Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Substitute Wife

The Subtitute Wife by Dallas Schulze 101 R

Cat Lang is not happy to be the bearer of bad news and she does not want to have to tell Luke Quintain that his fiance, her spoiled and beautiful semi-step-sister, Devon, has left him to go marry her high school sweetheart on a diary farm in Minnesota. Devon and Luke had had an agreement to marry because his very wealthy grandfather, Nick, had threatened to sell off the family winery if Luke did not marry by his 36th birthday so even though it wasn't just going to be a marriage in name only, he had no deeper feelings for her. Knowing the circumstances of the marriage, Cat offers herself up in Devon's stead and does not mention that she has actually been in love with Luke since Devon first brought him home. Luke is skeptical, especially because of the 15 year age difference between them, but he admits he is attracted to her and since he needs a wife and she presents it so rationally, he agrees. The two enter into a legal agreement, with the help of his best friend Keith, and he is stunned when she thinks the amount of money promised to her is too much and he wonders why she is agreeing to the marriage.

Cat has trouble fitting into Luke's high-class life and does not want to become one of "those women" who mooch off their husband so she continues to garden and drive her old car around, making Luke even more confused. The two have no trouble getting along in the bedroom and find that they even mesh well in other aspects of their lives and get along, have the same interests, and Cat hopes that Luke's feelings for her will grow and that their marriage will become real and he will forget that he plans to divorce her after a year. Cat's best friend Jack is a famous chef and with their marriage both Keith and Jack find themselves eager for new friends and Keith finds himself falling in love with Jack. Everything changes when Cat finds out that she is pregnant and Luke is suddenly terrified that his simple marriage contract is not so simple and Cat means so much more to him than he planned for. His newfound feelings scare Luke and he makes a stupid mistake that could cost him Cat and he will do anything to prove that he loves her and is worthy of the love she feels for him.

Cat is young and a little too quirky for my tastes, but a lot of that could admittedly be explained away by her age. In historicals it dos not bother me so much, but a 20 year-old contemporary heroine is a little too much for me to really get into, especially a 20 year old who has so much growing up to do. It really made me feel like she and Luke were in completely different places in their lives and that made it difficult for me to really understand how they could fall in love with each other and I did not see them as equals. While it is understandable for a 20 year old to not have her life figured out, I guess I'm judgmental and just don't think that someone who doesn't really even know what they want out of life can fall in love and make such life altering decisions. Cat's upbringing was unconventional and I felt like it might have made her more susceptible to falling for a father figure like Luke, which struck me as weird. Luke was a wealthy, rather spoiled, man and my opinion of him did not really change as the book went on.

Their relationship is very physical and that is pretty much the only area of their life together that doesn't have any hiccups. There is quite a bit of sex and it is pretty hot but nothing outrageous and it could definitely have been better, especially since they were so attracted to each other. Luke is so determined to keep distance between them that all of their happy moments are clouded with his fear that they are becoming to close. I imagine we're supposed to see how while he is the more mature age-wise, she is more mature overall because she accepts their relationship, and that this is what makes them more equal than their ages would suggest, but I do not get it. The end is amazingly awful with Luke doing something so stupid for such a stupid reason and I really wanted him to grovel and was disappointed at how easy Cat let him off. My favorite part of the book was the unexpected and romantic and just absolutely amazing romance between Keith, who has always thought he was straight, and Jack and while I understand why it was so short, I kind of wanted a little bit more from it.

Rating: A fun little book with two characters who I just did not think were compatible and a hero who was just too stupid in his refusal to admit he loved her.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Any Man of Mine

Any Man of Mine by Rachel Gibson 1230 L

Six years ago Autumn Haven had lost her mother and decided that a wild week in Las Vegas was just what she needed. Sam le Claire was in Vegas with his fellow Chinook hockey team members blowing off steam when he saw a woman on the dance floor and even though she wasn't his usual tall, skinny, top-haevy bimbo, he wanted her. The two spent 5 days together, checking off some of things on Autumn's list, and spending quite a lot of time getting crazy between the sheets and when Sam proposes they get married Autumn jumps on it, sure that she was found someone special. But Sam has second thoughts and Autumn wakes up alone and Sam files for divorce and she only sees him again after a paternity test proves that her son, Connor, is also Sam's. For the next five years the two agree not to be in the same room together but to try to do whatever is best for their son, even though Autumn feels that Sam spends enough time with Connor and Sam thinks that Autumn is a man-hating shrew. Sam has no trouble going back to his old womanizing party life and Autumn settles down to raise their son.

