The crossdressing genderqueerish rake hero with painful secrets and an army of dandies and the awkward butchish heroine with painful secrets and occas...moreThe crossdressing genderqueerish rake hero with painful secrets and an army of dandies and the awkward butchish heroine with painful secrets and occasional bouts of crossdressing find emo, love together. Utter catnip. It's emotional hurt/comfort cranked to eleven; the final "battle" is between two women who respect each other and recognize that they would probably be friends under other circumstances; the heroine gets the action words during sex scenes; did I mention the army of dandies? This has all the external trappings of historical romance novels I enjoy, but it's the squishy non-romance-typical gender dynamics in the center that make me want to clutch this (e)book to my heaving bosom while simultaneously shoving it at everyone I know who digs romance novels but not always their gender politics even a little. (less)
Cecelia Grant is a delight. Her books have all the delicious trappings of romance novels, but there is something decidedly unromantic about them, whic...moreCecelia Grant is a delight. Her books have all the delicious trappings of romance novels, but there is something decidedly unromantic about them, which only makes me love them more. She manages to hit most of the beats you expect from a fairly classic romance novel plot - hero needs money to help him escape his ghosts form the war; heroine is a Fallen Lady who needs money to set herself up apart from her lover; together they fight crime! gamble! - but she subverts the emotional impact or twists the consequences of those beats almost every single time.
You actually believe the heroine is a math whiz, because it's shown onscreen. Speaking of - not only does the Fallen Lady heroine have sex with her client, she does so onscreen and to her own enjoyment. I also appreciate that this is the second novel in which Grant includes a scene (or in the case of A Lady Undone many scenes) where the hero and heroine have deeply, deeply unsexy sex that moves the plot/their character arcs along. That sex is not a one size fits all thing.
I also very much enjoy how she does the romance novel thing of making everything work out in the end and gets to that same happy ending you'd expect in a more traditional romance, but there are always consequences and often sacrifices--meaningful ones--to the choices the hero and heroine make in order to be together. All in all, a delight. Still a confection, but a salted caramel instead of saltwater taffy. I enjoy them both but for very different reasons.(less)
**spoiler alert** I thoroughly enjoyed the heroine and at least thoroughly believed how much she loved the hero, even if I stayed upset longer at some...more**spoiler alert** I thoroughly enjoyed the heroine and at least thoroughly believed how much she loved the hero, even if I stayed upset longer at some of his shenanigans than she did. I just have no truck with the whole "I did/didn't do a thing for your own good, which I know better than you!" thing. I'm also not super-keen on the "she's so magnificent and above me, I'm not wooooorthy" moaning by heroes in general, but this guy was far better than usual. Also, total bonus points for an ending that didn't involve everything being fixed by a fabulous inheritance and gentrifying (er, literally). At least until the epilogue.
Mostly, though, I am deeply cranky at the "wacky" climax (not like that) of the plot where the hero and the sequel-bait second cousin swordfight and joust for the heroine's favor, even though she has explicitly asked them not to and attempted to intercede. It all smacked very much of "let the men sort things out between themselves, honey, and you'll take whatever the outcome is and like it," which seemed woefully out of tune with the rest of the novel. Sure, Dare saves it at the end with the heroine coming up with her own pair of scissors to cut through the tangle of inheritances and affections, but I had to skim the fighting scenes, I was so put off by it.
Also, if the sequel-bait second cousin does get his own novel, he's gonna have to deal with those possessive, anger management issues real quick, or I will have none of it. None. Eurgh. Seemed like a decent enough fellow on some occasions, but the "quirk" of his anger was deeply offputting.
However, I love love loved the female cousins who showed up, especially Harry the lesbian in a snit with her lover. I would read a book just about them and their tempestuous but eternal and sheetscorching love in a heartbeat. (less)
I'm very glad I didn't let my distaste for the first book in this series (A Night to Surrender) keep me from trying this one, because it was delightfu...moreI'm very glad I didn't let my distaste for the first book in this series (A Night to Surrender) keep me from trying this one, because it was delightful. A lovely wallflower/rake pairing, with suitably tragic backstory and bonus dinosaurs! Nobody was overly possessive or overly dumb (though we edged a bit close to the "I know what's best for you" line a time or two, and the levelheaded scientist "just knows the lizard is a girl" what whaaaat?); there were Wacky Hijinx on the Road. It's the sort of novel I would recommend to people who are already inclined to like romance novels, not an introduction to romances, but it is a sweet little read nonetheless.(less)
Dude, I'm getting ruthless in my pursuit of 110 books this year. If it's not working and I've hit 20%? I'm done. Outta there.
Love the idea of Spindle...moreDude, I'm getting ruthless in my pursuit of 110 books this year. If it's not working and I've hit 20%? I'm done. Outta there.
