Gilded Age

Review: The Prince of Broadway by Joanna Shupe

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Title: The Prince of Broadway(Uptown Girls #2)
Author: Joanna Shupe
Date of publication: 30 Dec 2019
Genre: Historical romance, Gilded Age
Author links: Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads

My rating: 3 Stars


Blurb 

He lives in the shadows...

As the owner of the city's most exclusive casino, Clayton Madden holds the fortunes of prominent families in the palms of his hands every night. There is one particular family he burns to ruin, however, one that has escaped his grasp... until now. 

She is society's darling... 

Florence Greene is no one's fool. She knows Clayton Madden is using her to ruin her prestigious family... and she's using him right back. She plans to learn all she can from the mysterious casino owner—then open a casino of her own just for women. 

With revenge on his mind, Clay agrees to mentor Florence. However, she soon proves more adept—and more alluring—than Clay bargained for. When his plans are threatened, Clay must decide if he is willing to gamble his empire on love.


Review

I loved the Gilded Age are New York Joanna Shupe creates in her books and had high expectations of this one. I liked it OK but I never quite warmed to the heroine's dream of opening a women’s only casino presented as a safe place.

I liked the hero, understood the reasons for his behaviour and desire for revenge. Overall, I found him relatable and appealing - silent, broody and intimidating, determined to achieve success, led moistly by desire for revenge only to find it carries little comfort when you lose the one person that makes you happy. 

The heroine, ion the other hand, I didn’t like her much. I liked her drive for independence, her free spirit but at the same time I was uncomfortable with the message of gambling as empowering for women. All through the story I kept thinking gambling is an addiction and the success of a casino is based on the patrons losing, being more of less cheated of their money (it was very explicitly said in the text). I realise what she did was aimed at wealthy ladies as a form of entertainment but I kept thinking how many poor people are drawn to gambling as an easy way to win money, only to end up losing everything. 

I found her risk-taking too much, bordering on reckless, putting herself in danger only to achieve what she wants. There was also childish disobedience on her part that I didn't like much. 

That said, I liked the romance, liked them as a couple, liked the way her (and his) relationship with her family developed in the end. I got the first book in the series which was on sale and I still plan on reading it, maybe not just right way though.


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Contemporary Romance

Review: Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn

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Title: Love Lettering 
Author: Kate Clayborn
Date of publication: 31 Dec 2019
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Author's Links: Goodreads / Website / Twitter

My rating: 3 stars


Blurb


Meg Mackworth’s hand-lettering skill has made her famous as the Planner of Park Slope, designing beautiful custom journals for New York City’s elite. She has another skill too: reading signs that other people miss. Like the time she sat across from Reid Sutherland and his gorgeous fiancĂ©e, and knew their upcoming marriage was doomed to fail. Weaving a secret word into their wedding program was a little unprofessional, but she was sure no one else would spot it. She hadn’t counted on sharp-eyed, pattern-obsessed Reid . . .

A year later, Reid has tracked Meg down to find out—before he leaves New York for good—how she knew that his meticulously planned future was about to implode. But with a looming deadline, a fractured friendship, and a bad case of creative block, Meg doesn’t have time for Reid’s questions—unless he can help her find her missing inspiration. As they gradually open up to each other about their lives, work, and regrets, both try to ignore the fact that their unlikely connection is growing deeper. But the signs are there—irresistible, indisputable, urging Meg to heed the messages Reid is sending her, before it’s too late . . .

Review 


It pains me to write this review, I expected to love this book as much as i have loved all of the previous books of Kate Clayborn but this one didn't quite work for me and this made me sad. I have mixed feelings, loved the first half, was confused and unhappy with the second half, so my rating is 3 stars overall.

I will start with the good - lovely, engaging writing, deep first-person POV, great rep of an young woman finding her place personally and professionally in the big city. I loved seeing so much her professional life and how it shapes/reflects who she is. Much of the first half of he story is focused almost completely on Meg and it reads a lot like women’s fiction. 

Reid, unlike Meg, remained mysterious and unfamiliar to the reader until late in the novel. We were getting to know him slowly and we saw a shy and somewhat awkward guy, not very open about himself and his job. 


I loved the idea of the games they played and how the whole games things featured in the story. I also very much liked that we so much of Meg's and Reid's relationships with other people - family, friends, colleagues, clients. They all served to reveal more of their character. 

The romance itself was slow burn, starting with a tentative emotional connection, gradually building up to intimacy. I appreciate the scene with her period which we rarely see in romance, and how supporting and understanding of her discomfort during her period.


