Friday, July 30, 2010

A Seduction in Scarlet

A Seduction in Scarlet by Sara Bennett 424

Portia Ellerslie has spent the last several years of her life as England's favorite widow. Her husband was the hero of the nation and the people, and Queen Victoria, expect her to portray the "proper" behavior for the widow of such a man. She knows she can never remarry, never allow her control to slip, and basically never express any of the needs any woman has. She runs to Aphrodite's Club and enlists the help of the madame to find a man for just one night's pleasure to last her for the rest of her life. What she finds is Marcus Worthorne, the boy she had secretly been in love with years before when she was just the vicar's daughter and he never spared her a glance. It is not long before she realizes one night cannot be enough so she arranges what she believes will be just one more night. But Marcus has a plan and this time he hires and investigator to find out who this wonderfully intriguing woman he cannot get out of his mind, is. He decides to surprise her at an event in public in the hopes that she will be forced to confront her feelings for him.

But Portia cannot just throw away the expectations that have been placed on her by society and the Queen and she refuses to make anything public so Marcus arranges a trip for the two of them to the beach. Although things do not go quite as planned, it makes it clear to Marcus that these furtive meeting are not enough and he knows he wants quite a bit more from this woman. He finally proposes to Portia, but she is too scared to let go of what she has worked for for so long and Marcus decides that he can wait Portia out. Unfortunately, Portia's maid, is worried about how her scandalous behavior could end up hurting her behavior and Hettie runs to tell Portia's stepdaughter and her husband. When the two of them threaten to lock up Portia's mother in an asylum she is desperate to find a way to save her- even if it means turning to the man who could prove fatal to her reputation. But Arnold is a member of a secret organization to assassinate the queen and he will do anything to bring about Portia's destruction. Together Portia and Marcus must save the queen and relieve themselves of their worries.

Although I did completely respect Portia's feelings about going against the wishes of basically everyone in the nation, I felt as though she should have succumbed awhile earlier. Despite references being made to all these people depending on her, I never actually read details and sometimes it seemed like the person she was really trying to protect was herself. It went on and on even after Marcus had helped save her mother and I really couldn't help but feeling that, if she really wanted to protect everyone, she would have just married Marcus and avoided quite a bit of the mess. I loved reading about the change that Marcus undergoes as he starts at with not a care in the world and then he starts to want to impress her, followed by some brief jealousy, and then finally to the realization that he does want to make a life with her. And he does this so wonderfully as he tries to show that he can do this for her by finally taking on the responsibilities he has been neglecting for so long. He is so earnest as he tries to tell her all the things he can give her and the scene where she turns down his marriage proposal is just so heartbreaking.

Portia was also interesting in that she gathered the courage and went after what she wanted despite the threats to her reputation. Romance novels involving brothels are always so intriguing to me. Unfortunately the sex was not all that steamy and was jam backed in the first 150 or so pages, with the later offerings really being only alluded to before a new chapter begins. I also really liked that this book portrayed Victoria as a flawed, selfish, far too puritanical woman and not as some mythical God. She was well-liked by the people, but I was glad that she was not held up and revered by them as I am not a great fan. The plot to kill her was a bit of a waste, but I guess that having Arnold be an ass was not enough- he also needed to be into regicide. The book also had a great example of a family struggling with a member slowly giving way to Alzheimer's (before it was really known) and it was quite interesting. Lara was a very interesting character as she was hateful and awful, but her motivations were well explained and she was easy to understand in a rather odd way.

Rating: I liked the first two-thirds of the book the best as it really did just drag near the end as the author tried to get to 370 pages by adding in an assassination. However, Marcus was GREAT!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Highland Obsession

Highland Obsession by Dawn Halliday 422

The Earl of Camdonn, Cam, had engaged in a brief but very torrid affair with the daughter of his castle's steward before she was moved away. Although he never planned to marry her and regarded her purely as a dalliance, his feelings change considerably when Sorcha marries another man. Suddenly he knows that he needs her in his life and is determined to get her back. Sorcha is worried that her new husband will spurn her if he discovers her past, so she decides to cover it up in the hope that she can make a nice life with her new husband, Laird Alan MacDonalds. Alan and Cam have been best friends ever since their days at Oxford, but when Cam steals Sorcha away on his wedding night he feels horribly betrayed by both of the people he thought he could trust. He does not know if he can ever forgive Cam or his wife for not being pure and innocent on their wedding night. Sorcha knows she should have been honest with Alan from the beginning but she desperately wants to make it up to him and prove she can be the wife he needs.