They reconnect at a wedding and in one large blowup Autumn lays down her feelings about the way Sam has been treating Connor and he decides that he will take a more active role in Connor's life. Autumn is worried that Sam's newfound father instincts will disappear soon and this colors all of her interactions with him and she finds that she is especially worried about the women in Sam's life. Sam can't help but admire the way that Autumn has been a single mother running a successful event planning business and he realizes that she is entitled to the poor opinion she had of him and that he had not been a good father. Despite the animosity that still simmers beneath the surface, the sexual attraction between them has never left and while Autumn is determined to keep their relationship purely sexual, Sam wants more; he wants a second chance. Autumn does not know if she can ever learn to trust Sam again but even she will admit that Sam has changed and the idea of them being a real family is very enticing. She realizes she has never stopped loving Sam and together they take one more leap for a chance at happiness.

Autumn was incredibly strong and capable and I liked that she had a job that brought her fulfillment and did not feel guilty over being a working mom and still managed to raise a very great kid. Her feelings about Sam were totally rational in my opinion and she was smart for wanting to avoid him and worrying about Connor's well being when Sam backed out on plans with him. Sam was a womanizer who spent half the book not really giving a shit about anything but his own pleasure with no thoughts to anyone, including his own son. He was really quite a jack-ass, constantly calling Autumn names just because she was mad at him and didn't seem to have any sympathy for what she went through after he abandoned her. Even at the end I did not get the sense that he had really changed in any way except as a father and he gave only a cursory thoughts to Autumn's very justifiable anger and he still seemed to view her as a shrew. I wish there had been more development of Sam and that he had honestly seemed to regret his actions towards Autumn and had done more to make up for it.

Their relationship was clouded by their past and their past played a very big part of them getting back together, although it seemed to be more important to Autumn than Sam. Sam gave lip service to it, but for the most part, it seemed like he just wanted Autumn to get over it and that bothered me. There were frequent flashbacks to their time in Vegas and I liked that Gibson made it clear that although their marriage was hasty, Autumn had a reason to believe that their could be a real relationship between them. There was a decent amount of sex, a lot of it taking place in the past, and while it was plenty hot I felt like it did not completely live up to expectations for people who were so attracted to each other. I really did not feel the connection between them and did not really understand how they fell in love with each other. They had a connection through their son but they had nothing in common and there was just no spark of anything other than sexual. Connor was a well written five year-old, very realistic and a fun little boy who was obviously loved.

Rating: I enjoyed the very fast and fun pace of the book but did not really "get" the romance between them and the one thing they had going for them, the sex, wasn't very well done either.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

An Improper Proposal

An Improper Proposal by Cheryl Bolen 1229

George Pembroke, Lord Sedgewick, was madly in love with his wife, Helene, and when she died giving birth to his son, Sam, he shut himself up and vowed never to love again. Two years later Sam is still not talking and everyone around him is telling George he should remarry and take more interest in his son, but he knows he is not ready. His sister's close friend, Sally Spenser, has been secretly in love with George for years and has expressed that through her dedication to the children he has semi-abandoned because they remind him of his wife. Finally, seeing, that he does need to do something for his children he agrees with his sister that he should marry Sally and proposes a marriage of convenience for the children's sake; a marriage that he has no plans to ever consummate. Sally knows what she is getting into but she hopes that there will one day be more to her marriage and she is excited that the beautiful little children she has come to love will be her own.

But many people do not believe that Sally is good enough for George, especially Sallys' childhood acquaintance, Rebecca Johnson, who vows to do whatever she can to make George regret choosing Sally over her. She enlists the help of one of her many low-class lovers, Ebinezeer, a stable-hand, to follow them to their country estate and wreak havoc. George and Sally grow closer once they move away from the city and George is removed from his fast friends, friends who encourage him to gamble and stay out late. Sally knows that George can go back to being the man he was when his wife was alive and her encouragement helps George become a better man and he starts taking an interest in his children again. That means he can't help but notice how much Sally loves them and how caring and kind she is and he is feelings he never planned on having again. It takes Rebecca's promised vengeance to force them to realize how much they each mean to each other and how neither of them want a marriage of convenience; they want a real marriage full of the love they have for each other.

