Tag Archives: Netgalley

To Love and to Cherish by Lauren Layne

To Love and to Cherish (Wedding Belles #3) by Lauren Layne
Published on October 18, 2016 by Pocket Books.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via NetGalley. Thank you Pocket Books for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: contemporary romance.

My rating:

Alexis Morgan has spent the past six years devoted to turning her tiny start-up into Manhattan’s premiere wedding planning company, The Wedding Belles. Now that her business is thriving, it’s time to turn towards her much neglected personal life, and Alexis approaches her relationships like she does everything else: with a plan. Not a part of that plan is Logan Harris, the silent partner in the Belles, and the one person who’s been there for her since the very beginning. But Alexis needs someone fun, and Logan’s all business, all the time—except when a late night at the office ends with an unexpected kiss that leaves the usually cool and together Alexis reeling.

Logan has lusted after Alexis since the day he walked into the tiny Harlem apartment that used to double as her office. But the ambitious wedding planner has always been untouchable…until now. Alexis has made it clear that she’s on the dating market—and equally clear that he’s not in the running. But when Alexis finds herself in need of a date for her sister’s last minute wedding in Florida, Logan knows it’s the perfect time to show Alexis that there’s more to him than numbers and spreadsheets—and beneath the pinstripes and glasses lies a hot-blooded heartthrob. As Florida’s sultry days turn into even hotter nights, Logan’s out to convince Alexis that the fling of a lifetime could just maybe turn into forever…

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I was so glad I got to read To Love and to Cherish as an ARC! I’d discovered Lauren Layne’s Wedding Belles series just two weeks ago – I actually read the second book in the series first, it’s called For Better or Worse and it was really good.

But I was super excited to read Alexis and Logan’s story because I wanted to know all about Alexis’s past, in particular. She’s the owner and boss of the elite New York wedding planning company and in the second book, I really got the feeling that her story was going to be the best of the three. Her cool demeanor and private nature made me wonder what she was hiding beneath that polished exterior and To Love and to Cherish answered all my questions about her.

The fact that Logan is a seriously hot British accountant didn’t hurt, either. If I had one problem with their story it was that Logan was a bit slow when it came to telling Alexis how he felt – I don’t know that a guy should wait for eight years before making his move. But when he finally decided it was time to act, he really went all in, so he’s forgiven. I have a thing for smart (nerdy?) heroes, so he was a perfect protagonist for me.

This was the perfect fluffy romance for a quiet evening in, I read most of it in one sitting because it just pulled me in. The chemistry between Alexis (I love her name, I don’t know why) and Logan is fantastic and I rooted for them from the start. The ending was a bit sugary for my taste (I’m a fan of actions, not words when it comes to love) but still very satisfactory.

I can say for sure that I’ll be reading Lauren Layne’s backlog as soon as I allow myself to purchase more of her novels (I’m really trying to read more of the books I already own). I checked and it’s not overwhelming – like with some romance authors – plus her novels have come highly recommended by some bloggers I trust, so it’s a no-brainer, really.

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Have you read any of Lauren Layne’s books? What did you think?

Would you hire a wedding planner for your wedding or would you DIY? 

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.

Burning Bright by Melissa McShane

Burning Bright (The Extraordinaries #1) by Melissa McShane
Published in August 2016 by Curiosity Quills Press.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via NetGalley. Thank you Curiosity Quills Press for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: historical fantasy romance.

My rating:

In 1812, Elinor Pembroke wakes to find her bedchamber in flames—and extinguishes them with a thought. At 21, she is old to manifest magical talent, but the evidence is unmistakable: she not only has the ability to start fires but the far more powerful ability to control and extinguish them. She is an Extraordinary and the only one in England in over one hundred years. 

As an Extraordinary, she is respected and feared, but to her father, she represents power and prestige for himself. Mr. Pembroke is determined to control Elinor and her talent by forcing her to marry where he chooses, a marriage that will produce even more powerful offspring. Trapped between the choices of a loveless marriage or living penniless and dependent on her parents, Elinor takes a third path: she joins the Royal Navy.

