Monday, January 26, 2009

Married to the Viscount

Married to the Viscount by Sabrina Jeffries

Abigail Mercer first meets Spencer Law, Viscount Ravenswood, when he accompanies his brother to America to investigate the possibility of buying her father's medicine company. The two hit it off but Spence heads home anyway, only to be surprised when Abby shows up at his doorstep, during his brother's engagement party, claiming to be his wife. Nathaniel, Spencer's brother, had tricked Abby into believing Spencer wanted to marry her, and then acting as a proxy for the wedding. He then absconded with her dowry and disappeared after Abby showed up; but not before paying her way to England since she had no money after her father died. Spencer is angry but to avoid a scandal he reaches an agreement with Abby that she will stay and pretend to be his wife until they are able to locate Nat, return her dowry, and then send her back to America where the marriage can be dissolved quietly.

Of course Spencer's well layed plans go awry when he has immense trouble battling his attraction to Abby, whose mother was the daughter of a Seneca chieftan. Spencer insists that he plans to never marry because of his commitment to his job as undersecretary to the Home Secretary of England, but Abby is convinced that the truth is that he believes hse isn't good enough to be a proper English wife for him. Added to this is a gossiping journalist who offers Abby a business deal to sell her father's "medicine" as perfume, which infuriates Spencer who fears it will give Abyy a means to leave. Spencer realies that he cannot live without Abby but he has promised never to marry for reasons which are not revealed until the middle of the middle of the book but does come as quite the surprise. When Nat is finally found, and his motives revealed further awkwardness ensues between Abby and Spencer until both of them are finally willing to accept each other- issues and all.

Abby and Spencer are so much fun- and together they create a whole lot of wonderful angst. He's worried that she will find out his secret and will leave him, he's angsty and upset when she tries to change herself into the perfect English miss and loses her freeness and "American-ness" that made him fall in love with her, and he's angsty when he worries that she will make enough money on her own that she can leave him. She's angsty because she believes he thinks she's not good enough for him, she's angsty that he doesn't trust her to stay with himj after his secret is revealed, and then she's angsty that he doesn't love her enough to change some of his misguided assumptions. And Jeffries does a very good job of delving into these characters motivations and gives a nearly equal time to both of their inner-thoughts (it is a romance novel though so we do get more from Abby obviously).

There is plenty of steam between these two- they spend much of the book fighting off their attraction to each other, but unsurprisingly they they do give in on quite a few occassions. Our heroine grew up with some of her mother's Seneca ideas on love-making so she's not quite the timid miss- although she is an untutored virgin (duh)- and she certainly enjoys "playing" with Spencer. Negative reviews on amazon- there are a few surprisingly- seemed to be concerned with the fact that this was a romance novel. I am not kidding- they called it boring and not what they expected from historical fiction- so a word of warning- This is a romance novel. There is not an extra plot about spying or a national monarch and his mistress- just a story about two people finding love. The complaint that the characters were wooden and too concerned with the issues in their love is completely false as well. The characters were well developed and the issues they were facing did warrant all that (wonderful) angsty.

Rating: I thoroughly enjoyed this book and if it wasn't a library book would definitely be on the very small "keep forever" and re-read (the good parts) over and over.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My Favorite Marquess

My Favorite Marquess by Alexandra Bassett

Violet Treacher, the daughter of a merchant, had to fight tooth-and-nail with her ex-husband's noble family to get them to bequeath her Trembledown Manor in Cornwall. Sebastian Cavenaugh, Marquess of St. Just, is determined to once more make Trembledown a part of the St. Just estates and use it as a base of his operations against smugglers, spies, and French conspirators. When Violet refuses to sell the estate to St. Just and he eggs her on, she heads out to what turns out to be a decrepit building fraught with holes and feral cats, in an area haunting by the dreaded smuggler Robert the Bruce. Turns out the Bruce is merely St. Just in disguise as he goes undercover as a spy to try to uncover the identity of Nero, an Englishman who passed information on to the French during the Napoleonic Wars. Finding his (or her) identity becomes even more important when word reaches our hero that Napoleon has escaped from Elba and the situation in France makes the country ripe for another revolution.

