Friday, December 28, 2012

My Scandalous Viscount

My Scandalous Viscount by Gaelen Foley R

Carissa Portland and Sebastian, Viscount Beauchamp, have always had a rather antagonistic relationship with each trying to one up each other even while all of their friends have paired off and married. Carissa knows that Beau can tell her where her best friends have gone, but as part of the Inferno Club, Beau is honor bound to protect the safe location of his friends' wives while they have gone to Germany to try to put a stop to the evil Prometheans. Carissa has established herself as a "lady of information" among the ton and so she finds herself caught up in Beau's scheduled rendezvous with a mysterious lady. Unfortunately Beau is actually meeting his friend, a fellow Inferno Club member who has turned rogue as a hired assasin and is threatening to murder another of their Inferno Club members, who he has hostage, if Beau doesn't agree to stop searching for them. Carissa ends up shot and when Beau takes her to the Inferno Club for overnight care, it causes a scandal and both of them realize they must marry. Carissa and Beau are both determined to make the most of the situation and believe that they can have a happy marriage, even though both of them are entering it with secrets. Carissa is hiding her past affair with a poet while Beau is trying to protect her by disguising some of the more dangerous aspects of his life as an Inferno Club member.

Beau discovers on their wedding night that Carissa is not a virgin and while at first he is hurt, it causes him to reflect on the pain he has caused in other marriages with his rakish ways, so he is more upset at her for not telling him the truth than at her not being a virgin. Carissa worries that if she tells him she will ruin any chance of a happy future with him and is very aware that he is keeping secrets of his own from her. The Inferno Club has come under investigation from the government and Carissa decides to take matters into her own hands and do a bit of spying on her own which of course infuriates Beau and he forbids her to continue. But with the Inferno Club on the line and someone high up in the government obviously trying to create massive problems for Beau and his fellow spies, Beau must learn to finally open his heart and trust his wife in order for both of them to solve their mystery and ensure the safety of England and their friends.

I had definitely grown tired of the Inferno Club and the last entry in the series was one of the worst I have ever read, but I picked this up because the big Promethean conspiracy part was over and I was hoping that Foley would get back to writing fun and truly romantic novels. This book started that journey, but still was a long way from the best that she can do even while the mystery plot was far more interesting and did not complete overwhelm the story. Carissa is a nosy busybody whose inability to mind her own business is extremely unlikable even while we are supposed to believe she only does it to cover up her own indiscretion; this explanation makes no sense and does not make me likely to forget her issues. Her dedication to helping her husband is admirable but throwing herself into harms way, especially since she knows it is a dangerous situation, really puts her into TSTL territory. Honestly it is her fear of revealing the truth to Beau about her virginity, that most humanizes her to me and really makes her a relatable character because in that era it would be an anomaly for a man to forgive this in his wife.

Beau has his own secrets and it is far less forgivable that he continues to keep so much of his life secret from her than when she does the same. Even when she proves herself to be trustworthy and helpful, he throws up roadblocks to their happiness and it comes across as just a means of extending the novel. I did like reading about him developing feelings for Carissa and coming to love her and I really felt that if the book had focused more on the romance and their relationship that it would have been better off. Many of the problems I had arose from issues that only appeared during the mystery/ Inferno Club part and perhaps without that, they would have been perfectly wonderful characters. There was a decent amount of sex and it was pretty hot, but about halfway through the book other things started to take over and it kind of went by the wayside. The mystery plot was certainly interesting and involved conspiracies and secret identities and people coming back from the dead and I was actually intrigued by what would happen, and I liked that it meshed fairly well with the romance.

Rating: I did not precisely enjoy this book and would have definitely liked more romance, but I was interested in the mystery and it was an improvement.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Rules to Catch a Devilish Duke

Rules to Catch a Devilish Duke by Suzanne Enoch L

Sophia White is the unacknowledged and illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Hennessey and his maid and as such she knows she will never have a proper marriage, or a truly respectable life. She has found employment as a card dealer at the Tantalus Club and in doing so has found the only place she has ever belonged and the only friends she has ever had. But her job has also drawn lots of attention and the Duke has decided that she will marry a man of his choosing or he will shut down the club. Loathe to do anything to hurt her friends she agrees to her father's choice, a self-righteous vicar in some far away time who has promised to dedicate his life to reforming Sophia. Before she sacrifices herself she has decided to have one last happy holiday and so accepts an invitation to spend the season at the country estate of Adam Baswhich, the Duke of Greaves. Adam invited Sophia because she is the best friend to Camille, Lady Blackwood, wife of his close friend, Lord Blackwood, and because he cannot deny that doing so will certainly create a stir among his priggish and lordly guests, especially his sister, the very proper Lady Eustace. Because of a claus in his father's will Adam must marry by his 30th birthday, in a month, or risk losing the entirety of his unentailed inheritance to Eustace's son, so he has also invited plenty of the ton's most eligible bachelorettes.

When the bridge connecting his estate to the nearest village collapses Adam and Sophia find themselves stranded together with no one but his judgmental sister and the servants for company. It does not take long before they are becoming closer than they either thought possible and even while both know that Adam cannot possibly marry Sophia, they throw caution to the wind. Adam decides that the one gift he can give Sophia is to try and get her out of her marriage to the preacher by contacting the friends her father has decided to ruin, but he continues in his search for a bride even while acknowledging that none of them will come close to Sophia. Sophia is furious when Adam offers her a position as his mistress as she believed he had come to respect her and so she decides to give up any hopes she had and begin her new life as the pastor's wife. However, Adam has no intention of letting her go and her leaving was just what he needed to realize that bucking conventions and defying everyone's expectations will be a perfect way to start the future he is determined to have with the woman he loves.

I very much enjoy reading Suzanne Enoch because she writes smooth and satisfying romances that have lots of romantic development in her story and writes characters that are easy to like and root for, and mixes some good sexiness in with it. This book was no exception and I found myself breezing through this, liking the characters and the plot, but finding myself irked by some of her more irritating elements. Sophia was very confident and self-assured, with hints of vulnerability that made her more realistic, and her dedication to her friends was admirable. Adam was reliable and fun and I loved his interactions with Sophia, but the book did make much of his little fits of temper, and while I understood I was supposed to be awed by how Sophia could sooth him, I found myself more than a little skeptical of his suitability for marriage.  Sophia and Adam spent quite a bit of time together, but all of their positive interactions occurred before the rest of society intruded, and once they did their relationship tottered horribly. His quest for a bride really made me like him less, as he openly sought to begin a relationship with someone else, while refusing to give up Sophia.

There was some very steamy sex between them, but given their histories I was annoyed that it took so long for them to start sleeping together. I did not have a problem with her not being a virgin, it would have been a little too unbelievable if she had been and I admired her acceptance of her past, and I admired his acceptance of it as well. I am always irked when they is a major problem standing in the way of everyone's happiness that is easily solved and her marrying the pastor is one such issue. It was clear from the beginning that if he wanted to Adam could call in his own connections and put a stop to it, so when it dragged on for so long it became annoying and the drama it caused at the end was unnecessary and made Sophia come across as far too prideful. The end was amazingly rushed which really just served to show how ridiculous all the obstacles in their path were, as Adam took care of all of her problems with her father with just a conversation and while Sophia put up some token resistance to Adam, it really seemed to be just for show.

