Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever

The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever by Julia Quinn 804

From the time she was ten years old Miranda Cheever has been infatuated with Nigel Bevelstoke, Viscount Turner, ever since he told her she would grow into herself and be beautiful. This infatuation grows over the years and turns into love even as he marries someone else and has his heart crushed by her philandering. When his wife dies, Miranda is there to see his relief and his guilt over said relief and for the first time Turner looks at Miranda as more than a little sister. But he is determined never to marry again and distrusts love as he had believed himself in love with his deceased wife and that ended so miserably. Miranda is crushed with the knowledge that Turner will never love her, but she cannot help her feelings and Turner cannot seem to keep his hands off of her. He tries to avoid her, but during a house party the two are conveniently stuck in the rain and it becomes apparent that their relationship will need to change drastically.

But first Turner wants to collect his thoughts and a four day vacation turns into a month long excursion and while he feels guilty about what happened he knows that he will eventually marry Miranda as it is the right thing to do. Miranda is once again heartbroken as she thinks Turner has abandoned her and she does not want him to marry him out of duty, especially as she loves him so much and he knows of it. But even though he does not think he loves Turner, he is looking forward to being married to her as he knows that she will be a good person to spend the rest of his life with. He turns out to be right as they get along famously as a married couple, especially as they both look forward to the birth of their first child, but Miranda is still waiting for him to tell her those three words she needs to hear. As usual it will take almost losing her for Turner to realize that he can't live without this wonderful woman.

Julia Quinn is an expert at writing great characters that it is impossible not to fall in love with and Miranda and Turner are no exception. I loved Miranda as the bookish, smart, and desperately in love young woman. I admit I am always a sucker for romances where the heroine has harbored a tendre for the hero for years and he suddenly realizes he loves her. She handles her infatuation so well from afar and I liked that she told him so soon in the book. I also liked Turner as the older man who is coming to grips with falling for his little sister's best friend. His recovery from his ex-wife's deception was well done as well, and I liked how he readily aditted his (lack of) feelings for her. They worked very well together for the most part, but I felt as though the sex between them was lacking in both instances and in style as there was a lot of weird dialogue throughout it.

I am not really a big fan of books where the outcome is basically settled except for the hero telling the heroine he loves her. While I understand that words are important, and in this case, it really was a matter of the hero getting over his dead wife, I felt as though he did love her and forcing him to say it was really not a matter to take up an extra 50 pages. However, I loved some really great scenes between them that were really just heartbreaking as he desperately wanted her to be happy, but didn't know what to say. The banter between the two got a little awkward at times and he specifically said he liked her "fiery" which just seems a little odd to me as he apparently liked arguing with her. As usual Quinn wrote some great side characters in Turner and Miranda's families' and really she just always has a fun, fast-paced, writing style that I love.

Rating: An enjoyable book overall, but really nothing spectacular with awkward banter and some problems, with good well-written characters.

Monday, November 29, 2010

His Scandal

His Scandal by Gayle Callen 813

Sir Alexander Thornton has been leading a dissolute life and is bored with his usual pursuits so when his friend Edmund challenges him he readily agrees. Alex bets Edmund to kiss one of the tons most eligible young ladies while Alex himself is challenged to kiss the very beautiful Blythe Prescott. The challenge to kissing Blythe lies in getting around her very protective older sister Emmeline, who is determined to find a decent match for her sister. Alex certainly does not qualify as everyone knows that he is quite scandalous and had masqueraded as his twin brother. Emmeline needs to keep Alex away from her sister and will do everything she can, including never letting her sister out of her sight, confronting Alex's mother, and even following Alex to his favorite tavern's and warning him to stay away. It is at said tavern that Alex is first set upon by two men, whom he chases away before he can discover what they are after.

But the more time he spends with Blythe, and by consequence Emmeline, the more Alex realizes that the younger sister is not for him. Emmeline's insecurities confuse Alex and he wants to discover more about her- especially when he learns that she was once in love but was unable to marry the man because her father disapproved of his lower station. Meanwhile Emmeline is trying to get her sister interesting in another man, but Alex misinterprets the situation and thinks that she wants this man for herself. Emmeline sees behind the carefree facade to the man who was hurt when he did his duty to the country by pretending to be his brother, only to have everyone turn against him when the truth came out. The two men who accosted Alex are still out to get him and will stop at nothing to get him even if it means going through someone they think he cares about.

While I normally would not have a problem with two characters coming together while he is in pursuit of another woman, I found it a little distasteful that said other woman was her younger sister. Even more so because he did not really give up his pursuit until well into the book and after he started developing feelings for Emmeline. And then more odd because Emmeline seemed remarkably unconcerned that man who had been after her sister was suddenly so attracted and attentive to her. It did not really add up for me. Emmeline and Alex did not really seem to have much chemistry going on in general and there time together was brief and overshadowed by her worries about her sister. There was one brief sex scene at the end that just left me feeling blah and a few very short scenes little up to it that were just as disappointing. I often felt like their interactions consisted of him being amused by her frustrations about his relationship with her sister.

Alex's feelings of insecurity over being the younger twin were intriguing but, like many things in this book, not really developed fully. Likewise the two men who were after Alex turned out to be a dud of a plot and really quite ridiculous to the point where I wanted to slap someone. One of my favorite aspects of this book was woefully underdeveloped and that was the relationship between Emmeline and her father. It was very interesting to me as he was so disinterested in his daughters and yet manipulated Emmeline's relationships to his own benefit and I really felt as though so much more could have been made of this when it was merely a little blurb in the book. Despite the fact that the writing was actually quite well done and there was a good balance of dialogue and prose it took me several weeks to finish this book and I had to put it down several times.

Rating: Not a horrible book by any means, but I really did not get a good sense of these two characters really falling in love.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

How to Seduce a Duke

How to Seduce a Duke by Kathryn Caskie 723

Mary Royle is convinced that she is going to marry Quinn Wetherly and drags her sisters, Elizabeth and Anne, around on scandalous adventures in order to see him. Elizabeth, Anne, and Mary are triplets and while Elizabeth and Anne believe that their deceased father's cryptic notes imply that they are really the daughters of the Prince of Wales and his first wife, Mrs. Fitzherbert, Mary is not so certain. When Rogan Wetherly, the Duke of Blackstone, discovers that Mary is after his brother Quinn, he believes she is nothing but a gold digger and he wants her away from his marriage minded brother. Rogan's father had fallen for a common woman, Quinn's mother, who made his life miserable and used him for his money, and Mary's penny-pinching way when it comes to clothes and household staff. He plans for his brother to be occupied with a very proper and acceptable widow while he will escort Mary around, and away from his brother.

Mary is furious that Rogan is coming in between her and her one true love and especially when he takes every opportunity to needle and frustrate her. She thinks the best way to get back at the Duke will be to play his game and give back as good as she is getting. However, the more time she spends with the Duke the more she realizes that her feelings for Quinn were based purely on his innocent good looks, while the Duke's take-charge attitude and commanding presence offer so much more. One night Mary gets drunk and things go farther than either had anticipating and Rogan, who had been angry at his growing feelings for Mary, is forced to confront the fact thatMary is more innocent than he had previously believed. Shenanigans ensue with false vicars and night rushing up to Gretna Greene and old former rakes who continue to meddle until Mary and Rogan finally get it right and marry for real and for love.

It took me a few pages to realize that I had read this before and I really only remembered a very few things about this book, which should go to show how exciting and great this book is. The only exciting thing about Mary was how frugal she was and how that led to some very interesting hiring choices in her household. Her feelings for Quinn were obviously incredibly immature and it was just a little too much to believe that she really thought she was in love with a man she had only seen in passing in the park. Quinn proved to be just as wimpy as he so easily gave in to his brother's manipulations to get him away from Mary and into the arm of the widow. At the same time the relationship between Rogan and Mary got off to a very unpleasant start with lots of arguing and purposeful irritation that made a romance between them seem unlikely. Luckily it did get a little better near the end, but only the very end.

