Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Confessions of a Duchess

The Confessions of a Duchess by Nicola Cornick

When the squire of Fortune's Folly is turned down by the town's richest bachelorette he decides to get his revenge by enforcing the dame's tax, a medieval mandate whereby every unmarried lady in the town has to give Lord Montague, the town's squire, half their fortune. This has the dubious effect of making Fortune's Folly the place to be for all the fortune hunters of the town. Dexter Anstruther has been working for the government for the last several years and he is sent by Lord Liverpool to the town to investigate a local businessman he suspects of having had something to do with the fake suicide (it's really a murder) of Sir William Crosby. It is there he once again comes face-t0-face with Laura, the dowager duchess of Cole, with whom he shared one night of passion with 4 years before. He had been 22, she 30, and he was convinced he was in love with her and begged her to run away with him. She turned him down, broke his heart, and after briefly turning to whores, drinking, and gambling, he took control of his life and has been enforcing the law ever since. But one meeting with Laura is enough to threaten the tight reign he has over his emotion and he cannot stop the flood of emotions, memories, and lust that strikes him whenever she is near.

For her part, Laura never meant to break Dexter's heart, but felt that running away with a married duchess would ruin the young man with his whole future ahead of him. When Dexter comes back into town Laura is terrified that the secret that she has kept for over 3 years will come to light and ruin her life. Laura's daughter Harriet, while always accepted as the deceased Duke of Cole's daughter, is in fact Dexter's daughter from that long ago night. On top of this accidents have continually befallen Laura and Dexter begins to wonder if there is someone in Fortune's Folly who wants to hurt Laura. As a possible motive there is Laura's work against the Dame's Tax; she has done everything she, and her two close friends in the town, can think of to thwart Lord Montague's attempts to collect the money. Dexter is determined to romance Lydia Cole, a cousin by marriage of Laura, but he cannot stop thinking about the dowager duchess nor can he keep his hands off of her whenever they are together. When they are caught in a compromising position Dexter makes an offer for Laura that she promptly refuses, but when he discovers the truth of Hattie's parentage he forces her to marry him with the threat that he will reveal the truth to everyone. Dexter is sure that he can keep his unruluy emotions under control and keep their union passionate, yet reasonable and sedate, but this is not an arrangement either of them can live with and it is Dexter who must realize that he wants all of the benefits of marriage.

The most notable part of this book is the way that lust seems to permeate everything. Every thought that Dexter has seems to be about how much he desires Laura and why he should. Even Laura seems to be constantly lustful and thinking about Dexter, although she at least does have other notable pursuits including acting as the highwaywoman Glory who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. This was one of the more awkward parts of the book whenever Glory was mentioned as it kind of seemed as though there had been a previous book in the series, although as far as I can tell this is the first book in The Brides of Fortune series. Laura has other acts of charity as well and the people and she comes across as a genuine person who wants to help others and her charity doesn't seem like a ploy to merely make the character seem "good" (see Stephanie Laurens) or just the only respectable way a widow can think of to keep herself occupied. The other wierd-ish part of the book involves Laura's servants who had worked with her when she was still married and who apparently suffered a nervous breakdown when the new duchess proved too demanding. There are vague allusions to her incessant demands but I can't help but wonder exactly what happened, as there is no allusion to physical abuse, to make two able bodied and minded people become shaky and literally lose a little bit of their mind? They're servants- I would think they were used to handling demands.

The book is beautifully written with a LOT of internal dialogue- in fact internal dialogue propably accounts for well over 1/2 the book with descriptions (which are detailed without being flowery or bogging down the book) and dialogue between characters being the other 1/2. Cornick has a beautiful way with words and I loved several scenes that were just so amazingly well written, especially the parts where Dexter realized that Laura had lied to him all those years ago when she claimed not to have loved him and the part where Laura becomes bogged down in despair when she believes her marriage has no hope for love. Simply amazing and beautiful. This book sets up the sequels perfectly as I cannot wait to read the stories of the other woman of Fortune, especially that of Lydia whose story is hinted at in this one, but not resolved, however she apparently doesn't have her own book in the series- interesting. There was a cool bit of angst on both there parts as Dexter fought of his love for the woman who kept his child hidden from him and as Laura deals with guilt over hiding said child and lying to him about her love. The sex is interesting and very emotion driven instead of lust driven (which makes it odd that Dexter is so intent on claiming that their passion has nothing to do with love) although I found her use of the phrase "make love" to be used even when the term didn't really seem to apply.

