Summer Reading · Series Reviews

Series Review: Samantha Jellicoe (Suzanne Enoch)

This is, hands down, one of my favorite series. If I were to make a top five favorite series list, this makes it. (Oooh, I think I’ll have to do that.) I don’t read a lot of contemporary novels. I’m not really sure why I connect more with historical romances, but it’s likely because I am obsessed with history, and the romance genre allows me to explore worlds I study and write about.

In fact, most of the contemporary novels I read are authors who also write historical. I remember reading Suzanne Enoch’s historical romances — I’m not sure which one–and it had an excerpt from Flirting With Danger at the back. I read it and immediately bought it and got hooked.

What makes this series work? First and foremost, it’s fun. And that cannot be overrated in the current climate. This is the kind of escapism I go to my fiction for, and Suzanne Enoch delivers on every single page. Second, the characters of Rick and Sam are deep and layered, each with flaws that create good conflict and force the other to make adjustments, to compromise. Their relationship as it builds through all six books is the best part of this series.

So when I talk about weaknesses, least favorite, it is with this caveat: I love every book in this series.

The best book, objectively, remains Billionaires Prefer Blondes. It has the highest stakes of any of the other plots, and the romantic conflict between Sam and Rick is the closest they come to breaking. They’re each really forced to examine each other and whether they’re being unrealistic that this could actually work. It has the best supporting characters.

Don’t Look Down is probably the weakest book, only because the conflict between Sam and Rick is a little forced and I’m a bit less invested in the murder. It’s still a really fun read, and I never skip when I do a full reread, but it’s probably the book I open to reread the least of this series.

The other books fall between these in the spectrum. Flirting with Danger and Touch of Minx have strong plots, good romance, great cast. If you were to read one over the other, I think Minx is probably a bit more fun and frothy and has some really fun subplots. Flirting is still great, but it has to set up the world and has more heavy lifting to do.

Twice the Temptation honestly suffers because the first half of the book — the historical romance portion — is not nearly as strong as the series overall. When I reread, I generally skip the first half. That being said, the Sam and Rick part of the book is just fine.

Barefoot in the Dark is a special case. I like it a little less than Don’t Look Down, but I wonder how much of that is because it’s ten years later and I’m reading it knowing that. I’m still rating it above DLD because I like the character-driven nature of the plot, and I imagine the second time I reread it, I’ll probably like it even better.

My favorite thing about following couples through one series in the romance genre is that, if the author does their job well, the characters I read in the last book should be different from the first. I love to read the growth. J.D. Robb does this really well with In Death, and it’s really done well here in fewer books. Sam & Rick grow separately and together so that by Barefoot in the Dark, these guys are a team in the way they’re not in Flirting. That’s the best thing about these kinds of series and few authors can really do it well.

I hope that I get to come back and revisit my series review because I’m getting more Sam & Rick in my life.

Summer Reading · Series Reviews

Series Review: Bow Street Runners (Lisa Kleypas)

This is the shortest series I’ve done for this project thus far and it’s more of “this next book has characters you met in the last one” kind of series which were really popular for about ten years. Today, a lot of series have something else that connects them — I’m thinking of neighborhoods and villages like Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane and Tessa Dare’s Spindle Cove.  While the heroes all work for Bow Street, that’s not really something that connects the books on a narrative level.

This is also the first series that did not suffer for having read them all in a row over a few days. Each one of these books stands entirely on their own with unique characters and plots. I don’t have any trouble telling Nick, Grant, and Ross apart which is definitely a step up from the Bastion Club, the Highland Brides, or the Keegan-Paxton series. I also don’t want to groan when previous characters come back — Grant plays a decent supporting role in both the next two books and I never want to set the book on fire. So there’s something for that.

Objectively, the best book in this series is probably Someone to Watch Over Me. It has the tightest plot, with characters that develop and grow, and a romance that appears to escalate nicely. However, my personal favorite remains Lady Sophia’s Lover. Though the plot seems to change halfway through the book and meanders a little bit, I connected more easily to Sophia and Ross and was more invested in their romance. Worth Any Price is probably the weakest of the books, but it’s actually a really good book that I enjoyed a lot and count among one of my favorites.

There’s not much to say about this series. I love any kind of series associated with Bow Street, and I wish that that the third book had been more about Bow Street, but that’s a personal preference and doesn’t affect Worth Any Price all that much. It’s a good series, but I probably like the Wallflowers and Hathaways more. Still, Kleypas is known as one of the masters of the genre for good reason.

Summer Reading · Series Reviews

Series Review: The Bastion Club (Stephanie Laurens)

Captain Jack's Woman - Stephanie Laurens

At the end of this series — which took two weeks for me to read — I’m left with the feeling that I would never recommend anyone read nine Stephanie Laurens books in a row without a break. This is a similar feeling I had after finishing the Highland Brides series by Lynsay Sands. There’s not enough of a differentiation between characters and romantic conflicts and even now, I have to stop and remember which plot went to which characters.

That’s not to say this is a bad series — there’s really only one dud that I would suggest you avoid like the plague (To Distraction). Even Captain Jack’s Woman is at least entertaining enough to get through one read (but don’t ever do it again — Kit’s worth one read, and Jack isn’t worth anymore of your time.) The plots and the residual aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars are well done, though I do wish there had been more of the Bastion Club trying to readjust to the society after so many years undercover.

Of the male leads, they don’t stand out too much. I probably liked Tristan (The Lady Chosen), Jack (A Fine Passion), and Royce (Mastered by Love), but other than Jack (Captain Jack) and Deverell (To Distraction), none of the other male leads are bad. They’re just not memorable.

The female leads were a bit more varied but not by much. Clarice and Minerva were probably my favorite, though Leonora was a close third. I found myself disappointed in Leticia because I wanted to love her and be swept away by who she was described to be but that woman never appeared on the page. She falls in the middle of the pack with Penny and Madeline. Phoebe and Alicia were fine, but I wasn’t really invested in them.

Romance wise, I’d say Royce & Minerva were probably my favorite, but they’re very closely followed by Jack & Clarice, Christian & Leticia, and Tristan & Leonora. There’s nothing wrong with Charles & Penny and Gervase & Madeline though, they’re solidly in the middle. Tony & Alicia are disappointing because Tony is an idiot, but you can probably get through a read. But I hated Jack & Kit and Deverell & Phoebe‘s relationships with the fire of a thousand suns. They were just awful misogynistic stalking assholes whose female leads deserved better.

This is a good series — just don’t read it all at once.


Summer Reading · Series Reviews

Series Review: Highland Brides (Lynsay Sands)

An English Bride in Scotland - Lynsay Sands To Marry A Scottish Laird - Lynsay Sands The Highlander Takes a Bride - Lynsay Sands
Falling for the Highlander - Lynsay Sands Surrender to the Highlander - Lynsay Sands The Highlander's Promise - Lynsay Sands
Lynsay Sands - Wrong Highlander Lynsay Sands - Hunting for a Highlander

So the main reason I read Lynsay Sands is that she’s reliable. I know I’m getting a murder mystery and a romance that’s based more on lust than actual emotion. I’m always relatively entertained and rarely outright disappointed. The major problems I have with this series are not noticeable if you’re not doing a reread of all six books right in a row. If you read them six months apart (or over the five years since An English Bride was released) you probably won’t get hung up on how similar the books are or how completely interchangeable the Buchanan brothers have been.