Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord

Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord by Sarah MacLean 1030

Lord Nicholas St. John, twin brother of the Marquess of Ralston, is not pleased to be named one of the ten most eligible lords to land by Pearls and Pelisses magazine as every young lady in London decides they want to marry him. So when his friend, the Duke of Leighton, asks him to go find his sister, who has disappeared, he agrees to become a tracker like he had been years before when he lived in Turkey. Lady Isabela Townsend is the proprietess of "Minerva House," a secret safe place for young women who have nowhere else to turn and she is determined to keep it a secret. She knows that taking in the sister of Duke could bring mayhem, but she does not want to turn the scared and pregnant girl away. Her wastreal father had abandoned his wife and children and squandered the money away, leaving Isabela and her brother, the very young new earl, practically penniless.

Nicholas tracks the sister to Yorkshire where he runs into Isabela who hires him to value a collection of marbles she might need to sell to keep Minerva House running. She does not want him discovering thesecret of Townsend Park, but a rainstorm keeps him and his friend ensconced in the house. He has always felt the need to help females in need, but never so much as with Isabela even though she vehemently denies she needs any. After seeing what love did to her mother she never wants to fall in love, but Nicholas makes it very hard as he wears her down and she begins to trust him and think that he could be someone she can share her burdens with. But when she discovers that he is there to take one of "her" girls away she feels betrayed and thinks that he has proven to be just like every other man in her life. She risks losing him if she cannot move beyond her past and take a chance with the man she loves.

I absolutely adored the first book in this series featuring the Marquess of Ralson, Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, and was very much looking forward to this one even while realizing it would be hard to live up to such high expectations. Nicholas has quite the past as a hunter for missing people in Turkey and apparently one with women in need, but the reader gets barely a glimpse into this aspect of him until it is revealed in the end. Since such a big deal was made about it throughout the book I would have liked not to be left in the dark for so long. But I did like how MacLean made a distinction between merely wanting to help Isabela and really falling in love with her so I could tell his emotions were genuinely for her. Isabela had demons of her own as she was so intent on not becoming her mother and ruining her life for the man she loved that she ended up doing that exact thing.

It was Isabela who went through the most change in this book and really had to confront how she had led her life and how she had been controlled by fears. I loved reading about her learning how to open up and let someone else in, but when she worried he had betrayed her things kind of went downhill. While I could understand why she felt betrayed I wanted her to get over it quicker than she did and I felt like that dragged the book a bit. I liked that they were so great together and could work with each other and their was plenty of steam throughout the book and it was at times pretty hot. I absolutely adored Isabela's brother, James the new Earl of Reddich, who was precocious and so wanted to grow up and take care of his sister and the other women. And there was a wonderful little side romance featuring Isabela's cousin and Nicholas's friend that I wish had been more showcased in the novel.

Rating: Another great book by MacLean who writes very well rounded characters, and although it got irritating at times, it still shown overall.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Love in the Afternoon

Love in the Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas 817

Beatrix Hathaway has always been regarded by society as odd as she enjoys spending more time in the company of animals than people. Indeed Beatrix has a whole menagerie of animals that she keeps at the Ramsey estate where she lives with many of her equally eccentric relatives. Her friend Prudence struck up a flirtation with Christopher Phalen before he went off to war and he wants to start a correspondence with Pru. However, Prudence has no interest in this younger son who's letters are filled with war time troubles and insecurities. Beatrix has never been fond of the arrogant young soldier, but his letter strikes a chord in her and reveals hidden depths so she begins a correspondence with him. Things go farther than she was expecting and she finds herself falling in love with this much different young man but eventually she realizes she cannot continue lying to Christopher about her identity and she breaks things off.

Christopher arrives home a changed man determined to find Prudence and make a life with her. He finds her much different than the woman he had expected from the letters as she seems more interested in his new fame and his inheritance as his older brother died. His neighbor, Beatrix Hathaway keeps showing up in his life and she helps him rehabilitate his dog after the war. He is absolutely stunned when signs point that Beatrix is the woman who wrote the letters that had given him hope during the war. He is already half in love with the oddities of Beatrix and finding out who she is forces him to realize he needs her in his life and the two agree to marriage. However, there are still demons from Christopher's past as he suffers from some form of PTSD it seems and is worried about how he will act around Beatrix. When someone from his past threatens his newfound happiness, he knows he should let her in and share.

Kleypas returns to top form again after the minor disappointment of Married by Morning and brings the story of the youngest, and most eccentric, of the Hathaway sisters, Beatrix. While reading all of the books in the series I was a little concerned about how she would manage to write a romance with such an unconventional character who seemed so childlike in her adoration of creatures and I was worried she would water down Beatrix's personality and oddness. I was not at all disappointed as Kleypas kept all of those little things that made Beatrix so special and at the same time made her more mature so she was really just a great character all around. Her talents with animals translated so well in helping Christopher overcome his war related problems and there are some fantastic scenes where she can just read him and knows what she needs to do to help him, when no one else can.

Christopher was also a very well written character as he underwent some great development as he came to love Beatrix. His war related problems were very well explored and dealt with in what seemed to me to be a realistic and helpful manner. And best of all his love for Beatrix was just so great and his desire to keep her safe explained some of his more awkward behavior. The relationship between these two was wonderful and I absolutely loved reading about it. The sex between them was not exciting, but it was not boring either- it kind of seemed as though it was formulaic and rather hastily put together, but it was not out of place or awkward, it just could have been better. While the Hathaway relationships have never grated before, it just felt like they were a little too perfect and loving in this book with too many inside jokes for my taste. However, I am still very sad that this book marks the end of the Hathaway series.

Rating: Kleypas in near top form with great characters and an amazing relationship between them. Recommended, but not necessarily her best work in my opinion.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Gentleman Always Remembers

A Gentleman Always Remembers by Candace Camp 815

When Eve Hawthorne was widowed after her officer husband died she moved back in with her father and stepmother. The arrangement was not at all pleasant so she accepted a job as a companion/ chaperone to the two young American cousins of the Earl of Shrewsbury, who was happy to hire her with the recommendation of her friend, Vivian. The Bascombe girls quickly take a liking to their new chaperone, but it is their cousin's half-brother, Fitzhugh Talbot, who most enjoys her company. When he goes to pick her up he finds her playing with her younger brother in a river with her skirt tucked into her dress and he cannot getthe image out of his mind. He is determined to bring out this carefree woman again and wants to begin an affair with her. Despite being married, Eve has never known sex as her husband had been impotent, and while she is interested in experiencing that she knows that having an affair would ruin her reputation and put her very livelihood at risk.

But she is forced to enlist his aid when one of her charges, young Lily Bascombe, is far too interested in Fitz's friend, the rakish Neville Carr, who is already pre-engaged to another young woman. The Earl has been called back to London and suddenly it is the carefree Fitz who is taking charge of the estate when many come down with the measles, and who finds himself for once being the honorable guardian as he attempts to warn Neville away from Lily. Things get even more heated when someone starts delivering threatening notes to Eve claiming that her husband was a thief who killed himself and stole the very watch the Eve cherishes from him. She tries to be brave, but when someone starts breaking into the house, she tells Fitz and the two become closer than ever. Fitz needs to find the man who is threatening Eve because suddenly he can't sand the thought of anything happening to her.

I always like the chaperone getting a little something for herself and Camp does a pretty good job of it here. Eve is great however I thought it a little too noble of her not to have accepted Vivian's generous offer to come live with her. I'm all for a woman trying to make it on her own, but in that day and age when someone gives you a way out I think she should have taken it. I also thought that Camp did an excellent job explaining away her virginal status because apparently the virgin widow used to be all too common in the genre and while not so now, the situation still needs some good back story. The women are of course all fast friends and get along famously, which sometimes annoys me in stories as that is so rarely the case in real life, but Camp also does a great job with this- perhaps because one of the villains of the story is Lady Sabrina, who I absolutely love to hate in the Willowmere series.