Even when Alan has made his peace with Sorcha, it is not enough to assuage the betrayal of his honor and he is forced to duel with Cam. When something goes wrong on the field Cam is left with a deep gash on his side and both Alan and Sorcha are able to put away their recent problems with this man and remember the times when they cared for him. Seeing Alan and Sorcha together brings back all of the jealous feelings Alan had wanted to put behind him. One night when the three of them are a little bit tipsy he decides to live out a dark fantasy he can't seem to get out of his mind and he, Sorcha, and Alan engage in a very scorching, and very emotional, threesome. Afterwards Alan is convinced that Sorcha is in love with Cam so he decides to join his men as they go to join the Earl of Mar in the fight to bring the exiled James onto the thrown of Scotland. When she awakes Sorcha is heartbroken, and Cam makes the unselfish decision to help her find Alan and help them work out their differences. But will she be able to find Alan in the heat of battle and will she be able to convince him that it is only him that she wants?

Obviously this novel is not at all for the fainthearted or the easily offended as this is definitely an erotica romance novel that features a threesome and it is quite graphic. The book also features a VERY brief interaction between Alan and another woman, but even I was not disgusted by it (and normally cheating spouses do) so it was not that bad and made sense in the context of what was going on. But this book was far from being just about sex as their was a very intriguing plot going on that involved all three characters and their relationships to each other. Cam, Alan, and Sorcha all had a very personal, very involved relationship with the other characters (although I should say Cam and Alan are not bisexual...) and Halliday does a tremendous job of thoroughly immersing her readers in these relationships. And the very fact that Alan and Cam are such close friends really strengthens the books overall as so few romance novels feature such close male friends and the intricacies of their relationship were very well told here.

The book really is told equally from all three perspectives and I completely felt like I was in their heads and could understand their motives, even if I did not always agree with them. I absolutely loved how my allegiances changed throughout the course of the book- it really shows how great a character writer Halliday is. Sorcha and Alan are great together and the trials and tribulations they go through to finally get their happily ever after are quite heartbreakingly portrayed in this story. Sorcha is eager to please her new husband, and they emotions she and Alan are feeling for each other are so amazingly written. The sex in the novel is an extension and manifestation of their feelings for each other, even the menage, and were beautifully added in to the story. I also found myself liking the brief bits of history we got as we read about the uprising in Scotland to throw the Hanoverian off the thrown and reinstall the Stewarts.

Rating: Do not blow this book off for being an erotica because it is a very well written, character driven book about relationships, romances, and people who care for each other

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Lessons from a Scarlet Lay

Lessons from a Scarlet Lady by Emma Wildes 420

This is actually two stories really in one although both of the stories are vastly interconnected as the two women are best friends and the two men involved are brothers. Brianna is already married to Colton Northfield, Duke of Rolthven, but she wants to ensure that he never strays from her so she enlists the help of Lady Rothburg. Rothburg is a notorious courtesan who published a manual that was so scandalous it was actually banned by Parliament. She uses some of the tricks that the Lady suggests in her book and it definitely does the trick as Colton begins to let down his renowned stuffiness. However she had not counted on Colton wondering exactly where his virginal young wife had come up with these ideas as he certainly had not shown her. When he discovers that Brianna is expecting he can't help but wonder if the child is his, but he is beginning to realize that it is not jealous that is eating him alive, it is the fear that he might lose her love. He needs to learn to trust and just accept that she loves him and does not want any other man but him.

Rebecca Marston is in her second season and she has received many marriage offers, but she has spurned all of her suitors because she is secretly in love with Robert Northfield, the youngest brother of the above mentioned Colton. Unfortunately he is a notorious rake who spends his life sleeping with all the married ladies and widows of the ton and he has never shown the slightest bit of interest in the very marriageable Rebecca. When the two of them are thrown together at a house party Brianna throws for Colton's birthday, Robert realizes he has definitely overlooked this beautiful and very musically talented young woman. But her father is dead set against the match as he has been misinformed about some very bad habits that Robert does not possess and he is still unsure if he really is ready to get married. With the help of Lady Rothburg, Rebecca wants to show Robert that she is the perfect woman for him and she can make him fall in love with her and keep him from straying from her forever.

