Friday, June 28, 2013

One Good Earl Deserves a Lover

One Good Earl Deserves a Lover by Sarah MacLean L

Lady Pippa Marbury is newly engaged to Lord Castleton, a kind if uninspiring man, but her scientific and logical mind compels her to research more about what her marriage will entail. She decides to ask Cross, one of the infamous owners of the fabulous gambling club, The Fallen Angel, for help since she believes he too is of a scientific bent. Cross is flabbergasted that a lady would enter his club, risking ruination and while he finds himself drawn to the beautiful bespectacled young woman, secrets in his own past forbid him from risking her future happiness and he turns away. Cross has problems of his own as the owner of a rival gambling establishment, Knight, holds his brother-in-law's debt and is threatening Cross's sister if Cross does not agree to marry Knight's daughter. Pippa is not about to give up her search for answers as she is determined to make the most of her marriage even though no one thinks it is a good match. She goes back to The Fallen Angel to enlist the help of a lady of the evening and Cross is furious that she is once again putting her reputation at risk, and not just because her brother-in-law is his friend and fellow co-owner of the Fallen Angel. He agrees to help her but vows to himself that he will not allow her to be tainted by her association with him.

Cross finds himself attracted to the seriousness of Pippa and her logical mind and the more time he spends with her, the more he finds that his resolution to leave her alone is destined to fail. He cannot stand the idea that Pippa will marry another but continues to believe that he will never be good enough for her and that she deserves a happy life which he cannot provide for her. Pippa too is beginning to wonder if she can go through with her marriage now that she has tasted what a true relationship between equal minds can be like. But she is furious to discover that cross is actually the Earl of Harlowe and that their stations would mean that they could get married if he would get over his feelings of inadequacy. When she learns about the threats against his sister she is determined to help him and prove to him that she is a  match for him. He realizes that he has misjudged himself and this beautiful woman and that their pasts do not matter when it is a matter of true love.

This book is second in a series and although I had read the previous book, it had been awhile, and I found myself taking awhile to remember what had happened and I would not recommend reading this book without reading the first. Having characters from former books make frequent, often overwhelming, appearances is something I tend to dislike in romances and this book fell into this category quickly and often, which I really did not appreciate. Pippa's logical mind came up several times in this book and I just could not buy it as it was not logical for her to go into a gambling hall and I could not understand how she knew Cross was likewise as logical. Cross's background and brooding melancholy on his past was just utterly ridiculous; I understood how it would cause him distress, but it was just completely overblown and made him into a very unlikable fellow. Because of their situation they really could not spend all that much time together outside of the gambling club and I did not see how a relationship between a scientific bluestocking and a dissolute gambling hall owner would work in the real world.

The sexual tension between Pippa and Cross burned up the pages and I knew that when these two finally got together it was going to be an explosion. Unfortunately the sexual tension was dragged out for the entire book because of Cross brooding about how he wasn't good enough for her and believing he had to make up for his past. I could not believe how flowery and drawn out their sexual relationship was and how disappointing it ended up being. I enjoyed reading about the plot with Knight and wondering how Cross and Pippa were going to get out of it, but it seemed to blow over a little too quickly and it had a lot of scenes where a character would get an idea and then we'd cut to another scene so we were left in the dark about what would happen. The writing was very wordy and the book seemed to drag quite a bit, perhaps because of the melancholy overtone to the entire novel and I would have liked a more fun reading style.

Rating: I could not get into the relationship and the great sexual tension ended with a small poof while the writing dragged.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Conquest of Lady Cassandra

The Conquest of Lady Cassandra by Madeline Hunter

When Lady Cassandra Verhan was caught alone with a man, society expected her to marry him, but she shocked the ton when she refused and has since been living a life of scandal and notoriety. Operating on the fringes of society she lives with her Aunt Sophia, an absentminded lady with a scandalous past of her own, but manages to maintain friendships with some of the most well connected ladies of the ton. Yates Ellison, Viscount Ambury, was friends with the man who ruined Cassandra and who was recently killed in a due, presumably over Cassandra, so he has no kind feelings towards her. However, he does find that he is very attracted to her and is interested in discovering more about a necklace he recently purchased from her at an auction. Ambury is looking into the necklace at the behest of his dying father who believes that it was stolen, but Ambury does not want Sophia to know the truth so he asks her to look into the origins of the necklace before he pays for. Cassandra is desperate for the money as her brother, Gerald, is threatening to have Aunt Sophia placed in a home and Cassandra is determined to find a safe haven for herself and her aunt.

