KINGSCASTLE by Sophia Holloway

It is a truth universally acknowledged that love is never smooth sailing.

Captain William Hawksmoor of the Royal Navy never expected to inherit Kingscastle, his family’s estate, and finds himself all at sea when he does so. Especially when he learns that he must marry within a year or be forever dealing with trustees.

As the new Marquis of Athelney, the captain takes command of Kingscastle and discovers much to be done to set it in order. He must also contend with his aunt, Lady Willoughby Hawksmoor, who is determined that her daughter will be his wife. When she discovers he is far more interested in Eleanor Burgess, her underpaid and much put-upon companion, Lady Willoughby shows she will stop at nothing to keep them apart.


Title : Kingscastle
Author : Sophia Holloway
Format : Physical
Page Count : 320
Genre : Historical Romance
Publisher : Allison and Busby Books
Release Date : November 18, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★.5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

I would call this a bit of a slow but building historical romance (clean). I adore the ‘striding’ cover and would have appreciated more of a stride in the pacing. However, this book had some good characters and a cross-class romance.

Captain William turned Marquis gave me a bit of a Persuasion feel with his naval roots and plan to settle in his new title and land. He was totally fair-handed, lacked any kind of snobbery and loved how he treated the servants and locals alike, that is, like equals. The heroine came in the form of a paid companion who was treated terribly by her mistress.

The connection between William and Eleanor felt a bit stop-start but it was worth hanging in for their hesitations, self-esteem issues and eventual team work.

Overall, this was pacey but worth pursuing.

A LADY FOR A DUKE by Alexis Hall

A lush, sweeping queer historical romance from the bestselling author of Boyfriend Material-perfect for fans of Bridgerton, Evie Dunmore, and Lisa Kleypas!

When Viola Carroll was presumed dead at Waterloo she took the opportunity to live, at last, as herself. But freedom does not come without a price, and Viola paid for hers with the loss of her wealth, her title, and her closest companion, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood.

Only when their families reconnect, years after the war, does Viola learn how deep that loss truly was. Shattered without her, Gracewood has retreated so far into grief that Viola barely recognises her old friend in the lonely, brooding man he has become.

As Viola strives to bring Gracewood back to himself, fresh desires give new names to old feelings. Feelings that would have been impossible once and may be impossible still, but which Viola cannot deny. Even if they cost her everything, all over again.


Title : A Lady For A Duke
Author : Alexis Hall
Format : Physical
Page Count : 480
Genre : Historical Romance/LGBTQIAP
Publisher : Piatkus Books
Release Date : May 24, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Best friends then and now
Identity beautifully written
Angsty ride

A Lady For A Duke is something of a special historical romance because it features a trans main character. I have read another book of a similar era with this representation but nevertheless, this is such a welcome offering. All that said, Viola’s identity was often background and the dynamic between the couple was in the foreground.

There was such a complex friendship in this story, none of which I’m going to describe because it was impactful and emotional reading that shouldn’t be spoilt. Gracewood was a shell of a man when Viola found herself back in his life and secrets were everything. Suffice it to say, Hall wrote this whole story with care but in particular, Viola and Gracewood navigating the changes to their dynamic was pretty beautiful.

I really appeciated how the power between these two MCs was pitched. Viola was a strong woman in many ways and Gracewood was diminished physically but he was protective and an advocate for everything that Viola was.

“Forgive my language, but…fuck the world. I will change it for you if I have to.”

I loved the first half of this book, I felt the emotions so strongly in that section, simultaneously feeling mush for these two whilst feeling heartbroken in part. The second half was more plot driven than character driven which made for a full story. Overall, this was a memorable and valued story.

Thank you to Piatkus Books for the early review copy.

SEA OF RUIN by Pam Godwin

Bennett Sharp is on the run. 
Wanted for piracy, she fears neither God nor death nor man. Except Priest Farrell. 

The unfaithful, stormy-eyed libertine hunts her with terrifying possessiveness. Nothing will stop him from coming for her. Not his unforgivable betrayal. Not when she’s captured by the ice-cold pirate hunter, Lord Ashley Cutler.  She must escape Ashley’s prison and Priest’s deceit. But can she walk away from their twisted desires? 

