at that. The opening scenes were quite comical and albeit over-the-top with a fast pace.

On the way to his northern home, Tam discovers Marina Frome is not a frumpy, frizzy-haired, overweight governess. Instead, she is a slender blonde resembling a sprite with such a mind that there is no way she is anything but from the nobility. No servant would dare speak or act in ways such as she. Set to discovering her true identity, Tam gives Marina his own nickname that follows her throughout the book. Convinced she is ruined, Tam refuses any word on the contrary that he will marry her.

Marina soon discovers Tam’s dotting aunt, who seems to do exactly as he bids. A foreign concept to her. She also meets Tam’s younger brother who quickly falls into puppy love with her. Meanwhile, Marina is fighting her own growing attraction and affection for Tam. There are a few awkwardly funny scenes that weren’t fully fleshed out to reveal themselves as naive attractiveness and how Marina can’t handle that. The scene upon discovering Tam in the lake and stumbling all over in the snow comes to mind.

Soon Marina’s identity is revealed to Tam in the few items his friend collected from the Kemps. A small family Bible reveals her to be almost a princess in her own right. The gravity of this scene and Tam’s shock underscores just how massive a scandal this was when it happened four years prior. And the lies that were told only add up to one thing: greed. Marina would have gone on living in hiding, but Tam is determined to assist Marina in getting her inheritance back. And it starts with a visit to an asylum…

While Tam now knows Marina’s true identity, no one else does. They go on pretending, even as they travel to London. It is there that Tam’s wartime friends come into the light, as well as Tam’s very Moulin Rouge-like Uncle Quentin who tells such a tale of the war with the French…and Tam’s old flame, a tall, lithe, bombshell blonde. Once the troupe arrives in London, things take some very strange turns filled with surprises, jealousy, crazy, and blows to pride.

Despite her level head and all of her reflection over the past four years of her life, in addition to her own insistence of how spiteful and mean she was growing up (sometimes just because she could), I couldn’t reconcile such growth and maturity with the fact that Mariana STILL went into overly melodramatic hysterics and weeping on several occasions. The behavior was at odds with her character growth.

Just as there is a flaw in Marina’s character, there is an even bigger one in Tam’s. He lives and dies by honor, but he had an ugly nasty habit of domineering and physically abusing Mariana in what today would be labeled domestic violence. I also couldn’t reconcile that behavior with the man he seemed to be. When Mariana disobeyed him or refused to give in, he would grab her chin and jaw in his hand and jerk her head around to force her to agree with him on whatever subject was at hand. This didn’t add up to the character Clarke built of him being such a gentleman, right out of the Medieval period.

There was some superfluous wordiness at times that bogged down everything. I think it could have been worked out with some more editing and revising, or done away with altogether. I’m not sure the purpose of the particular scenes I’m thinking about being written in that way.

Overall, an enjoyable book if you can look past the few flaws. I did enjoy Marina’s character (minus the hysterics) and I loved Uncle Quentin’s own hysterically outlandish behavior. A roué indeed! I’m interested to see the books that feature Tam’s friends, the wounded Irishman and gorgeous hunk that is the prime meat of the marriage mart.

Review: Cactus Rose

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Cactus Rose
Author: Samantha Harte
Publisher: Diversion
Release Date: August 2015
Length: 238 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Historical, Western, Romance

Rosie Saladay needs to get married—fast. The young widow needs help to protect her late husband’s ranch, but no decent woman can live alone with a hired hand. With the wealthy Wesley Morris making a play for her land, Rosie needs a husband or she risks losing everything. So she hangs a sign at the local saloon: “Husband wanted. Apply inside. No conjugal rights.”

Delmar Grant is a sucker for a damsel in distress, and even with Rosie’s restrictions on “boots under her bed” stated firmly in black and white, something about the lovely widow’s plea leaves him unable to turn away her proposal of marriage.

