Sunday, August 29, 2010

To Tempt a Scotsman

To Tempt a Scotsman by Victoria Dahl 514

Collin Blackburn is determined to find Damien St. Caire, who killed Colin's brother John in a duel. When John had found Lady Alexandra Hutchinson, a young woman he had developed strong feelings for, in the arms of St. Claire, he challenged him to a duel and John lost his life. Alex was ruined and Damien fled to the continent and now John is determined to find the man who killed his brother. He is attempting to track him down but he is eventually forced to turn to Alex herself for answers because he knows she is helping Damien as he lives in exile in France. He is not expected to find a headstrong young woman who dresses like a man, works her brother's estate as the land manager, and is not at all scared of expressing her sexual needs. Collin knows he needs to stay away from her, as she is a Duke's sister and he was born a bastard despite having been recently named a lord, but it is very difficult to put aside the immense attraction he feels for her.

Despite his best efforts he succumbs to Alex when she asks him to spend a couple of weeks with her at a family cabin, just the two of them. It is there that the two really begin to fall in love and certainly enjoy getting it on quite a lot. It is also where Collin begins to wonder if he can put aside his back ground and hers because he knows that the idea of her with another man is going to kill him. When Alex gets sick and he takes her to her brother's estate, they agree to get married to avoid a horrible scandal, and while each is individually excited about the prospect they each believe the other was forced into it. Collin is terrified that Alex will leave him when she discovers that he is not exciting, that he is not wealthy, that he is not the well-to-do gentleman that someone like her would normally be with. This drives a wedge between the newly married couple and things go from bad to worse as Collin's jealousy begins to spiral out of control. It takes a deadly confrontation for each to realize that they do love each other and nothing can stand in their way.

I read the Victoria Dahl books in reverse order, but it works out fine as you didn't really have to have read any of them to make it work. This one turned out to be just as enjoyable as the other two of hers that I have read. The plot was simple and yet she managed to do some great new things with it by making Collin's insecurities and Alex's incredibly exuberant personality such a large part of the story. Alex is amazing in so many different ways; she's a genuinely happy and enjoyable person and yet she has this deeper side to her because of what had happened with her two previous loves. She is self-reflective, intelligent, and damn sure of herself and isn't afraid to go after what she wants and then admit that she's made a mistake. Collin was admittedly a little irritating with his guilt and his jealousy came perilously close to making him a right ass. He did and said some pretty awful things and I would have liked to see more apology from him.

I have to admit that I absolutely loved that Alex was so overtly sexual, liked that she enjoyed sex, and was not scared to act on her sexual impulses. She was a virgin (shocker!) but she was far from the innocent of most regency heroines. Dahl did what most authors do for romance heroes by explaining that the feelings around the sex were just extra special with this particular person which does end up working just as well for the woman as for the man. So basically the sex in this book is steaming hot and there is plenty of it throughout the book and it goes well with the flow of the story. The side-plot involving Damien St. Claire served as the method for getting them together, however it really didn't seem like an all important part of the story and was resolved in a very short end scene that ended as expected. There was also a nice little side romance going on in the book and a secondary villain that added a lot to the book and I really liked them. Lastly, I really like Dahl's writing style- very enjoyable and readable.

Rating: Another great win for Dahl. A little misstep with the jealousy so if you aren't into angst it's not for you, but a great book overall.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

All Night with a Rogue

All Night with a Rogue by Alexandra Hawkins 509

The first meeting between Lady Juliana Ivers and Alexius, Lord Sinclair is not quite auspicious as Alexius is being fellated by a former mistress of his. Nevertheless he quite likes the wood sprite he finds hiding in the tree to escape an overzealous suitor and is quite disappointed when she runs away before introducing herself. Juliana is town with her two older sisters and her mother who is determined to see them all wed. Unfortunately the family is not in the best financial straights as the mother has a gambling problem and the family patriarch, a distant cousin, has finally had enough and has cut them off. Alexius is not all that surprised when his sister enlists his help and asks him to seduce and cast off a young woman she sees as competition for the affection of another man. He is quite excited when he discovers that the woman in question is Juliana and he sets out to allay her fears and convince her that an liaison between the two of them could be quite a good time. He is not wrong and the two enjoy each other's company immensely.

