Monday, November 30, 2009

The Scandals of an Innocent

The Scandals of an Innocent by Nicola Cornick

The Scandals of an Innocent is the second in "The Brides of Fortune" series and the same back round applies so I recommend reading at least some of my review of The Confessions of a Duchess. Alice Lister is a former serving maid whose eccentric employer left her 80,000 pounds after her death so Alice is prime hunting material for all the fortune hunters who have flocked to Fortune's Folly. Lord Miles Vickerey was intent on wedding her to pay of his enormous debts, and after Alice had begun to fall for him he quickly dropped her to pursue a wealthier heiress. When that doesn't pan out he runs off to London and takes up with a courtesan, but is sent back to Fortune's Foley to pursue the escaped criminal Tom Fortune. Since he recently inherited the Marquis-ship of Drum he is faced with even more debts and decides to renew his courtship of Ms. Lister and he has a trick up his sleeve. He threatens to expose her late night thievery of a wedding dress if she does not agree to his marriage and left with the threat of leaving her mother and her friend Lydia Cole, who is unmarried and pregnant, she agrees.

However, her inheritance is not without stipulations and Miles must prove himself honest and upstanding in all his dealings for three months in order for Alice to inherit the money. Alice is convinced he will never survive, but Miles is equally determined to get his hands on the money. The two announce their engagement, to the delight of Alice's mother and the horror of Miles' and Alice's lawyers come up to Fortune to take stock of how "honest" Miles really is. And surprisingly enough Miles does begin to change in very subtle ways even as he attempts to convince himself that he is only doing it to fool the lawyers. Unfortunately his act is very convincing and despite her determination not to, Alice finds herself beginning to fall in love with this new and improved Miles' once again even while she warns herself that he will do nothing but break her heart. It seems that he is indeed once again destined to break her heart, but maybe he will instead end up saving her from the real villains of Fortune who eluded capture by pinning their crimes on Tom Fortune, but will now do anything to stop their identity from being revealed.

I can not think of a single hero who started a book so absolutely unlikable and remained so for quite so long. He left her for a woman with more money and freely admits to wanting Alice purely for her money, and although he is attracted to her and lusts after her, the money is far more important. The blackmail scene made him almost unforgivable as he just kept pushing and pushing her and it was painful to read as he had such an upper hand over her and she had literally nothing to keep herself from falling for his plot. I kept waiting and waiting, and while his feelings for her certainly did begin to grow beyond lust and greed, it was slow and it seemed that, for well over half the novel, he was just as bad as he allowed Alice to believe. While Dexter in "The Confessions of a Duchess" had his mean moments, it wasn't this all pervasive and it was clear throughout it all that he loved her and was just striking out at her for her "betrayal" of him. This is definitely not the case in "Scandal." It got so bad that around the time where his mistress enters the picture I had to put the book down for awhile and read something else. Even though I know he didn't invite her to the event it just seemed like it was one time too many where Alice was just forced face to face with Miles' disrespect for her (as he had taken the mistress after throwing her over).

Miles' awfulness is what made Alice, who had appeared so likable and level headed, not to mention quite an amazing friend, so utterly unlikable in this book. She knew the whole time she was falling in love with how awful Miles' was and she STILL fell in love with him. I really just did not understand that. Or how she could give up her virginity to him minutes after being confronted by said mistress and being told that he had very seriously contemplated sleeping with a maidservant from the village. Some of my favorite parts of the book were reserved for the characters other than Miles and Alice. I was glad we got to learn more about what was happening in Lydia Cole's life after Tom Fortune had impregnated and abandoned her. There was also a very brief side romance between Alice's lawyer, Gaines, and Miles' sister, Celia that was very cute and made Celia seem like a heroine far more worthy of a novel than Alice. The ending was quite shocking as not only had I not suspected the real villains of the crime, I didn't even know the identity of the villain was up for grabs! So kudos for quite the little shocker there.