The investigation finds Cassandra and Ambury spending more time together than usual and neither can deny the sexual tension between them, and being more progressive adults than most of their peers, they give into their mutual desire. Ambury worries he is betraying his former friend, believing that she is responsible for his friend's ruined reputation and subsequent death during a duel, and even Cassandra because he has an ulterior motive. Cassandra is concerned about letting somebody close to her after the tumultuous life she has had but recognizes that she can use all the help she can find to get her aunt to safety. And she is beginning to wonder if Ambury is right about the origin of Aunt Sophia's necklace, and the rest of the jewelry in her possession. To keep Cassandra and her aunt safe, Ambury marries Cassandra, and together they must work to save Aunt Sophia and discover the secrets behind her jewels and in the process discover a whole lot of love.

There was a lot of back story in this novel that it was important to know and there were times that I wondered if I had accidentally skipped one of Hunter's stories. It was a stand alone for sure, but I definitely got the feeling that I would have been a little less loss if I had read this missing piece. Plus the background of the characters and how they had known each other was a little confusing and seemed like an attempt to cause some drama between the characters and there was already enough of that with the necklace plot. Cassandra was interesting, if not entirely relatable because the reader didn't really learn the entire truth of her situation until near the end and while I understand the author wanted the reader to be drawn in it just annoyed me. She was strong and independent and I very much admired her for that and her vulnerability when it came to her past made her more enjoyable and realistic. Ambury was cloaked in secrets and incredibly judgmental of Cassandra and refused to see the truth of what had happened with her and his friend until the very end which made him more than a little unlikable.

Ambury and Cassandra had a deep attraction for each other, we are told, but I really did not feel the sexual tension which surprised me as Hunter is usually adept at writing this. I did not like that they had already known each other and had an unpleasant past between them because it really was not resolved to my satisfaction. They didn't get to know each other again and forgive, it was more like they moved on without any true resolution of the past. There was enough sex in the book but I wasn't blown away by it and I would have liked more of a build up of their relationship. The plot involving the necklace was very interested and I found myself drawn in to what was going to happen to Aunt Sophia and how they would thwart Gerald. Some truly astounding discoveries were made surrounding this and I was completely blown away and surprised so that is always a nice way to end a story. The writing style flowed nicely and the book was an easy read.

Rating: A book that had potential but the side plots quickly took over the book and my interest since the relationship did not draw me in.

Friday, June 14, 2013

How Miss Rutherford Got Her Groove Back

How Miss Rutherford Got Her Groove Back by Sophie Barnes

Miss Emily Rutherford and her two sisters, Beatrice and Claire, have fallen on hard times since the death of the parents lead to their cousin taking all of their assets. But Emily has always planned to marry Lord Adrian Caroway as they have had a semi-understanding that spanned back several years. Everyone is shocked when Adrian instead announces his engagement to their longtime friend, Lady Kate, and her sisters enlist the help of Francis, Lord Dunhurst, to help Emily through her heart break. As children Emily, Kate, Francis, and Adrian had been the best of friends, but then Francis had changed- became stern and unsmiling and Emily had spent the ensuing years despising her friend for changing so dramatically. He was helpless to prevent their estrangement as he was forced to grow up fast after his mother's mysterious death and learning a devestating family secret, but he never meant for his friendship with Emily to end. He is furious that Adrian would hurt her in this way and invites her and her sisters to London to get her mind off of what happened and enjoy herself.

Once in London Emily finds herself reevaluating her feelings for both Adrian and Francis and wondering if she let her anger over Francis's change in personality lead her to believe herself in love with Adrian. Francis is charmed by Emily's outspokenness and love of life and soon realizes that he wants far more than friendship with her and her reappearance in his life has made him a happier person. It isn't long before he and Emily have reached an understanding and both are excited about marrying and about the wedding night.  Unfortunately his father's former mistress, Charlotte Browne, hides secrets that could utterly destroy Francis and anyone associated with him and he worries about getting Emily involved in this. Once Emily has realized that it is really Francis she has been in love with all these years, she wants to help him overcome the problems assaulting him. Together they both must work together to put the past behind them and build a future where both of them can be secure and happy in their love.

