Saturday, December 31, 2011

Unlocked

Unlocked by Courtney Milan 1222

Lady Elaine Warren has been a wallflower ever since her debut was sabotaged by Evan, the Earl of Westfield, took it upon himself to lead the ton in making fun of her very loud laugh. She did not know that Evan was secretly enamored of her and her confidence and the way she laughed with her whole soul and his cruelty was to avoid anyone guessing his true feelings. Ashamed of his actions Evan left for the continent for years and took up mountaineering and Elaine managed to find a few friends of her own and avoid Evan's comrades in teasing. When Evan returns he finds Elaine jus as amazing as ever and wants to apologize and attempt to make up for all the damage he caused, but he finds that his feelings for her have not changed. Elaine discovers Evan's feelings for her and while she can see the possibilities that a friendship with him offers, she does not think she will ever be able to completely trust him or forgive him enough to have a relationship with him. She underestimates Evan's feelings for her and the depths he will go to to prove himself to her and she realizes that she can trust him and she does love him.

I really enjoyed this book and certainly far more than I've ever enjoyed a short story. First off the plot grabbed me right from the beginning and I completely got into it and could not wait to see what was going to happen and how they would learn to forgive and move past what had happened. Elaine and Evan were both perfect for each other and complimented each other so nicely as he became a better person for her and she learned to trust and accept society for him. He was mean to her in the past and while it was awful and caused a lot of harm, Milan did an amazing job of showing through his words and actions that he regretted what had happened and really did love her. He really did do some amazing things, standing up for her and her family, and I felt like he redeemed himself completely. It took a long time to forgive him and I felt like the process moved realistically and there was even a minor little hiccup that they had to work through that added a great element of tension to the story. There was a little steam; really just the perfect amount for a story and it was pretty hot.

Rating: A perfect plot that I was a sucker for and I fell in love with the characters and completely enjoyed their relationship. A perfect little novella.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Once Upon a Winter's Eve

Once Upon a Winter's Eve by Tessa Dare 1221

Violet Winterbotom is a wallflower who escaped to Spindle's Cove after she fell in love with her next door neighbor, gave him her virginity, and he promptly left to go exploring. She finally found her voice and a place where she feels welcome and accepted but her family wants her to come back and marry. Until one day a French farmer appears at a ball, bloody and weak, bearing a striking resemblance to the man Violet had named The Disappointment. She uses her skills with languages to try to find out what the man is hiding something and when she is left alone with him the truth inevitably comes out. Christian had fallen in love with Violet but when his brother was killed in the war he saw it as a sign that he needed to do something more, but leaving Violet was the hardest thing he ever did. Hearing of her family's marriage plans he comes back to make one last desperate plea for a future with Violet even while knowing he cannot give up his career. Both of them have a lot to work through but together they can move beyond their past and start a new life that suits both of them.

The story was incredibly short but it was enough time to fall in love with Violet as a character because she was so intelligent and quick thinking, not to mention quite caring for a man who could have been the enemy. Christian's motives were well explained but I did not really enjoy not knowing who he was until about halfway through a really short book. They had fallen in love with each other before the book began but throughout the course of the novella their feelings changed because the person they had fallen in love with had changed as well. I really enjoyed that they both had to get to know the new person and how it added to their feelings because it was a nice change from many short stories. There was a little bit of steam, nothing major but I did not feel like anything was missing and it fit well in the story and in the progression of their relationship. There was a lot of intrigue in the book because they had to escape from the people in Spindle's Cove and it was not my favorite thing because it took up a lot of space in an already short story but it was an interesting little addition.

Rating: A good little short story that continued the story of a very interesting little town about two people who were well suited to each other but the shortness did mean some things were left out.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Convenient Marriage

A Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer 1220

Marcus, the Earl of Rule wants to marry into a well established and respected family and he decides that the eldest Winwood daughter, Elizabeth, would be a perfect wife. But Elizabeth is in love with a military man, Mr. Edward Herron, and a the middle daughter, Charlotte has no interest in marrying him, so the youngest lady of the family, Horatia, Horry, decides she should be the one to marry him. Marcus enjoys the very young Horry, her personable and outgoing nature and has no interest in marrying someone who doesn't want to marry him. They both agree that they will stay out of each other's business and have a marriage of convenience even while both their families are excited at the joining of their two families. Their marriage is a grand affair and shortly after Marcus is called upon to take care of some financial matters as gambling runs in their blood and Horry's brother, Viscount Pelham, has run up a lot of debts. Marcus is very easy going and has no problem shelling out money for Pel or to cover the gambling debts that Horry soon begins to run up as well.

But there is one matter that Marcus is not lax about and that is Horry's growing friendship with Lord Robert Lethbridge. Lethbridge had once run off with Marcus' sister and while he will not tell the tale to Horry he makes it clear that she must end the friendship. Horry knows that Marcus has his own special friendship with Lady Massey and has no intention of giving up a friendship that means much to her simply to please who husband since they had promised not to interfere in each other's lives. Lethbridge is playing his own game to get back at Marcus and he knows exactly how to get under Horry's skin and convince her she desires his friendship. When things go awry though Lethbridge is forced to to resort to more dastardly means and Horry is terrified that Marcus will find out and turn to Lady Massey. But Marcus is one step ahead of Horry and of course comes to save the day and much mayhem ensues before she discovers the truth. They both realize that they want more than a marriage of convenience because they are in love with each other.

Horatia was certainly very confident and she appreciated her own failings and I loved that she was willing to marry someone to ensure that her sister made a love match, even if she admitted that she was getting a good deal. The problem with Horry was that she was incredibly young, 17, and while many romance novel heroines are quite young, she acted like a 17 year old in many ways. Her outgoing nature led her to become kind of a laughing stock, a source of rather mean amusement, for the rest of the ton and she did not even mind or think that her actions were inappropriate. She had a large gambling problem and seemed to have no respect for money or for common sense really. Her insistence on befriending Lethbridge also came across as childish, because even though she didn't know why Marcus did not appraise her of his reasons, it just made no sense that he would want her friendship unless their were ulterior motives and she just came across as incredibly naive for falling for it. Her immaturity was contrasted, rather harshly in my opinion, with Marcus' own 35 years.

Marcus was almost a non-entity in the book and all I really could figure out about him was that he didn't seem to have any problems with his wife gambling away his fortune, which bothered me, and was just very blase about everything. I personally do not appreciate this attitude and wanted him to show some actual emotion about something. He also had a knack for figuring out what was going on very quickly and always was one step ahead of everyone else. He definitely felt the need to protect his young wife which was an admirable quality and he looked out for his sister's reputation. Their relationship was hard to pin down because they spent almost no time together and I really could not figure out what made them each decide/ realize they were in love with the other. Their marriage seemed to be them just co-existing together and not really being engaged in a relationship. The writing was very peppy and fast but it was a very long novel and there were very long stretched told from the point of view of third parties that did not really have much to do with the romance and it got old quickly.