Rating: The book had its' moments, even some between Miles' and Alice, but Miles' behavior and downright awfulness overshadowed the book.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Wicked Lord at the Wedding

A Wicked Lord at the Wedding by Jillian Hunter

Six years before our story officially begins Eleanor Prescott was accompanying her father as he doctored to the wounded British soldiers in Spain. While in Spain she attracted the attention of the very handsome and impulse Baron, Sebastian Boscastle. The two briefly courted and fell madly in love with each other and he asked her to marry him. Unfortunately before the wedding he was gravely wounded in a battle and he never completely recovered. His mental instability lead to a disastrous wedding and he abandoned her on her wedding night to go off back to war. The next three years were followed by infrequent and short visits while the following three years were filled with complete estrangement. Sebastian returns to his wife after learning that she is the Mayfair Masquer, a masked man who has been sneaking into women's bedchambers and, depending on who you ask, doing quite inappropriate things with them. He is determined to win back his wife and bring her back in line. The two enter into an agreement that he will aid her in her quest, but Eleanor is not competely trusting of her estranged husband.

In an attempt to gain a sense of adventure in her life, since her husband is off doing exciting war detail assignments, Eleanor is recruited by the Duchess of Wellington to become an operative in her little spyring. Eleanor's mission is to capture a series of letters that have been written to various women in England. These letters are supposedly written by a woman claiming to be the Duke's mistress and the Duchess fears what would happen if the contents were released to the public. The capture of these letters becomes a contest between Eleanor and Sebastian as they struggle to best each other while at the same time quickly falling back into their roles as husband and wife. Sebastian becomes increasingly concerned for Eleanor's safety after she is caught trying to steal letters by an infamous courtesan and evidence soon comes out that the plot against Wellington may in fact endanger his son. Sebastian is determined to do his duty to England and to keep his wife safe, and in the process he manages to stop the entire plot and win his wife's love- for good.

If my summary seems oddly detached it is merely a byproduct of the writing in the novel itself. Something about this book completely prevented me from feeling the story from either Sebastian or Eleanor's perspective. It seemed more like typing than writing to me and seemed, for lack of a better phrase, rather emotionless. A generous amount of time is given to Sebastian's point of view, which I appreciated as many novels don't give adequate space to the hero's POV, I feel that this might have contributed to the problem. I will admit there were nice bits where Eleanor reflected on how she would ever get back to trusting Sebastian again, or Sebastian wondering how he could manage to repair his broken marriage, but the incredibly odd spy/ masquer plot utterly overwhelmed any semblance of the romance this book (supposedly) contained. Another contributing factor may have been the fact that most of their actual "falling in love" occured before the meet of the story and the story was really about them reconnecting- as they worked to find those letters.

The side plot was a whole 'nother problem. I found it completely ridiculous. I was supposed to be excited about some stupid letters a mad woman had supposedly written to a bunch of other women about a supposed affair with the Duke of Wellington. Even though these letters were false I was supposed to be completely involved in a plot to discreetly get rid of these letters to ensure that the contents of the letters didn't become public knowledge. Even after the horrible plot against the two young boys was unconvered (90% through the book making it even more ridiculous) I could not for the life of me bring myself to care on whit about these letters. This was unfortunate as these letters, the capture of these letters, and talking about these letters consumed the vast majority of this book and the vast majority of the time Sebastian and Eleanor spent together. And I could not understand the drama surrounding this plot- literally five trustworthy people knew Eleanor was the masquer so I couldn't figure out why everyone feared the mob would come to her house to arrest her. And despite some mighty sexy banter there was very little follow through and what little there was, wasn't very good.

Rating: A far from satisfying read with a terrible sight plot, undeveloped characters I couldn't care about, and next to no steam. However, it was fast and, at very rare times, a little interesting. And of course it was still better than "The Perfect Wife."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Seduced by His Touch

Seduced by His Touch by Tracy Anne Warren

Seduced by His Touch is a very loose sequel to Tempted by His Kiss and follows the story of Cade's brother, Lord John Byron. Despite his previous luck at the card table Jack finds himself at the losing end of a 100,000 pound pot to Ezra Danvers. Danvers offers Jack a deal; marry my daughter and not only will he erase that 100,000 he'll throw in an additional 120,000. The only catch is that Grace Danvers is a 25-year old near spinster giant with red hair and a penchant for frequenting lectures on flowers. Danvers warns Jack that Grace can never know about their agreement and that Jack must make Grace fall in love with him or she won't agree to marry him. Jack immediately sets about following Grace to her favorite haunts and making himself very well known to her. Grace is startled and a bit wary when the brother of a duke starts paying so much attention to her, but is quick to recognize that Jack is not your typical nob. Their courtship takes its time and Grace falls in love with Jack as he makes her forget her insecurities about her station in life and her looks. Their first love scene takes place while Grace if just a tad bit inebriated and he asks her to marry him.

