Friday, October 18, 2013

And Then Comes Marriage

And Then Comes Marriage by Celeste Bradley

Mrs. Miranda Talbot has always lived her life quietly and by the rules, but now that she is a widow with means, she has a freedom she has never experienced before. She is happy to enjoy the courtship of Mr. Pollux Worthington after he saves her from being run over by a carriage. She is unaware that Poll has an identical twin, Castor and so when Castor saves her from the twins' exploding invention, she believes it is Poll and is happy to give him a kiss. Castor likes this beautiful widow but horrified to learn that his own twin has been courting her for a month so they come up with a solution: they will both court her and the winner will be the one who gets her to say yes to a marriage proposal. Miranda is shocked at first, but decides that she should finally start having fun for herself, and agrees to the twins absurd proposal. They divvy up their time and both begin their courtship by escorting her around town, taking her on trips, and trying to prove that they will be the one to make her happy.

Meanwhile Castor approaches the Prince Regent to ask for a Royal Grant so that he can continue to make inventions, but Prinny only agrees if Castor can stay out of the scandal sheets. Miranda's former sister-in-law is furious that Miranda was given the family's house after Mr. Talbot's death, and is determined to regain her rightful place in the house and does not hesitate to try to make Miranda's life miserable. Miranda is coming to realize that although she enjoys spending time with Poll, it is clear that Castor is the one she feels more of a connection with. But their little sister, Attie, believes that Miranda is sowing discord between the brothers, and tries to separate them. After on disastrous kiss with Poll, Miranda knows that he belongs with Castor, but his past experiences with relationship have left him scarred and she must show him that he is ready for a true loving relationship with her.

So the first thing that jumped out at me was the fact that Miranda is being courted by two men who look exactly alike. This would have been acceptable if the book could have at least done more to distinguish between the two brothers. Unfortunately I feel like there was enough difference between the brother's and I found myself getting confused about which brother had done what with her. She apparently could tell them apart because she was far more attracted to one then the other, but I really could not. Miranda was a very well developed character and we were constantly learning new things about her. Her past was quite checkered and made her a very interesting person and made her more "real" than other romance novel heroines. Castor didn't really distinguish himself as super distinct from his brother, until towards the end when a tortured past was kind of thrown in there when I had begun to really appreciate that he didn't have one. His dark past involved a bad relationship that left him with a kinky side in bed that was hot, mildly disturbing, and rather confusing really.

There was a lot of heat between Castor and Miranda, which was in direct contrast to the absolute lack of heat between Poll and Miranda, and it permeated the entire novel. Castor's sexual proclivities included a need to kind of dominate, kind of control, and kind of own the person he was having sex with. It was hot and kinky but then Bradley backtracked by having them slightly reverse roles and it felt like a cop out on her part. The Worthington family was cute in its' eccentricities, but it quickly became annoying to have them constantly appearing and doing such insane things as I am not a fan of novels that feature too many past or future characters. I did enjoy reading about Miranda's past and how she was changing as a person and I found the minor side plot involving her former sister-in-law very entertaining.

Rating: An enjoyable read overall with a wonderful heroine, but the situation involving the twins and then Castor's sexual proclivities did bring down the book.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Love and Other Scandals

Love and Other Scandals by Caroline Linden

Tristan, Viscount Bourke, is friends with Douglas Bennett even though Douglas' mother disapproves, and he and Joan Bennett, Douglas' sister, run into each other several times throughout the years. At 24 Joan is firmly on the shelf and per her mother's request she goes to coerce her brother into attending a ball in the hopes that he will find a wife. She runs into Tristan who is staying with Douglas while his house is repaired and is immediately horrified at the virago who storms into the house. She blackmails and manipulates the hungover Douglas before turning her sights on Tristan and he can't help but admire her. They next meet at a bookseller where Joan is secretly trying to buy a very scandalous pamphlet but upon seeing him she leaves and he purchases it for her, not knowing what it is. At a ball he returns her book to her and discovers that The Fury, as he calls her, has quite a little secret. Everybody notices that the most scandalous man of the ton has taken an interest in the ton's most infuriating spinster, including Joan's controlling mother who entreats Joan to refuse any attempts of Tristan to court her.

When Joan's mother is struck by an illness her parents go out of town leaving her in the care of very scandalous Aunt and Douglas goes to a family estate after asking Tristan to "look out" for Joan. Tristan takes the call to heart and begins to call on Joan, taking her on a balloon ride and finding that he can confide in her about the death of his parent and growing up as an orphan. She realizes that the happy and scandalous facade he presented was merely to cover up the hurt inside and to make himself likable. She learns about his unhappy childhood with a bitter aunt and cousins who resented him because he would inherit the title one day. Joan does not know if Tristan ever plan to marry but she knows that she wants one night to remember, but when her parents come rushing into town after hearing the rumors. Suddenly Tristan and Joan's relationship is thrust into the spotlight and they realize that they are in love.

