Book Review: A Duke by Default (Reluctant Royals #2) by Alyssa Cole

A Duke by Default (Reluctant Royals #2)   

Author: Alyssa Cole

Publisher: Avon

American release date: July 31, 2018

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Contemporary Romance/384 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Portia Hobbs is the black sheep of her family, the one who can do nothing right. Always compared to her perfect twin sister, Reggie, Portia has always felt that people think it should have been her, rather than Reggie, who fell ill and ended up wheelchair-bound. Having money is not the answer to everything, which Portia proves abundantly. She stops and starts projects on a whim, changes lovers constantly, and drinks to excess. Even her friend Ledi finds her hard to deal with sometimes. So now Portia is off on another of her harebrained journeys to find herself, this time as an apprentice to a sword maker in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Arriving in Edinburgh, Portia is dismayed to find her new employer nowhere in evidence, so is forced to hire a vehicle to take her to Bodotria Armory. There she comes upon an alarming scene—a young woman being menaced by an older man. Portia rushes into the fray without hesitation, making the assailant, onl to discover that she has just attacked her new boss! Great first impression!  Apparently the two were just engaging in a little swordplay, which is not surprising considering where they are! Besides being greatly embarrassed, Portia can’t help but notice how sexy her new boss is. But she’s decided before she even arrived in Scotland that she is a new Portia, and this Portia does not drink, and she most certainly does not fool around with handsome Scotsmen!

Tavish McKenzie is a little taken aback by the unexpected assault, but even more when he gets an actual glimpse of Portia, once his eyes stop burning. No denying she is very stunning. He was never in favor of the apprentice program to begin with, that being his brother Jamie’s idea, but he reluctantly goes along with it. Doesn’t mean he’s going to make things easy for Portia, and he’s resistant to all of her ideas to help the armory. Change does not come easily to Tav. He knows little of the Internet, and hates to be in any video. Besides, he has other problems, including making the armory pay, as well as teaching the weans, and keeping the neighborhood from being scooped up by land-hungry corporations who have no idea about the people who live there and make their livelihood there.

At first, Tav keeps Portia at a distance, telling her to busy herself with things other than sword making. Not one to be easily daunted, she does so, at the same time continuing to contribute to her sister’s popular blog, GirlsWithGlasses.  Although dismayed at not being able to do what she came to do, she refuses to give up, even as she fights her growing attraction to Tav who, as she discovers, has a gentle heart beneath his exterior gruff. While doing some research, Portia uncovers some information that will be a real game changer for Tav. Apparently, his biological father was a duke, unknown to him, and the title has gone to someone else, in lieu of a direct descendant. If he takes back the title, and all that comes with it, not only is problems but a lot of those of the neighborhood can be taken care of. But is he cut out to be a duke? And what about the mutual attraction between Tav and Portia? How long can they go before having to act on it?

Much as I loved A Princess in Theory, I have to agree with my daughter that the second book is even better! Watching Tav and Portia dance around each other while growing hopelessly more and more in love is priceless! They each have personal baggage, and a reluctance to become involved with someone else. But sometimes, what is meant to be will be. I wasn’t exactly fond of Portia in the first book, but she not only redeemed herself in this one, I grew to love her. She has carried so much around with her for such a long time. Her sister is supportive, but she tends to keep Reggie at arm’s length, and their parents… well, they don’t treat Portia very well, and that’s actually an understatement. Tav and Portia are certainly a match for one another, and each gives as good as they get. There’s a novella that comes after this book, and I have that, and there is also a third book, which concerns Johan, who is A Prince on Paper.  Looking forward to it very much.

If you like romances and great couples and happily ever after, A Duke by Default is perfect for you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wednesday Briefs: July 24, 2019

Here is a list of all the authors flashing this week, along with a brief snippet from their latest free work. Click the link after the snippet to be taken to the complete story on the author’s home page.