Assigned to serve under Captain Miles Ramsay, she turns her fiery talent on England’s enemies in the Caribbean. At first feared by her shipmates, a growing number of victories make her truly part of the crew and bring her joy in her fire. But as her power grows and changes in unexpected ways, Elinor’s ability to control it is challenged. She may have the power to destroy her enemies utterly—but could it be at the cost of her own life?

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Burning Bright is a curious book. It’s a historical romance with fantasy elements yet it’s actually very slow and light on romance – so maybe it’s a historical fantasy with romance elements? You know I’m rubbish at classifying books.

I liked the story a lot, actually. Elinor makes an important decision and joins the royal navy instead of being bartered off to the highest bidder like a prize mare when her talent manifests. She can manipulate fire – and what makes her Extraordinary is the fact that she can put fires out as well as light them. Her father, a renowned scholar of people with magical talent, is a cruel, ambitious man, and I really respected Elinor from the start because she made the best decision she could in such a situation.

There is the fact that Elinor is a bit of a special snowflake. Not only is her talent incredibly rare, she’s also the first woman to join the navy. And she remains the only female character in the story (well, there’s her sister but she’s barely there and has no real function in the story). I’d hoped we would meet more kickass ladies with awesome talents but nope, nothing so far. I’m really hoping this will change as the series progresses!

Other than that, I liked the worldbuilding (the magical system) and the setting – a large part of the story takes place on a ship, there are pirates, and we sail the clear waters of the Carribean, so this was pretty unusual. I haven’t read many books with such a setting, so I enjoyed it a lot.

I did wish the romance wasn’t quite so slow at times. I guess it’s more realistic from a historical point of view but I kind of wanted Captain Ramsay to make his move (or for Elinor to finally tackle the man) sooner. I dislike insta-love but a healthy dose of insta-lust wouldn’t hurt here because the entire romance is pretty clean. I know, I’m probably too used to traditional historical romances where the characters are tearing at each other’s clothes by Chapter Two, but romance was really, really slow here.

There are also some interesting thoughts on war and killing in this book, which isn’t something you’d typically expect from a romance, so this makes it lean further towards the fantasy genre, I think. Elinor thinks a lot about the lives she takes in the naval battles she participates in – it’s rare to get such an in-depth exploration. I don’t really understand people who choose to be soldiers (like picking this as a profession – that’s just beyond me), but I do understand duty and the wish to protect people. So yeah, this was a welcome addition to a story that could have veered into fluff pretty easily.

I’m curious to see how the story will continue. This one had a pretty decent ending (meaning that it could have functioned as a standalone) so I wonder whether we’ll get a new set of characters. I’ll be on the lookout for it for sure.

srcek

Have you read Burning Bright? What did you think?

Historical fantasy romance is an interesting mashup of genres – do you know any similar books?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.

Mad for the Plaid by Karen Hawkins

Mad for the Plaid (The Oxenburg Princes #3) by Karen Hawkins
Published on August 30, 2016 by Pocket Books.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via NetGalley. Thank you Pocket Books for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: historical romance.

My rating:

Nikolai Romanovin, a royal prince of Oxenburg, has travelled to the deepest wilds of Scotland to rescue his grandmother the Grand Duchess, who was abducted while visiting an old friend in the Highlands. Wanting to avoid an international incident, Nik plans to quietly slip into enemy territory disguised as a groom. But his plans go awry when he falls under the cool gray gaze of the laird’s daughter.

Pragmatic and clever, Ailsa MacKenzie has been left in charge of the family estate and her unruly grandmother in her father’s absence. Something about the new groom catches her eyes, and makes her think he’s not who he pretends to be—and even more shockingly, stirs her senses. Is it his obviously educated manners? His arrogant, non-servant-like presence? It’s certainly not his towering, powerful form, or slumberous, inviting green eyes!