Rating: A peppy read but the characters were not suited for each other and that was only part of the reason their relationship was not well developed.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Unclaimed

Unclaimed by Courtney Milan 1218

Sir Mark Turner has become the most popular man in England after writing The Gentleman's Practical Guide to Chastity. He was knighted by the Queen, he is beset by every matchmaking mamma and papa in the realm, and he has reporters writing about every move he makes. His book has spawned the Male Chastity Brigade which has taken Mark's words and twisted them to make an exclusive organization that sees women as the impediment to male chastity. After being offered a position on the Poor Commission in the government, George Weston decides to ruin him by hiring his former courtesan, Jessica Farleigh to seduce Mark. Jessica has survived as a courtesan after being thrown out by her father, the vicar, but that is all she has done; merely survived. She hates Weston but is desperate for a way out of this life and the only way she sees to make enough money to never need a protector again is to take him up on this offer. Mark retreats to his small hometown of Shepton where he quickly runs into the widowed Mrs. Farleigh.

He is angry that the town has spurned Jessica purely because she dresses more provocatively than the rector deems appropriate and is drawn to her outsider status and her subtlety. One incident, where she reveals she hates him because of his righteousness and his purity, makes it clear to him that she is special. And Jessica is finding it harder to stick to her mission because for the first time she has met a man who is not attempting to simply use her for his own needs. She feels guilty but does not know how she can get out of her agreement and worries about what his reaction will be when the truth comes out. As she lets seduction fall by the wayside and her relationship with Mark becomes about so much more than physical lust, Jessica knows that she cannot do anything that will lead to Mark's ruin. Mark feels betrayed and hurt but he understands what Jessica has been through and knows that she is the one he is meant for. It is up to him to convince her that she is worthy of finally finding happiness and that he is someone who will always stand by her side.

Jessica is a courtesan and the book makes many apologies and excuses for her career choice and it is clear throughout the book that she detests her profession and it has killed her soul. Normally I dislike being so judgmental of prostitutes and their profession but Milan did a really great job explaining why the lifestyle really did not work for Jessica without completely trampling on all courtesans. It also went towards giving some justification for the horrible actions she was taking against Mark. I really felt like she underwent many changes throughout the book a she went from being desolate to being full of life and love and finding someone that she was willing to do anything for and who truly loved her for herself. It was moving really. Mark was wonderful because he was so conscious of who he was and was completely comfortable with himself. His virginity was not even a big deal to him, he handled fame very maturely, and his dealings with Jessica were spot on for a man who was falling in love and lust but who still wanted to do things the correct way.

Their relationship progressed in both a rational and a passionate way; he used her to illustrate his dedication to not treating women as whores and he did manage to abstain but it was clear throughout all their interactions that their was a connection sizzling just under the surface. They worked well together and they spent a lot of time together, including a lot of quality time getting to know each other. There was not very much sex between them and while it made sense because of the characters and the plot I still felt like these characters needed it. What brings the book down is the length and the very ponderous writing that went on and on with big, and even little, misunderstandings abounding and one thing after another popping up to keep them apart. The villain in the story was interesting but his plot against Mark held a pal over the whole novel and prevented me from feeling any enjoyment for them and in the book. I also could not help but feel like the idea of a man writing a book like that so utterly ridiculous that I wanted to laugh every time it was brought up.

Rating: While I felt like their relationship was well written, I could not get over the almost depressed tone of the book and the incredibly long length.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

It's Always Been You

It's Always Been You by Victoria Dahl 1214

Aidan York and Katie Tremont had been young and in love but her father had deemed the second son of a mere baron not good enough so he had refused his suit. He kept them apart through lies and deceit and after marrying Katie off to a much older and very wealthy coffee grower in Ceylon he told Aidan she was dead. A decade later Aidan is shocked to see Katie running a coffee shop and immediately all the old feelings rush in after so long lying dormant. But Katie is now Kate and she is much different; a year living in a place she hated with a man she had only the barest relationship with, has left her less vibrant and far more reserved. She is living in hiding, under a fake name, telling people her husband is still alive, when she left Ceylon under her stepson's rumors that she had killed her husband, and claiming to have lived in India to avoid having anyone make connections to her real past. He knows he should keep his distance, that he does not want to risk the same heartbreak he suffered all those years ago but he cannot stay away; cannot resist the temptation that Katie presents.

Katie and Aidan find themselves mutually unable to stay away from each other and soon they are going for walks and picnics and falling into the same pattern of courtship as when they were younger. It is not long before Aidan is looking towards the future and seriously contemplating a life with Katie even while thinking that she is married and while Katie herself protests that she does not want a future. Katie is terrified of the consequences; for herself if the murder charges ever come out and for him if he ever discovers the lies she has been telling him. They both allow themselves to imagine what life would be like if there was a future for them and they both realize that they made mistakes years ago and that they should have had more faith in each other. But when Kate's step-son shows up, claiming to be her husband, it throws both of them, and the legal system of England into disarray and Aidan worries that the hope he had been treasuring has been thrown away. Unlike when they were young they must trust in each other to work through anything to have the future they were always meant to share.

Katie was a rich, entitled little girl who fell in love with the wrong guy and whose very uptight father sold her to the highest bidder. She went through a lot in her life and I felt like the changes she underwent fit really well with what had happened to her. She was mature and responsible and I love that she took what life gave her and tried to use what had happened to make a life for herself by opening a coffee shop. She was obviously very intelligent and was not scared to stand up to people who were not giving her her due and I respected that. Aidan was wonderful because I love how he was so obviously in love with Katie and wasn't worried about risking scandal to ensure her happiness and wanted what was best for her even when he didn't have the entire truth. He took responsibility for what had happened when they were younger but also forced her to realize that she was also partly to blame and that they needed to work together to move past what had happened. He worked hard, he was handsome, and he protected what was his so really he was not the most original hero, but he worked.

Their relationship was not quite as developed as I would have liked and I felt like the book did rely on their past together and their memories than was warranted. They did spent time together, getting reacquainted and finding out how much they had each changed and coming to grips with what had happened and how their pasts had affected them. I felt like there was so little happiness in their interactions though because either he was bitter about the past or she was concerned with what would happen when her past in Ceylon caught up to her and it was kind of a downer. I also really did not like how she waited so long to tell him the truth because it just seemed like a very poor way to prolong the novel and was a misunderstanding that didn't have to be. I did enjoy how the villain of the story was not completely evil and his motives made him almost sympathetic but I just could not get over how awful Kate's entire family was and I would really have liked them to have some sort of comeuppance. The writing was fast, if not precisely fun and I found myself easily engrossed in the book.

Rating: Two characters I easily got a feel for but I cannot say I entirely enjoyed the romance or the development of their relationship.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Too Sinful to Deny

Too Sinful to Deny by Erica Ridley 1211

Susan Stanton was exiled from her very wealthy family's London home after she escaped her imprisonment for eavesdropping and nearly got herself killed. She is sent to live her with her distant cousin, Lady Beaune, in the very quiet seaside town of Bournewell and shortly after her arrival she knows that there is something eerily wrong with the town. For starters, Lady Beaune is nowhere to be found and her husband, the giant Oliver and his manservant/ scarecrow valet do not seem to mind her disappearance. The dress shop is owned by a beautiful porcilen doll and her witch-like friend who take an immediate dislike to Susan and do all they can to alienate from the very few other townspeople. The only place to meet people is at the local tavern and there she meets Evan Bothwick, whom she is desperately attracted to but whose residence in Bournewell and lack of a title make him completely ineligible. Unknown to Susan Evan is a smuggler whose brother, Timothy, has just been murdered but his body disappeared before help could be summoned and now Evan is determined to find the killer.