Rating: A very enjoyable and readable book that strained even my capacity for unrealism in romances and suffered from the easily solvable problem.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Week to Be Wicked

A Week to Be Wicked by Tessa Dare

Minerva Highwood, eldest of the three Highwood daughters and long overshadowed by her younger sisters' beauty, has been enjoying her summer in Spindle's Cove away from the pressures of society and with the freedom to pursue her own interests. Minerva is interested in rocks and Spindle's Cove has plenty of caves that offer a budding young geologist lots to explore and study. When Minerva discovers the footprint of a giant lizard in one of these caves she knows she must present it at the next meeting of the Scottish Geological Society and she knows the best way to get there. Colin Sandhurst, Lord Payne, is whiling away his time in Spindle's Cove until he comes into his majority and his older cousin has no choice but to give him access to his funds. He does not find playing nursemaid to the women of "Spinster's Cove" amusing and has no love for the local militia his cousin is so interested in. But even he admits that butting heads with the bookish Minerva has its high moments, but even he is unprepared when Minerva comes to his house in the middle of the evening to share her plan for how to get to Scotland. She wants the two of them to fake an engagement and they can travel together to Scotland and afterwards they will break the engagement and she will live out her life in Spindle's Cove.

Colin knows the idea has no chance of working but he is intrigued by the offer and the chance to spend more time with this fascinating women, however he is swept along by the moment and the two of them are off to Scotland before he realizes what is happening. He is determined to protect Minerva and her fossil, intrigued by this woman who has more passion in her than he has ever had for anything in his life. The two run into quite a lot of trouble on their journey and Minerva discovers that the carefree facade that Colin presents to the world is a way to escape the horrors of his past and forget about the tragic deaths of his parents. Both realize they have misjudged the other and all those nights spent in close proximity bring out the desire they have had for each other since the beginning. But as they get closer to Scotland Colin's doubts about his past and Minerva's fear that she is not good enough for the beautiful rake come bubbling to the surface and it is only one more little hiccup on the journey that will prove to both of them that they can make a happily ever after for themselves.

Tessa Dare consistently writes fun, entertaining, and easy to get lost in romance novels with sympathetic and lovable characters who have a real, have to root for, relationship and this book continued her winning streak. Minerva was the perfect mix of independence and intelligence with some naivete and understandable fear and self-doubt thrown in and it this realistic mix that makes her so perfect. I love that she wasn't stereotypically beautiful, especially loved that she was dependent on glasses and didn't just have to wear them to read, and that she was so passionate about something. Colin was not so different than many romance novel heroes in that he had a tortured past and a reputation for trouble. He's desperately gorgeous and a lord, however his youth and his fortune being controlled by someone else are certainly new and I liked that he wasn't all powerful and did have someone to answer to. The two have a history in previous book that the reader is given a hint of and apparently they are quite opposed to each other, probably as a cover for the attraction they feel. The two are very compatible, despite being almost complete opposites, because they have such respect for the other. She admires the way he has overcome the circumstances of his parents' demise and offers him comfort as a means of continuing to move past it. He is so respectful of her chosen career path, even when he acknowledges he does not really understand it, and is so helpful in furthering her career and determined to see her succeed. Even while they didn't seem to have all that much in common, what they did have in common was their mutual love for each other and a desire to see the other happy and it was quite beautiful really. One of my favorite scenes was when she compared her need for spectacles to make the world right to their need for each other in order for the world to make sense. There was some pretty hot, and frankly very humorous, sex scenes that were sprinkled nicely throughout the book. As usual, Dare's writing was spot on; humorous, entertaining, fast, and enjoyable and she set up the next book in the Spindle's Cove series very nicely and I look forward to reading it.

Rating: Avery well written and enjoyable book with two great characters and a romance that was so wonderfully done.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Too Tempting to Resist

Too Tempting to Resist by Cara Elliot L

Lady Eliza Brentford has endured one horrible marriage to save her family from complete financial ruin and refuses to do so again just because her younger brother has squandered the family fortune in gambling hells and brothels. She searches for him at a notorious house of ill repute where she encounters the Marquess of Hadden, Gryffin Dwight, a notorious hell raiser. The two share a moment over a discussion about a painting and discover they both have a love for botany and a certain spark ignites. But Hadden hides his true passion from the world; he is currently writing a book about gardens and plants and so when Eliza's brother invites him to a house party he jumps at the chance to explore the famous gardens at the estate. Eliza is not happy that her brother has decided to host a party of fellow drunkards and hell raisers and stays out of the way as much as possible, locked up in the gardener's cottage where she engages in her secret pursuit as an illustrator for books about flowers. But a chance encounter in the garden with the man who had so intrigued her at the brothel has her wondering if there is something more exciting than flowers and paints in store for her.

When curiosity gets the best of her she finds herself chained to Hadden's bed and she decides it's about time she took something for herself and she give into the passion she has been hiding for so long. Hadden knows he wants more of the beautiful young widow but for Eliza, Hadden stands in the way of her long held dream to become financially independent and move to a cottage on the coast where she no longer has to worry about her brother. Luckily a new commission has come in and she will finally have enough to make her dreams come true, but what she doesn't know is that it is for Hadden's book and when he discovers that she has been keeping this a secret from him he is furious, and even more so when he finds that one of her paintings is being auctioned off as a forgery for a famous painters. But Eliza is in a bind of her own as her brother's friend has been using this possible forged painting to blackmail her into marrying him and she has no one to turn to but Hadden. But Hadden is not about to let anyone hurt the woman he loves, the woman who has shown him what a relationship can be and nothing will stand in the way of their happiness.

Lady Eliza is super fun and exciting from the very beginning and it was impossible not to like her because she was smart and independent in a way that seemed very real and possible. She cared about people, she wasn't scared of her feelings, she enjoyed her life and was comfortable with her sexuality, and she was willing to admit mistakes and forgive herself and others. Hadden was exciting and fun and really not all that different from romance novel heroes as he's the bad guy with something he has to hide from society- in this case his love of plants. I felt like Hadden and Eliza worked really well together and their conversations were enjoyable and full of genuine back-and-forth that clearly showed that they were equals with something real to hold their relationship together. Their was amazing sexual tension between the two of them throughout the book that remains sizzling. There is a lot of sex, not too much, and all of it is super sexy and very well written and pretty imaginative for the period. I admit to being completely uninterested in plants and flowers in the way that botanists are, and I found it a little odd that they both happened to be enamored of the same obscure things and I was occasionally bored when there would be little spiels about plants and the language of flowers.

I did like that they both had something they were passionate about and they had dreams and aspirations, which might make them a little too modern but I still liked it. Eliza's brother was quite an ass and I liked that she did not make so many excuses for him and could recognize that he was not good people. The blackmail scheme came out of the blue towards the end and I really felt like it was awkwardly thrown in there. It also frustrated me that someone who had come across as so intelligent did not go straight to Hadden and instead tried to solve it herself. Independence has it's place, but I would have liked for her to recognize she needed help. And Hadden also came across a little stupid for jumping to the wrong conclusion randomly despite all that he knew about Eliza's character. I think because of the chemistry I enjoyed the book, even though the book took me longer than expected, and I found it tough to put down despite the length and tiny writing. The book flowed well with the great writing and diction, but I found this to be about average.

Rating: A fairly enjoyable book with two great characters with great chemistry but an awkward side plot and some holes that created a dragged out feeling.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Return of the Viscount

Return of the Viscount by Gayle Callen

Cecilia Mallory grew up India as her mother dragged her and her brothers around the country, following Cecilia's father who was an officer in the British army. When one of her brothers dies, they were twins, she moves back to England and vows never to return to India. Once her father dies her brother inherits the Earldom and proceeds to run the estate into the ground; he drinks and gambles and generally avoids all responsibilities to his title and leaves Cecilia to pick up the pieces. Cecilia can only gain access to her inheritance through marriage so she decides to marry Seargant Michael Blackwell, a friend of her father's in the army, believing him to be her father's contemporary. Michael joined the army, despite his title, to prove himself and even went so far as to enlist as an ordinary soldier instead of buying a commission. He agrees to Cecilia's mad scheme as a favor to his old captain whom Michael respected, but believes there must be something about Cecilia that makes ordinary marriage an impossibility. After being wounded in action he returns to England to meet his wife and both of them are in for a huge surprise; Cecilia is beautiful and intelligent and Michael is young and virile.

