My delight in bringing you these reviews on release day cannot be understated because honestly, being on time with anything right now feels like a miracle. But I am also thrilled to be on time because you do not have to wait to get your hands on Careless Whispers or Scoundrel of My Heart and I am really hoping you’ll pick them up and love them the way I did! Careless Whispers by Synithia Williams is book three in the Jackson Falls series, which can be read as standalones, but I think given the amount of family drama in this one, you should read in order. And then we have Scoundrel of My Heart by Lorraine Heath, which is a first in a series, and it is everything to me. Oh, and I’m so grateful to Netgalley and HQN for the review copy of Careless Whispers and to Netgalley and Avon for the review copy of Scoundrel of My Heart.
Careless Whispers by Synithia Williams
I’ve been mulling over what to say about this book since I finished it yesterday because I really love Synithia Williams’ brilliant writing and engaging characters, but I felt like this book was really bogged down by the familial drama that usually contributes to my love of this series.
Elaina is the oldest daughter, she is the one for whom control of the family business has always been the most appealing and something she has strived to be good at, and she is also cold as a sort of protective mechanism. Alex, her love interest, is the head of Research and Development and he is fed up with Elaina’s stone-walling of him and his projects. The two of them butt heads frequently, but when Alex sees Elaina in a weak moment, he finds himself softening against her. Meanwhile, Grant, Elaina’s father, is trying to undermine her at every turn. India, her sister who is now married to her ex-husband, doesn’t actually understand Elaina at all and says some things that feel harsh but true. And then there are Zoe and Byron, her sister-in-law and brother whom she loves dearly. Plus her niece. So we have a large cast of characters even before you add in Alex’s family who also play a key role in this book.
The large cast doesn’t really bother me because I feel like Williams manages her cast well. What does bother me is that the way that Grant’s actions and Alex’s secret keeping (even with the best of intentions) play out doesn’t leave me entirely convinced of the happy ending. Elaina has a troubling relationship with alcohol and it’s very clear that she needs some therapy beyond what she mentions having had in the past. I felt like her family should have sort of stepped in at some point, despite her pointed words, which are so clearly defense mechanisms. All in all, I wound up so frustrated with the familial aspect of this book that my enjoyment of the romance just started to really pale in comparison.
If you are less sensitive to family members being awful then I absolutely believe you will enjoy this book, especially if you’ve liked the others. And the thing is, I did enjoy this book! Up until the end, I really liked Alex and Elaina together. I liked that Alex seemed to really see and understand Elaina. I loved seeing the softer side of Elaina and her trying to be brave and go for something absolutely terrifying to her. I loved that Alex was supportive and understanding of that and was willing to be patient. But I think Elaina was always the more vulnerable one in the relationship, which made the way the third act conflict was handled just really rub me the wrong way. So, a bit of a mixed bag, but I’m so glad this series isn’t over!
Scoundrel of My Heart by Lorraine Heath
Scoundrel of My Heart was brilliant in literally every way and I was utterly captivated and delighted by it. The highest compliment I can pay a romance novel, probably, is that I almost end read this book because I was so anxious about how it was going to resolve. I knew, obviously, that things would work out between Kathryn and Griffith because romance novel, but honestly, I just couldn’t figure out how Heath could pull it off in a way that I could believe and root for.
Apparently this series follows the Sins of All Seasons series, which I had a sort of uneven experience with and have not actually finished the final book, which introduced both protagonists of this particular book. So I went into this book not realizing the connection and therefore when this book pivots into what I would consider Part II, I was shocked and my intrigue level magnified substantially.
The baked in, simplified version of the conflict is that Lady Kathryn needs to marry an heir not a spare in order to the get the cottage that is part of her dowry that is intimately tied to so many of her best childhood memories. Lord Griffith is not a heir (view spoiler). Meanwhile, the Duke of Kingsland is looking for a bride and he has advertised that eligible ladies of the ton should write him a letter essentially pitching themselves to him as a prospective bride. Griffith… Y’all. THIS MAN. He loves Kathryn so much. Anyway, he finds himself roped into helping Kathryn figure out what the Duke of Kingsland wants and is looking for and everything about this is delightful. Truly, the entire Part I section of this book had me absolutely swooning. And I think for a lot of authors that would be the totality of the plot and there would be NOTHING wrong with that.
But Lorraine Heath is like, “No, ma’am, I will ramp up the angst factor to an 11” and suddenly I’m like overwhelmed by how much there is to work through. And Kingsland is like, perfectly fine and I, like Kathryn, cannot wait for him to be brought to his knees by a woman (book two!!!). Anyway, I basically love all of these characters and I loved this book and I don’t really know how to explain to you that this book was everything I wanted, beyond telling you that this book was everything I wanted.
Have you read either of these already? If so, what did you think?