Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Husband Hunt

The Husband Hunt by Lynsay Sands L

Lisa Madison is determined to marry this season and while she admits that her number one choice is her longtime family friend, Robert Langley, she knows that it might be time to give up her childhood crush and move on with her life. She believes that if she pretends to no longer care for him than Robert will be forced to realize his own feelings for her and sets about trying to take the ton by storm. When Lisa goes to visit her friend, Mrs. Morgan, she is confronted by the demons from her past as one of the men who was in on the plot to marry her and her sister's and kill them off for their money, is still out there and he is determined to get ahold of Lisa. She is nearly raped and kidnapped but Robert manages to come to her rescue just in time and from that moment on he vows never to leave her alone and put her at risk. Lisa's sister's and brother-in-law's see an opportunity to get Lisa and Robert together a lot so that they will both come to realize their feelings for each other.

But Robert is convinced that the men in his family are cursed to have unhappy marriages as his grandmother and his mother both cheated on their husbands and he believes that whatever marriage he has will be destined to end in heartbreak and infidelity. So to prevent The Suitor from hurting Lisa Robert appoints himself his guardian, since he is apparently more suited for this than a professional, and has trouble watching her become the belle of the ball as she is courted by a number of eligible men. He is forced to realize that Lisa is not the innocent and childish little girl with stars in her eyes, but a beautiful and mature young woman who will make some man a wonderful wife and he begins to wonder if that man will be home. However, he still can't risk an unhappy marriage and Lisa fears that Robert will never come around to the idea of marriage and time is running out as The Suitor becomes more desperate and makes one last ditch effort to make Lisa, and her money, his own. Robert must confront his own demons and fears in order to save the woman he loves.

Lisa was stupid. It sounds harsh and blunt but within 25 pages I knew that I was not going to like Lisa. She was naive, annoyingly so, but convinced that she was worldly and that lead her into lots of avoidable danger to the point where I couldn't help but lose all sympathy for her. her naivete made me question how she could truly know her own feelings in regards to Robert and equally, how anyone could actually fall in love with her in return. Robert spent a good part of this novel as the veritable dog in the manger, refusing to admit he has any feelings for Lisa but growling (literally) at any man who even dared to look at her. I know this is a romance novel staple, but I just did not buy into it in this novel because it seemed so superficial and because the reason behind his fear of marriage was just so ridiculous. There are quite a lot of ridiculous motives behind heroes' fears of marriage in romance and I guess I am just not amused by ones that show so little thought behind them, like the author just picked something out of a hat.

Needless to say a relationship between a childish moron and a jealous moron was not destined for greatness. Almost all of their interactions seemed to involve him being angry at her for either being in the presence of another man or doing something to put her in danger and they did not come across well in either situation. Their relationship was based on the feelings she had sustained for him from her childhood and his dick being attracted to her. The sex was infrequent, not that hot, and as with most of this book I could have done without it. Her sister's and their husband's were found on every other page and I wondered if this book was written in order to show the reader how great they were all getting along. The Suitor was a holdover from her previous books in the series and there was a bit of information dump to explain things. He also provided plenty of opportunities for Lisa to showcase her stupidity and really was just an excuse to get Robert and Lisa together and only showed up at the most shockingly convenient times.

Rating: An unpleasant read, but it was fast and there were humorous moments even if the characters were impossible to like.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Her Husband's Harlot

Her Husband's Harlot by Grace Callaway

Lady Helena is swept off her feel by Morgan, the Marquess of Harteford, and she sees a connection with the Lord with the shady past, that she has never felt before. She has always been somewhat of a wallflower and has never been confident of her voluptuous shape and believes that Morgan sees the real her behind what is presented to society and that he desires her. Morgan grew up on the streets of London, believing himself to be a bastard, until the Marquess of Harteford claims him as his legitimate heir and leaves Morgan a thriving estate and the title. He does not fit in with society and feels a connection with the woman sitting in the corner and knows that with her he can finally find somewhere to belong. But their wedding night ends in disaster as both of them are nervous and Morgan fears hurting his wife and Helena fears that Morgan will find her unattractive or find her to be too passionate. Afterwards Morgan tries to avoid being around his wife, convinced he is not good enough for the gently reared young lady with his uncouth, street ways.

Desperate to have a real relationship with her husband Helena follows him to a brothel where she poses as a lady of the evening and it is very clear that they have passion between them. Helena hesitates to reveal who she is however, wanting to bring some of that passion to their marriage bed now that she knows it is there. Morgan is also having problems at his work as the shipping company he owns has been suffering from some small, but significant losses that have been adding up. He hires runners to look into what is happening but dos not want to reveal that the person also knows secrets from Morgan's past that could put him in jail. He is more determined than ever to keep his distance from Helena, as she is pure and noble and he does not want to taint her or put her in danger. However, Helena is having none of this and wastes no time in showing Morgan exactly how well they suit and that she definitely does not mind when is less than gentlemanly. Together they can face down the man who is out to harm Morgan and the entire ton and prove their love.

