Review: Romance Mini-Review Roundup

I love to read romance books, particularly historical romances, but I so rarely have a whole lot to say about them. So, perfect situation for a round-up post!

mini reviews

After three long years of war, starkly handsome Wynter Atrialan will have his vengeance on Summerlea's king by taking one of the man's beautiful, beloved daughters as his bride. But though peace is finally at hand, Wynter's battle with the Ice Heart, the dread power he embraced to avenge his brother's death, rages on.

Khamsin Coruscate, Princess of Summerlea and summoner of Storms, has spent her life exiled to the shadows of her father's palace. Reviled by her father, marriage to Wintercraig's icy king was supposed to be a terrible punishment, but instead offers Kham her first taste of freedom—and her first taste of overwhelming passion.

As fierce, indomitable Wynter weathers even Khamsin's wildest storms, surprising her with a tenderness she never expected, Kham wants more than Wynter's passion—she yearns for his love. But the power of the Ice Heart is growing, dangerous forces are gathering, and a devastating betrayal puts Khamsin and Wynter to the ultimate test.
I picked up this book expecting it to be rather campy and full of those 'ye old fantasy' tropes and I was so ready for it. Sometimes you just get into a camp-fantasy mood. And...well, this book certainly had all of that. But I really should have realized that if I want 'ye old fantasy' tropes in a fantasy-romance, I'm gonna get 'ye old romance' tropes as well. The king/hero in this is macho and animalistic turned up to 11, and a lot of the scenarios were made highly uncomfortable because of it.

Raphe Matthews hasn’t stepped foot in polite circles since a tragedy left his once-noble family impoverished and in debt. The bare-knuckle boxer has spent the last fifteen years eking out an existence for himself and his two sisters. But when a stunning reversal of fortune lands Raphe the title of Duke of Huntley, he’s determined to make a go of becoming a proper lord, but he’ll need a little help, and his captivating neighbor might be just the woman for the job…

After her sister’s scandalous match, Lady Gabriella knows the ton’s eyes are on her. Agreeing to tutor the brutish new duke can only lead to ruin. Although she tries to control her irresistible attraction to Raphe, every day she spends with him only deepens her realization that this may be the one man she cannot do without. And as scandal threatens to envelop them both, she must decide if she can risk everything for love with a most unlikely duke.
This was a pretty adorable, if run-of-the-mill romance. Both of the leads had great families, though in opposite directions. Raphe's sisters were pretty interesting, which makes sense as they will be the main focus for the next two books in the series. Gabriella's relationship to her own family is delightfully fraught as she tries to navigate the burdens that have been suddenly placed on her. I appreciated the ending and how it wasn't tied to too neatly, but was still satisfying.

Wanted: Governess for duke's unruly children

Edgar Rochester, Duke of Banksford, is one of the wealthiest, most powerful men in England, but when it comes to raising twins alone, he knows he needs help. The only problem is the children have chased away half the governesses in London. Until the clever, bold, and far-too-enticing Miss Mari Perkins arrives.

Lost: One heart to an arrogant duke

Mari knows how to wrap even the most rebellious children around her finger. But their demanding, wickedly handsome father? He won't be quite so easy to control. And there's something else she can't seem to command. Her heart. The foolish thing beats so wildly every time the duke is near.

Found: A forbidden passion neither can deny

As his employee, Mari is strictly off-limits. But what if she's the one breaking all his rules? In the game of governess versus duke, how can Edgar maintain his defenses when the only thing he wants to do is let the tempting beauty win?

A super adorable book that I thoroughly loved. Mari was just the right amount of sassy, and I loved her banter with the duke, especially early on. Her interactions with the two kids were sweet (possibly a little...uh, modern, but I have zero fucks to give about romance heroines with modern morals in my feel-good reads). And Edgar was spot on as gruff-but-good-hearted. That's a difficult line to toe without making the dude into some flavor of asshole, but I think this book pulled it off admirably.

A lost identity. A dangerous mystery. And a deep love that can conquer it all.