And another staple is the rogue with no worries who suddenly finds himself wanting to tie himself to one woman and take up all the responsibilities he had been all too eager to hand off to another. Fitz is really pretty average for a romance novel hero; supposedly bad but still noble to stop just shy of ruining the heroine. The sex between these two is pretty good but I really felt like it could have been better as there was some great chemistry between them throughout the rest of the book. The whole letters and stealing ex-husband was a little weird really as it just seemed to show up when it was convenient and then disappear when there was other things that needed to be done. I guess I'm also a little upset as I hoped the Bascombe sisters would get their own series/ books but their stories are obviously being thrown in as side-romances for the men of Willowmere. One of my favorite parts of this was reading about Neville Carr's weak-willed "fiance" growing a spine and I wish there had been more.

Rating: Camp really has become one of my go-to authors recently and while this is not her best this is still a fun read. Looking forward to Stewkesbury's story immensely.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Dangerous Viscount

The Dangerous Viscount by Miranda Neville 1025

All her life Lady Diana Fanshawe wanted to marry Lord Blakeney, but her families eccentricities and her mother's lack of social grace left her with no choice but to marry the elderly Lord Fanshawe. He was a wonderful man but upon his death she is determined to make a happier, more passionate marriage- preferably with Blakeney. But when she meets Sebastian Iverley, Blakeney's cousin, at a house party she enters into a wager with Blakeney that she can get the somewhat cold and very awkward Sebastian to kiss her. Sebastian has always disliked his cousin for the cruel way he was treated and he is excited that such a beautiful and amazing woman has taken an interest in him, even contemplating marriage. When he finds out the motive behind Diana's kiss he is devastated but wants his revenge. He inherits his uncle's title and becomes Viscount Iverley and gains a little town polish and sets out.

The new polished Sebastian catches Diana's eye but at the same time she misses the old Sebastian and especially does not like the way he is suddenly so much more suave with the other ladies. Sebastian is trying to make Diana jealous and it works but at the same time he begins to think he cannot go through with his revenge. Diana realizes that she wants so much more from Sebastian and this time it is her contemplating marriage. But Sebastian has trouble letting go of past hurts and Diana is crushed when he reveals he knows about the kissing bet and that he only slept with her revenge. But circumstances arise that continue to throw them together and this time it is both of them that want more than they believe the other is willing to give. It takes work and time and lots of caring for them to work out that they love each other and are perfect for each other despite any problems they may have had in the past.

So now I get to go through and detail every sing thing about this book that I loved and I'll start with what made this book so great, and so different from many other romances; the characters. Diana is simply amazing as she is not a simpering virgin, she didn't have a horrible marriage, and she is more experienced sexually than Sebastian. Her desire to marry Blakeney makes sense and I loved reading about her realizing that Sebastian was the man she wanted to be with and how she loved him. Sebastian was even better as he miles apart from the typical romance novel hero as he was a virgin (!!), he was awkward socially and just did not have the confidence and lady killer attitude of so many, and I loved that so much. He is suffering from so many past hurts with what he went through and it really effects his relationship with Diana, but he is able to get through it with her help.

Diana and Sebastian went together very well and really complemented each other perfectly as she had the confidence and he really needed her push to get the ball rolling for them. He did take his revenge a little too far obviously and it really hurt her, but it was all made okay because as their relationship progressed they both realized they had made mistakes and wanted to move past them so they could be with the other. The sex was amazing and super hot, even his first time and when done for revenge purposes, and I enjoyed reading about these two getting together. Diana's obsession with marrying Blakeney in the beginning may seem ridiculous but when taken into account with her having no choice during her first season it made sense to me that she kind of reverted back to her childhood crush and was rather blind to his faults. Secondary characters were a treat as usual, especially Diana's eccentric family.

Rating: Absolutely amazing! I knew I was going to like it right away because Sebastian was just so different from the usual hero and it continually got better.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Guilty Pleasures

Guilty Pleasures by Laura Lee Guhrke 724

Daphne Wade has had a very unconventional upbringing as she travelled with her father in the near and middle east digging up and studying ancient ruins. When her father died, Daphne with left with almost nothing, but she decided to fulfill the last commission her father had accepted and goes to England to work for the Duke of Tremore. Anthony was not expecting this rather plain and mechanical woman, but she is indeed the best and he hires her for the next few years until his estate has been entirely excavated. But it is not long before Daphne is head over heels for the very handsome and intelligent duke and she is using spyglass to watch him work topless. When Anthony's sister, Viola, visits, she discovers Daphne's feelings for Anthony and offers to take Violet away so she can get to know her grandfather, who is noble and disowned Daphne's mother when she eloped, and so she can be introduced into society.

When Anthony discovers that Daphne is leaving he is furious and confused as he does not see how Daphne could ever catch a husband, and unfortunately Daphne hears his tirade. She is heartbroken and decidesit is about time she start standing up for herself. Anthony is confused, but strangely attracted, to the new more vibrant and contentious Daphne and is desperate to have her stay on and work for him. The two have quite the little push and pull going with them bargaining for my time and it is not long before kisses and more becoming part of their little game. But Anthony is determined to have a dutiful and loveless marriage as his experience with love has been less than thrilling, and Daphne can not accept anything less than a husband who loves her. It will take some very interesting courtship rituals before Anthony can admit, and Daphne can believe, that he truly does love her in return.

First and foremost I have to say that Guhrke once again writes two really interesting and well developed characters who are completely suited for each other. I love that she can write female characters who have careers that they can really do and really add some extra something special, not just a charity or volunteer commitment. In this case Daphne is extremely educated and I always love that, especially here because it is one more thing that she and Anthony have in common as he is into the same things that she is. Her transformation to outspoken diva was a little abrupt, but it was explained away as that was the way she genuinely was and it was only her awe of Anthony that kept her from letting go. Anthony was a really well done character as well and I liked reading about the way his feelings about Daphne changed throughout the novel- from a stick-insect machine to the woman he can't stop thinking about.

One thing that was not fully fleshed out was his fear of love. It was discussed a little bit in the background, but for something that played such a big part of the novel there was no little scenes with him stressing over what had happened and how he could not fall in love. There is only a little sex between the two of them and it is pretty hot, but there is some nice buildup and the two are obviously very physically attracted to her. His desire for her lead to some really fun inner dialogue about the mistakes he had made in his relationship with her and how much he really wants her. I really enjoyed their interactions as they had some very unusual flirting rituals, including this great spell where they communicated through flowers. They were never truly mean to each other and while they argued, it was not mean spirited or annoyingly petty.

Rating: Two great interesting and unique characters who were perfect for each other and I really enjoyed reading the romance between the two of them.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Unclaimed Duchess

The Unclaimed Duchess by Jenna Petersen 1023

Anne Danvers has been engaged to Rhys Carlisle, current Duke of Carlisle, since she was a little girl and while he has changed over the years he has known her she has always been in love with him. She knows he is cold, often pompous, and can be quite mean to those he feels are beneath him, but she harbors hope that she can make him fall in love with her. After their honeymoon his friend Simon, the Duke of Billingham, visits to inform him that Rhys is actually the result of an affair his mother had with his (Simon's) father. Rhys is completely thrown as his whole life it has been drilled into him that blood and titles are all important and he runs away. Anne is both terrified and angry when he leaves and decides that she wants to fight as hard as she can to bring her husband back, even though she doesn't know the reason behind his fit, so she heads off to the seashore to make him love her.