Rating: Between two amazing characters and the beautiful writing I had no choice but to love this book. I look forward so much to the other two in the series (reviews coming soon), but the book didn't have everything I look for in a 5 heart book.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Wed Him Before You Bed Him

Wed Him Before You Bed Him by Sabrina Jeffries

Charlotte Page Harris is the successful headmistress of Mrs. Harris's School for Young Ladies which she has spent the last 14 years overseeing to success. A large part of her success has been due to her "Cousin Michael" whom she has never met but has generously rented her the property her school sits on at a generous price. Out of the blue cousin Michael ceases writing to Charlotte just as her next door neighbor is threatening to sell his own property to man who plans to open a racetrack- something that would spell disaster for the school. On top of these problems an old flame has re-entered her life; David Masters, the young man Charlotte had briefly entertained dreams of marriage with before a disastrous mistake left her married to the wrong man and him humiliated. After a brief stay at his family's estate Charlotte and David entered an "agreement" that they would possibly marry but when Charlotte sees David's brother Giles' engaging in sexual activity with a maid she assumes it is David and writes him a scathing letter breaking their agreement off and the letter is accidentally published in the newspaper. Charlotte weds Captain James Harris and David marries Sarah Linley for her money and six months before our story starts she commits suicide because of her gambling debts.

We quickly learn that David is in fact Cousin Michael and he had entered into the property arrangement with Charlotte in order to exact revenge; he wanted her to start her successful school and then be run out by the real property owner Mr. Pritchard. However, 18 years have softened his heart and as time runs out he realizes that he cannot betray the lovely widow and so comes back to try to make things right without revealing his activity in the matter. He fairly quickly manages to convince her that she has been forgiven and to accept his offer to help her work out the problems facing her school. As they spend more and more time together they both begin to realize that the feelings they thought long gone are quickly resurfacing. Both are willing to admit to their feelings and Michael asks her to marry him and although, Charlotte says no as she is scared of giving up her school, David is convinced he can change her mind. Things don't go precisely as planned though when someone anonymously sends word to the magistrate's office that David's wife's suicide note was forged. David is of course the prime suspect and is hesitant about exposing his alibi for the night as he was taking care of "cousin Michael" business. But when the Bow Street runner refuses to quit and then latches on to Charlotte as a possible suspect because of her obvious relationship with David, they are both forced to confront some harsh truths about themselves in order for them to move on together.

I am so glad that Jeffries finally got around to writing about Charlotte Harris and "Cousin Michael," two characters that have been staples of the entire "School for Heiresses" series and whom I have been looking forward to reading about for ages. So right off the bat I am inclined to like our two characters and luckily Jeffries doesn't turn Charlotte into the opposite of the strong, confident, and, yes, controlling woman I had grown to adore. Granted cousin Michael's reveal is a little disconcerting but I guess it would not have made much senseif it had been a random benevolent person who took a liking to a girls school. A big chunk of this book was dedicated to the flashback where the two of them meet as youngsters and bein to fall in love before they are torn apart. I liked the flashback and seeing a young Charlotte, and the scene where the two meet is especially memorable as David decides to act drunk to turn Charlotte off, before he realizes that she's not the stuck-up ugly prig he had been expecting. The flashback also provides the reader with quite a lovely bit of angst and of course we are confronted with a woman who fears that a man she has recently come to love is having an affair with the maid. I would have liked to have been given a scene where Charlotte discovers it was not David, but we are only told of how the reveal was made and Jeffries does a great job explaining the different emotions Charlotte goes through regarding David throughout the entire story.

