Hearts of Stoneleigh Manor Book 2
Heat Factor: It’s way hotter than my usual fare.
Character Chemistry: So, they kiss in the first few pages and it’s pretty clear from then on they’re a good match.
Plot: Emma has a whole crew of siblings and dogs she’s responsible for after the unexpected death of her father. Her Uncle teaches her how to be a cat burglar, and she steals jewelry from the wealthy to keep their family afloat. HOWEVER. When she tries to steal a ruby necklace from the Duke of Gilchrest’s mother, she finds her plans foiled and then he turns out to be a really strong sort of cinnamon roll (a cinnamon cookie? A ginger snap? Should we make that a thing?) and everything unravels from there.
Overall: This book is so fresh and gripping–I could not put it down.
So, Emma crawls in a window looking for a ruby necklace and ends up kissing a Duke, who gets so flustered she’s able to just walk out the door. It’s really cute. That’s how this book starts, and it’s GOOD.
Emma’s very relatable for me–she’s trying to do her best in a terrible situation. She’s been burned by three men she should have been able to count on: her now-deceased father, her now-deceased fiance, and her guardian uncle. So she’s not really the most trusting person, and she tends to navigate difficulties solo. I frankly don’t blame her. I should note, however, that Erin would struggle with Emma, because she’s simply not able to trust. This is a huge annoyance for Erin. We discuss it frequently. Erin doesn’t like it when characters are all like, oh, I’ve been hurt before and thus I will never love again! And there’s certainly an element to that here, but we’re not talking a one-time betrayal and then she calls it. She’s been failed BIG TIME, and the author pretty much lays out why her psychology is understandable and actually kind of appropriate given her circumstances. So. Don’t judge, Erin.
Andrew is what I would consider a hybrid cinnamon roll? Capability porn? I can’t exactly pin him down, but let’s just say he’s steady, he’s gentle, and he loves very easily and openly. He has two little boys and is a loving father…he’s just GOOD. What I like about Andrew is that he’s just so measured–Emma brings a degree of unpredictability and humor to his life, and he recognizes the value of that immediately. So when Emma brings the chaos, Andrew is pretty much like, “Oh, fabulous, there’s that nutty joy factor I love about you so much” and my heart grows three sizes.
Here’s what I liked about it–it’s suspenseful. Emma has this whole thievery thing going, Andrew knows what’s up and is carefully trying to figure out how to help her without scaring her off, and the uncle is just a major pot-stirrer. We have a sister in the middle of her season, and dogs everywhere. So there are all these little sub-plots swirling and forcing me to turn the page again and again. Andrew is a complex cinnamon roll in that he’s very comfortable in his own skin and doesn’t throw his weight around. He’s warm and loving with his kids, happily steps in to mentor Emma’s crew, and is sweet to his mother. He’s also so capable–he figures things out calmly and without drama or arrogance. And the two of them together are just…sugar and spice and everything nice. Baking soda and vinegar. Ka-boom.
Here’s what people (not me) might not like: the Erins of the world might worry at a few points that Emma is going to pull a “silly woman” and shoot herself in the foot unnecessarily by falling in love with the guy and then making a completely irrational decision that blows everything up with a flimsy explanation. It didn’t bother me because Emma is consistent until she changes. She does NOT suddenly see the error of her ways, confess her love for Andrew, and then about-face at the first sign of trouble. She tells Andrew at every turn that she doesn’t think she can be in a relationship with him, that she has valid concerns about her influence in his life, and that she wants to fly solo. So while there are the slightest hints of that plot device afoot, it is executed in a way that I found to be perfectly understandable. You will not convince me this was a problem.
All in all, there’s a pretty decent amount of steam–let’s just say that when there’s a cat-burglar in a historical romance there are just SO MANY OPPORTUNITIES. Normally I’m kind of a “yeah, yeah, they’re doing it again, let’s move on” type of reader (don’t judge me) but I did not feel that way here. Karla Kratovil did goooooood.
I mean really, a kind/strong hero, a bad-ass/rebel heroine, lots of happy kids and a whole herd of dogs? What’s not to like here? Not a gosh-darn thing, that’s what.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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