Rhys decides that the best thing to do is to reveal the truth about his family before the blackmailer can do so. He wants to keep Anne safe so he pushes her away and plans to give her a separation so she can move on with her life when everything comes to light and so that another child won't inherit while carrying non-Carlisle blood. She does not understand his reasoning and sets out to convince him of the wrongness of his decision by seducing him at every possible opportunity and revealing her love for him. The two live an idle life secluded at the cottage, pushing aside the concerns of the real world, but eventually it has to end. Back in London Anne demands to know the truth and when he tells her she is furious that he wants to throw everything away and leaves him. It takes that for him to realize that he too wants to fight for what their love and he has to keep this secret from spreading so he can be with Anne.

Anne and Rhys are not exactly two people I can see together as they seemed rather mismatched. His obsession with blood became old very fast even as it was explained away with his father's own obsession with it. There was a big deal made over how he changed during the course of the book and became more accepting of those who weren't as highly ranked as him. Unfortunately it was really hard to see this happening and I just didn't really see it. This was part of my confusion as to why Anne was in love with him as she had been for years even though he was apparently a pretty awful person who looked down on everyone. She loved him while he was pompous and she loved him when he was hobnobbing with the lower classes and I guess I can give her points for at least being consistent. It almost seemed like the only thing we really know about Anne is that she loves Rhys- and not much else.

They do spend a lot of time together and Anne brings out the best in Rhys, although the best is rather hard to determine when it comes to Rhys, and I liked that she had a good influence on him. I didn't like his determination not to have sex with her and while there was plenty of sex, even if not a lot that could result in a baby with impure blood, but it was actually rather boring and it got repetitive very fast. The plot around him discovering he was a bastard was really well done as we got the story from Rhys and Anne's point of view, and also got to explore it from Simon and Rhy's mother's side as well. The resolution of the blackmail scheme and how Simon and Rhys handled everything also worked out really well. I wish it had been a little more dramatic and clearer that he was doing it for Anne. I did like the writing in this book, it we
nt really fast and I felt like there was not a lot of extra fluff with lots of dialogue between the characters.

Rating: On the whole the relationship and romance was somewhat lacking in my opinion but it did have it's high moments.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Devil Wears Plaid

The Devil Wears Plaid by Teresa Medeiros 1021

Emmaline Marlowe's family is in dire straights after she jilted her fiance because she was in love with another man, only to have him reject her and the ex-fiance sue for breach of contract. To save them from debtors prison she agrees to marry the ancient Earl of Hepburn and move to his seat in Scotland. Although she is not looking forward to married life she isn't pleased when her wedding is interrupted and she is taken away by Jamie Sinclair. The Sinclairs and the Hepburn's have been feuding for generations and recently the Hepburn's have gained the upper hand after forcing the Sinclair's and their followers into hiding in the Highlands. And even worse, Jamie believes that Hepburn had killed Jamie's mother, a Sinclair, and Jamie's father, who was Hepburn's son. The two had stolen away together, had a son, and planned to marry, before being killed and Jamie has carried the belief that Hepburn killed his parents his whole life.

He expects a milk and water English miss and surprised to find the very capable Emma who can stand up to him and tell him what's what, make his heart beat faster, and cook breakfast for him and his men. He finds that he can tell her about his parents and his time spent in England trying to learn how to be a lord and she confides in him her fears about the marriage and her desire for a love match. Jamie wants Hepburn to admit what he had done to his parents and that is part of the ransom demand he posts, but at the same time he does not want to send Emma away. Neither wants to leave the other or admit to their feelings and Jamie thinks he cannot subject Emma to the life of a Highland outlaw. But the Hepburn lord has a couple tricks up his sleeves and very dark secrets must come to light before Emma and Jamie can make a new life for themselves together.

I was really excited about reading this book because the idea of a kidnapped bride is a new one for me in romance land. On the whole the book really did not disappoint as I enjoyed both characters and reading about the development of their relationship. Emma was great as she was willing to sacrifice herself for her family's good even while she still harbored fantasies of a happy marriage. I admit that her handling of kidnapping was unrealistic, she was surprisingly calm about it in my opinion, but as she got used to it Madeiros was spot on about how she slowly came to care for the man who had kidnapped her and fell in love with him. Jamie's twisted emotions about everything were understandable and really he handled them remarkably well and did not let them interfere too much with his relationship with Emma, although sometimes it was a little frustrated that he let so much stand in between them.

I liked that these two spent a lot of time together getting to know each other and learning about the other and were able to trust each other with some big secrets. Their was some sex but I really skipped through some of it as it wasn't that exciting but I did think it was great that it was a conscious decision by her part to give herself to the man she loved even if it meant risking her future. The plot involving solving his parent's death was absolutely brilliant and I loved the twists and turns it took and was utterly shocked by the outcome. I also enjoyed some side relationships (not romantic) like the one between Emma and her family, who seemed so callous selling her off to the rich man but really loved her, Jamie's with the men who followed him, and Jamie withthe Hepburn's heir who had once been his best friend before discovering Jamie was one of the hated Sinclair's.

Rating: A very good book with a lot of extras that really made it a great book. It did seem a little slow moving at times and his willingness to send her away grated a little.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Last Night's Scandal

Last Night's Scandal by Loretta Chase 906

Miss Olivia Wingate-Carsington has maintained a written communication with Peregrine Dalmay, the Earl of Lisle for the last several years. He has been in Egypt exploring underground tombs and mummies and generally staying away from his crazy parents. Apparently Olivia led him on merry adventures back when they were younger but they were never really more than great friends. When Lisle returns from Egypt for a visit he is shocked to discover that Olivia has turned into quite the gorgeous heart breaker who has already broken off several engagements. He is even more upset when his parents threaten to cut him off financially if he does not stay in England and go to their drafty castle in Scotland. The people there are refusing to work there as they believe it is haunted and Lisle does not see how he can get out of going and then, of course, Olivia takes it into her head to come up with a "Plan."

She leads his parents to believe there is a relationship between them and they agree to have her escort their son to Scotland where she will help him bring the castle up to snuff quickly so that he can return to Egypt. The journey up is fraught with peril as the more time they spend together the harder it is for them to deny their immense attraction for the other. Once at the castle in Scotland Lisle is forced to admit that Olivia is far more a grown woman than the girl he remembers as she effortlessly take charge and brings order to the chaos. Added to this are their two "chaperones"- two extremely raunch elderly ladies who speak their mind. They know that there is no ghost, but he refuses to believe her when she claims that someone is using a "ghost" as a distraction so that they can look for treasure on the property. Together they must solve the mystery and discover that they can have all the adventures they want with each other.

The first thing I thought when reading this book was how immature Olivia was and this started at the beginning with her heavily capitalized and underlined, not to mention exaggerated, letters to Lisle. This makes sense as she was young but she continues to seem very young throughout the book even as she was bringing order to the castle and brightening up Lisle's life. I guess this makes sense as Lisle was also much younger than most romance novel heroes at only 24 and he also seemed rather immature. There were ridiculous fights between the two of them where she resorted to name calling and he acting like a 20 year-old man. I figured out by the end that Olivia had had feelings for Lisle for many years but it wasn't explitly stated and was really hidden. I prefer it when these things are made clear so that we can understand some of her motives, but I did like that it didn't lead to moping and angst on her part. She really was trying help him and make his life better and that was romantic.

His feelings were rather sudden at the end and the final scene where they declare their love is beautiful. The sex between them was rather sparse and was decent if not spectacular. The side plot about the ghost and the treasure was very well done and, although it wasn't really a mystery as we knew who the bad guys were, I really enjoyed it and thought it was a strong element in the story. Much was made throughout the book about his parents and how they only thought about themselves and were generally weird. It kind of made Lisle and Olivia look rather mean for picking on his parents when it seemed like they were only looking out for what they thought was their son's best interest. However I did find the two elderly chaperones highly annoying and off putting and I wanted to slap them numerous times. They literally could not talk about anything but sex or men.

