Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wicked Rake, Defiant Mistress

Wicked Rake, Defiant Mistress by Anne Lethbridge 617

After forging her brother's signature and losing the funds she invested, Lady Eleanor Hadley is horrified when the Marquess of Beauworth calls in a mortgage on the family's house that she had no knowledge of. So she decides to take to the highway and rob wealthy travelers and one of her first victims is the Marquess himself. He is quite upset but that doesn't stop him from stealing a kiss from her before she knocks him unconscious. Garrick Le Clere is back in town to let his uncle, Duncan Le Clere, know that he plans on going off to fight in France instead of learning the ins and outs of being the Marquess. Duncan has been holding down the fort for years and he has been notoriously overprotective of Garrick as they both have inherited the Le Clere curse; they both suffer from intense rages where they lose sight of right and wrong and forget what they're doing. Meanwhile Garrick has made friends with the lovely village girl, Ellie Brown, and for once he finds that his affections are town by the tender and innocent Ellie and the beautiful and vivacious highway woman.

When he sets a trap to capture the woman he ends up the one who is trapped. When it is revealed the innocent Ellie is Miss Moonlight, Eleanor decides to proposition the Marquess in exchange for helping her out of the financial difficulties. He agrees but he still does not know her true identity and quickly finds himself falling for her. When her brother, Baron Castlefield, returns, Eleanor is kidnapped by Duncan who believes the Hadley's have a letter that may prove that Duncan killed his own mother. In the aftermath Eleanor and Garrick part, each believing they are not good enough for the other and are not wanted; and they do not reunite for another four years. Garrick desperately wants to find this letter, but Eleanor insists she does not know its' whereabouts. But with war looming Garrick has no choice but to leave Eleanor for duty, but when he returns he knows he needs to start over, but first they need to finally capture Duncan le Clere and clear the way for them to make a new life.

Eleanor was a very well developed character who underwent a lot of change throughout the book, especially during the two time jumps. I may not have agreed with her choices, but she was quite the heroine as she used some great sword maneuvers on several occasions to save the day. Loved that! The highway woman was a little odd, but I guess I was supposed to sense that she was very take charge and wanted to fix her mistakes. Garrick was a little trickier and I don't really buy into the crazy rage thing he had going on, but I did enjoy his being torn between his feelings for Eleanor, trying to keep her safe, his duty, and his family. The two spent a decent enough amount of time together to warrant the development of some great feelings and I did really like the scenes where they were being lovey with each other although I wish there had been more. The sex between them was good and somewhat hot but more importantly it was sweet and came at some beautiful moments in the story so that it showed how much they felt for each other.

I was a little thrown by the book picking up four years later as it is certainly unusual for a jump to occur so late in the book, but I did like that it gave both Garrick and Eleanor to grow up a little bit and learn more about themselves. And there was another time jump in the middle of the book that also worked well, but it could have been better spent with Eleanor and Garrick together. There was a lot going on in this plot from Duncan le Clere to who killed Garrick's mother to who really hurt Eleanor's brother to whether Garrick was a spy for the French. It was all resolved, but I felt maybe one less mystery- maybe the whole war part, could have been dispensed with, something else fleshed out more, and the story would have been fine. I felt as though a lot of confusion could have been avoided if Eleanor had been honest with Garrick from the start and there was quite a lot of mistrust throughout the book that led to many of the problems. The side characters were great throughout the story and another romance in the
series may or may not have been set up.

Rating: Two interesting characters and the book certainly kept me reading but I felt like there was just too much going on in the story and in the end there were just too many secrets.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Something Scandalous

Something Scandalous by Christie Kelley 612

Elizabeth Kendel is terrified that her distant cousin Randolph will inherit her late father's dukedom and kick her out of the only house she has ever known. She also wants to stay in her house because she believes that the truth about her paternity can be found in a diary her mother hid somewhere around the house. On his deathbed, her father confessed that he was not her real father. She hopes that her cousin Edward shows up to claim his inheritence but it still surprised when Edward's son, William, shows up with seven of his siblings in tow. He makes it clear he only plans to be in London for a couple of months, enough time to sell of all of the non-entailed property and possessions. He wants nothing to do with the country he has learned to loath and believes a man should be judged on his merit and not a title he inherited at birth, and then wants to back to America so that he can marry Abigail Mason, a spoiled rich girl he wants to marry but has been unable to because her father disapproves.

The more time that Will spends with Elizabeth the more he comes to realize that his love for Abigail may be no more than an infatuation and that what he feels for Elizabeth is much stronger. She is great with his younger siblings, she takes charge of their upbringing and running the house, and she is imperative in helping ease his way into society. And when he discovers that his new position in the House of Lords may be perfect for helping him combat the inequalities in British society that he has so many problems with. But their cousin Caroline is determined that the dukedom will pass to one of her own children and she will stop at nothing to ensure that her dreams come true. When Abigail shows up for America Elizabeth is terrified that she could lose Will and after reading her mother's journals and learning who her father is, she worries that she could be become just like her mother. Will and Elizabeth must discover together that their love can overcome big secrets and big enemies.

I really liked Elizabeth and the way she goes about getting what she wants. She really was quite rational and worked very well with all of the methods at her disposal to make sure he stayed in England and it was great because it was part of the reason why they fell in love. I found that her obsession with trying to find out who her real father was done perfectly and it was understandable why she was so eager to find out his identity. It was also a great little mystery to the story that I loved the resolution to. It created some great drama between them as well. William was also amazing as it was impossible not to really agree with him on some of the issues he complained about as far as the British aristocracy went. And it was so much better because he was not blind and stuck in his ways about his beliefs because he was able to change and adapt to what was going on around him. Kelley also did an awesome job telling the story from both Elizabeth and Will's point of view and it really added some more oomph to the story.

Their interactions were spot on and really just illustrated what great romance is. They both acted like adults- no screaming fits (beyond the reasonable) just two people who were falling in love with each other. It was really so easy to see why these two were so perfect for each other and why they fell in love. There were a few conflicts between Elizabeth and Will throughout the story and I really liked that they were efficiently dealt with and resolved in a realistic manner that really left both them, and me satisfied. There was no big misunderstanding that dragged out and bogged down the book. The sex between them was also really hot as well as a little creative and it was a great addition to the relationship that was building between them. Caroline and Abigail were great villains as there motives were well explained and understandable, if not really sympathy inducing, and as always I liked reading about female villains. I definitely plan on reading future endeavors by Christie Kelley.

Rating: Absolutely loved this book. Two mature characters who had a great romance and a great story to back it up.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Earl's Forbidden Ward

The Earl's Forbidden Ward by Bronwyn Scott 610

Peyton Ramsden, Earl of Dursley, is enjoying his life of bachelorhood when a supervisor reveals that the Branscombe sisters will be
coming to London and someone needs to watch over them. Their father had been a diplomat who had turned to spying by compiling a list of Russian dissenters before dying. The British government needs this list and unfortunately the Russians are also trying to get ahold of this list. The solution is obviously to write a fake codicil to Mr. Branscombe's will that leaves Peyton as guardian to the four siblings, including the eldest- the very beautiful and headstrong Tessa. Tessa is not exactly happy at this turn of events but she recognizes that having an Earl to help introduce her and her family into society could be a great way of finding great husbands for her siblings when the time comes. She can't help but think that Peyton has an ulterior motive for staying so close to her and her siblings but she does not mind because someone has been breaking into her house.

Peyton knows that their are Russians in London looking for this list but it takes awhile for each of them to realize that they can confide in the other. In the meantime, Tessa certainly enjoys the feeling of security she gets whenever she is in Peyton's arms and she acknowledges that it is nice to finally put some responsibility on another's shoulders instead of constantly worrying. The Russians start putting more and more pressure on Tessa, but it takes a long time before either Tessa or Peyton are willing to trust each other with information they might have. However, Peyton is still wary of telling Tessa that his guardianship is nothing but a ruse because it is apparent to him that he needs Tessa in his life and he worries that she might push him out of her life. When the Russians finally make their move, it is Tessa who has to go to Peyton's rescue, but even then she will have to decide if she can forgive him for his deception or if she can risk losing the man she is in love with.