Rogan's fear of marriage was actually underdone and since so little time is spent on it, the end, when he's too scared to admit he loves her, just seems more than a little unbelievable. And his blindness when it comes to Mary and her true intentions also got to be a little much and I really almost wanted to slap him, and in general not enough of the story was told from his point of view so I did not really "get" him. The plot involving the three sisters being the Prince's daughters was more than a little ridiculous and the best thing I can say about it is that it really did not take up a large part of the story and I could really just ignore it. The aging rakes who I suppose were supposed to be cute and quirky were really just annoying and I never really like it when everyone around the happy couple seems to know more about what's going on than the actual couple- it seems condescending to me.

Rating: A very fast book so not a complete loss, but the characters were just a little too annoying and I did not really enjoy it that much. Not completely bad though.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

What Isabella Desires

What Isabella Desires by Anne Mallory 722

The widowed Lady Isabella Willouhby has harbored a secret love for Lord Marcus Stewart, Baron of Roth, for years, but she married sensibly instead. Her husband was ill for years before dying and she has spent the intervening years being prim and proper and she has just decided that it is time for hr to take some risks. She enlists the help of some friends, who shockingly happen to be married to Marcus's foreign office pals, to get her in to some very risque parties where other men flirt with her. It is there that Marcus's friends begin to confront him with the fact that he is insanely jealous of any men who happens to glance her way, despite his protestations to the contrary. Marcus knows he cannot marry because the men in his family have died young and some headaches have led him to believe he will eventually be going blind.

There are also bad men, who appear out of nowhere and with no explanation, are following Marcus and kidnapping and killing off the men who work for him. When these men who are after Marcus turns their eyes to Isabella he decides that the best solution would be to whisk her off the seaside where she can indulge in her feelings for him and he can keep her safe. But Isabella is disappointed when Marcus holds back from her in the bedroom and even more so when she discovers that he has been keeping secret from her. He does not want to get involved with her and he does not want to risk her life, but he is also unwilling to admit his feelings for her. In a fit of pique she runs back ton London and they both attempt to move on with their lives, but those men are still out there and Marcus needs to keep her safe. But in the end it is his fear of death that Marcus will have to overcome before he can end up with Isabella.

I was at first attracted to the idea of a repressed widow going after the bad guy rake that she wanted, but this book severely disappointed. Isabella was great by herself as she had genuine interests, she did go after what she wanted but she was also realistically scared and intimidated. Unfortunately Marcus was much less well done in general. He was a take charge kind of guy who was responsible for running Parliament apparently but we really did not see any examples of anything good he had done, although we did not get some great views of how he ruined guys who disagreed with him. Also I was very disappointed with his demons about dying early and going blind as not enough of the story was told from his point of view. While this could have been done at least fairly well there really was just not enough explanation and backstory to make this plot believable and it came across as just ridiculous and frustrating.

I sometimes complain about the murder/ mystery/ side-plot taking over the romance and the book, but in this case, although I felt the bizarre spy-whatever plot completely dominated the book, I wouldn't say that it overwhelmed as it did not end up taking up enough space in the book to really make any sense. Honestly I could not really figure out what the point of them wanting to hurt Marcus was or what he had really done to make them so mad at them. No one involved spent enough time reflecting on what was happening and to be honest I felt as though this part of the book was a carry over from other books in the series. Throughout the book I felt as though I was missing some very important backstory from these other books and things really seemed to pick up from where they left off in former books. In this same vein there were almost constant scenes where former love-birds showed up in the book and were just so gosh darn happy.

Rating: I really did not like this book at all except for how incredibly fast it went as both the romance and the side plot were underdone and almost everything was unexplained.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Impetuous Innocent

Impetuous Innocent by Stephanie Laurens 1122

Georgiana Hartley moves back to England after her father's death leaves her with no ties to Italy and an Uncle Ernest as her guardian. But Ernest has passed away and instead her cousin Charles is at the family manor, The Place, and he wastes no time drunkenly and clumsily trying to seduce her. Eventually Georgiana can take more of his advances and runs to Chandlewick Manor to seek the help of Lady Alton. Dominic Ridgely, Lord Alton, is not married so there is no Lady Alton but it does not take him long to realize that he wants to help out this young woman. He sends her to London to stay with his sister, Bella, Lady Winsmere, and tells her that Bella will help her find a job as a companion even while having no intention of doing so. Bella is determined to make her own way in the world and her attraction and deeper feelings for Dominic are complications she know have no chance of becoming something more. Dominic has his own problems with feelings for Georgiana that he is trying to suppress.

Georgiana takes the ton by storm by being herself, speaking her mind, and being so different from all the other young simpering misses. It isn't long before she is getting offers from many eligible bachelors but she turns them all down because she is in love with Dominic. Bella worries about her friend and asks Dominic to help her discover why Georgiana is turning down all her suitors. After a few evenings in her company Dominic knows that, despite their age difference and his history of avoiding commitment, he is going to marry Georgiana. But there are obstacles to overcome in the form of Charles, who is still trying to get Georgiana to marry him, and her insecurities and fears that Dominic does not love her. First she is worried that he is in love with someone else, then she worries that he is only marrying her to obtain possession of The Place, and finally she worries that he is only offering for her because it is too late for him to back down. Luckily, Dominic has enough confidence for both of them and since he has set his mind on marrying Georgiana, he is patient enough to work through all the obstacles in their path and prove that he really does love her.

While running away from a guardian who wants to sleep with his ward is nothing new, it at least serves as a means to get Dominic and Georgiana together, so I can overlook it. Georgiana is defined by her "different-ness" from the other young women, and while most romance novels make a point about how the heroine is set apart from the rest of the ton, I felt like in this book it was really all she had going for her. I think I'd be up for a romance where the heroine is one of those simpering and giggling ladies who wants a title- that would be truly different. At the same time that everyone, including Dominic, admired her for her strength and intelligence she would go off and do something incredibly stupid, like trust Charles and go off somewhere with him. Her insecurities became old very fast and she just kept throwing them up there and while they did make sense and all of them had a grounding in reality I felt like it was just there to take up space in the book. And with all the road blocks the one that wasn't brought up enough was the 14 year age difference between them, and it is one of my favorite differences and I like when age differences play a role.

Dominic was the uber- secure and confident romance novel hero who took everything in stride and magically knew how to handle al of Georgiana's problems. He was able to do exactly what was needed in every situation that Georgiana threw up and nothing really phased him. Even when something new was brought up he was able to discover what it was and knock it down in quick order. While it was nice that the problems weren't allowed to fester, I found it odd that he was this super hero of way-laing a young girls fears about marriage. This was different than more recent Laurens novels (this was originally published in 1994) as there was no sex! It made sense in the context of this book because she was a young innocent and he was doing something he'd never done with her by convincing her to marry him. However, I would have liked something more than just a few kisses that melted her knees, but definitely did not steam up the pages. There was a brief mention of his former mistress and I was kind of hoping that something scandalous would happen on that front, but alas- nothing. Bella was a decent sidekick; she could hold her own, but did not overwhelm and was only slightly better than bland.

Rating: A decent book that took me forever to go through as the relationship progressed incredibly slowly. I plan on sticking to her more recent books.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

One Wicked Night

One Wicked Night by Sari Robbins 930

Lillian Kane took up as the mistress of Dillon Beaumont, future Duke of Greayston, in order to escape her father. Her mother was already pregnant when she married Lord Kane an he has has always been after her money. She does not inherit until she turns 24 and her friend Dillon offered her the position as mistress so that he can play the ladies man in front of the ton and she can reinvent herself as a society darling even if she is ruined. But Kane wants her money badly and he enlists the help of Dillon's brother Russell who is desperately in love with Lillian. Kane frames Dillon for the murder of the lady he himself had been having an affair with and the evidence is indeed damning. Desperate, she engages the help of Nicholas Redford who she briefly met at a ton party and he has since opened up his own investigative services.