Rating: The characters were decent but not really my cup of tea but Chase always writes interesting books that I enjoy reading.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pleasurably Undone

Pleasurably Undone 628

Seducing a Stranger by Christine Merrill
Victoria Paget believes that her husband's regiment in France was betrayed and thinks that Lieutenant Tom Godfrey must be the culprit as he was the only man to return alive. She goes undercover in a brothel to learn his secrets and he falls for it right away. Tom has been infatuated with Victoria since his captain showed him her picture so finding a twin in a brothel is perfection. When he realizes who she is he offers her marriage so he can take her away from her horrible life. Victoria realizes that she must have the wrong man as Tom is honest and obviously cares for her and wants to do the right thing. Tom tries to find a job with another man in the War Office and when he is turned down, the real spy lands himself right in Tom's lap. Victoria knows she must confess her former suspicions to Tom, and hope that he can forgive her and they can work on capturing the true spy together after they are married.

This story is incredibly short (45 pages) and a good majority of that is absolutely scorching sex. I really had to suspend reality for this one as going undercover in a brothel is just not believable. However, Merrill did a good job with the very small amount of pages she was given, as I quickly grew to like both characters. Tom was strong and wanted to take care of those around him, while Victoria was dedicated and determined to get to the bottom of what had happened to her husband at any cost. I would have preferred a few more pages so that their could have been some angst about her believing him to be a spy, though. I was really excited when they were able to adequately wrap up the spy plot pretty well, although it does end on somewhat of a to be continued in that department. However, the romance, and especially the sex, was great.

The Viking's Forbidden Love Slave
by Michelle Willingham
When Aisling O'Bannon is kidnapped by a Viking warrior, she knows she has much to worry about as the Vikings have been raiding and tormenting her family for years. Tharand is known among his people as fierce but they believe he is dangerous and has no heart. He has kidnapped Aisling in the hopes that he can exchange her to his king Magnus for his young sister Jorja. But he is taken with this fierce woman he finds in his possession and it is certainly difficult for him to keep his hands off of her. Aisling tries desperately to hate her captor but as she realizes why he has kidnapped her it becomes difficult. In one furious standoff with the King the two must use all their skills to save their lives, and that of young Jorja.

Another short story, but it desperately needed ten or so pages as the confrontation at the end was over laughably quickly and everything was tied up far too neatly. I felt like Aisling and Tharand did not really get to know each other and that their attraction/ love was merely a product of close proximity. I really did not go for Aisling being so forgiving of Tharand's people as they really had been making life horrible for hers. It just seemed like there was far too much stacked against them and it was not really explained away. The sex between them was decent and short but no real steam.

Disrobed and Dishonered by Louise Allen
When Sarah Tatton discovers that her fiance molested her maid she decides that she needs to get rid of her virtue, or at least pretend to have gotten rid of it. On a midnight ride she runs into Jonathan Kirkland, who is masquerading as a highwayman and thinks he will be perfect for the job. They go back to an inn and without completely ruining her, Jonathan shows her pleasure before she leaves without telling him her name. He tracks her down for one more night of passion and she realizes that she is in love with him, but now it is her who does not know his name. While she is free from her unlikely marriage she is not happy and misses him and hopes that a weekend at a friend's house party will cheer her up. She is not expected Jonathan to be there as the Earl of Redfield and while upset at first, it does not take her long to discover that Jonathan was not playing with her heart- he is playing for keeps.

Allen really puts to shame authors who stretch this plot out for 400 pages as she does quite a good job in a very short amount of space. Of course she could have used more pages on them getting to know each other after they met as their real selves, but all in all a great effort. Jonathan and Sarah falling in love was very believable as circumstances had forced them to learn a lot about each other in a short amount of time. They have a couple of great moments together when they're lying in bed and he's reflecting on how special she is or when they are discussing what happened between them. I would definitely have liked more sex in this novel- there were three scenes, but the final consummation scene was very short and cramped. I also admire her ability to set up her next novels without making it so amazingly obvious that that is what she is attempted to do.

A Night for Her Pleasure by Terri Brisbon
Simon and Elise's marriage had been arranged by her family who wants his connections to rid the family of the taint of treason. Since the first time they laid eyes on each other, they both knew this would be a special marriage. She was beautiful and innocent and everything Simon had been too scared to want, while Simon was kind and strong and made Elise yearn for something she had never experienced. Each is worried the other will find them lacking so on their wedding night they both try to please the other. However, as the night progresses they each discover that they don't need to worry about anything, as they are both ready for marriage and love.

I did enjoy both of these characters, especially loved how I was really in their head and the story switched back and forth between each of their points of view quite frequently. It seemed like the falling in love and realizing how much they liked each other happened before the book started, but we still got an adequate look at it. They were so genuine and wonderful in their desire to please each other that I quite liked their interactions with each other. The book was steamy throughout as it was basically a big lead up to their marriage bed which did not disappoint.

The Unlacing of Miss Leig
h by Diane Gaston
When Margaret Leigh responds to an add placed in a newspaper for a gentleman's companion she is at first put off when she realizes it is for a mistress, but she eventually agrees to meet him. She is stunned when the man is none other than her childhood crush, Captain Graham Veall. She agrees to a period of two months with him in exchange for an annuity, but she knows that it will be all too easy to fall in love with him. Graham game back from the war horribly scarred and is convinced that no woman will ever want him. It is up to Margaret to convince that he can be, and is, loved and that happiness is within his grasp.

I really enjoyed this story and felt like the characters worked very well together. Their time together is rather rushed, but I could still tell that there was a great connection. I loved the back story and the epilogue added a really nice touch. Graham's feelings about his scar might have been a tad overdone, but Margaret was a perfect heroine to convince him of the truth. The
sex between these two was pretty hot, and did not take up a whole lot of the story. While answering the advertisement seemed an odd way to get two people together, it worked well here and was very well developed and integrated into the story.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Never Less Than a Lady

Never Less Than a Lady by Mary Jo Putney 721

When Alexander Randall discovers that he is the current heir to the Earl of Daventry, he sells his commission and returns to England. He knows he should think about marrying, but the one woman he can't get out of his mind is midwife Julia Bancroft. When he goes to visit her he discovers that she has been kidnapped and heads off to rescue her. Turns out Julia has been in hiding for over a decade after her husband's death was not accepted as an accident by her father-in-law, the current Daventry and Alex's uncle. Her husband, Brandford had been incredibly abusive and while attacking Julia he had slipped and died. Julia lived with the consequences for years and does not think she can ever stand another man to touch her, but Alex is persuasive and promises that he will allow her to leave after a year if things do not work out between them, although he hopes they will.

Back in England, Daventry is horrified to have Julia back, but gleeful to announce that Alex is no longer his heir, and Julia is worried that Alex will come to regret her barren status. Slowly Alex and Julia work on their relationship with each other and Alex slowly woos his wife away from her fear of men and intimacy and it is not long before she is happy with her marriage. Alex has his own fears when he discovers that Julia is actually very well connected in society with many noble relatives and a very large inheritance. He is worried that Julia will eventually want to take her place in society and she won't be able to do this married to a mere army major. When the two discover that Branford had had an illegitimate son, it becomes important for Julia to find him and make him a part of their new family. But there are still people who have not forgivenJulia for Branford's death and want her to pay, and Alex will have to protect what is his before both of them can admit they want this marriage.