While Michael decides it would be an excellent idea to make their marriage work, Cecilia has no intention of having a real marriage and makes no secret of her determination to avoid any commitment with Michael. Michael sees that he will have an uphill battle trying to win over a woman who has grabbed control of her life and sees giving up that control as a failure and refuses to allow anyone to help her or have any say in what she does. He takes the tack of silently supporting her and offering his advice only when asked and slowly Cecilia comes to see that Michael is not out to steal her independence or insult her choices. But no matter how much they grow to love each other and depend on each other there is the problem of his career and her desire to stay in England and nurture her estate and possible family. A shocking discovery shows Cecilia that she must overcome her fears and inhibitions in order to have a happy ending with the man who loves her.

This is the start of a new trilogy about wounded soldiers that Callen is starting and I'm hoping that she was just working out some kinks because I felt like this fell far from her previous works. I wanted to like Cecilia because she was independent and intelligent and had no fear of going after what she needed. However, I quickly lost any appreciation I had for her as I read about her treatment of Michael and any respect I had for her when she continually stuck up from her brother no matter what horrible things he, or his friends, did. She refused to see what was right in front of her nose when it came to Michael and was quite mean to him and could not admit her feelings for him until the very end. It was like Callen attempted to switch the typical romance novel stereotype by having the female scared of her feelings instead of the male, but I dislike it either way. Michael was a pretty great guy, not least because he stuck by Cecilia throughout all of her awfulness even if I couldn't really understand why. He was very supportive and worked with Cecilia's issue and was generally very caring of her feelings.

They did not spend as much quality time together as I would have liked, and despite the fact that they did live in the same house I wasn't really able to see how they would function as a couple since Cecilia never let her guard down and it was like Michael had to walk on eggshells around her. I just did not really sense a loving, caring, relationship based on mutual respect and trust between these two. Cecilia was terrified of being tied to Michael so there was very little sex between them and it was, quite frankly, barely lukewarm. I was not a fan. There was the little mystery of who was trying to harm Cecilia and that was a surprising bright spot in the novel because it really was a mystery and I had no idea who could be behind the attacks. However, I did role my eyes every time Cecilia refused to admit she could be in trouble because I hate that in heroines who are in danger. The ending, and the resolution to their major problem, happened abruptly, and did not really seem in character with Cecilia. To top everything off the book was boring and incredibly slow moving and hard to get through. I had an incredibly hard time finishing the book and kept putting it down because there was nothing drawing me to finish the book; reading it was really just a chore.

Rating: A boring book with a very weak relationship between a heroine I didn't like and a hero who was a bit of a blah and only a tiny little mystery to stitch it together.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Lessons From a Scandalous Bride

Lessons from a Scandalous Bride by Sophie Jordan

Cleopatra grew up in poverty watching her mother bear and bury babies year after year because her cruel stepfather could not control himself. She is determined never to subject herself to that sort of life and her opinion does not change when her long lost father shows up and offers her riches beyond imagining. Cleo goes to live with Jack Hadley and he is willing to do anything to ensure his three long lost daughters marry into the peerage. Because of her desire to avoid the marriage bed and childbirth she settles for the aged, and crippled, Lord Thrumgoodie, even though her dowry could attract other men and his own family members believe her a whoring title-hunter. She hopes that once she is married she will have the financial independence to provide for her half-siblings and her mother and save them from her stepfather. Lord Logan McKinney is in London to find himself a heiress so he can use her finds to renovate his crumbling Scottish estate. His sister points him in the direction of Libba, granddaughter of Thrumgoodie, but it is Libba's future step-grandma who catches his attention.

Cleo is beautiful and withdrawn and she pulls at Logan in a way no other woman ever have, but he cannot figure out why she is choosing someone old and entirely unlike herself. Logan is everything that Cleo wishes to avoid; handsome, young, virile, and he draws her far too much for her own good so she does everything she can to avoid being with him and giving into the feelings she has for him. Logan sets out to woo Cleo and convince her that an old man is no match for her lively spirit and finds that the easies way to do this is to seduce her. With no choice left Cleo tells Logan about her childhood and how she shouldered the responsibility of her household and lost so many brother's and sisters, but he knows that running away from her fears is not what Cleo should do. When the two of them are caught in a compromising position he believes he has found his time to help Cleo through her fears and show her that life can be happy when two partners work with each other for their mutual benefit. Cleo must overcome her fears and learn to trust someone else and when she does it will be Logan who is there to help her.

Cleo was strong and responsible and scared and flawed and I loved that it was the heroine who had a haunted past that scared her from marriage instead of the hero. Her fear of becoming pregnant and having her babies die was a very scary reality that women faced in those days and I can really see why someone would be incredibly scared of that, especially because of her experiences. It was a much more realistic reason to be scared of marriage than the half-assed explanations heroes use in most romance novels. Logan was very self aware and confident and he went after what he wanted. I really liked Logan because he wasn't scared of his feelings for Cleo and treated her well while he was pursuing her without coddling her fears. He didn't apologize for being a fortune hunter because he knew he was doing what was best for his family and his estate, but he didn't allow himself to feel guilty for what he was doing. I loved Logan and Cleo together because they were each strong where the other wasn't so strong and they complimented each other in that sense.

They spent a lot of time together and they had a lot of opportunities to explore each other's pasts and learn about the other and once they got to his estate it was easy to see how well they worked together and how their future would play out. There was a super strong attraction between these two and they had tremendous difficulty keeping their hands off each other even though Cleo was desperately trying to fight it. There was not a lot of sex and it was all in the second half of the book and much of it was cut short, but their was just a sense of lust throughout the book so it felt like the book was far sexier than it actually was. I really enjoyed this book because there was no side plot or murder or anything of that nature, but because these two each had such a well developed history there was still a lot going on in this book and it never felt lacking. The writing was as fast and fun as Jordan always is and the novel flowed very naturally and was very well written.

Rating: A wonderful book with two very enjoyable characters with a very strong relationship in a novel that was a joy to read.

Friday, November 16, 2012

How to Capture a Countess

How to Capture a Countess by Karen Hawkins R

At 17, Rose Balfour, falls madly in love with Lord Alton Sinclair, known as Sin, across a ballroom floor and manages to snag his attention during a private moonlit dance. But her innocence is no match the practiced rake and when she panics and pushes him into a fountain he is humiliated and promises he will get revenge on the little tease who earned him the nickname "Lord Fin." Rose's family decides to hide her away in the countryside but it just so happens that Sin's grandmother is Rose's godmother. The Duchess of Roxburgh has decided that she needs to get her grandson married but since the incident with Rose he has been more debauched then ever so to rid him of this obsession with her she invites both Sin and Rose to a country house party where they are the only two under fifty. Rose is horrified to find that Lord Sin is at the party but believes this will finally be a way to earn her sister's a place in London society. Sin is just as attracted to Rose as he remembers and she is now even more alluringly womanly so he decides that he will seduce her, believing she is no longer an innocent.

It quickly becomes obvious to everyone that there is something between Rose and Sin and the Duchess wastes no time using all her skills to throw them together. Rose and Sin find that neither can resist a challenge and quickly make everything at the house party into an opportunity for the two of them to engage in their own secret activities. Sin challenges Rose to a series of competitions, behind the scenes, and it provides them with plenty of opportunities for some inappropriate behavior and for them to get to know each other. Sin realizes that the hatred he's been harboring is unwarranted and that both he and Rose were hurt. Sin knows he wants Rose but marriage is not something he sees in his future until he discovers, too late, that Rose is a virgin and he knows that he has a duty as a gentleman to marry her. But she has come to realize that she wants more from Sin than a marriage based on mere duty and it is up to him to prove that they can have a life full of love and laughter.