Things begin to go badly when her mother's gambling debts threaten to crush the family and she makes a deal to give her daughter to Lord Gomfrey in exchange for forgiving the debts. Juliana cannot reach Alexius in time to ask for his help or explain what is occurring and he is furious when he believes that Juliana is leaving him for another man. The confrontation is very public and very emotional as he sets out to hurt her and all the warm feelings she had begun to develop for him are crushed. But then it turns out that Juliana's mother had been expected Alexius to go after Juliana and save the entire family and had been manipulating the whole thing to get a marriage ring.To make matters even worse Juliana's very uptight cousin has decided that in order to save the family he will have to marry her and he has no problem forcing himself on her. It is up to Alexius to prove to Juliana that she really is special to him, that she is different than all the other women, and that he loves her and deserves her forgiveness.

Obviously Alexius is quite the bad boy- their first two meetings are with him and another woman so in my opinion this warrants that quite a bit of very obvious change needs to occur in order to make him a decent romance novel hero. I am not quite sure he completely does go through a change although he certainly runs around a lot trying to save her. Also I have to admit that I absolutely hate his name; several times as I was reading I read "anxious," and while it was self correcting it was still annoying. Juliana is a musician and while she is very talented, enough to warrant publishing, I like that the book did not make her skills magical and so amazing that it silences entire rooms of listeners. That happens in so many novels and is just ridiculous in my opinion. I wish that the two of them had spent more time together after they had made up and we could see them getting along together and not at each other's throats of thinking about other women. I will say that I really liked the writing in this story as a whole and I liked that it was very fast paced and kept me very interested.

The sex was quite hot and inventive, however the fact that during it the reader was well aware he had done it with other women (because we were reminded of it) was a turn off. There was one scene involving a pearl necklace that was quite intriguing, but it really ended up turning me off because there were so many mentions of how this was a notorious and well known game that he played with all the women he slept with. I would have appreciated a more tame and emotional sex scene after they had reconciled and they were in love to really bring it together. Her mother was an absolute awful character as she did basically gamble away her daughter, although I can tell that Hawkins was trying to make her a nuanced character by having it be just an effort on her part to manipulate Alexius into a marriage proposal, but the act itself was so unforgivable I just didn't get it... but kudos to her for making a very strong effort.

Rating: I quite liked this book and while there were things I would have changed or liked done better I definitely plan on reading more from this author in this series.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Hellion and the Highlander

The Hellion and the Highlander by Lynsay Sands 507

Kade Stewart is surprised to wake up in his friend Will Montagne's household after two weeks of unconsciousness. He, Will, and several other men had been imprisoned after being captured during the Crusades and after a daring escape their boat had nearly been sunk off the coast. His vision is blurry but he has no trouble discerning that Lady Averill, Will's sister, is something quite special. Unfortunately her self-esteem has been nearly crushed by a series of cruel suitors who disparaged her red hair, the small strawberry birthmark on her cheek, and the stutter she gets when she is nervous. To prevent her nervousness he pretends he cannot see her and while he knows he wants her he is not sure that her sweetness can survive the harshness of Scotland. When she ends up punching a suitor in the face when he makes mean comments about the size of breasts, he knows that they can be perfect for each other and wastes no time proposing that they marry. But Averill is not convinced as she believes that Kade is still unable to see all her faults and she has to reassure herself that he actually does want her by listing all her faults to him.

That is still not enough to put him off, so the two marry, and enjoy quite the remarkable wedding night. But Averill picked up some tricks from the maids of the castle and these so called tips turn out to be some quite awful advice. The two of them head off to Scotland to see how Kade's family is doing and on the way a stray arrow nearly kills him. He brushes it off as an accident but Averill is not so sure. Castle Stewart is a mess as Kade's father and two brothers have chased away all the servants, left a big giant mess, and live in a constant drunken stupor. Kade wants to take over as laird from his father and he wants him sober to do it and Averill decides that the perfect way to get the Stewart men off alcohol is to poison their whiskey so they get horribly sick every time they drink. When next Averill and Kade are out in the open, the arrows do not miss him and everyone is forced to admit that someone is after Kade, although no one has a guess as to who. Together Averill and Kade must work to figure out what is going on and realize that they are desperately in love with each other.