I really liked that Tessa was headstrong and stubborn and so protective of her family because it was really just a mirror image of Peyton's own protective feelings for those around him. Instead of having them constantly arguing about it or Peyton running roughshod over Tessa, they really work together and each of them can acknowledge that they can take care of their dependents better when they work together. Each of them is dedicated to protecting those they feel need protection and it comes across so well in this book because it serves as a great example of how they are so good for each other. They each serve to keep the other grounded and bring out the best in the other and I really liked reading about the lengths they were each willing to go to keep the other safe. There was a large age difference between the two of them but almost nothing is made of it in this book, or really any mention of how odd it would be for an earl to marry his supposed ward and I think it would have lent a nice touch.

There was a decent amount of sex in the novel, but it was not very descriptive or involved; it kind of cut off in the middle and then picked up when it was all over so I would have appreciated some more steam. I normally don't like the spy plots, but I did enjoy this one, perhaps because it did not really involve either of them having to actually do any spying. This plot really kept the two of them working together and getting to know each other throughout the book and they were working toward a common goal even if they didn't know it until later in the book. The villains in the book were also nicely written and I especially liked that there were small portions that were told from their point of view. None of the confusions in the book were dragged on too long as eventually Peyton did tell Tessa the truth and it did not even take her long to realize that she should forgive him which was nice as I hate when misunderstandings drag on so long they become the entire book.

Rating: Overall a very interesting book with a great relationship between the characters. Could have used a little more steam though.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Surender to Sin

Surrender to Sin by Tamara Lejeune 609

When Abigail Ritchie calls of her engagement to a penniless Lord who wanted to marry her for her money, he retaliates by claiming that she stole the diamond engagement ring. Already hovering on the edge of society she takes the name Ms. Smith and goes to Hertfordshire with her elderly maid Paddles, hypochondriac Mrs. Sturges, and Mrs.
Sturges nurse and her companion. She chooses this location after a chance meeting in London with a distant cousin Cary Wayborn when she learns he lives there. Cary is trying to fix up his estate, Tanglewood, and is renting out part of his house and he is desperate for a woman as it has been so long. Her father is a wealthy merchant who makes Scotch whiskey and she is horrified when she learns that Cary owes her father money and has no intention of paying. It isn't long before his own cousin, Horatio, who hates that Tanglewood was left to Cary, enlightens her about Cary's long history of horrible spending habits. However, Cary is trying to work his way out of his hole.

All of the men in the village have taken quite a shine to Abigail and Cary does not exactly like all the attention she is garnering. But when things finally get physical between them, Abigail knows that she wants more than just sex from him and she worries that he will never regard her as a potential wife. When things go beyond mere touching, Cary decides that they must marry, but Abigail is still concerned that Cary does not love her, so Cary takes her to a rector's house and leaves her no choice but to marry him. When Cary's horrid sister, Juliet, shows up, Abigail runs back to London and much of Cary's stuff goes with her as Mrs. Sturgeon's companion steals much of it. Cary is devastated when he thinks that Abigail has left him, but Juliet, who has just been left by her own fiance, thinks she is the perpetrator. So once in London Cary needs to find Abigail, show her that he loves her and find out if she loves him, and somehow win over her father- who is not at all agreeable to the match.

It was really interesting to read about a hero without a magical all powerful knowledge of money and was actually responsible for his own financial problems. Most of them either have a ton of money or, if they don't, quickly make a whole bunch of it. It was quite refreshing to read about a hero who really needed to rely on the woman to help him through some tough times. Abigail on the other hand was quite the financial genius and gets frustrated quite a bit with Cary's financial problems. Neither really show much in the way of strong personality traits throughout the book and it was a little odd that these two fell in love with each other when all they really had going for them was some rather annoying banter. Abigail and Cary banter and argue for literally quite a lot of this book and it gets beyond annoying after only a little while. And it really seemed as if this banter was not at all romantic or sexy or really indicative of any true feelings between these two. It really just made it seem as though these two did not like one another and had nothing with which they could talk about together.

I really enjoyed the sex between these two as it was quite a nice change for them to be engages in more friendly banter with each other. I found it a little odd that he referred to his member as "the Prime Minister" while Juliet was the Queen and lovemaking was discussing important business. I also very much enjoyed when these two were talking about their relationship, even if I didn't like it when they talked about almost anything else. For awhile the side characters were funny in their little eccentricities- such as Mrs. Sturgeon's whining and complaining and her stupid bird. However, I got annoyed with her very quickly and even more so with the people around her, like Cary and Abigail, for not giving the grumpy old bird a slap on the face. I was also incredibly disappointed that the book featured Juliet and Wayborn and both came across as completely horrible people and were unbelievable mean to each other, judgemental, and just plain awful in every way. I kind of liked these two in their own book, and really they were quite ruined for me here.

Rating: This book had some big problems and I felt it really lacked romance really, but as usual, I do like Lejeune's fast-paced and fun writing.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

In Pursuit of a Scandalous Lady

In Pursuit of a Scandalous Lady by Gayle Callen 606

When Julian Delane, the Earl of Parkhurst, sees the scandalous painting of a nude, but anonymous, lady of the ton, he knows precisely who the model is. He recognizes the giant red heart-shaped diamond around her neck as the one worn by Rebecca Leland. He is especially interested in this diamond, the Scandalous Lady, because it had been a gift to his father from a grateful maharaja and it had disappeared ten years ago. In a great scandal his father had fallen into despair and ruin before committing suicide and leaving Julian to clean up his messes, take care of the family, and bring up the Earldom's finances. He is determined to get the diamond back and after making a wager with his friends that he can reveal who the model of the painting is, he begins to randomly show up at the same events that Rebecca attends. Rebecca is tired of living a secluded life after having been sick for most of her childhood and she wants a grand adventure out of life. She saw posing for the painting as just one step in her journey.

When Rebecca is accosted by ruffians demanding she hand over the necklace she decides that the best course of action is for her to head out to the country by herself- both disappearing from them and diverting their attention from her family. Julian sees Rebecca as she is escaping and hops on the train with her where he decides that the best thing would be for him to accompany her. She is adamant that she be an equal partner in their agreement, and plays quite a few tricks on him when he doesn't consult her. They need to discover what happened to the necklace and it is a dangerous journey as people are murdered, villains threaten people, and they are forced to assume identities as commoners to hide in plain sight. Living in such close quarters with each other really allows them to learn a lot about each other and although she has decided never to marry, Rebecca's resolve is severely tested. When the truth about the Scandalous Lady his close to home, Rebecca and Julian work together to put everything to rights and allow them to forge a future for themselves.

I really wanted to sympathize with Rebecca as the over protected proper lady who really wanted to let loose, but the method that she chose was both unbelievable and not really something I could appreciate. She'd never been in society and yet she posed nude for a well known artist? That does not seem likely. And for much of their harrowing journey she continues to view the whole thing as part of her grand adventure even as it becomes more and more obvious that the people after them are very dangerous. However, the tricks she played on Julian were quite funny and it was obvious she could hold her own against him without resorting to arguments or annoying-ness. Julian was completely mouth watering- strong and tough and protective while still being able to give up a little control and share some responsibility. Supposedly this was a major point of contention between them, yet he seemed to accomplish it admirably. I really liked him and loved the way he treated Rebecca.

It took me a long time to really get into the Scandalous Lady plot as I really am not really much for diamonds and big mysteries unless they're very well done. This one was just adequate really and near the middle-ish I did start to enjoy it a little bit more. It served as a great way to get our two protagonists together for a long period of time and it was really great reading about them interacting together in a completely different setting then the one they normally occupied. However, I will say that I felt the mystery part of this story really overwhelmed the story and took up more room than I would have preferred, even if it did serve as a vehicle for their relationship. The sex between them was really crammed into about 25 pages near the end even if there was some nice buildup and I would have preferred it more spread out, especially since they were in such close quarters. This book did set up some sequels very nicely and I do plan on reading them when they come out as the characters seem like they'll be fun.