Nicholas is reluctant to become involved because he thinks Dillon is guilty but then Lillian proves that Dillon would never be having an affair with a woman. She ties him up and seduces him and he discovers she is a virgin before she reveals that Dillon is a homosexual. Suddenly Nick wants to bring an innocent man justice and it does not hurt that he gets to spend more time with the beautiful and intriguing Lillian. Kane and Russell begin to get scared that their scheme will be discovered and take things to another level by threatening Lillian and Nick. Suddenly Nick is on a desperate bid to discover who is behind the scheme and send the right man to jail so that he can protect the woman he is coming to love. The difference in their social standing leaves both worried that when everything is resolved the other will leave them, but they each have one last trick up their sleeve to stay together.

I was hesitant to read this after the disaster of The Governess Wears Scarlet but I decided that everyone deserves a second chance. While this was certainly better and showed promise that Robins can deliver a palatable romance, it was by no means a home run. I absolutely loved the evil stepfather plot and how she had to pretend to be someone's mistress in order to escape him. And I would have preferred if it had been a real relationship but it was just as good that the book had a homosexual character who genuinely great and kind without being flamboyant. Nick was enjoyable as well as the orphan who was working to make something of himself and liked working. What made it great though was that the difference in their social standing was there and talked about, but it was not a major issue- they were in love and they didn't really harp on not being good enough for the other.

The murder and framing plot was also very interesting and as usual I enjoyed having an inside look into the bad guys minds, even if it was brief. It was well done and kept me reading just so I could see how Nicholas would manage to discover who the bad guys were and set Dillon free. I also liked that this plot had some family betrayal and drama and at least one nuanced villain. There were things that brought this book down though. There were a couple rather weird side plots that I could not get into such as his becoming the queen's lead investigator and helping her find her dog. The sex between them was very rare and the first one wasn't even completed and there wasn't even a decent amount of steam between the two of them. The secondary characters beside the villains, grated on my nerves and I felt like the book dragged in many areas.

Rating: This book did had a lot going for it but I certainly enjoyed parts of it but there were too many little things that added up that I couldn't really appreciate the book.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

You Only Love Once

You Only Love Once by Caroline Linden 1109

Nathaniel Avery goes to London to apprehend the man who stole money from the Port of New York and left his godfather, who was responsible for the money, in dire straights. He wants to go through the proper channels so he asks Lord Selwyn who refers him to Mr. Stafford, who runs a ring of spies for the government. Stafford calls on his trusted agent, Angelique Marton, whose family had been killed in the revolution and only escaped France with the help of her mother's maid. She is still angry about the terror that overtook the country and originally started spying to prevent something similar from happening in England, but even she admits that her way of life has grown tiring. She wants to retire and considers turning down the job, especially when she sees that Nate is going to be quite the distraction on the expedition, but she decides to go out with a bang with this last mission.

Both Nate and Angelique are immensely attracted to each other and it does not take long for them to succumb to lust. But it is clear to both of them that there is more than lust behind their relationship as Angelique wonders if she has finally met someone she can confide her dark past to and he wonders if he has found a woman he won't be bored settling down with. However, Stafford does not trust them to finish their mission as he has tasked Angelique with killing the thief even while Nate wants to bring him back to New York for justice. Suddenly they are fighting thieves and fences, they have some of Britain's best spies after them and both question how important this mission is- or if they would risk everything for the chance to be with the other. It will take some trickery, some dealings with enemies, the help of close friends and a lot of trust and luck for them to make out of this alive and together.

My first thought upon reading this book was how excited I was to read about a female spy, especially one who was so incredibly good at her job. Not the typical romance novel heroine and I was inclined to like this and I also admired her when it was revealed that she was an assassin. Not because I admire assassins but because it really did make her so different and made it so much more wonderful when Nate fell in love with her and had to deal with her past. She didn't think that any man could ever fall in love with her and there were times when I too had a hard time discovering why Nate fell in love with her. Aside from her unique-ness, she wasn't particularly loving or kind, just very capable of taking care of herself and killing other people. I didn't dislike her, but I felt like Linden should have given her some softer qualities so that I could have related to Angelique a little more.

Nate was great (!) because he did see past her tough exterior and she was able to act a little more loving with him than she usually did. His dedication to helping his godfather was admirable and I liked that he tried to be diplomatic about it and really had a streak of wanting to help everyone in him. The two were explosive in bed and also somewhat creative and it led to some very hot steamy scenes between them. Unfortunately the second half of the book was taken up completely overtaken by the plot to catch the thief and escape from Stafford's evil machinations. The plot was interesting and I did start getting into it as the book progressed, but it was not as important to me as the romance that it overwhelmed. It was not particularly exciting, and it really did get to the point where I just wanted to figure out what was going to happen and have it done with.

Rating: The book had some good qualities, but on the whole I did not particularly enjoy it. I find Linden's other historical romances, with less intrigue/ suspense, much better.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Scottish Brides

Scottish Brides 719

Under the Kilt by Christina Dodd
Hadden Fairchild's drive to document the oral history and excentricities of Scotland takes him to the clan MacNachtan where he meets and falls in love with their "leader" Andra. But Andra does not trust men after she has been abandoned by all of them in her life and she forces him to leave. Neither can get the other out of their head and Hadden comes back determined to win her and discover the secrets of the MacNachtan marriage kilt. When the servants take it into their heads to meddle and the two are locked in the attic with the marriage plaid and plenty of fertility figurines to help them work through their problems.

This was quite a short story where a lot of the getting to know you obviously took place before the story really began. I really did miss a lot of that, but the story did get to at least a few meaty issues such as her problem with letting go of responsibility and her issues with men. While the story ended up with a few more issues to be resolved, it worked fairly well. The sex was incredibly hot, like wow, for such a short story, but I did not like that there was a completely random out of the blue reunion between her characters from other stories.

Rose in Bloom by Stephanie Laurens
Duncan, Earl of Strathyre, has known Rose Mackenzie-Craddock her whole life and she has been quite the thorn in his side. When he heads back to his childhood home to introduce the woman who may become his fiance, he runs into Rose and discovers that she continues to push his buttons, but in a completely different way. Rose is also contemplating an engagement to another man, but neither Rose nor Duncan can resist the other. They begin a game of teasing that keeps both of them on their toes and it is not long before they both realize they can't marry someone else.

Remarkable what Laurens can do with 100 pages really as she manages to write some really great chemistry between these two. I liked both of these characters immensely and they worked together so amazingly perfectly. A great deal of the story was told from Duncan's point of view and I really liked getting that perspective in a romance. To go along with the chemistry there was a little bit of really good sex, but not enough to overwhelm such a short story. Really this story boiled down to two great characters who were just great together.

Gretna Greene by Julia Quinn
Margaret Pennypacker rushes off to Gretna Greene to save her brother Edward after discovering that he has eloped, but on her way she is waylaid by bandits. Angus Greene saves her as he hates bad guys and upon discovering she has been robbed he takes her to an inn and pretends they are married. The two spend the evening discussing Scottish cuisine, their wayward siblings, and trying to avoid ripping each other's clothes off. When morning finally arrives, they've only known each other one day, but in Gretna anything can happen.

I enjoyed the slightly contrived means by which Quinn got both our characters to Gretna as it gave them some common ground and moving on from "protecting" their siblings lent the
ir rashness some realism. At times I did become irritating with their too-cute banter and it seemed more like arguing than fun, but I still liked how well these characters fit. The sex was kind of thrown in rather willy- nilly in the end, but the story definitely still felt complete.