Averill was interesting and well written. She was calm and collected, knew what to do to get her way, and was very knowledgeable about medicines, but not in annoying "she's too perfect" way. Also she is quite resourceful- as evidenced by her poisoning her in-laws. There was some mention about how her mom had taught her to control her temper and I was a little worried that the book would be about how she learned to be feisty, but this was not the case. Aside from her fighting back against the mean suitor, which just proved that she was feisty enough to survive Scotland (?), her hiding her temper was not that big a deal. Kade was not quite as interesting and I wish more of the story had been told from his point of view, but he was worthy enough of Averill because of how well he treated her, how he understood her, and because he was not a pigheaded hero who wandered off even when there was someone out there trying to kill him. LOVED that! The murder plot was a little far-fetched, especially the villain, but it was interesting enough and added some good scenes to the novel.

There were some amazingly hysterical moments in this book, especially centering around Averill's attempts to please her husband in bed. The advice she solicits from the two maids, is in itself hilarious, but when she attempts to apply that advice, on two separate occasions the results are hilarious. And it was also beautiful because she so badly wants to please her new husband and is upset when she doesn't think she is able to accomplish that, but Kade knows he wants to keep his wife happy so he soothes her feelings. It was funny and showed how well their relationship was growing. I like that Sands has trues series' with recurring characters and characters who are all related and she does it without hurling at everyone out of the blue. It's short, sweet, and enough to let the reader reminisce about how great her last novels and couplings were without being irritating or just too much. I realized that I love how Sands writes the interactions between her characters- they are literally just perfect.

Rating: Really great book with some great characters and some quite funny moments. I would definitely recommend this fast paced novel.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Marriage Bed

The Marriage Bed by Laura Lee Guhrke 506

Nine years ago Lady Viola had fallen madly in love with the dissolute and absolutely broke Lord John Hammond. Against the advice of her brother she married him, convinced that they were going to have the perfect marriage and that he loved her in return. The two enjoyed three months of marital joy, punctuated with passionate arguments and even more passionate making up. But when she found out John had given a diamond necklace to another woman, paid for with her dowry nonetheless, she could not forgive him. She moved out, ignoring John's insistence that it was merely a going away present to end the relationship with her former mistress, and over the next eight years the two led completely separate lives. John took solace in the arm's of woman after woman while Viola pretended she did not care and lived a perfectly comfortable life on her own. But when John's heir dies and the next in line is a horrible man, John knows he needs to reconcile with his wife so that she can give him an heir.

Viola does not care what John wants or needs and has never forgiven him for crushing her heart all those years ago. John sets out slowly and methodically to woo his erstwhile wife; tempting her shopping trips and plans to redecorate their London townhouse, quick trysts in hidden alcoves, and doing his best to remind her of all the happy times that they had while married. But the spector of all those woman remains between them and John worries that he will never be able to bring back the young girl who was so infatuated with him. He knows he made mistakes, but he does not believe he shoulders all the blame for what happened, he just knows that he wants to make things right and that he desperately wants his wife back. With his silver tongue and his charming wits John wears down Viola's resistance and reminds her of the happier times they had, but he still is unsure if what he feels for her is love. When someone from his past arrives with a surprising announcement, he is forced into the realization that Viola is all he wants, it is Viola he loves.

This book was obviously incredibly emotional and both of these two inspire some quite heady feelings in the other. I found myself crying on more than one occasion as Viola reflected on the past and what she believed John had thrown away, and John thought of the mistakes he had made and the happiness he so desperately wants to have with Viola. I liked that no one really was completely to blame; they both made mistakes (although John was probably more to blame really) and the reader knows they both have a lot of things to learn about life and love before they can go on together. I really felt as there was strong relationship development throughout this book as they started really from scratch and went from there. However, the book does not make a strong enough distinction between the way he treated his mistress and the way he is currently treating Viola. There was some decent sex by the end of the book (Viola did withstand his advances for quite a while) and it was really a sign that there relationship was coming together.

