I usually try to keep these posts to about three books, but there are so many books coming out today! And they’re all historical romance! Keep reading for my reviews of Kate Bateman’s new jewel thief romance, Joanna Shupe’s final Uptown Girls book, a debut from Christina Britton, the long-anticipated final book in Sarah MacLean’s Bareknuckle Bastards series, and Vanessa Riley’s latest book starring a West Indian heiress.
To Catch an Earl by Kate Bateman (June 30)
In To Catch an Earl, Bow Street agent Harland has never been able to stop thinking about the mysterious woman who stole a kiss from him at a masquerade ball shortly before he went off to war. Little does he suspect that the woman is the Nightjar, an infamous jewel thief that Alex has been tasked with apprehending.
I was highly, highly anticipating this book after being so pleasantly surprised by This Earl of Mine. And while there were parts I really enjoyed, overall I was actually pretty disappointed. I think the main thing for me was that I didn’t understand why the hero and heroine loved each other. The book opens with this amazing line from the heroine about how her father taught her not to touch anything she wasn’t going to take, but she couldn’t stop herself from touching the hero, and details a scene about how she disguised herself at a masquerade in order to dance with him. And while I didn’t need all of the details then, I never actually got the details of why she was so in love with him that she had to dance with him in the first place? And then the two of them start falling in love in the current timeline, but they literally never talk to each other, so it’s kind of more of the idea of each other that they’re falling in love with? I just really wanted to see the relationship between the two of them develop, and they didn’t actually spend enough time together in this book for that to actually happen.
That said, I did like how quickly Harland figured out that Emmy was the thief, so they both knew what was going on with each other and didn’t really have to keep up any lies. And the cat and mouse game between them was a lot of fun. I’m just disappointed that if you asked me at the end of the book why they were in love with each other and why they were perfect for each other, I couldn’t answer that question. I genuinely don’t know, because I don’t think they know each other all that well. I actually think the book might have worked better if they’d been playing cat and mouse for a while, and then something happened that forced the two of them to work together a lot sooner than they did, because that would have thrown them together more and we would have actually seen a relationship develop, instead of them more falling in love with the idea of the other person and just experiencing insta-love. Idk. I do still think this is a mostly enjoyable read, and I think a lot of my disappointment is that I had such high expectations that this book didn’t meet. If you’re just looking for a fun detective/thief romance, I think this is a good choice.
I received an arc of To Catch an Earl from the publisher via Netgalley.
The Devil of Downtown by Joanna Shupe (June 30)
The Devil of Downtown follows Justine, the youngest Greene daughter who has been taking trips to downtown New York for years trying to help women track down their missing husbands and make them care for their families. When her work introduces her to Jack Mulligan, the kingpin of downtown, he isn’t at all what she thought he would be. While the two of them belong to different worlds, they find themselves unable to stay away from each other.
This was good, but it wasn’t my favorite from Joanna Shupe. I didn’t feel like Justine had an awful lot of personality, though I did love it when she stood up to her sisters, who were rather infuriating in their attempts to protect her. I also didn’t think Mulligan was a good guy. I can definitely respect how hard he worked to get to where he was, but he was still threatening and intimidating people when Justine met him. I liked that she finally realized how she had to compromise herself to be with him and how they finally resolved that, but I also never got super swept up in the two of them together. Why are they perfect for each other? Do they belong together? I really couldn’t say. Overall, this was a really solid addition to the series and I really enjoyed it (it is a Joanna Shupe, after all!), but it wasn’t my favorite.
I received an arc of The Devil of Downtown from the publisher via Edelweiss.
A Good Duke Is Hard to Find by Christina Britton (June 30)
A Good Duke Is Hard to Find opens with Lenora being left at the altar by her third fiance. Unable to bear the gossip, she flees to her best friend’s grandmother, who has always made her feel welcome. At the same time, Peter returns to England to repay a debt to the great-aunt who cared for his dying mother, the same woman that Lenora has gone to visit. He’s also there to take revenge against his uncle, but he can’t stop thinking about Lenora, forcing him to decide whether she’s more important than avenging his mother.