Rating: A fairly enjoyable book with a yummy hero and great time together, however I did not really get into the mystery plot.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean 604

For ten years lady Calpurnia Hartwell has been respectable and completely on the shelf. When her younger sister, Mariana, becomes engaged to a Duke, Callie knows that she needs to grab ahold of life with both hands and have an adventure or two... or nine. She makes a list of the nine things she would like to do; from the scandalous- gamble in a gentleman's club, to the things she has always secretly wanted but has been too scared to hope for- to be considered beautiful and to dance every dance at a ball. Remembering a moonlit stroll at a ball when she first came out she decides that the rakish Gabriel St. John, Marquess of Ralson, would be a perfect man to help her cross off the first thing on her list; to be kissed passionately. Ralston is shocked, intrigued, and very tempted when the missish Callie makes her proposition but he obliges her with the stipulation that she help him bring his newly discovered, illegitimate, Italian sister, Juliana, out into society.

As Callie spends more and more time around the St. John family, the more she knows that she has always had feelings for Ralston, but she knows her feelings will never be returned. Ralston is at first furious to learn of Callie's list, but is fascinated by this woman who is a mix of innocence and exuberance and wants to experience everything life has to offer her. He decides he should accompany her as she fulfills all of the experience on her list, and although he knows that he will never be able to offer the love that she wants, he can't help but be tempted by her. He has always known he will never marry because his mother left his father and his father died of a broken heart, but the more time he spends with Callie the more he comes to think that he can never let her go. Their happily ever after will have quite a few bumps on the road as Callie is unwilling to settle for anything less than Ralston's heart, and while it takes awhile, she wins it in the end and he wins hers.

I absolutely loved Callie as one of my favorite heroines ever. MacLean did an amazing job making her situation seem real to the readers and explaining her sudden need to go out and do something super excited. I loved that she was nervous and not completely go get them, as to be honest her being a little apprehensive made much more sense, and yet she so bravely went out and did all of those completely scandalous things. I love reading about a heroine who goes and takes charge of her life in a way that makes sense for her character and Callie certainly did it here. Ralston was also great, although it would be impossible to top Callie, because he was dark and broody and quite the rake, but it was so obvious that he was a great person. He loved his family and did his best to make everything work out for her even if he was not all that good at it. And he struggled so hard with his emotions involving Callie as he felt guilt that he was taking advantage of her, and yet he knew he would not be able to stop.

The relationship was the backbone of this story and it developed so wonderfully throughout the book from their first meeting when she developed quite a crush on him to them working together to complete all of the crazy things on her list to when he finally came around and recognized that he was in love with her. There was always tremendous chemistry between them and every time they got together I knew that something amazing was going to happen, whether they argued or went fencing. And the sex between them was amazing- super HOT, highly emotional, and a great addition to a great story. The side characters were superb and even her perfect sister wasn't annoying. I am definitely looking forward to reading the sequel and any other books that spring from this one. I love MacLean's writing, it was humorous and fast, and never missed a beat. And I will say that I very much enjoyed all of the banter- it was interesting without being obnoxious. The book is nearly 400 pages and I didn't regret a single one of them.

Rating: I absolutely loved this story and it was completely character and romance driven. I definitely recommend this book.

Friday, September 24, 2010

In Bed with the Duke

In Bed with the Duke by Christina Dodd 602

Emma Chegwidden is the much abused companion of Lady Lettice as they travel across Moricadia, a sovereign kingdom under France. At a ball, Emma makes the acquaintance of Marcus Durant, the heir to the dukedom of Nevitt who is living there under house arrest since Prince Sandre believes he knows the leaders of a rebellion. The entire population lives under the thumb of the de Guignards, who are ruthless in maintaining their power, however rumors have begun to surface that the ghost of the old prince is haunting the countryside and heralding the coming of a new regime. When Lady Lettice throws Emma out of her employ, Emma runs in to the wilderness and would have died if she had not been saved by the Reaper. She is taken in by Lady Francers, the cousin of Prince Sandre who still believes that Sandre is a good person and that his cruelty is nothing but a myth. She feels as though she owes the Reaper something and decides that she will do a little spying to help him out.

The Reaper begins to sneak in to Emma's rooms at night and, although he does not speak, Emma admires him for his dedication to freeing Moricadia and does not mind his quite intriguing physical attributes. She is led to believe that Michael is merely hiding out in Moricadia and neglecting his duties and she is furious when she discovers the truth about who the Reaper really is. She believes he has been using her and thinks that she can never trust him again. However, Michael already knows that Emma is something special- the kind of woman a man should marry because of her bravery and her integrity. Things in Moricadia are heating up and while Prince Sandre is going mad with the need to find the Reaper and put things to rest, Michael and Emma are doing everything they can to spur things on. It will take a horrible tragedy to bring things to a head and force Michael and Emma to pull out all the steps to bring down a corrupt government and bring their lives together.

I used to read everything Christina Dodd put out, but it's been four years since her last historical and I and I can tell that she has not lost her spark. She writes very well, with internal musings, great details, and it still manages to be fast and fun and not bogged down. I love her characters here, especially Emma. It's always fun to read about a companion who suddenly makes it in the big world. I loved that she was actually able to pretend that she was interested in Sandre- too many heroines just can't lie, but in this case it was necessary so she was able to do. And I liked that she was excited about her new circumstances but she also recognized that there was something more important out there and genuinely felt bad that she had such wealth while others did not. I wish that she had come clean that Michael was the Reaper from the beginning and we'd had more of the story from his point of view. We all knew that he was the ghost so it seemed odd that we were never presented with him thinking about what had gone down between him and Emma while he was the Reaper.

I tend not to be a fan of stories that take place in make believe countries, but in this case I really liked it. It was probably because it was in the back drop of a very necessary and exciting revolution and both of the protagonists were playing such an important role in it. I liked that she didn't try to sugar coat anything and there were definitely some hair raising events in this book. This part of the story really did take over though and I really wish that there had been more time for the actual romance and the development of their relationship. However, I can understand how such an intense experience can bring people together. The few steamy scenes were good, not great, but there were only a couple of them and I would have preferred more. The secondary characters were excellently written, from the spot-on little girl who is trying to help her family, to the rather stupid yet also cannily knowledgeable de Guignard widow, to Sandre's cousin who is trying desperately to believe that her cousin is still a good person.

Rating: I enjoyed the book and liked the characters, but I wish there had been more concentration on the romance. I will be reading the sequel to find out what happens in Moricadia.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

His Woman

His Woman by Diana Cosby 603

Three years ago Duncan MacGruder and Isabela Adair were madly in love and engaged to be married, but to settle some of her families gambling debts, and to keep Duncan safe, she agreed to become the Earl of Frasyer's mistress. Basically Frasyer told her if she didn't become his mistress he's kill Duncan, and if she told Duncan why she had become Frasyer's mistress, he'd kill him then too. So Duncan believed that Isabela had left him for Frasyer's money. When Frasyer catches her talking with her brother Symon, who is a rebel with William Wallace's forces, he kills Symon and threatens to kill her father if she does not tell him where Wallace's forces are. He takes her prisoner and with his last strength Symon pleads for Duncan to go save his sister. During their daring escape, Isabela pleads to find her mother's bible because her father led her to believe that the solution to their problems could be found there. Although injured, the two manage to make their way to Duncan's brother's house.