Though neither planned on falling in love, passion ignites between the unlikely couple. But their buried secrets—and enemies with both greed and a grudge—threaten to tear them apart. They’ll discover this marriage of convenience may cost them more than they could have ever bargained for.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

I thought it was going to be a great book from the start. A woman looking for a husband in Arizona Territory — in the saloon?

Rosie Salady suspects her husband was murdered at his work site, far into the interior of their property that is much-speculated about in town to be a gold mine. Perhaps that was the motive, she believes as she eyes the nasty Wesley Morris trying to buy it up. But how can she prove it? Not to mention Abner’s work – it has to be protected! In order to keep her husband’s land and work site safe, Rosie hastily marries a stranger she finds in the saloon only a week after burying her husband.

Delmar Grant, a gunfighter, continually finds himself gambling away everything as he makes his way back home…a destination he will never reach. He is an attractive man and answers Rosie’s strange ad, surviving through the interview process. The judge marries them and Rosie takes Del home. He quickly surmises that Rosie lives in a shack and that her husband didn’t put in any work into the house, barn, or any other little things that needed doing. As they pick up married life, Del discovers that Rosie’s husband was only home to eat dinner and sleep on a mat in his own add-on to the house. Del quickly puts himself to work tending to things, fixing things, and putting them to rights to improve Rosie’s pitiful buildings. Slowly, as they live married life together, they slowly fall in love, even though Del has his own secrets.

Rose was a mill girl with no family. She came west to marry Abner…only to find out he wasn’t in need of a wife, but a housekeeper. Rosie kept the house up, cooked, and made sure to look out for absent-minded and dedicated Abner. Rosie’s life was so isolating and lonely it was heartbreaking. Del soaks it all in and treats Rosie with kindness and small touches of the love she didn’t have but craved.

Eventually Rosie takes Del to Abner’s work site – a beautiful indigenous community built into the side of a massive cliff. The residents long gone, Abner dedicated his entire life to documenting every single thing about the site in journals and collections. Del chooses to secret the journals away in the desert, which proves useful later. He also discovers an indication that Abner might have died of natural causes, in addition to his own regrets about Rosie in the last few weeks of his life.

As much as I enjoyed this book and its fresh take on mail-order brides, there were a few strange moments between the two main characters as the book went on. I understood its purpose to create tension and suspense, but it was quite strange. My take-away was that Del thought Rosie was absolutely crazy and told her so without mincing any words. There were a couple times Rosie’s freaking out was too much and some things she said didn’t make sense. I surmise these were difficult scenes to write. In all this chaos and a dirty underhand deal before Rosie ever set eyes on Del, Rosie is back to living a life of lonely solitude as Del tries to figure out all the players after Rosie’s land. He discovers a looter on Abner’s site and things begin to unravel at breakneck speeds from there with the looter and Wesley Morris.

An interesting read and commentary on protecting our history and historical sites as is, as well as shining the spotlight on women and their needs in their marriage. The concept of Abner’s native work site and treasures reminds me quite a bit of Baxter’s Draw by Juliette Harper wherein the three daughters of Langston Lockwood discover a hidden retreat in the property’s draw that contain beautiful native artifacts, artwork, and other items.

Review: Unmasking Juliet

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Unmasking Juliet
Author: Teri Wilson
Publisher: Green Darner Press
Release Date: May 2014
Length: 368 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Retelling, Contemporary

Ever since she was a little girl learning to make decadent truffles in her family’s chocolate shop, Juliet Arabella has been aware of the bitter feud between the Arabellas and the Mezzanottes. With their rival chocolate boutiques on the same street in Napa Valley, these families never mix. Until one night, when Juliet anonymously attends the annual masquerade ball. In a moonlit vineyard, she finds herself falling for a gorgeous stranger, a man who reminds her what passion is like outside of the kitchen. But her bliss is short-lived when she discovers her masked prince is actually Leo Mezzanotte, newly returned from Paris and the heir to her archenemy’s confection dynasty.

