Friday, May 29, 2009

To Catch an Heiress

To Catch an Heiress by Julia Quinn

Heiress Caroline Trent runs away from her guardian Oliver Prewitt after his plans to get her to marry his son lead his son Percy toward attempted rape. Once outside however she finds herself kidnapped by Blake Ravenscroft who mistakes her for the French spy Carlotta de Leon. Once he brings her back to his estate she decides it would be better to pretend to be Carlotta then to have him send her back to Oliver and Percy. She plays along with his game and Blake is furious to find his mortal enemy so fun, so frustrating, and himself unbearably attracted to her. Until his friend James Riverdale shows up and proclaims that Caroline is indeed not Carlotta. Blake is once against furious that he has messed up and that Caroline never bothered to correct him. His frustration with Caroline will last pretty much the entire book without exception. She has spent nearly her entire life desperate and lonely going from one guardian to another and wants nothing more than to find a happy family and hopes that Blake could be the one. Blake is determined never to love or get married after his former fiance was murdered while on a foolish mission for the war Office.

James and Blake reveal to Caroline that they were looking for Carlotta because they believe Oliver has been involved in smuggling and passing important information to the French for years. So the three begin plans to take down the entire operation which involves Caroline living in secret with Blake for several more weeks. The two get along horribly with Caroling rearranging his garden and his library and his servants all out declaring war against him whenever Caroline is not treated properly. immense amonts of witty banter and sparring ensues until eventually James leaves claiming he can no longer stand it. His sister's unnannnounced visit makes things much more difficult and she declares that either James or Blake will have to marry her. Blake is furious but of course eventually gives in and marries Caroline. Once in the married state she quickly admits to her feelings but Blake holds back for fear as being as weak as he was when he lost Marabelle. Then it is time to take down Oliver's operations and when things go wrong Blake is forced to confront his own feelings and a cute little epilogue lets the readers know we got our happily-ever-after.

So many authors resort to witty banter and sparring to illustrate that our two protagonists can match each other and have fun matching intellects with each other. However, page after page of it quickly got old. The two almost never had a decent conversation that wasn't arguing, not so cleverly disguised as gentle sparring, or arguing about Marabelle and his feelings/ future that wasn't disguised at all. And the Marabelle thing got old quickly. I understand that he's upset and felt that he should have protected his fiance, but she went out afte promising him she wouldn't and died while he was ill. After so many years I didn't feel it necessary for him to swear off love and future happiness because of her. Surprisingly enough though she wasn't portrayed as an awful person- she was the "she would want you to be happy" type. I wanted some sort of angst outside of Marabelle- a family member who didn't like her, a realistic chance that Blake might have lost her to James- anything not a gross relic of past love. I was happy with the way that the smuggling/ spying ring was handled. It was a central part of the story and indeed set up our two protagonists to meet but did not take over everything.

Rating: The book was fun and fast and I liked the characters by themeslves, but none of those made up for the incessant sparring or the lack of hot sex. All in all not very sticking (In truth I may have read this before and not remembered).

Sunday, May 24, 2009


Exposure by Susan Andersen

Emma Sands runs away from her New Orleans home with her baby Grace (Gracie) to escape her former guardian, Grant, whom she has just discovered has been spying on her and her family and possibly killed her brother and husband. She finds herself in the tiny Washington State island of Port Flannerty where she quickly draws the attention of the local sheriff, Elvis Donnelly. Emma is described as a tall busty blond and Elvis is a six-and-a-half foot monster with a jagged scar on one cheek and a prosthesis for one hand courtesy from an explosion when he was a big city cop. Not surprisingly the two are immediately attracted to each other and are increasingly thrown in each other's path. Emma ingratiates herself with the local townspeople by offering an alternative to the local cheating car mechanic, her cute little girl, and her overall good cheer and good will. However, the townspeople are not so fond of Elvis as his scars frighten many.