Neither of his brother's are happy to see her as they believe she is nothing but the whore who broke their brother's heart. However, as they see her nurse Duncan back to health, everyone realizes that what once existed between the two is far from gone. She still needs to retrieve the bible to prove her father's innocence and on the journey she and Duncan become quite close and he learns the truth about her relationship with Frasyer. Unforunately, the only thing the bible tells them is that Isabel is actually the Scottish rebel, William Wallace's, daughter and he and her other father had maneuvered her to be Frasyer's mistress to protect her. No one knew or suspected that he had a daughter but apparently they thought it was in her best interest to become a whore to a horrible man. But of course Frasyer is after them and together Isabel and Duncan need to hide the proof of her birth, and find a way for the two of them to move past what they had gone through before.

I had immense problems with really getting in to this book and the storyline because the characters were constantly behaving in ways and doing things that made absolutely no sense to me. They're being hunted by people and she has to stop and get her Bible, however when he finally does get hurt- that's when she realizes it's time to just get their asses out of there. Both of them were ridiculously eager to sacrifice their own safety in order to stop a perceived threat to the other, which while heroic, came across as just plain stupidity as often there was not an actual threat and it was just them putting themselves in danger for no reason. And seriously: they couldn't help themselves from admiring the other even while they were in such horrible danger and it was not all sexy- it was more that I wanted to slap them and tell them to move their asses. And of course the whole reason she became Frasyer's mistress and set up this horrible story was the most ridiculous thing I've ever read. The only saving grace is one fairly hot sex scene and boy that certainly is not enough.

There was not at all enough of the inner musings and thoughts that I love to read, and that really make the romance novel more enjoyable. All of her thoughts were of him and his were all of her, but not in a good way, more in a way that made me think these two had nothing else to think about. I realize that Frasyer only wanted Isabel as a trophy to show how much better he was than Duncan, but it did not make sense that he was not bedding her at all. Wouldn't that have made his triumph even better? And she was apparently attractive. It really came across as just a ridiculous way to keep her a virgin for her true love. It seems ridiculous that she was so eager to keep her secret from Duncan just because she worried he'd get hurt. Even after it was obvious that he was going to find out and/ or get hurt anyway she clung to that damn ridiculous secret as if it were a lifeline as if just telling him would cause Frasyer to jump out of the walls and kill Duncan. And it basically caused all of the problems between them. Also there was magic and that was ridiculous.

Rating: I cannot believe I actually managed to finish this book. I could't have cared less about the characters or anyone falling in love b/c I was so caught up in how ridiculous everything was.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Patience

Patience by Lisa Valdez 601

When is it revealed to everyone in the ton that Matthew Hawkmore is actually the son of a gardener, and not an Earl, he is immediately cut by everyone of his acquaintance and dumped by his fiance, Rosalind Benchley. He had believed himself in love with her, but now that her father has decided to take his anger out by attempting to completely ruin Matthew, he realizes that Rosalind would not have made a good wife. Instead he is suddenly free to allow his attraction to his sister-in-law, Patience Dare, free rein. Patience never wants to marry after having learned a harsh lesson that love is not compatible with perfect artist expression, when the cello instructor she had fallen for threw her over after she had fallen in love with him. She is much sought after by all the men in the ton, but none of them appeal to her. After a kiss with Matthew he is convinced that what she needs is a man who will not make things easy for her, who will take control and dominate her.

The two begin an unconsummated affair, with Matthew taking the reins and sparing Patience no quarter. When she disobeys order, he knows it is just because she is testing him; that she is worried he will leave her and wants prove that he will always be there. It does not take long for him to know that he wants Patience as his forever, but he knows it will take much to convince her. Meanwhile his ex-fiance's father is doing his best to ruin Matthew by spreading rumors that cause investors to back out of Matthew's Grand West Railroad. He knows he will be ruined soon so he sets about, by any means necessary, to gain information to bring down Benchley. He is also fortunate enough to win one of Benchley's mines at the gambling table and he and Patience immediately fall in love with this beautiful small mining community that has been so neglected. But when things literally blow up in his face, Matthew risks losing Patience forever if he cannot prove to her that she really is his everything and win her love forever.

I was very much looking forward to reading this book after the excellent Passion, but I liked Passion much more than I like Patience- the characters. Patience is an excellent cello player, but apparently she has no love for it and I felt like the end where she came to like the mining town was just so that she would have something besides being Matthew's lover. Matthew was awesome though- the ultimate alpha male (probably more so than most would like admittedly) and I liked how he was ruthless in going after his revenge and so perfect in pursuing Patience. I would have definitely liked more non-sex time between the two of them, but I do believe that it was fairly obvious that these two had a great, strong relationship and that sex was just a (large) part of it. As usual I loved her writing style in general, from the conversations to the descriptions and the internal musings- all were brilliant.

Obviously sex, or at least sex games, play an immensely important part of this story, and it is not quite what one would call conventional. Apparently Patience is submissive at heart and needs the control and dominance that Matthew is all to happy to dispense with. There is punishment in the forms of delayed gratification, quite a lot of spankings when she does something he does not like or if he just feels as though she deserves it, and lots of fellatio and tears. I don't want to be judgmental about this and as long as it's consensual adults I'm fine with it, but I will admit it's not really my cup of tea in a romance novel. I especially did not like when he had to justify by talking about how it was her "proper place" and when passages from the bible were used to justify it, or when he kind of made allusions to his belief that it was the right way for men and women to behave with each other because of the positioning of their sexual organs. So- I would have been at least somewhat fine if they had just done it and accepted it as something that just worked for them without trying to make it more than that.

Rating: The sex was not to my taste, but I like that it was done in a very emotional manner that worked toward their relationship and I liked the writing.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie

The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie 530

Beth Ackerley is widowed and after inheriting 100,000 lbs and a house in Belgrave Square from her deceased employer, she was suddenly welcomed into the arms of society, especially broke noblemen. Despite her father being a confidence man and growing up in a workhouse, Sir Lyndon Matthers asks her to marry him. When Lord Ian Mackenzie discovers that Matthers is betrothed he wants to find out if Beth is "real" and if so then he knows he must warn her of Matthers unconventional sexual habits. Their first meeting of the opera makes it clear to Ian that Beth is not only real, but a great companion, and someone he desperately wants in his life. Despite his own noble upbringing, Ian has always been regarded as odd because of his inability to "read" people, his lack of knowledge about proper behavior, his inability to lie, and his inability to look people directly in the eye, and he suffered a harrowing existence in an asylum for years, until his brother, a high ranking Duke, got him out.

Detective Fellows, of Scotland Yard, has been trying to pin the murder of a prostitute on Ian for years, and has been stifled by Ian's high up connections. He wants Beth to help him and it is just convenient for Ian that he wants to marry Beth and at the same time it protects her from Fellows investigation. Beth can make him happy, can make him forget the memories, and he wants to keep her pure from his past and from any problems in his past. But Beth is determined to solve Ian's problems by discovering who really killed the prostitutes, even if it puts her life in danger. The more she pushes the more Ian fears that the rage he has tried to suppress for so long will emerge and he will end up hurting the woman who has come to mean the world to him. Unfortunately the truth does land Beth in a sick bed and Ian, who has so little experience with emotions, knows that he does love Beth- and she is the one who can help him through his "madness."

Wow- Beth was absolutely great in literally every way. She was funny, truthful, and a great, not crazy, optimist. I loved the fact that she was not cowed by Fellows blackmail threats to reveal the truth of her parentage. I briefly worried that this would be the "big, easily solved, misunderstanding" that drives me nuts, and was really happy that she called him on it, told Ian, and everyone got over it. Showed how great she was and how she was at peace with herself and willing to let her loved ones know about her. As I've said sometimes I have problems with novels where the hero just needs this "light" that the heroines brings into his life, because it is not adequately explained, but in this case it was done perfectly. Beth really did bring something in Ian's life that he desperately needed, and she was perfect for it. It's fairly obvious that Ian had a case of high functioning autism, that was undiagnosed because of the era, and it was great how Beth dealt with the idiosyncrasies that came with this. He was odd in a naturalistic way, and still very lovable.

