Saturday, April 28, 2012

How to Ravish a Rake

How to Ravish a Rake by Vicky Dreiling

Amy Hardwicke realizes that this is probably her last season and the last opportunity to find a husband before she has to either accept life living with her parents or marry the boring local curate. Luckily she has made some new friends recently who are more outgoing than her wallflower companions and she has begun to attract attention from members of the ton because of her dress designs. Will Darcett has spent his life running around Europe, staying as far away from his large and very loud family as possible and his return home has not been all he expected. His family makes it clear that he will no longer be financially supported as he runs around carousing and he is furious at the way they are trying to control him. In a fit of crazy he goes to a club and gambles far more than he is able to spend and even though his brother offers to pay of the debt in exchange for him staying in England, he wants to pay it himself and the quickest way to do that is to marry a dowry.

Amy has no intention of falling for the Devil, a man with a horrible reputation as she does not trust him and does not, but her dowry makes her irresistible to Will. She sees through his scheme and is more determined than ever to keep her distance and succeeds admirably as her dress designing takes off and men of the ton begin to notice her. An accident lands the two of them in a very compromising position and Will and Amy have to admit that they have no choice but to marry, however Amy does not plan to succumb to Will's seduction before she is sure he has completely reformed. They enter an agreement that Will will court her and they will postpone the consummation of their marriage but they will still enjoy certain aspects of a physical relationship. But Amy has not told Will that she is receiving money for her dress designs and Will has not told her that he was originally interested in her for her money and the guilt is haunting both of them. They both know that they are falling in love but don't know if their relationship can survive the lies and only when the truth is revealed can they have their happily ever after.

I really liked Amy because of the transformation she went through from wallflower to being well liked, especially because it didn't come super easy and she was nervous and scared and because she didn't become a darling of the ton, rather more realistically, she became well liked and more accepted. Her feelings about her change were so well written and made me love her for it. She wanted love and her determination to stay away from him was a great idea even while it was rather naive since she was so obviously attracted to him. I admired the way she stood up for herself during the marriage arrangements and afterwards when she made it clear that she was not going to give in to his seduction merely because they were married. She wanted a real relationship with Will and when I truly thought about it I realized that her desire for trust was more realistic than a heroine that just fell in love with her husband because they were married. I especially liked how she did truly dedicate herself to her marriage, even while she was working on making it stronger and stood up for her husband.

Will was a rake who reformed himself with the love of a good woman and her trust and faith and willingness to stand up for him was what gave him the strength to become a better person. Will and Amy spent a lot of time together throughout the novel and he spent quite a lot of that courting her and it made it clear that there was a real connection between them and that they had a strong relationship. The sex was pretty hot, nothing super special, but because of the strong bond between them it was even better. The both had secrets from each other and while I understood that Dreiling was trying to make it clear that they were both in the wrong I felt like her secret, accepting money for her dress designs, I felt like his, trying to marry her for her money, was far worse. So when they had the inevitable falling out and problems over these it was frustrating for me and I didn't really buy into it and thought it was just a little ridiculous. Past characters made appearances but they weren't overwhelming and the focus always remained on Will and Amy.

Rating: This was a super fun and fast read with lots of good times between the characters and wonderful romantic development.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Rogue by Any Other Name

A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean

Matthew, the Marquess of Bourne swore revenge against his former guardian, Lord Langford, when Langford bested him in a card game and took everything that was not entailed. Lady Penelope Marbury, Matthew, and Tom, Lord Langford's son, were childhood playmates and Tom and and Penelope both felt betrayed when Matthew dropped out of their lives after the death of his parents and once he was disgraced Penelope knew she would have to forget about Matthew. But when Langford loses Matthew's estate in a card game to Penelope's father, who subsequently attaches it to her dowry, Matthew makes a quick reappearance in her life, determined to gain back what belongs to him. He kidnaps Penelope in the dark of night and keeps her in his country house overnight until she is thoroughly ruined and her father has no choice but to agree to a marriage. He agrees to ensure no scandal attaches itself to Penelope's sisters because of their marriage in exchange for proof that Tom is illegitimate because he knows it would ruin Langford.