Two gorgeous captains stand on opposite sides of the law. When they collide in a battle to protect her, the lines blur between enemies and lovers. Passion heats, secrets unravel, and hearts entangle until they break. 

Can love prevail in the sea of ruin?


Title : Sea of Ruin
Author : Pam Godwin
Series : Sea of Ruin (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 482
Genre : dark historical romance
Publisher : Heartbound Media, Inc.
Release Date : April 28, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 4 star review

You know how we don’t call books guilty pleasures anymore? Or try not to, at least? If we still did, I think this would be one of them. There are so many reasons to feel guilty about enjoying Sea of Ruin. Starting with the ship-full of triggers and dubious content within the pages.

However.

This somehow still managed to be a lot of fun? Compelling as fuck? Delicious? Whilst also constantly making me question myself because of aforementioned dubiousness. Truly. At one point this skirts (if not outright crossed into) torture porn because Bennett, the protagonist, goes through pretty much every kind of awful and pain imaginable. The entire spectrum of bad. And once or twice it even happens with a love interest. Sometimes bits are glossed over in a way that.. well, doesn’t make you forget what’s happening but is less of a play by play. Other times not so much. So, you know, when they say dark romance.. (jazz hands) they mean it.

The vibe here is basically Pirates of the Caribbean minus the campy fun meets all the grittiness of Black Sails. Dark bites aside, I didn’t expect to enjoy a pirate book this much as I’ve been pretty meh about every one I’ve read thus far (not many). But maybe that’s because they were YA. This isn’t remotely in that category. Insert big flashing sign saying tHisS iS aDuLt here, please.

I can’t say I was surprised about some of the unraveling of plot but to be honest I don’t think we’re supposed to be. And when I say plot, I mean that in the vaguest sense of the definition of the word. This is mostly a lot of adult content (both sexy and side eye-y) wrapped around a few pivotal scenes that have information related to backstories and motivations but otherwise.. yeah, not a lot of actual plot. But to be honest I didn’t even really notice until after I’d finished it and realized it was more character driven and, also, character-tossed -about-in-and-out-of-harm-or-sexy-times.

And still.. it worked.

For readers of dark romance I don’t know how this measures up to other reads as I don’t tend to dip into this subgenre so I don’t know if this is technically tame or just par for the course; but, regardless of your tastes, if you are worried about triggers, I definitely encourage you read other reviews and especially any content warnings to see if you’re up to braving these turbulent seas. It’s not hard to find the specifics.

I think it very likely I’ll read this author again — I’m sure I have a few of her books on my kindle from various sales over the years — because if she can make me like a book this much despite all the dodgy bits? What can’t she do.

If you want something gritty, sexy, historical, piratey, dark, romantic, and more, Sea of Ruin might just fit the bill. Also, it’s recommended you read the prequel after this book to avoid any spoilery bits that are revealed within the main book. Just a heads up. I’m off to read that now.

PORTRAIT OF A SCOTSMAN by Evie Dunmore

London banking heiress Hattie Greenfield wanted “just” three things in life:

1. Acclaim as an artist.
2. A noble cause.
3. Marriage to a young lord who puts the gentle in gentleman.

Why then does this Oxford scholar find herself at the altar with the darkly attractive financier Lucian Blackstone, whose murky past and ruthless business practices strike fear in the hearts of Britain’s peerage? Trust Hattie to take an invigorating little adventure too far. Now she’s stuck with a churlish Scot who just might be the end of her ambitions….

When the daughter of his business rival all but falls into his lap, Lucian sees opportunity. As a self-made man, he has vast wealth but holds little power, and Hattie might be the key to finally setting long-harbored political plans in motion. Driven by an old revenge, he has no room for his new wife’s apprehensions or romantic notions, bewitching as he finds her.

But a sudden journey to Scotland paints everything in a different light. Hattie slowly sees the real Lucian and realizes she could win everything—as long as she is prepared to lose her heart.

Going toe-to-toe with a brooding Scotsman is rather bold for a respectable suffragist, but when he happens to be one’s unexpected husband, what else is an unwilling bride to do?