I love the insecure heroine who doesn't fit the in with everyone's idea of beauty and Helena was a perfect example of this and that made it so much better when she took such a huge risk by going after her husband and putting her reputation and her marriage on the line. Helena really fought for what she wanted and wanted so desperately to save her marriage and have the relationship she imagined for them when they were courting. It was romantic and brave and wonderful all at the same time. While her refusal to reveal her identity to him did prolong the novel, which I often abhor, I felt like it was done really well since she wanted to strengthen their relationship for real and not base it on trickery. Morgan was haunted by the demons of the past, which were certainly very real and I felt like his back ground was real and could conceivably have happened (unlike some heroes whose stories of horror stretch even my willingness to overlook things). His motives to protect Helena were admirable, but they were one part of the book that annoyed me because he would not let it go even when it was obvious it was no longer necessary.

I wish that Morgan and Helena had spent more time together, especially more time where they both knew who the other was. There relationship progressed well throughout the book but it did jump in a little in the middle because they were both already in love with each other at the beginning and sometimes it felt like the thing they were working on was their sexual relationship as that was the part that was the most damaged. And wow! The sex was super hot, pretty frequent, and used some quite kinky terminology- this book could definitely pass for an erotic novel. As with the rest of their interactions I wish that more of the sex had taken place when they knew who the other was and it seemed like once Morgan knew she wasn't a prostitute he behaved differently in bed. The plot involving the stolen goods and blackmailing Morgan over his past started out interesting and while it had some interesting twists and turns I felt like it definitely served to unnecessary prolong the novel and provided a rather lame roadblock to the happily ever after.

Rating: A very enjoyable book with a wonderful heroine, a well written romance, an interesting side plot, and lots of really hot sex.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

She Tempts the Duke

She Tempts the Duke by Lorraine Heath

When the Duke of Keswick dies, his brother, Robert, imprisons his 3 young sons in the dungeon, ostensibly for their protection, but young Sebastian, Tristan, and Rafe know that there is something fishy going on. When their friend, Mary Wynn-Jones, overhears Uncle David talking about murder she frees the boys and they disappear into the forest leaving whispers and a haunting mystery that takes the ton by storm. Sebastian vows that one day he would return and claim his birthright with the help of his brothers. Sebastian joins the army and works his way up to become a way hero, even if he is scarred on one side of his face, while his twin Tristan becomes a naval captain and the youngest, Rafe, becomes a prominent figure in the London underground, running a prosperous gambling hall and brothel. Uncle Robert is horrified when the 3 return to claim their birthright, but Mary is overjoyed to find that her three childhood friends are alright after years with no word from them. Mary is now engaged to Lord Fitzwilliam but that doesn't stop her from sticking up for Sebastian when the ton turn on him.

She is determined to stick by Sebastian's side no matter what everyone says about him and even when it becomes obvious that someone is after Sebastian's life. Her fiance is not pleased by her actions and her own family discourages her because they want to see her married off but she will not back down. One night when Sebastian is attacked and wounded she moves into his family house and her reputation is at risk when her fiance politely calls of the wedding. Sebastian knows it is up to his family to make things right but he worries that he is not good enough for her with his scares, his dark past, and the fact that someone out there is trying to kill him. None of that matters to Mary as all the feelings she had for Sebastian when they were younger come to the surface and she realizes that her childhood crush has become so much more. Their marriage brings hope to both of them even while they know they must find Sebastian's uncle and determine if he is the man who is behind the attacks. Together they will overcome their fears about themselves and find a life together.

I was intrigued by the idea of childhood sweethearts who reconnect later in life after going through a bunch of ups and downs. In that regard this book did not disappoint at all as I felt like there was a really strong connection between Sebastian and Mary that was kindled when they were teenagers and blazed when they became adults. The years of separation really served to nurture their feelings and it was clear that it was always lurking just below the surface and there was a specific moment when Sebastian realized that it was a connection to Mary that had kept him going through all those years, that made their relationship so satisfying to read about. I cannot put my figure precisely on how Heath pulled it off because it was so subtly done, but I really felt like these two belonged together and that they truly had been destined to be together which I don't normally feel. As with most Heath books there was some sex, it was romantically written and meshed well with the story and the development of the relationship but it was not super sexy or hot.