Her run to Port Flannerty has not put Emma a safe distance away from her enemies however and Gracie goes missing prompting a 4- hour emergency where a conspiracy to make Emma and her friends seem unstable and to make Emma aware that she will never be safe emerges. Elvis appoints himself Emma's guardian and refuses to let her follow her first instinct to flee. Instead he keeps a close eye on her, including some nice hot between the sheets action ensues(although not necessarily between the sheets). It eventually comes to light that Emma has enemies both on and off the island and protecting her becomes more and more difficult as the islanders rally around Emma and their sheriff. Finally Grant plays his hand and it is up to Emma's new friends and the sheriff to save the day. We get a nice satisfying happy ending complete with precocious kid and wedding plans.

This was my first romantic suspense and it was to lead me on a disappointing chase as few romantic suspense novels are as well-written, as fun, and as all around great as this one. Both characters are awesome and so well written. Emma's accept is dead on and Elvis' angst over his "deformities" is clear and comes across as genuine and not just typical hero angst over angry fathers. Both characters have a well developed past that fully explains who they've become to be. I loved the heat between these two- compustible. While there weren't too many steamy scenes the lead up was certainly well done and what little there was was amazing. There wasn't too much angst going on, jsut some anger at each other when he thinks she's running away and when he stops her from escaping from what she perceives as threats.

There is also a fun little side plot with two other islanders, Sam and Claire, a married couple who has had tremendous trouble maintaining their marriage after their son Evan ran off a cliff and died. Brief little scenes follow the couple as they slowly work their way back to some semblance of normalcy. The only annoying thing about this book is Gracie Sands. She's cute, and sometimes so much fun to read about- especially when she's angry at Elvis for taking her mom away from her or using his guilt over it to get stuff from him. However, she speaks like no just-turned 3 year-old I've ever known in my entire life. I worked at a preschool and most of the four-year olds didn't have sentences this coherent. To disguise these grown-up words coming out of such a young mouth the author throws in about 4 different lisps; everything from th,s, f, r, l, and w's. It was a little too cutsey poo for me.

Rating: Loved the book, not necessarily the kid, and I've returned to it over and over - over the past six years. Of course it's a five.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Whisper of Roses

A Whisper of Roses by Teresa Medeiros

The Cameron and MacDonnell clans have been furious enemies for centuries and everyone is shocked when the decaying and moral-less MacDonnell's make a visit to the Cameron clan stronghold. However few are surprised when the MacDonnell leader, Angus, is killed. While no one knows precisely who killed him the Cameron leader, Dougall is quick to offer up restitution. This includes marrying his daughter Sabrina off to Angus' son, and now leader of the MacDonnell clan, Morgan. As young children the two had been intensely, and privately, in love with each other, but pride had prevented their friendship, and love from blooming. Now Sabrina is terrified that Morgan is still the same proud bully he was then and Morgan is worried that Sabrina will always regard him as the uncouth, dirty MacDonnell who ruined her life by taking her away to a crumbling castle and a dieing clan. Despite immense pleading her feather refuses to relent and Sabrina and Morgan are married.

Things do not get off to a rousing start as upon their arrival at the MacDonnell stronghold they are confronte with Morgan's former paramour, Alwyn, in his bed. After a very rocky start with his clansmen, Sabrina sets out to win over her new clan and succeeds admirably with everyone but MacDonnell who holds out until Sabrina runs away in a panic after admitted some of her feelings for her husband. Things begin to look up but then the plot that killed Angus comes to the forefront again and Morgan and Sabrina's happily ever after is seriously threatened by a throw from a horse that leaves her (probably) crippled. Convinced that she can not be a burden to her husband she throws his own fears about his inadequacy in his face and leaves with her father. She heads to London where she turns into a raging bitch and her mom and dad are convinced that Morgan is the only one who can save her from turning into a lonely, bittered old woman. Public spectacles ensue, yelling ensues, and he pushes her until (surprise!) she's no longer crippled!