Violet finds herself inordinately attracted to the Bruce after he waylays her carriage and the two spend a passionate, if unfulfilled, night together that Violet cannot completely remember, however she is disgusted with St. Just's arrogance and believes he looks down on her for her merchant back round. St. Just has to fight his jealousy over Violet's suitor, Binkley Jacobs, a neighbors nephew and is worried that either of them could possibly be Nero. St. Just's co-worker rushes over to Cornwall when it becomes obvious that St. Just is letting his feelings for Violet cloud his judgement and he strikes up a little romance with her spinster cousin, Henrietta. Things come to a head at a masquerade ball where St. Just reveals his identity as Robert the Bruce and Violet is naturally disturbed. Eventually she comes to realize that she has the best of both worlds (ugh Hannah Montana reference)- she has Robert the Bruce and the Marquess of St. Just. Perfecto!

This book was hilarious- Violet's dialogue and internal musings are seriously laugh out loud funny. Musings on the ramshackle house, the incompetent staff, and the arogoncy of St. Just make Violet entirely likable, despite her inherent snobbery and completely unapologetic selfishness. I feel like St. Just was nowhere near as well developed as Violet as we definitely get a lot of information on her and a vast majority of the story is told from her point of view. Unfortunately the two of them spend more time arguing, with her not knowing who he really is and him being far too patronizing about it for my taste, than getting steamy together. The best scene occurs 50 pages into the book and even the buildup is to the final completion is almost non-existent. And there is a super awesome masquerade ball where Violet dresses up as Anne Boleyn and to distinguish her character her sister suggests that someone carry an axe and a block around behind her.

There was also a cute little extra romance that was cute and didn't take up too much space, but it did provide some nice little bits of angst. Unfortunately the Sebastian/ Violet plot did not really have too much time for angst as, instead of brooding about what was happening, the two confronted each other and talked about issues. It was definitely different than what I'm used to. And the side plot of spies and smugglers was also nice and didn't take up too much time, although it did provide an avenue for some fun confusion and of course the big discovery at the end which is handled really well with Violet acting exactly as one would expect her to act in the situation. This book has the typical kidnap and rescue resolution at the end, although the book doesn't quite end at that point, but it did have the (incredibly popular) problem of attributing amazing magical powers to the words, "I Love You."

Rating: The most humorous romance novel I've read, a heroine I absolutely loved despite her hateability and a sister team writing together. More steam and more St. Just would have been appreciated.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Perils of Pleasure

The Perils of Pleasure by Julie Anne Long

The notorious Colin Eversea, of the equally notorious Eversea family, has been sentenced to hang for a murder he didn't commit. And someone has hired the widowed Madeleine Greenway to save him from the gallows, which she does. Unfortunately for Maddie she does not know who this person is and he takes into his head to kill her to cover up his involvement. And unfortunately for Colin the one witness to the murder, Mr. Horace Peel, has gone missing. So Colin is hunted by the police and Maddie is hunted by her "employer" and the two set off to solve the mystery of who committed the murder, who attempted the murder, and where our hidden witness is. Along the way the two share stories about their past, spend nights in lofts, meet grave robbers, and of course fall in love.

Our interesting periphery characters include the unscrupulous Crocker who passed the employment information on to Maddie knowing she would wind up dead, Marcus, Colin's brother and the heir to his father's lord, and Louisa, the love of Colin's life and Marcus' fiance. But my favorite would probably be Mary, a maid in the house of a giant's widow, who aids the body snatchers who has the most amazingly written dialogue with Colin and Maddie. Madeleine wants to return Colin to his family for the 200 pound reward they're offering and Colin wants to return in time to stop the wedding. The last two scenes between these two characters are literally heartbreaking and I can not state enough how much I loved these characters.

I have come to the conclusion after reading this book that I can no longer claim to abhor the murder/ mystery side plot in romance novels. Maybe because Ms. Long is just so much better at writing one than anyone I've previously read, maybe because it was the basis for the entire story, maybe because these characters were strong enough not to completely disappear behind an intricate plot. Madeleine is an amazingly likable heroine, realistic and honest, without being stubborn or "sassy." Colin's reputation is adequately explained and he is so supportive of and treats Madeleine well. Watching (reading?) them fall in love was completely realistic and one could tell that these two really did work great together. It really is impossible to simply describe how enjoyable it was to read the interactions between these two. Colin's relationship with Louisa, and Madeleine with her deceased husband, are both adequately addressed while provided just a tad bit of perfect angsty goodness.