I was worried that having two stories in the amount of space would really not be enough room to fully go through the development of the relationship and really be a romance. In a sense this was right as it really seemed as though Brianna and Colton's stories dealt with far more of the issues people who are really in a working relationship would deal with, such as worries about infidelity and losing a loved one, and the sex. On the other hand Rebecca and Robert moved more slowly and did seem to be the first half of a traditional romance novel. I almost feel like she could have taken their story and then gone on some more. I am also fairly certain that more time was spend on Brianna and Colton's story and I found that I enjoyed it much more than Rebecca and Robert's story. Partly because I love the idea of a woman seeking advice from a courtesan to seduce her own husband and the idea of an innocent pining after the biggest rake in the ton has been done to extremes in literally every novel. However, I did not have a difficulty time seeing why these two couples made such great couples as they interacted with their chosen significant other so well and I loved reading about the times they spent together.

The emotions in this story were very well written and the points of views were done very well as the reader got at least an adequate understanding of what was motivating each of the characters. And this book certainly ran the entire gamut of emotional turmoil to great happiness and it was very enjoyable to read about. As mentioned briefly above the sex rested very heavily on Brianna and Colton's story and what there was was great- as it should have been being inspired by a courtesan's writings! This whole book is based on a book written by a courtesan so I was really hoping we'd get some insight into what made this book so scandalous it had to be banned. Unfortunately the only sneak peaks given into the book were brief and really something that could have come out of an advice book for young ladies. References were made to it but I was especially frustrated when mention was made of something incredibly scandalous in Chapter 10 of the book, and yet I never figured out what it was!

Rating: Very enjoyable book that could have used a few more pages to flush out some of the more romantic elements of the relationships.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Accidental Countess

The Accidental Countess by Michelle Willingham 418

Stephen Chesterfield, the Earl of Whitmore, wakes up to find his childhood sweetheart, whom he hasn't seen in 10 years, standing over him and claiming to be his wife. Unfortunately he has no recollection of actually marrying her, or of the previous three months. He is wary of her claims as he doesn't think he would have married, but looking at her he certainly knows that there would be one benefit to being married to Emily. Emily Barrow is furious at Stephen. Four months ago he had promised to look after her brother, who had enormous debts and terrible investment intuition, and her niece and nephew if she married him. In exchange he would finally get out from under his domineering father's thumb. But Emily also believed there were feelings between them and so when Stephen left her a week after their wedding she was devastated. She became even angrier with him when her brother died and she was told that Stephen had been spending time with his mistress. Neither is sure what they want to happen with this marriage, but Stephen is determined to get to the bottom of what happened to him, and her brother.

The more Stephen investigates the more confusing the whole debacle becomes. He believes it is his duty to protect Emily and her niece and nephew, whom she is responsible for now that her brother is dead. He thinks the best way to accomplish this is to lead that killers to believe that he does not care for them. This plays right into the hands of the ton, and Stephen's family, who already dislike Emily and believe he should seek an annulment. Unfortunately Emily is not too keen on this idea and it only plays into her insecurities, as she was not raised to be a lady because of her family's financial difficulties. She knows she should protect her heart from Stephen, but she cannot help but give into her attraction for him. When her brother's will resurfaces and names her great-uncle as legal guardian of the children, Stephen believes they should go along with it until legal action can be taken and Emily feels like he has betrayed her. Meanwhile the assassins are hot on their trail and have already made attempts on Stephen's life. Emily refuses to let Stephen risk his life on his own and insists on accompanying them: this places them both in danger but also forces both of them to confront their feelings for each other.

I like Emily and reading about how she was feeling and what she was going through was incredibly interesting. She has real thoughts and emotions that make sense in the situations she is put in. Her devotion to the children was completely well done as she was not the simpering and too nice guardian of some romance novels where the heroine is just far too sweet and childlike for my taste. She tries so valiantly to guard her heart and I absolutely loved how she wanted so desperately to give in to this man she had loved since she was a girl, but at the same time she was terrified he would crush her again. Stephen was a great character as well, especially how he admitted to himself so quickly that he needed Emily in his life and not just to make his father mad at him. I did find the necessity of making everyone believe he didn't need Emily to be a little cruel and it definitely made her a target for all the other members of the ton, without really accomplishing anything. The sex between them was plenty hot enough, but it didn't last very long and there wasn't enough of it.

