Friday, November 22, 2013

The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie

The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley

Daniel Mackenzie is one of the infamous Mackenzie's and has all the charm of his uncles and father and a lightness of spirit that escaped them. He enjoys creating inventions, and is especially fond of crafting a brand new car that would beat any of the German models. He knows immediately that Ms. Bastien, a renowned medium's assistance, is a fraud but instead of exposing her he is more interested in the contraptions she uses to make all the "spirit" sounds she uses to fool everyone. Violet is terrified that Daniel will expose her secrets, but even more scared when he kisses her and it brings back haunting memories of her childhood. In terror, she bashes him over the head and, believing him dead, she abandons him at a hospital. Daniel is, of course, not dead and while he is upset he is eve more intrigued by the beautiful young woman who hit him over the head and has a remarkable ability to make useful inventions. He follows her to Paris where Violet is shocked to find the man she believed she had killed, alive and well. Daniel takes an interest in Violet and her mother, especially when he learns that Violet is basically her mother's caregiver and believes her mother is taking advantage of her.

When one of her mother's clients attempts to assault Violet and she escapes, he decides to press charges and she is arrested. Daniel and his well connected family manage to get her out of prison but he decides that since he has such a vested interest in her welfare that she will accompany him in England. Her mother moves into the Mackenzie mansion and Violet finds herself far too close to the handsome Daniel. But even Daniel is not prepared when Violet confides in him details of her abusive and violent childhood and while she expects him to turn away in disgust, he instead appoints himself her protector and her avenger and dedicates himself to proving her capable of having a real relationship based on respect and love. When a villain from Violet's past resurfaces to cause trouble, the entire Mackenzie clan is there to defend their newest family member and Violet realizes that she truly wants nothing more than to find her happily ever after with Daniel.

I like that this story switched around the roles of the stereotypical roles of heroines and heroes as Violet was the one who was more broody about her past and Daniel had come to accept his own past and had made peace with his relationship with his father. I did like Violet because she was incredibly brave and I liked that she was a conundrum as she was fearless and independent but also cared so much about her mother that she sacrificed herself. Reading about a survivor of rape is always wrenching and Ashley does a deft job of adequately portraying the hurt, the betrayal, the hope, and spirit that accompanies such a violent act and the feelings that come later in the future. I liked that Daniel cared so much for Violet, but I felt like I was supposed to have lots of lingering feelings for Daniel as a holdover from his appearances in other books in the series, and indeed it often seems like the Mackenzie love builds on itself instead of being really expressed in the book.

Violet and Daniel worked incredibly well together and I really enjoyed that they had so many interests in common and that they each encouraged the other's pursuits and helped each other improve and work on their inventions. I liked that they enjoyed spending time together and that a majority of the book was spent with them in the company of each other and in a wide array of activities. There was some sex between them, but given her history, it was more about the emotional aspect of the sex and helping Violet overcome her fears. It was still better than a lot of romances I have been reading and I liked that they did not make her completely sexless just because she had been raped. Daniel and Violet's relationships with their families played an incredibly important part, but while I was interested in Violet's codependence with her mother it was dropped from the book far too quickly. The Mackenzies, who I have enjoyed in the past, and continued to be well done side characters who don't take over the story.

Rating: An interesting book, but despite everything, it still managed to be a little bland with nothing super exciting to keep more interested.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Trouble with Being a Duke

The Trouble with Being a Duke by Sophie Barnes L

Anthony Hurst, the Duke of Kingsborough, knows it is time for him to marry and produce an heir, and believes enough time has passed since his sainted father's death for the family to come out of mourning and host the Kingsborough Ball. Isabella Chilcott has dreamed of sneaking away to the Kingsborough Ball sine she was a child, but her mother is completely set against the aristocracy. She sneaks out, wearing an old gown she finds hidden in the attic, and once there she catches the attention of the Duke himself. Anthony knows she is lying about her identity, but finds himself unable to get the beautiful woman out of his mind, even after she abandons him at the ball. He visits everywhere in the village to determine who she is and is horrified to discover she is practically engaged to another man, and can't help but wonder how her mother had the fancy ball gown hidden in her house, especially when it comes to life that an heiress who went missing 20 years ago was wearing that dress. He knows that he is the right man for Isabella, but does not know how to go about convincing her parents. A mystery from long ago, parents who harbor grudges, and a couple who will do anything to be together culminate in a romantic ending.

My biggest problem with this story was Isabella's inability to stand up to her parents no matter how wrong they are proven to be, and no matter how miserable following their directives will make her. Seriously, I wanted to slap her and wondered why Anthony would be so adamant in hitching himself to a woman with no spine and in-laws who didn't seem to care about their own daughters happiness, no matter how hard the author worked to make their actions seemed justified. Aside from having no spine, Isabella was a pretty fun heroine who's desire to please just became a little over done. Anthony was pretty under-developed character and many times it seemed like the only thing that drove him was his desire for Isabella, even when I could not understand exactly why he was so keen on her. Considering that was his defining characteristic, it was at least done well and he certainly fought for what he wanted and I could tell he really cared about Isabella.

Rating: A very fast book, underdeveloped characters with annoying quirks and habits, and a rather confusing romance.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My Notorious Gentleman

My Notorious Gentleman by Gaelen Foley

Lord Trevor Montgomery is back from his duties for the Inferno Club but after being missing for so long, his fiance has jilted him. His entire family is after him to wed and after a chance encounter with a vicar he finds himself to drawn to the vicar's daughter. He decides to buy a house in the community so that he can be closer to Grace Kenwood and so that he will have something to do by fixing up the dilapidated house. Grace can't help but like the handsome and kind former spy, especially once he begins to use his wealth and influence in the community to help out those who are still suffering from the after affects of the war. Unfortunately Grace is not the only one in the community who has her sights set on Lord Trevor and Grace has to maneuver the problems of living in a small town where gossip spreads like wildfire. And Grace's dedication to helping others, including a former prostitute whose pimp is not too happy she has left, lands her in a world of trouble. Trevor has to call on all of his friends from the Inferno Club to help him rescue the woman he loves so that they can marry and continue to set to rights their new community.

Grace is incredibly good; she is always thinking of others and completely unselfish, always helping people, always working, basically just being so perfect that it was impossible to like her or think of her as a real person. My favorite part about her was when she let go of her morals and had sex with Trevor, even if by that time she realized they were going to get married. And the consequences of that action were so over the top and frustrating it was almost like a lecture on the evils of pre-marital sex. Trevor was a typical former spy romance hero, but I did like how open he was to the idea of marriage and didn't try to hide or fight his feelings for Grace. Lots of side characters really made this story far more interesting than it would have been otherwise; her understanding father, the former prostitute, the spoiled rich girl, the equally spoiled young man the spoiled rich girl was in love with, and the gossipy community members.

Rating: A quick read, with really nothing special to recommend it, but it was fun enough even while it could have used a more interesting heroine.