Title : Portrait of a Scotsman
Author : Evie Dunmore
Series : A League of Extraordinary Women (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 448
Genre : historical romance
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : September 7, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

For a historical romance, this was oddly light on romance. Plenty of sexytimes, when we eventually got to that point, but Dunmore spends a lot of the word count on many of the societal issues of the time (some of which are relevant today) — yes, a women’s right to vote has been the guiding star of this whole series, and all that is twisted up with that right, but this instalments shifts to the conditions of the working class, specifically miners, unions, and the wage disparity between the genders of said working class.

You can’t tell me Dunmore doesn’t know her shit or, at the very least, puts in a hell of a lot of hours on research. Much of it was interesting, though perhaps not always compelling, but I appreciated the debates between the two main characters who took to these subjects through the lens of their very different upbringings, perspectives, and privileges.

Where this story was less interesting was the romance. However, this more or less followed the format of Beauty and the Beast or Hades and Persephone so if that dynamic is your catnip, you’ll definitely be hooked — at least by the beginning.

Hattie is definitely something of a departure from the leading ladies of the other books who were, categorically, more radical and easier to identify with because they felt more modern. Whereas Hattie, despite attending Oxford, despite supporting the suffragists movement, faces the very real realization that though she supported the cause for a woman to not be property and possessed by her husband, it takes her own marriage for her to actually understand the fight. She is very much a representation of the women of the time — granted, a certain woman — where she is soft, monied, and comfortable, having been afforded everything in her life up until this point. Which makes her exposure to self-made and rough Lucian, to the small community in the Lowlands and their working conditions, everything, a shift. She is very much the spoiled rich girl getting a wake up call. She’s not ever cruel or terrible with her attitudes — she is, at heart, a good person — but Dunmore does occasionally make her lean into her bratty petulance and she has some less gracious reactions.

Whereas Lucian.. granted, he definitely starts off a villain, he has villainous ways, but the way he starts to lean in (get it!), curve himself around Hattie, even as he unbends; his whole backstory, really, was great. The problem, however, is I didn’t feel Dunmore gave it as much time to breathe. We get a lot of time to unpack much of Lucian along the way as he unravels parts of himself in tribute to Hattie and trying to find equal footing as a result of their less than honest beginnings and yet the big moment, the big confession, doesn’t come from him. Which makes sense but somehow you lose that emotional punch. Which I feel is kind of true for most of this book. There is much to be felt in the bones of this story, the causes, the conditions, the casual cruelty of the culture, but somehow the meat, the emotions, weren’t really present. Add to that fact that the romance only felt charged in the bedroom.. and it feels unbalanced.

Particularly when it came to the a conflict/plotline near the end which, honestly, comes out of nowhere and didn’t fit with the rest. Which then leads into this whole other conflict that just.. I didn’t like. You can see it coming a mile away due to foreshadowing, and it fits in with the formula this story is based around, but. But I would’ve been fine had the formula been altered.

All this long rambling review to say : I really respect and enjoy Dunmore’s commitment to her historical setting. The research, the atmosphere, the subject matter, the critical unpacking of a woman’s lack of agency during this time, everything. Thankfully, unlike book two, this one didn’t stray into grey areas or trip itself up, it’s just in the romance that I felt some of this was lacking. So I’m pleased to say I am going into the possibility of a book four (Catriona?) with higher hopes, more in line with what I expected after book one, and look forward to where Dunmore goes next.

REPUTATION by Lex Croucher

The hilarious debut novel from Lex Croucher. A classic romcom with a Regency-era twist, for fans of Mean Girls and/or Jane Austen.

Abandoned by her parents, middle-class Georgiana Ellers has moved to a new town to live with her dreary aunt and uncle. At a particularly dull party, she meets the enigmatic Frances Campbell, a wealthy member of the in-crowd who lives a life Georgiana couldn’t have imagined in her wildest dreams.

Lonely and vulnerable, Georgiana falls in with Frances and her unfathomably rich, deeply improper friends. Georgiana is introduced to a new world: drunken debauchery, mysterious young men with strangely arresting hands, and the upper echelons of Regency society.

