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Book Review: A Wolf in Duke’s Clothing, by Susanna Allen

I borrowed a copy of Susanna Allen‘s A Wolf in Duke’s Clothing through Hoopla.
a wolf in dukes clothing

A Duke in want of a wife…

Alfred Blakesley, Duke of Lowell, has long been an enigma. No one dares to give a man of his status the cut direct, but there’s simply something not quite right about him. What would the society ladies say if they learned the truth―that the Duke of Lowell is a wolf shifter and the leader of a pack facing extinction if he doesn’t find his true love? So now he’s on the hunt…for a wife.

Felicity Templeton has a goal of her own: to remain unwed until her twenty-fifth birthday, when she will inherit a significant fortune. But that all changes when she meets Alfred, the dashing duke who’s determined to have her for his very own…

my review

This was absolutely ridiculous. Nothing about Felicity’s reactions felt believable. So, it took a lot of suspension of disbelief. But it was ridiculous in a cute way. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I appreciated Felicity’s backbone and how unflinchingly and openly willing to want Alfred was.

I was annoyed at how often Felicity fell asleep and was able to be picked up, moved, undressed, etc in her sleep. This is a scenario that only really makes sense with small children and I find it a wolf in duke's clothing photohorrendously infantilizing when authors subject their adult female characters to this. (It’s only ever women too. I can’t think of a single male characters this happens to.) Additionally, this is labeled “a steamy shapeshifter regency romance” on Amazon. But that calling that is a stretch. There’s basically nothing more than angst and a kiss the very end and, even then, the sex is very tame. So, I don’t know what steamy scale it’s rated on, but don’t expect much.

All in all, for a bit of light fluff this was fun. But I wouldn’t call it any more than that.

Other Reviews:

ARC Review: A Wolf in Duke’s Clothing by Susanna Allen

Review: A Wolf in Duke’s Clothing – Susanna Allen



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Book Review: The Stormbringer Trilogy, by Isabel Cooper

Last year, I won a copy of Blood and Ember (book 3 of the Stormbringer series). But I put off reading it because I didn’t have books 1 and 2. Well, lately, I’ve been making a concerted effort to read books from my physical book shelves. I borrowed The Stormbringer (#1) and The Night Born (#2) from Hoopla so that I could read Blood and Ember (#3).

the stom bringer coverAbout the Book:

Raised to be weapons against the darkness, Sentinels spend their lives fighting the monsters that prey upon humanity. Their hands will shape the world, and their swords will seal its fate.

A warrior lost to time…

Pursuing her latest quarry deep into the wilderness, Sentinel Darya finds herself in an ancient city that should no longer exist. There she comes upon a handsome warrior in ancient clothing, held in a deathlike sleep—Amris, hero of the last great battle against the Traitor God. His discovery, and the weakening wards about the city, can only mean one thing: the Traitor is gathering his armies again, and the storms are returning.

Amris has been trapped in dreamless sleep since the final battle raged centuries ago. Now he is awake…and so, it seems, is humanity’s greatest threat. Determined to save the world from being swallowed by the oncoming storm, Amris and the fiercely beautiful Darya must learn to trust each other—and the powerful bond that’s formed between them—as they fight their way through a land swarming with monsters in a last desperate bid to get word back to their allies before it’s too late…

my review
Having read this, I can now say that I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected. I thought both Amris and Darya were lovely characters. They were just so unfailingly kind to one another and those around them—good people. Plus, they’re both well into adulthood. I also very much appreciated being given a bisexual hero (without it being any drama) and several LGBTQ side characters. Similarly, Darya and Amris had different skill-sets, but both were allowed to excel together and apart. (And they do fight apart, even after getting together.) So often, us readers are given a ‘badass heroine’ who goes limp in the presence of the hero. Cooper didn’t do that to us. Darya stays just as competent and dangerous after meeting Amris as she was before and I loved that.

I did feel a bit thrown into the story. The book starts at the re-ignition of a magical war and there is a lot of history to absorb quickly. I never felt like I got a real feel for the villain. For that matter, I don’t really feel like I got to know Darya and Amris particularly deeply either. I liked them, but they are on the go for the entirety of the book and I didn’t feel like there was ever a chance to pause, breathe, and get to know them outside of the circumstances of the story.

All in all, however, I can’t wait to jump into book two. Though I do want to make a quick point about the cover. One presumes that is Amris, the male lead. He spends the entire book in plate armor. He briefly takes it off to bathe, sleep, and for the single (very mild) sex scene. But he is notably in armor the whole book. So, why are we given a shirtless cover? It’s not that I dislike the cover, or that I’m a prude about skin. But I do feel like it misrepresents the sort of story one will find under that cover. Just, sayin’.

the night born coverAbout the Book:

Raised from childhood to be weapons, Sentinels spend their lives fighting the monsters that prey upon humanity. Their hands will shape the world, and their swords will seal its fate.