Rose was fun but she had obviously been beaten down by the circumstances of her life and the tremendous scandal she was engaged in. I enjoyed reading about her coming out of her shell and learning to enjoy being in others' company and have confidence in herself. Sin was a typical romance hero with lots of responsibilities that have apparently created a man who eschews marriage and enjoys carousing about town. I really liked how his ideas about Rose were so flexible and how he quickly realized, through time spent with her, that Rose was a wonderful person and that what had happened was not a true reflection of her character. That showed tremendous strength of character on his part and really set him apart from other romance heroes who can be far too stubborn. Their relationship moved fast, although it was hard to get a true sense of time in the novel, and while they did spend a lot of time together and did seem to have a lot in common to base a relationship on, I felt like there was too much competition between them and they didn't have enough "calm" time together.

Rose and Sin were apparently very attracted to each other but I don't think that really came across in the book very well, especially after reading When the Duchess Said Yes. There was very little sex between them and the one scene was almost at the very end of the book and was really not that excited. I think that a couple with that much of a competitive nature to their relationship should have had more excitement in the bedroom. I found parts of this book incredibly funny because the other members of the house party were just so hilarious; between the half blind woman and the other octogenarians there were just so many opportunities for mayhem and the results were quite funny. It was enough for me to overlook the controlling grandma with her own little ruminations on what was happening. I am not a fan of the older lady trying to get her male relative married off; it comes across as weird and manipulative while not providing much to the actual story and this case was no different.

Rating: A fun read with two great characters and no distracting side plot that was quite humorous but it could be rather slow at times.

Friday, November 9, 2012

When the Duchess Said Yes

When the Duchess Said Yes by Isabella Bradford 1021

Elizabeth Wylder and the Duke of Hawkesworth were engaged in a very complicated and very binding contract between their fathers but while Lizzie is amenable to the marriage Hawke delays their meeting, and marriage, by running off to Italy for ten years. The former Duke had been a paragon, admired by everyone, and a model of British peerage while being active in the house of Lords, and Hawke has no intention of ever following in his father's footsteps. He amuses himself in Naples buying paintings and dallying with beautiful women and his distant marriage is just a cloud upon the horizon until the time constraints set upon their union rush up. He decides that he will go to England, marry this English rose and after promptly impregnating her he will head back to Naples and live his own life just like his parents had done. But once in England he is finds himself intrigued by a mystery woman he spots and ends up kissing in a garden and neglects his fiance. He is shocked to discover that his beautiful mystery woman is his fiance but realizes this will make their marriage all the more enjoyable.

Lizzie is upset that her fiance has supposedly abandoned her and even more so when she discovers that he had been kissing strange ladies while he was supposed to be meeting her, even if the strange lady is her. However, she cannot deny her immense attraction to her fiance and that is the major impetuous for the speediness with which they plan their marriage. While Lizzie and Hawke begin their wedded life with plenty of time in the bedroom while staying in near seclusion at his estate, friends and family begin to wonder if they can have ever have a true marriage. Lizzie is blinded by her newfound love for her husband and by thoughts of the life they can have together so she does not recognize that Hawke has been neglecting his duties as an English lord until she is forced to. When she discovers that Hawke has every intention of returning to Naples without her once she is pregnant she realizes that the life she had imagined for them is but a myth and only when he is confronted with the possible loss of his wife does Hawke understand that home is wherever Lizzie is, weather in Naples or England.

Lizzie was very open and fun and trusting, and while this could be attributed to her young age, I felt like Bradford did an excellent job making it clear that that was just the type of person Lizzie was. She was caring and anxious and a very real person and I felt like her emotions surrounding her arranged marriage created a very real character. Hawke was very stubborn and I quickly became frustrated with his inability to move beyond his long held beliefs about marriage and see how much Lizzie was falling in love with him and vice versa. I am tired of the heroes who are scared of marriage; every possible reason for their fear has been so overdone and annoys me now. I enjoyed reading about their relationship because they were obviously falling in love with each other and they enjoyed being together and doing little things to make the other happy. They had a lot of common interests and really meshed well as a couple which made his hard headedness even more frustrating.

Lizzie and Hawke certainly enjoyed each other's company in the bedroom and the sparks flew between from the very first kiss to the very last page. The sex was hot and frequent and while it didn't stray from the usual romance novel fare I enjoyed really being able to sense how much these two wanted to jump each other constantly. My favorite part of the novel was watching her grow as she moved beyond the carefree single gal to a bona fide duchess who wanted to take on her responsibilities and expected her husband to be by her side. It was a really well done bit of character development that made it easy to forget how young she truly was. The issue of his returning to Italy was a big problem for me because so much was made of it but then it was glossed over so quickly as the ending kind of came rushing up. However, I did like how they compromised together at the end to make a life that was perfect for both of them and it really made it clear how great they were for each other. The book was very well written and I was super surprised to learn that the author is also an author of great historical fiction that I have also enjoyed.

Rating: A super fast, fun read with a wonderful heroine and a well written relationship with some sizzling attraction but a hero I could not entirely fall for.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Not Proper Enough

Not Proper Enough by Carolyn Jewel 1017

When Lady Eugenia made her debut in London society after her brother had become the Earl of Mountjoy, she charmed everyone with her country ways and joyful spirit. But the one who caught her fancy was the brilliant and eccentric Lord Robert, even if he was physically handicapped and they fell madly in love with each other. Lord Robert's friend, Lord Fenris, was also charmed by Lady Eugenia and upset both that she had chosen Robert over him and believing her not good enough for his friend, he was cruel and unkind to her. His friendship with Robert ended and Lady Eugenia vowed nothing more to do with the spoiled and selfish aristocrat. Years later, when Robert has left her a widow after a very brief but very happy and fulfilling marriage, she returns to society to introduce Lady Hester into society and comes face to face with Lord Fenris and his cronies. Fenris is determined to make up for the pain and suffering he caused Lady Eugenia and to show respect to his friend by ensuring his widow is happy. But spending time with Lady Eugenia brings back all the feelings he had hidden for so long and suddenly the idea of making her happy means marrying her himself.

He throws himself in her path, not so hard as he is a wealthy and very eligible bachelor and she is trying to find a husband for her young charge. While Hester shows more interest in discussing botany with Fenris's father, the Duke, the two amuse each other on non plant discussions. Eugenia is confused by the feelings she is having for Fenris and even while she enjoys joking and laughing with him, she cannot forget the pain he caused her and Robert and has no plans for anything more. But she cannot hide her loneliness and she misses having a man share her bed and with the gorgeous Lord Fenris doing his utmost to seduce her she decides to take something for herself. Their affair is passionate but Fenris does not know how he can convince Eugenia that what they have is more than physical or how to convince her that their relationship is not a betrayal of her late husband. Eugenia is fighting her own growing feelings and she will need Fenris to help her over her fears and worries and show her that they can have a real marriage based on trust and lots of love.

Eugenia was a very well developed character and I really felt like she was very realistically portrayed for a woman in her circumstances and I could understand her motives and what she was going through. She had loved her husband dearly and now was struggling to come to grips with her new relationship with the man she had always loathed. It was a slow going, as it should have been, but I really came to see how she could be falling for Fenris and the guilt and excitement she was feeling over this. Fenris was also very well done and I liked reading about him doing his utmost to convince Eugenia that they were meant for each other. He was certainly flawed but he owned up to his problems and he learned from his mistakes and genuinely tried to make up for the damage he had caused. The two spent a lot of time together certainly and that provided the means by which they were able to move beyond their past and I could truly feel like a real romantic relationship was growing between them. There was plenty of sex and it was pretty steamy and I enjoyed that it featured two very sexually confident characters who had no moral qualms about seeing to their own sexual pleasure and that of their partners.

I am a fan of romances where one character has carried a a hidden tendre for the other for years and have really come to appreciate one of the characters having to make up for being cruel to the other years ago. This romance has all of those things but also skirts over them rather haphazardly as their past together is really almost glossed over and though I was able to understand the gist of what had happened I really felt like they could have used a big conversation about it and a flashback to some of the pertinent issues. Their past played a big part in their current relationship and was a huge obstacle that they had to surmount and it would have been nice to understand why a little more. I especially would have been interested in learning more about Robert because while I liked that he was not demonized as the deceased spouse I would have liked to know more about what made him such a paragon. I very much enjoyed the little side romance between Hester and the Duke and how subtly it came about but I think I would have preferred more from it. While I liked that it did not take away from the main romance, since it was part of the book they should have made it more fleshed out.

