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Sue Barnstaple, Devon

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My Reviews (21)

Picture of The Prince`s Captive Virgin
rating by Sue, Jun 14, 2017
"Once upon a seduction...lived a reviewer who adored fantasy and fairy tales, and Modern fairy tales and Beauty & the Beast most of all. I loved how the strong, emotional beginning evokes a vivid sense of place with few words. The description paints a strong visual from the first Disney Beauty and the Beast, and leaves your imagination with nothing much to do... The heroine is strong and has agency. It's hard to credit the author for this as the beginning sets out to mirror the movie version. I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about the heroine having a boyfriend, but was happy to reserve judgement. Evoking B&B so strongly starts to become both a blessing and a curse; it’s hard to see past the Disney animated image to the M&B Modern version. I kept seeing the animated beast rather than this Prince Adam and hearing his voice. The story easily invited me in, but I think evoking it more lightly wouldn’t allow the old tale to intrude on the new. Either that or the present-day characters need to be more strongly visual to make sure the older story is merely an echo, a fairy-tale promise giving depth to the present. Maisey Yates has a strong voice – but this other voice (song as old as rhyme) overpowers it at times. It’s difficult for her to make us pay attention to her romance when we’re sharing the story with other characters conjured on the page. About 1/3 of the way through, the Modern re-telling starts to assert itself and I started to ‘see’ Prince Adam’s character as opposed to the original Beast’s and for Belle to become Yates’ Belle rather than Disney’s. Ungeneric emotion and conflict are at the heart of Maisey Yates' voice, and, as you'd expect from her books, there's a lot of emotional maturity delivered in a strong, accessible voice. When Belle faces down the angry mob (paparazzi), I like how she owns the moment, how it’s twisted. I love that there’s a transformation scene. Like the ‘angry mob’ scene, it gives a nice visual and emotional depth without intruding too much into the here and now. It's done with a much lighter touch. I would have liked that Belle instigates it, if it wasn’t another scene where she’s strong at the expense of his alpha-beastness. The hero and heroine also lose some heroicness in their treatment of her boyfriend. The black moment works from a M&B Modern-driven, hero-driven point of view. The emotional pay-off is good, it’s passionate, it fits the characters, it’s worth sticking with the story for. Yet, if a flaming torch had shed more light on Yates' Belle and Adam sooner, and on some of the wobbly stepping stones in the conflict arc, I'd have felt this so much more here. 3 out of 5 enchanted rose petals ARC from Harlequin via NetGalley in return for feedback. "
The Prince`s Captive Virgin by Maisey Yates
Picture of The Drakon Baby Bargain
rating by Sue, May 23, 2017
"Perfect M&B Modern beginning, from the heroine’s strong characterisation to the yummy hero, exciting first meet and regal backdrop, compelled me to buy when I read it on the M&B website. Tara Pammi’s strong M&B Modern/Harlequin Presents' voice sets the scene beautifully and includes some gorgeous phrasing. "The king of arrogant ruthlessness" failing at being a father to his newly-discovered, motherless daughter broke my heart. You feel his frustrations and so want him to connect with her. Towards the end of the beginning, I loved how Princess Eleni turns the tables on Gabriel and on my expectations! Some lovely character, emotion and relationship depth here. Gabriel’s daughter being the primary motivator for their marriage works. And juxtaposing Eleni’s childhood with how his daughter is feeling deepens this emotion/characterisation. At first, I really liked and empathised with the heroine, but there are times when her conflict becomes muddled--maybe there are too many conflict threads?--and several times she comes across as unheroinelike. The first time is when she lies to Gabriel. The Royal House of Drakos is more than a backdrop; life is breathed into it by Andreas and Nik, her 2 brothers, her sister-in-law, Mia, the hero’s daughter, Angelique, and Mr Unfinished Business, Spiros. They all have on-page time with either Gabriel or Eleni, and entertaining as these interactions are, they rob the hero and heroine of some important scenes, I think. In the same vein, a plot-device is used to break the impasse and to prise open the hero's emotions, where I would prefer these important moments to be more character-led. This book should carry a warning that a horse dies in the making of the plot device. And forgive me, but I can't resist saying that poor Shadow isn't foreshadowed. Despite it being another scene with a secondary character, I adored the meeting between Gabriel and Andreas and felt a bit unfaithful to this book’s hero in the Crown Prince of Drakon's presence. 3 out of 5 stars "
