Review: While The Duke Was Sleeping

tl;dr: sexier than the movie it’s based on, but consent is iffy

The Story:

This book is literally the very first historical romance novel that I’ve ever read. I don’t enjoy historical anything. I don’t watch period dramas. I don’t get the appeal of Mr. Darcy. Fancy dresses with breeches or corsets or petticoats and layers of whatnot does not appeal to me. My preferred romances feature lots of angst, sex, and pain (with a HEA!). I like a romance that makes me feel deeply, where I get invested in the characters and their misery, and feel elated when everything turns out in the end. The harder the fight to the HEA, the better. And I don’t want any thees and thous and “I dare says” getting in the way.

And I probably chose the wrong book for my first historical, because  I can’t muster up more than an underwhelmed “meh” about this one. I was excited about the idea because it’s a play on one of my favorite romantic comedies, While You Were Sleeping. The story is not identical, and I think a lot of the changes were good choices for the genre, but in general, I wasn’t a huge fan of the setting.

Poppy Fairchurch has admired the Duke of Autenberry from afar for a very long time. She works as a shopgirl in a flower shop, one that the Duke frequents quite a bit. Poppy isn’t stupid, she knows that he’s sending flowers to loads of different women, and he still seems dashing and sentimental regardless. But when she sees him get into a street brawl with another man, she dashes out of the shop to try and protect him, which seems a little misguided and rash. Anyway, it turns out that the other man is his half-brother and they do not get along because Struan Mackenzie reminds the Duke that his father was actually a pretty horrible person. Punches are thrown and then Poppy shoves the Duke out of the way of an errant carriage, which ends up with a bump to his head that knocks him out cold.

As with the movie, someone overhears Poppy lamenting jokingly that she and the Duke were supposed to be married, and they all take it at face value, except Struan and Lord Strickland, who happens to be the Duke’s best friend. Poppy is about to tell everyone the truth, but Lord Strickland asks her to wait, to keep the family’s spirits up. Struan makes it his goal to seduce Poppy, and they get up to some very not-PG-like activities in the meantime that definitely were missing from the movie.

Technical Elements:

Overall, the writing was fine. I feel like I can’t judge this sub-genre very well since I don’t read historical. There didn’t appear to be any sort of time frame that this story landed in, and I’m not even sure I know what country they were in. Struan was Scottish or Irish or something other, and they were somewhere else, presumably England. I felt like the sexual tension was pretty well drawn out, and the smutty scenes were pretty hot, although I’m a little meh on the dubious consent. Contemporary romances have a lot more free reign to be sex-positive since that’s the culture that we live in. (At least, women losing their virginity isn’t publicly referred to as ruination, although that may still be the secret belief.)

I should probably explain the consent portion. I don’t know if that’s the way with historical romances, if it’s a given that the heroine will say no no no but mean yes yes yes (which is awful and makes me cringe), but that’s essentially what kept happening here. And the hero frequently thinks about how he just needs to ‘have her’ once, get this lust out of his system, so he can discard her and move on with his life. And any time they start to get sexy together, he pushes her beyond what she says she wants although her body ‘responds’ to him. I just really didn’t like that aspect. He does kind of pull back and doesn’t completely go through with ‘ruining’ her until she begs him to, but I can’t help feeling that if he’d listened to her before she was too aroused to think straight, she may have made another decision? Is this the type of romance people want to read?

Final Thoughts:

As far as romances go, this one was pretty light. There are several other stories in the series, and I believe the next book picks up with Lord Strickland and the Dowager Duchess (the Duke’s stepmother), but honestly, I don’t think I can read any more about comely maidens or carriages.


Find it at your local library! I can’t recommend another historical romance because I haven’t read any others, but I’ve got some enemies-to-lovers to recommend!

First, Act Like It was phenomenal, and one of the best of the trope in my opinion. I also highly enjoyed The Love Potion despite its silliness, or you can always go old school with Pride and Prejudice.

