Friday, December 28, 2012
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
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
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
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.