Friday, February 22, 2013
Lily St. Claire grew up the daughter of the most infamous "french" courtesan in London, becoming a pickpocket after her mother's death for "Handsome" Tom Beaumont until finally being rescued by the theatrical St. Claire family. Trying to join the family business, Lily gives a disastrous performance as Juliet and is comforted by a handsome stranger, before putting aside her dreams of the stage and marrying a boring grocer. Years later Lily is widowed and helping her family open a new gambling house, the Devil's Fancy, when her eye is once again court by her handsome stranger. She is horrified to learn that he is Lord Aidan Huntington since there has been a feud between their family's since an ancestor of the Huntington's married and abandoned a St. Claire woman. Aidan cannot believe his good fortune in finding his beautiful mystery lady from the theatre and has no clue that their two family's are supposed to be enemies. He decides to rekindle their romance and uses every opportunity to find time to be alone with Lily, trying to convince her to give in to her passion once more. But Lily is terrified of her feelings, scared that she will end up just like her mother and that Aidan will use her and then leave her.
But Aidan proves himself to be kind and attentive, allowing Lily to move their relationship at her own pace, and Lily finds that she does not want to deny her natural passion for long. She finds she can open up and do everything in her wildest imagination with such an adventurous and willing partner and she can finally come to grips with the legacy her mother left her. There is still the matter of his standing in society and their family's feud, but everything is thrown into disarray when Tom Beaumont shows up back in town and makes it clear that he wants Lily for his own and he is willing to use whatever means necessary to achieve his ends. Aidan is not about to let Lily get away from him again and just when he thinks things have been settled, Lily pulls away from him, concerned that he has betrayed her by searching through her drawers for a friends' letters. Aidan knows that Lily is the woman for him and he must prove to her that nothing can ever get in the way of his love for her and she will learn that when it comes to love, social standing means nothing.
Lily's past played a huge role in who she was in a person and I really enjoyed a female character with so much depth to her, in a sense having the traditional roles in a romance novel reversed as she was the one with a little darkness in her soul. I really admired her strength and how she was also insecure and scared at times, but was willing to ask for help and admit her own faults to herself. She was dedicated to her family and was truly a big help to them and her life had a real purpose; she did something, she worked- and that is something I really like from a heroine. Aidan lacked all the depth of Lily and existed totally on the surface as a gambler, a wastrel, a womanizer and every other dissolute name in the book who feels the pressure from his family to marry and does his best to live down to everyone's expectations. He really was no different than almost every other romance novel hero, but it stood in stark contrast with Lily who really was such a complex, likeable, and memorable character. The best part about Aidan was his dedication to Lily and how, when things got difficult, he never turned away from her and was always there to help her.
I really did not feel like there was that much of a relationship between Aidan and Lily and really wished there had been more genuine interactions between the two of them. There was a lot of sex, a lot, and it was quite kinky and hot, even if it did seem like the author was just throwing some mild kink in there haphazardly. I wish they had more non-sexy times together for me to really see how they were together. There were a lot of side plots going on in this story and while they all contributed to the story in some way it quickly go ta little overwhelming and I was not a fan of them. There was the problem of the love letters from Aidan's friend that he was sent to collect and while there was a little argument, it was quickly forgotten and made me wonder why it was even there. There was the family feud, which was discussed at times and forgotten at others and seemed like a poor excuse to create some drama. The problem with Tom Beaumont was the most important and meaningful of the side plots and it did contribute greatly to the overall flow of the novel and I liked that it did not take away from the romance, indeed may have contributed to it, but I got a little bit tired of it when it wouldn't end.
Rating: A very sexy book with a remarkable heroine, but a rather bland hero, side plots that meandered, and a lack of true romantic development.
Friday, February 15, 2013
Isadora Temple has lived with her aunt and uncle since her parents' death and she comforts herself as she works herself to the bone for her cheap family with the knowledge that she will soon come into her inheritance and be able to start her own life. At a house party Lord Julian Rowley, heir to the Duke of Beckworth, mistakes her bedchamber for that of the fantastically beautiful, and very married, Lady Claire Bottomly, and the two are caught in a very compromising position. Sensing the desperation of the situation, Izzy claims that she and Julian are lovers and their betrothal is quickly announced. Izzy and Julian decide that they will go along with the betrothal for a few months, until Izzy comes into her inheritance, and then they will quietly call things off and go on with their lives. This suits both their purposes, as Julian's grandfather is threatening to cut him out of the line of succession, and his father thinks that the plain spinster will be good for his rakehell son. But Julian had not counted on being so drawn to his very proper fiance or for her whole hearted defense of him to his very mean father. For the first time Julian discovers what it would be like to have someone like him and think of him as more than a waste and decides that he doesn't want to fake this betrothal.