The Glenlyon Bride by Karen Ranney
Lachlan Sinclair is not at all pleased when the local seer predicts he will marry, and he assumes this woman is Harriet, an English lady. Janet MacPhearson is companion to Harriet and she yearns to go back to Scotland. When Lachlan shows up to scope out Harriet, he finds Janet and assumes she is Harriet. At night the two meet out by the water and it is not long before they know they love each other. But with a legend against them and Harriet using her evil influence, it may take a lot for them to find their way to Glenlyon together.

I really liked the plot of this book with the mistaken identity, but there were instances where I thought it was handled poorly. To me it was obvious that Janet was actually the woman from the legend and I wanted them to wake up and go for it. I thought that Janet and Lachlan were perfect for each other and really meshed well, with a lot of common and a lot of ways the two could help each other. Some brief sex was thrown in almost as an afterthought, but overall the story worked fairly well.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Scandalous

Scandalous by Candace Camp 1018

Priscilla Hamilton leads a quiet genteel life in the country with her intellectual father, and writes adventure novels under a pseudonym, which makes her ineligible for marriage. When a man appears at her doorstep she takes responsibility and decides to nurse him back to health. He cannot remember who he is but he does know that he was kidnapped and held in a small hut by two men. When he manages to regain his strength he wants to figure out who he is and who had kidnapped him and why. He doesn't think that roaming around the countryside looking for villains is something a lady should do, but he quickly learns that Priscilla is not an ordinary female. She is intelligent, she takes control and she relishes any opportunities for adventure and he finds that he enjoys her company, and her help, while he is out unravelling the mysteries of his life.

As the two spend more time together they begin to fall in love as she can't help but admire a man who is willing to let a female in on such "unlady-like" pastimes and he admires her helpfulness and her ingenuity. They discover that the two bad guys are in cahoots with the dowager Duchess of Ranleigh's lover. Priscilla's friend, Alex, is the heir apparent to the dukedom but b/c the last duke's oldest son disappeared after being accused of murdering a servant girl, he cannot inherit until the brother is declared dead. Things begin to look good for Priscilla and the man who has become "John Wolfe" and she imagines a future with him until one night they discover that "John Wolfe" (SPOILER ALERT) is actually Bryan and the son of the heir who had run away. Priscilla doesn't think that she could marry Bryan because of the differences in their station, but he is determined to show her that all that matters to him is her.

So Priscilla was pretty much your average spunky and heroine who wanted a taste for adventure. John was said adventure and him not knowing much about himself made it rather difficult to form an opinion really. I guess it says how much we judge someone based on their past actions, however Idon't necessarily think that's a bad thing. Her secret was, in my opinion, rather ridiculous as she wrote under a pen name and it seemed unlikely anyone would ever discover who she was, and even if they did it should have been obvious to her that John would not care. There is a decent amount of sex between them and it is fairly warm if not precisely hot and was just a back drop to the story and nothing too important. Priscilla and Grace spent a lot of time together and their relationship really did progress well throughout the novel and I could see why they fell in love with each other.

So I was totally sucked into discovering who John Wolfe was and why he had been kidnapped. There were kind of subtle hints throughout the book but I was still totally thrown when his identity was revealed and thrown in a very good way. The reasons behind his kidnapping were a lot of fun as, of course, there was a bad "guy" and the villain was deliciously awful and self-centered and ripe for comeuppance. It also led to a nice little side mystery of who killed the servant girl that the oldest son who disappeared was accused of murdering and led to an extra little romance that was so sweet and wonderful. Unfortunately it also led to some angst anger on Priscilla's part that was horribly overdone and I wanted to slap her and tell her to get over it. It caused the story to drag on a bit and I did not enjoy that- the story could easily have been 40 or so pages shorter.

Rating: A good mystery with adequate romantic development, but two characters I could not really enjoy exactly.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

How to Beguile a Beauty

How to Beguile a Beauty by Kasey Michaels 716

A year before the story starts Tanner Blake, Duke of Malvern, comes home to England to tell Lady Lydia Daughtry that her fiance, Captain Fitzpatrick, has died. Before his death, Fitz, had tasked Tanner with taking care of Lydia and had in fact basically told him to marry her. But Lydia is shy and reserved and takes time getting over the man she thought was the love of her life and Tanner is not sure how to go about wooing he. In addition he can't help but feel guilty about taking over from where Fitz left off and once he finally realizes that he genuinely wants Lydia he worries that she will think he only wants her because Fitz asked him to. Lydia is worried about all the new changes going on in her life as her wild twin sister Nicole is getting married and begins to think that she needs to start taking some risks in her life as well. Starting with enjoying the company of both Tanner and his friend, the rakish Justin Wilde as the go on a trip.

Tanner is semi-engaged to his cousin, Jasmine, a chatterbox who has convinced everyone she is completely airheaded. However, on their journey Lydia begins to think that Jasmine is hiding some secrets and while she enjoys some verbal sparing with Justin, it is Tanner she is falling in love with. While Tanner and Justin are looking to discover who has been switching out the Malvern jewels with paste, Lydia and Tanner take opportunities to go riding, get to know each other, and find ways to sneak off. But when Jasmine turns up at night with a bruise on her cheek Lydia confronts her and discovers that she is in the middle of quite the jewel heist/ little lovers quarrel. She wants to spend as much time with Tanner as possible and get to know his estate, as it is where she plans to spend the rest of her life and raise her children, but everyone first needs to resolve the issue as their is a murderous jewel thief on the loose.

I did not have very high hopes for this after reading How to Tame a Lady which I really did not like and especially did not like her heroine. While Lydia is the complete opposite of Nicole, as she is quiet and contemplative and likes to read and spend time in the country, it was still rather hard to get a handle on her. One minute she was thinking she needed to completely revamp her life and then she was completely ready to settle down for a life in the country. One second she was flirting with Justin and then all of a suddens she was deeply in love with Tanner. And her falling in love with Tanner was done rather abruptly and a little oddly; it was a very calm love that just kind of overtook both of them, and once again I wasn't completely sure what to make of it. Tanner was not any easier as he seemed to genuinely care about Lydia, but he didn't want her to feel indebted to him so he agrees to let Justin flirt with her so that she can have a choice.

Once again my biggest problem with her writing is the "banter" that takes place between her characters. Maybe people back then really talked like this so this makes me an anti-realist, but I just could not stand it. It came across as blabbering about nothing, didn't further the plot, and was just rather boring- I kept trying to think of it as flirting but that did not really work. Luckily, it didn't take up as much room in this book as it did her other as I would have just been forced to put it down. The best part of this book was Jasmine, the devious and yet somehow completely addle-brained cousin who really remained a complete mystery throughout the book. She lied, she disappeared, she tricked people, and was just overall very hard to peg and a fun addition the book. The jewel thieving was also very interesting, unfortunately more so than the romance.

Rating: I found myself enjoying Jasmine and the jewels more than Tanner and Lydia, which was sad as individually I did like these two characters. Probably 2 1/2 hearts.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Marriageable Miss

A Marriageable Miss by Dorothy Elbury 706

Helena Wheatley's father desperately wants her to marry a titled gentleman as he feels her rightful place is in the ton. Luckily he has plenty of money to lure a penniless lord, but so far all he's turned up are duds. Richard Standish, the Earl of Markfield, is one such penniless lord and he hopes that one day he can restore his family fortune's and bring back the legendary stud farm his family had once run. He calls on Helena, but stops short of signing the agreement her father presents because he feels his word should be good enough. He agrees to escort Helena around town to placate her father and so that word will spread that he is expecting an influx of money. Immediately the two feel as though they are each bungling all of their encounters with the other, and blame all the missteps in their relationship on the themselves. This goes hand in hand with their growing attraction for each other.