Rating: A very well written book featuring two well developed characters who clearly had a strong relationship with each other, but it lacked some back story that would have fleshed it out more.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Seven Nights in a Rogue's Bed

Seven Night's in a Rogue Bed by Anna Campbell 1014

Jonas Merrick was born to the wealthy Viscount Redville and his beautiful foreign wife, but after her death the marriage certificate was lost and the Viscount's younger brother wasted no time in declaring Jonas a bastard. Depressed and lonely Redville retreated into himself and abandoned his son to the mercies of the very cruel world and Jonas grew up bitter and jealous that his cousin Williama would inherit all that should be his. As an adult he inherits his father's fortune, if not the title and estates, and wastes no time in shoving his cousin's nose in his wealth and William's own poor luck at investments. When the opportunity arises William tempts William's wife Roberta to the tables and she ends up losing badly; she promises him a week in his bed. Sidonie Forsythe has seen what marriage to the abusive William has done to her beautiful and vivacious older sister and has no intention of marrying anyone ever. She knows what will happen if William finds out what she has done so she agrees to take Roberta's place in Jonas's bed. She expects a monster, and though Jonas's face is scared, he is far more than she was expecting.

Jonas is not happy at this turn of events as he had hoped to get revenge on his cousin but he does begin to warm toward the idea of having the beautiful and kind Sidonie in his bed. But she is a challenge he was not expecting and warmed his heart in a way he had thought previously impossible. He agrees that he will not force her but will wait until she comes to his bed, however, he soon realizes that he does not want her under duress but of her own volition. With this he has proved to Sidonie that he is a worthy and caring gentleman with a soft spot no one else can see and the two tumble head first into a passionate affair. The term of their relationship was set for 7 days and all too soon their time comes to an end and Jonas knows that Sidonie is too good for him and believes himself unworthy, while Sidonie still believes she will never marry anyone and she knows that Jonas will not love her when she finally reveals the secret she has been keeping from him. The two have their pasts to muddle through before they can finally contemplate a happy future with each other.

Sidonie was, I suppose, noble for sacrificing herself to save herself, and while I recognized that her waffling was a part of her innocent allure, it was frustrating to read about her and Jonas circling each other so long and avoiding the whole reason they were there. I honestly felt like neither of them were very well developed with her being entirely concerned with her sister and finding out how good Jonas truly was behind his mask and him being obsessed with his being a bastard and not good enough for Sidonie. What did they enjoy doing? What made them real people? I just feel like I don't know. They spent a lot of time together obviously but it seemed like purposeless time with not much getting accomplished and there were only so many times I could be interested in her revelations that he was wounded and had been hiding his good self from everyone. The sex, when it finally came surprisingly late in the book considering that was what brought them together, was lukewarm and incredibly dragged out and just too much for me to find exciting. I believe the story of his scars was supposed to be an interesting little side mystery and while Sidonie apparently found it fascinating I found it to be much ado about very little.

Anna Campbell's novels are always very emotionally draining and very exhuastively detailed about the characters often angsty and mournful feelings despite the happier cover this book was no different. Both of them had so much to worry about and while I found some of it legitimate obstacles to their happiness together, such as her keeping a certain secret from him, others I found just too drawn out, such as his fear that he is too ugly and her fear of marriage. Both were understandable but if they were so all-encompassing as to stand in the way for so long it did not make sense that they would just crumble so quickly. That type of emotion also makes me question how the relationship can survive with so much... darkness (for lack of a better word) behind them. They have no experience being happy and loving with each other without all the other stuff hanging over their heads. I did find Campbell's portrayal of Roberta as the abused wife very well written as she fully developed her as a complex character with her own faults and strengths and not just a victim and I was truly impressed with her.

Rating: Far too emotional with two undeveloped characters who couldn't possibly end up having a happy relationship together.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Duke is Mine

The Duke is Mine by Eloisa James

Lady Olivia Lytton has been engaged to Rupert, heir to the Duke of Carleton, since she was born and the fact that Rupert is mentally challenged will not stand in the way of her parents social climbing or his father's desire for an intelligent heir. She has spent her childhood being "duch-ified" and while her sister, Georgette, has learned every lesson, Olivia does not really fit the idea of what a Duchess is supposed to be. She is curvy, she is loud, she is atonal, she enjoys racy limmericks, and she absolutely loathes reading etiquette books, especially the one written by the Dowager Duchess of Sconce. Tarquin, Duke of Sconce, is better with numbers than people and has decided to allow his mother to find his next wife. His first marriage ended disastrously when he allowed his heart to lead him and his wife ended up cheating on him numerous times before she ran away with her lover and ended up drowning, with their son, in the Thames. Olivia has her own duke so when Georgette is invited to a house party with the opportunity to impress the dowager, Olivia agrees to accompany her while Rupert goes off to fight Napoleon and seek glory.

It is quickly obvious that Georgette is the frontrunner to become the new Duchess of Sconce as she has taken to the Duchification process that eluded Olivia. But even as he tells himself that Georgette is better for him, and the two can certainly talk about the mathematical processes that interest him, it is Olivia he is drawn to. Olivia with her dirty limmericks and her very curvy body that he cannot keep from thinking of and whom he enjoys cornering in ballrooms and kissing. Olivia too feels the connection to Quin and she certainly enjoys the kissing aspect just as much as him, but she feels guilty for betraying her sister and her fiance. Nonetheless Olivia and Quin find themselves taking every opportunity to be alone together, sneaking off during balls and climbing trees together and otherwise engaging in activities that they should not be given that her sister could become his wife. Both must realize that, though their relationship will hurt many around them, sacrifices will need to be made for the sake of their love.

When Eloisa James is at her best she writes humorous novels with lovable characters that are immensely enjoyable and this book certainly falls into this character. I did love Olivia because she was loud and "fat" (romance speak for big breasted) and outgoing and enjoyed life while still maintaining her commitment to her duty and her family and was a good enough person not to want to hurt a mentally challenged young man. She loved her sister and her fiance and while she suffered guilt over this she still realized that she had found her chance at love and reached out to grab it with both hands. It is apparently harder for authors to write heroes because they have such a narrow confine to work within and with the success of Jennifer Ashley's The Madness of Ian MacKenzie, asperger's has suddenly become the extra oomph they can add to make their heroes different and unique. Unfortunately I don't believe James does quite a good job here as Ashley and Quin's disability with people seems like just that; a way to make him different without being too off putting for readers and shies away from some of the harsh realities of the disability.

I also felt that Quin and Olivia did not spend as much time together as I would have liked in my protagonists and what time they did spend was hindered by their guilty feelings and the knowledge that their time was very limited because of their circumstances. As with most James' books there was some sex and it was romantic but it was far from being hot and felt like it was just there because it had to be there. I did like that the periphery characters were well developed and that her fiance and sister were never demonized; they were real characters with real stories and didn't just get shoved aside to make way for the happy ending. I did feel like the matter of Rupert was resolved a little too quickly and a little too neatly and apparently was rather historically inaccurate within the history of the Napoleonic Wars. However, I do like to suspend disbelief when reading romance novels and I do like fairly nice little bows made out of big problems so it didn't bother me.