Izzy does not ever want to become some man's property and certainly does not want to marry out of necessity, but when she discovers that her family has frittered away her inheritance, she is horrified and does not know quite what to do with herself. Julian is upset as well, but sees this as an opportunity to convince her to marry him and he is willing to use every weapon at disposal, including seduction. Izzy is beginning to fall for Julian and appreciate the changes he has made to himself and the decent man hidden behind the rakish exterior, but she cannot forget that he was meeting someone else for a liasion when they met. Julian feels Izzy slipping away from him, but does not know how to win her over and he becomes fearful that she is transferring her affections to his friend Alex and when the passion of a fight becomes passion of another sort, their marriage is no longer in doubt. But neither knows how to admit to their feelings for fear of being rejected and much pride and fear ensue until a horrible accident makes it clear to both of them that the only thing that matters is their love for the other.
Izzy was a very complex character and there were times when I loved her, but there were also many times that I hated her. I liked that she was not a complainer, but I hated how she often came across as a doormat letting her family take huge advantage of her. I liked that she fought so passionately for those she cared about, but it came across as more than a tad ridiculous when she so virulently defended Julian to his father after having known him for such a short amount of time. I liked that she recognized her own feelings and admitted them to herself, but hated how she covered them up for so long and how that led to so much superfluous angst and heartache. I liked how she was determined to make decision about her own life but it seemed naive considering she was an unmarried women in London in the 19th century. She was full of contradictions, which is definitely a more realistic portrayal of a character, but it also made me frustrated as I found myself waffling between cheering her on and wanting her to make a decision I would agree with. Julian inspired the same contradictory feelings in me, depending on how kind and thoughtful he was being to Izzy so I was left unsure of how to really feel about either of these characters.
Their relationship was tumultuous to say the least as they seemed to be operating at cross purposes for much of the novel and both of them were so concerned that the other didn't share their feelings, that the book dragged by the middle. The two had some moments together, but I really would have liked to see more genuine interactions between these two; scenes where they weren't arguing, weren't constantly worried that their feelings weren't returned, weren't discussing how their relationship wasn't real. That really would have brought the book up in my opinion and would have made their relationship more believable and far more enjoyable. There was very little sex in the book and it was not very hot, lukewarm at best, and lead to such complex problems and more angst that it really did not seem worth it. The writing was definitely slower than I like in my romance novels, hampered by the air of depression the book took on as both of them were worried over whether the other loved them and the book took me far too long to finish.
Rating: A good first half, but the book quickly got bogged down with two characters that suffered from personality disorder and an inability to find happiness.
Friday, February 8, 2013
Lord Tristan Pembroke escapes the clutches of his uncle, who is determined to kill him and his brothers so he can claim the Dukedom, and while his brothers go separate ways, Tristan heads out to sea. Over the next decade he makes a learns the ocean and gains his own ship, going by the name Crimson Jack, and even when he goes back to London and enters society he does not feel like he is a part of that world. Lady Anne Hayworth is determined to make her way to her fiance's grave so that she can make peace with her fiance Walter who was killed in battle. Her father and four brothers do not agree with her plans so she is forced to find her own means of transportation and when she asks Captain Jack he decides to ensure that Anne has no choice but to choose his ship. When every other captain ha been bribed to turn her down, Anne comes back to Jack, who demands a kiss in return for passage. He wants the beautiful young woman, even while knowing they come from different worlds and have no future, and will do everything he can to seduce the beautiful young woman. During the journey, both of them discover much about the other, and Jack is the one to hold her while she cries at her dead fiance's grave.
On their last night together Anne decides to claim a bit of happiness for herself and gives into the passion she feels for Jack. Back in London, Anne finds herself swept up into the whirlwind of a London season, and with her family pressuring her to get married, she is being courted by her dead fiance's brother. Jack finds that he cannot bring himself to leave Anne and return to the sea, and he certainly cannot stand to see Anne courted by another man. The two engage in a secret affair, behind everyone's backs, but Anne knows that Jack is not one to settle down with a family and while she will never have the same passion with Lord Chetwyn, he offers her comfort and stability. The two promise that they will stay away from each other and Anne agrees to marry but she cannot stay away from Jack and he is trying to use all of his powers of persuasion to convince her that Chetwyn is not for her. But both of them realize that life without the other isn't an option and both of them are willing to make changes to their expectations before discovering that as long as they are together, nothing is really a sacrifice as long as they can have a happily ever after.
This book continued the Lost Lords of Pembrook series admirably and had the same feel as the last one with the tortured hero and a very likable heroine. I really liked Anne because she was determined and capable without coming across as headstrong or naive. She knew what was expected of her from her family and she accepted it but still went about fulfilling her obligations in a way that did not seem like she was 'giving in' and still remained true to herself. Jack was incredibly tortured and dark, not fitting in to either world he straddled and unable to find a place where he belonged. I understood his dilemma, but still felt unimpressed with his feelings and his inability to make nice, as if he was purposely setting out to be difficult. I quickly became bored by reading about his horrible life and how he straddled two worlds, partly because it was so similar to what I read in the previous book in the series about his old twin brother. I did like that we had a lot of character development from him throughout the book as he fell in love with Anne and made some changes in his life in order to have her in his life. He was a fun and lively hero who changed for the better with the help of a good woman, and I liked that.