I was led to believe based on some things that happened at the beginning that John would do something rather embarrassing and outrageous to get Viola back, so I was incredibly disappointed when it turned out to be more pathetic than outrageous. And I had one major major problem with this book! (Spoiler Alert!) The person from his past who comes back is an ex-mistress, whom he slept with while married to Viola, who arrives with what is undeniably his baby in tow. I am okay with a wife accepted her husband's illegitimate child when it was conceived before they met/ married, but one who was conceived during the marriage?! No way, no how! All Viola does when the baby arrives is feel sorry for the fact that the mother had obviously had unreturned feelings for John, much as she herself had, and she agrees pit-pat to take on the care of the baby. I did NOT like this. Too much forgiveness and acceptance for my preference.

Rating: I probably would have given this book three hearts (maybe 3 1/2) but after that horrible ending I really was tempted to just give it one, but I will give it 2.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Touch of Scandal

A Touch of Scandal by Jennifer Haymore 501

A Touch of Scandal starts off four months after the end of A Hint of Wicked with Garrett James, the Duke of Calton, desperately chasing down William Frisk, the man who kept him ignorant and servile in Belgium for eight years before convincing society he was mad and eloping with his sister, Rebecca. Kate Frisk is working as a servant in her brother William's house, but she has to pretend to Lady Rebecca, that she is no relation to the master of the house. She treks home from the manor every night to take care of her sickly brother, Reggie, who is the illegitimate son of the deceased Lord Debussey. On the way home she likes to stop by a small pond, and recently she discovered that a very handsome god has taken to swimming in the river. Upon introduction neither reveals their relationship to William Frisk and the spark and connection they feel for each other instantly bonds them. It really is only a short amount of time before Kate impetuously decides that, although she knows nothing can ever come of the relationships, she wants to truly be with Garrett.

It is not until afterwards, when he is secure in the knowledge that he has met a great woman does Garrett discover who Kate is, but by then it is too late and William has found the two of them. Despite the lies that he strings about Garrett, Kate can't help but feel as though her brother, whom she has always trusted completely, is lieing and she knows she wants to help Garrett. But Kate's mom is always in the back ground, reminding Kate that William is the only good thing left in the world and that it is Kate and Reggie who are the useless ones. Even if she saves Garrett it may be too late for them as a woman from Garrett's past arrives, claiming that the child she carries is his. Will Garrett take duty and honor or the woman he believes is the love of his life? It is up to Kate to prove that this woman is not the innocent she claims to be and safe him from a life of misery. However, even if he escapes that fate she knows that the difference in their station would prevent a match and this time it is Garrett's turn to save Kate from her own fears and insecurities to create a happy life with him.

This book had a LOT to live up to as I absolutely loved her previous book and gave it a very high 5 hearts. One thing I noticed quickly was that Haymore still has not completely developed a relationship from start to finished to my satisfaction as Sophie and Tristan were already very well acquainted before the start of Wicked. She makes it clear that from the beginning of their meeting Garrett and Kate are incredibly drawn to each other and have quite the connection. They both know they can trust each other with everything, despite the tragedies in their past, but there really wasn't any rhyme or reason beyond this. It almost fell more into the love at first sight category than a romance where two adults develop feelings for each other as they learn about each other and notice eachother's admirable qualities. Granted by the end I was so rooting for these two to be together and finally bring these two people, who had been so hurt and had so little love in their lives, the happiness they could give to each other.

I loved Kate as a character and all the emotions and craziness she went through over the course of the book and how well she handled it. She fell in love, had to deal with the fact that her brother was a horrible lieing monster, and risk losing the man she had fallen in love with because of society. Throughout it all she held her up, adapted well to her new situations, and did her best to take care of her little brother. She wasn't "good" or drop dead gorgeous, she had an inner light that Garrett could not resist, and while I'm normally not a fan of the beautiful smile that makes the drab woman gorgeous, Haymore does a fairly good job with it. Garrett is great as the semi-brooding hero who is still trying to get his life back on track and doesn't know quite how best to accomplish this. The sex was nowhere near as steamy as I expected, and there is not enough of it in my opinion, but it was definitely a beautiful expression of their love for each other. I would have liked to have seen more time spent between Kate and Garrett, just the two of them.