But the price of entry to high society might just be higher than Georgiana is willing to pay …


Title : Reputation
Author : Lex Croucher
Format : Paperback ARC
Page Count :448
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Zaffre Books
Release Date : July 8, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3.5 star review

3.5 stars

Headlines:
Toxic friendships
Hedonistic
Finding balance

Reputation was a lot of unexpected things for a historical read. It featured themes and behaviours I don’t often come across in a regency era and that was pretty fresh. I didn’t find it light or funny, more like watching a collision about to happen and the realisation that comes afterward. There were a number of triggers in this book so do look for TW if you need them.

Georgiana was an interesing MC and had some relatable traits for any young women, she wanted friendship, to be liked and to have adventure. It was eye-opening that even in this era, someone could get in with the wrong crowd and be led astray. Frances was the kind of friend that took some time to work out, that whole crowd weren’t particularly likeable.

For me, this was a book of two halves, the first half I struggled to gel with this hedonistic life depicted contrary to everything I’d read in the era prior to this. I think I had to suspend some belief to stay with the story. The second half came with more measurement, reflection and a romance to get your teeth into. This was the stronger part of the book and more enjoyable.

This was definitely a different regency read and the parallels to Mean Girls is pretty accurate. This was a fresh, no holds barred kind of read and I’d definitely read this author again.

Thank you to Zaffre Books for the early review copy.

THE DEVIL IN HER BED by Kerrigan Byrne

He lives in secret service to the Crown—a man of duty, deception, and an undeniable attraction to a woman who threatens to tear his whole world apart.

They call him the Devil of Dorset. He stands alone, a man of undeniable power. Moving in and out of shadows, back alleys and ballrooms, he is unstoppable and one of the Crown’s most dangerous weapons. However, when he sets his sights on the undeniably beautiful Countess of Mont Claire, Francesca Cavendish, he doesn’t realize that he has met a match like no other.

TRUE LOVE WEARS NO DISGUISE

Francesca is a countess by day and stalks her prey—those responsible for the death of her family—by night. What she does not expect is to be thrown into the path of the devil himself, the Earl of Devlin. She has secrets of her own and he seems determined to lay them bare. Can her heart survive finding the love of her life and losing him when all is revealed?


Title : The Devil in Her Bed
Author : Kerrigan Byrne
Series : Devil You Know (book three)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 419
Genre : historical romance
Publisher : St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date : March 9, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I have to say, on the one hand, it’s refreshing for the male of the pairing to be the drama queen. But on the other hand.. wow, drama queen.

I think I’ve said in all my reviews that the highlight of this series is the strong female characters, and the friendships, and while I think this one didn’t showcase as much of said friendship as the previous installments, we didn’t really need it to. It had been well established. And it was actually sweeter to see the heroes from books one and two step into the limelight to support not only their partners but book three’s heroine, too. We love a supportive friend group.

As for this book’s hero, well. My complaint in book two was that character lacked the dimension of book one but I feel like this time Byrne went too far in giving this hero layers and angst. See aforementioned drama. But my struggle was also the dynamic of this relationship was complicated from the word go, with hidden identities and secrets, and nothing really made sense.. romantically. The sudden shift didn’t make sense and it felt like some revisionist history was shoved down our throats to conveniently make it all work and I’ll admit I didn’t swallow, I choked.

What also didn’t quite work for me was the big reveal of this secret society that was such a driving force behind all of the books leading upto this big confrontation. I appreciate that it’s sort’ve addressed on-page to be pointless and frustratingly simple and or stupid but still.. I struggled with this.

The first half of this book is why this rating isn’t lower. I felt it to be pretty strong, even if I rolled my eyes at some of the hero’s behaviour and dramatic internal monologuing. Seeing the lengths the heroine was going, had already gone, for revenge, for those she loved; what she had turned herself into, become, and without knowing the how or why (at the time), it was also rather lovely to see how the hero appreciated it. Even if he was suspicious. Additionally I was definitely swept away by some of the chemistry and pull between these two before some of the masks came off. All of that really saved this. And with a weaker heroine it wouldn’t have worked at all.. but she was truly the saving grace for this story and pairing; which is definitely the theme for most of this series. Sisters really are doing it for themselves. We love to see it.