Sally Spenser is a fun, outgoing woman with a very strong maternal instinct who sees the best that people can be and wants them to live up to their potential. She is supportive and loving of children who aren't hers and I admit I found it weird that she so completely accepted the children as hers. She came across as a little naive for agreeing to this marriage with a man that she loved and thinking that would be enough for her. A lot is made about her being insecure about her appearance and how George could never love her but then apparently his wife was similarly shaped to her so it seemed a little ridiculous. George was a man gripped by depression and while I liked that the book did not make his wife into a villain and he continued to love her even while falling in love with Sally, it was hard to admire a man who mired himself in gambling and vice while his children were starved for affection. He did make genuine attempts to improve himself during the course of the novel and in my opinion he succeeded and I do like when characters undergo some important development during a story.

Their relationship progressed from arguing over little things and being irritating to each other to falling in love in a very natural progression that very much impressed me. They spent a lot of time together, getting to know each other, falling in love, and working together to make each of them a better person. That was one of the best things about this book, and about romances in particular, when the characters each love the other so much that they want to become better people and that is certainly the case here. There is very little sex between them, and it is only at the end, and I did not find it particularly hot which was a shame because these two did seem to be so attracted to each other. The villainess side-plot was a little ridiculous and was wrapped up a little to quickly for my taste and I especially disliked how the bad girl was sexually active and really made to look like a slut and was denigrated for sleeping with people beneath her station. The worst part of this book, and it was a BAD part, was the writing; almost every page I found something completely ridiculous and lol bad and it really took away from my enjoyment of it.

Rating: An interesting romance between two people who were well suited for each other, but there was not enough sex and the writing was god-awful.

Friday, January 6, 2012


Valentine by Jane Feather 1227

Sylvester Gilbraith is heir to the Earl of Stonebridge but generations ago the Stonebridge family suffered a schism and since then the Gilbraith's had not been accepted, acknowledged, or even tolerated by the Earls. Sylvester had served in the army and during a battle he surrendered to the French and spent time in a French prison, but because he was hit with a bayonet he cannot remember the circumstances of his surrender. People in England believed he had surrendered unnecessarily because his friend was right behind him with reinforcements and he was prosecuted for cowardly behavior and even though he was acquitted most of London society has turned their back on him. His grandfather had no choice but to leave Stonebridge estate to Sylvester but a codicile in the will places a restriction on him; he must marry one of the old earl's beloved granddaughter's if he wants any of the Stonebridge fortune, otherwise it will be divided among the women of the family. Upon arrival at Stonebridge estates he quickly realizes that the only one of the young women who suits him is the spirited, and young, Theodora, Theo.

Theo has no intention of marrying a hated Gilbraith, but she cannot deny her attraction to Sylvester and she desperately wants to continue as master of the Stonebridge estate. Sylvester uses her attraction and her love for the land and its' people to convince her to marry him and promises that he will not continue to be a manipulative husband. Unfortunately for him Theo is incredibly headstrong and incapable of reigning in her controlling nature and wants to be involved in everything, including Sylvester's problems. She is hurt when she discovers that Sylvester kept the circumstances surrounding their marriage a secret but she still wants to make the marriage work, something she is finding more and more difficult as Sylvester continues to hide his life from her. When they go to London his past is right there confronting them and it becomes obvious that someone is trying to keep the truth about the battle hidden and Sylvester is determined to clear his name. Theo wants to help but doing so puts her in danger and Sylvester will put his own good name second after saving the life of the woman he loves.