Grace spends the majority of their courtship ecstatic and extremely excited about spending the rest of her life with a man she is head-over-heels in love with, and whom she hopes is falling in love with her. Her hopes are dashed when she sneaks into Jack's room for a surprise and stumbles across his agreement with her father. Immediately she feels like a fool for ever believing that a man like Jack could ever love her and regrets having told him that she loves him. She agrees to continue with the marriage but makes him promise to buy her a house she can live in after an appropriate amount of time has passed. Jack agrees, but is fairly confident that he can change her mind. For the beginning of their marriage Grace manages to hold onto her icy facade but it isn't long before she finds herself succumbing to Jack's advances in the bedroom (and out!). When Jack acknowledges that this half of a marriage is not working for him and he wants everything he had with her beforehand again, Grace worries about placing her trust in someone who has betrayed her once before.

I really enjoyed Warren's writing style in this story. There was a lot of emotion in this story and she did a superb job of getting it all down without becoming maudlin or slow as it seems emotions in romance novels so often do. And boy are there some great emotions! Grace as a the excited bride to be was so much fun and I was so drawn into her happiness I was dreading the (inevitable) moment she would discover the truth behind Jack's courtship. But Grace as the betrayed lover/wife was just as fun as I read about her struggling to keep Jack out of her heart because she was so scared of being vulnerable and getting hurt again. My other favorite part about Grace was the way she dealt with becoming a new member of the ton: by admitting that she needed help and receiving assistance from her new husband's family. So much better than reading about her struggling and being ridiculed; there was quite enough angst in this book as it was. Jack's emotions are not quite as easy to decipher as Grace's as Warren doesn't spend quite as much time on his but what little there is (I would have liked more) was just as well written as the rest of the book.

I feel like I've read this plot before so it is far from the most original story line, but I tend not to mind as long as the author does some new things with some great new characters. Grace and Jack aren't exactly new: the gorgeous heroine who is still insecure about her looks, and the redeemable rake who made a bad call at the card table. I'm not sure what she could have added to make them a little more fresh (aside from the red hair which I do like) but they are a little too familiar. I spent the first half of the book extremely glad that this hadn't turned into a love fest between Grace and Jack's family and a refresher on how great our protagonists from "Tempted" were doing, but unfortunately about 1/2 way through his family, and our former friends, start showing up a bit too much for my taste. I am still unsure how I felt about the sex in the book as it was both plentiful and plenty steamy but I had an issue with the way that after the marriage it was seen as her "surrendering to him."

Rating: there were definitely elements of this book that I completely loved, but I would not classify it as anything particularly special or memorable. Except for the angst which was superb and very very juicy. Still- a fun and well-written read.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Devil in My Bed

Devil in my Bed by Celeste Bradley

Aidan de Quincy had fallen in madly in love with Madeleine Chandler and was crushed when his marriage proposal was brutally rejected. He swore never to see her again but when a three-year old girl shows up outside his club claiming one of the members is her father Aidan has to find Madeleine in order to discover if young Melody is his. Madeleine had turned Aidan down because of her very secretive past: she faked her death to escape an abusive and controlling husband and swore never to marry again. The child is not hers but when Aidan comes calling she is desperate to escape her husband's crony and she claims the child is hers. The ruse continues when she moves into Aidan's club and shares a room with both him and Melody. It is not long before the sparks begin to fly between Aidan and Madeleine the two quickly resume where they left out. Aidan is wary of trusting her again but he is smitten by this new "family" of his and can't help but begin planning for their future together.

Realizing that things are quickly spiraling out of control and that the secrets will just continue to pile up between them Madeleine knows it's time to tell Aidan the truth and things do not go well. Aidan is crushed that she is not free to marry him and seems to completely miss the whole abusive husband aspect of her story and kicks her out. Once outside she is quickly kidnapped by her husband who holds her hostage in the attic of the club. He is quite the crazy and gets off on the idea of watching (through a peep hold) as she starves to death. When Aidan and his friend Colin realize that something is not right with Madeleine's disappearance all the club members and staff pitch in to find her and bring the bad guy to justice. What ensues is confusing and chaotic and I can't really figure out what happened, but to no one's surprise everything turns out fine, even if it would have turned out fine quite a bit earlier if Madeleine had not HAD to open her mouth and play the noble heroine.

Why can't anyone in a romance novel just take the easy route? Why couldn't Madeleine, when everything seemed as though it was going to be settled and end perfectly for everyone, have to go and open her mouth? I just don't understand why it was necessary for her to explain everything to everyone. She needed to explain it to Aidan, and us of course, but she had to have known that the constable would be within his rights to throw her in jail for her role in the whole fiasco. Why did she have to be "noble" and tell the truth? Was it really noble for her to risk getting her ass thrown in the slammer and in the process abandon Aidan and Melody? No. Stupid, stupid, stupid. As I mentioned earlier the whole rescue plot was very confusing and I couldn't figure out what window which person was hanging out of and who was aiming a gun at who, who was kidnapped by whom and why. And it was quite amazingly far-fetched with guns, kidnaps, window ledges, suicides/ murders, literally everything crammed into one book.

The whole thing also could have been over quicker if Madeleine had told Aidan the truth earlier, say when they first met, or if Aidan had not been such an ass when she was trying to tell him that she'd had an abusive husband. What kind of person throws a woman out of his life as she's telling him about a husband who used to beat her? So I was disinclined to feel that bad that she'd lied to him. The kidnap/ crazy husband plot took the greater part of the second half of the book and got a tad overwhelming as it was confusing (have I mentioned that?) and in a 320 page book was quite the page taker. I was interesting to say the least, but I would have liked more romantic development between Aidan and Madeleine. Melody was a very well written 3 year old, if a tad bit more eloquent than many of my acquaintance. Normally I wouldn't complain about book length, but in a 326 page book with large-ish type, it just seemed like there was not really all that much of a book- maybe because the characters didn't really go through the meeting each other part.

Rating: A semi- enjoyable-ish book, but, despite the short length and the fast pace, I couldn't bring myself to care about the characters or the kidnap plot.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Surrender of a Siren

Surrender of a Siren by Tessa Dare

At the end of "Goddess of the Hunt" we learn that Lady Sophia Hathaway has abandoned her sedate life and her fiance, Toby, to find adventure and Surrender picks up with Sophia bargaining her way onto Mr. Grayson's, ship bound for Tortola where she has struck up a correspondence with Lucy's cousins on the island. Giving a false name and claiming to be a governess Gray knows that everything isn't all as it appears with his new passenger but that doesn't stop him from being immediately charmed, among other things, with Ms. Jane Turner. But recognizing her innocence in the ways of the world he is determined to stay away from her and does all he can, including being incredibly blunt/ mean, but Sophia knows that this could be her chance at passion. Seeing as how she ran away from England to escape a passionless union with a man who couldn't see past her virture and purity, she takes things into her own hands to seduce Gray. While doing so she ingratiates herself with his crew by composing beautiful pictures of the sea and portraits for each of them.

Gray is also distracted by his brother Joss who is Captain of the ship Sophia and Gray travel on as Joss is still bitter over several "betrayals" Gray pereptrated against him, how overprotective Gray is and the death of his wife. When Gray learns that Sophia has lied to him more than he expected he is furious but that can't stop him from desiring her. When his crew commandeers a burning ship and places the incompetent captain in the brig he takes her aboard the new ship where he realizes that her lies don't matter and that it's only important that they spend the rest of their lives together. However, Sophia is terrified that when he learns the truth about her he will have no choice but to abandon her. Gray is determined that his sister Bell be given a grand London season but having a completely ruined and ostracized sister-in-law will not stand Bell in good stead. When the two ships land in Tortola everyone is arrested as the 2nd ship's captain has pressed piracy charges and Sophia tells Gray that they have no future even as she plots to save him from a hanging. Said pirate charges and the ensuing drama is the most fun part of the book, but Sophia is still worried that perhaps Gray won't love her once he discovers the truth.

It seems as though Sophia left one man because he couldn't see past her purity, virture, beauty and downright lady-ness for someone who is just as entranced by all those things. Although he briefly is a little freaked out by her virginity he quickly gets over it and into the "you're mine and only mine" stage. The only difference between Gray and Toby is that Gray doesn't stop, as Toby did, but continues on in the seduction. I wouldn't necessarily say that makes Gray better, especially seeing as how Toby planned on marrying her from the beginning and Gray has no such intentions until the end. Sophia has a talent though as she is an exceptionally talented artist and of course our hero is entranced by said talent and the way her drawings "captured the boy Davy was and the man he would become." I do not even understand what that means- literally it just sounds ridiculous. Not being an artist myself a painting is a painting and while movement can be portrayed in a painting his reaction just seems crazy.