Ever since her brush with death Susan can see ghosts and one of the first ghosts she sees is Timothy Bothwick who forcibly enlists her help to find a jewlery box that Oliver and his manservant are also desperate to find. But Susan wants out of the town and believes the only person who can help her is the local magistrate, Mr. Forrester, since there are no horses in town and her parents are not eager to rescue her. Evan knows Susan is up to something and while he has his own investigation to launch, he cannot help but want her near him at all times even while refusing to admit that he could ever have feelings for a woman. Danger lurks around every corner as more bodies turn up and Oliver and all the townspeople become even more hostile and Evan is the only person that she can trust, especially when Lady Beaune shows up chained in the dungeon. Now Susan needs to save her cousin and get out of this town, but she does not know if that will mean having to leave Evan behind or turning him into the authorities. Evan does not want to risk his own neck but to gain Susan's love he is willing to do and risk anything.

I felt like for both Susan and Evan I learned a lot about them and what they did and liked doing, but I still felt like they weren't completely developed and I didn't get a sense for who they were. Susan was outgoing but rather selfish and spoiled at times and yet she did things that were completely out of character and she was deeply caring about the situation Lady Beaune was didn't seem to care about the feelings of the ghosts. Evan was a smuggler who seemed to just do it because he was bored and he seemed only to think about his brother after he was killed and seemed to just halfheartedly go after his killer. I just did not get into the characters really. They did not spend all that much time together, they had a lot of business to take care of on their own about their own mystery and I felt like their relationship was crammed into kind of a short amount of space even though the book was long. There was some pretty hot sex, but not that much and I felt it would have been better if there had been more of a connection that I could really feel between them.

This book was mystery upon mystery all building on each other and causing my quite a bit of confusion from the giant and his scarecrow henchman to the pirates to the missing dead bodies to the lady chained up in the basement to the women who work in the dress shop to literally everyone in the entire town and it was quite engrossing. I admit I am not the biggest fan of novels where the mystery is the main focus, but even though the romance really did take the back seat here I was so caught up in what was going on and wondering what was going to happen next and it was really so well written that I did not mind. However, I definitely did get the feeling like the romance was not as well developed as it would have been otherwise and I would have enjoyed seeing Susan and Evan spend time together that wasn't being shadowed with murder and craziness. I think it takes a lot to pull off a mystery that I can enjoy and the writing style was fun and engrossing while still being informative and sexy while keeping a genuine mystery that left me guessing until the end.

Rating: A really great and intriguing mystery but the relationship was lacking and I would have preferred some more development on that end.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A WInter's Scandal

A Winter's Scandal by Candace Camp 1207

Thea Bainbridge has never thought she needed more in her life than being sister to the local village vicar and helping him write sermons and help run the town as needed. But when she learns that Gabriel, Lord Morecombe, has suddenly become a landowner in the area and moved into his new house she can't help but remember their brief kiss nearly a decade ago when she had been in London for her sister's come out. Thea herself had never had a come out and had thus been relegated to spinsterhood, but she is still embarrassed and upset that Gabriel does not even recognize her. Gabriel has relocated to the country with the company of several of his friends, including Thea's cousin, Ian who is eager to escape his new wife, Emily, for the holiday season. While readying the church for the nativity scene Thea discovers a baby in the manger and, after seeing a brooch with the Morecombe crest, immediately assumes that he is Gabriel's son and wastes no time in confronting Gabriel and in the ensuing argument her hurt over their forgotten kiss is exposed.

Gabriel recognizes the brooch as belonging to his sister, Jocelyn, who absconded from her fiance, Lord Rawdon, a year ago and has not been heard from since. He teams up with Thea to help discover who left the baby in the manger, who the parents are, and where Jocelyn is. Matthew is an easy child and it does not take long for both Thea and Gabriel to fall in love with the cutie and they find themselves in each other's company quite a bit. Gabriel does remember Thea and cannot figure out how she could ever think she was forgettable and he has every intention of making sure she knows precisely how unforgettable she is and how much he desires her. When Matthew is kidnaped they have to race to save him from the kidnapper and a night spent alone in a cabin brings them even closer together. Even as they raise Matthew and work to find out what is happening, Thea believes that she will never be anything more than a distraction. When all is said and done they are left together to discover how they will make a life together work so that they can share their love with everyone, including Matthew.

Spinster sister's of vicars have been appearing a lot lately in romances I feel like and I admit that I don't really have a problem with it because I like the idea of a woman who has had responsibilities and work to do, finally finding love with a man who is equal to her and who appreciates her even while she has gone unnoticed for so long. Thea was intelligent and polite and respected by her community and wanted a family but had convinced herself she was fine with her life because she didn't believe she had a chance for anything more. She had built up the kiss between her and Gabriel because it was the closest she had come to intimacy and she was crushed when he did not remember it. She was obviously very caring because she took in Matthew and wanted what was best for him even if it meant she would have to give him up to his biological family. Gabriel was a town rake although we didn't really get too much evidence of this, which is fine with me, but he proved himself with his dedication to Matthew and his sister and with the way he treated and behaved so lovingly to Thea.

Their relationship was very well established as they spent a lot of time together and got to know each other and proved that they would work so well together. I really enjoyed reading about them together because there were just so many little moments that all added up to a really compatible couple who belonged together. They complimented each other very nicely as she grounded him and brought out the best in him and he gave her confidence in her own numerous abilities. There was some sex, not too much, but enough to give some much needed steam and establish some serious physical connection between them and I felt like it was a really important part of their relationship. The baby plot was a very important part of the story and was well blended with the romance but I did not get the sense that it was taking over and overshadowing the romance at all. It was a huge mystery and they just built on each other until I was very much confused but I really liked that I could not guess right away what was going on and the resolution was a complete shock to me.

Rating: A very enjoyable book with two compatible characters and a great mystery plot that was near perfect if it had been a little more fun or sexy.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Treasures of the Sun

Treasures of the Sun by Christina Dodd 1204

Katherine Chamberlain left her life in Boston where she acted as servant and legal extraordinaire to her wealthy relatives, to marry adventurer Tobias Maxwell. Damian de la Sola, a native Californian whose Spanish ancestors had come to California years before, sees the beautiful Katherine and knows instantly that she is meant for him but Tobias is his best friend so he makes no move to intercede. Only a few short weeks into the marriage, Tobias is murdered in public and Katherine is left a widow with no one to turn to. Damien takes Katherine into his home and gives her a position in his household so that she will feel like she is doing something worthwhile and decides that the best thing is to let Katherine do her grieving and then step in when she is ready. He is furious when he learns that Katherine intends to leave Monterey and wastes no time in telling her that leaving is impossible because their destiny lies with each other.

Katherine cannot deny the attraction she has for Damien but his life is so far removed from everything familiar to her and she knows she will never be entirely accepted by the proud Californians who have reason to distrust and dislike Americans. She runs away but Damien's family is powerful and they manage to delay her leaving, but in doing so give the person who killed Tobias the opportunity to come after her and reveal that Tobias was killed to try and find the lost treasure of the padres. Damien is able to save Katherine but realizes that she will not really be safe until the treasure is found or proven a myth so he decides to find it; but not before marrying Katherine. Katherine knows that their marriage will be difficult to negotiate because she is a proud American and he is an equally proud and controlling Californian but together they must work to solve a century old mystery to save their lives and give them a chance for a future.