Rating: The book was fairly good, but with two side-plots coming between them I kind of felt there was not enough focus on the romance. Still, two great characters and great writing.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

When Angels Fall

When Angels Fall by Meagan McKinney 501

Lissa Alcester has been doing her best to make ends meet and support her younger siblings, the blind Evvie, and ten year-old George. Things are not going well and without the support of Great-Aunt Sally, things would be far worse than they are. Their parents had died during a Great Scandal that left the children broke and with a great cloud over their heads. They don't know that Sally is really Ivan Tramore, the new Marquis of Powerscourt, who had once been their stable boy when he was nothing more than the bastard son of the old Marquis. One day Lissa had snuck down to the stables an in the heat of passion had said some very harsh things to him and struck him across the cheek with a horsewhip. Now when she hears he is coming back to town, she knows that he is finally here to get his revenge and laugh at the Alcester family's very long fall from grace. Coming face to face with him after all these years brings back all the old feelings and Lissa is terrified she will live up to the nickname, "Lusty Lissa."

Lissa is determined to make the best of things for her family and thinks the only way to do this is by marrying a rich man, but Ivan keeps getting in the way and chasing of all his suitors. She knows that he wants to ruin her and keep her as his mistress, but she cannot become her promiscuous marriage and wants to hold out for marriage. This becomes harder and harder the more Ivan presses her and tries to seduce her. When she takes a job Ivan's house to help him plan a ball, she is thrown together with him more and more and realizes that she has always been in love with him. Her sister meanwhile has been getting very cozy with Ivan's bailiff, one Holland Jones, who takes it into his head that he is in charge of the Alcester family and he demands that Ivan do right by Lissa. When she gets scared that Ivan is going to brush her off once he has gotten his revenge (aka. slept with her) she runs off to London and is up to Ivan to prove that he both wants her and is worthy of her.

I had read this book back in High School and had held fond memories of it, but like Elizabeth Lowell's Autumn Lover my memories are much better than the book itself turned out to be or at least I had much different tastes back in High School. The first thing I noticed about this book is that there is absolutely nothing told from Ivan's point of view and this makes the book severely lacking. His POV would have been very welcome, especially considering all the turmoil that Lissa was going through, and the things he were doing to her often demanding some justifiable explanation and none was ever offered. It is obvious he is torn between revenge and some very strong feelings for the girl he has never been able to get out of her head, but unfortunately wonderful angstiness only really works when both sides are really feeling it. This was definitely a book where I cannot figure out what really drew these two together as Ivan is surly and rude the whole time and Lissa is running around trying to keep her dignity and save her family.

Lissa is quite determined and I loved that she worked so hard to keep her family going and protect her weaker siblings from the world. However, she goes and ruins her own chances to get married several times (with Ivan's help, but she could have prevented it really) and I just wanted to slap her. Ivan and Lissa spent absolutely no time together as a happy couple, it was always tinged with her fear that he would abandon her and did not really love him. I usually like to see the two together and functioning as a couple for at least a couple of scenes. The sex/ seduction was different than what occurs in most modern regency novels, but was fairly standard for back then I guess. He doesn't rape her, but he does seem to have difficulty stopping when she says no and the seduction was far harsher than I am usually used to. And she is sad throughout almost all of it as she worries about him not loving her and it really lends a tragic air to the whole thing. This book is incredibly emotional, however it never really crosses into fun angstiness, just... worry.

Rating: I always look back on things with more fondness than they deserve. My rose covered glasses say three stars, my objectivity says one.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Provocative in Pearls

Provocative in Hunter by Madeline Hunter 430

For two years Grayson, Earl of Hawkeswell, has been struggling to obtain the monies he was promised when he wed young Verity Thompson. Unfortunately right after the ceremony she absconded away and drowned in the Thames, but since her body was never found, the entire validity of the marriage is up in the air. Hawkeswell needs those funds to help those on his lands who depend on him. During an afternoon trip to the country with his friend he discovers that Verity is far from dead and has in fact been posing as young Elizabeth for the last two years. He is furious but Verity hopes that she can convince him that the best possible way to remedy the situation is to obtain an annulment and she will grant him the funds he needs. She had been coerced into the marriage by her cousin, who threatened to hurt some family friends of hers, and she did want to enter into a man she barely new so she ran away. Hawkeswell does not want to listen to Verity's arguments or proposals, but he agrees that in exchange for three kisses a day he will leave her alone.