With her mind in a whirl, Juliet leaves for Italy to represent the Arabellas in a prestigious chocolate competition. The prize money will help her family’s struggling business, and Juliet figures it’s a perfect opportunity to forget Leo…only to find him already there and gunning for victory. As they compete head-to-head, Leo and Juliet’s fervent attraction boils over. But Juliet’s not sure whether to trust her adversary, or give up on the sweetest love she’s ever tasted…

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

This is a contemporary retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet set in a feuding chocolatier’s world. A decades-old disagreement and theft has put a rift between the Arabella and Mezzanotte families that has been fanned into flames just as much as the forbidden love between dutiful Juliet Arabella and newly returned Leo Mezzanotte.

There is a growing passion between the two that is sweet, endearing, tear-jerking, feisty. And forbidden.

The book is filled with personality! All of which were realistic but also binge-worthy. That awful behavior you just can’t stop watching – all because of the betrayal and hatred springing from the feud. Juliet Arabella is a dutiful daughter to her family and the family business, The Chocolate Boutique. The isolation is beginning to outweigh the love she has for her job. She is also manipulated by a controlling mother, to whom everyone in the family defers to and does her bidding, no matter how ludicrous. Her father and brother also add to the pressure like a couple of mob bosses. All of the conflict and hatred begins to boil over for Juliet’s saucepan. She wants to take a stand for herself and what she wants, but it is a hard task with her busybody, no-nonsense family.

Leo Mezzanotte is a very manly guy who has just come off of a plane from Paris and a broken engagement. Despite his mindset to reject any type of commitment – almost including to his family’s chocolate business  after the duplicity and deceitful means in which they tricked him there by – he is a man full of love, kindness, and compassion in addition to his masterful chocolate skills.

Leo seemed to struggle more with internal conflicts than Juliet did. From the beginning, he was a take-stand character. Whereas that is what Juliet said she wanted, but her actions didn’t really show it at all. The only real stand she took was at the very end of the book in Rome in the final pages.

The supporting cast of characters added depth, humor, and disbelief to this family-feuding story. There is Alegra, Juliet’s cousin taken in by her family who is like a sister, and a little more sympathetic to Juliet’s feelings. George Alcott III, the conceited gold digger heir to Royal Gourmet Distributors. Joe Mezzanotte, Leo’s almost-to-the-point-of-evil uncle. Gina, Leo’s mob wife-like sister and her husband Marco, who is just as much embroiled in the family feud he married into. All of these characters add to the mystifying family feud with their energy, passion and hatred.

The family rivalry was believable and engrossing. Juliet receives her grandmother’s recipe book, which also contained personal journal entries that detailed from her perspective how the feud began all those years ago with her best friend, the Mezzanotte grandmother. Leo does not believe in the feud. His attitude is “So what? It has nothing to do with us. We have no reason to hate each other.” Juliet shows him the recipe book and the entries. The final few entries take root in Leo’s heart. He does his best to make a concession and extend an olive branch to Juliet that she does not discover until the last few chapters of the book. It was incredibly sweet and a little tear-jerking, just like the ending.

Wilson is a master of the craft of detail. Some of the descriptions were so vivid and striking, especially those from the very beginning when Juliet and Leo meet in the sunflower garden at the masquerade ball. Such beauty! I almost want to buy a print copy of the book just to mark up those passages and keep around for the simple beauty of the carefully crafted writing.

This was my first book by Wilson, but it seems she has found her niche in carefully retelling classics in our contemporary world with her own flair and mark. I can’t wait to see which story she will re-spin next.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Teri Wilson writes romance and women’s fiction for Harlequin and Gallery Books. Her novels UNLEASHING MR. DARCY and THE ART OF US are both now Hallmark Channel Original Movies, and her third Hallmark film, MARRYING MR. DARCY, is set to premiere on June 2.

Teri also writes an offbeat fashion column for the royal blog What Would Kate Do and is a frequent guest contributor for its sister site, Meghan’s Mirror. In 2017, she served as a national judge for the Miss United States pageant in Orlando, Florida, and has since judged in the Miss America system. She has a major weakness for cute animals, pretty dresses and good books.

Find the author: GoodreadsWebsite | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram