Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sins of a Wicked Duke

Sins of a Wicked Duke by Sophia Jordan

Fallon O'Rourke had a difficult childhood; after her father died on a fool's errand for a selfish lord she was sent to a girls school where she was singled out by the headmaster for her fiery hair. Unfortunately the real world is not going much better as she has been let go by employer after employer because the man of the house cannot keep his hands off her. After one particularly awful firing she accepts a ride from the dissolute Dominic Hale, the Duke of Damon, to her hotel and it proves to be quite eye-opening. He engages in some very dissolute behavior with two prostitutes while she is in the carriage before informing her that she is welcome at his place anytime. She runs away, determined to stay away from him. Fallon decides that the best way for her to get a job will be to disguise herself as a man, but she is shocked when the woman at the agency sends "Francis" to the Duke's house for employment as a footman. She is quite unimpressed with the Duke's behavior as night after night of drunkenness and debauchery follow her employment.

Fallon is undeniably horrified, yet cannot help the attraction she feels for this incredibly virile man. Dominic finds himself feeling lost and the only thing that makes him feel like a real person is when he is buried in a woman (his words) or when he is painting- and he has found that his most recent muse is the fiery haired prude from the carriage. After one night of heavy drinking he finds himself with recollections of a soft, sweet smelling woman in his bed, but he cannot remember who she is- until he discovers that his new valet is actually a woman; the same woman he cannot get out of his head. Dominic knows that he wants her but he is equally sure that his empty soul is unable to offer her marriage. Fallon does not last long against Dominic's charms but she still refuses to become his mistress and give into a blue blood. She leaves Dominic with a challenge: to let go of his past, forgive the mistakes that have been made, and open up his heart. Fallon also needs to let go of her hatred for the nobility in order to find the home she has always longed for- with the man who can do anything to win her.

The first half of the book is basically one scene after another of Dominic engaging in incredibly rakish behaviors, from sucking on another woman's nipple in front of Fallon to being caught in bed with a married woman. I knew that there would need to be some major repentance, combined with some major awfulness from his past to make up for his actions. It's one thing to read about how his past is filled with such incidences and another to actually read about said incidences in the present and it's something I had major trouble getting over. Weird how that works, but it's true. Dominic's complaint was that he was constantly empty and he needed something to fill this emptiness, whether that be a woman or getting a very painful tattoo. This emptiness sprung from a grandfather who put him in the care of an abusive and very angry governess. I guess that's as good a reason as any to turn out... not so polite, but I don't believe that the book adequately explains how he goes from dissolute rogue to the lovelorn, forgiving, desperate man he is at the end. I guess I'm supposed to chalk up to his love for Fallon.

Fallon had issues with her past as well, but they played out in a much more realistic and solvable way. Her hatred of the nobility springs from her father's death and it leads to stubbornness and pride, both of which she has managed to conquer by the end in a very believable manner. Like all working women in romance novels she suffers from being constantly harassed by all male relatives of her employers so nothing new there. Sex was a very big part of this book as both of them are constantly attracted to each other, however, while there are plenty of unconsummated scenes, there are not nearly enough full sex scenes and the ones there are don't play out as romantically as they should have. Sex with Fallon should have been different, more making love, then all the women he had slept with before. There was no side plot of anything to detract from making the protagonists the central, the only, focus of the story, and I felt like that really benefited the novel as their emotional turmoil and their pasts really did make this a complete book.

Rating: I find that I am unable to completely get over Dominic's behavior in regards to other women throughout the story, but the emotional breakthroughs these characters made were quite amazing.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Nothing But Scandal

Nothing But Scandal by Allegra Gray

When Elizabeth Medford's father dies in a freak carriage accident he leaves his family absolutely penniless and heir-less. Her uncle and mother decide the best way to save the family is to marry her off to the social climbing, and moderately wealthy, Harold Wetherby, who is also quite repulsive. To save herself she decides to ruin herself and propositions a man she has secretly admired from afar, Alex Bainbridge, the Duke of Beaufort. Although Alex quite likes Elizabeth he knows he cannot have anything to do with her because of his past history with her father. Apparently her father had gambled fairly heavily and he had offered to pay off his debts by giving Elizabeth to him as his mistress. Humiliated and with nowhere else to turn she goes to her friend, the widowed Beatrice Pullington, who hooks her up with a governess job for Lady Grumsby, who just happens to be Alex's sister. Alex is at first quite upset to know that the woman he has not been able to get out of his head is suddenly being thrust upon him, but he realizes it could lead to some interesting circumstances.

Elizabeth is determined not to succumb to Alex even though he makes it clear he is more than willing to set her up in quite a comfortable life. However, when Alex comes to her rescue when a jeweler discovers her father had replaced her brooch with paste, she knows that he could be her knight in shining armor. Their relationship progresses into intimacy and, although she comes to crave their weekly meetings she still refuses to become his mistress. Alex is called away on important business and when his sister discovers that their are rumors about the two of them she fires Elizabeth. Alex is distraught and goes racing after Elizabeth as soon as he finds out, but it may already be too late as her uncle has conspired with Harold Weatherby. She has been kidnapped and taken to the countryside in the hopes that she will eventually give in and marry him. Alex goes racing to save the woman he knows he cannot live without. Unfortunately saving her is only half of what stands in their way as even when the two have been successfully married and it appears they are headed for marital bliss, a figure from Elizabeth's father's past comes forward with news that could ruin their marriage if Alex and Elizabeth can't manage to trust each other.

I have to start my review off by mentioning that this is Allegra Gray's debut novel and then state that it was easy to forget this as I read because it was just so well done. Elizabeth is simply amazing- she is beautiful and lost and headstrong and idealistic and scared all at once and she is depicted so realistically it's impossible not to love her. She's not childish or sassy, but she does stick up for herself, even while moments of weakness sometimes threaten to get the better of her. Alex is amazing as well as he is the typical rake, but from the beginning the reader is aware that he can be incredibly sweet and protective of those he loves. He is also not afraid of his emotions as he admits his love about halfway through the book and the scenes where he worries that he could be losing her (as she investigates what happened to her father) are also incredibly emotional. These two are certainly attracted to each other and, while we did get some of them, they were short and not very frequent, so I could have used with some more steamy scenes.

There is so much going on in this book, from the romance to the kidnap plot to the issues surrounding Elizabeth's father's very mysterious death and yet Gray manages to very skillfully keep everything focused on the romance. It was really quite brilliant and absolutely amazing considering this is her debut novel! The Harold Weatherby plot was quite engrossing and very interesting- he was certainly painted as quite the monster, although he may have gotten more comeuppance than he deserved at the end (and I found Elizabeth's relish at his demise quite out of character really). The plot involving Elizabeth's father's death could easily have taken over the story or really gotten in the way of what happened, but it really ended up just contributing to the story and to the development of their relationship. In addition it lead to some really quite beautifully written and heart breaking emotional scenes, both in the internal monologues of each character and a couple scenes between the two of them. The writing really did this plot proud.

Rating: Absolutely loved this book. Really almost quite perfect, although it could have been a little more fun and had some more sex. All in all quite amazing, and not just for a debut novel.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mastering the Marquess

Mastering the Marquess by Vanessa Kelly 324

Meredith Brunley has consigned herself to the idea that she will spend her life as a spinster and spends her time taking care of her younger half-sister Annabel. When their father dies Annabel's guardian is their uncle Isaac who tells Meredith that if she does not marry his son, Jacob, he will have Annabel committed to an asylum. Horrified at the possibility Meredith fleas with her sister to the home of Annabel's mother's parents- who disowned her when she ran off to marry the son of a factory owner (Annabel and Meredith's father). While the grandmother is more than happy to meet Annabel and plans to launch both young women out into society, General Stanton is not so sure. Lady Stanton decides that the best way to keep Annabel out of the hands of her uncle is to have her marry her own nephew, Stephen, the Marquess of Silverton. Stephen is more than willing to help launch his new found distant relatives out into society and try to keep the rest of the ton from being too harsh, but it is not the young Annabel he has his eyes on- it is Meredith.

Unfortunately the rest of society is not as forgiving as Annabel's family and it is quickly obvious that very few members of the ton are willing to let them forget their mother's disgrace or their father's lowly origins in trade. Silverton is not at all pleased when his mother refuses to come to the aid of his cousin and the woman he is fast becoming convinced he should marry. Meredith is wary of the attraction she feels towards Stephen because she knows that the gulf between their stations is too much to bridge and she can't help but wonder if Stephen is merely toying with her. Every time the two of them start to get close she pulls away, fearful that she will come to love him and he will break her out. Instead she wants to concentrate on finding a husband for her sister so Anabel can be safe from her uncle and cousin. This is not too hard as another distant cousin, Robert, is infatuated with the beautiful young woman and she returns his feelings. Just as Stephen manages to convince Meredith that they can have a future together Uncle Isaac and Jacob come and try to use force to gain Anabel's fortune by marrying Meredith. It is up to Stephen to come to her rescue and show her that they will have a happy future.

I initially liked Meredith because of her willingness to really take action and place herself at risk to escape a horrible marriage and to save her sister. Plenty of heroines run away for the former, but I have never read about any of them taking a sister along. For a while I was a tad frustrated over how protective she was of her sister and how she really was willing to sacrifice Stephen to save Annabel. Luckily this self sacrifice charade does not continue on for very long and I especially liked it when Annabel came flat out and told Meredith that she appreciates the effort but that she can and should decide her own life. But even once this was cleared up there was the issue of Meredith having so many issues surrounding her rank in society and not being worthy of Silverton. The two of them talked about it several times, and even though she seemed to be convinced she would always change her mind. Even though it is apparently a woman's prerogative to do this, it got annoying VERY quickly. But she was quite likable and at least her motives were somewhat explained.

Stephen was even more interesting and quite the alpha hero- I especially liked that he had a disapproving mother and wasn't scared to tell her what was what. I liked that the mother was a "villain" but she wasn't pure evil. The sex was so- so and I definitely would have preferred more of it between these two very physically attracted to each other characters. Also I felt it would have moved things along a little quicker as far as her reluctance to get married. The plot involving the kidnapping and needing Annabel's inheritance was very well done. It was integrated throughout the story, it was not overwhelming and the romance still shown through, and it was an integral part of the story as it served as the impetuous for the move to the Stanton's. I liked that cousin Jacob was an awful person but had not always been so and had in fact been friends with Meredith at one point. The book also sets up a sequel involving Robert's sister and a friend of Stephen's that I really can't wait to read as the two characters seem very well suited for each other.

Rating: I was bored for most of this book and it took a while to read. I am writing this review about five days after reading it and I already cannot remember very much of it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

To Tame a Dangerous Lord

To Tame a Dangerous Lord by Nicole Jordan

When Madeline Ellis' employer dies she heads to London to look for a new job but an overeager lecher forces her into the room of Rayne Kenyon, Earl of Haviland, who realizes that her father had saved his life during a war. Rayne feels a tad protective of this very stubborn young woman who has resigned herself to being a spinster and who is determined to take care of herself, and her newly married brother, all by herself. He insists on taking him to Freemantle Academy where his friend Arabella, Lady Danvers, is looking to hire new instructors to teach her bourgeoisie students how to mix with the ton. Madeleine gets the job and the more Rayne comes to think about her predicament, and his own need to find a wife and start creating heirs, the more he comes to believe that Madeline could make a perfect wife. He does not want to risk falling in love with a woman after a former love interest had used his connections to save her family from the blade in France while secretly being in love with another man. He thinks Madeline will make a good, if not precisely biddable, wife and he won't need to worry about losing his head.

Madeline is wary of entering into a marriage of convenience as she has always wanted to find true love like her parents did, but when her brother is accused of stealing an heirloom necklace from a peer to make his new wife's family happy, Madeline thinks that having a connection to the ton could be helpful. And there is also the fact that she has fallen in love with him. Their wedding gets off to a rocky start as after quite the passionate interlude Rayne abandons her to return to London so he can investigate a supposed plot to assassinate Prinny. Madeline seeks the help of the Loring sisters and their friend, courtesan Franny, to discover ways to seduce her husband into loving her. Unfortunately the more Madeline tries to get Rayne to love her the more suspicious he becomes of her and her out of character actions. He recognizes that his feelings for her are changing and tries desperately to fight them. But when he discovers that Madeline has only been trying to help her brother and has been trying to protect him, he knows that it is up to him to show Madeline that he has made a mistake and that he does love her.

Madeline often got a little irritating because of her stubbornness and inability to ask for accept anyone's help. The "banter" between them regarding said stubbornness, as well as that regarding her feistiness, was quite irritating and not at all cute. I also wondered why a grown woman was determined to support her grown brother and his new family- seriously she kept giving and giving and giving him money and I wanted her to put her foot down. However it was nice to see a female who could take care of herself. Rayne was interesting and his spy background got a little boring, especially when it was given to us in some very large and awkward information dumps. I am always a little wary of heroes who are determined to not fall for the heroine but I recognize that without those types of heroes we'd have like 10 romance novels total. In this book it does drag on a little long, but I like that there was the added element of suspicion against her because her secretive and changing behavior. I recognize that some readers wouldn't exactly like this, but it works well here and the explanation behind his behavior is adequate and understandable.

This is going to sound a little weird and I am having trouble adequately putting it in words but: despite lots of sex and it being interesting enough it was rather bland overall. I can not quite put my finger on why it was this way- but I really wanted to skip over most of them and get on with the rest of the book. I was a tad bit irritated with the re-emergence of the Loring sisters even though it wasn't overdone. Mainly I was irritated by how nice and sweet and understanding everyone was to Madeline- I wanted someone who wasn't a horrible excuse for a human being (like Rayne's very stickler grandmother) but who wasn't just so genuine and wonderful and Madeline's best friend. No acquaintances in this book. Surprisingly my major pet peeve was the author's portrayal of the French Revolution: she was very sympathetic to the escaped aristocrats (and they are deserving of some sympathy surely) but she made it seem as though the ignorant and awful French rabble was purely after them because they were aristocrats- completely ignoring that whole starvation thing.

Rating: I believe I would give the romance of the book a 4, but the poor writing quality and the annoying-ness of her brother's plot bring it down to a 2 1/2. I'll give it a 3 though.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Rake's Guide to Pleasure

A Rake's Guide to Pleasure by Victoria Dahl

Emma Jensen is posing as the widowed Lady Denmore so that she can gamble with the elite members of the ton and make a small enough fortune to live modestly off of for the rest of her life. Her father had been the ninth Duke of Densmore and he earned quite the reputation for throwing scandalous parties before dying and leaving the estate to his Uncle, whom Emma lived with and admired until he died in a house fire. Years before she had met the Duke of Somerhart at one of her father's parties when he had been in attendance and she had been a mere child and since that night she had spun pointless girlish fantasies about her dashing knight in shining armor. When she meets him again at a card party she feels the same sense of connection she had felt years ago, and a very new passion for the handsome man. Somerhart is horrified that Emma is a gambler and that she takes ridiculous risks like skating across very thin ice, but nonetheless he is determined to have her. However he learned his lesson years ago never to let a woman close to him, after being humiliated by a lover, and he vows to keep her away from his heart.

But the more he tries to keep her away the more obsessed with her he becomes. She shows him glimpses of passion in hot kisses and touches but she claims she does not want him for a lover. When a man from Emma's past, who knows the truth about her and who is determined to marry her and turn her into a decent Christian woman, shows up, Emma turns to Lord Lancaster for help. The man is crazed and it shows Emma how close she is to being exposed and losing everything. Somerhart begins to fear that Emma is going to make a fool of him and he tries to push her away but when he becomes angry when she wagers her body in a gambling den, he discovers in the aftermath of his anger that she was a virgin. Unfortunately for him she has chosen this moment to disappear from his life and Somerhart needs to find her- even if he is not quite sure what he plan on doing with her when he does. When he does find her it may be too late as the crazed man from her past has caught up with her too and it is up to Somerhart to save her and prove to both of them that he is capable of love.

So once again Dahl has written some great characters who are very well developed, very likable, and both of them make for interesting reads. Emma is intriguing as the woman who goes to great, and dangerous lengths, to make a life for herself. However in this case I had kind of hoped that she would have wanted more for herself than a quiet house in the country- surely a woman so adventurous wouldn't want to spend her life so isolated from society? However at least that is vaguely explained as it was a place she had felt happy during her childhood. Somerhart, whose real name is never given and he is just referred to as Hart throughout the novel (weird) and whose age is never revealed, is well done as the older man who has sworn off love. A former of mistress of his had published some quite revealing love letters and he had been humiliated by the entire ton so his feelings are understandable if a little cold. What is not so clear to be honest is quite why or how these two fell in love with each other. There is some reflection by Hart that she is innocent and adventurous and strong and some reflection by her that is strong and protective but nothing precisely super love inducing.

Despite that the sex between these two is smoking! even if there is not quite enough of it. They are incredibly compatible in the bed as Emma rather likes being ordered around in the bedroom and even a little bit of submission (her hands being pinned over her head) while Hart is more than willing to do a little dominance. It is nothing extreme and throughout it we're in both their heads seeing how in tune with each other they are and there is a tiny bit of tit for tat in the form of her "making" him masturbate for her. Yea- smokin'! The book is fairly short (289 pages) so the side plot involving Matthew Bromley definitely doesn't draw the book out or make the book just too intense. It is fairly briefly scattered throughout the course of the novel and plays a very important role at the end by doing the romance novel staple- the hero realizes he is truly in love with the heroine when he has to save her from a kidnapping plot. However, it was quite interesting here as there was the angle of religion having driven the man crazy. There was also some very delicious angstiness going on for awhile and I loved it!

Rating: Very great effort from this very great writer. I had some issues with it- I would have liked some more romantic development, but overall quite excellent.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lord of Pleasure

Lord of Pleasure by Delilah Marvelle

Lady Charlotte Chartwell has been in desperate straights since her husband was murdered by a jealous mistress nearly six months ago. In his will he made arrangements for his family and for his many mistresses but he removed his wife completely. While Charlotte's case is slowly working its way up the courts she needs money now to pay her lawyer's fees and the window tax. She propositions a man wandering through the park in the hopes that he will set her up as his mistress. When all he does is arouse her passions and drop her off at home Charlotte worries that she is completely ruined. Until the owner of the School of Gallantry makes her an offer: to use her house as a front for the school in exchange for quite a bit of money and Charlotte agrees. Alexander cannot get the woman from the carriage out of his head and when his friend Caldwell drags him to her front door on the way to a "sex" school he is shocked. Even more so when he discovers that Charlotte is the director of admissions and interviews him with some quite risque questions.

Charlotte does not want the complication that Alexander presents in her life, but she quickly gives in to her impulse for an evening of passion with him. Unfortunately Alexander is trying to set a good example and be respectable as he is attempting to launch five sisters into the marriage market and having a widowed mistress does not exactly fall in to this category. When Caldwell informs Alexander that he has gotten Alex's oldest sister Caroline, pregnant, Alex knows that he must try harder and breaks the news to Charlotte. In an attempt to convince him that she does not care she pretends that all she ever wanted was "a frig" and Alex is very hurt. Even though he has spent his life as "The Lord of Pleasure" with women throwing themselves at him for sex, he had hoped that Charlotte was different. When he realizes that in his hurt he has hurt Charlotte he sets out to prove to her that he loves her as much as she professes to love him. He has to enroll the help of several friends and acquaintances, and his family, but he knows that since he and Charlotte are destined for each other it will work out.

I enjoyed both of these characters, and a decent amount of time was given to telling the story from both points of view, but I would have required a more rapid switch between POV's. Sometimes Alex would tell his story for 40 pages and then Charlotte for another 40 while I would have preferred to know what each was thinking during a particular scene. Charlotte was interesting because she was a widow who had known pleasure despite being married to a man who did not love her. I loved that she was willing to do whatever was necessary to ensure she kept her family's house and wasn't a stickler for societies rules. Alex was a little more difficult to read and his reputation as "The Lord of Pleasure" seemed to come out of left field and was just thrown around randomly. At least his feelings for Charlotte are very real and written about in a very believable and fun to read way. Even for such a short book there were not very many steamy scenes but at least those that were there were quite hot and steamy. References were made in the school to more kink but it was never acted upon.

Certain scenes in this book run on for far too long with not all that much being accomplished such as nearly 20 pages of Alexander and his friend, Lord Caldwell, basically talking circles around each other about whether they should join the school. All in all far too much of the book takes place with Charlotte and Alexander not in each others' company and I would really have preferred for far more of it to take place with them together. The entire notion of the School of Gallantry seems a little ridiculous and in the scene where the Madame decides to talk about it to the pupils it just comes across as even more so as she blathers on and on about ... really nothing of any import. I am not sure what I was expected out of the school but there did not seem to be any instruction into actually pleasing a lady and it did not seem as if any of the members actually needed that instruction- even if it had been offered. I am also rather torn about Alex's family- at times they are funny and the certainly serve as a reasonable excuse for his attempts to not get too close to Charlotte, but they also can be very overwhelming and take up too much space in an already short book.

Rating: This book really comes down to so little time spent between Charlotte and Alexander and this made the book really drag on (quite a feat in a 324 page book). Also- so much of it just seemed ridiculous.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Club

The Club by Sharon Page

Jane Beaumont, the widowed Lady Sherridan, goes to the notorious erotic club run by Madame Brougham to find her friend Delphina, Lady Treyworth, who has been missing for over a month. Jane knows that her friend's husband had been taking her to this club and making her perform sexual acts that made her very uncomfortable and he shared her with several other lords there while showing off his submissive wife. At the club Jane runs into Christian, Lord Wickham, who is Del's brother and he is just as determined to save Del as Jane is. Unfortunately no one at the club is eager or willing to share information with the two although they do realize there is definitely a more seedy underbelly to the club and something quite sinister lurking underneath everything. Christian remembers Jane as the beautiful young woman who constantly challenged him when they were younger but she has changed greatly since being beaten down by a man 25 years her senior. Jane was the one who challenged Christian to become a better person and thus the reason he moved to India.

Like most of the ton Jane has bought into the rumors that Christian has spent his entire life sleeping with his friends wives and murdering men in duels, but she begins to learn that many of these rumors, while true on the surface, have a much deeper story behind them and that Christian is far from the Lord Wicked that many believe. And after 8 years of marriage to a man who made her feel worthless and unimportant she loves that she and Christian are partners working together for a mutual goal. By working together they manage to flip a few informants and find out that Madame Brougham also owns a sanatorium where woman whose husbands' cruelty has driven them mad reside, and that several young woman and prostitutes have gone missing. When the finally find the sanatorium they manage to rescue Del but unfortunately her husband still has claim to her and demands that she be sent back to him. When Treyworth ends up dead Christian is the prime suspect and Christian and Jane are in for a huge surprise when someone from Jane's past reappears to ruin her and they must both in turn save the other and find love.

Jane and Christian were both very well developed and very well written characters whom I absolutely loved. Jane is still recovering from her mentally, physically, and verbally abusive marriage and throughout the course of the book she really undergoes this amazing transformation and gains strengths and fights for herself, for Del, and for Christian. And it is so much better because it is her interactions with Christian that really bring out this great side in her and allows her to spread her wings. Christian was a little more difficult as he definitely was a man whore, and there are quite a few difficult things to explain in his past, but Page dose get through them throughout the course of the novel and does manage to explain them away adequately if not completely to my satisfaction. At least enough to make him good enough for Jane. There is a little awkwardness surrounding the fact that Christian is not actually his father's child as his mother was already pregnant and this is kind of used an excuse and really just gets in the way and drags on far too long.

The plot about finding Del and the club was a very large chunk of the book and I think it could have been trimmed down a bit as the book was a tad bit on the long side. It was obviously an incredibly important part as it both brought them together and served as a catalyst to them falling in love with the other. It was Jane's strength fighting to find and free Del that was part of why Christian fell in love with her and it was Christian treating her like an equal and respecting her that made Jane realize that love with him was possible. This is definitely the way that mystery extra plots in romance novels are supposed to be written. I was a little surprised at the lack of kink in the sex between Jane and Christian as there was so much of it in the Club. I thought it would be a little comparison with loving kink and abusive kink, but there wasn't. There was still plenty of sex and it was quite hot and a little bit adventurous, if not quite as much so as I had expected.

Rating: Quite a good book with a remarkable heroine. A little too long with a little too much extra non- romance in it, but really almost outstanding.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Talent for Sin

A Talent for Sin by Lavinia Kent

Violet, Lady Carrington, is living the life she has always wanted for herself. She is free to make her own choices, she can do what she want, she does not need to worry about pleasing anyone else and she is currently engaged in quite the passionate affair with Lord Peter St. Johns. She is content to let things continue in this vein with the two of them just remaining their very close, but open-ended, relationship. Unfortunately for her, Peter is not content and is determined to marry Violet. She is of course not at all amenable to this and when she says no he informs her that the situation is not up for discussion: either she agrees to marry him or he ends their affair. Violet is frustrated and does her best to convince Peter that the two of them are not suitable- she is 31 to his 24, she is very far from virginal, she has quite the reputation, and eventually she confides that she is incapable of having children after a horrible accident when she gave birth to her son who died an hour after birth.

Peter abandons London to escape Violet, but when the two are forced together at the birth of Peter's nephew, the two can not keep their hands off each other. Peter makes it clear to Violet that all of her attempts to get him to abandon her will not work and she agrees to consider the possibility of marriage. Things become even more complicated when Violet's brother, Master, makes plans to marry their young sister, Isabella, off to an old man, Foxworthy. Foxworthy holds information that some of Master's investments had been filtered to the French during the war and demands Isabella and return. When Isabella begs Violet for help, Violet strikes a deal with Foxworthy that he accept her as a mistress and leave Isabella alone. To save Violet from this horrible fate Peter decides that he must marry Isabella so that she cannot be used as a bargaining chip. Violet is devastated by this and Peter certainly doesn't want to marry Isabella so the two of them must work together to find out the truth behind Master's problems with Foxworthy and earn a happy ending for the two of themselves together.

As with so many books that open in the middle of the relationship this book lacked so much of the romantic development that I enjoy so much. Unfortunately I felt this book was even worse than usual as the two had been so romantically involved that the situation had already progressed to the point of proposals- we missed the most fun part of everything! And I truly felt that there was so little character development to accompany this and that made it even more difficult to determine why exactly these two were supposedly so in love with each other. I know that I should not judge people by age but, as someone who is 24, I can not imagine a 24 man being truly ready for a lifetime commitment as men that age just seem so immature. However, Peter does acquit himself well with how he handles Violet's inability to commit, her revelation about her son's birth, and her actions regarding Foxworthy. Violet is also somewhat well written as her past marriages certainly make her feelings regarding marriage understandable, I wish she had been able to get over her insecurities more rapidly.

What I really did not understand about Violet was her sense of obligation to her brother and her family in general. Her brother seems like a right ass with his constantly being in debt and selling off his sisters to the highest bidder. Her sister is somewhat more understandable yet she goes about helping in the most roundabout way and does not do the most obvious thing imaginable- tell Peter was happening and asking for his help. And then it just gets even more convoluted with Peter saying he's going to marry Isabella and Violet refusing to let him back out because it would ruin her sister. Two books in a row where a woman is willing to sacrifice the love of her life to not ruin a family member and I will just say that Lisa Valdez did a much better job of it. Really the most likable character in this story was Isabella as she did some dumb things but at least they were understandable and when she finally took charge of her life she didn't go about it in a way that was completely ridiculous. And I'm not going for the Keira Knightley look-a-like on the cover.

Rating: I did not really like the characters and I didn't really get much of a sense of romantic development but it was a fast read- at least.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Passion by Lisa Valdez 301

Passion Elizabeth Dare is minding her own business at the Crystal Palace when she is rescued from a falling frond by a handsome gentleman. Not ten minutes later she and this gentleman are ensconced behind a screen having very passionate sex unlike anything she had experienced with her deceased husband. For Mark Hawkmore, the Earl of Langley, this semi-public encounter is eye opening as well. He cannot get the beautiful woman with the wide eyes out of his mind and he meets her there twice more for scandalous sex. But Passion's father is a vicar and she can't help but feel guilty about letting her base nature get the better of her and she wants to call it off. Mark is incensed when he finds out and he is especially wary of letting this bit of happiness escape him. He is being blackmailed by his mother's former friend. Abigail Lawrence is insisting that Mark marry her daughter, Charlotte, and is using a letter that Mark's mother sent her stating that Mark's "brother" Matthew, is in fact the by product of an affair with the gardener.

What Mark does not realize is that Charlotte is Passion's cousin and just as he convinces her to give them more than the four days she had allotted, she discovers that he is engaged to her cousin. He confesses all to her and while Passion cannot help but desire him she is an honorable person and does not want to hurt her cousin. Mark is furious that Passion is turning him away and desperately wants to find that letter so he can destroy it and be together with Passion. He knows that there is more than just incredibly sex with her and both of their hearts are breaking. Passion knows that even if Mark finds the letter she cannot accept Mark's suit because it would mean him backing out on Charlotte and that would ruin her chances forever. When Mark realizes that he is in love with Passion he decides that the best way to prove his love for her is to try to make the best life for Charlotte that he possibly can. But when Lucinda Lawrence's mistreatment of her servants leads to some very public scandals it frees Mark from his obligation to Charlotte and allows her to run after the woman he thought he could not have.

Wow- I was not expecting an erotic novel when I started reading this so I was not exactly prepared for the amount of sex, and the language used during it, that came in the book. There was a LOT of sex, it was very descriptive, there was some very crude language used, and it was certainly varied. Quite a bit was made of cervix opening up enough to take all of him and there was a lot of "Open ups" and "Take me all the way" and he is described as being 10.5 inches long. There were also some rather distasteful reference to his being turned on by her tears- she had been crying because it had been so long not out of pain. I normally don't mention sex first but it is literally the first thing that happens and very liberally peppers the first 100 or so pages of the book- although it does become less frequent as the book goes on and Passion becomes all noble. I was a little thrown by how one-dimensional both Mark's mother and Lucinda Lawrence were- they were truly irredeemable villains with absolutely nothing justifying their awfulness. I prefer more nuanced villains.