Katherine was very intelligent and proud and I admired that she took control of her life and took a risk and wanted to be self sufficient. I especially liked her realistic look at her relationship with Damien as she realized that it would be very difficult and that it would take massive amounts of compromise on both their parts, including her own. She was willing to work on this and did not accept Damien just being who he was and insisted that he see her for who she was. One of my favorite moments every came when he was trying to run her life and she asked him how he fell in love with her if he doesn't seem to like any of the elements that make her who she is and he realized that he was in the wrong and did not want to change the woman he loved. Damien was not as well developed although there was a definite sense of pride and the knowledge that Katherine was the woman for him and while he was at times frustrating I liked how at the end he realized he would have to compromise in order to love Katherine.

Their relationship progressed nicely and I really like when the characters have a real problem that they need to work out, in this case their pride clashing, and it was handled so brilliantly and really made it clar that they would be able to work through other things in the future. There was some sex between them, not very much, and it was just so-so and kind of swallowed up in the rest of the immense book. The treasure hunting was really the focus of this book and while I wanted to get into it because it was almost California history, I just couldn't and did not like it. This book was incredibly long and sat in my to be read pile for a nearly a year and when I finally did get around to reading it I decided that the easiest way to get through it was to do it in very fast 50 page bursts so it did take me a long time. It was certainly not a fast read, there was not very much dialogue and had lots of descriptions and long narratives and back story, and had no funny moments to break up the monotony.

Rating: Too long and too slow with too much that didn't interest me but what was there in the romance department held my interest and I did enjoy.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Elizabeth, the Enchantress

Elizabeth, the Enchantress: The Real Duchesses of London by Lavinia Kent 1125

Elizabeth married William, the Duke of Westhaven when she was a gawky girl and fancied that he was her prince charming until he left a month into their wedding; leaving her to face the gossip and scandal. William believed that he was a hero rescuing the orphaned girl who was living at the mercies of her cruel uncle and never imagined that his leaving to explore the world would cause any problems for Elizabeth. When he returns he finds her much changed and is confronted with all the pain he has caused her over the years and Elizabeth does not know if she can forgive him. When two cartoons appear that depict two different scenarios involving one of them scorning the other the rest of the duchesses of London, and their husbands, are all thrown together to try to determine who is trying to destroy their reputations and their marriages. So much has changed and each of them is a different person than when they were younger. Elizabeth must discover if she can forgive William and he must help her move beyond their past and see that their future together is full of hope and love.

I am a sucker for stories like this where the characters have so much emotional turmoil between them and so much to work out especially when it involves two characters who are secretly harboring strong feeling for each other but just don’t know how to express it. Elizabeth and Westhaven were both fun and well developed characters, and not just for such a short novel, but completely. It was clear that they were both hurt and confused by past actions and they both had a lot to learn with the others’ help. Their relationship progressed nicely throughout the course of the book and it helped that they spent so much time in each other’s company and talked about their issues and I was glad that it was not stretched out as it would have been in a longer romance. There was only a little bit of sex between them at the very end and it was rather disappointing since it had been building up for a while and they talked about it a lot. The plot involving the cartoons was not as well integrated in this novella and came to an abrupt end and took up a little too much space for my taste.

Rating: I loved the angst and the characters and the relationship they had but did not appreciate some of the other elements of the story.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Annabelle, the American

Annabelle the American: The Real Duchesses of London by Lavinia Kent 1124

Annabelle married her husband Thomas knowing that he did not love her and knowing that many would think her unworthy of the honor since she was an untitled, but wealthy American, and he was heir to a dukedom. That does not stop that pain when a vicious cartoon is published that shows her husband with another, very young woman, and two children; insinuating that he married her for her money so he could support his other family. Thomas is horrified at the cartoons and knows he should have told his wife the truth before their marriage; the young woman and oldest child are his children from a previous marriage when he was very young and the baby is supposedly his grandchild. Thomas and Annabelle dance around the issues between them but the problem serves to bring them closer together as they get to know each other better, mostly in the bedroom, and bond over the experience of being gossiped about. Suddenly each of them discover feelings for the other and they both want more than the marriage of convenience they had entered into.

This was another short story but it certainly managed to pack a lot of emotions and problems into so short a space and while I enjoyed the angst and turmoil that accompanied the issues in the story I did feel like some back ground was sacrificed and I am not really a fan of books where the relationship picks up halfway through. I did not feel like Annabelle or Thomas was very developed, perhaps because they already knew each other and thus it was not as necessary. Annabelle was incredibly strong in the face of such a horrible experience and held her own against the gossips and her judgmental father-in-law. Thomas was more difficult to like because of the secrets he had been keeping- especially since it seemed so unnecessary for him to have kept them. The experience definitely brought them closer together and I could see how their former, rather distant relationship had stagnated, while this forced them to discover feelings they had for each other and fall in love. There was a lot of sex for so short a book and it was really hot and spread throughout the book.

Rating: An interesting short story that focused on the issues and problems between a couple that brought out some really nice angsty emotions. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Linette, the Lioness

Linette, the Lioness: The Real Duchesses of London by Lavinia Kent 1129

Linette, the Dowager Duchess of Doveshire, does not appreciate the rumors and the cartoons claiming that she is having an affair with the new Duke of Doveshire, even if the rumors do happen to be true. James and Linette had grown up together and she had been in love with him, he had been her first lover, and they had sworn to marry. James did not feel like he deserved Linnette so when her parents told her to scram he left and Linette had no choice but to marry her betrothed. Years later James inherited the title and the two picked up right where they left off and James wonders if he can ever make up for abandoning her all those years ago and hopefully create a future for them. Linette's friend, Elizabeth, had hoped to take James for a lover and she feels betrayed to discover that Linette is having her own affair with him. Their feud culminates in a fight in the park where Linette manage to lay blame on Elizabeth and prove that she is not pregnant. Even with the feud going on there is still the matter of how she and James will be able to move beyond what happened in their past, forgive each other for the mistakes that were made, and finally achieve their happily ever after.

I really wanted to admire Linette since she was very confident and competent and was secure in her sexuality while forging her own rules and still being on top of society. However I felt like her character was not developed entirely, not enough about her was explained and there were times when she came across as mean. James was fairly well done and his motives were very clear and he so obviously wanted to make up for the mistakes he had made and make Linette happy. Their relationship seemed to be built a lot on the past that they had together and not much of it was made in the present and I never really like that. There was some hot and scandalous sex in this book, but definitely not what I would consider a lot, rather a lot of it was just hinted at. The feud between Elizabeth and Linette just appeared in this book with little explanation as to what was happening or how it started so it confused me. The relationship between the women was also very prominent in this novel and we got to see all the little bits of drama they had going on between them.

Rating: A heroine I had trouble liking in a romance that was missing romance and friendships that were rocky for reasons I couldn't understand.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Kathryn, the Kitten

Kathryn, the Kitten: The Real Duchesses of London 1127

Kathryn, the Duchess of Harrington, is the perfect duchess; she is polite and proper and has a very cordial relationship with her husband. But beneath the surface both she and the duke are suffering after a horrible miscarriage and since then Robert has only infrequently come to her bed and she worries that their relationship will be far too proper. She is sheltered and unsure how to show her husband that she wants to improve their relationship and so she enlists the help of her lifelong friend, Linette. Robert has noticed the distance that has grown between him and Kathryn but is also unsure to bridge it; he worries that she has not recovered from the loss of their child and does not want to hurt her by pushing the issue. Finally Kathryn works up the courage to try to take her marriage to the next level when a horrifying cartoon appears that implies Harrington and Linette are having an affair and a child. Suddenly her relationship with her friends and her husband are thrown in jeopardy and she must work through them with the help of her husband.