A huge theme of this book is Stephen's amnesia and the author handled this in the most realistic manner possible. There was no waking up with a "who am I," on his lips, and I really appreciated her research into the topic. While not my favorite romance novel plot, at least it wasn't completely blown out into crazytown. Obviously a large part of this book revolved around attempting to find out what had happened during the three months that Stephen could not remember. It was quite convoluted with betrayal and assassins and lots of worrying. It was interesting and I did want to discover what had happened but I would have liked to have had more time where the characters weren't worrying about getting killed or talking about what had happened. Basically more romantic development. The secondary characters here were perfectly written, from the age appropriate behavior of both of the children, to the cold snubbing of the ton, to his heartily disapproving father who, despite his disapproval, obviously does want to do what's best for his heir.

Rating: A satisfying read with nothing particularly awful about it, but the most special part of it was that the author actually did research on amnesia beforehand.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Highlander's Bride

The Highlander's Bride by Michele Sinclair 415

Laurel Cordell is running away from the crazy Douglas clan after they had kidnapped her while she was on the way to go live with her grandfather in Scotland. Although Laurel is English, her heart has always been in Scotland and after both her parents have died, she wastes no time leaving her cold hearted brother and returning there. She runs straight into a group of warriors from the McTiernay clan, including Conor, who is their big fierce giant of a leader. Immediately upon seeing Laurel all the men in the group are entranced by her angel-like appearance and want to claim her for their own. Unfortunately, everyone believes that Conor has already claimed her, even though he wastes no time in making sure everyone, including Laurel, knows that he will never marry. He had at one point wanted love in his life, but after being chased for his title by conniving women, he has sworn off matrimony forever. However, he is still drawn to this English beauty and vows that he will protect her. Laurel is also very attracted to this man, but believes that getting involved with someone will bring the Douglass Clan's wrath down on her loved ones.

When he leaves her alone in the castle to go on a journey she decides to get her revenge by taking over his castle and cleaning it up. Somehow while doing this she comes to deeply respect the man in charge and the devotion he garners from his underlings. When he returns he is furious that she disobeyed his wishes and wants to sternly scold her, but somehow all of their arguments end with the two of them kissing and desperately wanting each other. Conor realizes that he needs Laurel in his life and that without her he will turn into a bitter, lonely man, but Laurel is still wary of marrying a man who seeks to control everything she does. Together these two very strong willed character must learn to compromise for the sake of their relationship and for the good of the clan. Just when things look to be going well, problems come from an unexpected source, as Laurel's grandfather comes charging in to rescue her from the man he believes kidnapped his granddaughter. However, when the evil Douglass clan finally does decide to have their revenge on Laurel, it will take all of them to defeat them.

Note: My summary actually makes the book sound interesting- do not be fooled! Laurel is definitely not a very nuanced character: she is either super feisty and take charge as she is ordering people around and getting her hands dirty helping fix up the castle, or she is losing her temper at everything that Conor says. Basically she loses her temper quite a lot in this book and Conor is not any different. He is constantly angry that: someone may be looking at her, someone may think that he is going to marry her, she is doing something he has not specifically told her to do, she is looking at another man or talking about another man. his jealousy and worry over her know absolutely no bounds and it gets tired incredibly quickly. They spend almost every second together arguing over her doing something he deems unsafe and then they both end up blowing up at each other. And to make it worse both of them, and everyone else, regards this as a sign of how strong their relationship is. Wha? I feel like this is a sign of an immature writer to be unable to show passion between her characters unless they are arguing.

His views on marriage are a staple of romance novels heroes who spurn marriage and yet, because we don't actually see any scenes where he has dealings with these women who are supposedly throwing themselves at him for his title, they seem even more ridiculous than usual. And did Scottish "lairds" really have a recognized title? This brings me to another point: this book takes place in 1307 but there is absolutely no evidence of this at all in the book. He lives in a keep, but really this book could have taken place anytime between 1200 and 1850 as far as I could tell. One scene in particular made me want to just choke everyone involved and although it is a spoiler I will not cover it b/c I do NOT want you to read this book. Laurel is 9 months pregnant, but Conor, for some odd reason, has to pretend that he does not love her when the Douglass' come for her, so he locks her in a tower and doesn't see her for like two weeks. Supposedly he had to wait for reinforcements, but then they only ended up using 12 men in the battle. So... he treated his pregnant wife like crap for nothing. And she understood why he had to do it.