Too often when dealing with a heroine with a horrible past, she either gets over it far too quickly or it drags on and brings the entire book down. Here, Julia is certainly affected by her past and it influences who she is and what she does, but she is strong enough to move on, both in a living her life sense and in a romantic sense. Her past is something she and Alex work on together, and he does an equally great job of helping her as she does helping herself. I really enjoyed a midwife for a heroine as it allows the author to showcase her remarkable talents and her nurturing, helpful, loving side without making her too gosh darn helpful and sweet. She really proved herself to be strong and capable and her actions about Ben were written so perfectly that I could see why she wanted to take in her horrible husband's bastard. Really, there was very little about Julia that I did not absolutely love.

Alex was also very well written and a decent amount, if not quite enough, of the story was from his point of view, so even when I thought he was wrong I could understand why he was going through those things. Daventry as a villain was absolutely brilliant; he was mean and yelled and at times downright cruel, however he was so screwed up about losing his sons and his actions at the end towards his wife and his bastard grandson really lent him a human element and made him a very well rounded character. The side plot about them being killed was handled very skillfully as it was important in the story, but not overwhelming. My biggest problem in this book were constant references to things I assume happened in other books and, in the beginning at least, constant appearances by characters from previous and future books. It got better by the end as I came to like these characters too, but for a while it was annoying.

Rating: A very well done book really with truly great characters and some really intense moments, but the beginning was a tad slow with all the backstory.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

An Indecent Proposition

An Indecent Proposition by Emma Wildes 720

Lady Caroline Wynn is happy to be a widow and has no intention of ever marrying again after such a disastrous marriage, but her dead husbands accusation of her being passion-less still haunt her. One night after too many drinks Nicholas, Duke of Rothay, and Derek, Earl Manderville, place on bet on which one of them is a better lover. Caroline believes that this will be a perfect way for her to discover if she truly is cold and unfeeling, and agrees to be the judge if only they will agree to complete discretion. They are both intrigued by the possibility of having this gorgeous and socially upstanding young woman in their bed and agree to her terms, with Nicholas going first. It is not long before Nicholas discovers that Caroline's history has left her scared of men and he must proceed slowly. Over the course of a week, Nicholas woos Caroline, slowly seducing her and really becoming her friend.

When he is called away early the two both head back to London but Caroline knows she can never have such a relationship with Derek. This is fine as Derek only made that wager when he discovered that Annabelle Reid, the love of his life, had gotten engaged. A practiced rake, the passionate kiss he shared with Annabelle scared him and pushed him into the arms of another woman and when Annabelle discovered this she swore him off. Now a year later he knows he made a horrible mistake and wants to win her back. He and Caroline agree to help each other, with Caroline talking to Annabelle about the importance of love in marriage, and Derek pretending to continue with the wager to make Nicholas jealous and come to his senses. When Caroline's cousin-in-law threatens to expose their wager, all three of her friends will have to come to aid in order for all of them to end up in love.

I always find it a little odd when an author tries to push two romances into one novel, but Wildes does a pretty good job of it and I did not feel like either romance was particularly lacking. We got a great back story on all of them and enough insight into what all of them were thinking and feeling throughout the book. They were all great characters and the romances were done with a deft hand. The book was supposed to be an erotica style romance and while there was certainly plenty of sex, there was not as much as I would have expected and I really did not find it particularly exciting. Perhaps the best part of this book was Annabelle, and to a lesser extent Caroline, coming to turns with their loved one's very promiscuous past. A lot of romance novel heroes are former rakes and it is just kind of brushed aside, but in this book it is truly something that they have to work through and come to terms with.

Derek and Nicholas also had to come to grips with their past and there were times I got a little tired of their excuses for not getting married or wanting to settle down. The book was rather unexciting with no fun little conversations between them, and I couldn't help but feel like the whole thing had some sort of pall over it as all four of them were working through some pretty tough issues of their own. I also would have preferred some more time with Annabelle and Derek as their falling in love had happened prior to the book beginning, and even Caroline and Nicholas falling in love was a little glossed over during their week together. There was a brief little problem with her cousin-in-law that was really interesting and for once I actually found myself wishing there was a little bit more of it. It was very well done, and rather predictable, but definitely did not get in the way of the romances.

Rating: Two interesting romances with four likable characters in a book I liked, but did not really find anything particularly special about.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

One Touch of Scandal

One Touch of Scandal by Liz Carlyle 1019

Grace Gauthier grew up in North Africa with her father, who was a French army officer, and after both of her parents death she takes up working as a governess for a mercantile family in London. She grows to like her employers step children and he decides that they should get married even though they are not in love and she is excited at the prospect of having a comfortable life of her own, even if it is passionless. But when he is murdered she is the prime suspect as the investigator discovers a note where her employer supposedly cancels their engagement. She seeks help from a male friend at a club but when he is not there Adrian, Lord Ruthveyn, steps in and offers to help. Adrian is a member of a very select gentlemen's club that only admits members who have a special mental gift or ability. It has brought trouble to Adrian but has also made him invaluable to the British government in the past.

Adrian has no plans to marry ever since his special gift allowed him to see how his now deceased wife would die, but he is very drawn to the beautiful young woman. He has his own problems with the investigator who is targeting Grace and to keep Grace safe he brings her into his house as a governess for his two nephews. It isn't long before he has his own suspects on the case and is desperately trying to convince everyone that Grace is innocent. And with Grace under his roof he finds it impossible to stay away from her despite all his intentions and even though Grace insists she does not want to marry he feels both guilty of what he is doing and terrified at the idea of losing her. Then when he finds out that she too might have the gift and be descended from the special people he knows he cannot lose her. He must prove to everyone that she is innocent of murder and prove to her that he wants her love forever.

I did not feel as though I gained very much insight into Adrian and what I did get was through the eyes of his special powers and I wanted to just shove it aside and figure out what was beneath them. Grace, on the other hand, was great as she wanted so badly for a normal, settled family life with her own children. Her motives were explained so well in the beginning that it made no sense when she wanted to run away to Paris and live on her own and all of a sudden wanted love with Adrian. His dedication to proving her innocence was noble and it was the only time I really felt like he was a "good guy." The relationship between them was rather sedate and just kind of chugged along and while the sex was good sometimes there was also a spiritual/ tantric moment during one that annoyed me. I was intrigued when one of Adrian's male friends had a moment of sexual tension with another man, but nothing happened.

The investigation into who killed Grace's employer was incredibly interesting to me and I really wanted to find out what had happened and why Grace had been framed- Carlyle did a good job drawing the reader in to this aspect of the book. I did not really talk too much in this review about the club Adrian was a part of and what they did and all the myths surrounding it and his special abilities to foreshadow what will happen. It did take up a lot of space in the book and I desperately tried to ignore it, even when it was brought to play in the bedroom. For the most part it confused me or made me role my eyes as I am just really not a fan of the mystical and magical in romance novels. Carlyle worked hard to make it a well integrated part of the novel and she did succeed, but it ended up hurting the book because I could not get into it at all and by the end it had completely taken over and I really didn't like it.

Rating: Good promise but the book got progressively worse the more the "special powers" were brought into play and at the end I was just racing toward the finish line.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My Reckless Surrender

My Reckless Surrender by Anna Campbell 718

The widowed Diana Carrick has worked at and loved Cranston Abbey for as long as she can remember. Her father is the bailiff of Lord Burnley and when he makes her an offer that can end with her in charge of the abbey she takes it even though it will mean compromising her principles. Burnley wants her to seduce Tarquin Vale, Earl of Ashcroft, and become pregnant before marrying Burnley and raising the child as theirs. When Diana confronts Tarquin he is intrigued by this gorgeous woman who has an air of innocence about her, but he turns her down. However, he cannot get her out of his head and when he finds her again he takes her up on her offer and the next few weeks are filled with carnal delights for both of them. Diana is having a very hard time reconciling the heartless rake she was led to expect with this obviously caring, funny, and attentive lover she has discovered in Ashcroft.