Both characters spend 380 pages of this book running and hiding from their feelings convinced that to admit their love for the other would mean certian defeat. This was incredibly nerve wracking to read as in most cases we read as the two characters fall in love with each other but instead we are confronted with two characters who love each other and then just shove impossible, sometimes imaginery and annoying, obstacles in their path to true love. It got a little tiring knowing that if either our feisty heroine or our bit strong hero could just have admitted their feelings in the first place the book would never even have started as they would have married as children. This book has more angst than anything I've read outside a Jodi Picoult book. It was amazing at first but after a while I couldn't help but wait for one of them to commit suicide. If life was so awful and you were so worried about your spouse not loving you then... ugh!

The most fun part of this amazingly unfun book was the side romance between Sabrina's self-proclaimed fat cousin Enid and Morgan's incredibly gorgeous cousin Ranald. They're funny, in love, and a great contrast to the angst and drama of Morgan and Sabrina. The sex is steamy but there's very little of it despite the immense sexual attraction they feel as, as always, the two create obstacles to their happiness. I actually started to like this book a little more when I thought their was a chance that we would have a woman wiht a physical disability as our heroine, but of course that couldn't last long as Sabrina was just not walking so she could wallow in her own self-pity. Not to mention: what man would give his daughter away in marriage, even if he believed that they had liked each other as kids, to a man she, and everyone else involved from family members to clansman to the groom himself seemed so dead set against getting married. And of course what ends up happening just leaves everyone feeling guilty and angsty. Enough was enough.

Rating: I got my fill of angst during the marriage preparations and the author did a great job with characters, even if the book did go on too long. I do imagine I'll remember this one for a while.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Confessions of a Little Black Gown

Confessions of a Little Black Gown by Elizabeth Boyle

Confessions of a Little Black Gown is part of the series and apparently in the previous book (which I have not read) Thalia and her cousin, Philippa, rescued a dashing American privateer named Dashwell who had once been a friend of the British, but what with the War of 1812 and all, had turned rogue and warranted arrest and imprisonment. Now Lord Larken (whose first name is not revealed until 25 pages from the end) has been dispatched to the house part being thrown by Thalia sister, Felicity, Duchess of Hollindrake, to flush him out from wherever Philippa and Thalia are hiding him (and it really is fairly easy to guess). He goes in disguise as a cousin of the duke's who just happens to be a vicar, which is disturbing for our heroine as she finds herself incredibly drawn to the supposedly virtuous, bumpling, badly dress, country bumpkin. Due to some craziness on Felicity's part, Thalia's luggage had been lost and when the wrong trunk was returned to her she opened it to discover a seductive, and completely inappropriate, black widow's gown.

Our resourceful heroine knows from pretty much the beginning that the "vicar" is hiding his true identity, but she is unsure what that is until other, less important (amost ridiculously unimportant as to be a space waster) bring up the fact that Temple or Pymm (who probably were real leaders of England's spies as they appear in millions of romances) have sent someone to the house to root out Dashwell. Meanwhile Larken begins to wonder if the legendary "Order of the Black Lilly," a centuries old French ring (spies/ plotters/ courtesans) of woman who most don't believe exist, has something to do with Dashwell when he notices something (long story, rather boring sideplot). Larken knows they exist because they are at the root of his father's supposed treason and eventual death. When Thalia discovers that Larkin's mission is to not arrest, but kill, his one time close friend, she wonders if the two of them could ever have a future, but is still drawn to the idea of finding her own adventurer. Her cousin Philippa is madly in love with Dashwell, a love that is supposedly returned, and their's is a nice little sideplot, that provides the only slight glimmer of real angst in the book. So of course their is a big confrontation in the end, that does have a nice little surprise twist, but for the most part it follows by the book (including a chapter ending gunshot that we supposedly do not know who it hit). Their kissy-kissy ending is short, un-angsty, but ends nicely (with no Felicity in sight).

Most authors want to encourage their readers to read the other books in the series (and this is a part of a series) but I have to say that after reading this I have absolutely no desire to read the previous book in this series, Love Letters from a Duke. Despite the fact that much of the background for this book apparently took place in the previous book, Felicity comes across as such an awful person I plan to avoid even the next book in the series for fear of having to read about her bossiness, her meddling, and her all around general un-likability. Apparently Thalia loves her sister, as evidenced by the fact that she has not strangled her, but for the life of me I can not figure out why. Perhaps we are given reasons in Love Letters but I do not care to find out. A brief glimpse of her not being awful is given at the very end- but still a remarkably unlikable character. This is quite a shame as it is incredibly obvious that so much of what happens in this book was really set up in the previous book and we just fill in the holes. But the author does plan to continue Dashwell and Philippa's story is going to continue in a further addition to the series Memoires of a Scandalous Red Dress.