While this wasn’t an all-around win, rarely does Byrne disappoint to the point where I find no enjoyment at all in her stories. And I’m forever here for how she always gives us fierce heroines to champion. And that’s just one reason I will continue to read this author.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

ENLIGHTENED by Joanna Chambers

David Lauriston has been recuperating at Lord Murdo Balfour’s Laverock estate for the last five months. At Laverock, he has regained his health and confidence and has found—with Murdo—more happiness and contentment than he has never known before.

David is all too aware that some day soon he will have to leave Laverock—and Murdo—and return to his legal practice in Edinburgh, just as Murdo will have to return to his life in London. But when David’s mentor, Patrick Chalmers, asks David to return to Edinburgh to visit him on his deathbed, it seems that day has come sooner than either David or Murdo would have wished.

Chalmers begs David to undertake one last piece of business for him: to secure the future of Chalmers’s daughter Elizabeth. But to carry out his old mentor’s wishes, David must travel to London, with Murdo.

No sooner have the two men arrived in the capital than they encounter Murdo’s ruthlessly manipulative father, who reveals a shocking secret that rocks David to his foundations. What’s more, when David discovers Elizabeth is facing far greater danger than even her father feared, he is determined to help her, no matter the cost to his own safety.

As the stakes rise, it is Murdo who must choose what he is prepared to sacrifice to keep David at his side, and ask whether there is any possibility of lasting happiness for men like them.


Title : Enlightened
Author : Joanna Chambers
Series : Enlightenment (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 279
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ historical romance
Publisher : indie
Release Date : January 8, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

And so concludes the main trilogy of this series following David and Murdo. I’m quite pleased by their ending, as well as the endings of a few other characters that followed them throughout these three books, and honestly I was the least irked by either of their behaviour in the telling of this particular installment.

That said, while I was very happy, and occasionally moved by the emotional revelations, it was one particular bit of plot featuring a good friend of David’s that got me the most emotional. I may have teared up.

While — for whatever reason — this series hasn’t become a new favourite, it can’t be denied that I really got on well with Chambers’ writing and really enjoyed the characters. I have two novellas still to read that feature these two leads (so I guess I’m not quite done..) and while I look forward to seeing what else they get upto (though you likely won’t see those reviews here, maybe check GR if you’re curious), I am keen to see what this author does with a different pair. That said, if you’re a fan of KJC or Cat Sebastian and you want another queer historical series to sink your teeth into, and you haven’t yet tried these, I would recommend! They aren’t too long and they are smartly written. And I still hope to discover a Chambers I’ll love in her other series — or maybe even in the books within this world. Fingers crossed!

BEGUILED by Joanna Chambers

Two years after his last encounter with cynical nobleman Lord Murdo Balfour, David Lauriston accidentally meets him again in the heart of Edinburgh.

King George IV is about to make his first visit to Edinburgh and Murdo has been sent North by his politician father to represent his aristocratic family at the celebrations.

David and Murdo’s last parting was painful—and on Murdo’s part, bitter—but Murdo’s feelings seem to have mellowed in the intervening years. So much so, that he suggests to David that they enjoy each other’s company during Murdo’s stay in the capital. 
Despite his initial reservations, David cannot put Murdo’s proposal from his mind, and soon find himself at Murdo’s door—and in his arms. 

But other figures from David’s past are converging on the city, and as the pomp and ceremony of the King’s visit unfolds around them, David is drawn into a chain of events that will threaten everything: his career, his wellbeing, and the fragile bond that, despite David’s best intentions, is growing between him and Murdo.


Title : Beguiled
Author : Joanna Chambers
Series : Enlightenment (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 224
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ historical romance
Publisher : indie
Release Date : January 8, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

As with my review for book one, I still can’t manage to quite round up on this one, either. But this time for different reasons.