Theo was great at running the estate and cared about her tenants and their well being but she was incredibly young, incredibly naive, and just a little too much for me. She threw little hissy fits about things that seemed inconsequential and then forgave him for his "betrayal" of not telling her about their marriage so easily. But the worst was when she was trying to figure out who wanted to harm him and did some amazingly dangerous things. Things that definitely crossed in to too stupid to live territory and made me lose whatever respect I had for her estate running abilities. Sylvester was manipulative and did lie to Theo and I felt like his attitude toward her were very paternalistic like he did not believe she could make decisions for herself. He was withdrawn but I admired his recognition that Theo's help would be really welcome on the estate. There relationship was heavily influenced by the age difference between them, she was 20 and he was 35 and it made for a rather awkward romance in my opinion. I wanted some times between them where they were working on the same level; working together.

There was some sex between them but it was annoying because all of the "affectionate" love making where they did it for mutual pleasure were just flowered over and the times when he was using it to manipulate her went into more detail. I found myself wondering several times throughout the book how much a character's realization that they are doing something wrong make up for them actually doing something wrong. Sylvester used sex several times throughout the book to end an argument or distract Theo and he knew he was doing it and promised not to do it again so I found his self-reflection nice, but it was not an admirable trait. Theo knew she was meddling and that it wasn't always the right thing to do but she continued to do it and for both characters I could not figure out why they continued to do things like this. The plot about Sylvester's cowardice charges was really interesting and I was really drawn into it and really wanted to discover what was going on. It wasn't a mystery because we were given insights into the villain's mind and I enjoyed that and felt like this aspect of the book was well done.

Rating: A not quite romantic relationship between them and I wish they'd worked better together with an interesting mystery/ side-plot.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Bride Wore Scarlet

The Bride Wore Scarlet by Liz Carlyle 1225

Anais de Rohan learned at an early age that she was destined for a life as a Guardian, protecting those who were blessed with "the Gift" and she spent her life training under a master for her future. Geoffrey, Lord Bassett, is one of the leaders of the St. James Society, a society where Guardians are trained, and he is not at all pleased that Anais is seeking entry into this completely male society but he admires that she refuses to give up. St. James society has recently learned that there is a little girl, Giselle Moreau who has the gift and since she has recently been taken in by her uncle, whose political motives and plans for the girls' future are suspect, Bassett has been called in to help get the girl and her mother Charlotte to England as quickly and quietly as possible. Anais knows she will have to prove herself to the society and she agrees to pose as Bassett's wife as the travel to Belgium to save the girl and living in such close quarters with Geoff poses its' own set of problems for Anais who believes that she is destined to marry an Italian because of her grandmother's predictions.

The situation in Belgium is even more dire than they had imagined as Giselle is kept in relative imprisonment inside her uncle's home and her mother, Charlotte, is almost constantly watched and has very little freedom. Anais and Bassett pretend to be harmless and a tad ridiculous Englishmen, befriend Charlotte, and hope that her uncle will regard them as harmless. Anais is surprised to discover that Bassett himself has the gift and that it haunted his childhood until he learned to control it. This startling confession brings them closer together and unites them as they work together to get everyone to safety. Training and living in such close confines brings the sexual tension that boils between them to a head and even while refusing to believe that Bassett could be the one for her she has no problem thinking of him as Mr. Right Now. Bassett knows they have a job to do but cannot help but think about the future and how he will convince Anais that he is the one she has been waiting for  and that together they can accomplish anything.

Anais is strong and confident and very independent but she was also realistic enough to realize when she needed to work with others, prove herself to others, and I like that she did not complain about her what she went through and just did it. She was in charge of herself and her body and I liked that she didn't apologize or have regrets about not being a virgin and went after what she wanted even if society wouldn't appreciate it without believing that she was going to get a marriage proposal out of it. She was accepting of help and worked well with others and looked after her own safety and wasn't scared of compromising and doing things purely to keep the peace. Geoff was strong but also not scared of compromising with Anais and recognized that she was just as strong and capable as him, but still felt like as the man he was responsible for her well being. They worked incredibly well together as they tried to save the women and the sex between them was really hot because they were both very physical and confident and not scared of physical intimacy outside of a relationship.