This book was much much slower going than "Goddess of the Hunt" and many of the problems other saw in that book I found present here. If Lucy was somewhat of a risk-taker/ denyer of reality than Sophia takes the cake. She laughs after almost being dragged into shark infested waters, she continually teases and flirts with Gray even after he has repeatedly told her he doesn't want her, and she literally waits until the last possible second to tell him the truth when it would have served everyone better if she'd just done it when they admitted their love! As with Goddess this book is extremely hot, even more so than Goddess really with some lovely lovely little bits in there, but all the angst in it is just plain annoying. All the angst and so many of the problems in this book just arise from Sophia being too scared to tell the truth even when she should know that she can. And he gets angry because when she illustrates her very risque novel she uses his likeness for the gentleman! It was just too much for me. Even if the great courtroom pirate scenes were so much fun the book just didn't do it for me.

Rating: So much potential with such great characters behaving so stupidly. It was between a 2 and 3 and I'll give it 3 because, despite my rantings above, the book was not horrible, just had so much misplaced potential.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

My Wicked Marquess

My Wicked Marquess by Gaelen Foley

When Max, the Marquess of Rotherstone, returns from France after Napoleon's defeat he is determined to find himself a respectable wife. His reputation is in tatters as he is a member of the notorious Inferno Club which is presented to the public as a club for dissolute rakes. What nobody knows is that the Inferno Club is in fact a cover for the The Order, a powerful organization that has spent the last century trying to keep the "Prometheus Council" from taking control of the world. When presented with a list of possible suitors Daphne Starling immediately stands out to him as the Patron Saint of Newcomers. The feeling intensifies when he meets her and finds her beautiful and possessing a quality that draws him to her. He wants to bring that light and happiness into his own life and he knows that only Daphne can prevent the darkness from overtaking him. For her part Daphne is drawn to the dark, mysterious and incredibly handsome Marquess, but does not like the way he attempts to take control of everything; including her.

When Max repeatedly refuses to be completely honest with her she breaks everything off with Max. Since his childhood when his father sold him to the organization, knowing full well that his son could be killed, Max has tremendous issues regarding trust and love, but he realizes that he will have to take a chance with Daphne. When he finally announces his feelings for her she reciprocates and the two get married. Just as things begin looking very favorable for the happy couple, fate intervenes and Daphne discovers that Max has been hiding something from her. She is determined to get the truth from Max and he is equally determined to keep it from her- for her own safety. One Max's fellow Order members, who had been (believed to be) killed by the Prometheans, shows up in London and no one is sure if he has gone rogue or transferred allegiances. This debacle forces Max to make a final choice over where his allegiance truly lies: with the beautiful new wife with whom his future lies or with The Order who held sway over his past.

I have always found the heroine who just magically "draws" the hero to her with her beautiful smile to be rather silly and more than a little unbelievable. Foley manages to pull of this feat admirably well as we get a beautiful inner monologue from Max detailing exactly how he is drawn to Daphne; he sees her as a relief from his dark life and her smile makes him feel like a hero. It was simply amazing to read. I was quite surprised by how drawn into the Promethean/ Order plot I was and while the book does set the reader up for the next book in the series as a romance novel (and boy is that quite a set-up: it's a kidnap plot) I also want to read it to find out where this Promethean/ Drake/ Inferno Club plot goes. The big information dump about the history of the two organizations was a tad overwhelming, not to mention a conspiracy theorists wet dream, but still entirely engrossing. I loved both Daphne and Max. Daphne was genuine and confident in herself and Max was brooding and mysterious (but with quite an adequate reason) and was looking for the woman who could bring happiness back into his life.

I loved her writing style for the most part and she has quite the way with words, but there were definitely times when she was more than a little too descriptive for my tastes. I don't mind it for clothing, but for food and furnishing I was more than a little bored even though I know some people might like that. My other problem was with her interchangeable use of names and titles for Max's friends in The Order to the point where I was left with sometimes little idea with who was being talked about. There were quite a few steamy scenes and although some of them were a little abrupt several of them were incredibly HOT, such as when Daphne takes control and "seduces" her husband, and very emotion drive as the two of them take comfort from each other and the sex is really an expression of the love and trust they feel for each other. There is one occasion where he uses sex to manipulate her feelings, and while it did not bother me overly as she quickly realized what he had been up to, I know others really dislike this romance staple.

Rating: I adored this book and the characters as well as the side plot. My little peeves with the books were minor and did not at all take away from the sheer awesomeness of the book.