While the background noise of book one, and the motivation and moving parts of the plot didn’t interest me, that wasn’t the case in book two. This time we have a King’s visit to Scotland to contend with, the catalyst (excuse) for the reappearance of a certain romantic interest, but also there are heartbreaking domestic issues to contend with. Additionally I also loved how a certain character from book one reappeared, and how he had changed; it definitely didn’t go the way I expected. And I really liked how it seemed to have tied off a loose end (or two).

So while all that was good, what and where was the miss?

The problem for me is I found that our leads felt a little.. different. Yes, time has passed, and on the part of David he’s done some hard thinking, and pining. And while we still had some of those same clashes from before, I was frustrated by the way that he would retreat after having made so much progress. Particularly because it was the same song and dance from book one. I would’ve much rather had see new worries, new concerns, while still in the same vein, I guess. It felt out of place considering how much stronger the connection was. But nonetheless his core self, his instrospection, his inherent goodness, it’s all just really lovely.

As for Murdo, while I have no complaints with him being more tender, a little moony, he had softened dramatically in the time between books and.. I don’t know. I think the problem is this is a single POV, as in we don’t get his, and maybe I’m missing that other side of things to sell this to me. But there was an absolutely gutwrenching and yet heartwarming scene with him surrounding a rather pivotal moment for the two of them and I thought that was brilliant.

My whatever weirdness about not being to round up on this series aside, I enjoy the writing, and I’ll be diving right into book three tomorrow.

PROVOKED by Joanna Chambers

Tormented by his forbidden desires for other men and the painful memories of the childhood friend he once loved, lawyer David Lauriston tries to maintain a celibate existence while he forges his reputation in Edinburgh’s privileged legal world. 
 
But then, into his repressed and orderly life, bursts Lord Murdo Balfour.
 
Cynical, hedonistic and utterly unapologetic, Murdo could not be less like David. And as appalled as David is by Murdo’s unrepentant self-interest, he cannot resist the man’s sway. Murdo tempts and provokes David in equal measure, forcing him to acknowledge his physical desires.
 
But Murdo is not the only man distracting David from his work. Euan MacLennan, the brother of a convicted radical David once represented, approaches David to beg him for help. Euan is searching for the government agent who sent his brother to Australia on a convict ship, and other radicals to the gallows. Despite knowing it may damage his career, David cannot turn Euan away. 
 
As their search progresses, it begins to look as though the trail may lead to none other than Lord Murdo Balfour, and David has to wonder whether it’s possible Murdo could be more than he seems. Is he really just a bored aristocrat, amusing himself at David’s expense, or could he be the agent provocateur responsible for the fate of Peter MacLennan and the other radicals?


Title : Provoked
Author : Joanna Chambers
Series : Enlightenment (book one)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 202
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ historical romance
Publisher : indie
Release Date : April 25, 2017

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5



Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Part of me is actually tempted to bump this up to four but something is holding me back for now. Probably because I compare most m/m historical romance to KJ Charles but.. this was still very good.

As a heads up, you should know this story also differs from KJC in the sense that this series doesn’t seem to be made up of companions following different couples and in fact I think the first two or three may follow the same couple. Make of that what you will.

Despite not being able to round up, though, I think this series might get stronger as it goes. I found the characters to be incredibly fascinating, particularly our protagonist, David, who suffers under the illusion that his fancying of men is unnatural and wrong and yet for all that he harshly judges himself, he never judges others. There were moments when he imagined another possible future for himself that just.. yeah, he is lovely.

The romantic interest, on the other hand, is fully himself and fully unashamed of himself and they spark off each other very well. Their relationship, outside of the steamies, is full of tension because while they are chemically compatible, they don’t seem to be emotionally or morally compatible. They view life so differently, and what they might expect of their lives considering their ways, and it’s so interesting to watch them hash it out.

I think mainly what dragged this down a bit for me is, despite the third party involved who played a fairly main role (and who I liked quite a bit), the whole reason for the events that throw these characters together just wasn’t that interesting, I guess? The characters definitely carried this installment, which is great, but I do hope the plot of book two is a wee bit more interesting.

I’m so keen to read on and I do smell a binge a’coming.. doesn’t hurt that this series seems to clock in with somewhat on the lower end of a page count. Additionally, I’m happy to have knocked this off my tbr (shelved on GR back in 2017!) and cleared yet another eBook off my unread pile! Lots of winning here.