The author seemed as if she was trying to create angst, at least in the scene where Thalia is determined to "break up" with Larkin after their late night tryst, but it just comes across as pathetic, confussing, and altogether un-angsty. The only angst occurs in the side-plot of Philippa and Dashwell and even that is rather rushed. Their are precisely two scenes and while they were "good" they were definitely not "hot" as they just seemed to be missing something: maybe the lead in wasn't good enough and the characters just didn't seem to be that into each other. Lastly- this story takes place over 2, maybe 3 days! The characters meet, rescue a wrongly accused privateer, bring down the Order of the Black Lillies, and fall in love in 3 days! And the black gown the book is named for appears once- on the first night the two of them meet and while a fun little garden tryst does occur, their definitely could have been a little more steam and a little bit more actual wearing of the title "character." I didn't even really remember reading much about them falling in love or learning to like each other because the crazy Dashwell/ Black Lilly (side-plot) was just too overwelming and just covered everything else. But the cover is certainly very well done.

Rating: This was a mediocre spy novel and a terrible romance novel. Oddly enough I look forward to reading Red Dress in the hopes that there's far less spying and much more loving.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Tempted All Night

Tempted All Night by Liz Carlyle

Pheadra Northampton has been a little too proper for as far back as anyone can remember and Tristan Talbo, Lord Avoncliffe, has been far too improper for as far back as anyone can remember. When a brothel employee Pheadra has asked for help in finding her niece's mother turns up dead Tristan's father asks him to investigate as the brothel owner is a Russian madame suspected of blackmailing and spying on members of the ton. Tristan and Pheadra are immediately and strongly attracted to each other. Pheadra's investigation of where Millie, her niece's mother, has disappeared to lead her to the same brothel Tristan is investigating and he becomes terrified that she will end up hurt as this particular brothel is known for peddling "deviant" sex (including unwilling victims).

Needless to say Tristan is determined that Pheadra will not embark on this investigation on her own, due to the danger of dealing with a woman obviously capable of using force. He offers to take over the investigation for her, but when things don't go as speedily as Pheadra wanted she confronts him and the two end up in bed. And Pheadra's sexual tastes are not the average virginal tastes that Tristan had been expected. Which is where we learn Pheadra's secret, which is just as bad as it could be, but is not really a surprise given some allusions to it in previous chapters. Eventually Tristan manages to weasel his way into the brothel and Pheadra insists on accompanying him. What follows is approximately 4 chapters of resolving the issues- a far cry from the usual 4-5 pages. Angst ensues, but we can all guess how the book ends. ;)

The sex in this was STEAMY. Crazy steamy really. It involved a lot of bondage- and not necessarily just the tie his/her hands to the bed, but it got pretty creative and did extend into talk of how Pheadra "needed" to be controlled. The excuse for this was that her sexuality was "too much" and "overwhelming" and so she needed someone to take it out of her hands. It was a little- odd but at least towards the end of the book we get glimpses of both of them being tied up and not just Pheadra, as she becomes more accepting of her sexuality. A review on amazing derides the S&M in the book- for the record; there is no sadism and there is no masochism. Neither likes to be hurt, neither likes to inflict pain- it is just bondage with talk of needing to be controlled- even though very little control is ever really exerted. I thought the book did a good job of contrasting Pheadra's (and Tristan's) sexual tastes from those of the brothe's clients, who really were into S&M, and making consensual kink acceptable.