I was not very happy with the first sex scene and the implication that he is given her the best experience she has ever had. It had these strong not-like-other men vibes, presenting her as someone which either picked only the wrong guys before or didn't know/care much of her own desire and pleasure, either of which is not flattering to her. At the same time I do appreciate the openness in discussing their desires and preferences. 

The second half had a completely different vibe, more dynamic, full of action/things happening, verging on too much drama. Reid lying to her and thus putting her whole career in danger was a huge issue, not an unforgivable one but I feel he didn't grovel nearly enough and she forgave him far too easily. I wanted her to be angry with him, to fight with him (something we have seen her learning to do through the story btw), instead she was angry for a minute or so and then she was worried, concerned and ultimately reading his letter, showing full understanding of his thinking and actions, and forgiving him. His apology/explanation with a letter might appear as tender, romantic gesture but I felt like a cope-out to me, stealing her chance to express her POV. It was all unilateral and she just accepted it and they moved on. 

I am happy that things worked out in the end and that Meg an Reid ended together but I didn't like how the main conflict was handled.


Overall, this is a very difficult book for me to review, it had some great elements, i loved bits of it so much but also i was angry and disappointed with other bits. The different tone and pacing of the first and second half made me feel like i was reading two different books,  the first one being far superior to the second one. 

I still absolutely love Kate Clayborn’s writing, the amazing female MCs she creates and despite this story not working for me the way I expected, I am still looking forward to reading more by this author.


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Contemporary Romance

Review: The One for You by Roni Loren

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Title: The One For You 
(The Ones Who Got Away #4)
Author: Roni Loren
Date of publication: 31 Dec 2019
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Author's links:
My rating: 3 Stars



Blurb 

She got a second chance at life.
Will she take a second chance at love?

Kincaid Breslin wasn't supposed to survive that fateful night at Long Acre when so many died, including her boyfriend—but survive she did. She doesn't know why she got that chance, but now she takes life by the horns and doesn't let anybody stand in her way

Ashton Isaacs was her best friend when disaster struck all those years ago, but he chose to run as far away as he could. Now fate has brought him back to town, and Ash doesn't know how to cope with his feelings for Kincaid and his grief over their lost friendship. For Ash has been carrying secrets, and he knows that once Kincaid learns the truth, he'll lose any chance he might have had with the only woman he's ever loved.

Review

I have enjoyed the previous books in the series a lot and this was one of my most anticipated releases of 2019. Maybe because of the high standards set by the previous books and my own very high expectations, this story didn’t work quite well for me. I’m happy Kincaid got her HEA but little details here and there in the story bothered me and in the end made it just an Okay read for me.

Kincaid was awesome in the previous books and we see a lot  of that up-beat, no-regrets attitude of hers here. At the same time we see her vulnerability, the trauma she survived on top of a difficult childhood has left deep marks on her.

I liked Ash, I liked him as a teenager and as an adult. I understood why he left, I could relate to his insecurity and his pining for Kincaid. But and this is a big BUT, as the story developed I found his behaviour in the past more and more not-OK. He helped his friend but he essentially lied to Kincaid and it didn’t sit well with me. He kept too many secrets from her and this is not how one acts with their best friend / crush. 

One of the big issues for me in the story was the way Graham was made to be the bad guy. I found it disingenuous and unnecessary. He is not here to defend / explain his behaviour, the whole change from a loving, supporting relationship (it has been like that in the memories of Kincaid  for years) into a potentially abuse, controlling one came of the blue and I didn't buy it. Don't get me into the whole aspect of keeping it all a secret from his parents, even all those years later. I don't know what the right approach is for such a complicated situation but the one taken by the author bothered me and made me sad and unhappy. 

This story has a direct retelling of the shooting which was difficult for me to read and I feel it should been explicitly mentioned in the CWs of this book. 

On the plus side, I liked how Kincaid went after her dreams, even though she was scared and convinced she was making a mistake. I liked how Ash helped her and supported her. I didn’t like that she lost her job the way she did and it bothered me the message it sends how fragile one’s reputation is, how women get very real consequences of mis-judging men.

While I loved seeing the orther couples and catching up on their HEAs, the ending was a bit over the top for me. It gave closure to the whole series but all there was to much drama and one too many grand gestures. It's a dream-like, fantasy ending which is all nice and heart-warming but still I prefer the realness and sense of down-to-earth I got from the previous books. 

CW: school shooting, child abuse, domestic violence, panic attack

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