Tristan and Joan had a very contentious relationship that basically consisted entirely of them arguing, bantering, trying to one-up the other, and trying to annoy the other. This is something found in a lot of romance novels and it is something that I despise. I want to see characters who like each other, who enjoy being with the other and even though they apparently like arguing with each other, I could not get behind their relationship. Joan was an overly talkative young woman who was far too fearful of her mother for my taste and it made her seem very immature and incapable of holding her own. Tristan's past as an orphan who had to live with a hateful relative drew me in but was not really developed enough for my taste. They did spend a lot of time together, both in large group settings, in secret meeting, and just the two of them and not all of them were completely contentious. There were some fun times between them, especially the hot air balloon.

They were supposedly extremely attracted to each other, and their arguing was apparently a sign of that, but the book did not have a lot of sexual heat in it. There were a few little kissing scenes but only one scene where they actually had sex and it was far from hot. It was bland and boring and I just did not feel it. Their relationship just did not seem to be built on anything lasting; they didn't really seem to like each other and they didn't have a ton of sex so really nothing there. The writing was fast and it took me almost no time to get through it, and not just because I was hoping that something I liked would happen. I know that Linden can do better than this and hope that in the future she writes characters capable of carrying on a real conversation and engaging in some extremely hot sex.

Rating: Rather boring characters really who argued FAR too much and did not have nearly enough sex to make this very fast read enjoyable.

Friday, October 4, 2013

How to Lose a Bride in One Night

How to Lose a Bride in One Night by Sophie Jordan

Annalise Hadley lived in relative obscurity until her father, Jack Hadley, appeared out of nowhere and decided to invest part of his vast fortune toward marrying her, and her numerous half-sisters, off to members of the aristocracy. Annalise knows she is not beautiful and she has suffered a limp since a childhood accident, but she is hard working and kind. She is shocked and flattered when the Duke of Bloodsworth, the most eligible bachelor of the ton, picks her to be his bride but it turns out he only wanted her for her money- a fact she discovers when he tries to smother her and throws her overboard their wedding barge. Owen Crawford, Earl of MacDowell, is stunned to find a half-dead woman floating in the river and immediately takes her to the nearest shelter he can find even if it is a gypsy caravan. Owen has given up on ever being a normal human after living for years as an asassin in India and lives on the outskirts of his own family but something about this young woman draws him in.

When she awakes Annalise claims to have amnesia to avoid Owen bringing her back to Bloodworth and she wants to be up and out of bed as soon as possible as she hates feeling helpless. Owen is determined that she heal properly and appoints himself her nursemaid, even while rejecting the Gypsy's claim that she belongs to him now that he has saved her life. When it is finally time to leave the caravan he takes Annalise to his estate, planning to send her away once she is fully recovered. But when she asks him to teach her how to defend herself he can't help but wonder what secrets she is hiding and finds that he wants to know more about her. Annalise is falling for the handsome man who rescued her and who makes her feel safe for the first time in a long time. With Annalise's help Owen rediscovers the man he used to be and reunites with his family and with Owen's help, Annalise finally finds herself able to confront her past. Together, they know they are safe and can handle anything the world throws at them.

This installment in the Forgotten Princesses series featuring the illegitimate daughters of the wealthy Jack Hadley, neatly avoided falling into the series trap of focusing too much on past characters which I really admired. Sophie writes fun and very readable books that are quickly devoured and her written style is easy and flows nicely. Annalise was a wonderful character; strong and scared, caring and determined. I loved how Jordan portrayed Annalise as a victim of domestic violence who went from fear of the world to a determination to better herself and prevent it from ever happening again. Owen is a tortured hero with a buried past and a problem with connecting with other people. His past is certainly sufficient to creating such a character and I enjoyed reading about him overcoming his own fears and learning to accept himself and his past and looking toward the future. I liked that Owen helped Annalise overcome her fears and she helped him overcome his own, more buried, fears.

I could feel the heat between these two from the beginning, fairly scorching the pages, but unfortunately it ended up being a huge let down and they did not burn up the sheets anywhere near often enough.  I was frustrated towards the end when Annalise naively gave into blackmail from Bloodsworth just because he threatened Owen when she should have known perfectly well that Owen could take care of himself. She'd seen him fight people! It brought my opinion of Annalise down quite a few notches and came across like an attempt to create a big dramatic confrontational ending. The ending was of course everything it should have been and neatly wrapped everything up with a big bow, but I didn't feel like it was completely predictable because there were some added plot twists.

Rating: An enjoyable book that had much promise, but a generic ending and the letdown of going from such scorching flirting to one mild mannered bedding brought this book down.