Rating: I hated this book. I hated the writing, I hated the characters (especially their interactions with each other), and I thought it was overall a horrible book.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Suddenly by Candace Camp

When Charity Emerson believes that Simon "Devil" Dure is about to offer for her sister Serena, she quickly proposes marriage to him herself. Her sister is in love with another man and Charity wants Serena to be happy. After laying out all the reasons she believes they will suit, he is still skeptical: she is young and he is worried that she will expect him to fall in love with her eventually. Both their families are excited that the two have made such a good match, and as Charity and Simon spend more time together they discover that there are definitely some aspects of marriage they are going to very much enjoy. Their happiness is marred when Charity begins to receive notes warning her to stay away from Simon because he murdered his older brother and his wife, who actually died in childbirth. Simon has lived with these rumors for years, but he can't help but be pleased that Charity inherently knows that Simon would never harm any person without sufficient cause. He also likes her spunk, her ability to stand up for herself, and her tendency to stand up for him whenever he is maligned.

Simon warns Charity away from a man named, Farraday Reed, who has shown himself to Charity to be nothing but honest, decent, helpful. Simon knows that Reed is not who he portrays himself to be. Years ago he ran off with Simon's sister, Venice, raped her, and tried to force her to marry him. At first Charity believes that Reed is a nice man and that he can help her discover who is behind the notes against Simon. When Simon finds out that she has been spending time with Reed, he is furious, but it is Venice who eventually tells her the truth. Unfortunately soon afterwords Reed is killed and Simon is the prime suspect because he had been seen arguing with Reed. Even though Simon calls off their engagement to save her, Charity knows that she needs Simon in her life as she believes she is already falling in love with him. She seduces him, marries him, and sets out to show him that they can have a wonderful life together. But rumors of Reed's death still haunt the couple wherever they go and Charity is determined that she will prove the man she loves is innocent. But someone is out there, trying to destroy their happiness, and when Charity is threatened, Simon must go rescue the woman he loves.

Charity was a great heroine. I loved that she went in their and proposed to him at the beginning to save her sister and it wasn't completely noble as she admitted that she wanted to help her sister, but she also wouldn't mind the benefits that came with being a Duchess. She proves herself throughout the book to be self sufficient, incredibly valiant in her struggles to get what she wants, and loyal to those she loves and is close to. And she manages to do all this without being "sassy" or "feisty" or any of those other adjectives that too often describe romance novel heroines. Simon is, like most heroes, wary of marriage, but he genuinely believes that he is incapable of love. I like that the story did not obsess over this aspect of his character, but just moved on while Charity slowly and methodically tore down the walls around his heart. I was rather surprised by the sex in the story as I don't remember Camp being so steamy, but, although there weren't a lot of them, the sex scenes that were there were quite good and since these two were so attracted to each other it made their relationship more believable and enjoyable.

The mystery involving Reed's death and who sent the notes is not exactly that big a mystery as it was fairly obvious that there was one person throughout the story who did not want Simon to be happy in his new marriage. I thought having this character be the villain was an interesting choice and, while not exactly completely new, was not quite the road most travelled. It was also nice in that it added to the romance without interfering, and lead to a nice, quickly resolved little kidnap plot at the end. What was most frustrating was the amount of time Simon waited before telling Charity the truth about Reed. Surely he knew that she would not just blindly follow orders and stop seeing him just on his say so. I understood why he felt like he could not, but it did get annoying to read about these arguments between them that could have been prevented if Simon would just have told Charity. Shout out to a great quote: Charity's sister Serena tells Serena that when she marries the reverend she's in love with, she looks forward to "be able to... commune with him in rightful solitude." Hilarious!

Rating: Really enjoyed this book, especially Charity who is such an amazing heroine! Good steam, good side plot, and only a little annoyingness. Pardon the picture. The only one I could find with my cover.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Every Night I'm Yours

Every Night I'm Yours by Christie Kelley

Avis Copley is 26 and plans to remain a spinster her entire life after witnessing her own parents' disastrous marriage. However, after discovering a quite racy novel in her late fathers possessions she finds herself eager to experience at least one part of married life. She decides that her friend and fellow writer, Emory Billingsworth, is the perfect candidate. Her best friend, Jeanette Talbot, is horrified when she finds out Avis's plans, but her brother, Banning, the Earl of Selby, is even more so. He and Avis have been arguing for eight years ever since he wagered that he could kiss the "Ice Maiden" before anyone else. He succeeded, but it has left quite the trail of bitterness between the two of them. But he knows that Emory is the absolute wrong choice for Avis as he has experience dealing with the consequences when Emory unleashes his anger out on young women. He lies to Avis to get her to call off her search and then offers himself up as a replacement. Avis is at first furious, but after one kiss, she realizes that Banning might be a better option after all.