After confronting the imposter and learning the truth, Ailsa agrees to help Nik—for she, too, understands difficult relatives and would do anything for family. Soon their secret partnership leads to growing respect, searing kisses, and then something far more perilous. And when their quest turns dangerous, Ailsa and Nik must discover this unknown enemy while facing the dangerous demands of their own unruly hearts.

srcek

I’m a Karen Hawkins fan and though I haven’t reviewed many of her books on the blog (I read most of them before I started blogging, but you can see my thoughts here, here, and here), she’s one author I keep returning to for feel-good romance. Her stories might not be ground-breaking but they always deliver when I’m looking for something sweet and funny and not too angsty (I’ve had it up to here with angsty romances, honestly).

Mad for the Plaid is the third (and last, I think) novel in The Oxenburg Princes series that follows a line of – you guessed it – princes from the imaginary East-European country of Oxenburg, who come to Scotland because of the machinations of their formidable grandmother and fall in love with Scottish ladies. I’ve enjoyed the series a lot, so I was super glad to read the ARC of this one while waiting for my due date to approach.

There’s a small matter of the name of the heroine – my ARC says Ailsa, the Goodreads synopsis says Lyssa, and the NetGalley synopsis sais Mairi. I picked the one that’s closest to me – Ailsa – since it’s the one I read in the book. But if you’re reading this and your version says something else, well, there seems to have been a bit of a misunderstanding. *shrugs*

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I liked Mad for the Plaid. It’s a story of two very different people coming to trust each other while they try to solve a common problem. Nik and Ailsa have completely different opinions on what should be done about it and their stubbornness is probably the biggest hurdle in their relationship.

I enjoyed the slow-burn romance, I never care for insta-love, but I could have done with a bit more fire in both of them, especially Nik. It’s understandable that he keeps his emotions to himself and that he’s more guarded than usual since he’s the crown prince and everyone wants a piece of him (or his power and money), but Ailsa put herself out there, she took a step towards him that he never reciprocated. He was sometimes very adverse to advice and help and there was a lot of talk about how strong a leader he was, yet he didn’t dare lead in his own love life, which is something of a downer.

Ailsa was a capable young woman, so I rooted for her from the beginning. It bothered me a bit that when she spoke of her ambitions and life to Nik, he thought that running her father’s estate was a waste of her life and suggested that she should get married and have children. Um. No. I’m all for romance and marriage and kids (hell, I love all those things, they’re my life), but please don’t talk down to a woman who has been running a whole freaking estate – and quite successfully, too.

I loved the setting, as usual. Hawkins has a way with putting the reader right there in the wilds of Scotland and I always end up wishing I could go camping all around that beautiful country when I read her books. It’s interesting that a lot of her novels involve travel of some sort, I never really thought of that before, but I like this aspect of her writing. So many interesting things can happen while people are on the road!

I’m definitely looking forward to reading her next book, whenever it arrives. A hint at the end of this one makes me wonder whether we’ll be seeing more of the Grand Duchess Natasha and the Oxenburgian court. It wouldn’t be the worst thing, I’d love to hear more about the courtly intrigues. But perhaps staying in Scotland isn’t all that bad, either. :)

srcek

Have you read any of Karen Hawkins’s novels? What did you think?

Do you have any other Highlands romances to recommend (preferably not medieval)?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.

And I Darken by Kiersten White

And I Darken (The Conquerors Saga #1) by Kiersten White
Published on June 28, 2016 by Delacorte Press.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: ARC via NetGalley. Thank you Delacorte Press for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: historical YA.

My rating:

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way.

Ever since she and her brother were abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman sultan’s courts, Lada has known that ruthlessness is the key to survival. For the lineage that makes her and her brother special also makes them targets.

Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes. Now Mehmed unwittingly stands between Lada and Radu as they transform from siblings to rivals, and the ties of love and loyalty that bind them together are stretched to breaking point.

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Well, I suspect I’ll be a bit of a black sheep with this one. I saw some very positive reviews already (I haven’t read them yet because I wanted to write mine first) and it seems like mostly everyone liked this novel a lot! However, I don’t think I’ll be reading the sequel, sadly.

