Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Lady Awakened

A Lady Awakened by Cecilia Grant 212

Martha Russell is not sad when her husband dies, she is more relieved that she will never have to suffer his attentions again and hopes that she can continue to work for the betterment of the families on the estate and help the local vicar open a school for village children. It is not long before she begins hearing rumors about her husband's brother, the man who will inherit the estate, and she fears for the safety of the females who work in the mansion. She knows that there is no chance that she is expecting but she doesn't disclose this information to the family lawyer and enlists the help of her ladies maid to find a way out of her difficult situation. Theo Mirkwood has been exiled to the country for his dissolute ways and his father hopes he will finally show some initiative and give up his womanizing, but the aloof and beautiful widow catches his eye and he thinks his rusticating experience may be more fun than he expected.

Martha has also taken notice of the handsome stranger and sees a solution to her problem and she shocks even herself when she makes her proposition to Theo; she will pay him to spend a month in her bed with a bigger sum to follow if she becomes pregnant but they must conduct their affair with the utmost discretion. Theo believes his experience with women will make the lonely widow an easy conquest but it does not take long for him to discover that all his expertise will not melt her iciness. Martha has no intention of becoming involved with a wastrel like Theo, she wants something more from any man she will give her heart too. Luckily Theo simultaneously sets himself up to work with the estate manager and begins to work out ways to make the farm profitable and, with Martha's help, begins to take an interest in the family's on the estate. Just as the two of them both secretly begin contemplating a future, Martha's brother-in-law shows up with his family and both of them wonder how they can continue their scheme, protect everyone, and find love with the other.

I know that some people found Mrs. Russell far too mercenary in the way she went about achieving her goals but I have to admit I found it admirable that she wanted to look out for the women on her estate and did not feel bad for the man she was "stealing" from given that I don't really have sympathy for rapists under almost any circumstances. I found her rather melancholy, withdrawn, and very un-fun so despite my admiration it was very difficult to actually like her. I can't remember a single incident in the entire book where she smiled or laughed, even during the happy ending. She refused to find the sex with Theo pleasurable and made it decidedly un- pleasurable, for her, for him, and for me to read and while she did have a reason- she didn't want to be just another woman to him- it was too much for me to take because she had to have sex with him anyway. I did not buy into her mind over her body spiel and the sex was painful to read, quite a turn off really, and it wasn't until nearly the end that it became a tad bit hot.

It is always difficult when an author describes a character's past but then gives the reader no real evidence of it and such was the case with Theo the rake. I liked how much he grew and there was a lot of character development on his part as he grew up and began to care about more than himself. Theo was certainly more fun than Martha and that made it very difficult for me to see how these two had a real relationship. I understood that she made him want to be a better man and they both cared about the estate and he helped her make friends but I felt like their personalities were so different that nothing between them could last. I was even more disappointed with the end of the book and the decision Martha makes regarding her estate and I felt like it was an attempt to placate people who would have been upset by her baby making machinations but really just made her look weak to me. The book took me an incredibly long time to read and about halfway through I started to think of it as a horrible slog that I just wanted to end.

Rating: A very slow moving book with characters I could not really like and a relationship that seemed like it was doomed from the start.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sunrise with a Notorious Lord

Sunrise with a Notorious Lord by Alexandra Hawkins 112

Isabel Thorne has no complaints about her quiet existence in the country with her family but she knows that her sister, Delia, has higher hopes so when Lady Nethersley proposes a little escapade to help "push" her son towards marriage, she agrees to go along with it. Christopher Courtland, the Earl of Vanewright, known as Vain, is intrigued by Isabel and as he has just broken it off with his mistress decides that his time would be well spent pursuing her. Isabel mistakenly believes that Delia is the one for Vain and her sister agrees that no one of his rank would want a blue stocking spinster. Vain sets about seducing Isabel and while she finds him attractive and enjoys his company, she knows that his reputation makes it highly unlikely that he has noble intentions towards her. Christopher, of course, has no intention of marrying as he enjoys his debauched lifestyle with his equally debauched friends, and he has no intention of following his mother's plan for him. When he discovers that his mother is behind Isabel's actions he is horrified and his wonders if anything he had with Isabel was real. They will have to work together to overcome their pasts and their fears and find love.