The two head off to Banning's country cottage, planning for two weeks together before calling their relationship quits. Banning began the season planning to find a wife and even before their fortnight away he plans to make sure that that wife is Avis. He has set up the bedroom next to his a place for her to write and over the next two weeks they work together on her writing and he is quite a bit more helpful than Emory ever was. Although Avis still refuses to believe what he is telling her about Emory, she knows that Banning would never hurt her the way her father hurt her mother. Unfortunately she still is not sure that she will not one day strike her own children so she refuses Banning's proposal. He is horrified, but even more so when she continues to refuse him after they return to London. When the two are forced to come face to face again at a country house party where Emory is also in attendance. He comes between the two lovers, and Banning is forced to confront his own fears about death while Avis needs to overcome her fear that her anger will lead to something she regrets and they must do it to save their love.

Wow! This book is a perfect example of why you cannot judge an author based purely on one novel and I am very glad I did not. After reading the sequel to this, "Every Time We Kiss," I had decided to give this one a shot before spurning future endeavors and I can say that if I had read this one first I would have been sorely disappointed with her second effort. I loved Avis and Banning as individual characters and they were even more perfect when paired up. I know that it's not the most original of romance novel plots, to put together two characters who have spent their previous times together bickering, but it is done so well and, hey- it's a staple because it's fun to read about- that I definitely did not mind. I felt like there could have been some more angst over the wager he made over the kiss, and it would have been nice, but there was plenty of emotional turmoil throughout the book. Her fear over becoming like her father was a tad overdone, but it really lent something really special to the book and was certainly a more original fear of marriage than some other novels.

It was also nice that Banning was so quick to realize that he wanted to marry her and that he loved her. And I especially liked that even after he admitted his feelings it did not "magically" solve all their problems. Sometimes I have trouble with novels that pick up with two characters who already know each other as I feel I miss a lot of the development that I like, but I really did not feel like that in this book. When the two of them went off to the country cottage there were many specific instances where we could see how these characters were perfect for each other, such as him setting up the other bedroom for a writing room, their walks in the gardens, the scenes where they proofread her work and he is so encouraging to her. Once at the cottage they engaged in quite a lot of sex that was at least somewhat hot if not exactly spicy. There was the little plot involving Emory Billingsworth and it was obviously very integrated into the story as it really set things in motion. It provided some good conflict for their relationship, it did not at all interfere with reading about their romance, and it paved the way for the big duel at the end.

Rating: Loved the book! Great characters, great romantic development with a nice little conflict plot thrown in. Would have liked a little more excitement or ooomph!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Highland Angel

Highland Angel by Hannah Howell

Lady Kristie leaves her husband, Sir Roderick, to seek the help of Lord Payton Murray. She has spent five years with a brute of a man who molests young children and then disposes of them when he has tired of them. When he discovered that she knew his secrets he attempted to drown her in the river. Now Kristie turns to the man she has heard is honorable, despite his many liaisons with married women. She brings along several of the children she has rescued from Roderick's clutches, including young Callum, who had suffered immensely with Roderick and is now determined to help save his lady Kristie and other young children. Payton is initially reluctant to help Kristie, but after he hears what a monster Roderick is, he knows that something must be done to put a stop to the molestation. Their plan is for Kristie and the children to remain in hiding and for Payton to work his magic by spreading rumors throughout the court so that others begin to realize what he is up to.

Unfortunately Kristie is not so good at staying in hiding and she and Callum venture out trying to gather information about what Roderick has been up to. When Gibb and Wattie, Roderick's henchman discover that she is actually alive Roderick goes after her by setting his hounds on his trail. The rumors that have been spreading are taking their toll and he cannot find the children he is used to procuring. When the hounds lead him straight to Payton's door he realizes that his enemies are getting stronger and he must destroy Payton, the children, and Kristie. Payton grows tired of being at court and returns home because he misses Kristie and the children. She is at first reluctant to give into her attraction to him as she is a married woman, despite the marriage never being consummated, but when everyone around her encourages her to give into the love they are both feeling, she cannot hold back her long dormant passion. When Roderick finally makes his move, Kristie and Payton will need all their friends, family, and allies there to help them defeat evil and move on with their lives- with Kristie as a free woman and hopefully Payton's wife.