Denied: Chapter Ninety-three by Cia Nordwell
“This is too weird,” Deke said. He stared at me and then smirked. He glanced at Captain. “Guess you two are daddies now.”

“What?” Captain opened his mouth and then shut it. He shook his head.

“You see that fire-breathing sparkly death machine anywhere around here?” Deke looked around in example. “She looked pretty cozy with those ones that looked just like her but left that one with your boy there. And he’s talking to you. I’m thinking she’s basically saying the boy is your problem.” He snorted and started laughing. “Better hope he doesn’t want to nurse or anything,”

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Wednesday Briefs: July 17, 2019

Here is a list of all the authors flashing this week, along with a brief snippet from their latest free work. Click the link after the snippet to be taken to the complete story on the author’s home page.

Here Kitty Kitty: Chapter 22.3 by Carol Pedroso

Carl managed to Tristan to give him the rest of the numbers that needed to be called. He pulled the ‘mate’ card and insisted that after the last few nights, the use of magic, the claiming, and finally the argument with the older Nirthfell and the resulting fallout. He tucked Tristan in with a pile of research books and told him if he looked up other ways Cheryl could use the powerful beings she was blackmailing then he would deal with all the notifications.

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Wednesday Briefs: July 10, 2019

Here is a list of all the authors flashing this week, along with a brief snippet from their latest free work. Click the link after the snippet to be taken to the complete story on the author’s home page.

In Pieces #60 (15.1) by Julie Lynn Hayes

The restaurant wasn’t very far at all from the motel, probably one of the reasons why Salvation’s manager had chosen to meet there. Even Keanu had to admit it wasn’t a bad walk, but the admission had come after a certain amount of cajoling from Deacon. The interior was dark and cool, and the décor reminded Ryan of a Mexican cantina. Colorful serapes and sombreros decorated the walls, and piñatas hung from the ceiling.  Two large buffet tables formed an L shape in the middle of the room. The most enticing aromas were coming from them. Ryan’s mouth began to water in anticipation.

“Over here, guys!” a brassy voice called out from the far side of the restaurant.

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Book Review: Blue Morning, Vol 5 by Shoko Hidaka

Blue Morning, Vol 5   

Author: Shoko Hidaka

Publisher: SuBLime Publishing

American release date: October 14, 2014

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Yaoi/200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Katsuragi has changed, and so have the plans he worked on so carefully. Thrown out the window by his unexpected feelings for Akihito. Katsuragi has always been in control, has always known what he wanted, and what he was willing to do in order to get it. But nothing is as cut and dried as he once believed it to be.

Akihito and Katsuragi are attending an evening ball at the Marquise Moriyama’s residence, despite Katsuragi’s misgivings. Akihito notices a great number of reporters hanging around outside the gate. As they arrive, he kisses Katsuragi and tells him he trusts him, to Katsuragi’s shock. Will this confession prove to be the former butler’s undoing? Once inside the Moriyama manor, Akihito insists again that Katsuragi walk beside him, not behind him. Yanking Katsuragi into an unused room of the manor, Akihito affirms his feelings, and tells him that just knowing Katsuragi loves him, he can get through anything. Katsuragi promises to tell him everything.

Also in attendance at the ball is Akihito’s father’s half-brother, Naotsugu. Katsuragi’s plan is to have Naotsugu take on the Kuze title. Having met him, though, Akihito is not so sure this is a good idea, and he fears he may have to go against Katsuragi’s wishes. Meanwhile, Katsuragi is intent on protecting Akihito, even if that means lying to him… or about him.

Meanwhile, Akihito’s friend Soichiro Ishizaki goes to his father and begs him not to abandon Akihito, even though it was at his father’s direction that they ever became friends. His father tells him if that’s the case to come with him to the Moriyama estate.

Katsuragi demands and receives a private audience with Marquise Moriyama, outlining his plans for Naotsugu’s success to the Kuze house, which will be temporary as the man only has a few years to live, after which he wants Moriyama to help with something that is unprecedented, so that Akihito can regain the Kuze title after Naotsugu’s death.