Verity does not expect these kisses to amount to much, so she is quite surprised when she finds herself very much liking them. Hawkeswell wants his marriage to work out because he desperately needs the money, but even after he is offered the money, without the bride, he finds that he is not quite willing to give Verity up. He is not at all pleased that Verity has an obsession with finding Michael Bowman, the young man everyone had assumed she would eventually marry. Michael was handsome and he grew up in the world of the iron mines, so he was the perfect man for Verity. Hawkeswell does not like feeling as though his wife wants someone else, butt he more he sees her dedication to the people, sees the cruel way her cousin and his wife treated her while she lived with them, and sees how innocently perfect she is in med, the more he comes to realize that there may be something more important than his own happiness and the money he can gain. Only after he proves to her that she means more to him than anything do he and Verity come together with the knowledge that there was nothing left to stop them from falling in love.

I am torn between admiring Lizzie for taking matters into her own hands and running away from a situation she had absolutely not control of and disliking her for running away and not standing up for herself. I guess the fact that there really was nothing she could do because of her age and her gender, I am more sympathetic to her plight. So go her for running away. However, her ideas on how to make things right are obviously ridiculous from the get go and I don't quite understand how she could be so sheltered and naive after everything she went through. Hawkeswell was interesting as well, although I was still trying to figure out why his temper was so renowned and if there really was a danger of it manifesting itself around Lizzie. Oddly enough I found myself far more sympathetic to his plight than I was for Lizzie. I liked that I could really get a feel for the way these two fell in love with each other- I imagine I was that Hawkeswell loved Lizzie's dedication to her friends and her father's legacy as well as her innocence, while Hawkeswell really proved his love for her at the end in such an amazing way that Lizzie had to fall in love with her. I guess I'm just a sucker for sacrifices that prove love!

The writing style in this was different than I am used to with Hunter's novels, especially the sex scenes that were just very... perhaps the right word is flowery. They were quite plentiful, definitely not graphic, and really just kind of hinted in weird ways at what was going on. I wasn't really a fan. In addition this whole hoopla about the family friend/ childhood sweetheart should have been explained in much more detail from the beginning as I was halfway done before I really figured out why Michael was important to her and why we should care about what had happened. Luckily once I understand what had happened, kind of, I was definitely intrigued and wanted to figure out why so many young men in iron towns were disappearing. Unfortunately, this plot should have been much more complex than it was as there were conspiracies, workers troubles, and circumventing of the law, that I would have liked some more explanation of it at the end.

Rating: I can objectively look at this book and find redeeming qualities, but I just did not like it. My favorite part was the very end when Hawkeswell made that big sacrifice because of how much he loved Verity.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Truth About Lord Stoneville

The Truth About Lord Stoneville by Sabrina Jeffries 428

Maria Butterfield and her cousin Jeremy Dunse have come to London from Dartmouth, Massachusetts, to find Maria's fiance, Nathan Hyatt. Hyatt had been sent to London on a mission from Maria's father's shipping agency, New Bedford Shipping, and he has since gone missing. Maria and Hyatt had become engaged at the behest of Maria's father, who had no sons and wanted to pass his shipping empire on to someone he can trust. But now that Maria's father has died, Maria needs Henry in order to have access to her funds. She and Jeremy chase a man carrying Henry's satchel into the brothel where they are confronted by Oliver, Lord Stoneville. Oliver is not at all a happy camper as his grandmother, Mrs. Plumtree, has just threatened to disinherit and cut off Oliver and his four dissolute siblings if they don't all marry by the end of the year. He sees this Catholic American woman with a trade background as the perfect person to help him call his grandmother's bluff. So he takes her and her cousin back to his family estate, Halstead Hall, to pretend to be his fiance in exchange for helping her find Hyatt.

What he had not counted on was finding Maria quite so interesting and so loyal to him. Rumors abound that Oliver was somehow involved in his parents quite tragic death as his mother shot his father before killing herself. Oliver finds Maria sympathetic, quick to protect him from scandalmongers, and she has an amazing smile that warms him. Maria realizes that the dissolute image and heartless facade that Oliver presents to the world is just his way of protecting himself from being hurt by society's whispers. Oliver is scared that Maria is marrying Hyatt for all the wrong reasons and he quickly discovers that he does not want Maria with any man other than him. Quickly their fake engagement is all too real and it turns out that the grandmother's disapproval had been a bluff all along and she heartily approves of matters. But when a private detective finds Hyatt, and Oliver is terrified that he does not have a strong enough hold on her, but he knows he cannot lose her love. He has to use all the power he has at his disposal to save the woman who saved him, from the man who betrayed her.