They obviously spent a lot of time together and while they did get to know each other very well, I felt like their knowledge of each other was in the context of the St. James society. Sure, they shared secrets about their pasts, but I would have liked to see how they interacted in the real world and how they would get along without the threat of danger or intrigue. While I felt like their relationship was predicated on the plot of the Society and the Gift I did not feel like the romance was overwhelmed; I felt like it was an equal part of the book and felt like Carlyle was very skilled at balancing two very strong plots. However that other plot just did not do it for me. I am not a fan of large intrigue and mystery plots in general and I really am not a fan of supernatural things like "the Gift" and I really don't like secret societies of men who have very important duties. I wish it could have just been about rescuing the girl and her mother from an admittedly very well written and interesting villain. I found myself confused by the names of other people in the story and did not like so many references to Carlyle's previous books.

Rating: A strong romance with two characters I really liked but I did not enjoy the background of the entire book.

Monday, January 2, 2012


Desired by Nicola Cornick 1224

Everyone in the ton thinks that Teresa Darent is a flibberty-jibbit and she her three marriages, all ending in her being widowed, have done nothing to combat that persona. Owen Purchase, American pirate and English outlaw, has recently come into the title of Viscount Rothbury and has joined Lord Sidmouth, leader of the home office, to try put a stop to the radical movement, especially the cartoon artist Jupiter. Unfortunately Teresa's reputation has put at risk of threats and blackmail and when one of her late husband's creditors comes calling he gives her a terrible choice; let him marry her 15 year-old stepdaughter or he will ruin her with rumors and innuendo. Having heard rumors that Owen is unable to perform sexually Teresa decides the best option is for her to marry him and become respectable. Owen is not flattered by her proposition but having an inkling that she might be the cartoonist Jupiter he agrees because he desires to protect her from Sidmouth and her stepdaughter from a forced marriage but Owen does not agree to a marriage of convenience and decides to "court" Teresa.

Teresa is unprepared for the onslaught of visits and carriage rides and trips and finds that marriage to Owen could be so much more than she was expecting. However, Teresa is still haunted by the ghosts of her previous marriages; her first husband whom she had a friendly if unconsummated marriage with left her with the need to take up the mantle of reform politics, her third husband who spent their marriage in a drunken stupor but who trusted her with his estate and children, and her second husband who was a lecher and left her unable to bear intimacy or physical contact with others. Owen's courtship makes Teresa wonder if she can move beyond what happened in her past and take control of her life. There are still some secrets Owen is hiding, like his own past with Teresa's sister, Joanna, when he fancied himself in love with her. While Teresa feels betrayed by his secrets Owen knows that he is in love with Joanna and when Lord Sidmouth comes to haul her off he cannot risk the woman he loves. Joanna hopes it is not too late to confess her feelings and make a stand to save her future with the man she loves.

Teresa's involvement in politics was something I very much admired, especially because she wasn't scared to completely throw herself in them and try to fix things all the way. Most romance novel heroines will open an orphanage to put a bandage on the problem but wouldn't dare to look at the causes behind why so many children are being abandoned. I did not feel like this aspect of her life was fully developed however, just kind of thrown in as an example of her relationship with her first husband. Her second husband was admittedly an awful man and I know he did some truly horrible things to her but I thought completely shutting herself off to intimacy and being so scared of touch took things a little too far. However, Owen's attempts to woo her by truly courting her were so much fun and were so beautiful because it made it clear he was expecting something more from her and knew she was capable of so much more. It really made their relationship seem real and gave them a really good opportunity to get to know each other and showed how well they worked together.

Owen was really a typical romance novel hero with an overinflated need to protect women and a strong desire for the heroine. The sexual tension really sizzled between these two, even while Teresa wanted to deny it and thought herself incapable of fulfilling that part of a relationship. He was so patient with her and worked with her to move beyond her fears and even though there was not a lot of actual sex happening between them it was both hot and romantic because it was something they both worked towards and showed how far they had both come. This story really was about their relationship and how it progressed very naturally and I really enjoyed that but I wish the little hiccup about his feelings for his sister had lasted a little longer because as it was it just seemed like an excuse to prolong the book a little since it was so short and brushed aside so easily. Lord Sidmouth made an okay villain considering his specter disappeared during the courtship and only reappeared after they had fallen in love and Owen's little self-sacrifice just came across as ridiculous rather than heroic to me.

Rating: A very engrossing read with a heroine who I could really support but Owen was nothing special and there were some little problem throughout the book.