Kristie and Payton are certainly noble characters and they are adequately horrified over what is happening to the children in Roderick's care and they are certainly very sympathetic to the plight of the children on the street in general. Perhaps a little too noble and too caring, especially Kristie. While Payton has a past and some badass-ness in him, but Kristie is just a little too perfect and childlike in her innocence really. I was also irritated that she didn't stay inside as she had been ordered- I understand it's a romance novel staple for heroine's who are being stalked or otherwise threatened need to throw caution to the wind (so we can have a big conflict at the end) but she was dealing with one seriously crazy man! There was quite a bit of sex between the two, but it wasn't exactly very hot. It did lead to some funny moments when the children discovered them, though. Interestingly enough I found myself eager for those parts of the story that were told from the point of view as Sir Roderick- they were really well done and really showed that he was completely losing his grip on reality.

The plot involving the molestation, Sir Roderick, and saving all the children of the world really completely takes over this book. I don't want to seem as though I want romance novels that only deal with superficially happy aspects of life, but really having pedophilia and child molestation play such a strong part of this book really makes it difficult to concentrate on the romance. Perhaps that is why romantic development does not play too strong a part in the novel in the first place. Although the children do play such a huge role in the story, Howell is not exactly skilled at writing children who portray age appropriate behaviors and language. I understand that these children have been forced to mature quickly- it is just not at all realistic. Finally- the time period of this book makes no sense to me. I figured out that it takes place in the 15th century because there's a reference to the War of Roses, but there is no evidence of this throughout the book. A few clothing references, but with such a huge emphasis on "court" life and his having a home in the city really makes this time frame of doubtful realism.

Rating: In the Scottish accent that Howell sprinkles very liberally throughout the book: I donnea think I will be reading any more books by Hannah Howell.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My Darling Caroline

My Darling Caroline by Adele Ashworth

Caroline Grayson has always been the odd sister out in her family of five girls. She is amazingly intelligent, she has dedicated her life to botany, and despite her vast amount of knowledge and dedication she was turned down from studying with her hero, Sir Albert Markham, because of her sex. When her father discovers that she plans to go to Columbia University to work with other botanists, as she has pretended to be a man, he decides that the best thing to do is to marry her off. He blackmails Brent Ravenscroft, the Earl of Weymerth into marrying her. Brent had been on the continent fighting in the war for months and in his absence his cousin had sold all of his possessions to Caroline's father who only agreed to give them back if he married his daughter. Caroline goes along with the marriage, the whole time knowing that she will eventually get the marriage annulled. Brent is no more excited about the marriage than her, but he is excited that at least he will have no problems creating an heir with his new wife. When she refuses to consummate the marriage he decides to take things slow in their relationship.

Slowly the pieces of their marriage begin to fall into place. The two are both still adamant that they will never admit that they love the other, but it gets easier and easier to see that they are indeed falling in love. Caroline discovers that Brent has an illegitimate daughter and is the first to recognize that Rosalyn is deaf. When Caroline creates a language for Rosalyn to use, Brent is overjoyed that for the first time he is able to communicate and understand his wild child. Although Brent has a terrible history with women as his mother was a selfish witch, he begins to see that Caroline could be different- she could be the women who is worth finally opening his heart. When an evil from Brent's past in France resurfaces with the intent to kill Brent and all he holds dear, Brent has to skillfully maneuver to find a way to save Caroline. Unfortunately it is then that he discovers Caroline's plans to go to Columbia and before she can leave him, he kicks her out of the house without giving her the chance to explain how and why her plans have changed. Without Caroline in his life, Brent realizes that he has made a terrible mistake and knows that he must finally come clean with her about everything- including how much she means to him.

So Caroline is not your typical intelligent female in this book as she is apparently one of those super geniuses that pop up once in a generation or so. Her motives are so well explained that it made it so much more beautiful when she came to the realization that her future lay with Brent and her new family then with the plants and the studying she had previously devoted her life to. Her interactions with Rosalyn, the deaf little girl, were apparently well researched and I could not imagine the patience and skill it would take to communicate with a deaf child before an official sign language was invented. Brent underwent some quite intriguing emotional changes throughout this book as his feelings and his heart began to slowly melt each time Caroline did or said something unexpected that showed how much she cared for him. He certainly said some quite awful things and behaved like a right ass on several occasions, but his apologies were so sincere and heartfelt that I really felt his emotions shining through. I do wish their had been more sex between them, although what few instances in the book were quite hot and good.

