Books, Fiction

A Bittersweet Moment by Vanessa Riley

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

A Bittersweet Moment by Vanessa Riley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Theodosia aspires to have her own business someday, selling choice flowers to perfumers, but she wants to learn better diction first. Ewan, the second son of an abusive earl, agrees to help Theo while she encourages him in his own dream: to earn his independence with a living as a playwright. But when Theo and Ewan begin falling for each other, their already unusual arrangement becomes even more precarious in A Bittersweet Moment by author Vanessa Riley.

So. While anticipating reading a Regency romance, The Bittersweet Bride, I came across this little prequel number and decided to read it first.

This is one of the authors whose books I dive into with or without at least skimming the book blurb beforehand, so it was an extra treat for me to find out Ewan is a writer. I mean, sensing the agony he feels in the midst of “the odor of the death of words”–you have me right there, from the first page, Mr. Fitzwilliam. Then add to that his sentiment regarding the ignorant way that “men of little vision deal with paper.” Good gracious, I love reading about writers.

Even with her determination, her feisty streak, and her reluctance to trust, Theo isn’t all sharp edges, which is a plus. Her meeting Ewan isn’t an insta-love connection, though when their affection for each other does come up, it does so suddenly, and the descriptions and declarations of love become pretty excessive from there.

Nevertheless, the vocational and romantic plight of these characters has whetted my appetite the more for the related novel.

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Books, Fiction

The Darkest Hour by Rebecca J. Greenwood

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. I received a complimentary copy of this book, for which I’ve given an honest review.

The Darkest Hour by Rebecca J. Greenwood

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Lady Hester Douglas’s brother, a duke, has survived the war, but he might not survive his injuries. Hester, a spinster, goes off to nurse the duke herself, which isn’t the most ladylike choice, but her widowered minister, Reverend Alasdair Gilchrist, escorts her on the journey. Besides the struggle to keep her brother alive, Hester struggles with her long-held feelings for the reverend in The Darkest Hour by author Rebecca J. Greenwood.

While reading this novella has given me a different picture of the heroine, I’m quite a fan of the book cover: soft drama, a wonderful contrast of darkness and light, and lovely, excellent typography.

Hester is a bit of a nonstandard romance character, as is Alasdair, which I appreciate. I also appreciate how the story has some characters of color, a historically accurate inclusion that I think a lot of Regency tales miss. The emotion on the cover matches the mood of the story, which is rather dark and painful but brings the light of hope.

Although “electricity” doesn’t only have to do with our modern uses for it, I wasn’t sure if one reference to it was the best fit for this story, along with a character’s use of the word “brownnose,” a twentieth-century, American term. Also, the repeated emphasis on Hester’s physical beauty feels overdone, and I think when it comes to the story’s descriptions of the characters’ romantic sensations, a little less could have been more.

Nevertheless, this is the kind of sweet Regency tale that ChristFic romance readers should very well enjoy.

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This standalone novella is a part of The Darkest Season series, along with The Darkest Summer.

 

Arts and Entertainment, Books

The Virtuous Viscount by Susan M. Baganz

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. I received a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.

The Virtuous Viscount by Susan M. Baganz

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Just when Marcus Allendale, Lord Remington, is thinking it may finally be time to find a wife, a serious carriage accident brings Miss Josephine Storm into his path. However, Josie’s grave injuries present a challenge for Marcus’s growing interest in her. And more than their relationship could be in danger, due to the nefarious schemes of the obscure Black Diamond in The Virtuous Viscount, a novel by author Susan M. Baganz.

The Baron’s Blunder, the novella that precedes this novel, is what drew me into this Gothic Regency romance series. It may be ironic, but friendship is what I liked most about this story—specifically, the friendship between Marcus, Phillip, Michael, and Theodore. They’re not a bunch of perfect people, and they don’t all share Marcus’s faith, but the dynamic among them is fun to watch, and their bond is more of a brotherhood.

(Side note: during a particular scene where these friends/brothers storm into raw action, I imagined what it would’ve been like if the fiery Henrietta, the heroine from the prequel novella, could have just happened to burst into the fray with her pistol. Whew!)

Much of the romance in this book has a heavy fairytale quality. I enjoyed some of Marcus and Josie’s earlier exchanges, but, admittedly, I can’t say I came to like Josie overall, and there didn’t seem to be a good balance of strength(s) between the two of them. Also, their individual ponderings about each other would feel redundant at times or would weigh on the story without necessarily moving the plot forward. I think I might’ve enjoyed this particular tale more as a somewhat shorter, tighter read.

Nevertheless, the suspense and danger that began to unfold in the preceding book deepens here. Plus, the admirable showing of Marcus’s friend Phillip in this novel would make moving on in the series all the more interesting.

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Here’s my review of the prequel novella of the Black Diamond series, The Baron’s Blunder.

 

 

Arts and Entertainment, Books

The Baron’s Blunder by Susan M. Baganz

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

The Baron’s Blunder by Susan M. Baganz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Fighting highway attackers on behalf of defenseless travelers is a hobby, of sorts, for Lord Charles Percy. One such rescue brings him into the path of the Honorable Henrietta Allendale—only it soon becomes evident that she’s not at all defenseless. A mutual but almost reluctant interest sparks between them, but the criminal schemes of one notorious Black Diamond brings peril to their association in The Baron’s Blunder by author Susan M. Baganz.

It was the cover that most drew me to this novella. Yes, it’s quite lovely and has depth, it’s bold and vibrant in a dark kind of way, and it was the darkness that got me curious. When it comes to Regency fiction, I’m finding that I prefer stories with high stakes involved, aside from just social or romantic connections and displays of old-fashioned English manners and speech.

Hence, I appreciated the danger and intrigue in this Gothic Regency romance. It was great to come across a heroine with fire to her, and by that, I don’t mean she’s brash, wild, or rude to people. She isn’t perfect, may even be a bit snobbish, but she’s got wit, brains, faith, and a level of fearlessness that makes her character interesting.

I found some parts of the story to be rather clichéd or overdone, there’s perhaps too much winking, and the romance has quite a few references to “warmth” and “sensations,” which gets repetitive. Also, though this isn’t an insta-love story, the eventual jump to love still felt rushed to me, on one party’s part in particular, especially since they both began the story so opposed to marriage.

Still, I very much enjoyed this read, ate it up in one evening, and would be happy to continue the series.

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The Baron’s Blunder is the Black Diamond series prequel. Here’s my review of Book One, The Virtuous Viscount.