This is a truncated review because I read this book about a month ago and I do not remember very many of the details, but I do remember that I swore off this entire series at the end because once again I could not get over how much of a man-hoe yet another Hawkins hero was. I am sick of illusions to group sex and orgies and exhibitionist displays with all of the Lords of Vice and heroes who do not successfully overcome or atone for their past behavior. Christian was only special in how slutty he was and there was nothing else about him that stuck out to me. Isabel was a bookworm who secretly wanted the dangerous bad boy but her self-sacrificing meekness when it came to her sister irritated me. There was a lot of lust between them but not very much sex and I really did not find it all that hot and thought it was a huge disappointment because Isabel and Christian had nothing else going for them. I also thought that there were far too many appearances of past couples, especially since I didn't really like their stories when I was reading them. The saving grace of this book was that it was fast paced, had some funny moments, and was incredibly short.

Rating: A fast-paced book that had it's moments but I was uninspired by the characters and thought that there was really nothing there to hold my interest.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Trouble at the Wedding

Trouble at the Wedding by Laura Lee Guhrke 112

Miss Annabelle Weaton is determined to marry into the aristocracy and has no illusion that her marriage will be one for love. Her father abandoned her and then left her a fortune on his death so she has no trouble catching an impoverished lord who's willing to sell his title to save the family coffers. The Earl of Rumsfield provides the perfect into a society that regards her as white trash because of her Mississippi background, but her uncle is determined to stop their marriage. He enlists the help of Christian De Quesne, the Duke of Scarborough. Christian has his own troubled past after his first marriage ended with his wife's suspicious death after he had abandoned her for the majority of their marriage. However, he is in need of funds and finds Rumsfield a pompous ass so he sets about undermining Annabelle's dedication. Sparks fly between them and Annabelle's confidence wavers about her upcoming marriage as she sees Rumsfield's arrogance and imagined that there might be passion and romance out there for her.

Christian does not plan to ever marry again but he cannot deny that there is something special about Annabelle and during a secretive late night out he knows he must stop the wedding at any cost. But when his actions lead to the end of Annabelle's plan to be accepted by society his family is there to force him to do the right thing. He knows that he will make a terrible husband so their engagement is only until Annabelle is settled into society and she can discretely break things off and save both their reputations. Their false engagement forces them to spend quite a bit of time together though and Christian finds himself confiding in her about private things he had thought long forgotten. As he watches Annabelle move seamlessly through the murky waters of London society he is forced to confront his feelings and realize that he doesn't want to risk losing Annabelle forever. And Annabelle discovers that being accepted by society is not worth giving up on the possibility of true love and together they must work to achieve what they want and find love.

Annabelle's motives were well explained and I admired that she went after what she wanted but it was impossible not to recognize how awful, unrealistic, and plain mercenary. That made it very difficult to like her or really respect her as she was so out of touch with her own needs and it took her so long to realize that her expectations were not really what she wanted. Her dismissal of her family's concerns seemed out of character for someone who was so family oriented and her naive assumption that she would be accepted by everyone after a wedding were more unlikeable traits. Christian's obsession with not getting married became old very quickly and while I liked that he was able to feel guilt over his own actions I thought that it was overdone and was a poor excuse for dragging the book on past the point where it should have been over. His motives were questionable at best and his actions to get the wedding cancelled risked her reputation and showed his carelessness. However, Christian and Annabelle did have quite a bit of chemistry between them and the lust was very obvious.

They spent a lot of time together, lots of arguing and refusing to admit their feelings for each other of course, but for a couple with such explosive attraction there is surprisingly little release as the there is very little sex and it is not that hot at all. They had a lot of fun together, they could be honest with each other and since both of them had different views on society it was really interesting as they each came to see things from the other's point of view and really showed how they would work so well together as a couple. There is very little realism in Annabelle's complete acceptance by society just because Christian claims they are engaged and I was a little taken aback by how his own family encouraged the match. She really was not ton material and I guess I am just over society matrons being blown away by American frankness. As usual Guhrke has a very fun and enjoyable pace and a great, easy to read writing style which I always find a pleasure to read, even when the book itself is not that engrossing however I am a little tired of reading the same story from her over and over.

Rating: Two characters I found unremarkable in a plot that was just a little too familiar and while it was easy to read it was rather bland; nothing wrong but nothing special.