This first book in the Duchesses series introduces how all the women came to be friends through a cartoon hung in a shop window and their relationship to each other progressed very naturally as they got to know Annabelle and each other in a whole new light. Kathryn and Robert were wonderful together and it was so great to read about a married couple falling in love and working through some very difficult emotions and problems. I admired how well the miscarriage was handled and not brushed aside but not completely bringing down the tone of the novel. It was really perfect for a novel of this size and there was nothing superfluous or dragged out. There was not very much sex but what was there was well written, if not exactly awe inspiring after waiting so long and reading about how in lust these two were with each other. They worked well together and I felt like their relationship was on very solid footing and that they would continue to be friends as well as helpmates and I enjoyed the little, very tiny, problem that arose in the form of the cartoon and that they handled it like adults.

Rating: A very good emotional storyline featuring two people in a relationship I was very much rooting for with a well done little bump in the road.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Too Wicked to Wed

Too Wicked to Wed by Cara Elliot 1127


Lady Alexa Hendrie goes to the Wolf’s Liar, London’s most notorious brothel and gaming hell, in search of information about her younger brother, but she is unprepared to confront Connor Linsley, the Earl of Killingworth, but better known as the Irish Wolfhound. Connor doesn’t need some milk and water English miss butting into his life but Alexa is anything but the typical young lady; she is not afraid to confront the Wolf in his Liar and he can’t help but challenge her to a kiss. Neither of them can get their moment of passion out of their head and Alexa decides to ask her family for a London season in the hopes of discovering that passion in a potential husband. She quickly learns that no one else inspires the same feelings as Connor and when she dresses up like a man in another gambling hell she is shocked to find that she has won a half stake in Connor’s gambling hell. Connor has recently had a run of bad luck as someone is obviously trying to destroy his business; stealing from his safe, cheating at cards and destroying his stock of brandy and he needs to discover who is beyond everything.

When next Alexa goes to visit Connor his enemies try to do away with him and in the process discover her identity. She turns to his fellow Hellhounds for help and they decide that the safest place will be at Connor’s seaside childhood home, Linsley Manor and Alexa accompanies the unconscious man. Connor is not pleased to be at the home that holds so many unhappy memories of his childhood where his father gambled away all their money. Alex quickly sets herself the task of trying to fix up the decrepit manor and find a way to make it profitable and Connor can’t help but wonder how she is working her way into his life. The sexual attraction between them never goes away and when Connor finally lets loose his iron control he believes he is left with no choice but to marry her because he is not willing to give up the last shred of his honor. Alexa worries that he is marrying her for all the wrong reasons and wants him to love her as much as she loves him. Finally they both are forced to go back to London to confront Connor’s enemies and they will find themselves fighting for their lives and for each other.

Alexa was intelligent and naïve, confident and yet unsure about herself in society, and affectionate and scared of her emotions all at once. I found these qualities about her so relatable and I really wanted to like her because she was being stifled by the society around her and I wanted her to spread her wings and find her place. However she behaved in ways that were just so impossible to believe, such as going into a gambling hell or brothel or dressing up like a man, that while I admired her motive of wanting to be something other than what society prescribed, I just could not help but feel she was acting ridiculous. There was also an incident at the end where she VERY clearly became too stupid to live and it made me lose a lot of respect for her. Connor was incredibly austere, living up to his nickname by growling at everyone and being very cold and removed from everyone. I liked that he was a working-man and that he was a caring employer but felt like he did not show any softer side, or lighter side, to Alexa and I could not see falling in love with someone who was dark and brooding all the time.

His darkness, his brusque manner, made a romance very awkward in my opinion because Alexa was throwing herself whole heartedly into their relationship and I did not see what she was getting in return or how she could fall in love with him. There was a lot of sexual energy between them but I felt like the actual sex was rushed and rather bland. A very big deal was made throughout the book about the connection Connor had with his friends, the fellow Hellhounds, and it is clear that there will be sequels featuring those characters. While I found the idea of the group laughable I really liked that he had genuine friends who he laughed around with. The Hellhounds were of course there to help him discover who was behind the attacks on his person and his business and I felt like that plot was well integrated into the story for the majority of the book. It was important, it was interesting and it did not get overwhelming and take over until the very end when it became a matter of him having to save her from the evil dude in order to realize his true feelings for her.

Rating: I had trouble getting into these characters and their romance but I liked the mystery plot until the very end and I really enjoyed the writing style.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Because of You

Because of You by Cathy Maxwell 1125

Samantha Northrup is unhappy about the changes she knows are coming her way because her father’s death has left her with little recourse. She has been living at her the vicarage in the tiny town of Sproule but the villagers have made it clear that she is expected to move out soon and that means moving in with the local spinsters and become their nursemaid and unpaid companion. One night a stranger appears on her doorstep demanding the keys to the Ayleborough vault and after a brief visit he goes to the local inn where he checks in as Mr. Marvin Browne and promptly falls sick with influenza. Yale Carderock is the son of the former Duke of Ayleborough who left when he was disinherited after blowing his entire inheritance and he has spent the last decade determined to make money and show his father he is worthwhile. But upon returning to England he discovered his father dead and realized that his chance for redemption are long past. As the healer in the village Samantha is called upon to care for Yale, but when he recovers he appears naked in public and everyone demands that they marry.

Seeing how the villagers have turned their back on Samantha after everything she has done for them over the years Yale decides to marry her, take her away from Sproule and reveal the truth before setting her up in a nice house on her own. But things go awry and the two end up spending the day and night in the bedroom and an annulment is no longer a possibility. Before he can reveal the truth Yale’s brother, the current Duke, Wayland, shows up and springs the surprise on his own. Samantha is furious and hurt as she was beginning to fall in love with her husband for how he had stood up for her and done what was right. Yale is still determined to take care of Samantha but he also intends to return to his shipping business in Ceylon and leave Samantha in the care of his family. Wayland tries to intervene to help both of them realize that their future is in England and there are family issues that Yale has to work through before he can feel worthy of the love and affection Samantha is offering. For both Samantha and Yale it does not matte where they are as long as they are together.

 Maxwell has a knack for writing satisfying and fast stories that don’t exactly stand out but do leave a reader with the warm fuzzies and the feeling that it was a small number of hours well spent. This book follows that pattern with two fun to read, if unremarkable, characters engaged in a well developed and realistically formulated romance, with a big misunderstanding or problem that is concluded in a timely manner and does not become irritating in its’ intensity. I did really like Samantha because she was so brave despite the desperate situation she was in and how she wanted so desperately to fit in with the villagers and give them the benefit of the doubt even when they were so undeserving of her care. I even found her abilities as a doctor more believable than most because she did grow up in a vicarage where she was put in that situation and because she did consult with a genuine doctor and it was not just developed through some intuition of hers. I especially liked the nuances that Maxwell bestowed upon the villagers of Sproule; although they were mean and unfeeling at times their actions were well explained.