As war looms, Sentinel Branwyn seeks military aid from the High Council, attracting interest from its youngest member, Zelen Varengir. He’s intrigued by Branwyn but can’t risk helping her cause. Instead, he must learn all he can about the intriguing newcomer—especially who’s behind framing her for the murder of the High Lord and threatening to tear apart the world as they know it…


my review

Oh man, what is with these covers?! Yes, I do realize that I said much the same thing about book one and it is the least important aspect of a book for a book review. But honestly, Zelen is a healer and a diplomat. He does know how to use a sword, but he is 100% not a warrior. Plus, he’s tall and slim (and not prone to walking around shirtless). So, what is that cover! Who is it supposed to be? Because it is NO ONE in the book. And the fact that I’m starting my review with it tells you how strongly the disconnect between it and the actual story truly is! It not only is inaccurate, it gives you the impression the book is in a totally different sub-genre than it is (erotic romance instead of fairly low-spice romance).

Now, about the actual story. I didn’t like it quite as much as book one (The Stormbringer), but I also feel like I got the chance to know these characters better than Darya and Amris, which I appreciated. Much like book one, Zelen and Branwyn are lovely 30 plus year-old people who are honest and kind to those around them (including each-other). In Branwyn’s case, she’s tied to a god who values honesty, which just makes her disinclined to be anything but straight forward. I can’t stress how lovely it is to read a romance that doesn’t bother with drama produced by avoidable dishonesties. Both characters are clear with themselves and each-other about they want.

The writing is clean and easy to read. There’s a notable amount do diversity too. Off the top of my head, I remember a counselor with a sex sex partner, a healer in a wheelchair, and peoples of various ages, sexes, and appearances. All of whom simply existed, without there needing to be a ‘reason.’

All in all, I’m still enjoying this series and look forward to reading book three, Blood and Ember.

blood and ember coverAbout the Book:

A century ago, the Traitor God’s fury left the world broken by violent storms and twisted monsters born of darkness and death. Now those storms are sweeping across the continent again and it will take everything the armies of man can muster to survive. As a sworn knight, Olvir is prepared to do his part—even if that means journeying deep into the magic-tainted Battlefield to face the enemy alone.

Sentinel Vivian Bathari has lost too much to allow her closest friend to make such a sacrifice on his own. Besides, there are whispers that Olvir’s strange new powers are somehow connected to the Traitor God, and she’d rather be by his side should the worst occur. But as they travel deep into the heart of danger, their growing attraction burns into mutual desire, and the true depth of Olvir’s connection to the evil haunting their world is made clear. In the end, Vivian will have to decide what she’s willing to sacrifice to save their world…and the man she loves.

my review

I thought this a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. It did drag a bit. The book is largely two character walking from one place to another, talking, and encountering the occasional challenge. But I liked both of the characters a lot. And I very much appreciated what Cooper let them be. Of the two, Olvir is the younger by close to 10 years and Vivian is 40+. That’s not a pairing you see often (except in ‘sexy cougar seduces younger man’ scenarios, which this isn’t). And both are just unfailingly kind to one another in very difficult circumstances. I feel like Cooper went out of her way to subvert a lot of tropes and that didn’t go unnoticed or encouraged on my part.

The book reminded me a lot of T. Kingfisher‘s The Saint Of Steel series, with the tragically noble knight and the practical older romantic partner. Luckily, I really enjoyed those book (at least what I’ve read of the series, I’ve not finished it). I recommend both it and this one though.

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Other Reviews:

The Reading Cafe: The Stormbringer

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Book Review: Smokin’ Hot Cowboy Christmas, by Kim Redford

I won a copy of Smokin’ Hot Cowboy Christmas, by Kim Redford last year, but never got around to read it. I read it this year as part of my Christmas Reading Challenge.

smokin' hot cowboy Christmas

It’s been one fiasco after another for newcomer Belle Tarleton since she began trying to turn her ranch into an arts center. Local workers seem determined to ruin her Christmas party plans, and she hopes bringing in down-on-his-luck Rowdy Holloway to help with renovations will get things back on track.

Rowdy is the unluckiest cowboy in the whole of Wildcat Bluff County, Texas, and things are not improving this holiday season. Sure, he’s the object of many local women’s drool-worthy fantasies, but the town has decided he’s the man who should stop Belle’s renovation plans.

It started as a simple mission, but now Rowdy’s so twisted up he doesn’t know whose side he’s on. With only days until Christmas, Rowdy and Belle need to tap into their fiery personalities and off-the-charts chemistry if they’re ever going to find a way to thaw the ice on this reluctant town’s heart.

my review

This is a spoilery, ranty, ragey, hate review in which I drop a lot of F-bombs. Be warned.

