Friday, April 26, 2013

A Lady by Midnight

A Lady by Midnight by Tessa Dare

Kate Taylor has been looking for a place to belong her entire life after being abandoned at a girls' school as a young child and having only hazy memories of her past. She has found friends and happiness in Spindles Cove but she is still determined to find out the truth about her past. Captain Samuel Thorne, a militia leader stationed in Spindles Cove, recognized Kate immediately upon seeing her after many years, but is happy when she does not recognize him. He knows he must keep his distance; despite his attraction to her he believes she is far too good for him and she mistakes his standoffish attitude as dislike. But she is slowly coming to realize that maybe he is more kind and generous than he is letting on and wants to delve more into this handsome man. Everything is thrown into the air when the Gramarcy's, a titled but very unconventional family, show up and claim that Kate is their long lost relative. Kate cannot believe her good fortune in finally having a family of her own, but Thorne is wary of trusting them and does not want them to learn the truth about Kate's upbringing.

To protect her he declares that the two of them are engaged and though they decide it is temporary it does not stop everyone they know from being thrilled at the idea of their marriage. Neither thinks the marriage will happen, but they do find that they are spending far more time together than usual and Kate is noticing little things about Thorne that go against the taciturn image he has built up. Thorne has dreams about moving to America and working his own plot of land and when Kate starts talking about going with him as his wife, he knows that he wants this future but does not want to drag her down with him. When papers surface that make it clear Kate is the legitimate daughter of a marquess neither knows what path to choose as she now stands to inherit piles of money and property even while it means her family may go broke. As her past starts to resurface Kate discovers that Thorne has been keeping secrets from her and while she is furious she cannot see a future without him. She must make him see that, no matter their social standings, they belong together wherever the future takes them.

I loved Katie and how caring she was for those around her, how determined she was in everything she did. I liked her insecurities and her naivete, which is unusual for me but Dare portrays these foibles with such a deft touch that it was impossible not to like her. She was strong and capable and had a great sense of humor but did have a tendency to do things that were a little too stupid to live. Thorne was obviously a dedicated captain with a checkered past and I did enjoy that he felt comfortable enough with Kate to finally share the truth with someone. He is dark and unsmiling and, although he has flashes of kindness she has to look deep to find them, and I felt like it was a very unusual pairing as they were so different. He was trying to protect her by keeping the past from her but that just seemed ridiculous and the inevitable fight that arose from his deception was equally so. His past, while haunting, did not really justify in my mind such an unhappiness that pervaded him and I quickly grew tired of his moodiness. Because of their differences I just did not see how a relationship between them would work.

The two of them spent quite a lot of time together and while it was no hampered by any distracting side plots of crazy circumstances, I just did not see how this time would lead to the two of them falling in love. He seemed infatuated with her partly because of their past together and she was very attracted to his muscular good looks, but neither was particularly in love with the other because of real reasons that I could understand. There was a nice amount of sex in the novel and Dare does a great job of imbuing her novels with great buildup and this book was no exception however, as romance novels break more sexual boundaries, she does begin to seem tame. Unfortunately, one incident particularly disturbed me; Thorne had a flashback to war and entered a different mindset and ended up flinging Kate against a wall. The fact that she does didn't get hurt proved to her that he could never truly harm her, but I do not like this new trend of mentally disturbed, almost violent, heroes who need the heroine to make him all better.

Rating: A fun heroine with a brooding and damaged hero, but the relationship was sorely lacking. This book definitely did not live up to the Spindles Cove, or Tessa Dare, standard.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Undone (A Fiery Tale)

Undone (A Fiery Tale) by Lila DiPasqua

Simon Boulenger is working as a privateer for France during the war against Spain and hoping that one day he will earn a knighthood and become a member of the aristocracy. Growing up dirt poor and alone left him desirous of a better future and he has worked his entire life to achieve a peerage. While in Italy he spies a beautiful woman singing an enchanting song and when he follows her to a convent he sees the Mother Superior abusing her. He quickly grabs her and her friend and whisks them back to his ship, determined to save her. But Angelica has no desire to be saved and is horrified when she discovers that she is on a boat back to her homeland. For years she has hidden in the convent from her stepfather, a French aristocrat placed high in the court of Louis XIV, who abused her horribly while she was in his charge. When she wakes up onboard a ship she knows she must hide her identity from the handsome captain who has kidnapped her, but she cannot resist the attraction that flares between them. Simon is taken in by Angelica's charms, but knowing that she is a virgin means he keeps his hands off of her even though he has never felt this way about a woman before.

