Friday, December 20, 2013

The Importance of Being Wicked

The Importance of Being Wicked by Miranda Neville

Lady Caroline Townsend shocked society, and her very uptight family, when she eloped with the notorious Robert Townsend. Their marriage was full of adventure and laughter and friends, but was marred by Robert's addiction to gambling and booze and his passion for expensive art- even when they could ill afford it. Caro is now barely scraping by, trying to pay off Robert's debts, and still finding a way to feed and house various starving artists and friends at fabulous parties. Thomas, the Duke of Castleton, is stuffy and pretentious; the complete opposite of the carefree Caro, nonetheless the two are smitten with each other at first sight. He originally plans to court her cousin, the very wealthy Anne, because it is a family tradition and his own parents love match ended poorly. But he cannot contemplate marrying anyone else when the only thing he can think about is Caro. Caro wants to get underneath "Lord Stuffy's" stuffy exterior, but he is far too noble to engage in the affair that she desires. When he proposes she is initially reluctant, but agrees because she does like him and because she imagines a life where she no longer has to worry about money.

Their marriage is founded on lies as Thomas is actually having money problems of his own because of some poor investments his father made. Caro is hiding a very valuable Titian painting that Robert bought and continues to go around with her wild friends, whom Thomas disapproves of, and who relentlessly make fun of her new husband. Thomas is remarkably good natured about everything because he quickly finds himself in love with the vibrant woman he has married. Caro is more reserved, because she cannot trust anyone after her marriage even while refusing to admit how truly awful her marriage was. She takes Thomas in hand, helping him learn how to please a lady in bed, but refuses to give up her wild lifestyle. A tragic accident has Thomas taking Caro to his estate to recooperates and in the glow of family and love they find a way to make their relationship with as Caro realizes she truly loves the amazing man she has married and lets go of her past.

Caro was a heroine who brought up a lot of contradictory feelings from me. I admired her carefree and lively spirit, her independence, and her refusal to conform to society's norms or her husbands orders. However, I feel like so much of what she did was just beyond stupid, was rude to the man who pledged his love and life to her, and was done purely to cause a stir. She continued to flirt and support people who were rude to her husband and who openly tried to seduce her. She refused to admit to herself for the longest time that her marriage to Robert had been unhappy and focused on the things about him she had liked and the reasons she had run away with him in the first place. She was drowning in debt and continued supporting random people and held onto a valuable painting that could have solved her problems. Her inability to admit her feelings for Thomas were bewildering because she simultaneously didn't want to make herself vulnerable to hurt like she had with Robert, but she also refused to admit that Robert had ever really hurt her (even though he SO obviously had).

I liked Thomas, pretty much except for his relationship with Caro because he was such a wet blanket. He just nodded and took her to bed when her friends mocked him and she laughed. He had a modicum of anger when he found out she'd gone horseback riding without him (she wasn't good and it was dangerous) and with a notorious rake who hid in their closet and listened to them have sex. I feel like they were so mismatched that there was no way their relationship could ever survive. There were a few sex scenes between them, mostly just kisses and then fade to next scene. I liked that Caro was the more experienced of the two and had to help him learn, but unfortunately she didn't shy away from talking about her deceased husband while with Thomas. How did he not just walk out? And why did she harbor this mythical love for the horrible Robert? I feel like so much of what she did was to get back at her overly controlling parents, which makes sense for a teenage, but when you're a grown woman still pulling that gimmic it's just ridiculous.

Rating: I could not stand Caro and thought that Thomas was a fool for imagining himself in love with her and I can't believe two such mismatched people could ever be happy.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Duke of Midnight

Duke of Midnight by Elizabeth Hoyt

Maximus Batten, the Duke of Wakefield, is but a child when he witnesses his parents being murdered in St. Giles. Now he rules Parliament and is a model of propriety in society, but in his secret life he is one of the Ghosts of St. Giles, protecting the people and secretly hunting for the person who murdered his parents. Artemis Greaves is a ladies companion for her spoiled, but naively sympathetic, cousin Penelope, because of a tragedy that left her brother wrongly accused of murder and locked up in Bedlam. One evening she is forced into St. Giles because of her cousin and when the two are accosted they are rescued by the Ghost and in the struggle, Artemis pulls Maximus' family ring off his finger. Maximus is trying to court the equally proper Lady Penelope, but once Artemis puts together all of the clues she recognizes Maximus as the ghost and decides to use this knowledge to help her brother, Apollo. She threatens to go to the police if Maximus doesn't help her brother escape.

Maximus is trapped, but he can't help but find himself drawn to the withdrawing young lady who hides in the back ground but has no problems blackmailing a Duke. He agrees to help her and she becomes companion to his sister so she can be closer to Apollo, but also means that she is much closer to him. Artemis wants to figure out why Maximus continues to go out, putting his life at risk and wonders what has happened to turn him into a cold and seemingly heartless man. But Artemis begins to melt Maximus and he finds himself thinking about more than just revenge and his parents' fate. Kisses and caresses turn into far more, but while Maximus knows he cannot live without her, Artemis knows she cannot live with him as his mistress, especially if he still plans to marry her cousin. Maximus is closer than ever to finding out who murdered his parents, and a clue reveals that Artemis' brother might know more than he is letting on. Even when confronting a murder, Maximus knows that what really matters is Artemis and finding a way to convince her that he is the one who needs to become worthy enough to earn her love.

Hoyt's ability to write likable, realistic, and three dimensional heroines remains unparalleled in my opinion. Artemis is a living, breathing woman with faults and hopes and love and fears and Hoyt does a fabulous job of drawing the reader in to Artemi' life and enabling the reader to truly feel like Artemis is a real person. Her love for her brother, her sense of duty to her cousin, her terror of her uncertain future with Maximus, her resilience in the face of a family tragedy, and her pride that carries her through some not so pleasant scenes with Maximus. Maximus' childhood has created a man who seems to have no emotions and he is quite chilly and unlikable for much of the book. His dedication to finding the person who killed his parents overshadows everything else in his life and it is only when he realizes he might lose Artemis, and thus any chance at happiness in his future, that he truly starts to change. He continues to remain stuck-up until very near the end.

Together Artemis and Maximus make a seemingly mismatched pair because she is so vibrant and alive and he is stuck inside a very chilly shell. I liked that with Artemis' help, Maximus began to change as he loosened up his necktie and moved beyond his prejudices and lost his stuffiness. He helped her find her brother and protected her from gossip mongers. It was an interesting relationship because I felt like throughout it, both of them realized Artemis was too good for Maximus, and he was trying to make it up to her. However, it wasn't until the very end that he finally made it up to her for good by proposing. There was lots of sex and as usual, Hoyt is one of the best historical romance writers out there for writing super hot sex scenes full of passion and love. The plot involving his parents death was engrossing and kept a great bit of mystery going throughout the whole book. While it took up a large portion of the book, I never felt like it took away from the romance of the story.

Rating: One of the best romance I've read in a very long time. A wonderful heroine and a tortured hero in a loving relationship,with an engrossing mystery.