Richard is especially worried about the family doctor who obviously have feelings for her and he grows envious when he notices that every other man seems to have no trouble calling forth her brilliant smile. And Helena herself is worried when Richard's ex-mistress continually shows up at inopportune times. They each grow more and more worried that their feelings for the other are not returned, but when they are got alone together, they have no choice but to get married. Things do not get off to the best start as Helena is still worried that Richard has feeling's for his ex-mistress while Richard will do anything to keep from thinking about money and the fact that people think he married her for cash. But there is someone out there who wants to hurt Richard and so at the end Richard and Helena need to discover his identity and put a stop to his plans to separate them before they can truly make a marriage for themselves.

I really liked the plot of the book as it seemed as though it should be easily palatable, however I had a remarkably difficult time really getting into the story. It was certainly very wordy and sometimes it seemed as though the author went out of her way to use unrealistic language and words she found in the thesaurus. I felt as though there was not enough dialogue which contributed greatly to the slow going. I did like the jealousies and angst that accompanied them each believing they were messing up the relationship and the other didn't want them and that went along with them believing someone else might be the object of the other's affection. However, I had to admit it got a little annoying after awhile and there were some scenes where I just wanted them each to talk (dialogue!), or even yell, at the other about what they were thinking.

Helena and Richard worked well together overall and it was obvious from the beginning that both of them wanted something out of their relationship. I wish there had been some more scenes between them where they were both on the same page because the ones it did have were quite nice to read. I was incredibly disappointed that there was absolutely no sex in this book; a few rather tame kissing scenes and that was it. This was especially bad because she was so nervous about it and since it seemed like nothing else in their marriage worked, it would have been a nice little saver. I was also disappointed in the whole "someone is out to murder Richard" plot as it came completely out of the blue at the end and I was like, "huh?" Lastly I was annoyed by the tack the book came when dealing with ex-soldiers who couldn't find jobs. The people who went home and tried to get decent wages for themselves were "trouble-makers" and the ones who stayed in London, smiled, and blamed themselves for the trouble were noble. Gag me!

Rating: I did want to like it, but it was boring, there was no sex and far too little dialogue, and the murder plot was just ridiculous. Prob 1 1/2 hearts.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Stranger I Married

The Stranger I Married by Sylvia Day 630

Gerard Faulkner, Marquess of Grayson, decides that he wants to marry Isabel, Lady Pelham, to make his mother angry. She thwarted his attempts to marry the woman he loves so he decides that marrying the notorious widow who takes her own lovers, is the perfect way to make her angry. They agree to a marriage of friendship and laughter, but when his love dies giving birth, he runs away and spends the next four years reflecting on his life. When he comes back to London he is much changed; he is physically much more attractive and dangerous, and he has given up many of his selfish ways. Most importantly he has decided that he wants a real marriage with Isabel with plenty of sex. Isabel is not at all pleased with this turn of events, but despite the fact that she already has a lover, she cannot seem to keep from wanting this much more muscular husband of hers.

Isabela hopes that she can control her marriage with Gray and does not want to feel any passion for him as her first marriage was ruined when she fell passionately in love and he did not return those feelings. He is working hard to seduce Isabela into falling in love with her through lots and lots of very hard sex. But there are many people who do not want to see these two happy from their former lovers to Gray's own family members. Gray's mom is especially dedicated to driving them apart and uses all her power to try to convince Isabela that her marriage to Gray will turn out exactly like her first one. Gray knows the best way to make Isabela fall in love with him is to spend more and more time with him, but ex-lovers consistently get in the way. Finally, during a house party, Gray's mother hits just the right nerve that could make Isabela run away forever, if Gray cannot lay everything on the line and claim her heart.

I did not have any problem whatsoever with Isabela having had past lovers as they were monogamous relationships and she did genuinely care about these people. Gray's encounteres were not like this, however he underwent some very well written changes throughout the story. Some of my favorite moments were when Isabela was reflecting on her marriage or when Gray was coming to another realization about how selfish he had been. They were genuinely amazing moments that really showed these characters had tremendous insight and were really dedicated to fixing the mistakes they had made. I do wish they had had a frank and honest discussion about these feelings as it would have really added a nice something to this story. I also really enjoyed the two of them finally coming to fall in love with each other- especially when Grayson realized he was willing to do anything to win over Isabela. Unfortunately there were far too few of these great little moments.

This is definitely an erotic romance as there is lots of sex, perhaps gratuitous amounts of sex, and it is not at all flowery. However, large amounts of sex don't bother me; what bothered me was that the sex just did not really work in the story. It felt almost violent and not in the "I have to have you!" way, but more like they were angry with each other, and there were plenty of times they were, and it always felt rushed and like two automatons going at it. It was definitely not what I would consider hot at all and I really just wanted to skip over most of it. There was a really fun little side romance between Isabela's brother and a rich American heiress that took up quite a bit of room and ended rather predictably with each of them fearing the other didn't love them. Gray's mother was awesome as the super villain who wanted to tear everyone apart and she worked very well in the story.

Rating: This story had some great potential with two characters undergoing so many great changes but the emotionless and lacking sex taking up so many pages brought it down.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

An Unlikely Governess

An Unlikely Governess By Karen Ranney 904

Beatrice Sinclair survived the cholera epidemic that killed her entire family and after a year of base survival she realizes she is in desperate need of a job if she does not want to starve. She turns to Castle Crannoch to ask for help from the Duke of Brechin and meets Devlen Gordon. Devlen is the cousin of the very young Duke and his father is Brechin's guardian who hires Beatrice to be governess to young Robert. She has no experience but she is desperate so she agrees to take on the rude and mannerless child but she hopes that she does not have to spend more time with Devlen, whose physical attractions unnerve her. Devlen hopes that Beatrice can help bring his cousin up the snuff and help protect him from the random incidents that have been happening. He fears that his father, Cameron, the Duke's guardian, is trying to get rid of Robert so that he can inherit the Dukedom as he does not seem concerned at the accidents.

Devlen tries to stay away from Beatrice as her forthright manner, inability to be cowed by titles, and her take charge attitude, attract him but he knows that he cannot touch her. However, after only a short time away he finds himself coming back only to discover that the accidents that could claim Robert's life have continued. He takes Beatrice and Robert and whisks them off to Edinburgh where he wants to keep them safe and where he plan to get much closer to Beatrice. She is nervous but does not see anything wrong with finally acting on her attraction for Devlen and soon the two of them are having a very hard time keeping their hands off each other. She fears that he is far out of his league and while he had never imagined taking a woman as his wife, the more he gets to know her the more he knows that is the only way he can have her in his life. But with someone out to get Robert, there is much that needs to be resolved before the two of them can have their happily ever after.

I would really categorize this as a somewhat gothic novel in plot and writing style as well as the interactions between all the characters and their behaviors. I would not necessarily say the book is a downer but it is very calm and rather cloaked in mystery throughout. The characters are rarely shown really enjoying themselves or joking around or laughing and everything is incredibly serious. Luckily I felt it worked fairly well in this story as Beatrice really was just a very well written and very serious, no nonsense, character. Her life circumstances were horrific and it was realistic that she grieved but had to pick herself up and make her own way in life. I was a little thrown by her ability to handle such an incredibly rude child, especially since she had absolutely no experience with children. As a teacher I can tell you that it is not so easy to just walk in and earn a child's trust and management skills don't just develop overnight.

Devlen was not as complex as Beatrice and I felt like some more time could have been spent getting to really know about him. He wasn't tortured and his dislike for marriage was not based on anything and rather easily blew away when he met the right woman; no crazy fighting tooth and nail to not admit he was in love. I also felt like there should have been a ton more time spent with just the two of them together getting to know each other. The sex was rather sporadic but it was very well written and certainly interesting. Robert was great as the spoiled child and Cameron was incredibly intriguing and I especially liked the little bits of the story that were told from the point of view of Cameron's neglected wife, Rowena. The mystery of what was happening to Robert was a nice little back ground plot that was not at all obvious and wasn't revealed until the very end.