The Drakon Baby Bargain by Tara Pammi
Picture of The Sheikh`s Bought Wife
rating by Sue, Apr 23, 2017
"I loved the 5-star-plus beginning. Zayed won’t be everyone’s cup of Arabian tea but he’s definitely mine. Sharon Kendrick heroes should come with her very own trademark. I adored his über-arrogance and the heroine he’s been given, and rubbed my hands together at the promise of her calling him on it. Librarian / academic is another favourite character and Jane is more ugly-duckling than Cinderella. She’s strong, caring, easy to empathise with. Definitely a match for Zayed. The best thing about the book’s first half was forgetting to read as a reviewer and reading as a reader--there's some fab dialogue / interaction. Jane's character arc seems to be discovering her fine feathers on a voyage of sensual discovery, which fits well with SK's voice and its strong focus on sensuality and love scenes. The relationship’s inherent sexual tension is like living on a cliff edge. It wouldn’t take much to tip them over into consummating their marriage. The Black Moment undermined some of this lovely sexual tension and conflict for me, as I found myself thinking 'wouldn’t he have known that from the lawyers before?' and 'would she really have sent that email?' Zayed's internal conflict is obviously there in who he is and what he does, but it felt too easily dealt with; too rushed at the end. I'd have liked more exploration of this, for the heroine to dig around in the sand a bit more to discover her sheikh’s heart. 'The Sheikh’s Bought Wife' is classic Modern. It’s enjoyable, on the hotter side of the line, with an engaging heroine and Sharon Kendrick™ OTT hero. But classic is a bit of a double edged sword here as for me it was a bit too classic. 3.5-3.75 stars "
The Sheikh`s Bought Wife by Sharon Kendrick
Picture of The Desert King`s Captive Bride
rating by Sue, Apr 9, 2017
"Fab opening scene compelled me to buy when I read it on the M&B website. Despite the strong heroine and the tension-filled wedding, the beginning is slightly overwritten which slows the pace here. And the hero’s opening point of view made me afraid that he wasn’t going to be alpha enough for me or for the strong heroine. But the first love scene is wow! Passionate. Sexy. Sensual Intense. Emotional. This isn't a skippable love scene. It's a can't look away one. And the hero’s concern in the emotional aftermath. And how it’s paced…And…. The hero and heroine’s every action took on more importance after this scene, as every look every glance is a facet of their personalities nuanced with their reactions to what’s happened. And how it changes things. And how this emotional turning point revs up the pace. My concerns about the hero not being alpha enough were soon put to bed, so to speak. He’s exciting and Ghizlan’s behaviour and taunts just bring out his alphaness. The second love scene is where they are now in their relationship. There’s emotion and character/ relationship development, just not quite as much as I wanted. The slow climb to the Black Moment *fasten your seatbelts* reinforces the depth of their connection, building to an emotional high. But the speed is a bit too slow for me here too. The Black Moment itself isn’t big and dramatic as you'd expect, but I love it when the turning point is something relatively small and quiet but the responses it triggers threaten the relationship. And this one is so right for the characters. If there’d been more heroine character development and drawing out of the barbarian in the sheikh a bit more, then this would have been a read-in-one-sitting romance. Four stars. "
The Desert King`s Captive Bride by Annie West
Picture of The Italian`s One-Night Baby
rating by Sue, Mar 19, 2017
