Reading Fanatic Reviews

Western Romance

Where We First Began by Rebecca Elise

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Where We First Began*

Time-Slip Romance at the Time of the Alamo

What a well-written story, and what a twist at the end! I would love to know how Aubrey and Tapley’s story continues after that! I’ll admit that I tend to pick up most time-travel or time-slip romances because I love both history and romantic tales. This one was definitely different but in a good way. The heroine is a modern-day Texas college student. A truck accident somehow pulls her back 1836 before the infamous Battle of the Alamo. She has assumed, apparently, another young woman’s life, complete with a somewhat of a jerk fiance. Life in 1830s Texas is rough in general and particularly tough on women. Unlike many historical romances, the author doesn’t sugarcoat the role of women at the time. The true hero, Tapley, is the almost stereotypical strong-and-silent type, though the author has given him more depth than that would suggest. It’s easy to see why Aubrey falls for him, and of course, we do too. But what is Aubrey to do and how is she to react, knowing what history has in store for people that she has come to care about? The author brings all the feels as Aubrey faces all of this and the aftermath. I love, too, how the author wove in real people like Davy Crockett and actual events. An exceptionally well-done time travel romance that explores a unique moment in American and Texas history.

A Bride for Brynmor by Jacqui Nelson

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A Bride for Brynmor*

Excellent Start to a New Series

Even though this is the start of a new series, it is great to see some characters that we’ve seen in passing (or more in-depth) in other books closely related to this series. I loved Grandpa Gus before, so it was a delight to see him again. But this is the story of Brynmor and Lark. She is attempting to make a complete separation from her villainous troupe manager and collect her sisters of the heart after they scattered attempting to run away from Ulysses after he nearly choked Lark to death. Unfortunately for Lark, her sisters are not at their predetermined meeting place—but Ulysses is. He makes moves to reclaim her, of course, but Brynmor is there to save the day. Not everything is resolved in this book, but that’s fine because there’s more to the series. This book is a fast-paced read as the hero and heroine try to sort out the mess as well as their feelings for each other. I like both of these characters. They are both up against so much, yet they are determined and very strong and even stronger together. They are both so willing to protect and sacrifice for those they love. The little lambs added a sweet note as well. I look forward to the next book in the series.

Braydon’s Bride by Kathleen Lawless

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Braydon's Bride*

A Fun Old West Romance

I’ve been enjoying reading this series about the seven Mason “brothers” (only two are actually blood-related brothers.) This particular story is about Brayden and Henrietta, Sir Percy’s very able treasure-hunting assistant. At the beginning of the story, there’s almost an enemies-to-lovers vibe to the story, though you couldn’t really call them true enemies. It’s more like they annoy each other. Henny is a pull-no-punches woman who has had to do much to make her way in a man’s world. Brayden considers himself quite the ladies’ man. There are some interesting plot developments, including a wager and the potential victim’s knowledge of it (without the perpetrator knowing), so the would-be victim tries to turn the tables somewhat and keep the wagerer guessing. There are definitely some good elements of humor, and it was a delight to watch the relationship evolve between Brayden and Henrietta. Hawkes is still up to no good, and it’s definitely fun to get a glimpse into the previous couples’ new marriages. A nice addition to the series.

Bradley’s Bride by Kathleen Lawless

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Bradley's Bride*

Action and Intrigue But Romance Fell Flat

Just like the first book of the series, this one is full of action and intrigue. In fact, at the couple from the first book’s wedding, which opens this book, there is quite the gun-fight kerfuffle. While there definitely was a lot going on in the book, I didn’t like the way that the romantic aspect was played out. Often in romances, the hero and heroine go back and forth about their feelings for each other and what to do about them (that’s the basis for romance books), it seemed extreme in this novel. For instance, at one point when it looks like the couple have to marry, the heroine decides that she can seduce him into loving her, and not long after, she’s thinking of how to get out of the marriage so she can run her own business in a different town (though she claims to have had feelings for him from afar for a long time). There is just too much of that kind of wild back and forth for both of the characters. I also thought that the blurb didn’t accurately portray the book. The blurb makes it seem as if the book is all about a forced betrothal or wedding. It isn’t really about that, and that issue is even germaine until after the 40% mark of the book. The book continues the issues with the villain of the previous book, and my gut feeling tells me that this will be the case for the rest of the books in this series about the seven “brothers.” This book didn’t gel for me quite like the first one did, and I quite enjoyed that one. It was nice to see a little bit more of Laura and Brody, the heroine and the hero from the previous book, and their new life together as a married couple. While this book could be read as a stand-alone, you would miss much of the context about the brothers and the villain.

To Love a Duke by Diana DeHaven

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To Love a Duke*

Too Short Cinderella-type Romance

I wasn’t wild about this book. For one thing, I thought all of the characters sounded alike. I couldn’t distinguish their tones or word choice enough to make them individual. Some language choice seemed a bit over-the-top, even for a historical romance. For instance, the butler at one point actually uses the phrase “commence swimmingly” when referring to the progress on the duke’s birthday bash. This story is a spin on Cinderella, with a seamstress as the heroine. After a very haughty Lady Josephine, whom the dowager duchess wants the duke to marry, accidentally dropped her invitation to the ball in the seamstress shop, Emma and her friend decided that it would be fun if Emma pretended to be a lady and went to the ball. This is a novella, so there wasn’t much time for the romance between the duke and the pretend Lady Emma to develop. This story needed more room to breathe. Probably in just this little bit I’ve told you, you can imagine what was the big black moment in the book. So, it felt a little predictable.