Rating: A really great heroine who could not quite manage to entirely carry an entire story. Good writing with an interesting style, but there were definite issues with the romance.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lord Ruin

Lord Ruin by Carolyn Jewel 1002

Anne Sinclair is excited about visiting her sister Mary and her new husband because she hopes she can reconnect with Devon, the man who her father had turned away years ago. But she hurts her ankle and is forced to stay in the absent Duke of Cynssyr's room as he has been delayed in London. When Ruan, also known as Lord Ruin, shows up in the middle of the night he thinks the young lady in his bed is a prostitute his friend Devon hired for him. She is passionate and dream-like and he is immensely aroused by her and the two make love while she is under the influence of laudanum. When the two of them are discovered they agree to marry her, mainly to save his reputation as everyone knows that she was partly conscious. He is at first upset but after the passion they shared he believes they can make something of their marriage and she too is resolved to make the best of things.

It starts out as purely physical reaction to Anne as he cannot keep his hands off of her and it becomes an obsession as he wants her to become bound to him. He worries that she will leave and is jealous when any other man is with her and he wonders how it is he had previously overlooked her. Anne is scared that she will fall in love with him and he will love up to his reputation and end up breaking her heart. But they manage to work together to help Ruan and his friends find the men who have been kidnapping and assaulting women around London. Ruan has his own list of suspects and he listens to Anne as she believes that he is wrong about some of them. Ruan can't deny his feelings for her anymore and he admits he wants Anne by his side always, but the murderers are on to him and they have targeted her as their next victim so he will have to rescue the woman he loves.

This book reminds me quite a bit of Mary Balogh's writing style is it rather sedate and calm with no big blow ups or screaming. However, this book differs from Balogh in the most important ways; it's exciting, the characters actually have a real personality and I liked them, and I cared about what was happening. The opening scene in the book basically set up the rest of the book and, while it probably could be technically dubbed with the R-word, I hesitate to use it as that connotes a certain ugliness which this book, and Ruan, lacked. Others might label it rape and they would also be correct as she was drugged so if that's a turn off then don't read. Despite being calm characters both Ruan and Anne were very well written and it was easy to like both of them, especially because there was so much emotion running throughout the book, and it was so beautiful to read them falling in love with each other.

I loved reading about Ruan falling in love and how it just came over it and I know I liked it because he was a rake who was reforming with the love of a good woman. There was plenty of sex and aside from the first time it was entirely consensual even if sometimes it was unclear as to whether she enjoyed it as much as he did. I liked that he desperately wanted her and was so incredibly attracted to her that he could barely keep his hands off her. I loved knowing exactly why he was falling for her because she was really a great wife, but it wasn't quite as clear why she was so in love with him. He was a great guy and a fairly good husband, but it seemed more like she loved him because he loved her so much. The murder plot got confusing at times and I didn't quite understand what was happening through much of it but it did provide a wonderful opportunity for him to rescue her and I liked the way that was written in this book.

Rating: I liked this book a lot because it was more sedate and he was so in love with her, but I was sometimes a little overwhelmed with the murder plot near the end.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Love According to Lily

Love According to Lily by Julianne MacLean 901

Lily Langdon has known Edward Wallis, Earl of Whitby, since she was a child as he is her brother's best friend and despite the age difference they were always "friends" and he treated her well. While Lily has come to notice Whitby as more than just her older brother's friend, he has yet to notice that Lily has become a woman. She has harbored these feelings for him for years and has been scared of her feelings since believing herself in love when she was younger and having her heart broken. When Whitby shows up at her brother's house party she tries to flirt with him but he is obviously sick and spends his time drinking, sleeping, and being generally lethargic. Eventually a doctor is summoned and everyone believes that he has Hodgkins disease and he is worried that his dissolute cousin, Magnus, will inherit the title. Lily decides to gather her pride and make Whitby an offer; to marry her and produce an heir so that his cousin doesn't inherit.

He is at first reluctant, but he is finally starting to see Lily as a woman, and she claims that even though he is dying she wants to be with him at least once in order to be happy. She says that even if he lives she will not regret their marriage and wants whatever he can offer. Sure enough the two get married and set to making the heir but are shocked when the doctor comes back and says he is not going to die- he has an unknown illness that is going away. Lily is scared that Whitby will regret having married her and realizes she made a mistake when she told him she could live without hislove. Whitby does indeed have second thoughts, but they revolve around Lily's newly discovered pregnancy and his fear that she will die in labor as his mother did. When she comes down with the same illness as he had and her pregnancy does not go smoothly, Whitby realizes he may loose her and he is in love with her.

Another story where one of the characters has been in love with another for years and has been hiding his/her emotion. While not exactly new in romance novels I think this plot can be so much fun in romances and done really well and it was done respectably here. I really felt as though Lily was so young in this novel and really did not learn all that much from her earlier mistake. She was in love with Whitby for reasons I could not really figure out and was risking a whole hell of a lot to be with a man who had spent the last few years drunk and whoring his way around England. Whitby apparently feels some sort of connection to Lily from back when she was a child, as if they were kindred spirits, but I did not really buy this and thought it was a long shot for creating feelings between two adults. Really there could have been a whole lot more of them getting to know each other as adults and really falling in love.

One thing that does exist between them in spades is attraction and there is plenty of sex and it is quite hot really. I was also incredibly impressed with the medical research the author obviously did for the illness that strikes Lily and Whitby and for Lily's pregnancy. At the time I thought she was pulling our leg and was just making stuff up but in her afterward she details how she was really historically accurate. A nice little lesson in late 19th century medicine. One of my favorite characters is Lily's mother, Marion, who had been a dutiful daughter and a dutiful wife to a cruel man so she could not understand how or why her daughter was being so defiant and running off with this man that no one approved of. MacLean's writing is a very fast read in a book that could have used more humor and, especially given the unrequitted love story, a little bit more angst and brooding from both characters.

Rating: The lovestory between the two was a tad unbelievable but it was entertaining and interesting to an extent.

Monday, November 15, 2010

When Marrying a Scoundrel

When Marrying a Scoundrel by Kathryn Smith 928

Years ago Sadie O'Rourke married Jack Farrington despite the vast difference between their standings as she is an Irish horse-breeder's daughter and he is the heir to his grandfather's earldom. When he is cut off he decides after a couple years of marriage to head off and make his fortune with the help of his friend Trystan, who is the Duke of Ryeton's younger brother. Soon his letters stop coming and after a horrible tragedy Sadie believes he is never coming back, so she packs up and leaves him. He is heartbroken when he comes back and finds her gone after she had promised to wait for him. Several years later he runs into her at Saint's Row, the exclusive and scandalous club run by Vienne le Rieux, where she has set up as a fortune teller/ tea leaf reader. He has never believed in tea leaf reading but neither can help but remember all the good times and the love they had.

When Sadie discovers that Jack is part of the management team she wants help from to open her tea shop she is upset and he threatens to withhold funds. But it is impossible for the two of them to stay away from each other as the two of them have a past that was full of love and pain. Lady Gosling wants Jack for herself as she sees him as her meal ticket out of a loveless and painful marriage and she is not pleased to discover that Jack is still mooning after Sadie. Things begin to look up for Sadie and Jack but there are still secrets between the two of them as Sadie had turned to Jack's grandfather when she had needed help during Jack's absence and she worries that he will turn up in London and ruin everything for them. And Sadie is hurt that Jack does not believe in her abilities. Both of them have a lot to make up for and can only circumvent those trying to keep them apart together.