ALL SCOT AND BOTHERED by Kerrigan Byrne – double review!

They are a dangerous duke, a fierce lord, and an infamous earl—dark, bold, brave men who know exactly what they want. And there is only one woman who can bring them to their knees…

He is first and foremost—at everything. A man who’s made his own way in the world through ruthless cunning and sheer force of will. A strong and imposing Scot who can turn on the charm but does not suffer fools. His title: Lord Chief Justice of the High Court. His name: Cassius Gerard Ramsay. His mission: To investigate the goings-on at London’s most notorious gaming hell, owned and operated by one of the most intriguing and desirable women he’s ever met.

IN THIS GAME OF LOVE, THE RULES DO NOT APPLY

Cecelia Teague was an orphan facing a rather dire future—until a secret benefactor from her mother’s scandalous past swept into her life. Sent to prestigious boarding school and later to university, Cecelia believed high society was at her fingertips…Then, from out of nowhere, she became the inheritor of a gambling establishment. Now Cecelia must live two lives: one as a proper lady who finds herself undeniably drawn to Lord Ramsay and the other as a savvy gaming hell owner trying to save her business from the very same man. He has no idea she is both women…and Cecelia would like to keep it that way. But what happens when consuming passion and escalating danger threaten to reveal the truth?


Title : All Scot and Bothered
Author : Kerrigan Byrne
Series : Devil You Know (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : historical romance
Publisher : St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date : September 29, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis/Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5/★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I was pretty close to rounding up on this one but couldn’t quite tip it over the edge. But this was still a fun read.

He said he and I were similar souls. It was though he could see parts of himself in me.
I can guess which parts.”

I found I got off to a bit of a rough start with this because we’re thrown into a weird situation out of nowhere, alongside one of our MCs, but while she got some answers along the way, I still felt it took too long to settle into the goings on. Likewise, I felt it dragged just as things started to really settle. But then near the end? I was crying. I was moved. And then wham bam we had lots of action and reveals, ma’am. Things wrap up pretty quick, in fairly predictable ways — though we had a delightful tease and set-up for book three — but I was still feeling those earlier lovelier feels.

I am a woman, Ramsay, I am used to pain.”

Jean-Yves is the star of this show, yes he is. I want a devoted French butler, please.

Are you all willing to resort to violence?
No.”
Yes.”
Only if strictly necessary.

This series is definitely a highlight when it comes to strong female characters but also fantastic female friendships. The depths the author gives these Red Rogues is just delightful. I was really happy with the dimension Byrne had given to book one’s hero but found this one a bit less memorable and a little more typical and/or standard for HR. That said, I think we’re going to get a change-up when it comes to the next man in this round up (or at least I hope so!). And with that said..

Looking forward to book three.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


Micky’s 3.5 star review

I definitely like the vibe that Kerrigan Byrne brings to these stories and her character creations. ALL SCOT AND BOTHERED was a good second instalment in the Devil You Know series but I liked it a little less than book one.

Cecelia and the Red Rogues found themselves a little more separate in this story but Cecelia and Ramsey took up that space nicely. Cecelia’s character felt a little ellusive to me throughout this read but I did like her, I just wanted to feel a little more immersed in how she thought rather than just how she acted. She was a feminist, a carer for others, but also naive. Ramsey, the stubborn, hard-headed and arrogant hero was also strangely likeable despite his thick skull.

But he knew that if he relented, her flames could prove to be hellfire, consuming everything good about the life he’d built from nothing.

The story wandered from London to the lowlands of Scotland but I didn’t get the feels for Scotland in this one and I longed for that a bit. Nevertheless, Scotland did bring an impasse of understanding between these two, a place to be on the same page. Jean-Yves and Phoebe were sweet side characters who enriched the narrative.

What would a lifetime of her smiles do?

I really liked the story in the background for the first three quarters but that lost a little traction for me in the last quarter. All that said, it was a very satisfying story and I’ll definitely be here for the next book in the series. It was easy to read over a weekend and brought some welcome escapism.

Thank you to St Martins Press for the early review copy.

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