Review: Off The Clock

tl;dr: two sex therapists that have a lot to learn about love

The Story:

I don’t normally read back-of-the-book blurbs, but in this case, I did. It seemed interesting enough, and so I checked it out from the library, mostly because the blurb to the follow-up book, By The Hour, looked even more intriguing. Unfortunately, the library didn’t have that book, so, wary to purchase a book without knowing if I would like the author’s style, I borrowed this one first. And I’m so glad that I did, for a variety of reasons, least of which is that the most interesting part of the story was a complete surprise.

The first few chapters are a bit of an extended prologue where we get to know Marin and Donovan. Donovan is a doctoral student working on his thesis about aural methods of female arousal, by recording himself dictating fantasies that are supposed to be coming from the female gaze, or at least, more arousing for women than pornography, which tends to work better for men. After a week of working together on the scripts for the audio recordings, Marin and Donovan have passion sex on one of the desks in the lab. Marin doesn’t give him her real name, and she doesn’t even plan to see him again, ever. Due to a family crisis, she ends up dropping out of school and thinks that she’ll never see him again…

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Review: The F Word

tl;dr: formerly overweight woman is plagued by high school broken heart

The Story:

Finishing this book was a struggle.

I’m not totally sure if it’s because the ‘women’s fiction but not romance’ genre, otherwise known as chick lit, is just not for me anymore, or if the book is actually not that good. I didn’t connect with any of it, and not because the gist of the story wasn’t interesting. It’s because the actual story fell very flat for me, mostly because I kept getting pulled out of it by visceral disgust or general disagreement with some of the things that were plied off as truth.

The F Word is apparently a follow-up to Conversations with a Fat Girl, which I didn’t read. That story is about Olivia’s friend, and while Olivia is a character in that book, the friend at the center of the first book is barely even mentioned in this one, which is what it is. This book takes place ten years after the first one. Olivia has been living in her Hollywood life with her doctor husband and working in a PR firm for celebrities. We are supposed to be making parallels between Caroline Lang, Olivia’s actress client going through a divorce, and Olivia herself. They both maintain an icy I’m-better-than-you demeanor, although it’s hard to tell from Caroline whether she means it or if it’s just a coping mechanism left over from her lonely childhood. Olivia, on the other hand, is just mean. She’s mean to her socialite couple friends, and makes very little effort to have friends of her own. She seems closer to her mom and her mom’s friends, although she doesn’t bare herself to anyone. Literally. She’s been married ten years and her husband has never seen her naked.

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Review: Back In The Saddle

tl;dr: short book that zipped too fast on plot development, otherwise ‘fine’

I reviewed this book for the 2017 RITA reader challenge at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. You can read my review here. It was interesting to write a review that appears in a popular blog (one that I love, no less). So check it out over there!


Find a copy at the library!

Like Westerns? I reviewed Chase recently, although I don’t really recommend it.

Like single parents? Check out Love & Rockets by Maggie Wells.

Review: The Queen

tl;dr: a totally satisfying conclusion but i selfishly want more

The Story:

The final full-length novel in the Original Sinners series is just as haunting as all the ones that precede it. After engaging in an public display of affection, Nora wants to confess to Søren about two times that she nearly came back to him during the time they were separated, since she has realized from his behavior as of late that he is likely not going to be a priest much longer.

The Queen takes us through her training by Kingsley to be the city’s most notorious Dominatrix, and navigating her joy at freedom and her pain at being without Søren, whom she still loves deeply. Eleanor is reborn as Nora, and has to prove herself when their entire kink community knows her as being the submissive of the priest. There’s even a villain, another dominatrix that uses her knowledge of the kink community as a weapon, trying to keep everyone afraid of her.

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Review: Chase

tl;dr: mistaken identity story remains listless on the page

The Story:

Chase Garrett has rearranged his whole life for his fiancée, whom he catches cheating on him with his best friend in the opening pages of the book. With no property to go back to, he decides to be reckless and join the IBR, the International Bull Riding circuit, and doesn’t look back. On one of his rides, a little boy dashes across the arena, thinking that he is his late father. Riley Barrett doesn’t understand that this Chase is not the same man, due to some physical similarities and how similar his name is to his dad’s.