Jack and Sadie were two really great characters who throughout the course of the book undergo numerous little psychological changes that end up making them perfect for each other. There are so many obstacles in the way between the people who are actively trying to keep them apart to their past together and what really impressed me was the way that the two of them worked together to overcome it all. It very easily could have gotten too maudlin with them going into despair over who left who years ago, and while there was a really good amount of time spent on them being angsty and them talking about what happened, it never crossed over into inappropriate territory. I also really liked how their past together was talked about and that it was really happy and it was only a misunderstanding of sorts that kept them apart for so long. It made their reconciliation more believable.

And of course there was his disbelief in her abilities that was handled so very well. Although he didn't believe in her abilities he knew that he wanted her to be happy and he so wanted her to be happy that he was willing to give her a chance. The only part I didn't really like was her insistence that they could not be together because of his station even though he was willing to overlook it and all of their friends were as well. It seemed a little excessive. Their obstacles, in the form of Jack's grandfather and Lady Gosling, were also very well done as they both had understandable motives and were given real stories to make them more human and not just evil villains. There were obvious references to the happiness of the previous couple in the series and to what I assume will be upcoming books, and it was a little annoying (of course Ryeton and his wife are having a baby!) but nothing too bad.

Rating: A very well written book with two people who were genuinely in love with each other and worked with the other to make things work.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Till Dawn with the Devil

Till Dawn with the Devil by Alexandra Hawkins 925

Lady Sophia's brothers are reluctant to bring their sister out into society, both because they fear for her safety and because they see as little more than a nuisance. A blow suffered to her head as a child has left her with poor eyesight and she relies on her friends to escort her around town. At her first ball she is confronted by Gabriel Houseley, the Earl of Raincourt who is attracted to her and furious that she is flirting with Mr. Enright. Reign is haunted by rumors that he murdered his first wife, Beatrice, whose death was ruled an accident and after that disastrous marriage he has promised never to fall in love or marry every again. After an evening spent in Sophia's company is coming to enjoy her and she likes that he does not treat her like a child because of her eyesight. However he is horrified to learn about her family as the Raincourt and Ravenshaw families are enemies every since his father murdered hers.

When Sophia's brother gets in too deep at the gambling table he makes an arrangement for her to marry to get him out of debt. Reign has always disliked Sophia's brothers for being bullies and reminding him of his father but this is taking it one step too far. With the help of his friends, the Lord of Vice, he rescues Sophia and marries her within a day so that her brother an have no hold over her. He tries to maintain distance between them but it is difficult the more he spends time with her, especially the more time he spends in bed with her. When her brothers threaten to take her away he goes to confront them but at the same time someone that they had both thought long dead resurfaces and threatens their happiness. Reign has to rush to rescue the woman he has come to love and finally put their families' tragic pasts to rest.

First I would have to say that I really liked having a heroine with an exceptionality and it took a lot of courage for a writer to create a heroine who had bad eyesight. A lot of times in romances in taken up with descriptions of clothing and decorations and because of her eyesight Hawkins had to work extra hard to give the reader enough descriptions to feel what was going on but still maintain a taste of what it would be like to have poor eyesight. Sometimes it got confusing about how much she could see as she could read somewhat and she was certainly able to see his body, but other times everything was blurry. Really other than that she did not have much going for her as she was a little bland and did not seem to do much. I really liked Reign as the dark and very passionate alpha hero, who was wrestling with his new feelings and his very violent past.

Their relationship progressed a little fast but in such a short book (305 pages and fairly large type) I guess it had to. I felt like the met, were interested in each other, got married, and after a brief time together a family crisis brings forth lots of loving feelings. Just a little too rushed for me and I wish they had spend more time together doing romantic things and just having fun. Their was some decent sex between them, nothing special but it was interesting enough and there was a decent amount for such a short book.Their family connection really added something to the book as it was intriguing and led to some great tension between them. It also lead to a great little twist at the end that I would never have guessed. There was of course a lot of action involving the other Lords of Vice, from past novels to other members and she has her work cut out for her making these guys into romance novels heroes.

Rating: A decent book with a great hero and a new type of heroine, but the romance was a little lacking. I will definitely be waiting for the next addition in the series.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Kiss at Midnight

A Kiss at Midnight by Eloisa James 919

Miss Katherine Daltry is on the shelf with very little hope of catching a husband as her deceased father left everything but a paltry dowry to his second wife and her daughter, Victoria. Mariana, the evil step-mother, spends her money on frivolous things for herself and Victoria and Kate only stays on because Mariana threatens to fire all of the servants that Kate grew up with. Kate herself is a glorified servant but Mariana enlists her help to masquerade as Victoria at a ball hosted by Prince Gabriel Albrech-Frederick William von Aschenberg of Warl-Marburg-Baalsfeld. Gabriel is the cousin of Victoria's fiance, Algie, and he needs to approve of the marriage if Algie is to come into some money or something. When Kate tries to get out of this arrangement Mariana reveals that Victoria and Kate are half-sisters; that Mariana was her father's mistress for years even when her mother was alive and then married her once his wife was out of the picture.

Kate is distraught to learn the truth about her father but she dose accompany Algie on his trip and her first meeting with the prince is not fortuitous. She immediately thinks that he is stuck up and a horrible human being while he is suitably unimpressed with her as she is wearing fake bosoms and a wig to disguise the fact that she is not Victoria. But the two end up spending a lot of time together and Kate comes to admire him for the way he has shouldered the responsibilities his older brother has foisted on him and how he takes care of those who depend on him. He is nervous about his coming marriage to a Russian princess and while at first his feelings for Kate are based on this he can't help but be drawn to this woman who does not want him for the prestige he can bring her. Neither think that happily ever after is possible between them, but with a little help from a godmother, it just might be.

So this story is obviously a slightly twisted version of Cinderella with an evil step-mother and step-sister, a god mother, a prince and the "servant" girl who falls in love with him. I've never been on for books featuring princes and princesses because it's always from some made-up country and just comes across as desperate and weird. However, because he wasn't in line for a thrown and really had no real connection to the other country I was able to overlook his lineage. Like Kate I admired Gabriel's commitment to those who depended on him- who consisted of a motley assortment of people his brother had deemed not godly enough to live in the mother-land. It made his need/ desire for money more important and his almost willingness to marry without love a little more understandable. And I ultimately liked the way his money issues came to be resolved- it was quite creative.

Kate was a little too self-sacrificing for me and her step-mother a little too awful to be truly believable. What made it really frustrating for me was that she never really got her comeuppance and we were never really told what had happened that the evil step-mother could get her hands on the dowry. I wanted Kate to stand up for herself more- both with Gabriel and her stepmother and it was odd to me that she did not because she was such a strong character and had genuinely heartfelt beliefs. Victoria was well done as the not quite evil step-sister who was really jus a little dumb, but the godmother was completely over the top. She was the former love of Kate's father and just far too outrageous for me to believe she would be accepted anywhere in polite society. It was like she was put in the novel purely for the reader to think "how crazy!" and laugh at her ridiculous antics.

Rating: A respectable showing by James who has done much better and much worse but did a good job in this interesting retelling of a classic fairy tale.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Since the Surrender

Since the Surrender by Julie Anne Long 917

Five years ago Captain Chase Eversea had had to fight a great passion for his commanding officer's young and beautiful wife, Rosalind March. He had been sent to another post and done his best to forget her but when she reappears in his life it brings back a flood of old memories. Rosalind wants Chase's help finding her sister Lucy who was arrested and sent to Newgate prison before disappearing. Rosalind thinks Kinkaid, a friend of Chase's knows where she might be because the two had been "friends" but he is refusing to talk to her. Chase at first refuses to have anything to do with Rosalind's request but he cannot get her out of his mind. When his own investigation leads him to believe Kinkaid is hiding something and he discovers that Rosalind is not going to give up on her own he decides that he should help her. They enlist the aid of a street urchin named Liam who always seems to be on hand anyway.