It’s obvious to me that these two men love each other greatly, but it’s also obvious that until they stop working behind each other’s backs and work together, nothing will be accomplished. That is the only way in which they will succeed and be able to walk together, side by side, as equals. The plot is only becoming more complicated, with the introduction of Akihito’s half-uncle, and the confirmation of the seeds Katsuragi has sown concerning Akihito’s “illness”. Some of Katsuragi’s plans are coming to fruition, including the divorce of the Marquise Moriyama by his wife, which is the reason why the reporters are hovering outside the manor. They are still keeping secrets from each other, though, and not being entirely honest. That has got to give. Ishizaki is really Akihito’s friend, and while he doesn’t approve of his relationship with Katsuragi, not because he is a man but because he doesn’t entirely trust him, he wants Akihito to be happy. And he feels Katsuragi may actually love Akihito.

So much intrigue, where will it end? Another brilliant volume, looking forward to the next one, although with a little apprehension.

 

 

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 4 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 4       

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: December 7, 2004

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Ichigo is less than impressed with his family’s obsession with a phony TV spiritualist by the name of Don Kanonji. They not only watch his show with enthusiasm but they gladly cross themselves as he does and give his famous cry of “Bo-ha-ha-ha!” To Ichigo’s dismay, the live TV show is coming to his town for an emergency live broadcast special. Of course, everyone wants to go, except for Ichigo. But he ends up going anyway.

The show is broadcasting from in front of an old hospital. Ichigo wonders to Rukio why, if there’s a ghost there, the Soul Reapers haven’t taken care of it by now. She explains to him about jibaku, which are fixed location ghosts that can’t be detected and won’t show themselves… unless someone invades their territory! Just then they hear a wail from inside the building!

A ghost appears, chained to the building. Rukia explains that he isn’t a Hollow yet, because his hole isn’t completely formed. As long as his hole isn’t irritated, they can safely leave him until after the show ends and then perform a konso on him. Until Don Kanonji makes a grand entrance and does the unthinkable and creates a suddenly dangerous situation for everyone involved!

Ichigo tries to stop him, to the complete embarrassment of his friends and family,  but he and Rukia find themselves grabbed by security. Ichigo needs to go soul reaper, but without Rukia’s help, he can’t do that. Help comes in an unexpected form and Ichigo races toward Kanonji. To his surprise, Kanonji can see him in his soul reaper form, but mistakes him for the spirit of a dead fan. Will Don Kanonji be a help or a hindrance to Ichigo as he tries to deal with the newly-formed Hollow before he kills someone?

Back at school, Ichigo and his friends are called on the carpet for what occurred on live TV, but quick thinking by Rukia gets them out of trouble, at least for now. Don Kanonji shows up unexpectedly at Ichigo’s house, to his dismay, even as he wondered how he got his address? The answer quickly shows herself, along with the rice dumplings the spiritualist bribed her with. Luckily relief comes in the form of a Hollow alert, although Rukia’s phone seems to be acting strangely recently. They go on calls only to find no Hollow there. Will this be more of the same?

After a few false alarms, they head to another sighting, only to meet with an oddly dressed young man who is contemptuous of their efforts. Wait, he can see them? Who is this and why does he hat soul reapers?

The fourth volume of Bleach is a riot. Don Kanonji is a priceless character. You just gotta love him. And there is more to him than what appears on the surface. I love him as much in the manga as in the anime. Kisuke’s appearance at the broadcast was both providential and adorable. I love how Ichigo refers to him as Mr. Hat-and-clogs. I love how Ichigo’s friends are unaware that he makes good grades and are taken aback that he’s 18th in the class. Two people are tied for first rank, Kunieda and someone named Uryu Ishida. Remember that name!

I am thoroughly enjoying reading this as much as watching it. This series is a lot of fun, looking forward to the next volume!