Let’s do the positive side first, though, it’s always important to give credit where it’s due. The writing is great. The main reason I requested this ARC was that I really enjoyed White’s Illusions of Fate – though I somehow never managed to review it here. Something about her style appeals to me, so I might give her books another chance – just not the sequel to this one.

Also, the historical setting was very convincing and well researched. So if you’re into historical fiction (not historical romance, mind you!), you’d do well to give this one a go. I don’t know whether you’re aware – but Turks (of the Ottoman Empire) invaded what is now Slovenia, too, when they were trying to reach Vienna at some point. And they took Slovenian boys as Janissaries as well. Not as many as in other Balkan nations, to be sure, but we have remnants of their language in some expressions and fortified churches on tops of hills where people fled when the warning fires burned. So it was an interesting historical period to read about, one that hasn’t been very popular in recent years. I liked that they weren’t necessarily presented as invaders, too – the author took care to be very, very neutral and thorough.

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But I disliked both the plot and the characters, which are probably the most important aspects of a story for me, so the setting and the writing didn’t make much of a difference in the final rating.

The main problem I had with these two crucial elements is that a) nothing good happens and b) there are no likable characters. And this is a problem for me, especially in YA. I’m not saying all YA books (or all books in general) should have a happy ending, far from it. In fact, I enjoy a dark story from time to time. But I feel like there has to be some hope, some moment of happiness, even if it’s crushed and stomped on in the end. I have to say that this is probably the most depressing book I’ve read in a while – and I’ve read books that made me cry, they just weren’t so dark.

It also doesn’t help that the historical period this story is set in was very bloody and uncertain. While the portrayal of the roles of women, for example, was very authentic, and I was impressed by White’s refusal to romanticize the lives of sultan’s concubines, I wish that there was something bright to look forward to. But there wasn’t and I was left with a profound sense of dread of what will happen in the sequel.

As for the characters, I couldn’t sympathize with any of them. Lada (the reimagining of Vlad the Impaler), the girl protagonist of the story, is twisted and cruel. Radu, her brother, goes from a pitiful boy to a scheming young man – he’d have been a good character to root for if he wasn’t so absolutely spineless. And Mehmed, the sultan’s heir, is an entitled little shit most of the time, even if he recognizes that Lada and Radu are very important in his life. I did not like how their relationships developed from childhood through adolescence, I didn’t like the lengths they went to. And if Lada managed to carve out a semblance of power for herself in a world where women were viewed as property, she was too selfish to ever think about improving the lives of other women with this newfound strength. *spoiler in white* Also, Mehmed’s professions of affection towards Lada were hollow and downright insulting when he continued visiting the harem and having babies.  I also thought I’d like the dynamic of this unlucky love triangle (Radu is hopelessly in love with Mehmed), but it only served to make all three of them act even worse towards each other, which was really disappointing. *end of spoiler*

I just wished someone was good enough to go against the rules of the society, to rebel not just for the sake of him/herself but to help others, too. *sigh* So you see, it was very hard to care for the fates of these people when they cared so little for the fates of those around them. Does this make sense? Again, I’m not saying that all YA protagonists have to be likeable, I love a good villain story, but there has to be someone to balance the scales.

All in all, as you can see this wasn’t a story for me. I won’t be reading the sequel because I simply can’t justify reading about unlikable characters when I have so many other, more attractive books to read. Go check out Mogsy’s and Alicia’s reviews, though, their tastes are usually very similar to mine so I’m curious to read what appealed to them in this novel!

srcek

Have you read And I Darken? What did you think? What about other books by Kiersten White?

Do you like dark stories or do you prefer at least a drop of sunshine in every tale?

I’d love to hear from you!

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.

Warrior Witch by Danielle L. Jensen

Warrior Witch (The Malediction Trilogy #3) by Danielle L. Jensen
Published on May 3rd, 2016 by Angry Robot.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via NetGalley. Thank you Angry Robot for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: YA fantasy.

