Y’all… One of these books literally came out in March. MARCH. But whatever. I’m finally here to tell you my thoughts about three historical romance novels. Specifically, all three of these historical romances are out from Avon and despite having advanced e-ARCs of all three I read each of them as finished copies that I purchased. I did a combination audio/ebook read of The Heiress Hunt by Joanna Shupe and a print read of both Devil in Disguise by Lisa Kleypas and Bombshell by Sarah MacLean. So, thanks to Avon and Netgalley for the e-ARCs, but ultimately, I’m talking to y’all today based on the final version of each of these books! So let’s get to talking about them.
The Heiress Hunt by Joanna Shupe
The Heiress Hunt was almost a success for me, but the end pulled it down from a high four star rating to a three star. I think I’m arguably being harsher with my ratings right now than usual, so admittedly, take that number with a grain of salt. But The Heiress Hunt was set up to be a success for me. I love nothing more than pining (preferably mutual, but I’m also a fan of a man being in love with his best friend for years and keeping his mouth shut about it) and estranged friends to lovers is sort of catnip for me. I also really like the premise of a man who wants the hostess having the hostess invite all of her friends to a house party so he can woo the hostess, but on the down low. And the first 40-50% of this book was hitting those notes for me. It was incredibly different in tone, I felt, to the brilliant Uptown Girls series, but it was like peanut butter M&Ms and I just wanted to keep listening. But once we passed the first half of the book, I felt like the wheels sort of started coming apart. I still found the book compulsively readable because I wanted to know what would happen, but instead of being my favorite type of M&Ms, it was like they were regular ones that are good, but why am I eating them? (This analogy is getting tortured, but I hope you’re following.) Anyway, if you want to know nothing really about the plot, skip the rest of this review because I’m going to have some minor spoilers in the rest of it.
At about the halfway point, there’s a forced marriage and… I didn’t like it. It just didn’t really make sense the way it happened, so much as it felt like a convenient excuse. Maddie had said she needed time and instead of helping to get Maddie that time, Harrison just goes full steam ahead in a way that didn’t really work for me. Also, the unresolved sexual tension in the build up to the forced marriage was honestly way sexier to me than the ultimate consummation scenes that came after the fact, which is always a bit of a let down, though a forgivable one.
But both Maddie and Harrison spend the rest of the book making decisions that were just dumb and then the conflict that tears them apart at the end felt like a completely over the top ridiculous element that had me seething. There are third act break ups and then there are third act break ups that START at 90% of the way through the book. Ultimately, I still love Shupe’s writing and am really looking forward to the next books in the series. As for whether or not you should give this one a read or skip it may really come down to your toleration of late third act break ups. If only I could have stayed in the first half of the book feelings the whole time…
Devil in Disguise by Lisa Kleypas
I do want to preface this review by pointing out that Avon approved me for the e-ARC the same day Devil in Disguise dropped so the fact that I just bought myself a copy before reading it was just sensible. But that’s really neither here nor there. What is important is that I love Lisa Kleypas so much. Is this book objectively perfect? No. Is it perfect to me? Basically, yes.
This book follows Merritt, the daughter of Lillian and Westcliff from It Happened One Autumn, who is widowed and the owner of a shipping company that her late husband left her. Our other love interest is Kier, a Scottish distillery owner, who is rough but sweet in the way so many of Kleypas’ heroes before him. The two have an immediate connection and I was weirdly loving the quick pace of their relationship building, but then there is an accident and things take a bit of a turn. There’s a mystery that starts at this point where Sebastian keeps showing up and it’s interesting enough, but honestly, at some point this book did feel like it crept into too much Sebastian. But the way LK writes a sick bed scene is always delicious and she is so good at writing romantic tension and also, I really love her characters at least 90% of the time. This book was definitely not an exception. Basically, this book had me riding a pure joy train for the three hours or so it took me to read it.
BUT I do have to say, this book has the magical cure for infertility trope and I was beyond aggravated because it really didn’t need to happen? Merritt was married for a year and a half before her husband died. Sometimes it just takes a while to get pregnant! Anyway, other than finding that impossibly irritating, I loved this book. I am always here for a Lisa Kleypas romance and I doubt that’s going to change any time soon.
Bombshell by Sarah MacLean
I have waited years for this book. For Sesily and Caleb to finally, finally have their moment and with all of that anticipation, Sarah MacLean delivered. Caleb calls Sesily Athena in this book and honestly, the woman IS a goddess. I love her so much. She is everything I already knew her to be and so much more. This book is a wild ride and the most fun, but also, MacLean perfectly crafted the angst in this one so that it was never over-bearing but kept you gripped. Even if you could argue that Caleb maybe needed to spend a bit of time in cold storage, I ultimately found the pacing of this book to work perfectly.
Honestly, it’s still hard for me to say much about this book beyond raving about Sesily. But in an attempt to be fair, I will say that unlike Devil in Disguise, I think MacLean delivered the look back at Sesily’s siblings in such a way that fit the story and didn’t detract from the fact that this ultimately is Sesily and Caleb’s book. She also crafted characters that I am incredibly intrigued by and am super looking forward to getting their stories in the upcoming years. I also want to know if one of them (Duchess) is going to be a marriage in trouble story?? Because if so, I’m desperate already and cannot wait. I think our next one is sadly not Imogen’s, which is not to say I’m not excited for the one whose name starts with an A, but I’m holding out judgment until MacLean confirms the hero is who I think he is. If I’m right, I need the book like tomorrow because I HAVE to know his backstory. I’m so intrigued.
So, all in all, I thought this was an excellent book from MacLean. I love the floppy mass market x or whatever sized paperback and I am really, really excited for more in this series!