I am torn about whether I liked the Bow Street runner character- it was nice to have a character who didn't bow and scrape everytime it was revealed there was a peer in the room and a man of the law who wasn't willing to just let the ton sort out their own problems. However, it was also rather annoying having a character who kind of seemed bent on angering the peerage, for no real reason. There was a scene, where certain secrets are revealed, and I could not quite figure out why it was necessary for him to ensure that Charlotte was present at it. I think Jeffries did a great job of giving the reader just enough information about the past, Charlotte's marriage and David and Charlotte's joint past, to keep the reader informed and interested, without making us bored amongst unecessary information. The sex in this book was quite interested and one scene in particular was simply superb: Charlotte accussed David of using sex to control her (which is something that nearly all romance heroes do) and so he lets her control the sex and it is simultaneously HOT, romantic, and literally awesome and I LOVED it. It showed how much he cared for her and how he really was willing to do everything he could to prove he loved her. Also- he referred to masturbation as "boxing the jesuit" and she tells him that he's naughty- it was brilliant and hilarious.

Rating: This long-awaited for novel did not disappoint. Great characters, great suicide/ murder plot, and some great steam. Not quite a five though.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Rose and the Shield

The Rose and the Shield by Sara Bennett

The second book in a duo, The Rose and the Shield takes place in England shortly after the Norman William the Conquerer takes over and tells the story of Lady Rose, who became mistress of Somerford when her elderly husband died. Although she is determined to make Somerford successful and safe while still maintaining control when her village is continually attacked by the merepeople- people who live on the mere- she decides to call in mercenaries. She does not want to bother her overlord, Lord Radulf whose wife Lilly is a friend of Rose's, for fear that he will think her weak and take Somerford away from her. Enter Viking warrior Gunnar Olafson and his gang of rough and tumble fighters who promise protection in exchange for money but make it clear that they go wherever the money is highest. From the beginning the reader is aware that Gunnar has actually been sent by Lord Radulf who intercepted Rose's message to Lord Fitzwilliam, a fierce and bitter enemy of Radulf's who wants to take over in this area of England. Lord Radulf sends Gunnar and his gang to Somerford to keep an eye on Lady Rose, get proof of her treachery with Fitzwilliam, bring it back to Radulf, and then Radulf plans to reward Gunnar by giving him Somerford. Gunnar is getting tired of his mercenary lifestyle and thinks settling down on his own land is just what he needs in his "old" age.

Right away Gunnar is entranced by Lady Rose and finds himself conflicted about his simultaneous desire to protect and possess her and his need to find proof of her deceit so he can take over at Somerford. Rose is being helped by her husbands loyal vassal, Arno, who swore allegiance to Rose at her husband's request as he lay dying. Gunnar immediately senses that something is not right with Arno, but Rose is convinced of his loyalty. When the village is burned to the ground and a dead Norman is found the entire community goes into a panic. The penalty for killing a Norman is death and although no one can figure out what the man was doing in the village on the night it was attacked, Rose knows something must be done. Working for Rose and doing his utmost to protect her Rose begins to fall in love with a man whom she believes she can trust- an important thing for Rose whose father was physically and mentally abusive. And Gunnar begins to fall in love with Rose's compassion for her people, her fierce independence and even the way she has to control everything. But when it is revealed that the dead Norman was a member of Lord Fitzwilliam's garrison the truth about Gunnar's purpose there comes to light, to a degree, and Rose has to learn that there are some people she has misplaced her trust in, and others that she has needs to trust now.