Penelope remembers the boy she used to be friends with and cannot understand how he has changed so much and why he is suddenly so willing to throw away the second chance he has been given and goes along with the marriage. Penelope and Matthew make a deal that he will not seduce her right away, and instead he will court her. She hopes that his scandalous behavior will rub off on her but she quickly realizes that Matthew is content to let her stay at home while he goes about his life exactly as he wants now that he has the estate he has longed for for so long. She takes matters into her own hands and follows him to the gambling establishment and he is horrified and yet intrigued by the wife who is nothing like he expected. She is bold and adventurous and he quite likes this side to her. However, he remains unwilling to give up his desire for revenge and this puts quite a strain on his relationship with Penelope, who believes his thirst for vengeance is poisoning him. They both must decide how much the past affects their future and how they can make a life for themselves.

This was the story of two people who had been in love with each other years ago but their age had prevented them from realizing it and they had to find each other again and get to know each other before they realized they had been there the whole time. Unfortunately that wasn't really fleshed out in the book and I didn't get a sense of true longing from afar that was just now coming to fruition and I also did not think that either Penelope or Matthew got to know the present person enough to realize they were in love. The two spent very little time together and for a majority of the book Matthew was downright rude, if not mean, to Penelope. I understood that he was supposed to be this big tortured hero who had dark motives because of his past but I wanted a lot more softness to him and perhaps a bigger transformation by the end of the book if I wanted to believe that he truly had changed and was a happy enough person to settle into a loving future.

Penelope was naive and kind of a wet blanket, unknowingly pining for a man she hadn't seen or spoken to in years and subconsciously sabotaging all of her potential relationships. Maybe if she had realized she loved Matthew it would have been better, but it made her came across as rather unintelligent. I also could not understand how she came to love Matthew after the way he treated her. There relationship just didn't inspire me and I wanted more happiness from them and more cheerfulness because they just seemed to be always worried about his desire to destroy his former friend. There was some pretty hot sex between them and I felt like that was one of the stronger elements of their romance. The plot to destroy his enemies was obviously well integrated into the story as it was really a central theme and served to bring them together. However, I was not a fan of it aside from how it brought them together and felt like it started to become an excuse to create a problem between them in order to keep the novel going.

Rating: This book was a fast read, but it wasn't precisely fun, and I felt like the relationship was rather gloomy even if it did improve as the book went on.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Confessions from an Arranged Marriage

Confessions from an Arranged Marriage by Miranda Neville

Minerva Montrose is a promising young debutante with high ambitions for herself and a determination to marry an intelligent future politician who she can help in his chosen career with her own knowledge and strength. Lord Blakeney comes from just such a political family as his father, a Duke, is head of their reform party and is very influential in those circles. Unfortunately Blakeney does not fit in well with his family, barely scraping by in school and spending his life in dissolution until the Duke is forced to cut him off and Blakeney heads to the country to learn how to run an estate and to avoid scandal. Upon his return he comes face to face with society's disapproval and in a drunken stupor mistakes Minerva for a far more scandalous woman and the compromising position they find themselves in forces marriage. Minerva is horrified but believes that with the connections of her new father-in-law she can turn Blakeney into a politician and possible create the life she had always hoped to live. Blakeney is upset at the way that things have turned out and does not know how he can ever live up to his new wife's expectations.

However he harbors a major secret that prevents him from ever moving in the circles that Minerva expects; he is dyslexic at a time when the disorder is not recognized and sufferers are treated as imbeciles. He has worked hard to cover up his inabilities and the only person who he has told is his former friend Gideon, who has since come to blackmail him into keeping his silence. Minerva cannot understand how her husband, who she is quickly coming to see possesses far more intelligence and charm than he has let anyone guess, could be so uninterested in the world around him and on the political influence that his father could pass on to him. He is convinced that if she were to learn the truth about him the trust and the feelings that have grown between them will end but he underestimates his wife and before he is even aware she knows she is out defending him and doing all she can to help the man she loves. Blakeney had never imagined that a woman could love him like Minerva and suddenly he sees a real future for himself- a future with Minerva by his side.

I really liked a politically active heroine, especially at a time when females were not really that involved in politics and that she had causes and knew what she was talking about and didn't just give lip service. I liked that she had expectations for herself and wanted a certain life and was not ashamed of it. She was incredibly intelligent, she was dedicated but I wish we had seen more of her from a non-political, non- scheming perspective. Blakeney was completely un-political and I couldn't help but wonder if I should disrespect a grown man, with so much power to wield, could ignore the well being of his country. His dyslexia was really well integrated into the story and explained a lot about how he operated and I really liked that it was explored early on and not a big startling reveal at the end. I cannot imagine what it would have been like to have something like dyslexia before it was diagnosed and the stigma that came with it and I think Neville did an incredible job of realistically exploring how someone in Blakeney's position would have responded to his predicament.