Heath sets herself apart as an author because she took Mary, a character with do-gooder and other assorted traits that would normally drive me nuts, and turned me into a woman I really admired and was motivated to "root" for. She stuck by Sebastian through everything, including some situations that she knew would lead to her being ruined, and helped him when needed, supported him, and loved him. Sebastian was a little too tortured for me and while I felt like his feelings were justified because of his life, I just never really go for people who's angst and worry and torment borders on self-pity, especially when it is such an important part of his character. Sebastian's obsession with regaining hi ancestral home alienated Mary and I enjoyed the angst and turmoil that sprang from that desire interfering with his relationship with Mary. I was glad it didn't become the focal point of the book and that the hunt for finding Lord David and bringing him to justice was an important part of the book but did not take over the book.

Rating: Heath shows herself to be a very skilled writer with a romance I could not resist and a heroine I loved, but a hero was just a little too pained for me.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Secrets of an Accidental Duchess

Secrets of an Accidental Duchess by Jennifer Haymore

Olivia Donovan immediately catches the eye of Maxwell Buchanan, Marquis of Hasley, and heir to the Duke of Wakefield, with her china doll looks and immediately noticeable self-assurance. He cannot resist taking the wager the Marquis of Fenwicke poses; he will seduce within six months or owe Fenwicke 1000 pounds and if he wins Fenwicke will walk around in his shirtsleeves for a week. He and Fenwicke have always been antagonists and even though he doesn't intend to claim his victory he is too taken with the idea of besting the horrible man. He decides to cash in on his connection to Olivia's brother-in-law and accompany the family to their country estate in Sussex where he can woo Olivia at his leisure away from the watchful eye of society. A childhood bout of malaria, which resurfaces on occasion, means her family is very protective, perhaps overprotective even, and while not understanding precisely why everyone is so concerned with Olivia's welfare, Max finds himself the only one encouraging Olivia's adventures.

Olivia finds she enjoys someone who doesn't treat her like a patient or a child and finds it so easy to confide in Max about her life. Max too is surprised that he is enjoying himself immensely and the bet is becoming something he is ashamed of and wants no part of it anymore. Meanwhile Olivia's sister, Jessica, has befriended their neighbor, Beatrice, who happens to be the Marquis of Fenwicke's abandoned wife and it is not long before everyone realizes that Beatrice is an abused spouse. Olivia finds herself wrapped up in the possibilities that Max presents; a life she had never expected and intimacy she had never imagined. The two embark on a passionate affair and Max is determined to prove that he is good enough for the beautiful, charming, and treasured Olivia, but before he can he inherits the Dukedom. In London Fenwicke reappears and it is clear that he holds a grudge against Max for Max's successes with a woman who turned him down. Everyone in the family must work to put an end to Fenwicke in order to save his wife and provide a future for Olivia and Max.

Olivia really came across as kind of an undeveloped character for me with nothing special and I felt like her illness was just a poor attempt to make her interest and illicit empathy for her. I liked her sister jessica much better, especially once Jessica took such an interest in Beatrice and really fought for her friend's well-being. Olivia apparently possessed immense attraction because everyone was "drawn" to her even though she was arguably not the most attractive of the Donovan sisters and I am not a fan of characters who just magically attract other people. I am not an outdoors person and since Olivia seemed only interested in outdoor activities, since she was confined indoors for so long, I did not really relate to her. I easily forgave Max for making the bet with Fenwick as he quickly showed himself to be an intelligent, well behaved gentleman who really was a nice guy even if he did have a rakehell past and some hell-raising days behind him. Unfortunately, he was not as quick to forgive himself, and I felt like I was constantly being hit with his own self-recrimination which I did not enjoy.

I will admit that Olivia and Max worked really well together and even though it took them quite a while to actually meet and be friends and begin their relationship, once it got started I really felt a connection between them. They had a lot in common and they enjoyed each other's company and they certainly had a lot of chemistry between them. There was some sex, it was really not too hot, and I will admit that after her debut, which admittedly set a very high standard, I have found myself disappointed with Haymore's sex scenes. They just fell flat and just not in keeping with a romance novel that claims the characters have passion between them; I'd almost rather they not have any written scenes than lukewarm scenes. The plot involving Fenwick sustained my interest halfway as I was intrigued by what was happening with his wife and how they were going to protect her but his supposedly longstanding grudge against Max just seemed ridiculous and couldn't hold my interest because it seemed haphazardly constructed. I did like that previous characters were present and it didn't bother me since I liked those characters.

Rating: A readable, if not precisely enjoyable novel, that was far too long and moved slowly and while the characters were well suited I did not particularly care for them or their relationship.