My rating:

Cécile and Tristan have accomplished the impossible, but their greatest challenge remains: defeating the evil they have unleashed upon the world.

As they scramble for a way to protect the people of the Isle and liberate the trolls from their tyrant king, Cécile and Tristan must battle those who’d see them dead. To win, they will risk everything. And everyone.

But it might not be enough. Both Cécile and Tristan have debts, and they will be forced to pay them at a cost far greater than they had ever imagined.

zmaj-desno

This is the review for the final instalment of The Malediction Trilogy. I really liked the first part, though I never reviewed it, but I do have the review for Hidden Huntress if you want to check it out. Hint: I wasn’t too impressed by it. This post is divided into two parts: the first probably contains spoilers for Stolen Songbird and Hidden Huntress but not for Warrior Witch, while the second is absolutely full of them because I want to rant a bit. So stop reading at the “spoilers ahoy” mark if you don’t wish to know… pretty much everything there is to know about this book.

The non-spoilery part

Warrior Witch wasn’t a particularly satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. As I said, Hidden Huntress left a lot to be desired, mainly because it suffered from second book syndrome. But this one just exploded right there in my face and took no prisoners. 

I thought the first third of the novel was a bit slow. It featured a lot of anxiety between Tristan and Cécile, their bond was tested and whatnot. I also thought some of the decisions they made were spectacularly bad, but who am I to judge? Cécile is seventeen, after all, and not a war general but a farm-girl-turned-opera-singer-turned-troll-princess. Tristan should have known better, though, he’s spent his life preparing just for this moment. I felt like their chemistry was flat, too, despite the fact that their relationship progressed in some ways.

I was also still having trouble with reconciling “trolls” with the humanoid, rather handsome individuals who populated this book. For me, trolls are like those creatures from The Hobbit, all grey and stupid and huge – not sexy. 

The focus on the intrigue was too heavy for my taste, I had trouble keeping track of all the players and their numerous, convoluted schemes, especially since I didn’t remember Hidden Huntress well enough. Maybe a bit of repetition at the beginning of the book wouldn’t have gone amiss – I felt like I should have re-read the first two parts prior to starting this one, but I just wasn’t invested enough. *sigh*

I was honestly surprised by the body count of this novel! I know war takes its toll but here it just seemed so senseless (not that war makes a lot of sense otherwise…). At the same time, the story worked hard on being very dramatic to the point of making me roll my eyes from time to time: “… I prayed that if he managed to reach the Duke, that he’d fail in his quest. Because if Angoulême was killed, Roland would be free to do what he wanted. And all the world would burn.” – dun, dun, dun!

Eh. Now to the fun part! :)

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Spoilers, ahoy!

The ending. The ending, people! What happened there? Okay, so it might be that I have a problem with it because I’m not a believer in all things spiritual – I don’t believe in an afterlife. I don’t think my soul will pass into another, more beautiful place where it will spend the rest of the eternity. So if you’ve read this book, you’ll understand why the ending left me cold.

The last part of the book was very unusual in itself. I’m apparently pre-conditioned to expect a happily ever after for the teenage pair, which is weird because I always complain about this when I see it, but Tristan and Cécile got theirs – just, you know, after she died. And of course she had his child. Because why else would a seventeen-year-old want to survive the departure of her teenage husband? I really thought we were past the “boy leaves girl, girl becomes catatonic” stage (what with a whole decade passing since Twilight), but apparently not. Ugh.

And really, I have to say this again: the senseless slaughter? So unnecessary. Humans were just troll playthings here. Even Cécile, who is human, was given special powers in order to be able to compete on this supernatural battlefield. Why are you hating on humans? 

Oooohhh and one more thing (I’ll stop after this, I promise): Roland’s madness. How convenient that Cécile was able to cure his “defect” by removing iron (a poison) from his body, huh? The only character with a seriously warped personality in this book gets “cured” by a teenage witch who pulls the “corruption” out of him. Ah, simplistic resolutions. 