Simon and his crew own an island in the Caribbean, Marguerite, and have formed a kind of commune there with Simon as their leader, where everyone lives in freedom and equality away from the strict hierarchy of the French court. He takes Angelica there and she quickly becomes popular with everyone in the community by taking on the role of teacher and winning the island beauty pageant. She decides that she will take advantage of the freedom and this brief chance of happiness and decides to seduce/ give into Simon and his seduction. Simon cannot help but feel guilty, but is surprised to find that Angelica is keeping a secret from him and when it is revealed he knows that he must avenge her and the wrong that her step father did. Simon has his own score to settle back in France with the King's finance minister and in one final act of gallantry he sets aside his own desires for the good of France and to make Angelica happy. Angelica knows that the only thing that matters is a life with Simon, aristocracy be damned, and together they forge a future on their tropical island paradise.

Angelica was a hard character for me to explore because she seemed completely unable to make up her own mind about what she was like. She ran away from her horrible situation and France and escaped to a convent where she planned to stay, hidden away from the world for the rest of her life and I could really not get behind that. She, like many romance novel heroines, had a magical touch with children and fancied herself their savior and was apparently able to take over a school at a moment's notice and win the hearts of all the previous little kids. As a teacher this annoys me. Unfortunately Simon was equally hard to like as a pirate and as a person obsessed with gaining a title even while creating his own little commune type paradise island. He was, of course, a womanizer, but he immediately gave up his ways after laying eyes on Angelica once. Together there was an immense sexual attraction that burned up the pages with the sizzle but was a bit of a let down towards the end once the relationship had been consummated as the sex didn't live up to expectations.

Their relationship was also hard to truly get behind as there was a lot of misunderstanding, a lot of holding something back from each other, and just generally a lot of brooding and frustration. I admired how Angelica was able to move past her attack and lead a full life and that Simon helped her through this and supported her once he realized what had happened. And I enjoyed reading a little bit about French history in a romance novel and, although much is fiction, it still provided a nice variation from my usual English books. There was the small bit of intrigue involving revenge against her step father and Simon's determination to bring down those close to the King who were out to do harm against the people. It was not overwhelming, but did seem to come up at weird moments throughout the book before finally being solved quite neatly at the end. The island commune was absolutely laughable and I rolled my eyes every time the magical Marguerite was mentioned.

Rating: An interesting book but not for the romance or the characters, but for the historical information and back ground.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Lord of Darkness

Lord of Darkness by Elizabeth Hoyt

Lady Margaret Reading and Godric St. John were forced to marry two years ago when she became pregnant and her fiance, Lord Roger Fraser-Burnsby, is murdered in St. Giles. In her grief Megs goes to the St. John country estate to live with Godric's step-mother and half- sisters and she miscarries her unborn child. Two years later she decides she would like a child of her own so she surprises Godric in London, determined to become pregnant while not betraying the love for her former fiance. Godric is also recovering from the loss of a spouse; his deceased wife Clara was the love of her life before she died slowly and painfully of a wasting disease and he too has vowed never to betray her memory. He has thrown himself into his work as the Ghost of St. Giles and has no time for friends or family now that he is trying to track down more lassie snatchers that have begun operating again. But Megs knows how to make herself difficult to ignore, bringing laughter and happiness into his dark and dreary existence. Unfortunately Megs is out to get revenge on the Ghost because she believes he killed her fiance.

When Megs finally gathers the courage to ask Godric to help her get pregnant he turns her down, telling her that he is celibate in remembrance of Clara. However, when Megs make an excursion into St. Giles to hunt for the ghost she is startled to find herself in the Ghost's embrace, so much so that she stabs him and belatedly discovers that her husband is the Ghost. This discovery/ revelation brings the two of them closer together and Godric agrees to help Megs discover who killed Roger and he will impregnate her, if she agrees to return to the safety of the country once she is pregnant. Megs agrees but their coupling is awkward at first because of her fear of the growing feelings she has for Godric. As Godric becomes closer to finding the lassie snatchers and Roger's murderer he is terrified of losing Megs. Both of them have learned that falling in love with each other does not mean they love their previous partners any less and they work together to unravel the mysteries of St. Giles so they can plan for their happily ever after.