Madeline Barrett, on the other hand, feels overwhelmed at being a single mother. It’s been many months since her husband died while bull riding, and she is trying to plan for their financial security. She has a ton of brothers, all of whom want to help, but she won’t let them because of pride. When she sees Chase and the way that he connects with Riley, she begins to feel all those stirrings that she’d avoided in the months since her husband’s passing.

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Review: Forever Mine

tl;dr: bland romance about superhero-loving butt-kicking girl and doctor with a secret

The Story:

Sometimes you read books that are just…fine. There’s nothing particularly amazing about them, but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why you aren’t fangirling over them because there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with it. It just…is. And that was this book.

I wanted to love it, I really did. Former cop Maya Goodwin runs a superhero fitness class that incorporates some weapons and martial arts to increase kids’ self-esteem. She loves comic books and superheroes and has a giant poster of Captain America in her bedroom.

Alex Nolan, pediatrician and hemophiliac, sees her mall demonstration and wants to incorporate some of her class stuff with his daughter, Charli, who he didn’t know existed until recently. She also has symptoms of hemophilia, and he needs to make adjustments for her. They have lust at first sight and start to fall for each other. Maya is messy and pushy and Alex is more reserved.

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Review: Sweet Surrender

tl;dr: romance lessons bring two people together in a lovely (and dirty) explosion

The Story:

Tyler Stone is the youngest of the Stone brothers, and apparently has always been the ‘screw up’. He dropped out of college, tinkers with cars on the weekends, and spends his time partying, playing video games, and boozing, all the while taking up with a variety of beautiful women who use him for his trust fund. By the time our story starts, approximately 6 months after Sweet Escape ended, Tyler’s ways have caught up to him and he’s in danger of having charges pressed against him for taking a girlfriend’s boat on a joyride and crashing it. His father has banished him to the corporate library at Sugar Rush, which turns out to be in chaos. He’s hating life when Kate Darling literally falls into his arms, startled by his voice when she’s on a ladder reaching for a book.

If you’ve read the previous two books, you know Kate already. She’s young, but she has a severe business-like manner. She’s extremely efficient and good at her job. She gets a bit of a backstory here, but it’s almost wholly unnecessary. Raised by a single dad, who is now remarried to a woman Kate seems to like just fine; but feeling like a third wheel, she decided to move clear across the country for the executive assistant job at Sugar Rush.

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Review: The Virgin

tl;dr: from Eleanor to Nora, a young woman finds her own power

The Story:

Readers know from the very first book in this series that Nora Sutherlin, then Eleanor Schreiber, left the man that owned her body and soul because of something. We get bits and pieces of it throughout the other books, but in The Virgin, we get the full picture. Of course, Reisz makes us wait until the very end to see how he ends up losing control, and the fragments of bone in the locker she leaves for Kingsley to find spur Søren’s other love to leave, too.

Eleanor, referred to as Elle for most of the book, escapes to her mother’s convent in upper New York state, since no men, not even priests, are allowed entry. It’s a safe haven where she is able to get herself back together from the crushing blow she was dealt that caused her to leave. The reunion between mother and daughter was so poignant and beautiful, that I full on sobbed.

Her mother cupped her face and looked her in the eyes. “Every morning for the past three years I’ve woken up and prayed the same prayer. Do you want to know what that prayer is?”

“What?” Elle asked, even though she was certain she didn’t want to know.

“Dear God, please don’t let today be the day he finally kills her.”

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Review: So Wicked

tl;dr: it was confusing in some ways and still confusing in many more ways

The story:

So Wicked is the third in a series of so-called Bad Behavior novels, although I think “nonsensical behavior” may have been more apt. Marshall and Alexis run into each other at the bar that Marshall is opening, with the financial backing of her ex-husband that she abandoned, along with her infant daughter, 6 years before. Marshall has a visceral reaction to seeing her again, and lets loose in a string of profanities that could turn a gal’s hair white. But sparks fly between them, and leads to something more. So far, interesting premise, right?

Spoilers follow, because I don’t think I can fully explain the bizarre trajectory of this novel otherwise.

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