No, wait, one more: I still don’t like Cécile’s singing. It’s like every time she gets stuck and doesn’t know what to do, she sings her heart out and it magically solves everything. I’m not a huge fan of musicals – and I think that if this was ever made into a movie, I’d be fast-forwarding the songs because come on. Okay, so I know music can be therapeutic and I like music – I just fail to see how it can be helpful on the battlefield if you get what I mean.

End of spoilers.

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As you can see, this hit all the wrong buttons for me. I’m sad, I’m always sad when I dislike a series that showed so much promise at the beginning. But not everyone shares my opinion: check out Jolien’s glowing review if you want some balance.

zmaj-levo 

Have you read this series? What did you think?

Do trolls seem appealing to you? Or are you more particular with your choice of supernatural love interests?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Because of Miss Bridgerton

Because of Miss Bridgerton (Rokesbys #1) by Julia Quinn
Published in March 2016 by Avon.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via NetGalley. Thank you Avon for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: historical romance.

My rating:

Sometimes you find love in the most unexpected of places… This is not one of those times.

Everyone expects Billie Bridgerton to marry one of the Rokesby brothers. The two families have been neighbors for centuries, and as a child the tomboyish Billie ran wild with Edward and Andrew. Either one would make a perfect husband… someday.

Sometimes you fall in love with exactly the person you think you should… Or not.

There is only one Rokesby Billie absolutely cannot tolerate, and that is George. He may be the eldest and heir to the earldom, but he’s arrogant, annoying, and she’s absolutely certain he detests her. Which is perfectly convenient, as she can’t stand the sight of him, either.

But sometimes fate has a wicked sense of humor… 

Because when Billie and George are quite literally thrown together, a whole new sort of sparks begins to fly. And when these lifelong adversaries finally kiss, they just might discover that the one person they can’t abide is the one person they can’t live without…

srcek

Julia Quinn is one of my all-time favourite romance authors. Her books are what I consider perfect historical romance – funny and romantic with a touch of real feelings thrown in. And Because of Miss Bridgerton, the first book in the new series that is a prequel to her famous Bridgertons, is a wonderful example of her best writing. I didn’t love all her books equally (The Sum of All Kisses, for example, and The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy didn’t really make me gush) but this one is great. So if you’re new to Quinn’s writing, this is also a good starting point – especially if you find the very long Bridgertons series overwhelming (you don’t need to read it before starting Miss Bridgerton).

Sybilla – Billie – Bridgerton is very happy living at her family’s estate in Kent, where she has all but taken over the management of the entire holding. She takes care of the crops, knows all the tenants, but also knows that her younger brother will eventually inherit and take over her current duties. She never had a season in London – and she didn’t want it. She doesn’t apologise for wearing breeches and riding astride, but her mother keeps wishing she’d be a perfect lady.

Then she gets stranded on a roof with a twisted ankle because she wanted to save a cat – and is saved by George Rokesby, the heir of the neighbouring estate. Billie has known George all her life, but they always got on each other’s nerves – he was just old enough to be excluded from the merry band to which Billie and George’s younger siblings belonged. He was also the heir, so he couldn’t traipse around the country with them – even if he might have wished to join them sometimes.

One of his brothers, Edward, joined the military, while Andrew joined the navy – and George has been feeling sort of useless and left behind because he was not allowed to go (given he was the heir). Now Edward is missing and his world turns upside-down, and Billie is there to catch him when he falls. 

I really liked their coming together, their slow realization that the other might just be the person they didn’t know was perfect for them. They are both fiercely loyal to their families – and to each other, somehow. I always like stories where the couple have previously known each other, it makes for a more believable love (not just infatuation or lust, though there’s plenty of those to go around, too). I also liked the rural setting – though a part of the story does take place in London. It’s a nice change from all the parties! 

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series! The Rokesby siblings sound like an amazingly cool bunch of people and their love stories will sure to be romantic. 

srcek

Have you read Because of Miss Bridgerton? What did you think?

What about Julia Quinn’s other novels? Which one is your favourite?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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