"Lynne Graham is a comfort-read voice for me. Reading her is slipping into memories of previous favourites with echoes of Lynne Graham heroes and heroines that enhance the reading experience. That same voice kept me turning the pages–despite not being a fan of the playboy-trope–when I was suspicious of Rio’s motivations for thinking the worst of Ellie, who isn’t my favourite Lynne Graham heroine, but holds her own with other Harlequin Presents’ heroines If voice and character carry the beginning, then I also loved how she delivers un-skippable love scenes…. The first love scene felt like an extension of how gorgeous the hero is and who’s going to say no to a Lynne-Graham hero…? SPOILER I loved how Ellie tells Rio to just get it over with and he’s affronted. END OF SPOILER So we have triple helpings of backstory/conflict, misunderstanding and suspicion, overridden by high emotion and sexual tension, and a love scene where SPOILER Rio discovers that Ellie’s a virgin END OF SPOILER A lovely emotional mess. *rubs hands together gleefully* The second love scene almost made me *peer through fingers* and think: "Oh, no, I’m afraid this is going to be page-filler and skippable." But it isn’t. It comes in the angry aftermath of falling out during their wedding. I won’t go into details as there’ll be more spoiler tags than review if I’m not careful! And it ends on an emotional low note. Low note for the relationship, not for the writing. Third love scene–"I’m definitely going to skip this, aren’t I?" but thought with a lot more uncertainty and a lot more willingness to read on and be proved wrong again. This time we’re eased into it with dialogue and see a different side of their relationship. A what-their-marriage-could-be-like side. Again, the love scene ends on an emotional turning point, making it impossible to look away. The flipside of reading a voice where previous characters still share the pages with you, is that it creates high expectations and I found myself measuring this against the Presents’ line, and against other Lynne Graham’s, one of the authors who IS the line. And I think 'The Italian’s One-Night Baby' meets the expectations of readers already in love with her books, but there’s enough of where the line is at now to satisfy newer readers. Such as, the areas that I’d been suspicious of being too older-Presents (misunderstandings shoring up conflict and the trigger for the black moment) but which are borne of the hero and heroine’s pasts, particularly the hero’s. Four out of five Lynne-Graham stars Arc received from NetGalley and Mills and Boon via Mills and Boon Insiders"
The Italian`s One-Night Baby by Lynne Graham
Picture of The Argentinian`s Virgin Conquest
rating by Sue, Mar 11, 2017
"I love Bella Frances’ voice–the dialogue, the tight writing, the pace. You can’t help but feel for Lady Lucinda, aka Lucie, aka Dante’s “Princess,” who’s strong and vulnerable all at the same time. The emotions and descriptions are original and not generic. I love that there’s no initial deal or bargain struck—If you do this, I’ll do that–before the relationship is allowed to start. It just starts. As though they, and it, can’t help themselves. And we already know there’s something Dante needs…. I love both the polo playing and English nobility backdrops and the fleshed out families and friends who surround them–including the heroine’s family from hell who actually kind of grow on you, and add to the conflict and the central relationship and make the hero and heroine even more well-rounded in context. The writing is contemporary, unique and fresh, which is lovely, but at the same time, if I measure this against my expectations of M&B Modern, then Dante, as hot and gorgeous as he is, and he is, isn’t quite alpha enough for me. Shrugs. I know! So it’s a bit light on the Modern alpha male. And, even though I loved the cast of dysfunctional families and hero-material polo players, and I really did, it does dilute the intensity and emotion in places. It’s also a bit heavy on the love scenes, which felt more Tempted than Modern. But, measuring the story against my line-expectations aside, Bella Frances delivers a fast paced, emotional, sexy read with fab dialogue and lovely lines with a hot hero and easy-to-empathise-with heroine. The hero’s conflict is summed up in one line which made me well up. LOOK AWAY NOW TO AVOID SPOILER “I got lost Lucie. I’ve been lost. For years.” END OF SPOILER. It was lovely to see some closure with Lucie and her mother, Lady Viv, too. Actually, I could quite happily read more of this family and step into this world again as this book left me wanting more. Here’s hoping! Four out of five stars."