Love the idea of Spindle's Cove, the haven for ladies who Just Don't Fit. Found the set-up for the Battle Of The Sexes between the Manly Men and the Ladies Who Don't Need A Man, Thank You to be skin-crawlingly unpleasant. Maybe it gets better. Dunno. Don't care. Didn't care to read more about the hero who liked smart women 'cause they're good in bed while still talking down to them.(less)
Wildly anachronistic social mores in Regency set dressing? Yes, please! Also a completely baby-free epilogue that provided a satisfying bonus resoluti...moreWildly anachronistic social mores in Regency set dressing? Yes, please! Also a completely baby-free epilogue that provided a satisfying bonus resolution outside the framework of the main plot. Will wonders never cease?
I swear, romances like this read almost like fanfiction, in a way: the characters aren't shared, but the universe is, for all intents and purposes. It's so confined while still being interpreted so many different ways. I suppose that's why they're soothing. Ooooh. Now I want a Regency where the hero's been turned into a couch. Because, you know, it happens. Sometimes. I digress.
Don't read this looking for historical accuracy. Read it for a deftly handled inheritance plot in a semi-generic historic-y setting with the edges smoothed out by an author who favors putting her hero and heroine on an equal footing, where self-esteem and personal validation are concepts readily bandied about, where the hero explicitly (hur hur) makes enthusiastic consent the end-goal of his seduction. Sure, it's slightly ludicrous if you think about it too hard, but it sets up a more equal relationship between hero and heroine than most contemporaries manage.
A wild improvement over the author's Turner series for me. (less)
Not as good as The Duke of Shadows, but still a cut above your average romance for me. The heroine walked the line of being too painfully naive and tr...moreNot as good as The Duke of Shadows, but still a cut above your average romance for me. The heroine walked the line of being too painfully naive and trying not to be, while the hero walked the line of being too painfully condescending on far too many occasions, but there's something delightfully cinematic about much of Duran's scene-setting. Yes, the plot was a little strained. Yes, the reasons the hero and heroine were keeping themselves apart felt flimsy rather than heartfelt. It's still a fun read. (less)
The first section in India is (surprisingly) awesome; the bits back in London get a bit muddy. Still. This is by far the least dodgy romance novel I'v...moreThe first section in India is (surprisingly) awesome; the bits back in London get a bit muddy. Still. This is by far the least dodgy romance novel I've ever read that attempts to deal with colonialism in India. (Admittedly, that's neither a very high bar nor a very large sample size, due to the aforementioned very, very, very low bar.)
I'm not saying this a deep, in-depth, nuanced, thoughtful discussion of the Sepoy Rebellion, but I am saying that it plays as more than scenic backdrop for the hero and heroine's introduction. I'm not saying the heroine is anachronistically enlighted, but I am saying that she is called out on her "but of *course* the white people are better!" nonsense both within the text and in the narrative structure. I'm saying that there are at least two Indian characters with names and dialogue who do not exist solely to yenta or support the heroine and hero, who is himself of at least partial Indian descent.
I just wish it hadn't narratively fallen apart for me once everyone's back in London. It falls too closely to the "oh, for the love of god, can you people not have a conversation like grownups?" category. They both have legitimate beefs with each other, but they get magnified to ridiculous (though occasionally sexy) proportions because of their utter lack of ability to Use Their Words.
Still. The India bits were highly engaging and enough to pull me through the eye-rolly bits. (less)
Thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed, with one giant caveat at the end.
A cold, distant heroine who is in fact cold and distant, even after she falls in lov...moreThoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed, with one giant caveat at the end.
A cold, distant heroine who is in fact cold and distant, even after she falls in love, and has very good reasons for her coldness and distance. A hero who is a shallow, vain rake, who is in fact rakish and vain and as thoughtless as he should be, if you're gonna slap him with the "shallow rake" descriptor. And, bliss joy, at almost every single beat where one or the other of them would "learn the error of their ways" and melt underneath the charms of the other in most other romance novels, it didn't work.
A romance novel where the discussions of the enclosure act are far more sexually charged than the actual (for the most part) deeply unsexy sex. A romance novel that keeps the hero and heroine very much their own people and not (often thoroughly enjoyable) aspirational caricatures of pretty, entertaining people. (Not that I'm trying to imply that romance readers automatically seek to envision themselves as the heroines, thanks S.Meyer. It's just there's no good word for the better-than-ness of aspirational without implying personal desire. But I digress. A lot.) Essentially, these characters were remarkably well-rooted in who they were, even as who they wanted to be shifted over the novel.
The caveat? While this novel deliberately messes with nuances of consent (I consent to sex; I do not consent to pleasure) in ways that are mostly well done, as the heroine slowly begins to consent to pleasure, it's done in small, explicitly granted ways. And the hero goes and bones her one time when she's mostly asleep, and even though she consents after the fact both to the boning and the pleasure, it's still SUPER DODGY in a book that's mostly pretty good about this sort of thing, and there's nary an eyelash-twitch, narratively, at the whole thing. Meh. (less)