Yale was also well written as the prodigal son who was a rake when he was younger and then spent the rest of his life trying to prove himself to the family who turned their backs on him. It was made even more poignant because his father passed before he could confront him and because it was obvious that the bitterness he had built up over the years was unwarranted since the family regretted his actions and actively wanted to make it up to him. I really liked the scenes where he had to confront the fact that everything he had believed, and indeed everything he had worked so hard for, was wrong and he had to come up with a new motive and reason for success. He and Samantha had an interesting relationship because there was a big emphasis on the “spark” they had and it often took the form of little arguments and banter which I am not a fan of. They spent a lot of time together and it was clear that they both cared for each other and had the others best interests at heart. There was a decent amount of sex, not too much and not too hot but it was okay.

Rating: A fun, and very fast paced, book with two well suited characters in a fun little romance that was satisfactory and not too sticking. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Favorite Countess

My Favorite Countess by Vanessa Kelly 1122


Lady Bathsheba, the widowed Countess Randolph, has no idea how she is going to pull herself and the estate’s her husband left bankrupt, into prosperity again. Her brother-in-law, Matthew, who inherited after her husband, Richard’s, death, is kindly incompetent and she knows he will be no help. She is horrified at the prospect of spending the rest of her life in the country so she comes up with a plan to go to London and marry a wealthy man before her financial situation is exposed. Dr. John Blackmore is visiting his mentor in Ripon when he meets Lady Randolph at the local squire’s dinner and is amazed at how outspoken she is, even if her opinions are not the most popular. But what strikes both of them the most, is the intense attraction they both have for one another. When she gets sick after visiting her sister, Rachel, it is Blackmore that takes care of her and suddenly there is more to their relationship than she had been expecting. But Bathsheba needs money to care for Rachel in keep her in hiding, since a childhood illness left Rachel with the mental capacity of a child.

John wants to get to know Bathsheba better and thinks that she needs something more in her life than just being a countess and wants her to get involved in his hospital St. Bart’s. He has hopes of one day opening up a hospital that doesn’t turn away women in need and can help poor women get through and survive pregnancy and childbirth. They end up running into each other in London quite a bit and become even closer when Bathsheba recommends his services to her new friend, Lady Silverton. Now the idea of being John’s wife is exciting to Bathsheba and she contemplates a life of happiness and freedom from the worry that has plagued her. John’s idea that the poor need to be treated as well as the wealthy has earned his enemies and the husband of a patient of his who died in childbirth is causing him problems and Bathsheba does not know if she can stand being the wife of a man who puts a passion, even if is for a good cause, ahead of his own safety and her peace of mind. John and Bathsheba are both forced to recognize that they can put their pasts behind them and make a new future for themselves full of love.

Bathsheba was the rather horrible villain of Kelly’s book, Sex and the Single Earl, and I remember feeling like there was not enough back-story to explain her behavior and this book certainly provides it. It was incredibly obvious in this book why she would be regarded as the enemy rather than the heroine of a romance novel, I personally loved her and thought she was the perfect material for a romance. Her outspoken-ness bordered on rudeness, she hated country life and made no qualms about it, she wanted money because she wanted a comfortable life and wasn’t above using rather mercenary tactics to achieve her goals. I found that I liked how different she was from most other heroine’s and while the Kelley did make attempts to explain some of her behavior I especially liked that she wasn’t excusing it or trying to make it go away. Bathsheba had had a rather difficult life with a cruel and controlling husband and a father who sent away her sister and told everyone she was dead and that shaped Bathsheba’s life and she spent a good portion of the book admirable trying to atone for her mistakes.

I liked having a doctor for a hero and John was certainly a great example of how a non-lordly romance lead can be written. He was passionate about his work and saving women and children’s lives and that by itself made him so likable. He was able to see past Bathsheba’s coldness and bring out the warmth and happiness that had been stomped out of her by her past, while being forced to recognize that mistakes from his own past had to be overcome as well. I truly felt like Bathsheba and John brought out the best in each other and worked better together than they did apart. He gave Bathsheba a purpose to her life in helping at the hospital and she brought acceptance and peace to his life that he had never experienced. Their relationship progressed very naturally throughout the course of the book as they met and got to know each other and attraction and lust developed into liking and admiration and into love. The sex between them was really hot as well and spread liberally throughout the book.

Rating: A very good book with one of my favorite heroines and a great relationship and fun writing and a fast pace. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Ice Princess

The Ice Princess by Elizabeth Hoyt 1119


Coral Smythe is the Madame of the most famous brothel in London, Aphrodite’s Grotto, but because of some financial difficulties it is actually the cruel Jimmy Hyde who owns most of the business and in effect controls Coral. Captain Isaac Wargate is not a fan of Aphrodite or her business and every time his ship docks in London he is forced to go and rescue his men. He and Aphrodite have a bit of an interesting relationship where every meeting leads to a war of words. But one day Jimmy decides to auction off a week of Coral’s favors and she has no way to refuse. Sensing her dilemma Isaac throws himself into the fray and through luck or fate he ends up winning. Neither Coral nor Isaac are certain how this week should play out and Coral is determined to maintain business like and not become the scared little girl she was when she first entered the business. But Isaac throws her for a loop by spending the entire week going slowly, getting to know her and winning her trust and eventually her heart. Coral is terrified of love and it is up to Isaac to prove to her that their pasts don’t matter and they can have a future together.

This was a short story and I will admit that I have recently really started liking short stories because they often skip some of the filler and needless problems that longer novels contain. When written well, like this was, I get a decent feel for the characters and the relationship they have together. Ladies of the evening have been featured as heroines in several books recently, almost always with a back-story to explain away their profession and this was no exception. Coral had family issues and needed the money but she did not make any apologies for her decisions and I admired that. Isaac was wonderful as the dark and handsome hero who was widowed, loved his wife and didn’t have to vilify her in order to fall in love again, and he was so obviously dedicated to Coral. They really got to know each other during their evenings together and I could really sense that they worked well together and had a solid relationship. The sex between them was not as hot as some of Hoyt’s other writings, but it was interesting enough and served to cement the feelings they had for each other.

Rating: A very good short story that I very much liked with two wonderful characters and enough problems between them to keep it interesting. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

One Night Scandal

One Night Scandal by Christie Kelley 1117

Sophie Reynard is one of the ton's most sought after matchmakers because of her skills as a medium that allow her to read into other's futures and see their perfect match. Despite her friendship with some of the most powerful men and women of society she is not completely accepted because she is a bastard who was never claimed by her father, even though the rumor is that he is a powerful Earl. Sophie's mother has taken care of her as best she knows how but that does not stop her from running off every time a new man catches her fancy. Sophie is in Venice visiting her mother, who has run off with an Italian count, when an accident lands her in one of the canals. A handsome stranger rescues her and takes her back to his house to care for her and Sophie is shocked when she sees her rescuer in her future and believes that he is the one. Nicholas Tenbury, the Marquess of Ancroft, finds himself falling for the beautiful woman he has rescued and believes her to be Italian so he has no qualms about making her believe the same about him.

Knowing he is meant for her Sophie gives herself to him for a night and is horrified to read a letter he keeps that reveals his identity and that he is in love with one of her friends. She runs away and hopes never to see him even though she knows it is inevitable since he is related to many and is friends with all of her friends in London. Nic cannot forget the woman he spent the night with in Venice and it is not long before he discovers her identity and wants to find a way to ensure that she never abandons him again. Sophie decides she must help Nicholas find his own match because she no longer sees him, or sees anyone at all, in her future. Thus ensures several attempts by Sophie to throw women at Nicholas despite it breaking her heart every time she contemplates him being with someone else. The two have difficult keeping their hands off each other but Sophie knows that she will never be accepted by the ton and would not make a proper wife for Nicholas. Nicholas has to show Sophie that their pasts do not matter but it is their future together that is what they need to focus on.