Ashcroft has prided himself on never falling in love and maintaing a distance from the women he sleeps with but Diana makes him throw all of this out the window. He cannot get enough of her in bed, he can't stop thinking about her, and he feels happier when she is with him. Diana feels horribly about what she has done, but cannot go back now and she dreads him finding out the truth about her. She tries to end things between them, but he wont' let her out of his life, and his actions make her fall in love with him. The matter is taken out of her hand when Burnley confronts both of them and to swallow his pride, Ashcroft leaves after throwing insults at Diana. She is heartbroken and does not know if she can continue with the original plan, but now she has a child to consider. Despite his intentions, when word comes of Diana's marriage, Ashcroft knows that he will need to take one more chance on her, for both their sakes.

While I always like it when a heroine is imperfect and not perfectly noble, I debate whether Diana went a little too far in the opposite direction. Her love for the abbey was understandable and her desire to provide a home for her father was noble, but it was a little crazy for her to go to all this trouble for it. It was not like she would have starved or been completely thrown out into the street, it really was entirely selfish. And I really did not understand what her appeal was to Ashcroft besides her obvious beauty. The book goes on about her innocence and how appealing that is to him, especially as it's hidden behind a veneer of promiscuity, but I don't see that as a reason for him to fall in love with her. Ashcroft was definitely more lovable and made a great rake turned lovelorn hero as he really funny and caring and quite attentive to her. His attempts to win her back after she left him were spot on and perfect.

Unfortunately her guilt over actions really drag the book down and there were almost no times when this overwhelming emotion allowed both of them to just be happy in each other's company. It was especially irritating because it was obvious fairly on that he would have forgiven her if she had just told him what had happened and changed her mind and chosen Ashcroft. This book had a lot of sex- the first 200 or so pages were pretty much one after another of them going at it. It was pretty damn good really, but at times it did drag on and get all flowery. I really like Campbell's writing; it's beautiful and descriptive without going overboard although sometimes scenes tend to run on pretty long. She did a remarkable job writing from Ashcroft's perspective and I was quite impressed with him in general. Burnley was a great character in his evilness and I wish there had been a seen from his point of view.

Rating: Ashcroft made this book and I loved everything with him in it, but Diana's guilt and her actions in general did not really appeal. 3because I liked it more than most 2's.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mad About the Duke

Mad About the Duke by Elizabeth Boyle 1013 R

Elinor Sterling is the second widowed Lady Standon and when she sees James Tremont, the Duke of Parkerton, leaving the small house she and her fellow widows have been relegated too by the Duchess of Holindrake, she assumes that he is a solicitor. James is not quite sure what to make of this gorgeous woman who has no idea who he is and he is shocked to find himself agreeing to help her find a husband. Elinor needs to marry a many of very high social standing so that her stepfather, Lord Lewis, will not retain guardianship of her younger sister, Tia. Lewis is an evil man who had already sold Elinor into a loveless marriage to a man with homosexual tendencies, and she dreads to think what he will do to her sister. James' brother and sister are gravely concerned that he has begun behaving in a most improper manner and his servants worry that he has finally given in to the family "madness."

Her friends, the other widowed Lady Standon's who had once been her enemies but are now her close friends, are worried, but get into the spirit of things and hope that James can help her find that passion is more important than a ducal title. James knows he should tell Elinor the truth about who is but he wants her to fall in love with him, not just his title. Elinor begins to think that a passionate affair before marriage may be just the thing to prepare her for the life of duty she will lead with one of the two dukes on her list. James knows that neither of the dukes on her list, )and why is he not on there?) will be completely unsuitable and he sets about wooing her. Meanwhile her stepfather is up to his typically awful behaviors and James knows this is one thing he can give her- her sister's safety. But what will she do when she discovers who he really is: fall in love or run away?

Elinor and James worked together because they both wanted to be with each other and enjoyed time in each other's company. Unfortunately, that is as good as the book gets. Elinor was annoying for being far too practical and why did her evil ex-husband have to be gay? I guess from previous books I am supposed to know that James is typically staid and uptight, but because I have not read them it was hard to get behind the whole worry over him acting out of character. Maybe if the change had been gradual and spread throughout the current book- the one I was actually reading? There were a few sex scenes, not particularly hot and I ended up skipping through them really. I am not normally a fan of secret hidden identities because it's a big secret that causes horrible angst, but it really worked here because it didn't fall into the pitfalls that others do.

I absolutely hated the writing style in this book. It seemed to basically consist of everyone thinking it was so amusing that there was a secret, or thinking how clever they were for acting in such a supposedly "mad" manner when nothing was really amusing and nothing was particularly "mad." I think a good portion of the dialogue between Elinor and James could be classified as banter, but I am reluctant to give it that term as it seemed as if they were talking at cross purposes. Well this book is definitely one for referring back to previous characters in the series and several other related series. I spent the first 20 pages doing "What? Who is this?" over and over again. The book also assumes that I know information that I don't. I was also confused because normally authors would use this referring time to get me interested in the other books and it had the opposite effect: Felicity, Duchess of Holindrake, comes across as awful and I can't ever imagine reading about such a horrible heroine.

Rating: Really pretty awful all around and I don't think I'll buy another Elizabeth Boyle book, and I don't know how I got through it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Scoundrel in My Dreams

Scoundrel in My Dreams by Celeste Bradley 1012

When little Melody is left outside the doors of Brown's Club for Distinguished Gentlemen with a note claiming that one of the members is her father there are only three possibilities. The first two are ruled out in the previous two books in the series and that leaves Lord John Redgrave, also known as Jack. Jack takes one look at Melody and knows immediately that she is his and who her mother is. Three years ago after returning from the war Jack had courting Lady Amaryllis and when she had comforted him one night they shared a passion filled night. Unfortunately the next morning she threw him over and denied their night together and he went off to sail the seven seas. He takes Melody to confront Amaryllis but she denies knowing about the child and he takes her back wondering how he could have been mistaken. But Amy has a sister who looks remarkably like her who is amazed at what she has discovered.

Laurel Clarke had been the one to sneak into Jack's room because she had long had a crush on him and she is horrified when he leaves and even more she is told that the child she conceived that night died during the birth. But Jack's appearance with Melody throws her for a loop and she runs after them determined to get back her daughter and run away. In a short period of time Jack has come to care for Melody so when he learns that Laurel is indeed the mother he can't stand the idea of her taking the girl so he locks her up in the attic. Laurel cannot stand being locked up but it isn't long before she is able to spend time with her little girl and the nice things Jack does for her makes her rethink her plan to run away. Suddenly Jack realizes that he is not only worried about Melody, but about losing the woman he loves and he knows he has to risk everything for a chance to have both of them in his life.

Well I really did not like the first book in this "Runaway Brides" series at all and did not bother to read the second one, but I decided to give this one a go and I am very glad I did. There were definite problems with it, including many things that were wrong with her previous book but it succeeded on many other levels. Jack is a tortured hero but it becomes clear when we are told his reasons for being broody and quiet that this is a man who has faced some genuinely horrible things in life and made decisions that would make everyone cringe. Laurel was well written as well as she too had faced some equally horrible circumstances in her life and they were both able to offer comfort to each other. Their reactions to the child are completely heart felt and I really wish there had been more time between the three of them, and indeed more time with just the two of them really as they spend far too much time apart.