When a mysterious gentleman arrives on his doorstep, Alexander Moreland is astonished to discover that the stranger is not a gentleman at all, but a beautiful young woman disguised as a man, and in great need of assistance. The woman remembers nothing except her own name, Sabrina, and has only the contents of her pockets as clues to her identity: a handkerchief, a pocket watch, a leather pouch, a torn scrap of paper and a gold ring.

Sabrina is certain that she is on the run from someone, or something—how else to explain the bruises on her face and the pervasive sense of dread she feels? She’s also certain that she trusts Alex to help her, and she can’t deny the sparks that fly between them. As they race through the English countryside, Sabrina and Alex must solve the mystery of Sabrina’s past—before whatever she’s running from catches up to them.
I, uh, was not expecting the supernatural angle? It is fifth in a series where all the main characters have some sort of extra-ordinary sense ability, so perhaps that was why it was left out of the summary. They just assumed if you stuck around to #5 you already knew that part. And here comes me, entering the game at #5, haha. But I picked it up because it promised amnesia and madcap adventure and mystery and I'm a sucker. A satisfied sucker, because it had all of those things, and I was well pleased. It's a story where most of the tension comes from the situation, not from the characters' faults that need to be worked through, but I happen to love that variety of romantic tension.

Miss Cassandra Howell is too tall, too bookish, and too smart—but she does have money and a father who wants a grand title for her. Cassandra hasn’t felt a desire to marry until she meets the sinfully handsome Duke of Camberly, who captures her imagination . . . until Soren York, Earl of Dewsberry and her family’s sworn enemy, steps in the way.

The Holwells ruined Soren’s family, and he’s lived on the knife’s edge trying to resurrect their fortunes . . . until he considers marrying the Holwell Heiress. Not only would her dowry give him the funds he needs, he has secretly had an eye on the independent-minded bluestocking since they both first realized the differences between men and women.

She likes to read; he has no patience for books. She knows little of sex; he is a man of the world and willing to school her. Her family destroyed his; his offer of marriage may be her only salvation.

Now Cassandra and Soren must learn to love each other for who they are, not what they are—and the lessons are becoming an exercise in absolute pleasure.
I wanted to like this one, and it had a good set-up and some decent tension between the two leads and then...I started to really hate Soren. He was uniformly awful to Cassandra. Normally a story like this will have the hero learn to defer to the heroine and appreciate her, but feels like the book doesn't even realize he was being rude, so it never bothers to correct his treatment of her. She's supposed to be smart and independent, but she gets shut down at every turn never has a chance within the plot to really demonstrate her informed traits.

And then they have a surprise Noble Savage Indian trope at the end, and they lean into that trope hard and I went from 'rude' to 'RAGE.' So, yeah, avoid this one.

Born to the street but raised within the aristocracy, Drake Darling can’t escape his sordid beginnings. Not when Lady Ophelia Lyttleton snubs him at every turn, a constant reminder he’s not truly one of them. But after rescuing her from a mysterious drowning he realizes she doesn’t remember who she is. With plans to bring her to heel, he insists she’s his housekeeper—never expecting to fall for the charming beauty.

While Ophelia might not recall her life before Drake, she has little doubt she belongs with him. The desire she feels for her dark, brooding employer can’t be denied, regardless of consequences. So when her memory returns, she is devastated by the depth of his betrayal. Now Drake must risk everything to prove she can trust this rogue with her heart once more.
I usually like this author for managing to take weird set-ups and turn them into genuinely charming plots with great characters. She's written one of my favorite romances (The Viscount and the Vixen), so I figured I would like this one, too. Especially right after I saw the Overboard remake trailer, I was in such a mood for this plot. And...well, that part of it delivered. I felt like Drake didn't lean into the con enough to make it pay off, but otherwise A+ Overboard plot. And then...the end... Drake basically forces Ophelia to tell him some super traumatic stuff from her past in a way that seems designed to re-traumatize her, and yet it's played off as their big healing come-together moment? Yuck. No thanks, do not recommend.

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