The two start their investigation off at the museum where Chase can't help but feel as though the puppets are talking to him and they are shocked to discover that one of the paintings in the museum, the one that Lucy had directed them to, was donated by Kinkaid. Meanwhile the more time they spend together the more the old feelings are brought up and Chase and Rosalind have trouble keeping their hands off of each other. When Chase realizes that he wants to marry her Rosalind turns him down because she wants to make her own life decisions and do something for herself for once after a lifetime of taking care of her sisters. He wants her to be happy so he agrees but makes plans to leave the country and continues to help her weave through a complicated stream of clues. But when they finally accomplish their task Rosalind will have to decide if marrying and loving Chase is the one thing she could do for herself alone.

This is a book from Long's Pennyroyal Green series, of which I've read and reviewed The Perils of Pleasure and liked immensely. Like that book this book features a strong romance and relationship that is paralleled by an equally exciting and intriguing mystery story. The greatness of this book starts with two strong incredibly well developed characters in Rosalind and Chase. I especially liked that Rosalind was scared of being with Chase but thought that she was actually being brave by not getting remarried and how she had an epiphany at the end that by choice she could choose to be with him as well. I loved that Chase struggled with his feelings for Rosalind but it did not take him very long to realize he wanted to marry her even if it took him longer to realize why he wanted to marry her. And of course it was awesome that he cared for her so much he wanted her to make the decision for herself.

There was a lot of sparks between the two of them and their past was an interesting spin on things as they had been pining for each other but knew they could never be together. There were a few nice and creative sex scenes that worked well because they showed how he was opening her eyes up to new things. The whole mystery of what happened to her sister was crazy engrossing and I woke up early because I absolutely had to figure it out. Although there were hints and I put some of the pieces together I couldn't make them all fit and so I liked the nice surprise at what hadhappened to her. It did take up rather more of the story than I typically like but because Rosalind and Chase were able to spend so much time together and there searching led to them falling in love again so it was all good. There were numerous references to Perils of Pleasure and it would be rather annoying if I hadn't already read it.

Rating: Two wonderful characters who had a good well developed relationship with a very interesting little mystery going on.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wicked Delights of a Bridal Bed

Wicked Delights of a Bridal Bed by Tracy Anne Warren 915

A year ago Mallory Byron learned that her fiance, Michael Hargreave, was killed in battle and has been in semi-mourning ever since. Her family has begun to worry about her and hope that she will manage to become a little more like her lively self for the house party their family is hosting. Her brothers friend Adam, Lord Gresham, will be there and he has always been able to bring Mallory out of her doldrums. Years ago Adam had discovered that he loved Mallory but because of his penniless state he backed off and it broke his heart to see her become engaged to another man. Although he regrets that Michael died he has no intention of backing off Mallory this time and he intends to win Mallory's love and marry her. Mallory does not know how she will ever get over Michael as she loved him, but spending time with the fun and very caring Adam helps quite a bit.

One night she has a nightmare about Michael and when Adam goes to her bedroom to comfort her the two are discovered and are forced into a marriage. Although this was not what Michael wanted he is still determined he can make her love him and sets about doing everything in his power to make her happy. Mallory is surprised but delighted at how happy she is in her marriage and it is not long before she is falling in love with him. Before she can tell him her feelings Michael reappears back from the dead and wants to get back with Mallory. Adam is furious and after catching them in a compromising position he forbids Mallory from ever seeing Michael again. Although Mallory agrees initially she knows that something is not right in her marriage if Adam cannot trust her and when she goes against his wishes they are both confronted with the fact that life without the other is not worth living.

I've read all of the books so far in the Byron series by Tracy Anne Warren and they have all been satisfying reads if not precisely exciting. I feel like she stepped it up to the next level in this book with some more interesting twists and a little reversal of roles. I am used to heroines who have pined after the hero from afar and I enjoyed having the opposite be true in this book. It brought some really nice moments of emotional turmoil on his part and it was interesting to read this from the perspective of the hero. There were also his issues with her relationship with Michael and how he was first worried she wouldn't love him as much as she did Michael, then frustrated, then angry and acting like an ass and knowing he was but not knowing how to fix things. But through it all it was great because it was obvious that he loved and wanted what was best for Mallory. It made him a very well done character.

Mallory was well done as well because she was torn between her love for Michael and wanting to move on but feeling guilt about doing so. Her mourning of Michael is realistic and then her slowly managing to fall in love with Adam was just icing on the cake. Michael's return from the dead was something I was able to guess fairly early on and while it might not have been a big shock it was a really important addition to the plot because it made them realize some truths about their relationship and they had to confront their fears about their marriage and find a way to make their love work. The most annoying aspect of this book was the fact that the other Byron's payed such an amazingly large part and while it made sense because she was unmarried and still living at home it was just too much. Too many concerned, overly happy people who were literally all expecting and having lots of children.

Rating: A great job from Warren who makes a wonderful addition to her Byron series with great characters and romance.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wicked Intentions

Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt 913

Temperance Dewes helps her younger brother run an orphanage in the seedy St. Giles and on an excursion to rescue a baby she runs into Lazarus Huntington, Lord Caire. Caire is hunting for the man who murdered his mistress and is determined to find him even though he admits that he did not love her. He is coming to a standstill in his hunt so he enlists the help of the very beautiful widow to help him navigate the underworld and talk to people who would never dare talk to him. Temperance is scared of Caire; scared of what he's doing and definitely scared of the feelings he is arousing in her. Sex is a sin and she knows that her urges are bad and that she must attempt to fight them and it doesn't help that everyone knows that Caire's urges are unnatural. Caire is surprised to discover he has all these new emotions in him after avoiding feelings since his sister died.

Caire recognizes that, like him, Temperance avoids emotions as she refuses to get close to any of the children at the orphanage and avoids her sexual urges. And Temperance is fascinated by Caire, especially his assertion that other people's touches cause him pain and she wants to take that away from him. The two of them get closer and closer to the truth behind Marie's murder and begin to peel away the layers that they're each hiding under. Meanwhile Temperance's family is undergoing a crisis as her younger sister has to help her husband escape a piracy charge and the brothers all decide that Caire is going to lead their sister straight to hell. But it is not long before the person who killed Marie comes after the two of them with the intent of shutting them up. Suddenly their little affair mans so much more Caire and Temperance realize that their love can heal the problems from both their pasts.

Temperance is a heroine with demons of her own as she suffers immense guilt surrounding her sexual appetites and the death of her husband. This is really woven into the story very well and contributed to the romance greatly throughout the novel. Her attempts to keep people from getting too close to him were beautiful really as it was so obvious that she did care about the children but she was so scared of getting hurt or letting someone down. And of course I loved that she worked so hard at an orphanage and that she wasn't a member of the peerage so her actions did not seem like rich guilt. Caire was also tortured as he suffered from thinking his mother did not love him and losing his young sister. I will admit that at times his aversion to being touched, the pain he felt at it, seemed ridiculous and weird. It was not really explained int he book and just kind of went away- at least where it concerned Temperance.

Their eccentricities and fears were made even better because they were able to overcome them with the other's help. Caire learned to care and feel for and except love from other people while Temperance certainly overcome her guilt over sex. The two had a good amount of very hot and inventive sex and were very attracted to each other. Much was made of his perversions and I guess in those days it would have been bad, but it came across as just a kinky part of his personality. It was not overdone, there wasn't too much of it, and it worked in with both of their characters. The plot where they searched for the murderer never completely drew me in but liked that it added a touch of mystery and the ending was certainly a nice surprise. I especially enjoyed scenes between them and their family members because there were just so many elements at play and really showed what they were going through.

Rating: These were two very tortured characters who worked very well together in a very well written book with a feweccentricities I didn't completely buy but did not detract from the awesomeness of this story.