I am not into paranormal romances and while this wasn't precisely other-worldly I do not get into, or really believe in, people who can "read" other's futures. That made it really difficult to appreciate Sophie because her entire self was built around her unique gift and she placed such immense importance on what she saw. There were many obstacles she threw up between her and Nick and her inability to see him in her future was particularly ridiculous to me and I just found myself rolling my eyes every time this  particular reason came up. I could not get a read on Sophie's character at all because of the obstacles she kept throwing up and at the end it seemed like the only time I got into Sophie's head she was bemoaning her belief that she could never be with Nick. There was always one reason or another why she felt she was not qualified to be a marchioness and I wondered if it was the only thing she was capable of thinking about. While her background and experiences made her actions understandable, it got to be incredibly annoying and it just came across as an excuse to prolong the novel.

Nick had father issues that left him feeling undeserving of love so Sophie's attempts to distance him played right into his feelings of inadequacy. Rather than explore this aspect of the story, it was brushed over and Nick played right along with Sophie in the attempts to find him a wife. I could not figure out precisely why he was so desperate to have Sophie and no other or even why she was in love with him. I got so little from either of these characters and could not figure out what their interests were or what they had going for them. The sex was pretty hot and there was a decent amount of it but it didn't make up for the overall lackluster, and slow, quality of the romance. They both had a lot of friends, friends who were all main characters in Kelley's other books and I quickly became bored of having it shoved down my throat how happy they all were with each other. It quickly went from showing us how happy they were to having them become just as important in this story as the main characters. I also felt like it would have been really difficult to understand this story without having read her previous works.

Rating: A boring book with far too many made up obstacles thrown in their path and far too many appearances by previous characters.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I Love the Earl

I Love the Earl by Caroline Linden 1115

Margaret de Lacey has accepted her life of quiet spinsterhood, living with her brother Francis, a modestly well off merchant. Their world is turned upside down when Francis very unexpectedly inherits the Dukedom Durham and they are both thrust into society. Almost as a joke Francis settles an enormous dowry on Margaret that makes her much sought after by everyone in the ton, especially the fortune hunters. Rhys Corwin, Marques of Dowling is in desperate need of an heiress after his father and then his guardian squandered his money before he inherited and then a freak flood drowned the entire flock of sheep he was hoping to rebuild his fortune on. Margaret knows Rhys' game and has no intention of falling for it and from the very first set down she issues him Rhys knows that that Margaret is the only woman for him.

Rhys sets out to win Margaret's hand by befriending her friends and "appearing" everywhere she is and he maneuvers them into private setting as often as possible. Margaret begins to warm to Rhys, and it does not hurt that she is immensely attracted to him, and she realizes that she can not fault a man for being poor, especially in Rhys' situation. She is especially won over as the two of them discuss how he, how THEY, will spend her dowry once they are married and Margaret is able to place herself in his life and see that they will work so well as a married couple. Neither are prepared for her brother's reaction as he refuses to condone the marriage and threatens to withhold Margaret's much needed and anticipated dowry. Both of them work together to decide how they will make their life work and realize that as long as they have each other, and their love for each other, they will be fine.

This book is very short, only 144 written pages, and I am beginning to realize that there are some major advantages to a shortened historical romance. The first important aspect was that there was no big misunderstanding or any sort of misunderstanding. They met, they had words, and they slowly began to get to know each other and fall in love. There was no time for any betrayals or any behavior, on either of their parts, that made me cringe, and there were no mystery side plots what not that would poor me or take away from the romance. The romance between them was the entire focus of the book and I feel that Linden did an amazing job with such a short amount of space. While Rhys' immediate attraction to Margaret over her taunts was a bit odd, they spent a lot of time together and I felt like their love was really natural and flowed.

I liked that Margaret was a more mature heroine and that she was genuinely satisfied with her life, not just pretending, but wasn't about to turn down a happier future than she had envisioned. Rhys was amazing, I'm half in love with him myself, because his very moving conversations about how he would spend Margaret's dowry made it so clear that he wanted her in his life and that her dowry was just an added bonus that he would use to enrich THEIR lives together. There was some sex in the novel, it was very loving and pretty hot and it fit really well in the story. Francis was an interesting side character and the problem that he caused for the relationship was perfect because there did need to be a little conflict at the end and he provided it in a way that made the relationship stronger and really pointed out to the reader that Margaret and Rhys worked so well together.

Rating: A very good novella that showcases some of the best aspects of romance novels with two amazing characters who just meshed so well with each other.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Arabella

Arabella by Georgette Heyer 1113

Arabella Tallant is the oldest daughter in a family of eight children. Her father being the local vicar, they live modestly but by no means are they poor, and they are very family oriented and connected with each other. Her mother's best friend from childhood is now the widowed Lady Bollingbrook, and since she is Arabella's godmother, Arabella's mother asks her to sponsor Arabella for a season in the hopes that she will find a well connected husband and she can then bring her sister's out into society. Arabella is anxious to do what is best for her family and hopes to find a kind man who will love her. On the way to London her carriage overturns and she and her companion take refuge in a nearby hunting lodge. Robert Beaumaris is a very wealthy gentleman about town who has been hunted by matchmaking mamas and desperate young ladies for years and he automatically assumes that Arabella is one of these women. Overhearing his remarks Arabella is incensed and makes it clear to him that she is very wealthy as well and hopes to hide it from fortune hunters.

Robert knows that Arabella is stretching the truth but his friend overhears and word quickly spreads around London that she is an heiress and the fortune hunters do indeed come out. Lady Bollingbrook is beside herself, imaging that Arabella is the belle of the ton, but Arabella is crushed to learn that her impetuous outburst has created so many problems. Robert remains the only comfort she has during the parties and balls where everyone's eyes on her, but she worries what his reaction will be when he finds out the truth of her financial situation and fears losing him. Robert wants Arabella to confide the truth to him of her own volition- he does not want to force her hand, but he realizes it may be inevitable because he is falling for her and does not want to wait too long. Meanwhile Arabella's brother has gambled his way into a huge hole and Arabella believes it is up to her to make things right and the only person she can turn to is Robert. Robert is of course willing to do everything he can to help but he expects that at the end he and Arabella will stop pretending with each other and admit to each other that they are in love.

Arabella is much different than every other romance I have read and I wondered if it was even appropriate for me to review it here. It was obviously written a long time ago, originally published in 1949, and it sticks more to social norms and language that would have been used in the Regency period than most modern romance novels. Her writing reminded me of Jane Austen because it was wordy and long and slow with only moderate verbal interactions among characters. However, while I do not like Jane Austen's novels I found that I did enjoy this because it was essentially entirely a romance novel and the diction was more digestible for me. I really liked that Arabella was very true to her time and her situation; she tried to stick to social norms and pretty much did for the entire novel. She cared so much about her family and had a strong sense of duty to do right by them and felt guilt over the deception she had played out. She did what others expected of her and yet it was clear that she had a very strong sense of self and stayed true to her beliefs and values.