This book wasn’t on my radar until Forever made it free to download at the beginning of the pandemic. I saw some good early reviews, so I was excited to pick it up, but as it turns out, I was really bored. The hero was full of vengeful thoughts, and all the heroine could talk about was some terrible wrong she’d done to a past fiance, and I made it about a third of the way through and realized I just didn’t care. I didn’t really know the characters and I wasn’t invested in their individual stories or their romance (it was very much a consuming-attraction-at-first-sight type relationship when I stopped reading it). So I decided to DNF it. Looking at some other reviews, it sounds like this book is very much a your-mileage-may-vary type book—it worked really well for a lot of readers, but I’m not the only one who was bored. So if it sounds like something you’d enjoy and includes some of your favorite tropes, I think it’s worth giving it a try and seeing what you think! This could be a great choice for the “Dumped at a Wedding” square for the Ripped Bodice bingo!
I received an arc of A Good Duke Is Hard to Find from the publisher via Netgalley.
Daring and the Duke by Sarah MacLean (June 30)
Daring and the Duke is the much-anticipated finale to the Bareknuckle Bastards trilogy. Grace has survived on the streets of London after being betrayed by her first love, eventually going on to build her own pleasure house aimed at serving women. The last thing she wants is for Ewan to come back into her life, but he is still in love with her and is determined to win her forgiveness.
This was not my thing. I was worried it wouldn’t be, because the premise set itself up to be pretty angsty, and angst isn’t really my thing. Or at least, I have yet to articulate when I like it and when I don’t. In this case, I disliked that everything about their relationship revolved around this one event from their past. Also, seriously, none of them figured out that Ewan did it for them? Seriously?? And like, they all knew what the old duke was like. Of course Ewan had to protect them all from him, and couldn’t come to them! I’m also not a fan of heroes who are perpetually remorseful and penitent, which Ewan definitely was, and I felt like there was little else to his personality. And while I always want the hero to adore the heroine (and vice versa), his adoration crossed the line into worship, and it was just too much for me. There were parts I like, but for the most part I would say this book was very much not my thing, and it’s hard for me to better explain why. That said, I’m very much in the minority on this one, so don’t let my unenthusiastic review deter you from picking up this book!
I received an arc of Daring and the Duke from the publisher via Edelweiss.
A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby by Vanessa Riley (June 30)
In A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby, Patience is determined to do everything she can to protect her son following her late husband’s suicide, even if it means going undercover as his nanny. What she’s not prepared for is how much she comes to like her son’s guardian, a wounded military hero who is determined to have order in his household. The more time the two of them spend together and work to protect her son’s future, the more they realize how much the other means to them.
I enjoyed this! I’m always looking for diverse historicals, both in terms of the characters and the settings, so it was great to see a mainstream publisher come out with a Regency historical featuring a Black heroine. Oddly enough, while the romance took a while to really take off, I was still pretty invested in Patience and her story, so I kept reading even though a lot of the focus was more on her son and trying to protect him as a single mother. I really loved what a strong character Patience was, and the society of widows is amazing! There’s so much potential as a series to explore the different widows’ struggles and their romances.
I will say, Riley made a really bold choice in when deciding to write Patience’s POV in first person and Busick’s in third. I suspect that will be a deal-breaker for a lot of people; it was definitely a bit jarring for me. I’m actually really surprised it didn’t bother me more than it did, though? I don’t want this to become common practice by any means, but it was an interesting experience. Also, this is a small thing, but there were so many references to Patience’s son Lionel as “my boy.” Enough that I noticed it and for some reason it rubbed me a bit the wrong way. At the end of the day, though, I enjoyed this, and I’m excited to read future books in the series.
I received an arc of A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby from the publisher via Netgalley.
While I had a lot of highly anticipated books in this batch of arc reviews, unfortunately none of them were quite as amazing as I’d hoped. But all in all, they were still enjoyable reads, and I hope other readers connect with them more than I did!
Have you been planning to pick any of these up? Let me know in the comments!