It was fun and fast and I liked reading it but I admit that James has never really been a go to author for me because she's never crossed into that excellent category.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Wedded in Scandal

Wedded in Scandal by Jade Lee

Lady Helaine has been living as dress designer, Mrs. Mortimer, ever since her father, a member of the peerage, was outed as being a war profiteer, and she has been hiding from her past and trying to scrape by. Her shop is given a boost when Lady Gwen Percy decides to purchase her gowns from her but her shop cannot operate by buying and selling on credit so she decides to ask Gwen's brother, Lord Robert Percy, Viscount Redhill, for an extension of funds. Robert has always prided himself on being upright and cannot explain why he has an completely overwhelming desire for the outspoken, strong-willed, and very inappropriate dress maker. Helaine want nothing to do with Robert, except the little contact necessary due to their professional relationship, but Robert inserts himself into her life by insisting on protecting her from dubious characters in the fabric business. Helaine is terrified he will find out who she is and tries desperately to keep herself aloof from Robert but she cannot deny their is a pull between them, a deep connection.

Robert has secrets of his own as he has engaged in his interest in healing by operating a former brothel as a hospital for sick women and children. Because he took on the responsibilities of his title at a very young age, since his father was a drunken wastrel whom Robert kicked out of the house, he had no opportunity to explore his passion and he knows that the ton would scorn his endeavors. With Helaine he feels he can let down his guard, he can let her into his secret life and be free of the weight of his title and the pressures he is under with his family. It is not long before Robert realizes that Helaine is hiding something from him and it is not hard for him to guess what, but he wants to earn her trust before he confronts her. Helaine is unsure how to reconcile her past as a lady with her new life as a possible courtesan and mistress to a powerful man. But Robert knows that Helaine is so much more than a mistress and no matter how much she believes she does not deserve him, he is determined to prove that they both deserve each other.

Helaine was a phenomenal heroine; she was very adult, very confident, and very accomplished and yet it was her insecurities and fears that made her a well- rounded, ratable, and very lovable character. The struggle between her lady-like virtue and her desire for Robert was very well written and was very realistically portrayed and avoided being overemphasised. I was worried I would not be able to get into the dress making endeavor but it was presented as a very real profession that she enjoyed and she was good in and served as a wonderful way to introduce our two protagonists. Robert was almost as enjoyable, but I believe it's always harder to make a truly interesting hero because there is much less wiggle room with them. He had the obligatory title and responsibilities complete with the hidden depths and secret side that only the heroine can bring into the light. However, it was impossible not to like Robert even if he wasn't precisely unique and I found nothing objectionable about him.

Their relationship was fun and sexy and I really enjoyed reading about Robert and Helaine getting to know each other and falling in love. It progressed naturally and they were both incredibly well suited for each other and complemented each other perfectly. They spent a lot of time together, in many different circumstances, which I feel is very important to showing how the characters suit each other and it was clear they suited very well. There was some sex between them, certainly lots of scenes leading up to them which Helaine stopped because of her virtuous upbringing (which did get a tad annoying). It definitely was not gratuitous and was fairly hot but not really anything special. I liked that there was no secondary plot and that the entire book focused on Helaine and Robert and their relationship with each other and their lives. The writing was very well done and it was fast and fun without being too frivolous.

Rating: A very enjoyable book with a wonderful heroine with a hero who was very well suited for her and a relationship I definitely rooted for.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Passion Wears Pearls

Passion Wears Pearls by Renee Bernard

Eleanor Beckett was trained to be a lady but when her father's patents are stolen and her parents die with nothing, she is thrown out on the streets to make her way. After her employer tries to find her a protector, Eleanor has nothing until artist Josiah Hastings storms in and saves her. Josiah is estranged from his family because of his not-so-respectable profession and is part of The Jaded, a group of men who spent time in an Indian prison together before escaping with a fortune in jewels. Josiah knows that it is only a matter of time before he goes completely blind and he has been desperately fighting the onset of blindness and trying to hide his deficiency from his friends. When he sees Eleanor his vision becomes crystal clear and he knows he has to paint her no matter the cost. Eleanor does not want any scandal attached to her name and definitely does not want to be thought of as a kept woman, but with no other option, agrees to become Josiah's model. The two work out a very generous contract that gives Eleanor quite a bit of money, even if she decides to opt out of being painted.

Eleanor and Josiah spend a great deal of time together as he paints her picture with both of them determined to ignore the passion they feel for each other. But as Eleanor comes to see how noble Josiah is and begins to suspect the secret he is trying to hide from everyone, she cannot help but fall in love with him. Eleanor is everything that Josiah has always known he can't have and when she admits her own feelings and her desire for him there is nothing that can stop him from having her. However, he knows that with his eyesight going he is no match for the beautiful and accomplished young woman and he has no intention of tying her to him. But Josiah and his fellow Jaded members are trying to capture the villain who is after them and is causing problems for all of them and when Eleanor finds out she fears for his safety. She feels she has no choice but to fight for the man she loves, even if his stubborn pride stands in their way, and when her life is endangered Josiah knows that he too will do anything for her.

I have read all of the other books in The Jaded series, but I will admit that I promptly forgot them upon finishing as none of them really had anything that stuck to me. This book followed in that pattern and I imagine that in a week I will remember almost nothing about it because there was simply no oomph or spark to really hold me. Eleanor and Josiah were both interesting enough and while I recognize that it's difficult to write a character that's different and unique when there are so many other books, I felt like Bernard was trying to make them unique and in doing so made them poorly ordinary. Josiah's blindness would have been intriguing except his stunning visual clarity when viewing Eleanor made it just ridiculous, completely unrealistic, and plain annoying. I am not an art connoisseur by any means and was completely uninterested in any of the talks of painting and mixing colors and rhapsodizing descriptions of Josiah's talents.

Eleanor was annoying in her righteous indignation at everything that didn't adhere to her very strict moral standards and it gets very tiresome. She goes on and on about holding onto her virtue and that makes it even worse when she does give in to her desire for him because it seems so out of character and smacked of hypocrisy. They certainly spent a good deal of time together, but it was entirely in his studio which presented a very insular space for them to be together and did not show me how they would work together in the real world. The sex between the was pretty hot and frequent enough but was crammed into a very small portion of the book. I felt like once they had given into their mutual passion the "problems" between them took on a superfluous air and the book seriously dragged. I found The Jaded plot to be haphazardly thrown into the mix and it did not fit in at all with the rest of the story and since it was really such a short little bit I didn't really get into it.

Rating: A problematic book with annoying problems and a subplot that I found myself completely uninterested in and rather boring characters.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Ravishing the Heiress

Ravishing the Heiress by Sherry Thomas

Millicent, Millie Graves, has known her entire life that she is destined for an arranged marriage and has trained for it and accepted her lot in life. As the only heir to a very wealthy tinned food company she is sold off to a much older Lord, whose desperation for funds has led him to contract the marriage. When he dies, his much younger cousin becomes Earl Fitzhugh and though Fitz is in love with his sweetheart, Isabelle, crushing debt and a crumbling estate necessitate a speedy influx of cash. It takes only one meeting for Millie to fall desperately in love with her future husband, but it does not take her long to realize his love is reserved for someone else so proposes that they postpone consummating the marriage for 8 years, during which they can lead their own lives. Fitz says goodbye to Isabella and embarks on his marriage with despair while Millie is equally depressed at the thought of spending the rest of her life in love with a man who loves another woman.

Eight years later Millie and Fitz have built a life for themselves together and have become fast friends, when Isabella strolls back into town, newly widowed and wanting to reconnect with Fitz. Millie has hidden her feelings all these years and has no intention now of embarrassing herself and being rejected but inside it crushes her that Fitz wants to start a new life with Isabella. He and Isabella try to pick up where they left off 8 years ago but there is no denying that things have changed for Millie and Fitz. They have common interests and goals after having worked together to build up their estate and bring the Graves tinned food industry to immense profitability. Not wanting to leave Millie alone he decides to spend six months more with Millie in the hopes of giving her in a child and Fitz begins to realize that there is so much more to their relationship than he had thought. Millie knows that now is the time to lay her heart on the line and hope that Fitz realizes that what he has with Millie is more important than a childhood infatuation.