 

Book Review: A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole

A Princess in Theory (Reluctant Royals #1)   

Author: Alyssa Cole

Publisher: Avon

American release date: February 27, 2018

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Contemporary Romance/384 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Naledi has received scam emails before, but this one takes the cake! Someone claiming to be his assistant thinks it’s funny to tell Naledi she is the betrothed of an African prince and to please send her personal information in order to verify her identity. As if! Orphaned at a young age, Naledi (Ledi to her friends) has had to become a strong and independent woman. Life is hard enough, what with her post-graduate studies in epidemiology, and staying afloat by waiting tables at the university, without someone trying to sell her false dreams!  Add to that a supervisor who keeps throwing off all of his grunt work onto her, instead of anyone else or even himself, and a best friend who at her best is unreliable and at her worst can be a drunken critical mess.

Thabiso is the prince of the African nation of Thesolo. It’s bad enough that people in his country are suffering from a mysterious illness that he is helpless to do anything about, but there is a major corporation seeking to make inroads into his nation, and Thabiso isn’t sure what they want will be in Thesolo’s best interests. But people of high rank are clamoring for him to sign off on this deal, and he feels pressured to do so. If that’s not enough, he’s had his assistant, Likotsi, search for his long-lost betrothed, a girl he knew in their childhood when they became engaged, but whose parents whisked her away so that she disappeared from his life. The good news is that Likotsi has found her, living under another name in New York City. The bad news is she is not responding to Likotski’s emails. What is a prince to do but go to New York himself to bring her back?

Thabiso shows up at Ledi’s place of work, intending to let her know who he is and that she needs to come back with him, but when she unexpectedly mistakes him for the new server, he sees an opportunity for her to get to know him for himself, not as a prince. So he doesn’t correct her, answers to the name Jamal, and takes the other man’s place. Who knew working in a restaurant could be so difficult, or that a royal prince could be so inept?

He can only stay so long in the States before he must return to Thesolo and deal with things there, including his parents, who are clamoring for him to get married and are unaware of his hunt for his betrothed. He’s determined more than ever, now that he has found her again, that Ledi shall be his bride. But will he have enough time to win her heart, so that she loves him for who he is? Somewhere along the line, as Likotsi reminds him, he has to tell her the truth about himself, or all will be for naught.

Ledi finds Jamal to be very sexy, if somewhat inadequate to his job. But she patiently shows him what to do, and she finds herself growing more and more attracted to him. She tells herself she has no time for men like him, her life is already complicated enough. But the more she sees him, the more he worms his way into her heart. No good will come of this, she knows, as she waits for the other shoe to drop… and drop it does, blowing her mind and threatening to destroy her world. Not to mention, most importantly,  he has lied to her. She’d rather stay safe and alone in her sterile academic world than risk her heart… wouldn’t she?

A Princess in Theory is the first book in Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series. It was recommended to me by my daughter, and I fell in love with it right away. Ledi hasn’t had an easy life, but she takes what comes and doesn’t complain. She is a very strong, very likeable heroine. I rooted for her from the beginning.

On the other hand, Thabiso is a handsome and sexy but somewhat sheltered, entitled prince, who doesn’t really understand a lot about what the real world is like until he meets Ledi. His original idea is to get her to go back to Thesolo with him, to do her duty and finish what was begun so many years before.  But he quickly discovers that won’t be as easy as he expected, since he is lying about who he is. Every day he falls for her more and more, and we watch him grow as a person and as a man as he tries to figure out how to handle the situation he finds himself in. You can’t help but hope he succeeds, and that these two will receive the fairy tale ending all princes and princesses deserve.

I love Alyssa Cole’s writing, she draws memorable characters and situations, and this story is both romantic and sensual. I know there are at least two more books in this series and I look forward to reading them. If you enjoy a good romance with an ending to die for, give this book a try. You won’t be sorry you did.