The locking her in the attic is very hard to get around as the knee jerk reaction is to absolutely hate it but it isn't long before she is able to escape but she decides to stay for the benefit of her daughter. It was also made better because she was very aware of the psychological impact being dependent on another human being could cause. There is a lot of sex in this book, including some unusual stuff to find in a typical romance, but a lot of it is done in flashbacks instead of in real time. There was also some hints of dominance/ submission which is fine because they both enjoyed it, but then they ruined it b/c they had to get all psychoanalytical about it. I found Melody to be immensely unrealistic- she talked far too well and too much for a typical three year old and I didn't like that the book was written as if she was being told it as a story before her wedding day and there was far too many appearances by previous couples from the series.

Rating: Much better than the last book and I really did enjoy it and felt like these too had a strong relationship,but I would have liked more time between the two of them.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

When Seducing a Duke

When Seducing a Duke by Kathryn Smith 613

For years Rose Danvers has wanted Greydon Kane, Duke of Ryeton, and he has reciprocated by lusting after her for years. But Grey promised Rose's father on his deathbed that he would not touch Rose and would instead find her a good marriage, and as her guardian he has been doing his best to get thoughts of her out of his head. He has been a recluse from society ever since his face had been sliced open by an attacker. No one knows who the attacker was but everyone suspects it is one of Grey's many spurned lovers, from when he was a heartless rake. On one of his few journeys out, he attends a masked party and ends up with a woman who reminds him so much of Rose. When Rose sees him out on the real world, she is both disappointed and relieved that he does not recognize her as his midnight lady. When Rose reveals herself he decides the best way to handle everything would be to marry her off to someone her father would approve of.

But Rose is not at all amenable to this solution and sets out on a mini course to try to win Grey; reading scandalous magazines, flirting with other men, and spending as much time with him as possible. But Rose is a social butterfly who has enough scandals in her past, what with her fathers death, and he does not want to add to her problems by adding his scandal ridden past to hers and he does not want her to come to resent him when he does not join her on her social outings. Despite his best efforts it is not long before the two are caught in a scandalous situation and Grey decides that they should marry. Eventually his past does begin to catch up with bothof them and Rose does not know how much longer she can stand the gossip and the whispering. Both Grey and Rose are on the edge, both knowing they need the other in their life, but also not sure if they're ready to make the necessary sacrifices to make their relationship work.

I could tell fairly early on in this book that I was going to enjoy it as Rose and Grey immediately came across as two characters with so much emotional turmoil going on and I could not wait to see them work it out with the other's help. The first thing that presents itself is Grey's crippling fear of going back out into society that he cleverly disguises as hatred of the hypocrisy in society. It would have been a little cringe worthy if it did not really wind itself through all the elements of the book and it is explored from so many angles by different characters that it becomes more than a problem, it is a part of who he is. And it is so much better because it is obvious that Rose is just the woman who is meant to help him work through all of his issues and bring him back out. Grey has an admittedly very dissolute past that it took a lot of work on Smith's part to make him a worthy hero for Rose, and she cleverly makes him so- but really he only becomes good enough for Rose with her help.

Their relationship happens mainly on an emotional level as they work to sort out their issues and really support each other, such as when Rose learns the truth about her father's death, but it is also quite physical. There is a lot of sex between these two and it is absolutely scorching; these two are very compatible in bed. I admit I was a little irritated at first about the plot about her father not wanting the match between them, but once again Smith is very deft with her plot devices and makes it work very well in the story. I love that Rose went after what she wanted and even running away and making such scandalous decisions fit in with her character and she was so just so brave and caring, willing to stick up for herself and those she loved. I was rather hoping that the book was setting up a series based on his siblings, but although there is a series coming along, it involves other people from the scandalous club.

Rating: The characters worked very well together and so many great plot angles that brought out the best in both of them and really strengthened an already well written romance.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Rogue of My Own

A Rogue of My Own by Johanna Lindsey 707

Rebecca Marshall is very excited when her mother secures her a position as a maid of honor to the Duchess of Kent, mother of Queen Victoria. However, she is not prepared for the secrecy and intrigue that goes on at the court. From a roommate who very obviously wants all competition out of the way to Lady Sarah, who wants all the ladies in the castle to spy and run secret errands for her. On her first mission for Sarah, Rebecca is sent to the room of Nigel Jennings who runs his own spy ring, she is caught by Rupert St. John. Rupert has been enlisted by Nigel to get the scoop on all of the new maid of honors and while he has dismissed all of them as possible threats, Rebecca is harder to dismiss. He is quickly convinced that she is a spy for Sarah and a master manipulator and liar. When Nigel enlists her help right before leaving the country, she decides to use Rupert as a go between, but since he is still convinced she is the traitor, he does not believe her.

This does not stop him from being attracted to her and he wastes no time divesting her of her virginity. Rebecca is horrified that she has ruined herself with a man who believes her a liar and has not a kind word to say to her, but when she turns up pregnant, she knows she must tell him. He does not believeher a bit, but he decides to marry her on the off chance she is telling the truth, and then annul the marriage when the truth becomes obvious. However, she has not desire to make things easier for him and as the two become engaged in a verbal battle of anger and resentment, she can't help but have feelings for him. It takes one night where Rebecca realizes that she will never win her husbands love or his trust and she cannot stand that since she loves him. And of course this same night Rubert is confronted with the evidence he has been wrong about her from the beginning so he finally admits his feelings and goes to win his wife for real this time.

Wow- these two certainly spent a great deal of time arguing, heartily disliking each other, and being incredibly angry. At many moments he was downright rude to her. They tried to explain this away because he was soooo convinced she was a threat, but I could never really figure out what he thought she was actually doing, and even after Nigel had explained that she was on their side, he continued to distrust her. It really just seemed like he was obsessed with her being a spy and was just too ignorant or stubborn to get it through his skull that he was wrong even when it was hitting him upside the head. The book did try to placate by throwing in some brief moments of kindness, like when he brought her bland food or a bucket to puke in, but it did not go anywhere near far enough to make up for his behavior. I could not for the life of me understand how or why she couldn't help these feelings she supposedly had for him. I also was annoyed by how everything amused him and he was constantly "teasing" everyone.

What makes his behavior and her falling in love even worse is that she comes across as otherwise fairly level headed, mature, and intelligent. She handles complicated situations with the roommate with aplomb and even with Lady Sarah, but when it comes to a beautiful man who treats her horribly, she loses her head. And not a good sort of losing her cool either, more like she was so blown away by his good looks that she could not see past them to his behavior. Sadly enough the most interesting part of this book was when they went to France to gather evidence of a real traitor and it brought up some issues because this man had a loving family and several children. But this was touched on not at all in the book and when it reappears at the end it is completely out of the blue. There were some issues with his mother being "manly" after his father died that was also completely weird. However, the book was fairly fast to read.

Rating: Too many issues with their interactions with each other for me to really like it, but it was not horrible and I did like how fast it went. 1 1/2 rounded up.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wicked Becomes You

Wicked Becomes You by Meredith Duran 709

When Gwen Maudsley is left at the altar, again, she begins to rethink her constantly nice strategy. Her parents were rich merchants who wanted their daughter to move in elite circles and so she has worked hard to make everyone like her, but now she thinks this is a fruitless endeavor. Alex Ramsey was Richard Maudsley's best friend and he has never forgiven himself for the unfortunate circumstances surrounding Richard's death. Richard had become incensed when he believed Alex had a tendre for his sister and had gone off to a dangerous gambling hall where he is shot and killed. Because of this Alex has spent the last few years traveling the globe and only returned when his sisters wanted him to discover why their older brother, the ____ of Weston, had sold off a property. When Gwen decides that she is going to live her life on the wild side, Alex issues of a challenge of sort of challenge by claiming she could never do it.