I haven't read any midieval romance novels in quite awhile and I much before Julie Garwood's Norman-era writings and Sara Bennett's regency writings. I got this book from the library because it was one of two Sara Bennett books they had which is definitely a good thing as I would never have picked this book up in the bookstore if I had gotten a look at the cover- it is dreadful and reminds me of those '80's Joanna Lindsey books that featured Fabio and lots of raping going on. The whole bad boy warrior turned into meltingly charming softy with the love of a good beautiful woman is a little overdone and when it comes to reforming a Viking warrior it just seems especially awkward. He's spent his entire life killing people for money, although of course we are informed that he doesn't like to kill women and children, and we're supposed to just accept that he's reformed and really has a good heart. I liked the character Rose quite a bit, but I had a hard time getting over how naive and stupid she could sometimes be. I kind of understand why she didn't go to Radulf, but I really didn't understand her blind support of Arno, even when he was so quick to turn the villager who'd killed the Norman over to Lord Fitzwilliam. It literally took a brick over the head to get her to admit that he wasn't an angel.

One of the things I really like about this book was how both characters were "dominant" human beings who liked to be in control of the world around them. In many cases the male in the book is dominant and even though the heroine is always independent, sassy, and at least thinks she's in control, everyone knows the man is in charge. In this book though both really do seem to be equal partners in the relationship; Gunnar rescues her and helps her quite a bit, but it never really seems as though there isn't even a hint of inequality. There was a decent amount of steam in the book, although none of it was exactly hot and if I had to describe it in two words I would choose forgettable and weird. Seriously. There was a nice amount of angst as Gunnar worried about Rose finding out the truth of his mission and Rose worries about losing control to Gunnar. The book was plenty exciting with a lot of build up to a surprise discovery and a very interesting and intriguing plot over treachery and betrayal and attacks and murders. There was also a side romance involving the miller's daughter and another one of Gunnar's men that I would have LOVED to have gotten a lot more information on as it was pretty interesting.

Rating: It was interesting and I liked the characters and the plot but the whole thing just seemed unremakable and average to me.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Love with the Perfect Scoundrel

Love with the Perfect Scoundrel by Sophia Nash

Grace Sheffey, the widowed Countess of Sheffield, is determined to run away to her childhood home, the Isle of Mann, after being jilted by a fiance in favor of one of her friends- for the second time. When her carriage overturns on the way to York she sends her companion, Mr. John Brown, ahead for help, but soon the cold and her new wound become to much for her and she sets off herself in search of help, convinced that Mr. Brown had become lost. Michael Ranier finds her half frozen hovering under a tree and takes her to Brynlow, the estate he had recently inherited from a friend upon his friends death. At the home Michael and Grace find themselves all but alone as all the servants except a teenage boy have gone to town during the storm, and it is up to Michael and Grace to care for each other. Michael tends to Grace's wound and reveals bits about his past to Grace including his upbringing in an orphanage, but they both realize that he is hiding something from her. Spending time with Grace, tending to her, watching her nurse an orphaned lamb, and attempting to teach her to cook convince Michael that Grace is tender, loving, and good, and that the men who jilted her must be crazy. Grace is terribly proper and her marriage to a much older man did not entirely prepare her for intimacies between men and women and the lust between these two is explosive.

But Michael is a former blacksmith and farmer, not good enough for Grace, so when Grace's two ex-fiance's come for her he does not even attempt to make her stay. So Grace moves back to London and with the help of her friends in the widow's club she is a member of, begins to reinsert herself into the ton. Back at Brynlow Michael quickly gives up on life without Grace and heads to London in the guise of helping out at the Foundling home where he had grown up. As it is the Christmas season Grace, as well as her friends, have taken up with the Spirit of giving and their charity of choice, giving Grace and Michael plenty of opportunities to interact. Both of Grace's former fiances are doing all they can to keep the two of them apart, but a meddling grandma is the only one who seems to see where Grace's relationship with a blacksmith can lead. It is not long before Michael realizes he wants to spend the rest of his life with Grace and this means being truthful with her about his sordid past. Just as it appears the two of them may be able to escape for what Michael did (or didn't do?) in his past, said past catches up with them and it is now Grace's turn to use her new-found sense of independence and trust in her own abilities to make things right.

