Monday, November 24, 2008

Lord of Scoundrels

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase

This was my first Loretta Chase and let me just say that she really is as great a writer as everyone has said. In what is an admittedly cliched romance novel tick Jessica Trent first takes an "interest" in Sebastian Ballister, Marquess of Dain, because of his unfortunate ability to influence her brother to gamble, drink, and whore to excess. There is no crazy plot twist, no spy brigade, no murder plots, or any other such nonsense most authors throw into their books to take up space, because Ms. Chase is so talented at writing actual interactions between her characters- something I find remarkably refreshing.

Unfortunately much of the good stuff can be considered "spoilers" so I will attempt to make it invisible, most likely unsuccessfully. Please forgive me. Jessica is compromised at a ball, and both parties involved blame each other and Ms. Trent gets her revenge by SHOOTING him! I was absolutely poleaxed. I believe I reread that section several times before I fully understood what had occurred. So the two are married, after some great lawyer action, and things go swimmingly until... Sebastian's illegitimate child enters the picture. Not surprisingly Jane is all for the bastard joining in the party, but Dain isn't having any of it.

This book deserves five hearts purely based on the quality of the conversations, the interactions, etc... between the main characters. I was absolutely blown away. Jessica was at times a tad too likable for me, especially regarding a certain indiscretion, but she more than makes up for it with witty banter and... other actions. Like most romance novel heroes it is often difficult to determine precisely why the heroine falls in love with him, but Lord Dain is certainly at least minimally more likable then most of them. My one complaint might be that the book makes a very big deal about how much smaller Jessica is then the "cows" Daine usually sleeps with. This is explained away as his fear of sleeping with a small woman because of his own size. And of course at the end he realizes how much more enjoyable it is to sleep with a skinny short woman.

There is a rather confusing side plot involving minor characters attempting to steal, or trick each other into stealing, a certain painting which detracts more from the story than it adds but it does create a fun little incident at the end. The sex scenes were certainly steamy enough if too few. Ms. Chase is basically phenomenal worth words. Whether describing emotions or the attraction the characters feel toward each other she does it in new ways that aren't repetitive as many romance writers are when it comes to such important details that are often too hastily thrown together. She manages to turn an interesting, if somewhat overused, plot point into an amazing reason to throw two of my favorite romance characters ever together. And reading about their journey to Love together was a pleasure.

Final Rating

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Wicked Ways of a Duke

The Wicked Ways of a Duke by Laura Lee Guhrke

The poorly named Prudence Bosworth (yes of course her nickname is Pru) is scraping by as a seamstress, living in a woman's boarding house, taking abuse from the spoiled bitches of the ton, but obviously she leads a fulfilling life because she has True Friends who love her for who she is. In strolls the equally poorly named Rhys de Winter, the Duke of St. Cyres, (apparently pronounced to rhyme with sincere) who is gorgeous but penniless and is out to snare an heiress.

Suddenly lucky Pru finds herself an heiress! Yep- she inherits a fortune from the father who never married her mother and left before she was born with the stipulation that she marry within one year. Well, duh! St. Cyres is excited because he can now satisfy both his desire for our little heroine and his desire for money. He manages to convince Pru that he loves her but that he has no clue about her recent good luck, despite the fact that EVERY newspaper in London, and apparently the continent as well. The pair become engaged, but of course Pru is destined to find out about his dastardly deception and angst begins. It doesn't take an imagination to answer the question: Will the two manage to work things out in time for a happily ever after?

I was frustrated by the books handling of the inheritance and Pru's own lack of ... brains really. Despite her ability to realize her relatives are taking advantage of her because of her new inheritance, she is completely fooled by St. Cyres. Completely and utterly taken in. And the book plays on the old adage that money is the root of all evil, with said money bringing out the worst in everybody until Pru realizes that it's only the people who loved her before she gained the inheritance who are her true friends. Almost as if we are supposed to feel sorry for Pru. The book featured two, yes only two, steamy scenes which is in my opinion is a deplorably small amount for a book of over 370 pages especially when the two characters seem to have little going for each other except a physical attraction.

The books' main strong point is the demons that haunt St. Cyres. I am so sick of the tortured gentleman haunted by a mistress who didn't love him, a father who sent him off to boarding school, an older brother who took all the credit, etc. They've been overdone, way overdone. St. Cyres' problems are much more interesting, more original, more realistic, more tragic, and unfortunately ultimately dealt with much too easily. The ending is also fulfilling, if not unexpected, and I found myself glad that Pru finally grew a backbone even if it was a backhanded, insignificant way. I was also glad that the character had a full(er) figure and the book mentioned it quite often, and how attracted St. Cyres was to said figure.

Finally Rating:

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Perfect Wife

The Perfect Wife by Victoria Alexander

Sabrina Winfield is the well-behaved, proper widow of Jack, the former Lord Stanford and the two of them had developed quite the reputation for recklessness until he dies while participating in said recklessness. When he died he left her no money and little choice but to turn to smuggling to earn enough money to support her daughter, Belinda. However she gives up her exciting life to ensure that no hint of scandal attaches itself to her daughter. Nicholas, Earl of Wyldewood, is the wealthy widowered father of Eric who quickly falls for Belinda. Nicholas had formerly worked for the crown attempting to capture smugglers but one mysterious lady smuggler had successfully escaped his clutches and haunted him for years.

Now perilously low on funds and with her daughter's marriage to Eric ensured, Sabrina decides to head off to Egypt in search of Napoleon's lost gold. She is possession of a map to said gold because her husband won it in a card came. Nicholas takes it into his head that Sabrina would be a Perfect Wife for him and decides to follow her and then Belinda and Eric, accompanied by Nicholas's spinster sister Wynne, conclude that Nicholas has kidnapped Sabrina and give chase. Eventually Nicholas, Sabrina, Eric, Wynne, and Belinda all join forces with Sabrina's old business partner Captain Jack in search of the gold. The gang is pursued by three of Sabrina's spurned suitors and much funny business in Egypt ensues.

Did you notice how there was almost no mention of anything romantic in my summary? Well, that is because there was very little romance in the book. There was so much plot, much of it far fetched, uninteresting, and poorly written, that it seems there was no space to write any romantic interludes between the two leads. I also cannot understand why either of these characters would be remotely interested in each other. Nicholas is boring and completely misjudges Sabrina, and it is his musjudgement of her character that causes him to fall in love with her. Belinda is the most horrid simpering character I have ever read and all I could think about whenever she was in scene was how badly I wanted Sabrina to slap her. How could I ever like a character who could allow her daughter to turn out so... awful.

There is a surprise twist at the ending that, despite poorly done foreshadowing, was still a complete shock to me and it's always interesting when a writer can do that. The experienced, worldly Captain Jack and the bluestocking Wynne develop a tendre for each other and that is an interesting side plot, although their are enough side plots in this novel to make an entirely different book. What sex there was was not at all interesting and there was far from enough, which was a shame as it could have been the glue that held this stretched thin book together. There was a nice, albeit much too short lived, bout of angst when the issue of Sabrina's past was brought up, but it was far too late to save this book.

I told myself I would reserve 1 star ratings for books I could not get through, but despite getting through this book I have to give it 1 star. I did not find any of the characters, even periphery characters likable, and the two protagonists were probably the worst of the bunch. I hated the plot, the sex, and the writing.