The relationship developed in a completely brilliant way as they both got to know each other and especially how they came to accept each other's faults. This was especially poignant as Beth came to know Ian, learned how to cope and even admire his little issues. The sex between them was smoking with some nice "bawdy talk," but I wish there had been more of it sprinkled throughout the book. There was a big family story built into this novel (I'm very much looking forward to reading the rest of this series) with all these incredibly tortured members who are trying their best to love each other. The mystery of who really killed those prostitutes is woven so well into the story and serves as a great backdrop for their romance. I will also admit that I was completely stunned by the outcome and the extra little secret in the end. I liked the writing throughout the book- it was fast, interesting, and still managed to portray all the emotions and provide all the details that I wanted.

Rating: I was amazed at how well Ashley portrayed such an unexpected hero and at how great she just made every element of this story.

Monday, September 20, 2010

My Dangerous Duke

My Dangerous Duke by Gaelen Foley 903

When Kate Madsen is kidnapped from her home and held for weeks she is terrified but nothing prepares her for her first meeting with "the Beast." When the man who paid to have her kidnapped disappeared, the local smugglers who were his hired guns panic and decide to drug her and give her to their Lord, the Duke of Warrington so that he will be involved in the problem as they are. They suspect that she is the daughter of the famous pirate, Gerald Fox and though many believe he is dead, they fear his wrath if he is indeed alive. Rohan Kilburn is furious when he returns to his drafty castle to discover that his tenants have been getting into trouble, but is slightly appeased when they gift with a beautiful young woman whom he thinks is planning on becoming a courtesan. However, his feelings rapidly disappear when on the next day he is told the truth about his present and he agrees to help her if she helps him.

Rohan is quite imposing physically but Kate finds herself very attracted to him and he certainly wants her, but he is wary of getting close to her as she is descending from members of the Prometheus Council. As a member of the Order he and his colleagues are dedicated to stamping out the scourge of the Promethean College before they can take over the world in tyranny. Because of a curse laid on his family by a Promethean Warlock, who happened to be an ancestor of Kate, Rohan thinks that he is destined to kill any woman he marries, so he is determined to remain single. The more he gets to know Kate the more he thinks he cannot live without her in his life and the joy and light she brings into his dark and dangerous existence as an assassin. But the Promethean Council wants to find the grave of the Warlock and think Kate holds the secret so Rohan must risk everything to save England and the woman he loves.

This is a sequel to My Wicked Marquess which I very much enjoyed and really drew me in to this whole Promethean Council plot. However in this story it completely took over and just got so crazy out of control that is really detracted from any romance that may have been supposed to occur in this story. Nothing was resolved about the most interesting aspect- the agent who had been tortured and his memory erased so he became a Promethean follower and really it just seemed so crazy to me. Halfway through everything that happened stemmed from trying to to find out some crazy secret code (which was ridiculously horrible and yet so easy for Kate to solve obviously) and get to this tomb. It also was not discussed as much in this book why the Prometheans were so intent on gaining all this power and what they planned on doing with it- so a whole secret organization kind of seemed non-functioning.

Kate was a little too perfect of a romance hero for me as she was amazingly smart (she could solve these crazy impossible riddles that were supposedly designed to be impenetrable) and she was saucy and feisty. Rohan was incredibly dark and brooding and it got a little irritating but too be honest I liked that he was an assassin and didn't shy away from killing because he didn't want to taint himself like so many other romance novel heroes. However, Kate falling in love with him was a little out of the blue as it really just came to her that he was deserving of love and needed someone to love him unconditionally. Of course this happened after she met with several of the numerous women he had slept with. Huh? Despite the immense attraction between them the sex was lukewarm at best and really pushed into overly flowery territory which did nothing for me.

Rating: A huge downhill turn from the previous installment in this trilogy. Found myself wanting to skim about 1/3 of this book. Not recommended.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lord Carew's Bride

Lord Carew's Bride by Mary Balogh 524

This is the sequel to Dark Angel, which was published in the same book as this (thus the same cover) and features Jennifer's cousin, Samantha Newman, who is still recovering from Lord Kersey's betrayal. While visiting Jenny and Gabriel, who now have 2 kids, but at 24 she has come to appreciate peace and quiet so she goes off on her own. She meets Hartley Wade, a man she believes to be the gardener for the Marquess of Carew, and they have quite the conversation about nature and enjoy some peaceful quiet. But Hartley is really the actual Marquess, but he has lived mainly in seclusion because of his limp and his disfigured hand. The two meet four times, enjoying each other's company and the peace and security they feel with the other, before she is called back to London. Hartley only lasts a few days before giving in and heading off to London to find her and see if anything can be made of their relationship. Meanwhile Samantha is enjoying being back in London, but can't help but feel that something is missing.

When he sees her on the arm of his cruel cousin Lionel, he takes her outside where once again they feel secure in each other's friendship. Sam is worried that the hatred she has been feeling for Lionel all this time is only a step away from love and that if she does not move on soon she will end up falling in love with him again. The next day he arrives at her house and asks her to marry him. She agrees before knowing who he really is, but for her it is most important that he makes her feel safe and secure. While the marriage starts off really well, however while Hartley has no problem letting his wife know that he is madly in love with her, she is scared to give in to love or passion every again. It is not long before Hartley discovers that she has a past with his cousin and he realizes that he does not know if he can trust his new bride. It is then that Samantha discovers she has been hiding for nothing and she is just willing to take a chance she can find love and not have to worry about losing the man who loves her.

Here, Balogh goes back to the calming, rather unexciting, bent of most of her other novels as the book rather trudges along, although not necessarily in an unpleasant manner. I rather like the way that many Balogh novels are just warm and secure without having big passionate scenes between the characters. The book still maintains a very heavy emotional bent as each of them spends quite a bit of time musing about their feelings for the other and just how calm the other person makes them. I know that in most romances Samantha would have ended up with Lionel because he was the big, strong, and handsome man she was attracted to against her better judgement, instead of the calming, incredibly sweet, and handicapped Hartley. Many of Balogh's novels feature characters who are not completely perfect, and while many romances feature characters who don't believe they are perfect, most of them really are, at least in the eyes of their future spouse.

I became rather frustrated with Samantha for kind of falling back under Lionel's spell even though she knows how awful he is. She was determined to stay away from him and then failed miserably at it. I was also severely confused about her having sworn off love because of one, admittedly stupid but easily gotten over, mistake she made when she was only 18. Lots of protagonists in romances have bad experiences with lover, but after reading Dark Angel I can't help but feeling like her's was just ridiculous. I also wish that Hartley had just come out and told her as soon as he realized that Lionel was being an ass, the truth about his accident. However I did overall really enjoy Hartley and his actions about Samantha and how he so quickly fell in love and how he was able to admit he had made a mistake. Lionel was still the same person he had been years ago and I admit it would have been more interesting if he genuinely had change and Samantha really had to choose between two men.

Rating: I enjoyed this book, it was nothing exciting or entirely new but Balogh does another find job on an emotional story.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Shameless

Shameless by Karen Robards 803

Beth Banning, the youngest of the three Banning sisters, has already thrown over two suitors and when she gives her third his conge, he does not take at all well and attacks her. Neil Severin happens to be on scene as he is out to kill Beth's brother in law, Hugh the Duke of Richmond. He does not interfere as Beth fends off her attacker but when he has been dispatched he helps her get rid of the body and in the process comes to admire this very beautiful and capable young woman. He decides that best way to get to Richmond is to kidnap Beth, but before he can get to her she is kidnapped by someone else and he knows he has to rescue her. She is taken to a house of very ill repute and before he can put a plan into action she takes matters into her own hands and makes a run for it with several of the other young women who have been kidnapped and Neil finds himself with seven women on his hands.