I liked these characters so much, my only complaint would be that I didn't get read about them getting sexy more often. There was one sex scene and it was HOT! but then again I might just be a sucker for super-secret, need-to-be-quiet-so-we-keep-our-clothes-on sex. Especially when it's done in the loft they're stowing away in for the night. I can't even complain that there wasn't enough angst about the dead husband or Louisa because, although it was small, it was there and I didn't even want anymore because the rest of the book was so good. So my complaints are, for the most part, not really complaints. Sometimes it did get difficult to keep characters straight, as there are quite a few of them, but the plot was never jumbled or confusing.

Re-reading bits of the book for this review only reaffirmed my belief that this book is truly amazing.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Little Bit Wicked

A Little Bit Wicked by Victoria Alexandra

Judith Chester is a widow who has gained a fair bit of notoriety in London society for engaging in a few trysts since her husband died ten years ago. Gideon Pearsall, Viscount Warton, has recently made a wager with three friends and the winner is to be the last of the four to get married. Gideon is certain he will win this bet due to his past experience with a marriage that lasted less than a day and turned out to be merely a ruse to make the woman's real fiance jealous. When Judith and Gideon give in to the passion they've felt for each other since first encountering each other at a ball, friends and family of both are worried that both of them are getting in over their heads. Gideon's Aunt Louisa does her best to make sure everyone knows how unsuitable Violet is for a wife and Judith's friend Susanna, Lady Dinsmore, warns Judith off Gideon for fear he'll break her heart.

To absolutely no one's surprise the two do begin to develop deeper feelings for each other. These feelings are made all the more complicated when Gideon's former wife (the marriage was annulled) shows up intent to get him back and Gideon has trouble over looking Judith's past indiscretions especially when one of them is a friend of his and continues to have (only) a friendship with Judith. Judith has her own troubled history with love and marriage which complicates things further when Gideon feels ready to admit his feelings. Her marriage, despite outward appearances and everything Judith says publically, was anything but perfect and has made her wary of placing herself in another man's control, showing her feelings, and especially of trusting a jealous man. It takes a lot of trust, and the involvement of numerous friends and family members to get these two to find their happily-ever-after.

I was reluctant to read any more Alexander books after the dreadful "The Perfect Wife," but I was certainly glad I picked this up. Violet was one of the more interesting heroines I've read and I certainly liked how she wasn't the typical grieving widow in all aspects. She wasn't sexless, she'd had decent sex although, of course, she Gideon is by far the best she's ever had and she lets down her guard far more with him than with her previous lovers. And I like how Gideon is portrayed as a (slightly) reformed rake whose had his crazy wild year after he lost the woman he thought he loved, but has settled down to a life of slightly too much booze and women- not a man who hops from bed to bed and then finds the right woman and BAM! settles down right away. I also found the secondary characters enjoyable, from the other wager-ers whose stories I look forward to reading, to Aunt Louisa who is hilarious even if she does follow the stereotype of overbearing older female relations, to the two "villians" of the story. Both Judith's ex-sister-in-law and Gideon's ex-wife are conniving, mean, horrible, and completely understandable.

The dialgoue is some of the best I've readin a romance novels- the conversations are hilarious, sad, angsty, thought-provoking, and a delight to read. There was no crazy side-plot, all we had to focus on was the great romance. And there was a nice little amount of angst, although it's not really dwelled on at all, just kind of taked about and forgotten wiich actually made more sense considering the protagonists and the situations. My complaints about the book are few admittedly; I don't understand why everyone in romance novels seem to assume that when an upper-class women have sexual relations they must fall in love or be totally aloof and and the actual love they both speak of at the end seems to have come out of nowhere. I am not a fan of overly love-provoking heroines or heroes (like showing repeatedly how good they are to children) but I do like to read about the relationship developing, not just have "I love him/ her"'s thrown in seemingly randomly.

Rating: I would probably give this book 3 1/2 hearts, but I don't do that so I'll give it four sinc e it was 100 times better than the last book of hers I reviewed. It was fun, great characters, great dialogue, but didn't really have much relationship development which is of course important.