The Argentinian`s Virgin Conquest by Bella Frances
Picture of The Innocent`s Secret Baby
rating by Sue, Feb 25, 2017
"The intense hero and heroine interaction of the first half–together with the intense conflict–held my attention and I didn’t want to put it down even then. Raul, the tortured hero, is gorgeous and yummy and I fell for him the same way Lydia did. The heroine, Lydia, is lovely and easy to identify with and root for. Oh, and Rome! Marinelli’s gorgeous voice is showcased to perfection; from how the love scenes are un-skippable and unique to the characters, and how they’re interwoven with emotion, conflict and characterisation; from the deep emotion and how the universal emotions experienced have to resonate at some level with the reader; and her unique take on conflict, and… One of my pet peeves is where the hero and heroine are about to do or say something important. And are only prevented from doing so by interruption of the phone or another character arriving at a vital moment. I think heroes and heroines should decide to stop or not stop etc without the decision conveniently taken out of their hands to serve the dictates of plot. So I LOVED it when the telephone wasn’t allowed to interruptus and how Marinelli played with it and then when it did, it didn’t get in the way of their decisions/motivations. Oh, and the Venice scenes sigh are romance personified. Atmospheric Venice, Murano glass, gondolas. Lydia and Raul’s romance matched the romance and sensuality and atmosphere of the setting and the one enhanced the other. One of only a couple of slight blips for me was SPOILER the discovery of the photograph of herself and Raul on the net delivered by her stepfather. This felt a bit of a Presents’ cliché (or classic depending on your point of view) but it does fit. And it was kept low key, even if a classic Presents key to be turned to detonate the relationship. END OF SPOILER But this, and suspending my disbelief everso slightly over another crucial plot point, didn’t tarnish any of the stars of this five star plus read. Even when Lydia and Raul are apart it doesn’t affect the perfect pacing or fail to hold my attention, which was riveted on how they would be able to remake something so precious, their relationship beautifully embodied in the work of art that SPOILER got broken but was better because of it END OF SPOILER. If I haven’t already mentioned, I adored the deep emotion, characterisation and the uniqueness of their romance, and cried as Raul confronted his past, because of Lydia, and when they were mending their relationship. I need to track down down if Gabi and Salim get their own story. And what about Bastiano – who my heart has already broken a little bit for."
The Innocent`s Secret Baby by Carol Marinelli
Picture of Engaged To Her Ravensdale Enemy
rating by Sue, Apr 13, 2016
"A Melanie Milburne to read next was a safe bet for me as I've always loved her books, and she totally delivered on my expectations and some. I was immediately engaged by the writing and immersed in the world of the lovely heroine and gorgeous hero. I loved the 3D characters, the personality in the characterisation, the sexual tension and how the pacing was on point. I particularly appreciated that the romance was kept front and centre of this read. Can't wait for another peak into the Ravensdales' world, to get to know the other characters better and still have a window on Jake and Jaz's relationship. Five stars plus and one for my keeper shelf."
Engaged To Her Ravensdale Enemy by Melanie Milburne
Picture of His for a Price
rating by Sue, Feb 14, 2015
"Adored the passion, drama and intensity. Adore Caitlin's writing. Loved Nicodemus and Mattie. The ending made me cry. "
His for a Price by Caitlin Crews
Picture of Nine Months to Redeem Him
rating by Sue, Jan 17, 2015
"*****+ My first impression was that the 1st person point of view felt strange and I was afraid it was going to distance me. But not for long. Soon I was absorbed in the heroine's character and personality, and if anything it drew me in more. I loved the prologue, and how it creates PTQ, not that I wouldn't have turned the pages anyway as I couldn't put it down. I adored the oldfashioned advice book the heroine is reading, and the mention of Wuthering Heights etc which contribute to the atmosphere. Despite my second impression, which was suspicion of the writer's Cornwall (which I know like the back of my hand) I really loved the gothicy darkness of the Cornish castle setting, despite a few niggles, not enough to spoil my overall enjoyment or detract from my five star plus rating. Love the oldfashionedness of the outrageously dark hero (I adore outrageous heroes) and really enjoyed not being in the hero's head. The clues to him and how he’s feeling are all there so you really have to pay attention to what he says and does…and what he doesn't. But believe me paying close attention to Edward St Cyr is no hardship.... The snowy gothicness is redolent of old Anne Mather’s, such as Leopard in the Snow complete with wounded hero and gym, no leopards, but a gorgeous sheepdog (just to make me extra happy), and of Sara Craven’s Cornish manorhouse settings and non-Hero-pov stories. Fans of these authors will love this. But the setting, only-heroine point-of-view etc is given a fresh twist by the contemporariness of her family background, the US setting and by the author's fabulous writing voice which has so much warmth and personality and is what makes this first person romance such a success. The ending is absolutely beautiful and made me cry. My favourite Jennie Lucas, one for my keeper shelf and a definite re-read. I believe Jennie has written a previous book in first person with Edward St Cyr as the villain…which I'm off to find now. "
Nine Months to Redeem Him by Jennie Lucas