Meg was lively and energenic in a very real way that made it impossible not to like her; she had a genuine love for those around her and was passionate about gardening and other people being happy. Godric was the perfect mix of brooding, vulnerability, and masculine strength and I absolutely loved him. They both had a very well done melancholy regarding their past lovers and it was remarkably well done; both of them were suffering and worried about betraying the memory of those they loved. They worked together to overcome these feelings and came to understand that those they loved would have wanted them to be happy- and it was done in a way that didn't seem corny. I think the tragedy from Megs past also helped her work past the defenses that Godric had built up around himself and made her more sympathetic to what he was going through with his family and as the Ghost. It was better that she was not just a happy go lucky girl who saved the tortured hero.

Their relationship was beautifully written as the two of them spent a lot of time together, getting to know each other and enjoying being in each other's company. I felt like there was a nice mix of emotional connection and happiness between them in their relationship. There was a lot of sex between them and Hoyt is back in fine form because it is smoking hot; she goes above and beyond most historical romance novels sex and takes it to another level while still keeping it away from porn. My problem with the book lies in the entire Ghost plot because I realize I am getting tired of St. Giles and, although I loved them all in their own novels, I am tired of the same people. To make matters even worse, the matter of the lassie snatchers was the exact same problem that Ghost in the last story was trying to solve! She's recycling plots! I'm glad that the Ghost plot took a backseat to the relationship, but wish that it had taken up even less of the story. Hoyt sets up the next book in the series beautifully, but I'm wary of another book about the Ghost of st. Giles.

Rating: Wonderful relationship with completely meant for each other characters, but a recycled side plot that I'm quickly getting tired of made me unhappy.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Seduction of Elliot McBride

The Seduction of Elliot McBride by Jennifer Ashley

Julianna St. John is all set to get married until she discovers at the altar that her fiance has absconded with his widowed piano instructor. Julianna realizes she is more upset about the societal problems her broken engagement will cause than about actually losing her fiance. Luckily for her she sees her childhood crush, Elliot McBride, quite close at hand, and decides that she should make the most of the situation and asks him to marry him. Elliot had every intention of stopping the wedding of the woman who sustained him through years of torture in the Indian desert. He jumps at the chance to marry her and quickly scurries her to his crumbling estate in the Scottish Highlands. Julianna quickly notices that her husband is hiding secrets from everyone around him and it is apparent that many of the people closest to him regard him as barely sane. But she doesn't let anything get in the way of her happiness now that she is married to the man she has worshipped since she was little, the man she always imagined would be her husband.

Elliot is also living the life he has always wanted for himself with no one in the outside world to disturb the happiness he has finally found with Julianna. She is the best thing that ever happened to him and he doesn't want anyone to take Julianna away from him. Their happiness is threatened when a local couple threatens to have Elliot investigated for the death of a fellow Englishman in India but Elliot has recently discovered that this former friend has followed him from India and does not believe it is a friendly visit. Julianna is worried about Elliot's safety and about what this will mean for Elliot's mental healthy, which had been improving since their marriage. Elliot is determined to keep his family safe but it brings up unpleasant memories from India and he finds that the only way he can get through them is with Julianna's help. Together they must over come Elliot's demons and uncover what really happened to Elliot and his friend while in India before they can continue the happy marriage they both dreamed about.

Both Julianna and Elliot were complex characters who I have found it really hard to reflex on without first discussing their relationship. I felt like they had a very co-dependant relationship in the sense that it was obvious that Elliot would barely be able to function without Julianna there. She in turn seemed to relish being needed and had no difficulty focusing entirely on what needed to be done to help Elliot. This made her a rather unlikable heroine for me because I wanted someone who was strong on her own and this was almost like her entirely being became caught up in him. I appreciated that Elliot had lived through hell during his time in India and that this would, of course, cause immense emotional trauma. However, I do not want to read about a hero that is so mentally unstable that he operates under constant threat of having a relapse and choking someone close to him. This aspect of their relationship made me very uncomfortable.

Aside from that aspect of their relationship, which was of course predominant, there were a very few moments where I could see them being happy together, but they were never friendly and happy and joyous. They had sex but it was surprisingly dull and not very frequent. They were very accepting of Indian culture and this was supposed to endear them to the reader, show how open they were, but it seemed unrealistic for the time and like Ashley was trying too hard. About halfway through this very short book the side plot involving the friend from India took over and the relationship took a back seat which upset me, but was also I relief since I wasn't that into it. Unfortunately I was just as uninterested in what had happened to this friend and what was going to happen to him. I felt like it had nothing to do with the story and was just superfluous filler. The book was well written, an easy and fast read.

Rating: I did not enjoy this book and found the relationship between the characters mildly disturbing and the side plot just plain boring.