Maria is absolutely amazing and I loved her from the very beginning! She goes off to London to get what she wants showing amazing gumption for an unmarried woman, she kind of allows herself to be bullied into pretending to be a fiance but she always manages to hold her own, and she can really see inside of Oliver to understand where he's coming from and what he is really like on the inside. All romance novel heroes have hidden depths, but Oliver's are particularly special because they really are so transparent to anyone who would care to look, and he is so obviously desperate to have someone look. I love that he wants to protect her from making the same mistakes his parents made (marrying for money) and is also so desperate to avoid the same mistake himself. It really makes his aversion to marriage more believable and not so gag inducing as some other excuses I've read. The love these two felt for each other was almost palpable and I loved it. There was also just enough steam and Jeffries, as usual, does a great job with it.

I believe that this book brings up several character's from Jeffries' previous novels, however I am not quite sure and I like that I was not hit over the head with them so much and their happiness is just kind of briefly mentioned enough to be satisfying. Mrs. Plumtree was also incredibly well written. I am not a fan of the overbearing grandmother's or the grandmother's who are just too precious and hold all these secrets and know what is going on. Mrs. Plumtree is a great balance between all of it and is just great. Hyatt was also great as the villain of the story as he was an awful person for what he did, obviously, but at the same time his motivations were actually well explained and he did not end up being a horrible treasonous bastard. His little mistake also lent a great side plot to the story as well as I loved reading Stone's fears about losing Maria and how much he needs her, wants to protect her, and can't bear to give her up to another man. And there was also, at the end, quite the interesting little development involving the well named Jeremy Dunse, and a woman who equally deserves the last name she eventually takes on.

Rating: I loved this book; it had great writing, two amazing characters, and an incredibly well developed romance and relationship.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Revenge Wears Rubies

Revenge Wears Rubies by Renee Bernard 426

Galen Hawke survived months in a sahib's prison while in India and he survived on tale's of his friend John's sweetheart back home, Haley Moreland. He and several of his fellow English captives manage to escape but on the harrowing journey back to civilization John passes away and exacts a promise from Galen that he will take care of Haley. Galen is furious to return to England and find that Haley is engaged to another man less than a year after she discovered her lover had died. He knows that this supposedly innocent miss is nothing but a fortune hunter who has latched herself onto a rich industrialist despite his inferior breeding and uncouth manners. He has been aimless ever since he got back but Haley gives him something to work towards- he needs to get revenge for John and ruin the young lady who wasted no time getting over him. Haley is not at all happy to have the weight of her family's financial ruin placed on her shoulder, but she knows her duty and that is why she has agreed to married Mr. Herbert Tumble.

When Galen gains an introduction to Haley both are immediately smitten, but Galen is still determined to prove that she is heartless. Haley realizes that she does not want to live her entire life without having known true passion, so despite her misgivings and the realization that she will have to marry Tumble, she embarks on a wild and reckless affair with Galen. They are not long into it before Galen has misgivings about his plan to ruin Haley and begins to search for reasons why he should not ruin her. It does not take Haley long to realize that she is desperately in love with Galen and she knows she must call off her ill fated wedding. But the time that Galen and his friends spent in that dungeon in India is coming back to haunt them as they had discovered a treasure room before their escape that members of the East India Company would literally kill to discover the whereabouts of it. Added to that, Galen's brother becomes deathly ill just as Haley discovers that Galen's intentions had not been honorable from the start. Galen must try to fight off the madmen who want him dead and gain back the love of the woman he may have lost forever.

From the outset it is obvious that Galen and Haley are very attracted to each other, but beyond that there really was not all that much to show a true emotional relationship between the two of them. There were not even the token reflections on the others' spirit or goodness or whatnot. The time these two spent together was almost entirely devoted to sex or at least double entendres that alluded to sex. Also there was some rather annoyingly witty and short banter between the two of them. However the sex, while plentiful, is very rarely hot, and really goes on for far too long and even I found myself wanting to just kind of skip through it. Literally- I believe the scene where she finally lost her virginity went on for 30 pages. Galen was so single minded in his pursuit of revenge against Haley in the beginning and I am happy to say that at least that was understandable as it finally gave him something to live for since his life had been a little empty since his return. Haley was quite the martyr as she sacrificed herself at the altar of marriage to save her family, and I loved that she had a little spunk and went out there and got some for herself.