Whenever I’m reviewing a book that isn’t really in a genre I tend toward I usually still try to be objective. What doesn’t work for me usually does work for someone else and my not liking it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad book. Cowboy Romances is one of those genres. I just don’t understand the emotional impact I’m supposed to feel by being reminded someone isn’t just a volunteer fireman, but a cowboy volunteer fireman; not just a businesswoman, but a cowgirl business woman, ad infinitum. Why is that so much better? Why is that anything more than an extra noun—annoyingly used as an adjective—in the middle of too many sentences?

So, I went in to Smokin’ Hot Cowboy Christmas knowing it wasn’t really going to be my cup of tea, but wanting to read it all the same. (I’m doing a Christmas reading challenge that it is part of.) I’d planned to be open to it though. But the reality is that I so disliked the book, in general, that I don’t even know that I can be objective about it. I hated this thing! First off, that description is BARELY accurate. It’s damn near a lie, honestly. But that’s a small thing in the grand scheme of things.

The main issue is that I found no romance in this. All I saw was a wide-spread con and it’s victim. All I recognized was a supposed redemption arc that somehow forgot the redemption part of the plan. If I were to title this review, it would be Fuck Those People, Fuck Every Single One Of Them.

Rowdy and others say over and over again during this book that he’s the unluckiest cowboy in the county. I very quickly realized he wasn’t unlucky, he’s just an asshole. And that was when he was simply lying and trying to sabotage Belle’s business venture to drive her out of town. Then he started sleeping with her, while still actively lying and sabotaging her business, and I thought, “Oh, he’s a huge asshole.” Then he told her he loved her and let her love him in return (while still not stopping the ruse) and I went, “Oh, he’s a supreme asshole.” Fuck that guy, just fuck him!

He was supposed to be all conflicted, but no one forced him. He could have stopped at any point and chose not to, over and over and over again. Fuck Him. He wasn’t in a “pickle” or a “bind” or “between a rock and a hard place.” He made choices. At one point he and the other council members were like, “This isn’t who we are.” And I just went, “Well, it very obviously is, since it’s what you very clearly did and continued to do.”

And this cockamamie plan of the town council made no sense at all, anyhow. No one appeared to have ever actually spoken to Belle about the plans they were trying to derail. No one really knew what her business goals even were. So, the drastic lengths they were trying to go to were just stupid. Fuck them all!

Then, after 360 pages of faffing about there is about a page of apology (not from Rowdy, I might add) that goes like this:

What we did was wrong. As a community, we apologize. We’re here to roof your house as a way of making amends and asking you to stay…Nothing is ever too little too late when so much is at stake. Our county needs you. We need you. We need your smarts, your drive, your vision…and your love.

So, that comes down to We tried to drive you out of town, but we realize we need you now. So please forgive us so we can use you. Fuck Every Single One Of Them! Repeatedly.

And she does. The true depths of the betrayal is never truly addressed. Redford seriously let Rowdy and the county off with inferences and suggestions. And Belle still instantly forgives them. You know what, fuck her too. Not really, she doesn’t deserve it. But fuck Redford for giving me a heroine who can get royally and knowingly screwed over by an entire county and shrug it off as unimportant. Talk about a milksop! It absolutely undermined the whole rest of the book that Redford spent telling us how independent and self-assured Belle was. Apparently she’s willing to be a complete doormat. Fuck that too.

Then there was the utterly farcical side gambit with the missing cow. The cow that was eventually found in what should have been the first place they looked, not the last. It was just annoying as hell. The humor fell completely flat. And the question of the all important roof that the town showed up to repair as their big act of apology and redemption? Well, it wasn’t roofed in the first place because of them. It no longer mattered if it got roofed at all, because they’d already forced her to miss the deadline she was working toward. And if the task was such that the town could simply come together to do it, I have to wonder why the cowboys who worked Belle’s ranch couldn’t simply have been assigned the work at any point in the book.

Speaking of cowboys…the whole mythos of the cowboy that is invoked 14 million times in this book…no one actually is. They’re ranchers who hire people to work their ranches. Those are cowboys. The character in this book are Boss Hogs. They’re the owners who hire cowboys. Fuck Every One Of Those Fat Cats for pretending to be blue collar men and women too.

I hated this book. I could spend half the afternoon telling you all the other ways I hated it. But just know I hated it. Not because I don’t like Cowboy Romance or Christmas books or Western settings. Not because of the writing, which was fine (even if the inconsistencies were annoying—people wearing stocking taking off their jeans or people wearing sweat suits unsnapping their shirt, etc) but because the story is horrible. Fuck those people, every single one of them!

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Be sure to come back tomorrow. I’ll be reviewing Where We Begin, by Janey King.