I understand that we're supposed to understand that her forgiveness of the friends and former fiances who had jilted her is meant to signify that she did not really love those men and that she is really ready to move on and find love ith someone else. However, it still seems just... too much to really believe that she so easily forgives these men and women and it seemed just as odd that the two men had appointed themselves her protectors after what they had done to her. Why is no heroine in a romance novel ever truly bitter? And the two ex-fiances themselves, I could not really understand why they were so dead set against Michael even after they had learned he was not what they had previously believed. He wasn't the one who left her at the alter for her friend! The two of them are supposed to be friends with each other, but it is by far the oddest friendship ever committed to paper. Their interactions are just nonsensical and ridiculous and I wasn't sure if I was supposed to laugh or cringe-I mostly did the later. The author's writing is pretty, but it is pretty in a flowery, overly romantic style that I had difficulty getting used to. In addition I thought the entire "Widow's Club" was just a sad excuse for writing a bunch of books in a series.

The back story given for Michael, while improbable and definitely far fetched, is at least truthful enough to explain why he is so reluctant to trust Grace with his past, why he is so determined to protect Grace from himself, and why he is so nervous about even being in London. This was a nice change from little lordlings whining that daddy doesn't shower them with enough attentions while sending them to ritzy boarding schools. Grace, however, is not so easy to pin down as Michael. While it is understandable that she is intent on proving herself and leading a comfortable life for herself after growing up poor and then being pampered during her brief marriage. Her personality is a little bit more difficult to pin down. Michael just up and falls in love with her because her aura is innocent and pure and good and she looks like an angel, and this was just not something I could really get on board with. The author did a good job of writing about the attraction these two felt for each other and the sex between them, there wasn't a lot of it and very few little "lead in" scenes," were excellent, if a little flowery.

Rating: The book did drag a little and was definitely one of the slower reads in the genre, but it was fun and a good book with well written characters and no side-plot bogging it down. But overall, not exceptionally special in any way.

Friday, August 7, 2009

All Through the Night

All Through the Night by Connie Brockway

After her outwardly saintly husband died while working as a navy captain during the Napoleonic Wars, Anne Wilder sets up a charity to help returned soldiers. She quickly discovers that while everyone is happy to pledge money, very few are actually willing to part with it. She takes to stealing into people's houses and while at first she only takes from those who have reneged on pledges soon she begins hitting people who have flung away or flaunted money without a care for the thousands of soldiers who fought in the war and returned home to an uncaring government. Jack Seward has been put on the case by Knowles, an important behind-the-scenes person in the government, and Jamison, another secret person in the government and believed to be Jack's father. Jamison and Knowles believe that the thief has recently come into possession of a very important letter with the potential to bring down the government when it was hidden in a secret compartment in a chest she stole. But no one knows that the Wrexhall Wraith is a woman and it has become almost a point of honor for the women of the ton to be victimized by the scandalous thief. When Jack and Anne first meet at a ton ball he is immediately drawn to her because of the way she holds herself apart from everyone and he senses that there is some inner pain in her- something that can connect them.

Jack comes so close to catching his thief but she teases him and arouses him until the finely hones skills he possesses to read those around him abandon him. He is convinced that she tricked him and becomes even more convinced that he must catch her at all costs. But the widow Anne Wilder continues to distract him and she panics when she believes that he is spending too much attention on her, making her rethink her relationship with her dead husband, and once again decides to taunt him into refocusing on catching the thief. Jack has narrowed his list of suspects down until he finally discovers that Anne is the Wraith he has long sought. He wants to hate her and knows that she has been lying to him from the first moment they met yet Jack cannot deny the draw that Anne has. When Jamison also discovers that Anne is the thief Jack is determined to protect her from his "father" and his cronies. Anne is terrified at what Jack could possibly uncover that she holds buried inside herself for the marriage that the world had regarded as perfect was in fact a hellhole of broken dreams, unrealistic expectations, and psychiatric torture. Uncovering the layers of hurt Anne suffered at the hands of her over-caring husband also releases the demons in Jack's past that come from lying about his parentage and together they realize that whatever Jamison tries to send their way they can fight.