Millie was an enjoyable and relatable character to read about because of her unrequited love for Fitz but she was a little too controlled and in charge of emotions and so good at hiding herself. She was a good person though and she was an amazing friend to Fritz, even when it broke her heart and I enjoyed when we finally did get to see some real emotion from her. Fritz was a deeply flawed person and his flaws made him so real to me. He obviously idealized his relationship with Isabelle and held onto his vision so tightly that he couldn't see what was right in front of him. While I admit this was frustrating because I did want him to see how amazing Millie was, I could definitely understand what he was feeling and thinking. Thomas did a great job telling the story from both of their perspectives which was very important in a book like this which was so emotional. Her stories tend to be very emotional and wrenching and this book was no exception and in this instance I really enjoyed it and felt it suited the story well.

This book switched back and forth between the present and important events in their past, such as their wedding, their honeymoon, and various specific times when something happened in their relationship that illustrated how close they were going. Each section was sustained enough that I did not feel like the book was jumping and I never got confused about what was happening and when. I also appreciated it because I was glad we got to see them growing together instead of just being told they were good friends/ in love. I really felt like they had a strong relationship and that I was truly there, experiencing with them, all the pleasure and pains of discovering love. There was a little bit of sex between them, it was squashed toward the end, and it was fairly uninspiring and fast. The book was very short and I thought the end came rather abruptly and, while not precisely sure what I believe should have happened, I felt like so much angst and love deserved more than a two page quick I love you happy ending.

Rating: A very emotional book with a premise that grabbed my attention and never let go. A great relationship between two well written characters with a strong relationship.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Thief of Shadows

Thief of Shadows by Elizabeth Hoyt

Winter Makepeace has lived his life helping others from running a home for orphaned children in the seedy areas of St. Giles to masquerading as the Ghost of St. Giles. As the ghost, Winter fights against injustice and protects those weaker than him, but his anonymity has lead many to paint him as a villain and law enforcements is searching for him. One night, after saving the life of Charming Mickey O'Connor because his sister is in love with him, Winter is wounded and while escaping through the streets is picked up by the widowed Lady Isabel Beckinhall. Isabel leads a charmed life, she is popular with the ladies of the ton and she immerses herself in fashion and charity. She is immediately taken with the ghost of St. Giles as her household works to save his life even though she never removes his mask. The two share a passionate kiss but both know that the ghost will never reveal himself to a lady. Winter goes back to the orphanage and Isabel continues with her life.

The orphanage he runs has lately been endorsed by a ladies charitable syndicate and the leader of the group decides that Winter does not do an adequate job of presenting the home and wants to install a new manager. Isabel decides to take Winter under her wing and teach him how to operate in society and while Winter is reluctant but he does want to continue running the orphanage. It is not long before Isabel begins to suspect that Winter is the ghost and as the two become closer he finds that he can confide in her and their relationship grows stronger. But Winter is determined that he will never give up his crusade for those less fortunate even if that means giving up his own chance at a true marriage. He needs to find the peer who is running a child sweatshop that sews ladies' stockings but with the police force on his back it is extremely difficult. At the end of the day he must decide if helping the children at his orphanage and making the woman he loves happy is enough of a reward and Isabel must show him that a life of happiness is within his grasp.

I have been eagerly anticipating this book for what feels like forever and after 3 books that hinted at the ghosts' identity, and reading about how monk-like Winter Makepeace was, I could not wait to read his story. He proves to be just as intriguing a character as I had anticipated. He was conscientious and caring, he wanted to help those less fortunate and he was single-minded in this pursuit, and a man who is so great with kids is always fascinating to me! I was not surprised that his chosen life had meant a life of celibacy for him and so I knew that whatever woman convinced him to find his own happiness first had to be spectacular. Isabel, while not as spectacular as I had anticipated for Winter, was perfectly acceptable for Winter and they did work as a couple really well and I enjoyed reading about their relationship. They spend quite a bit of time together and I really sensed the development in their relationship, which is something I always look for.

I did not enjoy how so much of their character was, quite literally, hidden behind masks, as if they were hiding their real selves from everyone and only could reveal themselves to each other. While this is a romance novels staple, I wanted more from Hoyt and was disappointed by how often this was mentioned. It started to seem like the characters themselves were not real people because they were so busy hiding. There was surprisingly little sex for a Hoyt book, and for a book about a male virgin who should have been far more excited about the prospect of losing it to such a wonderful woman, and it was not really all that exciting and stuffed toward the back of the book. The plot with the ghost and the police did take over the book eventually and it really did seem like it played an equally important role with the actual romance and I was surprised by how little interest I had for it. I also found the writing surprisingly flowery for Hoyt who usually has such great writing.

Rating: An enjoyable book, far from Hoyt's best, but two well suited characters who I liked and who had a strong relationship, with an interesting side plot.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

My Ruthless Prince

My Ruthless Prince by Gaelen Foley

Emily Harper was the woodsman's daughter on the Westwood estate and had been in love with the son of the house, Drake, since she was little and though he returned her feelings it was made clear by both their family's that nothing could come of their relationship. So Drake went to fulfill his familial duty by becoming an Knight of the Order of St. Michael and studying to defeat the evil Promethean Council while Emily learned how to live without the man she loved. Drake was kidnapped by the Prometheans and after undergoing torture and refusing to break he lost his memory before being released by the Council President, James Falkirk, and now he feels he owes his loyalty to James. Even when he is brought back to England he cannot comprehend his old life and that his savior is evil, but he does understand that he has a special connection with his nurse, the beautiful Emily, and begins to regain his old memory. However, he cannot let his old Order friends kill James and he helps James escape and together they go to the Promethean stronghold in the Bavarian alps with Emily tagging along behind them.

Drake finds her and manages to convince the Prometheans that Emily is his mistress in order to save her life but Emily is still not entirely sure that Drake has truly returned from the dark side and worries that he may truly believe in the Promethean Plot to take over the world. Drake hatches a plan to burn the top 100 Prometheans during the eclipse when they all get together to sacrifice and innocent but his first duty is in protecting Emily and he still has qualms about putting James in harms way. But when the Prometheans discover the Emily is an innocent they decide that she would make the perfect sacrifice and Drake's plans are once again thrown to the wind. He and Emily realize they would sacrifice anything for each other, including their lives, and risk everything for one night together. However, there is also a Promethean civil war going on and a big battle between James and his enemy draws Drake back into the fray just as it looked as if and Emily were going to escape. Drake's fellow agents from the order show up just in time for the eclipse ceremony and they have one last chance to destroy the Prometheans and give Emily and Drake a chance for a happily ever after free from evil.

The first thing I quickly noticed was the Emily and Drake were going to take a backseat to the Promethean plot. This has been the case in most of this series, but in this book it was particularly bothersome to me because it was far more prevalent here than in the other books and because I felt like the author was really relying on the fact that they had fallen in love previously. They spent very little time alone together, probably 50 pages in the entire book if not less, and much of that was spent worrying about the Prometheans and what little was about their relationship was about their past and not who they were now. They had a strong connection from when they were little and they were destined for each other but I did not really get a sense for this at all and felt like it easily could have been two people in a desperate situation turning to each other for comfort which doesn't equal love to me unless they can be out of the stressful situation and still have that strong connection. The promethean plot finally came to a close in the only way it could have but I think it was a mistake for Foley to leave so much to be resolved in this book because there was so little room for the romance.

Emily was flat out impossible to like because her following him to Bavaria was so incredibly stupid that everything she did from that point on was just tinged with my knowledge of how dumb she was. I know we were supposed to see it as a sign of her love that she was willing to sacrifice so much for him, but since the plot that created those problems was so impossible to like in this book, I couldn't like anything that sprang from it, including her "noble" actions. Drake was teetering on the edge of complete destruction after being tortured and losing his memory and we are supposed to see how the love of a good woman can save any man but there were so many problems with this because it didn't really seem to make a difference. There were so many times it seemed like they could have gotten away but Drake's duty got in the way or even his loyalty to James prevented him from securing her safety. He claimed she was the most important thing to him but his actions really proved otherwise and it seriously annoyed me and made it impossible for me to like him. And last but not least the writing was horrible and purply and flowery and every other page there was something ridiculous that made me want to laugh, for example this gem, "she was not prepared to take the chance of leaving this life without having poured out the fullness of her love upon him." Seriously, wtf?