Their escape from the brothel is harrowing and quite long winded with a dark rowboat ride and a night spent in a cave until finally Richmond's men find Neil, thinking he was the one who kidnapped Beth. Beth is horrified that the man who saved her could be killed, even if he does have a past as an assassin and helps him escape. When he explains to her the truth about his past and how he has to kill Richmond so that he can live the rest of his life as a Marquis without fear of being assassinated, she decides that the two of them should marry. No one is exactly pleased at this new turn of events but they decide to make the best of it while pretending to the ton that they did not elope. But there is still someone out there who knows the truth about Neil's past and wants him gone, and Beth is worried that Neil only married her to save his life and that he does not love her. On one dangerous night all their fears collide and everyone from the series has to embrace their love for all of their new family members.

I very much enjoyed the first two books in this series, and Robards ability to combine suspense and mystery with a very well developed romance and I especially liked the characters in all of her books. Beth did not live up to her sisters, as while she was certainly very capable and I liked that in several instances she took charge and saved herself and others, I found her assertions that she wouldn't be owned, wouldn't be married, and finally her rather awful attempts to be flirtatious and wild to stick it Neil when she did not think he loved her, quite juvenile and pitiful. Neil was better as he had quite the dark past as an assassin whose family had been beheaded in France who did not think he could ever be deserving enough of love. However, I found his willingness to leave the other women to fend for themselves in the brothel to be rather reprehensible, even if it was to illustrate how he eventually changes through the book.

The first thing that struck me about this book was how so much of it was taken up with suspense and around other people. The kidnap and escape from the brothel took up about 200 of the 350 pages and really did not allow for much in the way of romance in my opinion. While it was certainly interesting and did keep me reading as I wanted to see that everyone ended up safe it was not really to my taste in a romance. In addition the asassination and being hunted by other people also took up a large part of the story and made spending time alone together rather brief. I think it says something that my favorite part of the story was really the last 50 pages, after they had been married and were putting on a face for the ton as they participated in the commonplace rituals and balls and such. There was a nice amount of face time for the rest of the Bannings which makes sense as they are sisters.

Rating: I was looking forward to this but it felt like the two spent the entire time with an unconscious body or running from people who were hunting them which made it difficult for me to see them as a couple.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Irresistible

Irresistible by Karen Robards 626

When Claire Lyons, nee Banning, is kidnapped on her way to visit her husband David, who is the heir to his cousin the Duke of Richmond, she has no idea what is happening. Convinced they are going to kill her she escapes and makes for the beaches where she is captured by Hugh Battancourt, who takes her on a ship to France. Hugh has been sent by the Home Office to capture Sophy Trowbridge on the very beach he fuond Claire on. He does not believe her protestations of innocence, although there is a certain air of innocence about her that he can't entirely attribute to great acting abilities. He wants to question her but it is incredibly difficult as he can't help but be attracted to her, and similarly Claire is unable to stop from noticing how well built her captor is. The two engage in a quite entertaining little struggle to gain the upper hand, but through it all it becomes apparent that there is more to their relationship than meets the eye, which does not at all please Hugh's batman, James.

Once on French soil, Hugh is betrayed and they are forced to go into hiding. They both know this will probably be their last night together and Claire wants to experience the passion she will never find in her marriage. Back in England she tries to make the best of things, but it is tough going as she misses Hugh and the comfort and passion she felt with him. She is not expecting him to re-enter her life, and especially not as her husband's cousin, the Duke of Richmond! Now her passion for him is even more upsetting, but try as she might she can not keep her feelings a secret from him. Hugh wants to continue their relationship as well and hopes that he can convince his cousin to grant her a divorce or at least keep quiet about their affair. When he begins to search for the truth about what happened to Claire on the beach, and how she came to be there, he discovers that someone close has betrayed him. There is someone who wants both Hugh and Claire dead and they must stop this person, and find a way to thwart David, if they want to have a life together.

Married heroines are not exactly common in romance novels, but Robards definitely made Claire a heroine that everyone could sympathasize or relate to. Reading about her incredible struggles when she's being kidnapped were awe-inspiring and I knew I'd like her right off the bat. Sometimes during kidnappings I'm a little worried that feelings are inspired by Stockholm syndrome, but it was clear throughout the book that the feelings they felt for each other were real. Yes, these feelings were helped along very nicely by their immense attraction for each other, but there was obviously a layer of respect and trust that went with it. Hugh was great as well and quite the swashbuckling hero and I really liked reading about him working with Claire to save both their lives. The two made a really great team and were just so great together. The sex between these two was smoking and while I normally dislike unpleasured wife's as too much of a cliche in romances, it was done very well here and really made the sexy scenes pop.

I really enjoy Robards writing style; I will admit it is wordy, but none of it is boring or superfluous and it portrays what is going on, in the physical and inside the minds' of our protagonists very well. I loved that Claire was married throughout this book and she was struggling with her feelings of guilt for her husband and her newfound passion with Hugh. Nothing was glossed over and we got to read about the internal struggle, but it was not overdone. I do wish we had gotten more of the story told from Hugh's point of view, as their were times when it seemed like he was taking everything so lightly, and while I think he was just acting- it would have been nice to have proof. The side characters were great as well, no one was one dimensional, and everyone behaved in a manner that made sense to their circumstances. The kidnapping and murder plot was done excellently, it played an important role in bringing the characters together and was interesting, and quite mysterious for some time, but it did not overwhelm or take over the romance.

Rating: Excellent book. I really loved every moment of this book and enjoyed reading the romance and the kidnapping and murder plot.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Scandalous

Scandalous by Karen Robards 529

Lady Gabriella Banning is determined to give her sister, the beautiful Claire, a season in London so that she can find a man. After years of living under their father's penny-pinching thumb, she can't help but feel relieved when he dies and their brother Marcus takes over. Marcus has lived in Ceylon on a tea plantation his entire life, but they hold out hope that he will be a better guardian than their father, and certainly better than their Uncle Thomas, who will inherit after Marcus. But Marcus is killed in Ceylon, and Gabby decides that the best thing to do will be to just pretend that Marcus is still alive so they can have access to the Wickham funds until Claire is married. When they arrive in town Gabby is stunned to find that there is someone there pretending to be Marcus, the Earl of Wickham. Although she is certainly not pleased about matters, the two reach a tentative agreement to go along with things and pretend that the pretend Marcus is the real Marcus.

When Gabby accidentally shoots Marcus, she spends a lot of time at his bedside nursing him back to health. Marcus quickly comes to realize that Gabby, despite not being as pretty as her sister, is brave, kind, and dependable. To get kisses out of her he cruelly pretends that he will attempt to seduce Claire, and Gabby gives in. She knows she cannot trust this pretender, but when the two of them are being intimate, none of that matters. Unfortunately, Gabby also knows that for the good of her family she will need to marry a steady, dependable man. Nick, the fake Marcus, has been pretending to be Marcus, in order to discover who it was that shot the real Marcus. But Gabby is wary of trusting Nick, even as her feelings for him are changing into something that closely resembles love. Things come to a head when Gabby's life, and the security of the nation, are threatened and he must choose between his duty and the woman he loves.

I really liked Gabby's character as she really was a great person, because she was willing to really do anything to help her sisters, and yet she also broke the rules quite a bit which I loved. The fact that she had a limp and a scary man in her past, that she tried to overcome, was just icing on the cake in showing what a great person she was. Nick was interesting for sure, but I did not really like that fact that we did not really discover anything about him until the book was practically over. It made knowing why Gabby fell for him a little difficult. Really she knew nothing about him and he blackmailed her into making out with him by flat out threatening to flirt with the prettier sister. However, he was suitably protective about her when it came to the bad guys so that was good. The sex between them was hot and well written with plenty of good lead in scenes, and it happened in a more realistically timely manner (the two did not just fall into bed together) than usual.

I was a little confused because the plot about finding who had killed the real Marcus was almost completely forgotten for most of the novel. Nick's attempts to find the killer basically consisted of him disappearing for days, causing great concern for Gabby. I felt as though it was wrapped up really fast and rather abruptly, however I will admit that I did not particularly mind as I was more concerned with Gabby and Nick's relationship. I really wish more of the story had been told from his point of view as I would really have liked to have gotten a better on handle on that. The writing was certainly good, but at times it got a little wordy and there were several instances when the paragraphs were far too long, like an entire page. Once I got used to it I find myself completely immersed in the story and able to overlook this. This was the first in a series about the Banning sisters, and I am already looking forward to reading the next ones.