He is shocked when Gwen heads to Paris to chase down her ex- fiance while he is there trying to find Barrington, the man who bought his brother's property. He escorts her on quite a scandalous journey through Paris, visiting sidewalk cafes, strolling at night, and going inside the elephant at the Moulin Rouge. When it is Gwen who finagles an invitation to Barrington's house party, Alex wonders if he has pegged Gwen wrong all these years. She is still trying hard to not care so much what people think about her and Alex is worried that he will give in to the feelings he has tried to suppress for so long. When someone from London sees Alex and Gwen on their trip, the two have no choice but to wed, or at least pretend to wed. But Gwen is determined to find a man who can provide a stable family for her and does not think Alex is that man. Alex needs to show Gwen that she has the courage to take a risk with him and really become wicked.

The book was not slow, per se, but it did move along at a rather sedate pace. There was quite a lot of self reflection throughout the book by both characters and while a certain amount of it is really necessary, it got to be a tad too much for me. They both had these amazingly deep hidden depths that should have been discussed, thought about, and worked through. Instead it led to quite a lot of time with them wondering if they needed to completely rethink themselves. I complain sometimes when there's not enough dialogue, but in this case there was just too much of it and too much time was spent in their heads. Their interactions tended to consist of them talking un- amusing verbal circles around each other or him throwing down challenges for her to behave in more outrageous ways. He seemed to genuinely want her to break out of her shell, but instead of helping her he just made it harder for her by going about it in completely inappropriate ways.

I really liked the idea behind her going from goody goody to this crazy wild child, but there was so much discussion and dissection of everything she did and did not do that it really took all of the fun out of it. In addition, she didn't do anything too scandalous and sometimes it seemed like she was being more rude than wild. Both Gwen and Alex had some really well developed emotional trauma from their childhood that did completely explain some of their neuroses and problems. At least the discussions did manage to address all of these issues and they worked on them together and really only managed to get over them through the others' help. The sex between them was pretty hot but it did not come until practically the end of the book and there was not quite enough of it, especially since this was supposed to be about her going wild. The side plot with the property was interesting, not too overwhelming, and resolved quite amusingly.

Rating: I really did want to like this book, but the "wicked-ness" was not really all that wicked and the book devolved into semi-maudling emotional discourse.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Hellion in Her Bed

A Hellion in Her Bed by Sabrina Jeffires 1010

None of the Sharpe siblings are happy about their grandmothers ultimatum that they must marry within a year or she will cut them out of her will, but with one down and 4 more to go she is not relenting. Jarrett Sharpe is a successful gambler and is happy with his carefree existence with no plans to marry. When his grandmother becomes ill he takes over running of the family brewery, Plumtree Brewery, for a year in exchange for getting out of marriage clause. Annabel Lake's family also owns a brewery and things have been very difficult ever since the Russians raised the tariff on imported beer and her brother started drinking heavily. She wants to partner with the Plumtree Brewery to sell October Ale in India in collusion with the East India Company who has a spot to fill in their need for alcoholic beverages. She hopes to work with another woman, but is instead confronted with Jarrett.

Jarrett is at first reluctant to help her so they make a wager with her a night in his bed against him helping her. She wins so he decides that he will at least check out the Lake Ale operations and see how things are there- and it's an added benefit if he gets to spend time with delectable Annabel. He tries to keep his passions under control as he does not want to ruin her but when he finds out that her brother is a drunkard she risks everything again and admits that she is not a virgin. He is shocked and still angry with her for lying to him and manipulating him but he quickly realizes that one night with her will not be enough. But Annabel has one more secret that keeps her from completely separating herself rom her family in Burton and moving on with her life with Jarrett. They both try to make the best of things on their own but neither can deny that they need the other in their life to be happy.

This is the second in the Hellions of Halstead Hall series by Jeffries and featured the second eldest of the Sharpe siblings. I did not enjoy this book anywhere near as much as the first book but I still thought it was acceptable if not particularly exciting. I liked that Annabel wasn't a virgin and was comfortable really with her sexuality and that Jarrett, while surprised, was completely accepting of what she had gone through and her secrets. Jarrett was good as the wastrel who was turning his life around and I enjoyed that Annabel was a part of that but not the complete impetuous for him becoming a better person. The interactions between them were fun and they had real conversations going even if the card game that brought them together was a tad on the ridiculous side. Their was a decent amount of sex, nothing particularly hot but pretty decent really.

The brewery angle to the story was new and interesting enough and I liked that there was something that Annabel and Jarrett had in common- something that could really bond them. It also added a nice bit of tension to the story as to whether he would help her and whether it would turn out okay for both of them (even though it being a romance novel we all knew that of course he'd help and yes it would end up okay for both of them). Because this book is a part of a series there were quite a few appearances by the other Sharpe siblings who will be featured in upcoming novels and I realized that I actually enjoy these little sneak peeks into the future even while I was annoyed by the appearance of Oliver and Maria because I already knew that they were happy together.

Rating: Although the book was good I had immense trouble getting into it and finishing it and I hope for better in the rest of the series.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Lady's Guide to Improper Behavior

A Lady's Guide to Improper Behavior by Suzanne Enoch 706

Theresa Weller has been a very proper young lady who has dedicated her life to always behaving with decorum. Until her cousin's brother-in-law, Colonel Bartholomew James, returns from India and disrupts her life. Bartholomew, Tolly, was horribly injured in India when his unit was attacked by the Thuggee's, and he has an infected knee that has never completely healed leading to immense pain and a limp. From their first meeting they each throw the other for the loop and Tolly begins to rethink his belief that his life is over and hopeless, while Theresa wonders if she has been too dedicated to propriety. She challenges him by admitting she wants to dance with him so he decides to undergo a risky procedure that could vastly help him or end with him losing his leg. Theresa is quickly coming to realize that Tolly is more than just any other suitor and he is definitely someone worth a little scandal.

Tolly wants Theresa, wants her more than he has ever wanted anything in his life, and it was her entrance into his life that reawakened his desire to survive. However, he is worried that she will come to regret taking a chance on him, especially when the East India Company comes out and says that the Thuggee's have been made up and are simply an excuse made up by cowards. Suddenly Tolly finds himself in need of allies and desperately trying to gain justice for the men under his command and prove they were heroes. He also feels no small amount of guilt for their deaths and he and Theresa are able to find common ground as she also feels responsible for her parents deaths. It takes immense courage but Theresa knows she needs to take a leap and believe in the man she loves to help him in his struggles. But it might be quite a leap as there are people who want to silence Tolly, and Theresa needs to give him one more reason to live.

Romance wise this book is one of the best I have ever read. I so loved reading about how much these two were willing to do, how much they were willing to risk and sacrifice in order to be with each other, or make the other happy. And it was made so much better because they were both doing so and welcomed and acknowledged how much they were each doing for each other. Her reaction to Tolly's knee surgery were perfect and just so beautiful and the story really took off from there. The book really does focus on their relationship and it progresses so well throughout the book. There was a brief time when I felt her guilt over her parents death was a tad overdone, but then it worked out so well with them mutually helping each other through their guilt. She really goes out on a limb for him in this story as it goes against everything she'd been working towards, but Tolly was definitely worth it.

Their was some steam in the novel, not a lot, but enough and I especially loved the kissing because it caused her to reflect on how the choices she had made in her life. She underwent some really moving changes throughout the book, and Tolly reciprocated by being so willing to change for her. I was also very intrigued by the East India/ Thuggee murder plot partly because it was so interesting and I really got into having the bad guys go down and the good guys get their little revenge. Also- I loved it because it made Tolly who he was and really lead him straight to Theresa and some great moments between them. The secondary characters were spot on, being a little concerned about her suddenly being so scandalous over such an inappropriate man, but also happy that he's helping her get over her guilt. Finally I really enjoyed the fast paced writing and the word choice that really brought the book up.

Rating: Tolly and Theresa are one of my favorite couples of all time and what they did in the book for each other, along with the interesting little conspiracy, made this book great.