December Bookviews // Ball Gowns, Maidens and Dangerous Games

As I don’t know how much time I’ll have to read the rest of the year, I’ll say this now: I’ve surpassed my reading goal for 2020! My book goals come and go like the wind, and I don’t always have a novel on hand. So I’m quite proud to say that I’ve read 73/50 books. And that’s just on my Kindle! The number doesn’t reflect the physical books, both fiction and non-fiction, that I’ve read. For a complete list of what I’ve read these past two years, please visit the On My Bookshelf page here on

Please also note that none of the Amazon links are affiliate links. I chose to include them in case you wanted to read the books yourself. I also received one book as an ARC, HIGHLANDER’s FATEFUL AFFAIR via the author’s publisher, Cobalt Fairy. This did not sway my opinion of the story’s themes, characters or plot.

As always, I’ll pull six titles from this site’s On My Bookshelf page: three from What I’ve Read, two from Upcoming Reads, and one from that dreaded DNF (Did Not Finish) pile. From What I’ve Read, you can expect my final thoughts on plot, character development, and a star rating. From Upcoming Reads, my expectations or hopes for the book. And perhaps even a prediction or two. Finally, from the DNFs, what made me close the cover for good and if I’ll ever attempt to read it again.

The First Section: What I’ve Read

by Stacy Henrie

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Pittsburgh Theatre District is a MUST for anyone who visits my city. I spent years behind the stage in high school and college on crew. As such, I love stories with scenes that remind me of that time in my life. So I snatched up NIGHT AT THE OPERA. Not because of opera, but the theatre.

NIGHT AT THE OPERA by Stacy Henrie takes place in London, not Pittsburgh, and the adventure promised in the synopsis is what intrigued me. There are a few plot devices which don’t make sense, but I wanted to find out what would happen to the two main characters – Gwen Barton and Avery Winfield.

What’s most important about this book is the fact that Gwen Barton isn’t your average female lead. You know of what I speak: everything about her is perfect to the opposite sex. Because of an injury from her past, she uses it to help others with similar miladies.

For what I did not like about NIGHT AT THE OPERA, I didn’t like a certain family member of Gwen’s. Some of their actions didn’t make sense, even when the reasons why were finally explained.

An American in 1908 London. A British Duke who isn’t all that he seems. And a mystery or two which need solved before story’s end. If you’re in the market for an Edwardian era tale, I’d definitely recommend you try NIGHT AT THE OPERA. Three and a half out of five stars for a rather unlikable character and a few unrealistic happenings.

This book is a sweet romance with religious undertones.

by Lynsay Sands

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Adventure. I crave it. Well, I crave it in the books I choose to read, and LOVE IS BLIND has it in spades. I read NIGHT AT THE OPERA to LOVE IS BLIND within days of each other.

You’d think, after ten years of Lady Clarissa Crambray’s life with glasses, someone would’ve come to her rescue sooner. I did find that plot point a little ridiculous. Why would she, or even her family, allow for such rumors about her clumsiness to fly? With every book I’ve read that portrayed London’s ton, I’ve wondered if claims of intense gossip within it are true.

What’s also unbelievable is the “evil stepmother” trope. Did women of the Victorian ton really run the show? Were such displays of public detriment so common?

I decided to give LOVE IS BLIND a three out of five stars for a rather unbelievable and most obvious antagonist. It would be four stars for the mysterious happenings within Lady Clarissa’s household, and the misdirects presented in the plot line.

by Eloise Madigan

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reading books based in Scotland is another new thing I’ve tried in 2020. Some of them I can’t handle, as the violence the authors choose to include is a bit too much.

The adventure theme continues in HIGHLANDER’S FATEFUL AFFAIR right from the very start. As I write this, I just now realize that all three of this month’s highlighted reads deal with female leads who are either blind, nearly blind, or injured in some way. In this story, the male lead also has deformities of his own.

I do wish, however, that the author hadn’t combined those tropes. Why does another character have to be scarred for the other lead to love them? I know Ms. Madigan aimed to bring historical accuracy by way of a war-torn hero, but it’s still something I wish.

Both leads are fierce in their own ways. This I really appreciate. Iona’s blindness did not deter David’s actions or effect his affections. Ms. Madigan also crafted a cast of supporting characters that make sense. I give HIGHLANDER’S FATEFUL AFFAIR a four out of five stars. I’d definitely read this again.

The Second Section: My Upcoming Reads

I’ll not include any stars for these entries as I’ve yet to read them. Instead, I’ll include its brief synopsis, why I picked it up, and what I hope will come from the story.

by Melanie Dickerson

Melanie Dickerson has been one of my favorite authors for the past few years, so I’m always excited when she adds another story to her satisfyingly large collection.

With A DANGEROUS ENGAGEMENT, Ms. Dickerson jumps from an eleven part Medieval Fairy Tale series to a three part mystery series set in Regency London. This is Book Three of Three (I’ve yet to read the first two, so I don’t know if this stands alone or not). Below is the synopsis that drew me in, and I can’t wait to read another adventure!

Have you caught on to the themes and genres I’m drawn to this month?

by Karen Odden

Always take an author’s credentials with a grain of salt. Just because they’re a “USA Today Bestseller” before, that doesn’t mean the book you want to read is also on the list.

I’d never heard of Karen Odden before stumbling across this book earlier this week (which tells you how much time I spend looking at such things). However, A DANGEROUS DUET’s synopsis grabbed my attention straight away and I look forward to reading this Victorian mystery soon.

The Third Section: What I Did Not Finish

by Fanny Finch and Edith Byrd

There are very few books I loathe, but THE CURSE OF LADY CLARABELLE is most definitely one of them.

“Leigh! How dare you issue such a strong statement about a book! What about all the hard work that went into it?!”

Trust me – I don’t doubt the work ethic behind this tale whatsoever. My “Did Not Finish” list only receives one new title a month, and I think that’s a pretty good record. Especially with all the books I’ve read this year.

Honestly? This book was a dud. And no, I’m not going to hold back. For a full “spoilers” version of my thoughts, please visit the blog post I put up a week ago about it // The First Fifty Pages of a Book I Hate.

To sum up my thoughts here and now: the pages are filled with choppy dialogue, backstory is told not once, not twice, but three times within the first fifty pages, and very few contractions are used.

I don’t know if they were trying to meet some kind of word count goal, or if they decided upon it to keep things streamlined for this collab, but I am really, truly quite disappointed in this novel. Having read other titles by Fanny Finch (HIS CINDERELLA GOVERNESS, A SEA ROSE FOR THE DUCHESS, A NIGHT ROSE FOR THE DUKE, et al), I wanted to try something new.

The unbelievable tale of THE CURSE OF LADY CLARABELLE was not it.

Well, there we have it; the last Bookviews post for 2020! Do you like this “mini book review” series? Should I continue on with them in 2021? I hope to start back up the Author Interviews in the Spring (COVID cut short that blog series for 2020). They take a lot of planning but it’s totally worth it in the end.

Bookviews has certainly taught me to expand my readership, find new authors to love, and get out of my reading comfort zone. I still slide back into that zone when I need something familiar and classic, but all in all, I’m happy with the books I picked up this year.

What about you? Did you meet your reading goals for 2020? Fall short? Buy MORE than you knew you had time to read? One thing I like to do is buy physical copies of ebooks I really like. That way, I can support the author in more than one way. Happy reading, everyone! Have a fantastic holiday season and New Year!

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