I know that the synopsis makes this book seems very heavy on the "side-plot" of the thief, but Brockway actually did a very good job of inserting important elements of the romance into the story, even if at the time only one protagonist was present and s/he was just thinking about the other. There was certainly a lot of inner dialogue going on throughout the book as each charcter had a lot of inner struggles to deal with. I found Anne's dead husband problems a little odd, but it was certainly an interesting and new take and I enjoyed watching how Anne went from being completely bogged down from the guilt he instilled in her to the realization that she was not to blame for his death (and the death of the men he commanded) and that he had been the one with the problem. Jack was a little harder to deal with and it's not entirely resolved as to whether he was entirely able to squash his own guilt about taking the place as Jamison's son even though another boy was the true son. And Jack's own actions were amazingly puzzling; the man who claims him as his son, although they both know this isn't the truth, uses him and treats him horribly, refers to him as a "thing" and a creature he created, and yet Jack never rebels in any way until the very end when he is forced to in order to protect Anne. Kind of seems odd for a hero.

Brockway also does an excellent job of explaining that special something that Anne has always attracted people (namely men) to her. So many other authors resort to the heroine being pretty or just chalk it up to a pretty smile, but Anne is a well developed character who people are drawn to because she is her own person, she is self assured, and she is not afraid of herself. This book was very slow though, there was none of the witty dialogue/ banter that I despise when it is done to extreme, but I realize is essential for the "fun" and fast element of romance novels. Brockway is a great writer and certainly has a way with words and she goes into exquisite detail about what our characters are going through, sometime for better, sometime for worse.The side plot was obviously an essential part of the book and it didn't necessarily get in the way but it definitely took over and became the most essential part of the book. The sex was far from plentiful and while hot, some of it had an odd element to it that is hard to put my finger to it. There was a feeling that, while he felt lust for her and wanted her, he was still mad at her and wanted to punish her- although there was no force or anything remotely violent. There was a great amount of non- overwhelming angst but it wasn't exactly angst but more like resignation.

Rating: I liked the book and I loved the characters, but the book just had an overwhelming gloom of depression that, while interesting and new, wasn't exactly what I was looking for in a romance novel.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Secrets of a Perfect Night

Secrets of a Perfect Night

"Scandalous Lord Dere" by Stephanie Laurens
When Adrian, Lord Dere, finds himself lost in a snowstorm he barely manages to make it to the front door of Abigail, Abby, Woolley. Adrian had ruined Abby eight years beforehand, granted at her insistence, and then left to lead his scandalous life in London. Abby had believed Adrian would shortly return for her, but her hopes were crushed a year later when Adrian fought against a marriage their parents had arranged between them. But now Adrian wants to give up his dissolute lifestyle and quickly after reuniting with Abby he realizes that she is the only woman he could ever marry and intends to make her his bride. For reasons Adrian cannot fathom Abby refuses his offer, but cannot resist him when it comes to his skillful lovemaking. He has no idea how much it hurt Abby that he did not want to marry her all those years ago and believes that his actions now should make up for what happened in the past. He slowly and carefully sets out to woo her but his past and reputation in London could end up hurting his chances with her at a crowded ball room where Adrian lays his heart on the line.

Laurens certainly manages to pack a bunch of steam into this 150 page novella, but unfortunately much of it just ends up frustrating and not because of Laurens typical flowery prose. It quickly becomes apparent that everytime Abby voices a concern for their future, or an opinion or idea that differs from Adrian his idea of a solution is to sex her up. When Abby first says no to his marriage proposal- he seduces her, when Abby thinks he is continuing an affair with a mistress he (after briefly briefly briefly trying to explain to her the truth) seduces her. As the longest of the three short stories one would think these characters would have enough time to work out their problems instead of just seducing them away. I liked the little bits of angst between the two of them although I quickly got tired of Adrian's- he was unhappy with his life because all the bored rich ladies of the ton were using him for his sexy prowess and none of them really cared for him as a person. It was more than a tad bit tiring to read about a man sick of being used for sex. And I didn't care for Abby as a person as, despite her sassiness, she is definitely a pushover when it comes to Adrian and lets him off the hook far too easily. Surprisingly enough my least favorite of the three stories.