Rating: Two awful characters, overly awful flower writing, a overwhelming "side" plot, and a complete lack of romance leads to a terrible romance novel.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Duke's Perfect Wife

The Duke's Perfect Wife by Jennifer Ashley

Lady Eleanor Ramsey was engaged to Hart Mackenzie, a future Duke, but was forced to call of the engagement when his former mistress revealed that there was a dark side to him that he was not telling her. She realized that Hart was primarily selfish and thought only of his own needs and desires, but even though she left him, she kept him in her heart. So when someone starts to send her nude pictures of Hart she wants to get to the bottom of it before the person exposes him just as Hart is poised to make a run for Prime Minister. Hart had not expected to see Eleanor again but realizes that it is perfect timing as he had been planning to take a wife and Eleanor would be a great political companion and he remembers how perfect they had been. Eleanor was the one person Hart trusted with his secrets, like his father killing his mother and his brother, Ian witnessing it and being thrown into a mental institution and Hart's own fight to keep from becoming like his father. He accepts her help really intending to make her his wife, but Eleanor is just as determined to not fall for Hart's charm again.

Eleanor throws herself into finding out who has the nude pictures of Hart and repeatedly finds herself admiring said naked pictures and remembering what it was like to make love to him. Hart worries that Eleanor's quest will lead her to discover the darkness in him that he wants to keep hidden. It is obvious that Hart is different in bed than most of the men of the ton and ladies speak about his prowess in whispers while men seek him out for advice and help. Eleanor does not know what these hidden facets are but she wants to find out and knows that the only way for her and Hart to move forward is for him to be completely honest. In his attempt to derail Gladstone's coalition government Hart opposes and Irish home rule bill that makes him a target of Irish independents and several attempts on his life are made. Hart cannot risk Eleanor getting hurt just as the two of them are working through their problems and possibly starting a new, more honest relationship. He is just as determined to protect her as she is to protect him but even aside from their outside threats, Hart's own secrets will prove the biggest obstacle to their happily ever after.

Eleanor was sassy and spunky and certainly jumped into her self appointed assignment of finding out who sent the nude pictures of Hart. The thing I admired the most about her is her dedication to her absentminded father and how cute and fun their relationship was. I thought the picture thing a little ridiculous and couldn't understand why she felt like she should be in charge of finding the pictures since Hart didn't really seem to care. I also could not understand what she found so likable about Hart as he was rather cold and distant and kind of took advantage of people, even if he thought he was doing it for their own good. Hart was certainly the strong, dark, brooding type as he directed the little people all around him because he knew what was best for them. I will admit his past was certainly haunted since his father was a grade A asshole but he was completely driven to be prime minister and the only real hint of a reason we were given was his future hope for Scottish home rule. It seemed a little far fetched. They spent quite a bit of time together and I did like how their relationship evolved beyond merely loving each other because of their past together.

Their previous relationship was brought up a lot but the reason behind their breakup was really poorly explained as Eleanor wasn't upset about his mistress, but about his "darkness" in the sexual arts. This is a recurring problem for me in Jennifer Ashley books as she constantly hints about how scandalous and sexual her male characters are and it ends up being sexy enough but not anything to merit all the worry. This book was even worse then usual as his "dark" side was the cause of much anxiety among both of them and even I started to buy into the hype wondering what was so exciting and secret. Needless to say I was incredibly disappointed and thought the whole build up was ridiculous and ended up being a complete let down. Hart's political career was a big part of the book but I found that I didn't really enjoy reading about it and I felt like it was a side story instead of a well integrated part of their romance. Past characters make frequent appearances, which I don't mind since they're family and it's done in a subdued but important manner. What I didn't like was that Ian ended up being my favorite hero in this novel when I was supposed to be thinking about Hart.

Rating: A big let down all around with totally unrealistic characters, the very disappointing secret, and a hero who's brother overshadowed him.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Seduction of Lady X

The Seduction of Lady X by Julia London

Lady Olivia Carey is very unhappily married to Lord Edward Carey, Marquis of Carey, who is drinks too much, verbally abuses her, and makes her life a living hell. The only bright spot in her life is the Carey Steward, Harrison Tolley, who always has a smile for her and a way of making her forget her troubles. Harrison has been in love with Olivia since she first came to the estate and even people in the village know that he secretly pines for an unknown "Lady X" even if none are quite sure who precisely holds his affections. The Carey marriage has gotten worse as the years went on and Olivia had failed to conceive and Edward, of course, blamed Olivia, for the problem and took his frustration and anger out on her. Things are made even worse when Olivia informs him that her unmarried younger half sister, Alexa, is pregnant from an unknown lover from her trip to Spain. Edward wants to send Alexa to a convent and take her child away to prevent any scandal from attaching itself to the Carey name. Olivia is horrified and seeing her distress, Harrison steps forward and offers to marry Alexa.

Alexa has been looked after her whole life and it takes awhile for her to realize that she has no other option, but her spoiled attitude makes it clear to Harrison that he does not want this marriage, not least because he is in love with her sister, but he sees no alternatives and no hope for a relationship with Olivia. The prospect of Harrison marrying Alexa breaks Olivia's heart and the feelings she had suppressed for so long come bubbling to the surface. Suddenly her life with Edward looms before her like a nightmare and she does not know how she will survive, even while Alexa has decided to make the best of the situation. Edward is furious with Harrison, and as always with his wife, and makes public accusations against them before dying in drunken accident, but even with his death the rumors he started did not die. His family cannot let the hint of scandal affect the Carey name and Harrison has no idea how to get out of his marriage to Alexa. The two of them seemed destined to miss happiness unless one of them can take the first brave step to love and happily ever after.

I was attracted to this story from the beginning and prepared myself for the angst that would accompany two people in love with no foreseeable hope for ever ending up together. Olivia was a happy person, who wanted to help others an was genuinely kind and generous, but her marriage was slowly crushing her and she was changing from that person into someone beaten down and London did a great job of making her sympathetic and likable and making us root for her not to completely lose herself. Harrison was great because he was so noble and so in love with Olivia that he sacrificed his own happiness and hope for a future with her because he knew that it was not what was best for her. I had a lot of trouble understanding why he did not accept his inheritance and fought it for so long and he came across as rather dumb for this. I wanted to admire him for stepping in to marry Alexa but really that was just too "good" for my taste and he went from being a noble hero to an unrealistic caricature of noble-ness. Alexa was a spoiled brat, and her actions made her stupid to boot, and I just could not stand to see Olivia and Harrison sacrificing themselves for her.

Unfortunately Olivia and Harrison were pretty much in love before the book started and the scenes of them together were about reinforcing this love instead of developing it, which I don't really like as much. While I understood that their predicament was depressing and left little hope for them I quickly became bogged down with it. First they were impeded by Olivia's husband being alive and then, after he died, by Harrison's promise to marry Alexa. I could not understand why they didn't just talk to Alexa because I felt like, despite her immaturity and selfishness, she would have happily stepped aside and, as the new earl, Harrison could have protected the baby. It just made the book drag on and seemed completely pointless which I absolutely detest. Harrison and Olivia, being incredibly noble, do not have sex until the husband is dead and it is brief and not very hot, especially for people who have been in love for so long. Harrison's new family are the characters from the previous books in the series and they're kind of thrown in willy nilly and it comes across as blatant plugging which I also did not enjoy.

Rating: Two characters and a plot with so much potential that quickly became tiresome when it dragged on needlessly.