There were a lot of interactions between Anne and Jack and I could really feel how these fell in love and every scene between them built into the story. There were fun and happy scenes where he attempted to seduce her, there were heart wrenching scenes where he comforted at her fiance's grave, and there were passionate scenes. There was a really deep emotional relationship between them and Heath did an oustanding job portraying this. There was a lot of sex between them and it was fairly hot, spread throughout the book, and really contributed to their developing relationship. I did have an issue with how many times Anne promised herself she would stay away from Jack, after realizing that they had no future together, and then reneged on her vow. It made her seem weak and it happened so many times that it quickly got tiresome. I also enjoyed how Heath did not make Chetwyn a villain, or anyone a villain for that matter, because it really was just a story of two people finding love and working through their differences to find happiness together. As usual, Heath's style is fun and fast while still delving into tough emotional issues.
Rating: A very enjoyable book, with a very strong relationship between the characters, but I had some issues with the heroes emotional trauma.
Friday, February 1, 2013
In the book prior to this, Ned Carhart and Lady Kathleen were forced to wed in order to avoid scandal and after a few months of marriage Kathleen is trying desperately to prove to Ned that they can have a happy and very passionate marriage. But Ned is determined to prove himself something other than the young wastrel that his family believes him so he decides to go to China to find out what is happening in the opium trade. Kathleen is heartbroken and spends the next three years trying to get over her love and ignoring the many lords who try to take advantage of her newly abandoned state. When Ned returns it is to find his wife much less willing to reconcile than he had imagined and to find that his friend, Lord Harcroft, has lost his wife, Louisa. Harcroft, Ned, and Ned's cousin, Gareth, and his wife, Jenny, all come together at Ned's estate to think of a plan to find Louisa and Ned realizes that Kathleen is on the outside of all the action. Kathleen is terrified that Ned will learn her secret; she helps women in abusive relationships escape their husbands and she is currently hiding Louisa on a small cottage on the estate.
When Ned discovers Louisa's whereabouts on his own, and why Louisa has run away, he gains a new respect for his wife, and is doubly determined to earn back her trust and prove that they can have a happy relationship together. Kathleen knows she must protect her heart from Ned as it is painfully obvious that Ned continues to hold something back from her. She wants to break through the control that Ned has on himself and unleash the passion she knows is in him. However, Ned, is hiding his own demons; he suffers from manic episodes of depression where he has to physically and mentally force himself to survive and he fears any crack in the armor will lead to his destruction. Kathleen wants to be a part of this armor, to be someone that Ned can come to for comfort and succor and does not know how their marriage will work if Ned does not learn to trust her. Things come to a head when Harcroft discovers what has become of Louisa and has Kathleen arrested on trumps up charges and Ned must work harder than he ever has to save the woman he loves. To truly save their marriage though will take a leap of faith from both of them as they learn to trust each other and trust in their love for the other.
Trial by Desire follows up Milan's Proof by Seduction and while this book was a stand alone it would be made much easier by reading the first book. I read it a long while ago and could not remember many things that were referenced in this book and was confused at times, especially when it came to Ned's overwhelming desire to prove himself because of something in his past. I wanted to like Kathleen very much because of her passion for helping abused women, but unfortunately I found her life outside of that to be boring and uninteresting and her personality to be weak and unlikable. She maintained a huge distance between herself and others, supposedly to keep her secret life a secret, and seemed to have very few friends. She vows not to give into Ned's seductions but gives in remarkably quickly after making this promise to herself. I felt like her refusing to give into Ned for so long served no purpose and made it even more ridiculous when she just gave in, pretty much out of the blue. Ned was very confusing because there is such a big deal made about this darkness that haunts him and yet, it really does not affect his relationship with Kathleen at all and seemed more like a red herring.
Their relationship developed rather slowly and had an air of just slog to it, like neither of them was really happy with the other and the sex was pretty lukewarm. I loved the way that Milan dealt with domestic abuse in this novel; she excellently portrayed this as a very difficult situation for the women who find themselves abused and for the friends and families who find it so difficult to accept and act when confronted with abusive relationships. Louisa is a very well written abused wife, struggling with balancing her love for her son and the very restrictive laws of the time. Just as importantly, Milan portrayed Ned's actions regarding the abusive relationship could not have been better; he was outraged and he acted in the right by helping his wife, but he also confronted the harsh realities of the times. Unfortunately Milan does not do as remarkable a job at portraying mental illness, particularly depression. I understand that everyone wants to believe that depression can be defeated by strength of will, but it cannot and Ned being able to do so is like a slap in the face, in my opinion, to the people who suffer from it.
Rating: Two difficult characters for me to like in a depressing relationship where the only thing I could admire was her portrayal of domestic violence in a different relationship.