However, I was able to see Michael as he grew from being bitter and suffering from some severe post-traumatic stress disorder to a man who finds a woman who can finally help him sleep through the night. The plot involving the treasure room and the East India Company really only hovers in the back ground for the majority of the book which suited me fine. Although more interesting than conspiracies involving books, I just tend not to go for big mystery-murder plots in general in my romance novels. However, as this is a part of what proves to be a much longer series (The Jaded Gentleman) based on the romances of all the survivors out of India, it is not entirely resolved and probably will not be until the end of the last in the series. I was a little surprised that the horrors the endured in India were really only alluded to in a very brief way, although it was probably for the best as i didn't really need to read them to understand what had happened.

Rating: The sex took over the book and it was not even all that good. I loved her last offering, but I have to give this two hearts.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Harper's Bride

Harper's Bride by Alexis Harrington 512

When Dylan Harper demands that Coy Logan repays the $1200 that Logan owes him, Logan is furious and knows there is no way he can raise the money. So he offers Harper his wife in exchange for forgiving the debt saying that Melissa will be able to cook and clean for Harper. Melissa is not excited about the prospect but she knows that things can not be too much worse than living in constant fear for herself and her young daughter, Jenny. Coy has already taken to hitting her and she wonders if it is just a matter of time before he takes to hitting the baby. So with some legal advice from a friend, that probably wouldn't quite hold up completely in court, Melissa becomes Mrs. Harper and she and Jenny move into the small apartment above Dylan's store. Dylan knows that Melissa is terrified of all men and that his reputation as a cold man does help her anxiety. She wants to make the best of things, so she tries to make her impact in his life as small as possible and keep him happy by doing as much for him as she can.

Slowly Dylan comes to like all the nice changes in his life; the clean clothes, the home cooked meals, and having company around. He knows that it will take time for her to completely get over her fear of men after what she had been through. Melissa just wants to pay off her debt to Dylan and start a better life for herself in her daughter and Portland so she opens up a laundry business in the heavily male dominated mining town. But the more money she earns the more she begins to think that she will not be able to leave Dylan. Dylan has also been burned before, by a young woman he fell madly in love with who ended up marrying his rich brother, and he is wary of taking that next step with another woman. His friend, Rafe, warns him repeatedly not to let life pass him by and not to end up with all the regrets that he himself has. When he finds out his estranged family his died his first thought is to go back and reclaim his land, but he is forced to confront his feelings for the little family that has already become his.

I'm not normally one for mining romances but I made an exception as I had just downloaded by Kindle for Mac's and I read a fairly decent review of it on another site. Immediately I was struck by how well developed the characters were and the complexity with which they were written. They both had their own stories and their own secrets and they both wanted so much out of their future and were willing to do whatever they could to achieve it. I loved Melissa's devotion to her daughter as it was completely real and loving not at all overdrawn like it is so often in romances. Maybe it's because she really was the only care-taker for her daughter and they had to live in such close proximity, or because oftentimes children in romance's tend to be the product of one of the father's liasions. I will admit that Rafe's history with his past love was a little overdone and I had a hard time understanding why he was dragging this around with him for so long. I like it when the author can come up with something more original for causing the hero's fear of love.

The relationship between these two evolved in a very well timed and progressive manner as they slowly got to know each other and began to overcome their fears and worries about the opposite gender. The feelings, and eventually the love, they feel for the other slowly builds up and is really a natural outcome of all the great things they each do for the other. I was definitely not left wondering why these two had ended up fallen in love because the story was very well written. I'll admit I would have been interested to see what would have happened if the husband had not conveniently died, but I guess a divorce would have been just too much. Another review mentioned how conversation driven this story is and just how so much of the book is spent with these two talking to each other. While this is certainly the case- I did not find it at all overwhelming and there was plenty of inner monologue and description to keep the book going.

Rating: This was a very satisfying, rather uneventful read. Very good really, and I very much enjoyed it even if I can't quite put my finger on what made it so great.