"The Last Love Letter" by Victoria Alexander

Ten years ago Jason Norcross and Rachel Gresham had been madly and passionately in love with each other, and equally determined to run away to America to marry and escape her domineering father. But Rachel's father interferes in their plans leaving Rachel believing Jason had run off to America without her and Jason believing that Rachel had taken her own life. When Jason's cousin, George, Lord Lyndhurst, offers to marry Rachel she accepts and is determined to move on with her life. After his death he writes the two of them similar, but not identical letters informing each of them of the truth of the matter and letting them know that he regrets the situation and hopes both of them can leave the past behind them and find love again. Their reunion is strained but Jason quickly realizes that his feelings for Rachel have never faded and believes that she feels the same. However Rachel is terrified of trusting Jason again, even though she knows his abandonment wasn't his fault, and fears that the woman she has begun isn't capable of loving Jason the way that she had as a young girl. Determined to win her back and prove that their love has and can continue to endure Jason sets up one perfect night to make up for the one that went awry so many years ago.

The first half of this 120 page novella is chock full of flashbacks and indeed long sequences take place ten years ago as we watch Rachel and James make plans that are then dashed. These flashbacks are more interesting than the parts that take place in the "present" day as the the real-time parts are full of Rachels worries and, while they are definitely worthwhile and something that makes sense for one to be worried about, they do bog and slow down the pace of the novel. Her feelings about the girl she once was vs. the woman she know is were also a little wierd to read about- everyone changes as they grow up but it wasn't like she had become a completely different person; what made Jason fall in love with her was still present. I enjoyed how George, while obviously a flawed character, was far from being the villain and it was clear that both protagonists had deep feelings for him and "forgave" him for his secrecy after he had discovered the truth. The book has a decent amount of steam for one so short including a hot one in a stable and certainly has plenty of wonderful angst, mostly on Rachel's part. I liked the first half better; once Rachel and Jason reunited and he "forced" his way rather ham-handedly into her house I lost a little of my love for the book- still good overall.

"Now and Forever" by Rachel Gibson

Brina McConnell is terrified of attending the ten year reunion of Galliton high school even though she is no longer the short skinny wallflower anxious to fit in, but is now a successful, and sexy, private investigator. Part of her is hoping that she runs into her childhood friend Thomas Mack, whom she briefly dated their senior year before dumping him to go to Winter Prom with Mark Harris the High School Golden boy. She is surprised, and happy for him, when she discovers that Thomas has grown up, filled out, and made his fortune in the software/ computer biz. Both of them find themselves immediately taken in by the people who wouldn't have had anything to do with them back in High School, and despite his hesitancy to have anything to do with Brina, Thomas quickly finds he enjoys her company far more than that of the head cheerleader. When the two of them revisit childhood hangouts they find that they cannot keep their hands off each other which terrifies both of them. After a short lived attempt to pretend neither of them is bothered they give in to their feelings for each other, but a wrench is thrown in when Thomas is unexpectedly called away and Brina begins to worry if they have a chance together. No worries though as Thomas spends the time thinking about how important Brina is to him and how he wants to spend the rest of his life with her.

Their is very little angst on his part about the whole being dumped before prom thing for someone better than me and from her about being so eager to fit in that she hurt her best friend. However there is a good bit of it when Brina is jealous of Thomas spending time with Holly, the aforementioned head cheerleader. After reading this I realized one of the best things about regency romances is that I never read them and cringe at clothing descriptions and the same cannot be said about modern romances. Unfortunately contemporary romances that are more than 5-10 years old inevitably contain cringe worthy clothing descriptions and this was no exception, but something I can live with as I am not exactly fashionable myself. Surprisingly enough this book has the hottest, and yet smallest, amount of steam of the three in the book- Gibson is very good at this. I felt like the book moved a little fast-although they've known each other for years their reunion and falling in love takes about 4 days (plus a few extra while he's out of town) and then he's asking her to marry him (not really a spoiler people). Overall it was really good, but not perfect and certainly better than the first novella.