Rating: A very good story with a great heroine. I would have liked more information about the hero and the murder plot though.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Secrets of a Duchess

Secrets of a Duchess by Kaitlin O'Riley 529

Caroline Armstrong is determined not to wed any of the men her grandmother is parading in front of her during her first London season. She decides she will pretend to be a boring and dull blue-stocking so that she can wait for the return of her sweetheart, Stephen Bennett. Stephen was from the South and had been a student of her father's before going back to the US to join in the Confederacy's fight. When she goes out on the balcony to escape an unlikable suitor, she runs in to Alexander Woodward, Duke of Woodborough. After quite an interesting conversation where they both reveal they don't want to get married and share a very tempting kiss. He comes calling on her the next day and they decide that the perfect solution to their problem is for the two of them to pretend to be courting so that everyone will cease matchmaking.

At first the agreement goes smoothly, although it does entail the two of them spending quite a lot of time together. It is not long before Alex realizes that he wants to marry Caroline in truth, but she is still wary of revealing the truth about her relationship with Stephen. However, Alex is willing to overlook past indiscretions because of his love for Caroline and, much to the delight of all of their family, the two become engaged for real. But when Stephen shows up as a surprise visitor at their wedding, and reveals another secret that Caroline had neglected to disclose, Alex is horrified, but it does not take long for him to realize that he needs Caroline in his life. It seems that the woman Alex had been unofficially engaged to, did not like being thrown over. Together the two of them have to stand by each other, and work to undue mistakes that have been made in the past so that they can move on with their lives together.

My biggest problem with the book was the fact that Caroline did not disclose all of her secrets to Alex from the relative beginning. Even when I thought all the secrets were out, it turns out there were more, even bigger ones, still hiding and it would have made it so much easier, and much more sense, for her to just tell him instead of first rejecting all his proposals, and then later, living in fear of him discovering her secrets. And when Stephen shows up her feelings are definitely torn between the two men. Although it makes sense for her to still have unresolved feelings, I still was not pleased that she was married to this great man, and couldn't get over her old love. I love Alex and the way he shows how much he loves Caroline. I loved the end, when they got together to really fight against all the problems that had been brought up against them. It really showed how great their relationship was. There was plenty of sex between them but it was just lukewarm.

Stephen was great, because he was not exactly evil- although he certainly was not a good character as he did cause so many problems- but his motives could at least be explained away with love. While it may not be pure, at least he wasn't completely malicious. However, Madeleine Maxwell was certainly malicious and I loved it! I don't know why but I just like female villains so much more and they're just more fun to read about. Alex's mother was another great character and just so awesomely chatter and romantic. I had a problem with the writing style for the first third of the book. It's hard to put my finger on precisely what the problem was but I definitely felt as though O'Riley was not really all that good at writing the first meeting scenes. Once they settled down and were really going on with the relationship, but in the beginning the descriptions, and especially the dialogue was awkward.

Rating: I did really enjoy this book and loved how strong their feelings for each other were, but Caroline was rather frustrating and weak at times.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Perfect Mistress

The Perfect Mistress by Betina Krahn 525

Gabrielle Le Coeur does not want to become some man's mistress, but her mother Rosalind is determined that she have a grand passion. Rosalind has been a duke's mistress for 20 years and she believes that being a wife precludes being in love and having said grand passion. One night Gabrielle runs away and finds herself at Prime Minister Gladstone's house, where he has mistaken her for a common prostitute and attempts to save her soul. When she runs away from there she is rescued by Pierce St. James, the Earl of Sandbourne, who wants her help proving to the world that Gladstone's religion is a front for his perverted needs. Gabrielle and Pierce strike up a deal that she will try to help him with Gladstone if he agrees to pose as her lover/ protector to her mother while she looks for a real husband. Trying to fool her mother is not exactly easy and the two spend a lot of time together, singing silly songs and reciting silly poetry. But when Gabrielle's nobel father catches them in a compromising position he insists on marriage.

Pierce has always wanted his independence and he can't help but think that Gabrielle has somehow arranged this whole plot to trap him. Although she has always wanted a calm marriage of convenience, Gabrielle has not counted on being so attracted to her husband or on her treating her like she has betrayed him. With her mother-in-law helping her instructing her on how to fit in with society and her own mother teaching her the myriad ways to go about seducing her husband, Gabrielle has a plan to get herself back in Pierce's good graces. The more she tries the more Pierce is concerned that he will be giving up his independence and freedom and Gabrielle will take over his life. Meanwhile his conservative colleagues in Parliament are still trying to bring down the liberal Gladstone, even if Gabrielle is sympathetic to their policies. Finally it comes down to Pierce realizing that it is with his wife that he wants to be a better person- a person his wife can love.

Gabrielle was an interesting character, but her naivete was impossible for me to truly get over as I don't really see how someone who led that life would really think she could find a respectable gentleman. What I loved was her can do attitude and the lengths she went to to get back her husband. And I liked Pierce and Gabrielle were friends and got along with each other before the marriage and after the marriage she was just trying to get that spirit back. I was a little more confused by why exactly Pierce is so strongly against losing his independence: he seems to think that his mother stole his father's, but in reality the two were apparently never together. And it really does cause him to behave in ways that are amazingly deplorable. I wish their had been more sex between these two as it seemed to be some of the few times that they really got along and Pierce wasn't being so mean to her.

Gabrielle's mother was absolutely fascinating as she was so intent on finding a grand passion for her daughter and yet she never really admitted to herself that the passion she imagined she possessed with the duke was contingent on abandoning her daughter and basically completely arranging her life to the Duke's pleasure. It was definitely interesting to read more about a courtesan's life and the book did a great job of portraying how that life could be appealing and yet how it was a completely false sense of importance and freedom, without passing too much judgement. I didn't know weather to admire the book for its' realism or be angry at how obviously classist it was as she turns down men because they won't be able to provide for her in the most comfortable manner. His mother was also quite amazing as she was uptight and high society, yet she knew that she needed to work with her rather unconventional daughter-in-law to get what was really best for her son.

Rating: This book was incredibly long and really should have been cut by 50 or so pages. I wish that he had not been so mean to her and I did not really enjoy it as a romance all that much.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Elusive Bride

The Elusive Bride by Stephanie Laurens 526

Emily Ensworth is in India visiting her uncle when her party is attacked by members of the Black Cobra cult and Captain MacFalene entrusts her with an important document which she must deliver to Major Gareth Hamilton, before he sacrifices his life to save hers. She gets back to base and passes the document on to Gareth and the next day he and his friends all leave on separate ships. That brief encounter was enough for Emily to suspect that Gareth may be "her one," the one she is destined to end up with, so she too leaves with her own entourage in the hopes of catching up with Gareth. When she does Gareth is forced to admit that Emily is far from the wilting English flower he has come to expect: she is independent, intelligent, and trustworthy. So he confides in her that MacFalene had passed onto him a document pertaining to the leader of the Black Cobra cult that needed to be shown to higher ups in the English government. He and his friends made copies of the document and, with one of those copies, he is trying to be a cover for the real document.

He and Emily decide that the safest course of action would obviously be for them to travel together and it is not long before they are attacked by the cultists. Pretty much every city and every sea they travel in they are being watched and attacked. And then they're attacked some more- but no worries, because none of their own friends die. And then they travel some more. On the journey Emily's belief that Gareth is "her one" is fortified so she sets out to convince Gareth of the same fact. Unfortunately traveling does not really provide many opportunities for conversation so their time together is mainly spent in the bedroom. But now the cultists have taken their destruction as a personal project and it seems like every random Indian cult member has decided to travel and kill them. The two, with their friends, must work diligently to elude being killed, so that Gareth and Emily can finally live happily ever after with each other.