The negative reviews of this book (there are surprisingly few) focus on Passion's passivity and I am admittedly torn on this issue. I understood that she was being all noble but I liked that she wasn't all sassy and ride off on dangerous horse daring, but giving up the man you love without a fight after he admits he loves you is a little much. I didn't mind her submission in the bedroom (or not the bedroom) because Mark made up for it later by really laying his heart on the line in some really beautiful scenes. I really truly believed in Mark's transformation from cold and rather heartless to a man desperately in love with a woman he fears he cannot have. There were some incredibly heart breaking moments in the book as they first admit their love and then as they say goodbye and I literally cried for some of it. All of the problems and angst and gut wrenching emotion that accompanied their romance really made me want a long, beautiful, and very romantic happy ending and I have to admit that it was just a little disappointing.

Rating: Very erotic book with some very beautiful and quite emotional writing. I would have preferred more happy romantic times between Mark and Passion.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Ravishing in Red

Ravishing in Red by Madeline Hunter

Audrianna Kemsleigh decides to meet "Domino" at an inn outside London in the hopes that this mysterious man can clear her father's name. Lord Sebastian Summerhays has been leading the investigation into bad gunpowder that had been sent to the front and led to the slaughter of English soldiers. His brother, the Marquess of Wittonbury, had been left unable to walk because of this faulty gunpowder. Audrianna's father, Horatio, had been the last stop of the gunpowder on the way to the front so suspicion had fallen on him and he had eventually committed suicide. Sebastian and Audrianna end up meeting at the inn and when the real Domino finds them he is shocked into shooting Sebastian. Scandal breaks out and while Audrianna hopes to ride it out by hiding at her cousin at her estate, The Rarest Blooms. But the scandal is not blowing over and it is threatening Sebastian's standing in Parliament and any future hope that Audrianna's family had of weathering it through the gunpowder scandal. So Sebastian and Audrianna arrange for a marriage of convenience.

The two of them know their marriage will not be entirely accepted by society or by their families but Sebastian's money helps to appease Audrianna's family while the scandal at the inn loses steam with the marriage. Sebastian knows that continuing to investigate the gunpowder could potentially make his entire married life a disaster but he feels he has an obligation to his brother. Meanwhile, although Audrianna knows her father is innocent, she is able to understand why Sebastian is so dedicated to what he is doing. As the two of them realize that there is more to this marriage than convenience and a common goal to find out the truth behind the gunpowder, more information comes to light that the conspiracy might stretch all the way to some very high level government officials. Unfortunately the plot may go all the way to someone that both Audrianna and Sebastian hold very dear and both have to decide if the possibilities that exist in their marriage are worth risking to satisfy their desire for justice and revenge.

I really liked the very heavy writing style that Madeline Hunter uses. She goes into tremendous depth about what the characters are thinking and feeling and what is happening around them. I really enjoyed both character's immensely and this was in large part because of the great writing I mentioned earlier that really allows the reader to feel like they know both Audrianna and Sebastian. Both of these characters manage to be both self assured and very confident in their goals, yet they both know that there is so much in life they are missing. The scene where they discuss fidelity in marriage is poignant and funny all at once. And I loved the scene where Audrianna sought out Sebastian when she had said something to upset him, not necessarily to apologize but to discuss what could be done. So many great scenes between them that just showed how great they were together. There was plenty of sex in the story and although I felt it could have been fleshed out it was certainly satisfying and worked very well with the romantic development throughout the story.

There was also the seamlessly integrated and very important gunpowder plot. This was obviously an integral part of the story as it brought them together and served as a basis for many of their interactions and for some of the more emotional parts of the book. It was a much better reason for concern about a marriage's success than some of the other maneuvers that romance novel writers employ. And what made it even more enjoyable was that it remained a mystery the whole time what was really going on and I had both the romance and the discovery at the end to look forward to. It sometimes did seem like it got a little overwhelming sometimes and I would have appreciated some more scenes between Audrianna and Sebastian that didn't take place in the bedroom and didn't involve the gunpowder. There was also some greatness involving Sebastian's brother, Morgan, as he struggled with the possibility that his life might not have to be lived in a wheelchair and he fights against any changes occurring.

Rating: Very much enjoyed this book, especially the writing and the amazingly likable characters. I would have liked a little less plot taking over though.