Tristan's relationship with his father can best be described as shaky and at worst outright hostile and their relationship is never really resolved before his father's death. Not exactly typical for romances where issues/ problems are usually resolved (oftentimes in a brief paragraph) within the last two chapters. It definitely seemed more realistic this way. I was hoping there would be a little more angst- Pheadra's friend, Zoe, recommends that she try to make him jealous when she believes he's cheating on her, but alas that was a no go. There isn't even a good little bit of angst at the end of book when circumstances would make some great angst very probable. Carlyle does a great job of referring back to her old novels (including My False Heart which I loved) in a way that makes the reader really want to read them but not shake her head in annoyance that one has to be constantly reminded that everyone in romance novels live happily ever after.

Rating: The book was interesting, fun, filled with great characters, and steamy to boot. Unfortunately it didn't really have all the bang of a five- heart book.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Tempted by His Kiss

Tempted by His Kiss by Tracy Anne Warren

While traveling to her aunt's house in Scotland Margaret Amberley finds herself seeking shelter from a crazy snow storm at the home of Lord Cade Byron. Meg's father has just died leaving her orphaned at nineteen and Lord Cade has spent the last several months moping and drinking at his Northumberland estate in an attempt to forget the horrors of his time in Portugal where he (and his fiance) were tortured by the French. The attraction between the two is obvious but both are scared to act; her being an innocent and him being "tortured" by the ghost of his dead fiance who was only killed because of her connection to him. Before Meg has time to leave after the storm abates a nosy neighbor discovers her and Cade hatches a plan where Meg pretends to be his fiance to save her reputation. The ultimate plan is for her to have a season in London, meet a man she can really marry and then leave him gracefully with no hard feelings.

Things don't go quite as planned in London as the two of them battle their attraction to each other. Cade is determined he will not ruin Meg and she is determined she will not fall in love with him. But when Cade becomes convinced that the man who betrayed him in Portugal is none but the hero of the hour and everyone's favorite soldier, Lord Everett, both of them are put in danger when no one believes Cade's seemingly far-fetched story. As the two become more and more entwined, both physically and lurve-ly, Meg takes it upon herself to spy on Everett, which infuriates Cade. The finally confrontation scene is a little far-fetched and the resolution is resolved rather quickly and crazily, involving double and triple decieving and general romance novel wrap it up in a scene-ness. Unfortunately the two still need to deal with their feelings for each other and that is not resolved in our confrontation scene but in a later, angsty little chase.

The first thing I noticed about the book was the way the two characters met; seeking shelter from a storm just seems so crazy, so unrealistic, and oddly enough overdone in romance novels. I would think with something so unlikely it would only occur once or twice, but it does seem to be a staple way of throwing two people together who otherwise wouldn not have made. However, the two characters made up for it; Meg is young and naive, but not irritatingly so, and Cade is haunted by his past, but at least it's not some of the ridiculous nonsense that some romance novel heroes are haunted by. Their feelings are real and they develop in a completely realistic and well-written manner and the sex is hot-tish (not woah steamy or anything) and (almost) frequent enough. The side-plot of Everett only makes it's appearance halfway through and it appears infrequently, but importantly throughout the rest of the book. It was well done, except for the big plop of resolution at the end, and a nice little way to draw the two together and force them to acknowledge their feelings for each other. Not at all overwhelming.

Like all romance novels this one has it's share of awkward and laugh- inducing internal dialogue, but for the first time I had to actually copy one here because of it's sheer insanity; "This limbo in which I am living preys upon my mind and stabs at my heart." I was somewhat disappointed by the amount of angst in the book, especially since we are teased with little snippets of it when Cade becomes jealous of Meg's suitors and she expresses (internal) jealousy over his dead fiance. I expected her brother (who is in on the plan) to force his brother's hand by fake-courting Meg and that would have been brilliantly angsty, but alas- no go. There was a nice little induendo of him possibly masturbating midway through, but it is difficult to tell if it was accidental or purposeful. Still kind of fun though. His relatives make frequent appearances seeing as how the two of them are living in his (brother's) house for much of the book and it becomes obvious midway through that the author is getting us ready for sequels.

Rating: It was rather slow going, and an unimaginative plot that was jammed up there at the end, but it had good characters, a real romance, and a side-plot that didn't ruin the novel.