I know I have complained about Lauren's books following a formula and I now know why she has done that; because straying from said formula produces disastrous results. Seriously this book was awful, perhaps one of the worst I have ever read. The Black Cobra cult completely took over the book, but if it was good I might have been able to overlook the lack of real romance, however it was definitely not goodl. I kept wanting her to explain what this damn cult was! Why were there apparently thousand's of people willing to travel thousands of miles and risk their lives? I wanted some back ground into how this cult came to be, what it's purpose was, what it was about, and why I should give a crap about our hero trying to exterminate it. And damn- they were certainly willing to kill because I felt like every time I turned a page Emily and Gareth were being attacked by another group of cultists. There were also a ton of holes in this plot that made it even more ridiculous.


I really did not feel as though I got to learn anything about Gareth and Emily, of the people they really are outside of escaping dangerous people and killing. Of course Gareth was a great fighter. I did like that Emily not only fought, but she did so intelligently and wasn't just throwing herself into the fray willy nilly. However, Emily keeps a journal and she either restates what we already read or she comes across as a teenager in love. Their romance was almost non-existant and I found it really just awful that the two agree that they want a marriage just like two other couples Lauren's had written about in previous books. Seriously- she has to resort to mentioning more developed books. And a surprise here- the sex was few and pretty terrible. A lot of the book took place while the party was traveling and I really wish their had been a map because I really did not know where some of the places were. Mention was made of other books in this series and from what I can glean they're about as awful as this one.

Rating: Non existent romance with basically non-existant characters with a terrible murder/ villain plot. Definitely one of the worst books I have ever read.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Bridal Veil

The Bridal Veil by Alexis Harrington 514

When Alyssa Cannon dies after promising to move to Oregon and marry Mr. Luke Becker, her sister, Emily, decides to take her place. She knows that she is not as pretty as what Luke had been expecting, but she shows up anyway. Luke is not exactly excited to see that he is supposed to marry a woman he knows nothing about and has had no contact with, but he knows he needs a woman to help him take care of his daughter, Rose. So Luke and Emily get married in a simple ceremony at the courthouse and it is only when they get back to Luke's farm that she discovers that they will also be living with his mother-in-law, Cora. Cora turns out to be more of a handful than Rose as she has turned the entire place into a shrine for her deceased daughter, Belinda. Cora is not at all happy at the new turn that life has taken and wastes no time showing the new addition to the family that she is not welcome. Luke is not exactly pleased with Cora's tactics but he worries that making trouble will end up hurting Rose.

Little by little Emily does manage to make progress with Rose, but it seems like all of her effort is wasted by Cora's interference. Emily secretly holds out hope that she will one day have the romance of her dreams, but she believes that because of her plainness such dreams are out of her reach. Luke knows that it is about time he get over his wife's death, but he cannot help but feel guilt over the way she died. An argument between the two of them had caused Belinda to run out into the rain and she eventually caught pneumonia, and the guilt prevents him from truly loving another woman. When Cora takes things one step too far, she leaves the house, and Emily and Luke have the house all to themselves and things begin to get better as they spend more and more time together and share themselves with the other. But Cora is still not entirely out of their lives and she is still determined to stir up trouble and when she does it turns out badly for both Emily and Luke. Together, along with Rose, they need to become a family and accept all the bad stuff that comes along with the good.

I've been on a little e-book kick recently and had a $1 off coupon for this book so I decided to buy it from smashwords and I'm glad I did. Like the other Alexis Harrington book I read, it is very calm and to be honest a little slow moving to the point some might consider it boring. However, she is so good with the character's and her writing that I definitely did not come away thinking that. I love how throughout the novel Luke is there quietly supporting Emily and helping her overcome her insecurities; it just really shows how great these two are together. She makes a great heroine for this novel- she knows her stuff and is not scared to work hard and go for what she wants, yet it is her faults that make her so real and such a great character. Luke is incredibly interesting because he is so noble, yet he is still wracked by this crippling guilt that he so wants to be able to get over. Reading about his journey getting over the guilt is just as good as reading about Emily gaining confidence.

The book was certainly not very steamy but the sex contributed immensely to the romantic development and towards getting Emily and Luke to fall in love. I thought that Cora was a great character for being such an untypical villain; she was a woman, she was older, and she wasn't a jealous suitor trying to steal the heroines money. I really looked forward to the parts that were told from her point of view, and I wished that there had been more- and a big confrontation scene at the very end. Rose was a very well-written, likable, and age appropriate little girl and it was nice to see the impact that having Emily in her life made on her. I liked the setting of this novel immensely and it was almost as if the time period and the setting were characters in themselves. This was definitely not a regency and I could tell while reading that the author had done a bit of research on what life would have been like in Oregon at the turn of the last century.

Rating: Once again another very satisfying novel from Harrington. I liked the plot of this one just as much and the romance was quite well done.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Marriage Ring

The Marriage Ring by Cathy Maxwell 521

Richard Lynstead is quite upset when Grace MacEachin accuses his father and his uncle (they're twins) of stealing money from an old woman and then framing her father for the crime. He is convinced that his father at least would never have committed such a crime, although he will admit that he cannot be quite so certain about his uncle. He goes to confront Grace at one of her performances as she is quite the toast of London as the gorgeous new singer. Grace knows that her father is not guilty of the crimes and she wants to prove his innocence, or at least get a small measure of revenge in the form of a blackmail payment, to prove to him that she believes in him. When Richard comes backstage she immediately knows he is self-righteous, stern, and quite a prig. He offers to escort her to Scotland to meet her father and judge for himself whether or not there is any basis for his story and Grace takes him up on the offer, wondering if there is more to this taciturn man than meets the eye.

Their journey proves to be an eye opening experience for both of them as Grace slowly draws Richard out of his shell and he comes to see this woman as a real person, and not as the fallen lady he tried to paint her as. Richard finds that he can tell Grace about his rather lonely and cruel childhood and Grace can easily see that he is a man of honor and a man she can trust. But when his uncle's agents turn against them Grace and Richard are left on their own and one cold night Richard finally loses his virginity to Grace. Grace is worried that he will now look upon her as a whore, but the truth is that Richard knows he has finally found someone he can care about- someone he hopes can care about him too. They both have feelings for each other and they must show the other that the feelings are reciprocated and not in danger of melting into thin air. But just as things seem to be looking up for them, the truth comes out and puts everything at risk. The two of them will need to work out their problems and carve their own path.

Grace and Richard are simply amazing characters that I completely fell in love with. Maxwell does an amazing job telling the story from both of their points of view so I felt like I was completely in tune with what was going on so that even if they were doing something I might not have agreed with, I could at least sympathize with their reasoning. Grace was truly independent (not the odd independence of many heroines) who could take care of herself. I loved that she willing to do some unsavory things to do what needed to be done and yet she knew that what she was doing wasn't right. She jumped in the middle of frays and actually came out on top a couple of times. Richard was just as awesome because of how tormented he was by his relationship with his father and uncle and being bullied as a child, and yet it did not affect his ability to fall in love with Gracie. Their relationship was so great because she was able to help him overcome those insecurities by believing in them and it was beautiful.

I loved the descriptions of the feelings they were each going through as he came to acknowledge that his father had committed some wrongs and she struggled with the guilt she feels over her original treatment of her father. An interesting touch to this novel was that Richard was a virgin (29) when he made love with Grace while she was not. I kind of thought, and hoped really, that the book would have gone in to a little more detail about this or had Richard and Grace have some sort of conversation about it. I also liked that, although she was a rape survivor, it had not completely ruined her ability to connect with another human without great sturm and drung. This book was entirely driven by the relationship between Richard and Grace and it made the book so great. I loved scenes between them where they were getting along and just having fun together and getting to know each other. No needless bantering or arguments that supposedly make their relationship exciting here!

Rating: Great relationship driven book with some great characters. I would have liked a little more spice or excitement, but very well done book!