I really enjoyed how much time Blakeney and Minerva were together and I would say the majority of the book was about them and their relationship even when it did not seem like it. They spent a lot of time together and I liked reading about how their mutual feelings of mild dislike progressed to respect and love through getting to know each other and they each opened the other up to new possibilities. I really felt like this was two amazing people who together became even more amazing thanks to the other and that makes for the best kind of romance novel. There was a decent amount of sex in the book, they were very attracted to each other, and there was a really nice sexual tension throughout the book and it was fairly hot if not scorching. There was a blackmail plot that kind of made random appearances and I felt like it was rather awkwardly done but it did not take away from the story at all and showed how great Minerva and Blakeney worked together as a team.

Rating: Another knock out book from Neville who has a talent for writing characters and romances that I fall in love with.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Her Secondhand Groom

Her Secondhand Groom by Rose Gordon R

Patrick Ramsey, Viscount Drakely, is overwhelmed by caring for his 3 daughters and while he knows he needs to do something, he is not sure what. Juliet Hughes is used to caring for her family's many children and when she meets Patrick neither is shown in the best light. His carriage breaks down and she brings his daughters back to her family house and Patrick is shocked by how much fun they had with Miss Juliet and immediately decides to go an make her father an offer. Juliet realizes that her father owes Patrick money since her father borrowed it to send her to London for a season and she has felt guilty for wasting her father's money ever since. When she hears about the proposal she is shocked until she realizes that Patrick thinks her very pretty younger sister is the young woman that his daughter's loved and believes that he is marrying her. Juliet decides to play a trick on Patrick and go through with the marriage with a heavy veil, wrongly believing that he will reveal her face before the "I Do's" and is horrified when she finds herself well and truly married.

Patrick is angry when he realizes a trick has been played on him but he is also aware that he is just as much to blame as him. Deciding to keep Juliet on as his children's "motherness" he believes the best thing for everyone to do is just to move on with their life. Suddenly it is revealed that Juliet and Patrick have many of the same friends in common and they were all featured in previous Rose Gordon novels (!) and they all have decided to make frequent appearances to offer lots of advice. It is clear to everyone that Rose and Patrick are perfect for each other even though they seem to do nothing but fight and cannot agree on anything. Juliet is determined not to let her feelings for Patrick affect her relationship with her new children, whom she has very quickly come to love but doesn't think Patrick will ever get over his feelings for his deceased wife or the fears he inherited after she died in childbirth. Suddenly all is made well during an epiphany that his wife was actually an evil bitch and he's wasted his feelings for her and he can now love Juliet and luckily she loves him too!

Juliet is relatable because she was described as average-looking and I enjoyed her desire to work with little children and make her parents proud and her very genuine love for her siblings. I also rather liked her sense of humor in pulling the wedding trick on Patrick and while it wasn't realistic, it was funny and a romance novel so therefore okay. However I am always a little weirded out by heroines who so quickly fall in love with the heroes children and immediately come to regard those children as their own. Patrick was certainly overbearing but he was able to admit his mistakes and was obviously looking out for the best interests of his children and did want to make his marriage work. His fears about childbirth made sense because of what he had gone through but as the book went on he underwent some really bizarre changes in his feelings towards his former wife. She was a wonderful woman and then slowly we came to realize that she was manipulative and a cold fish in bed and then ended with the discovery that she "gave up" and basically died to make Patrick feel guilty about her death and his manly desires.

Their relationship centered on lots of arguments and I could probably count on one hand the number of friendly interactions they had between them and this was taken as a good sign by their friends. It felt like a new problem sprung up between them around every corner and every time they resolved one issue a new one would spring up and some of them were just ridiculous. There was a fairly decent amount of sex between them and it was surprisingly hot given the rest of the book and how there really did not seem to be much passion between them early on. A spoiler here illustrates one of my major problems with the book: Patrick always wore condoms during sex to prevent pregnancy and during a discussion with her friends there was a discussion about the lack of mess and she had no idea what they were talking about but they just told her to ask Patrick. One: She was naive. Two: Her friends were mean and treated her like she wasn't even married. Three: Patrick lied to her. Four: The friends made far too frequent appearances.

Rating: An unsatisfying book that seemed to have so much potential until about halfway through when the friends appeared and their relationship dissolved into arguments.