Robert was not in as much of the novel as I typically like in romances but I did get enough of him to make it clear that he was a really upstanding guy who cared about Arabella and wanted her to be happy. He started out a little stuffy but slowly began to reveal his more fun side and let loose a little bit. He acted out of character in order to be near Arabella and the way it was written made it so clear that he needed Arabella and the laughter she would bring into his life. Their relationship was slow and very staid and proper, in keeping with the entire tone of the novel, and they were very rarely alone together. They enjoyed each other's company and quickly came to see that they were compatible and that they could live a happy life together. There was one muted kiss at the very end of the book, but, as with much about the book that would normally not work for me, it was in keeping with the rest of the book. The plot involving her brother was often long and I did not really go for it, but it worked with the novel and was an opportunity to show how Robert and Arabella worked together.

Rating: It was an enjoyable book but it was not really my cup of tea. For what it was it was really good, but I don't think I will read too much more of Heyer's stuff.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Night to Surrender

A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare 1112

Susanna Finch is the de facto leader of Spindle's Cove which has become a haven for women who have trouble fitting in with society and need a place to explore and be themselves. She enjoys herself and the environment of welcoming she and her fellow townspeople have created. Victor Bramwell is desperate to regain his commission to help fight Napoleon and he turns to his father's friend, the amorist, Lewis Finch. Finch informs Bram that he can get his command back but that he has been honored with the Earldom of Rycliff and he must raise and train a militia in Spindle's Cove. Bram is not pleased to hear this but he sets about trying all he can to find eligible men, a hard task since the community has turned into a haven for women and even the local tavern has become a tea shop. Susanna does not like Bram for coming in and disturbing her peace and his actions threaten to ruin the reputation of Spindle Cove; a reputation she has worked so hard to maintain. She needs Spindle's Cove as a safe place for herself and for all the women of England who need to be welcomed somewhere.

Bram has been an officer his whole life and when his knee injury threatens to ruin his career it also threatens his sense of self so he sees his enterprise in Spindle's Cove as his last chance and he doesn't want anyone standing in his way. They are at cross purposes and bickering and bantering over the future of Spindle's Cove, but they also come to an agreement that their two groups can work together. Bram thinks he is just what Susanna needs; she is loud and tall and takes charge and he is just the man who can stand up to her and not allow her to run roughshod over him. Susanna feels that she has finally found someone in Bram who she can depend on but she worries that his military career will always be more important and he will end up abandoning her. With the officer's ball and the militia review coming up tensions are running high and Susanna and Bram are both unsure of where their relationship is heading and how much they will have to give up to be together. But when an accident threatens Spindle's Cove and their lives it is clear to both of them that they will do anything for the love they share.

I really liked Susanna because she was genuinely strong and brave and capable and presented herself as so confident and had hidden vulnerabilities. I take issue with romance novel heroines who are presented as so strong but Susanna really was; she built Spindle's Cove to protect other women like her who needed a safe haven and took pride in what she had accomplished. She had a purpose in life beyond the mere charity work and because Bram had one too, it made them more equals. Bram was a very well developed character because he so identified with his role in the army that he couldn't see his life without it. It was only with Susanna coming into his life that he could see life beyond being an officer and enjoy that prospect. And similarly he made her take risks with her own hopes and desires and come to recognize that she was hiding in Spindle's Cove and could take a chance on him and on her life. This really made their relationship pop to me because they complemented each other so well and each of them needed the other in some way and became a better person with the other's help.

There was a good amount of sex in the novel and it was well written and pretty hot and inventive. While I understood that Bram was presented as so different from all the men she had met her life up to this point because he did was not intimidated by her and presented a challenge, I found it odd that such a big deal was made over how he could stand up to her and wouldn't be pushed around. The men in Spindle's Cove did tailor their work to suit the needs of women because that's how they made their living and Bram was personally affronted by this. There was a little too much of a theme of making real men out of people and I found it insulting that Bram couldn't appreciate that a blacksmith who fixed lockets was just as good as one who spent his life throwing horseshoes or whatever. The militia buildup was interesting and I liked that Bram and Susanna worked together for much of the novel to make things work out and helped each other. The book was a typical length but for some reason I became bored about half way through and felt like the book dragged after that.

Rating: Two well developed and well suited characters with a strong relationship but I was bored during the book even if I can't put my finger on precisely why.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Scandalous Desires

Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt 1108

The widowed Silence Hollingbrook has a scandalous past with river pirate Mickey O'Connor since she went to him a year ago after he stole her husband's cargo. Even though he did not touch her it left her reputation in ruins and her marriage was never the same and after her husband's death she comforts herself with the orphanage her family runs in St. Giles and Mary Darling, an infant left on her doorstep. Mick has never forgotten the innocence of the beautiful and loyal young woman who begged for his help and so when he needed a safe place for his young daughter he immediately thought of Silence. When Mary's hiding space is compromised Mick takes her back and Silence refuses to leave the child she has quickly become attached to even if it means being forced to move into a pirate's palace. Mary is determined to keep her pride even while doing something that could ruin her and, if discovered, could ruin the foundling home and her siblings.

Mick knows that Silence is too good for him and that he is only bringing her into danger and exposing her to the Vicar of Whitechapel, the notorious gin runner who Mick knows from personal experience has no care for anyone save himself, who would do anything to bring Mick down. Life in his palace is far from Silence's normal way of life; guards on every corner, rich and plentiful food, gold and silver accents, and luxurious furniture and rooms. Upon closer inspection she discovers that Mick is attempting to make up for a childhood spent in abject poverty and she realizes that there are secrets, very dark secrets, in his past, that he is attempting to hide from her but will help her understand all of his actions. Silence's family and friends encourage her to leave Mick, but she knows that there is good inside of him and she wants to bring it out and make him into a better man. When the Vicar makes his move it places Silence in danger and Mick must do all he can to save her and his child, but when everything has settled he has to decide if he can ever be a man who is worthy of love from the woman he loves.

This book starts out immediately where the previous books int he series left off and pretty much jumps right in with the assumption that the reader knows what happened. I enjoyed this because I did know and would not have liked to have pages of catch up when I did not need it but I imagine it would be confusing for some readers. Mick certainly did not come across as a good guy, or as hero material, in previous books as his actions could have destroyed Silence's husband and did end up ruining her reputation and her relationship with those closest to her. It was apparent that there would need to be a major overhaul of his character to make him worthy of love from our heroine and I felt like Hoyt fell short in this. Mick got his jollies by killing people and ruining people just because he could and while he did have a horrific childhood, I felt like this was no even close to a decent excuse for most of his actions. I understood that he was redeemed through his love for Silence but I wanted to know what happened to the other people whose lives he had destroyed.

Silence was loyal, caring, and sweet so she was basically the complete opposite of Mick and her character was obviously meant to show that a good woman could transform even the most wicked of men through said goodness. While I admired her determination to first see to her husband's well being and then to see Mary Darling, I did not understand her feelings for Mick. I wanted him to suffer for what he put her through and it felt like he did not make up for what he had done. Their relationship was difficult to understand and their forced proximity made me wonder if there feelings were just based on her exclusion from her family and friends. They did interact with each other a lot and they had time to get to know each other but I was still just waiting for some reason to find Mick worthy of Silence. There was some sex between them, but not very much and it was not as hot and steamy as I'm used to from Hoyt. The plot involving the Vicar was engrossing and reasonably introduced and carried throughout the book and blended well with everything.

Rating: Great writing as usual and an interesting story but I could not get over Mick and his unlikability even while enjoying Silence and the side plot.