Have I mentioned how relieved I am that the Harper Collins strike has finally come to an end? While I wish Harper Collins hadn’t left its employees out to dry for so long, I am genuinely thrilled that the Union ultimately succeeded in obtaining most of what they wanted. What was tragic was not getting to talk about the books that I was supposed to be reading and reviewing. It became rather challenging, if I’m honest, to read Harpers titles when I knew I wasn’t going to be able to talk about them, so I got even further behind than I was anyway. But now!!! Now, I get to tell you about my thoughts on Heartbreaker by Sarah MacLean, The Duke Gets Even by Joanna Shupe, A Counterfeit Scoundrel by Lorraine Heath, and The Portrait of a Duchess by Scarlett Peckham. So much gratitude from me for Netgalley providing e-copies of each, though ultimately, I listened to purchased copies of both Heartbreaker and The Duke Gets Even. Now for the actual reviews!
Heartbreaker by Sarah MacLean
I put off reading Heartbreaker for so long. SO LONG. And for why?? It was absolutely fantastic. It felt like a triumph on the level of Brazen and the Beast for me. Heartbreaker is one of Sarah MacLean’s best books in my opinion. It is sexy and fun, full of heart and a dash of angst, and with a cast of delightful characters that you want to spend even more time with. Everything about Heartbreaker was genuinely fantastic. I adored it and I hope that you will too!
If you’re unfamiliar with the series, the premise is that these four women have banded together to take down bad, powerful men. This particular book follows Adelaide, who is the best pickpocket Mayfair and, for that matter, South of Mayfair have ever seen. The women are trying to fully bring down this truly awful Marquess who has done a lot of terrible things and in order to do so, they need Lady Helene. Only, Lady Helene is on her way to Gretna Green with the Duke of Clayborn’s brother. Some shennanigans later and Henry and Adelaide and traipsing the country and also being injured and also taking BATHS. I mean. Listen. A great book was had, y’all. And then end? That little chapter with Tommy and Imogen?? God, I cannot wait for Knock Out! I swear I will read it faster than I did this one. Probably.
The Duke Gets Even
by Joanna Shupe
I was really looking forward to finally getting Nellie and the Duke of Lockwood’s romance in this book because it had been teased since the beginning of the series. Ultimately, I walked away from this book with a general attitude of “it’s good, but just not quite what I wanted,” if that makes sense? Nellie is a scandalous lady in the sense that she gives zero thought to society and just does what she wants, but she suffers some consequences to that like being touched by creepy older men who think that because she’s shared her body with people of her own choosing, they should also get to have her. In some ways, this book felt like it was in conversation with Scarlett Peckham’s The Rakess and my issue with both books is that sometimes I just want a historical romance with a woman who goes after what she wants to have a woman who just… gets to have her cake and doesn’t have to deal with things like sexual assault. Is that asking too much? Apparently.
That said, I really did enjoy the friendships in this book, Nellie’s family, and even the way the third act conflict resolved itself, though I could have been happier, I think, with a few more pages before being thrust into the epilogue. It’s always difficult for me when the resolution comes so late in the book. But all in all, I loved the way Lockwood fell for Nellie and how he cast off this desire to have a duchess who would be above reproach. I mean, what is the point of being a Duke if you can’t marry who you want, honestly? But also, I sort of wish that we got more of the two of them together after the fact. Because there’s talk in this book about how being a scandalous duchess wouldn’t be a fun time, but we don’t see that. Basically, I wanted a lot out of this book and I got a great story that just didn’t focus on all the things I wanted. I hope that is helpful to you in deciding whether or not this book could be for you!
The Counterfeit Scoundrel
by Lorraine Heath
Lorraine Heath always has such fascinating plots to me. This one was intriguing because in it Bishop is helping women get divorced and Daisy is an Inquiry Agent. I had no real idea where the plot was going either because in typical Heath fashion, you start out with the basic plot (Daisy goes undercover to prove that some guy’s wife is having an affair with Bishop and Daisy and Bishop wind up very intrigued by one another) and then about halfway through, that plot gets turned on its head. Ultimately, I enjoyed this story quite a lot, but it didn’t have the compulsively readable magic that my favorites from Heath have possessed. I would pick it up and sit it down without fretting over when the next time would be that I could sneak another few pages. So, all in all, a very solid book with just a few pieces that ultimately felt like they were missing for me.
For example, Bishop has really dedicated his life to improving the lives of individual women because of his family history. His dad was abusive toward his mom. But he’s also spent his life trying to thwart his dad’s business interests and just generally ruin his dad’s life. While I liked the emotional build up this caused with his relationship with Daisy, I felt like it sort of fizzled out before we got a really satisfying conclusion to it. Daisy’s relationship with her aunt and uncle though had quite the satisfying emotional resolution to me, so it just felt a little uneven in that sense. Overall, a romance I would recommend, but not one of my favorites from Heath.
The Portrait of a Duchess
by Scarlett Peckham
I was honestly a little nervous about The Portrait of a Duchess after my sort of lackluster feelings about The Rakess, but I’m thrilled to report that this installment in the series gave me the feelings I imagined The Rakess would. By that I mean, a woman who wants to have sex often and is free with her affections in the UK at this time, is going to have to deal with unfortunate consequences. However, I don’t wish to read about those consequences. And this book, though still firmly grounded in that reality and adding in the further complexity of our heroine being mixed race (Black), this book felt lighter and happier for me than The Rakess. Ultimately, though your milage may vary, I felt like it was significantly easier to fall in love with Rafe and Cornelia and to get swept up in reading their story, than I did in book one.
Ah, and let me tell you what this book is actually about, shall I? Essentially, Rafe just found himself the Duke of Rosemere or something because the eight people in line ahead of him all died one after another. Weird. Anyway, he pops up at Cornelia’s place of business and is like, “Hello, wife, time to come be the Duchess.” Okay, not exactly like that, but pretty close. Turns out, Cornelia and Rafe had been married nearly 20 years ago to preserve Cornelia’s freedom, which is actually a theme that so much of this book hinges upon.
I really did love getting glimpses of Sera and Adam though, for all I talked about how much I preferred The Portrait of a Duchess. But I enjoyed the artistic descriptions throughout this book and the way the ultimate house party became such a fun and engaging time. Oh, and this book winds up showcasing a very healthy seeming polyamorous relationship, which was such an unexpected treat. I think maybe both Cornelia and Rafe are queer? But it’s very apparent in the text that Rafe is at least bisexual if not pansexual. Overall, I would definitely recommend this one if you haven’t picked it up yet!
Anyway, I look forward to bringing you another set of reviews soon, hopefully, but for now, leave me with your own thoughts on these books! I’ve got to go load these reviews into Netgalley ASAP because I’m so behind my ratio is terrible.
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