Emily was a happy, if naive, young country girl who I could sympathize, if not precisely relate, to because she was an enjoyable character. Her love for Adrian seemed to burn hot and die quickly and her reason for assuming they had an arrangement were a bit far fetched so I couldn't really like her entirely. My favorite thing in the book though was how she stood up for herself to Adrian and Kate instead of being all noble and forgiving like the typical romance novel heroine. Francis was a brooding romance novel hero who was hiding a secret and needed the heroine to help him learn to laugh and enjoy life. However, I felt like there were more mentions of his being stern than actual examples of his being so and that just doesn't sit well with me. These two had a long relationship past that the reader isn't really privy to and so I did not really get a feel for how their romance was developing. They were very attracted to each other and there were a few scenes that made it clear they couldn't keep their hands off of each other, but nothing was really hot and steamy.

Charlotte was an interesting, if very under developed, character who had real potential but was just pure evil and I would have liked a more nuanced character. The sideplot involving her blackmail scheme and the secrets she were revealing did draw me in and I liked that they were not drawn out longer than necessary and especially liked that the secret was genuinely earth shattering. However I was horribly disappointed with how this part of the story ended as it was so engrossing and so important and then boom! It basically all turned into a big nothing and nothing ended up happening. Probably my biggest issue with this novel was writing style; it completely turned me off with so much description and so many adjectives used to describe everything. There were far to many variations of "rapture" used to describe everything for my taste. The dialogue was equally flowery and really made it difficult to believe the characters were realistic.

Rating: A quick read with far too purply writing and a romance that missed quite a bit and a sideplot that exploded into nothing ness.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Season for Surrender

Season for Surrender by Theresa Romain

Lady Louisa Oliver is more comfortable with books than people, so her London season wasn't quite a success even though she did end up engaged to a Marquess. Unfortunately said marquess fell in love with Louisa's step-sister and the broken engagement and ensuing marriage caused quite the scandal. Alex, Lord Xavier, has his own reputation as a dissolute rake and he is infamous for never losing a bet placed in White's betting book. His cousin, Lord Lockwood, issues a challenge he can't refuse (for fear of losing his reputation) and he agrees to keep a respectable lady at his decidedly unrespectable holiday party for two weeks and they agree on Lady Louisa. Louisa is excited to get out of her sister and brother-in-law's house and wants to enjoy herself and explore Xavier's famed library. To win the wager, Xavier must keep his cousin from scaring Louisa away and he begins to realize he has made a huge mistake. He finds that he cares about her reputation and finds himself drawn more and more to spending time in the library. Louisa overhears Lockwood and Xavier and quickly learns about the bet and it strengthens her resolve to stay at the house party and have an adventure.

The huge party provides plenty of opportunities for Louisa and Xavier to spend time together under the guise of engaging in party activities. While working in the library they uncover a coded a cipher about the history of Xavier's family and they decide to work together to discover the secrets of the past. He realizes that she is far more intelligent than the average woman and she realizes that he wears a permanent mask to convince others that he has no care for others. She wants Xavier to let go of his reputation and be a better person and he knows that if it will ever happen that she is the woman who will help him. But Lockwood remains bitter about their families' pasts and is determined to get his revenge on Xavier by any means necessary, including taking Louisa down with him. Xavier is forced to choose between his reputation and the woman he loves and finds that he can face anything as long as Louisa is by his side.

Louisa was a likable heroine for being an awkward blue stocking who wanted to find some way of making her life more adventurous and her determination to avoid becoming a boring spinster. Nonetheless, I found her rather bland and boring, perhaps because there is not enough inner dialogue or because the writing style just did not add any excitement to her character. Xavier was really not that different from many romance novel heroes; a rake whose reputation has been exaggerated and wears a mask and secretly years to be wanted for who he his. I felt like too much was made of this fake reputation and it made him seem rather childish for continually seeking challenges and wagers purely to maintain this reputation. I did like that they spent quite a bit of time together, but there was a lot of boring and pointless verbal sparing, and it was remarkably unexciting. There was some sexual tension, but it was barely a simmer, and was not consummated until one very brief, lukewarm scene at the end that I skimmed.

The house party was a fun experience and I liked the myriad characters who livened up the story a little bit, even if their many drunken exploits served merely as an excuse to show how Xavier was growing tired of this lifestyle in the most heavy handed way possible. Lockwood was a nice two-dimensional villain who added some spark to the story even if the scene where he gets his comeuppance was absolutely ludicrous and abrupt. I believe I had the biggest problem with the writing style of this book; it's short and yet it took me a long time because it was so unengaging and the characters did not draw me in at all. The romance was lacking and I did not feel a spark between the two protagonists and really felt like this book lacked enough plot to make a real book or a lengthy review.

Rating: I did not enjoy this book but it did have some interesting side characters and did not cross into absolutely awful territory too often.