The Lass Initiated the Laird (Lisa Torquay)

Note: I received this novella from the author in exchange for an honest review. 

Overall

So I actually hate reading things out of order. When I find a series, I try to never start in the middle, and I really don't do it when it's my first book by an author. So this novella is set after the third book in aseries called Explosive Highlanders, and it really convinced me that I was right to avoid novellas in the middle of series by authors I've never read before.

That's not to say I didn't like it, but I just kind of think it suffers from me not knowing anything about the world that Lisa Torquay has created if that makes sense. For example, I'm pretty sure Aileen and Taran, Sam's father and stepmother, are in Book 1 or 2 -- but now I don't want to read their story because Taran's a jackass.  This novella does not stand on its own.

Another drawback is the pacing. It's a short novella--about 90 pages--and most of the book is building up the seduction between Sam and Harriet. That part is mostly fine. There are some tropes and purple prose, but whatever. And then the book gallops over weeks and months, and there's a trip to Scotland that makes little narrative sense except we want to to see Aileen and Taran--the pacing is all over the place.

Sam and Harriet don't really stand alone as interesting characters either, though I imagine I'd feel differently having read the first two books. If you're looking for a short story with a lot of sex, then this is probably a good book for you. If you're looking for a little bit more development in your romance and a more traditional narrative, I wouldn't recommend it.

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The Untamed MacKenzie (Jennifer Ashley)

Overall Response

I was happy to finally get to Louisa and Lloyd, since both of their characters have been part of the series since The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie and Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage. They shared a moment in the The Duke's Perfect Wife and The Perfect Gift, so we knew they would end up together. But how would Jennifer Ashley write the story of the illegitimate police inspector and scandalous daughter of the ton?

Naturally, they're brought together by the murder of a bishop who wanted to marry Louisa. She's the suspect, and Lloyd is trying to clear her name. Of course, the rest of the Mackenzies make their appearance, and in a lot ways, this novella puts to bed the story of the Mackenzie brothers as Lloyd is the last son of the duke to find peace.

I wrote in my review of The Perfect Gift that Ian is Jennifer Ashley's favorite Mackenzie to write about because he is in every single book, but Daniel is a close second. He plays a major supporting role here, and I'm not sure how I feel about it. We've seen Daniel since the first book as a teenager beyond his years, and here he's eighteen clearly going on forty. The next book is his, which I'm actually in the middle of reading now, and I just don't know if I like Daniel. I'm still sorting that out.

I do, however, like Lloyd a great deal, and I would have loved if he had his own full-book treatment. I wanted to get know him more--I wanted to see his romance with Louisa deepen. I wanted a better character development journey from the clearly insane inspector of the first book I like Louisa just fine, and I think she's a great foil for Lloyd. I'm just not sold on their romance by the end the way I should be.

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A Mackenzie Family Christmas: The Perfect Gift (Jennifer Ashley)

Overall Response

I always like revisiting characters, when authors write novellas that bring us back to a family of characters, I'm basically throwing my money back at them. Jennifer Ashley has written two novellas taking us back into the Mackenzie family and I like them both just fine. This is the first, which begins about eight months after The Duke's Perfect Wife ended. Chronologically, it's also set after The Seduction of Elliott McBride because Elliott and Juliana are mentioned briefly but this book was published first.

Each couple has his own little mini plot, though some are better than others. Ian and Beth's, is always, the best. Beth has broken one of Ian's Ming Bowls and the whole family is on tenterhooks because it has been a disaster for Ian in the past. Hart and Eleanor's is probably the next best, as they await the birth of Alec, the little boy we were introduced to in the epilogue of Perfect Wife. Ainsley and Cameron have a sweet story about their daughter, which gives Daniel something to do. Mac and Isabella have almost nothing to do except Mac is creating a gift for Isabella. I was disappointed to see that they didn't have their own strong storyline.

It's clear that Ian is Jennifer Ashley's favorite brother to follow, because his is the only story that interweaves throughout the entire book. There are some minor subplots--Mac's valet Bellamy almost looks as though he's getting a story, but it's only two quick scenes. David Fleming gets a lot of POV scenes for some reason that's never entirely clear. I wonder if Jennifer Ashley intends to give him his own book or was playing around with the idea here. Lloyd Fellows also shows up and has a minor subplot.

This is a sweet revisit of characters we fell in love with during the first four books, but it's a bit scattered and all of the characters and plots are not evenly given time to breath. I could have done with fifty more pages, I think.

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