Sisters in the West by Janessa Suderman

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Sisters in the West*

Good Characterization; Flawed Delivery

The author successfully managed to create two very different sisters. She sets this up when the book opens. As one of five sisters myself, I quite enjoy the interaction between these two ladies. In fact, I think the author’s greatest strength is characterization in this novel. All The characters felt distinct. I wasn’t as enamored with the plot. The blurb seems to promise one thing, but the book delivers another.  Also, the book is billed as a western romance, but it seems more heavy on the western revenge plot than the romance part. There were some problems with grammar, punctuation, and usage, especially with dialogue. The author didn’t seem to understand how to punctuate or capitalize dialogue, and that was a little distracting. She also likes to use some very emotive dialogue tags, which can be distracting as well; I’d like to think the sisters weren’t truly exclaiming or demanding as much as the author said they were! I rarely see westerns that are based in Canada, so that was an interesting variation from the typical western.

Gold by Krystal M. Anderson

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Well-Written Western Romance

I am a huge lover of historical romance, but my typical go-to read is more along the lines of Regency or medieval. Lately, I have been trying out a few Western romances, and I am finding that I am enjoying these as well as the other two. There’s usually some crazy melodrama and wild incidents, like things with railroads or mines, that you only see in westerns. This book is an excellent example of why I am testing the waters of western romance. This story was just plain fun, with all of the hijinks that one expects from a western. Plus the hero and the heroine were complex characters who first mixed like oil and water. I so enjoyed their first bantering and interactions while Charlie was recuperating after his treacherous flume ride. Charlie, the hero, is definitely a daredevil—what we’d call an adrenaline junkie today—but he has a big heart and truly cares for people whom he cares for. Virginia, the heroine, is at times a no-nonsense lady. She has to be, as she is working a couple of jobs, including helping the local doctor as a nurse, to pay off her father’s debts. The book has a surprising harrowing incident that actually keeps you on edge to see how it’s going to turn out. All in all, this was a fantastically well-done western romance with engaging characters and a well-paced plot.

Unto Death by Lena West

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Unto Death*

Odd Book

I found this book to be rather odd. There is something off with the tone, but I don’t know if I can describe it accurately. It comes across as if an excited child was telling it, so it has some melodrama as well as a certain level of naivete. I actually found this tone hard to read as it felt distancing. The narrators didn’t come across as adults; they felt childlike. So some of the discussion about the romantic aspects felt more than a little creepy. I understand that the author is Australian, I believe, but certain grammar and punctuation rules supersede the variant of English one writes. Unfortunately, I found this author to be woefully ignorant about the proper use of semicolons and commas, to the point that it was distracting, and some words were repeatedly misspelled.

Brody’s Bride by Kathleen Lawless

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Brody's Bride*

Complex Romantic Tale of the Old West

This second-chance-at-romance Western tale is surprisingly full of subplots, crazy characters, and double crosses that often happen in stories of the Old West. A greedy land grab? A murderous old man? Precious minerals? Perhaps lost treasure? Long-lost mother showing up? This author has packed a lot into a novella, that’s for sure. Laura has come back to Bullet, Arizona, because she fears that her love from ten years ago is at the crux of the machinations of a dastardly older man who wants Brody’s property. She was able to ingratiate herself with that man’s son and let him think that it was his idea that she become the new schoolmarm in Bullet. But what she really wants to do is figure out this man’s plot against her teenage love. Her and Brody’s relationship ended poorly because she made a bad decision. He has remained unwed, and his heart was broken by her because of her treatment of him back then.

Bullet is a nest of vipers, most working at the behest of Hawkes (the bad older man), as well as a place where good people are just trying to live their lives. The most interesting characters are the men who live at Brody’s ranch, the Copper Moon. They called themselves brothers, and while some are, they are more brothers bound by hard word, a shared history, and a desire for a better future. I really enjoyed the brother characters, and I look forward to their future romances, as the title of the series suggests. All in all, I enjoyed this complex story about the happenings in the small town of Bullet sometime in the late 1800s, and I’m eager to learn more about these characters and seeing what else unfolds in this small town.

Bailey by Sarah Gai

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Too Much Plot for Length of Story

Bailey is the youngest of the Nelson brothers and perhaps a bit of a player. But when an Australian cowgirl comes to help at Kayden and Kirra’s horse rescue center, he starts to reconsider his approach to romance. This is the fourth book that I’ve read in the Nelson brothers series. I quite enjoyed the first and third ones, but I felt like the second book and this one were too short for the stories that they had to tell. This book feels like it’s barely longer than a long short story, yet the story arc seems to require a longer novella to be fully realized. As such, the love story didn’t really have time to fully develop. There wasn’t time to really develop any other sort of external conflict either. I enjoyed the characters of Bailey and Marty, the heroine, but there just wasn’t enough to this story.


The asterisks (*) by the book title denote the source of the book copy.

One star = I received it as a free advance/review copy or directly from the author.

Two stars = I borrowed it through my Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Three stars = I purchased the book outright (sometimes for free).

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