What was just truly magical about this book was the way that both Caroline and Brent saw past each others weaknesses and managed to fall in love with each other anyway. Both of them knew their own weaknesses, and because of their feelings for the other, they worked hard to overcome these weaknesses and make themselves a better person. Something I noticed fairly early on in this book was that scenes and conversations are often very long. Towards the end these conversations almost lean towards being information dumps as one character after another has to spill their guts and share all their secrets. From the dinner parties to the sex scenes, everything seems to take twice as many pages as in other romance novels. However she does it so beautifully, and writes so well, that it does not seem as though she's writing too much or that there is an excessive amount of superfluous information. When the book extended on beyond the crazy killer plot I was a little surprised, but the rest of it was just so heartbreakingly wonderful I did not have a problem with it.

Rating: Beautiful book with two beautiful, wonderfully written characters. It did get a tad bit long but that did not both me at all because I just loved the book so much.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Seducing the Heiress

Seducing the Heiress by Olivia Drake

Portia Crompton is the belle of the ton in her debut season because, despite her "lowly" origins, her father's trading business has made tons of money and she is quite the heiress. Portia and her two sister's had grown up in Bombay, India, and she intends to return there to marry her childhood sweetheart/ friend Arun, who is the maharajah's son. This of course has to remain secret from her family as her mother is desperate for her to marry a peer so that the entire family can be secure in their place in society. Colin Byrd, Viscount Ratcliffe, is a penniless peer who has decided that he must marry Portia in order to dig his family out of some immense debt. Once Colin places Portia in his sights, the Duke of Albright suddenly decides to shower her with his affections and quickly informs her that Colin is a rake, a wastrel, and a murderer. Years ago, Colin's father had died in an accident while Colin was supposedly cleaning his gun, and while a court had exonerated him, the ton has never quite forgiven him. Portia is horrified that the man she had found desperately intriguing could be so wrong for her and vows to stay away from him.

Although her mother is thrilled that Albright is paying attention to her, Portia cannot get Colin out of her head, and Colin can't stop thinking about Portia- her money and her spirit. He is horrified that Albright is paying court to her as he wants her to himself and he knows that he is just going after her to get back at the Ratcliffe family. Ratcliffe's mother had been engaged to Allbright and had left him at the alter for Ratcliffe senior. However when Albright proposes Portia accepts, thinking that Ratcliffe is not worthwhile. He is furious and decides to kidnap her and hold her hostage at his estate. It is there that Portia realizes it is not Colin who is a wastrel, but his mother who is addicted to gambling. She learns that he is caring as he has taken in an urchin off the street, saved a pirate from the high seas, and that he has hired his ex-mistress as his housekeeper after she was knocked-up and thrown away by Albright. Portia knows that it is only Colin she wants, but he wonders if she can have a better life without him. When Albright comes to "rescue" Portia she does not want to give up Colin without a fight and after a deadly duel, Portia discovers there is still so much she has to learn with the man she has fallen in love with.

Portia is quite a young heroine and there are definitely times that it shows, but it also serves as the impetuous for the major changes she undergoes throughout the novel. Her childish infatuation/ love with Arun serves as a great counter point to the passion and romantic love she ends up feeling for Colin. Her feelings towards Colin progress in a completely thorough and understandable manner and she learns more about him and gets to know who he really is behind the wastrel he presents to the rest of society. Her relationship with her parents adds a really interesting element to the story as sometimes you so want to hate them, but Portia loves them despite their faults and their sometimes inability to understand what she needs. There are some brief scenes told from the parents point of view and they are some very intriguing parts of the story. Portia and Colin are very attracted to each other but they really don't get it on until almost all the way through the story. While hot enough, it wasn't exactly super steamy and there really wasn't enough sex overall in my opinion.

The extra plot really involved Colin and his relationship with Albright and his mother. While the reader is clearly informed that there is something very shady in their past, we really are left guessing for quite awhile. It turns out that Colin had been covering for his mother in more ways than one and while at first glance that seems admirable it also comes across as just ridiculously crazy of him. The way things turned out, it was clear that from the beginning if he had just bothered to tell the truth so much of the awfulness he endured would have been circumvented. However it was very nice that his feelings for Portia were so noble. While he made no bones about his attraction for her being based solely on her money at the beginning, the reader is taken on quite the journey as his feelings undergo the same changes hers did as the two of them get to know each other. This was certainly a romance novel where the relationship was developed very well and it was very well explained why these two fell for each other so hard.

Rating: Great romantic development to accompany some great characters and quite an interesting side plot. This book is highly recommended although I wish there had been more steam and that Colin had been a little more realistic about some things.